You've heard it before: Downtown's making a comeback, blah, blah, blah. There's a renaissance happening on our city's streets, yada, yada, yada. Washington Avenue is up-and-coming -- wait, what? If by "up-and-coming," people mean "has been around for quite some time and continues to be cool," then yeah, Wash. Ave. is "up-and-coming." After all, this weekend brings the twelfth biannual Beat Fest (www.thebeatfest.com). Count 'em: That's twelve of the electronic music festivals; no beats missed here. This time your $10 wristband (available at the venues) gets you into only four clubs from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., but the organizers said they wanted "quality over quantity." And quality is what St. Louis gets.
Starting close to home, there's Chicagoan Mark Grant headlining Rue 13 (1311 Washington Avenue; 314-588-9797). This house master's jazzy, funky sets are nothing if not quality. Then, at the Formula, a fairly new club in Isis' former space (1204 Washington Avenue; 314-436-8676), New York's DJ Hurricane follows Needles for the top spot in the house. You know the Hurra -- he was the Beastie Boys' DJ. Also hailing from New York, the ladies that are Spalding Rockwell (pictured) will rock electroclash with the best of 'em at the Creepy Crawl (412 North Tucker Boulevard; 314-621-9333). Finally, the "Traveled the Farthest" award goes to London's Fergie, whose hard house is the main event at Velvet (1301 Washington Avenue; 314-241-8178). Other fantastic local, regional and national talent rounds out Beat Fest 12 -- so Wash. Ave., here we come (like we always do) -- Alison Sieloff
The concept of the dystopia is powerful: A world where everything is wrong and broken is not so much an appealing idea as it is compelling. People slow down to look at car wrecks, after all, and in the dystopia everything is wrecked. Paul E. Jost explores this worldview in his new exhibit, Dystopia, which opens at the Mad Art Gallery (2727 South 12th Street; 314-771-8230 or www.madart.com) with a 7 to 11 p.m. cash-bar reception on Friday, September 2. Jost's work combines hand-manipulated media with digitally manipulated images to create pieces that are both real and the product of artifice, reflecting the deceptions practiced in the dystopia (as in his Jugular Press, pictured). Peter Pranschke's new show, An Advance Directive, opens the same night. Both shows remain up through October 29. -- Paul Friswold
Under the Microscope New Media at SLAM
Remember that mandatory high school or junior high science course where you had to prepare slides and look at stuff through a microscope? Now, imagine you're in that class, only the desks are gone and the space is much nicer (and you don't feel any of that mandatory adolescent anxiety). The colorful organisms are very much alive and moving -- but you don't have a microscope lying around the homestead, so where are you? Why, you must have wandered into the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or www.slam.org) on Thursday, September 1. That's when artist Shannon Kennedy's Untitled 1-10 (yeast, Caenorhabditis Elegans, Chlamydomas) is installed as part of the museum's New Media series. This seven-minutes- and-twenty-seconds-long video work, which is in Gallery 301 until November 27, consists of ten different silent scenes of tininess, projected and viewed as though through the "eye" of a fluorescent microscope. And you thought you'd never use science in real life. -- Alison Sieloff
Pretty, Witty and Gay
Jade Esteban Estrada, master of the one-man-as-man-and-woman show, returns to the Theatre at St. John's (5000 Washington Place; 314-276-8693) with Icons: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 2. This time around he portrays Alexander the Great, Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King (pictured), among many others. Tickets are $15, and showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday (September 2 through 4). -- Paul Friswold