By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
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By Christian Schaeffer
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A to Z has now lived in St. Louis long enough to feel wistful when we hear others talk about seeing Uncle Tupelo at the old Cicero's Basement Bar, so we're aware that the alt-country/Americana/folk-twang scene has strong local roots.
But a new twang-centric night is starting to create tremendous buzz in these circles. Called the Twangbang, it's the brainchild of Strawfoot vocalist-mandolinist the Reverend Uncle Marc, who started the night to showcase bands around town such as the Monads and Bad Folk (and, of course, his own outfit).
"I'm just a huge fan of the alt-country music that's going on here in St. Louis," the Rev says. "I feel like our city deserves to command the throne, to take the helm. There's so many great bands, I wanted to bring them together, see what their sounds are all about."
Held at either the Hi-Pointe or Off Broadway (the latter venue will host one at 9 p.m. on Thursday, February 23, with Strawfoot, Team Tomato side project Bearded Babies and NYC-based Curtis Eller's American Circus), the night has so far been a rousing success.
"I've never been in a better live setting in my entire life," testifies the Rev. "People come to the shows and they don't talk over the band; they sing, they dance. It's an energy unlike any I've ever seen at a show especially at a local show, where usually you're playing to the other bands."
Indeed, while the latter situation is all too common in the Lou, the cooperative camaraderie these bands are fostering the Reverend for one refuses to schedule shows when other groups he wants to see are already playing is heartening.
Nevertheless, A to Z can't help but think that there's something missing. With a bevy of talented bands and fans willing to come out to gigs, where's the local record label committed to helping these groups become known outside of the city? Why should we depend on a bigger city (like, say, Chicago) to help us become well-known?
The Reverend isn't sure why the city lacks these seemingly basic resources, but A to Z gets the impression he would found such a label if his strengths weren't in promoting the Twangbang and playing with Strawfoot wasn't such a positive experience.
The septet is now "in the process" of mixing an EP, which the Rev says is "coming real soon" no small feat, especially considering that the band was never meant for the stage when it formed around Halloween last year.
"When we started out, we were just a studio project, telling a story about a wayward reverend that kills a man for a woman and is cursed for eternity as a scarecrow," the Rev explains. "A bizarre little story. But once we started playing, it just felt so good, we had to share it. We had to play it out.
"Everyone understands the mood of the music, the point of the songs, the conceptual story behind them, it blends so well. I'm pretty amazed, I didn't know it could be this fun and easy to be in a band."
Nor to go to a show. Fans can look for the next Twangbang at the Hi-Pointe on April 22. The lineup is TBA, but the Reverend lets slip that the Albino Alley Cats burlesque troupe will be joining the night on a permanent basis. Take that, stodgy folksters!
"You have to keep it all fun and light and give people a reason to drink heavily and shake their asses," he reasons. "That's something we're all doing a pretty good job of nowadays. It's only a matter of time before things get even bigger."
A to Z left our hometown of Cleveland four years ago, but we still have a soft spot for the sports teams and bands that hail from the city. Which is why we recommend a trip to Lemmons (5800 Gravois Avenue; 314-481-4812) to check out Clevo quintet Roger Hoover and the Whiskeyhounds on Friday, February 24, at 8 p.m. The band's latest, Jukebox Manifesto, is pure Americana without pretension, a disc with fiery licks, Hoover's whiskey-grizzled vox and a folksy heart redolent of too many jam sessions at Frederick's Music Lounge to count. (Speaking of Fred's, watch the section next week for our tribute to the club.)
The Ultra Music Festival spin-off field was competitive, but we've managed to narrow it to four finalists who'll spin at The Clubhouse (3502 Papin Street; 314-664-8414) on Thursday, March 2: Adrian Fox, DJ Flex Boogie, DJ Karizma and Sinamin. The winner earns a free trip to Miami to spin at the Ultra Music Festival during the Winter Music Conference March 24-28. Watch this space for a wrap-up of the festivities.