By Mabel Suen
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By Allison Babka
By Joseph Hess
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Somewhere within today's expanse of increasingly homogenous radio-station programming where DJs are replaced by nameless, rootless, pre-recorded voices a station can still serve as a local touchstone for musicians and listeners. Take, for example, KSHE (94.7 FM)'s promotion of El Monstero's Pink Floyd tribute shows at the Pageant.
Owing largely to the support of Favazz, KSHE's assistant program director and afternoon-drive DJ, the show has grown exponentially: This year, for the first time, it's an extravaganza that spans two weekends. (If all four nights of the concerts sell out, they will draw around 8,000 people.)
Granted, KSHE's involvement is somewhat laissez-faire: The radio station hypes the show through ads and the use of its logo (such as on T-shirts that depict Pink Floyd's iconic Dark Side of the Moon prism projected through the Arch). But the fact that the station totally snubbed an internationally touring tribute band in favor of local musicians is unique. Australian Pink Floyd played the Scottrade Center on Friday, November 24, but you wouldn't have known it listening to KSHE.
"The promoters started bringing [APF] around in November, a month before [the El Monstero] show," Favazz says. "And I found that to be rather odd. So KSHE and this was my boss' call, I hardly even had to ask him said, 'We will have nothing to do with that show. We won't give tickets away, we won't do anything.'
"I saw Australian Pink Floyd, and they have quite a production," Favazz continues. "Musically, I think El Monstero's better. There's no way I'm going to sit here and talk about Australian Pink Floyd when I think my buddies are better. Sure, I'm biased but I think I'm right."
Given the ever-increasing popularity of El Monstero's annual performances, he probably is.
The local Pink Floyd show was born in 1999 at Mississippi Nights, back when the group was composed of members of Stir who formed El Monstero as a cover band to keep their skills fresh in between records and tours.
"We'd close every night with 'Dark Side of the Moon,'" recalls bass player Kevin Gagnepain. "We had seen a Pink Floyd tribute in LA once and we're like, 'We could totally do that.' So we grabbed a couple of musicians and did the show." It was a simpler affair back then a trampoline served as the projection screen for the accompanying light show.
These days Gagnepain is the lone remnant from Stir in El Monstero, whose lineup now includes members of the Incurables, Joe Dirt, Wyld Stallions, Dr. Zhivegas, Deep Six and Neptune Crush.
For all of the dynamic intensity in Pink Floyd's music, Gagnepain finds appeal in how emotive and even calming it can be.
"It's very theatrical music," he says. "We have a laser light show and pyrotechnics, and we do just a total '70s-vibe concert. Not a lot of music is that cerebral, where you can really do this huge production and have it make sense with the music you're playing."
The concert is all Roger Waters-era Floyd: El Monstero will play most of The Wall and Wish You Were Here and the full Dark Side of the Moon. (Yes, The Wizard of Oz will be onscreen throughout.) The trampoline has been replaced by a production team, plus elaborate costumes and set changes.
"It's a huge production. It's a true rock concert, just in a smaller venue," Gagnepain says. "It's like an arena rock concert done up-close and personal. I think it's a very cool St. Louis tradition."
Favazz calls the musicianship and singing topnotch and promises that purists won't walk away disappointed. He notes that people have even been known to plan their holiday trips back to St. Louis to coincide with El Monstero's performances.
"[KSHE is] a huge part of promoting it," Gagnepain says. "I don't think we could ever afford the amount of advertising that they give us talking about the show. And Pink Floyd's been a huge part of KSHE, so it's a nice fit."
Although Favazz is quick to point out that KSHE isn't necessarily a bastion of local music, the station does a tremendous service to St. Louis talent when it solidly backs them over an import, Aussie or otherwise. "It's a really homegrown, awesome thing that I'm very proud of," he says. "Obviously, if they weren't as good as they are, it wouldn't have gotten to this point. I wouldn't steer my listeners wrong and then, after that, it's easy." Kristie McClanahan
8 p.m. Friday, December 22 and 29, and Saturday, December 23 and 30.
The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard. $22 advance, $25 day of show. 314-726-6161.
Get Out!As a service to our readers, B-Sides finds songs each year that make us want to jab forks into our eyes but are nonetheless perfect for making people leave your holiday party after you've poured the obligatory coffee and they're still looking around for more beer. (Consider it the musical equivalent of turning on the lights and calling the cops.) Typically, we pull from all decades of music (cf. the one-time inclusion of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"). But so much craptastic music clogs the airwaves these days that we didn't need to look any further than the past two years for this installment which made our job very easy.