By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
The list is staggering: Among many others who appeared were the Flying Burrito Brothers (with Gram Parsons) in 1970, the Grateful Dead (twice, in 1970 and 1980) and the Who, who were so loud in 1971 that you could hear the concert two miles away in downtown Edwardsville. Ike and Tina Turner, Richard Pryor, Muddy Waters, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Yes, Emmylou Harris, McCoy Tyner, the Faces they all gigged at the MRF.
SIU Edwardsville archivist and special-collections librarian Stephen Kerber compiled the book with SIUE lecturer and archivist Amanda Bahr-Evola. Explains Kerber, who arrived at the university after the MRF had shuttered: "It doesn't seem like something that could happen in what was then a rural area outside of the city limits of a huge American city. It didn't seem possible."
Many might need proof that it did happen. On summer nights, the weed blew heavy and hard at the MRF, and though alcohol was prohibited, many a pint was smuggled past security. Kerber minimizes the drug intake during the festival "[It] was very much confined, in my view, and going through the records, to very certain kinds of entertainment" but he wasn't there. Many in attendance (including a couple of RFT staffers) recall a drug cornucopia. Even former SLSO conductor Leonard Slatkin looks hopped up on something stronger than the polyester in his impressively trippy shirt.
The largely photographic account of the festival is heavy with history: a bleary-eyed James Taylor strumming his acoustic guitar, a long-haired Jimmy Buffett with a shit-eating grin, Ella Fitzgerald lost in song, fusion keyboardist Eumir Deodato gigging with the Saint Louis Symphony. Images of America: The Mississippi River Festival is a fantastic document of an underappreciated piece of St. Louis pop music's past. (For more information on the fest, including links to a couple of MRF documentaries, check riverfronttimes .com/blogs.) Randall Roberts Electro MastersJesse Keeler, who made eardrums bleed as the bassist of Toronto synth-noise terrorists Death From Above 1979, is happier now as part of the blurty discotheque duo MSTRKRFT (props to its 2006 album, The Looks) and as an in-demand remixer (Metric, the Kills, Bloc Party). B-Sides reached Keeler at home as he was "trying to do some normal, human things" before leaving for a European tour after which he planned to head straight back to North America for this, the "Diamonds" tour with John Digweed.
B-Sides: Last-minute packing?
Jesse Keeler: It's actually to the point where it's last-minute clothes shopping. I'm like [to MSTRKRFT partner, Al-P], "Do you have any clothes?" "No. Do you have any clothes?" "Oh, shit." Today, Al wanted to go clothes shopping, but he got stuck mixing this record that we started for this local punk band ages ago. [But] we've been working on our new album like crazy.
What's the new record sounding like?
Pretty crazy. It's really made for the club but, more specifically, made for us to play in a club. The last record...we made a record that wasn't just for us; we made something other people could play, too. And sometimes that ended up meaning we were making stuff that we wouldn't play, ever. They're good songs. We're happy with things in one sense. But it's not really the best idea when you're DJs and DJing a lot. In Europe and stuff, our first album is just coming out. That's why we're going over there. They still have singles over there.
That's a novel thing. Singles? On vinyl?
Yup. Although, in a way, in North America, the fans are back to it being a singles market with downloading. They're like, "Fuck your shitty album. I'm going to get that one song I like." I remember shopping for singles with my dad when I was a kid, flipping through a bin of 45s. Now kids just make the singles themselves. They don't have to buy the album, so they don't. The record industry's like, "We're losing money!" Well, stop putting out shitty records.
What did you like listening to growing up?
What my parents had: James Brown, Sly Stone, the Band, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, George Benson. My mom hated the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
Well, my mom's not white. She said, "Hey, this rips off the Isley Brothers and Otis Redding, and maybe nobody gets paid...they rip off Little Richard." I didn't listen to rock music until I was in high school. Kids were like, "Check out this Led Zeppelin!" I was like, "What the hell was that?" I remember the first time I listened to a Beatles record. I was eighteen. "Wow, this is pretty cool! Why didn't you tell me this before? Sgt. Pepper's is pretty rad!"
Do you have any DJ idols?
When I was young, I really looked up to local drum 'n' bass guys, jungle DJs, because they play so fast. The combinations of the shit was just ridiculous. Then I got more into house music. Toronto's halfway between New York and Chicago and two hours away from Detroit, so you can imagine what came through. [Legendary Chicago producer] Green Velvet comes through not as much anymore.