Music Showcase Schedule

The complete low-down on this year's nominated acts

Riddle of Steel;
To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, Riddle of Steel don't get no respect in its hometown — at least, the amount of respect that should be given to a trio that's one of the tightest live acts in the city. Inspired by hefty stoner rock, the viscous riffs and layered noise-scapes of influential 1990s undergrounders (Season to Risk, et al.), and (sweet!) the Police, Riddle of Steel's tunes are needle-precise but loud as fuck. Hot dudes rockin' out, indeed. (AZ)

Lapush combines jangly, angular (jangular?) riffs with Thom Donovan's earnest, expressive vocals, like the Strokes guitarists jamming with that other Thom's band circa The Bends. This trio mines the best characteristics of alternative acts from the past two decades, with many of the selected influences hailing from overseas, and organically fuses these ingredients into warm, catchy songs that deserve an immediate berth on any buzz station's rotation. (AM)
8 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

Best Roots/Americana

Bennie Smith
9 p.m., 609
Jennifer Silverberg
Bennie Smith
9 p.m., 609
Johnny O & the Jerks
9 p.m., Halo Bar
Johnny O & the Jerks
9 p.m., Halo Bar
Delmar Loop

Magnolia Summer;
When roots-rockers Nadine fizzled out a few years back, Magnolia Summer stepped up as the city's leading makers of warm, introspective rock music. The recently released From Driveways' Lost View plays down the band's Americana leanings and pushes soaring guitars, cavernous drums and Chris Grabau's sweet, yearning tenor voice to the forefront. View builds on an already solid foundation and suggests that the best is yet to come from Magnolia Summer. (CS)
1 p.m., Main Outdoor Stage

Bad Folk
All around town, people describe Bad Folk as "alt-country." But while it uses typically country instruments (banjo, steel guitar and saw), the band sounds much more like Tom Waits or even Nick Cave than any of those No Depression clones. In fact, Bad Folk's music would be the perfect complement to any "running from the law" sequence in a David Lynch movie. True experimental musicians, they add mandolin and accordion to their instrumental mix — and still produce tunes that are both melodic and tough. (JL)
6 p.m., Cicero's

The Bottle Rockets;
Thirteen years after its debut, the pride of Festus is now the pride of St. Louis (and Springfield, Illinois, home to their newest member, bassist Keith Voegele). Most of the other bands with their alt-country bloodline have broken up — or broken away from twang altogether — but the Bottle Rockets just keep making smart, tough, loud rock & roll with Missouri country soul that no stacked guitars could erase. Whether focused on love, lust, politics or their deep, abiding sense of place, the Bottle Rockets' songs are replete with real people facing real problems, dreaming real dreams — and rocking all the while. (RK)

For all the spaciousness of their arrangements and the impressionism of frontman Mark Ray's lyrics, Waterloo's most recent take on pastiche rock — ambient noise and acoustic beauty meeting over-cranked guitars — has the clean and clear thrust of the catchiest moments from heroes American Music Club, the Flaming Lips and Red House Painters. Ray makes the most of his timid voice: The fragility of his delivery draws out a persistent elegiac quality from Waterloo's dense and resurgent Americana. (RK)

Dirty 30's
If the Replacements played Southern rock, they might have sounded something like Cape Girardeau's Dirty 30's. Teaming with legendary roots producer Eric Ambel, the band struts and grinds through heavy, twangy rock that's too loud for Americana and too spontaneous for the typical indie template on its self-titled debut. To call them a bar band is no slur: They play fast and loose with free-wheeling blues-based guitar riffs, always a dependable soundtrack for drinking till last call and smoking up on the way home.
11 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Best Singer-Songwriter/Folk

Grant Essig;
Singer-songwriters are known for their impassioned wordplay — and while Grant Essig knows how to put the "woe" in "emo," he also has an electronic edge that allows him to convey his conscience in megabytes alone. Indeed, some of Essig's tracks are electronica-instrumental, but when he chooses to showcase his vocals, he varies from pixilated with noise (think Elliott Smith) to clear and resonant (think Damien Rice). Essig deserves props for his instrumental experimentation, but it's his ability to transcend genres that takes the crux of his confessionals to Dashboard proportions. (KP)
7 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

Joe Stickley;
Like an angst-less Bright Eyes, Joe Stickley and his band Blue Print combine a love of country and folk with a solid footing in good old-fashioned rock & roll. The Eagle and the Pearl, released this spring, finds the band moving beyond the acoustic trappings of its earlier work. The sweet-and-low pedal steel of one song segues into syncopated bassline of the next track, with Stickley's soft, sometimes husky voice telling tales of love, loss and the little mysteries that keep life interesting. (CS)
6 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

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