By Alison Babka
By Nick Horn
By RFT Music
By Drew Ailes
By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
A major part of A to Z's job is poring over the concert calendars of all the venues in town, looking for gigs to attend and cover for the music section. Imagine her surprise, then, when she recently checked out Cicero's online schedule (www.ciceros-stl.com) and saw that Vixen was scheduled to play on Sunday, June 11.
Vixen? As in the '80s hair-metal femmes? At the notoriously jam-heavy Cicero's? (What? Was the Schwag busy?) A to Z was laid up by a nasty cold, so she was unable to attend, and a call to Cicero's to see if the show actually happened turned up inconclusive results.
But a little more digging revealed that Vixen was originally scheduled to play that night at the Center Stage in Farmington, Missouri, the business owned by St. Louis promoter John Mancuso and formerly known as the Rockhouse. Furthermore, Vixen was apparently never told that the location had changed (see the blog at myspace.com/vixenrock). And, most important, a perusal of the stlpunk.com message boards and the Center Stage's MySpace page revealed that the Farmington club appeared to be closed.
Farmington's quite a haul from St. Louis, but the club had been booking a hefty amount of local bands and some national tours (the Sword and Kittie spring to mind) that skipped the city. So what happened? As Farmington City Administrator Greg Beavers tells it, the Center Stage wasn't operating with the proper paperwork.
"They had occupied a facility, [but] they didn't obtain a business license," Beavers says. "We wouldn't grant them a business license, because the building did not meet applicable building codes. Therefore, the city would not issue them a business license until the building was brought up to code for that type of occupancy."
John Mancuso admits that the building needed some fixes in order to meet fire codes and appease health inspectors, but says he was working on remedying these things.
"My landlord had a business license for the Rockhouse," Mancuso says. "The city was OK with it for years. It wasn't like I was going to change the use. I went in wanting to do the same thing that was being done in that building that was being done legally. My landlord told me exactly what needed to be done, which is all minor things. It turned out to be completely the opposite."
(A message left for the building's landlord, Tom Benz, was not returned by press time.)
Mancuso decided to move his shows to the venue's parking lot until the building could get up to code. He says the city told him he didn't need a permit, just the permission of neighbors. But when he called again to get a license to hold a show by the Urge's Steve Ewing, Mancuso was told the Center Stage wasn't zoned to do an outdoor show.
Responds Beavers: "He has not made any applications or necessary things to maintain and operate a business in the city of Farmington. That's the bottom line. He has not complied with licensing and building codes. Until he successfully acquires a business license, nothing else matters, and he can't do that in that building for what he's wanting to do."
For now, Mancuso will continue to book shows locally while he decides what to do about the Farmington venue.
"I'm sitting here running out of money, sitting on this place while I can't open doors," he says. "I have bands I still have to pay, contracted to pay. Right now I'm in a situation where I'm trying to decide if I want to keep going with it. I haven't decided if I want to keep dealing with the headache or not."
An couple of late-breaking local happenings came across A to Z's desk on deadline. First up is a CD-release party for Rebecca Ryan's new album, Louder in the Dark (which was produced by RFT contributing writer Roy Kasten). Fans of Jonatha Brooke and Patty Griffin will no doubt fall in love with Ryan's resonant voice and the sparse music. She performs at the Mad Art Gallery (2727 South 12th Street) on Friday, June 23, at 8 p.m.
Hit up the Tivoli Theatre (6350 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-995-6270) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, for a screening of part one of the local hip-hop film Welcome to Soul City: A Hip-Hop Odyssey, which features Black Spade, Nato Caliph and Vandalyzm. Annie Zaleski