By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
Best Reggae Band
When dub is done right, it evokes a strange combination of the futuristic and the archaic: futuristic because the genre's sci-fi soundscapes anticipated so much that was to follow, and archaic for the originators' creative use of relatively primitive recording technology. Taking what is essentially a studio technique, Dub Kitchen channels the spirit of dub legends such as King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry in its live performances, starting with riddims reminiscent of the rocksteady and roots-reggae eras to which Andy and Jen add their soulful vocals. And while the band grooves along, Bert Dub Kitchen's on-stage dubber performs special-effects voodoo on the sound with a mix of delays, spring reverb, and an old analog synth's gates, envelopes and filters. Tom Carlson Brandt's, 8 p.m.
DubtronixLed by singer/guitarist DJ Ranx, the 2008 version of Dubtronix ("always looking ahead, not behind," he says) features Karl Acon (also in Yard Squad) on keys, Terry Goetz (one of Murder City Players' guitarists) on bass and longtime scenester Eric Brown on drums. Its interpretation of classic reggae hits by artists such as Black Uhuru, John Holt and Bob Marley can go from a hard-rockin' skank one minute to a spacey dub jam the next. Whether he's performing with his band at its frequent shows, spinning dub discs on KDHX (88.1 FM) between 2 and 4 a.m. every Saturday or hosting Culture Visionon Double Helix TV with fellow KDHX DJ Erica Lewis, Ranx is a man on a mission to keep dub reggae alive in St. Louis. (TC)
Murder City Players
First, a little disclosure: I've been Murder City Players' sound guy since '87 or so. The origins of this long-running act go back to the 1983 dissolution of the then-popular Felons (check www.jetlagmag.net/oct80-8-9.html
to get a glimpse of the origins of that band). The years since have seen the band release several well-received recordings, back such Jamaican luminaries as the Itals, U-Roy and Leonard Dillon (a.k.a. The Ethiopian) and open for countless others. Through numerous personnel changes, the vocal stylings of Mark Condellire and "Prince" Phillip McKenzie and the keyboards of founding member Jeff Schneider remain constant. The current ten-piece line-up, which features a full horn section, has recently added a new twist to its act by backing "all-star" vocalists from other St. Louis reggae bands in an annual packed-to-the-gills Marleyfest bash at the Duck Room. (TC)
If you're going to catch Yard Squad live, you'd best make it to one of their occasional shows at Viva. This St. Louis band spreads its musical message far and wide with trips to Tennessee, Colorado, Ohio and frequent stops at Chicago's famed Wild Hare club. Yard Squad was founded in the early '90s and draws its inspiration from Jamaican heavyweights such as Black Uhuru, Third World and Burning Spear. The backing is both sparse and tight: Bassist Art Richards and drummer Thomas Flowers (who has been gigging recently with MCP) lay the foundation, while keyboard player Karl Acon and guitarist Dave Clark add the melodic elements. There are many talented vocalists in the Yard Squad family Karly "Roots" McRoberts, Desirea "Songbird" Dobbins, Claudell the Ambassador and Psyche Southwell each of whom adds a unique flavor. A taste of this band's originals is available on its MySpace page; a full-length release is in the works. (TC)
Best Rock Band
Despite significant lineup shifts in the past few months to the tune of a new guitarist and drummer dark-wave rockers the Bureau remain one of the city's most compelling bands. Charismatic frontman Mike Cracchiolo's sardonic wit and deadpan humor echoes that of the Long Winters' John Roderick (a hero of his), but he's completely serious when it comes to writing quality Bureau songs. The quartet's upcoming full-length debut features liquid basslines, zig-zagging synths and killer pop hooks; just try to forget the haunted-mansion keyboards and Colin Hay-goes-goth vocals of "Stalingrad" or the jackknifing post-punk guitars snaking through "Cabin Pressure." (AZ)
Cicero's, 8 p.m.
For all of the vitality within the St. Louis rock scene, nagging questions of originality just won't go away. But seemingly from out of nowhere, Finn's Motel released Escape Velocity, an album cool enough to earn attention from Magnet and fresh enough to dispel lead singer and songwriter Joe Thebeau's power-pop past. The band makes indie guitar and keyboard rock with brains and heart, shifting its rhythms effortlessly and lifting its hooks on every chorus. Song titles like "Eero Saarinen" and "Dramamine for Engine 3" may suggest solipsistic geek-rock, but their sound quivers with inspired pop life. (RK)
Halo Bar, 9:30 p.m.
Riddle of Steel
Riddle of Steel knows rock and not just of the naturally occurring monument variety. (One of its MySpace photos shows the trio mugging for the camera in front of Stonehenge; cue this booklet's second snarky Spinal Tap reference.) Tours in Europe and plenty of out-of-town gigs domestically fans include post-rock legend J. Robbins, and the band is huge in Tampa, Florida have helped Riddle of Steel coalesce into a sonic tour de force. Think Queens of the Stone Age's stoner-muck crossed with devil-horns-worthy Van Halen chestnuts. (AZ)