By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
By Julie Seabaugh
By Julie Seabaugh
Two years later, I'm happy to say that the naysayers are wrong and those grumbling about the lack of good music aren't looking hard enough to find great local bands and talented musicians alike. Yes, I realize this makes me sound like Little Miss Mary Sunshine (and yes, I've heard some accuse me of being too positive). But I think it's about time someone stood up and noticed that the music scene in St. Louis isn't a cultural wasteland and focused on the good things this city has to offer, not just the negatives.
The categories this year reflect my excitement about the noise bubbling up from stages around town. Nominees include a slew of young artists making noise (Berlin Whale, Huey, Jumbling Towers), new bands featuring familiar faces (Stella Mora, Heroes of the Kingdom, Walkie Talkie U.S.A.) and veteran artists continuing to, well, do their thing (Riddle of Steel, Shame Club, So Many Dynamos, Kim Massie). And heck, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the whole contingent of acts (Jesse Irwin, Johnny O & the Jerks, the Hibernauts and the Humanoids, to name a few) putting a wholly modern, fresh spin on genres that are considered classic.
In a perfect world, all of the nominated bands would have a chance to perform at the showcase on June 3. That they're not isn't a knock on the quality of music they produce. If anything, it's an indication of just how much talent exists in the music scene today that is, too much to be contained by just one ten-hour day. Annie Zaleski
Main Outdoor Stage
3 pm Magnolia Summer
4 pm Gentleman Auction House
5 pm 7 Shot Screamers
Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage
2 pm The Vultures
3 pm Casey Reid
4 pm Johnny O & The Jerks
5 pm The Daybreak Boys
Blueberry Hill Duck Room
6 pm Shame Club
7 pm Heroes of the Kingdom
8 pm Ghost in Light
9 pm Spark Thugs
10 pm Target Market
11 pm The Conformists
Blueberry Hill Elvis Room
6 pm Toyy
7 pm Midwest Avengers
8 pm DJ Needles
9 pm Nite Owl
10 pm DJ Mahf
11 pm Earthworms
9 pm Brian Sullivan Quartet
10 pm Lamar Harris
11 pm Marquise Knox
Cicero's 6 pm
7 pm Jumbling Towers
8 pm The Bureau
9 pm So Many Dynamos
10 pm Berlin Whale
Delmar Restaurant and Lounge
8 pm Dogtown Allstars
9 pm The Monads
10 pm Bad Folk
11 pm That's My Daughter
12 am Bunnygrunt
1 am Walkie Talkie U.S.A.
8:30 pm Stella Mora
9:30 pm Finn's Motel
10:30 pm Team Tomato
11:30 pm The Humanoids
12:30 am Eric Hall
7 pm DJ Foster
8 pm DJ Trackstar
9 pm DJ Crucial
10 pm Scotty Mac
11 pm Rob Lemon
12 am Flex Boogie
Café & Wine Bar
8 pm Dave Stone Trio
9 pm Tom Hall
10 pm Jesse Irwin
11 pm The Linemen
Come hear your favorite bands and cast your vote. Purchase your $5 wristband at any participating bar, Vintage Vinyl or the Main Outdoor Stage at Leland and Delmar. Outdoor stages are all ages. Clubs are 21 and over. Bands and times subject to change.
2007 Nominated Artists
If you've ever romanticized the adventures of the characters in Jack Kerouac's On the Road, you might find the music of Bad Folk to be the perfect companion to your lonely daydreams. Full of forlorn lyrical allusions to trains, driving and getting the hell out of town, Bad Folk provides an alt-country soundtrack to your fantasy travels. Its many members manage to squish a variety of under-used instruments into songs (banjo, mandolin, saw) without making them sound thrown together or unsteady. And true to its moniker, every Bad Folk song tells a full story even when the tale might not have a happy ending. Jaime Lees
Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 10 p.m.
Over time, Jesse Irwin has become the unofficial mascot of the Chippewa Chapel Hootenanny and a cheery presence in innumerable dives and bars on the south side. Whether playing solo or spiffing up a vintage Western shirt with other country goofballs in Dock Ellis, Irwin uses his unaffected twang to satirize St. Louis strip-mall culture (and in "Laduesiers," his funniest song, the slight degrees of separation between Jefferson County and Clayton). But for all his irony, it's his charm, sincerity and too-good-to-be-true nature that have made him a favorite with country misfits just like him. Roy Kasten
Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 10 p.m.
The band at the center of the Undertow label/collective/whatever may be meticulous in the studio producer and songwriter Chris Grabau will mix and remix, shape and reshape, until every puzzle piece fits snugly but in concert Magnolia Summer loosens up and reminds you that well-shaped, surprisingly catchy melodies lie beneath its stacked sonics. (Think a slightly poppier American Music Club.) Grabau's gentle and wistful voice has a deceptive bite, while his songs which are obsessed with the emotional force of the past and the present, with a sense of place and an urge to break free take on a life and a sound that's very much their own. (RK)
Main Outdoor Stage, 3 p.m.
You might think you can resist a country-punk band named for flagellated protozoans, but you can't. The Monads are too spirited and too irreverent to be denied a little corner in your inner hillbilly-hooligan's heart. Like Split Lip Rayfield before them, the band members stomp all over that infinitesimally thin line between deconstruction and dementia, using banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar and doghouse bass the way rabid hounds might use a burrow full of bunnies. (RK)
Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 9 p.m.
Rats and People
Rats and People is a folky, post-punk, shaggy little orchestra that proudly features violin, accordion, trumpet and keyboard. Though there's something vaguely Irish in the vigorous sway of this multi-instrumental sound, passionate and lucid storytelling keeps the R&P vessel from detouring too far into Poguesville. In fact, while the Pogues incite the listener to cry over spilled Guinness, there's a certain intelligence in Rats and People's music that makers listeners want to pick up a history book. If you're looking for something lively, soulful and a little experimental, these are your Rats. (JL)
Main Outdoor Stage, 2 p.m.
Best Blues Artist
Bottoms Up Blues Gang
The Bottoms Up Blues Gang singer Kari Liston, guitarist Jeremy Segel-Moss and harmonica player Adam Andrews has earned a following the old-fashioned way: by playing its music (a mix of originals, blues and covers) in person and in front of as many people as possible. Perhaps taking a cue from the itinerant troubadours of yesteryear, who always traveled light, the trio has parlayed a voice, a guitar and some harmonicas into (by its count) more than 275 shows a year for each of the past several years. Dean C. Minderman
Big George Brock
When Big George Brock plays the blues, he's coming from two places: rural Mississippi (where he was born) and St. Louis (where he's spent much of his adult life). His music is a raucous collision between the electricity of urban blues and the more idiosyncratic sounds usually found only on front porches and in backwoods juke-joints. As one of the few remaining St. Louis bluesmen of his generation still active, Brock may be a treasure, but he's no museum piece: He can still sing, play harp and put on a show to rival the best in the business. (DCM)
Tom Hall comes across as a quiet, laid-back kind of guy, both onstage and off, but his guitar playing speaks volumes. After a number of years spent playing electric lead guitar with several popular local blues acts, he began concentrating mostly on solo acoustic performances. His style has since evolved to incorporate blues, folk, country and more into an apparently seamless whole. Hall's guitar technique is impressive, but his musicality, taste and imagination are what really set him apart from the crowd. (DCM)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 9 p.m.
When people see Marquise Knox perform, they can't help but notice that the singer, guitarist, and harmonica player is still in his teens. However, Knox isn't just good for his age; he's just plain good. Like many young musicians, he's still developing his instrumental and songwriting skills, but Knox's strong vocal abilities and precociously poised stage presence have already helped him make his mark after just a couple of years as an active participant in St. Louis' bustling blues scene. (DCM)
Brandt's, 11 p.m.
Casey Reid is a young blues musician with a beautiful, guttural singing voice. His haunting, dirge-like moan sparkles with unique and lusty authority even if he uses this gravelly groan to take on traditional blues topics such as love, loss and ladies. Though other musicians frequently back Reid, just his voice and his acoustic guitar are enough to carry songs. Why? His technique he slaps and pulls the strings rather than strumming them adds an extra layer of chugging, lazy lamentation to his gritty and intricate compositions. (JL)
Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage, 3 p.m.
DJs often seem to be competing with each other to see who can make the most seamless song transition, or who can throw down the most obscure, hard-to-find wax. But Scotty Mac needs none of this white-label pretense. He seems to be in the DJ game for one thing only: to make some booties bump. He plays "house" music, a danceable genre of electronica rooted in disco and jazz. He spins tenacious tracks featuring big-voiced divas and comfortably predictable beats that manage to keep the energy high and the clubbers shakin' it. (JL)
Pin-Up Bowl, 10 p.m.
DJ Foster's list of professional accomplishments is steadily growing, including scoring the coveted opening spot for Green Velvet at Dante's a few months ago. As he nears ten years of experience playing hard Nine Inch Nails-style techno in front of huge crowds, DJ Foster has recently stepped up his game. His sets were always crowd-pleasing, but there's a new fluidity, a new smooth sexiness to his style. While thick beats drive most electronic music, he has found the ability (and agility) to both work the beats and lift them to a new tech-y, minimalist sound. (JL)
Pin-Up Bowl, 7 p.m.
Rob Lemon is more than just a nocturnal club guy and hard-working scene promoter: He's also a phenomenal progressive-house DJ and producer (he's one-third of X-1). From the monthly parties he hosts at the Upstairs Lounge to running his nightlife Web site (www.velocitystlouis.com) to helping to create chart-toppers (X-1 's "Hypnosis" ranked on Beatport, an online source for electronic music), Rob Lemon is instrumental in keeping St. Louis bumpin'. And he's even won a prestigious RFT Best of St. Louis award! Alison Sieloff
Pin-Up Bowl, 11 p.m.
Adrian Fox Not only are St. Louisans fans of Mr. Adrian Fox, but so are the folks in Miami: This DJ represented our fair city at the Ultra Music Festival during the 2006 Winter Music Conference. His sets happily bounce from soaring vocal tracks to the booty-shakers everyone loves, and they perfectly suit any space, from the tiniest lounge to the largest outdoor party. Plus, this tatted fox likes to have a crazy good time and isn't that all anyone can ask for in a DJ? (AS)
The ageless DJ Flex Boogie is the right guy to find if you are longing to spend the night grooving to a smooth, boogie-licious set. He's also the proper person to seek out to get down and dive into deep house and look to him for the nü-breaks, too (or, well, practically everything else). He's just that good! When he's not spreading the love at Urban Lounge, the fab Flex gets to work putting up mixes on MySpace for your downloading pleasure. Plus, he's even been a volunteer-DJ at a Girl Scout fashion show presh! (AS)
Pin-Up Bowl, 12 a.m.
Ghost Ice Anybody can make a racket. It takes a special set of ears to weave dissonance, clang and harshtronic into a cataclysmic stream of sound that unfolds with the meter and florid beauty of epic poetry, while still pinning your eyes to the back of your skull with brutal force. Ghost Ice cross-pollinates the woofer and the tweeter in just such a manner, giving rise to nocturnal gardens of radiation and shaking acres of tumultuous skree. Rather than stripping bare the bones of the earth and leaving leaden-hearted survivors, Ghost Ice's howls serve as tenebrous lattices for the souls of the haunted dead. On these scything branes of audial force, a new world is built, high above the detritus of the last epoch. Ghost Ice is the destroyer, architect, hero and recorder of this genesis, first and last in the new mythology. Paul Friswold
In answer to your question: Yes, the Conformists' new album, Three Hundred, is the band doing its own version of a soundtrack for that half-naked Spartan grope-fest movie of the same name. Except instead of Persians, the enemy is complacency. And instead of Spartans, the Conformists have cast themselves as hunger artists. And instead of swinging swords, the Conformists are wielding questions: How much is want? How slow is too quiet? When is a guitar not a vainglorious assault on the senses, but rather an instrument for determining the calculus of desire? Somewhere in the thorny underbrush where intelligence, radical self-deception and foolish rock & roll rub thighs, the Conformists wage their ongoing war against...well, mostly themselves. But what a spectacle. (PF)
Eric Hall describes himself as a producer, performer, improviser, DJ and installation artist. Unsurprisingly, elements of all these titles reveal themselves in his music. Using field recordings, percussive metals and various electronic devices, Hall coaxes ambient sheets of sound from various sources, and the results are both soothing and unnerving. His drones and tones mutate and overlap, creating dissonance and percussive patterns that linger for a while before flittering away. While Hall's been involved in many projects over the years (most notably the experimental music collective Grandpa's Ghost), his own recordings contain multitudes of styles, from ethereal arias to gritty dirges and everything in between. Christian Schaeffer Halo Bar, 12:30 a.m.
This collective lands somewhere between a psych-rock house party and a religious cult, an imprecise balance that the band has cultivated for more than a decade. Celebrated for its skin-baring, anything-goes live shows and endless stream of boutique CD releases, Skarekrau Radio continues to redefine noise-rock and serve as a template of off-kilter creativity for this city's knob-twiddlers. This year's The One Eyed Swine Is Queen found Skarekrau Radio touching on twisted folk, ambient dub, two-chord punk and screeching minimalism, among other sounds. What comes next is anyone's guess. (CS)
Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship
Corey Goodman packs no shortage of energy, humor and weirdness into his one-man electro-spaz show. As the captain and sole crew member of Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship, Goodman has delighted (and confounded) crowds in senior-citizen centers and indie-rock clubs with his mix of jokey raps, cheesy drum-machine beats and rave-ready keyboards. With a manic, elastic voice and boundless energy and enthusiasm, Goodman has done the rare trick of turning shtick into substance. (CS)
To witness the Dogtown Allstars perform is to observe the power of the groove, that vital (if elusive) musical element. Luckily, the Allstars possess buckets of funky, high-stepping grooves, many of which are propelled by Nathan Hershey and his spitting, crackling organ. Adam Wilke's guitar figures favor a more jazz-oriented approach, while Andy Coco and Drew Weiss hold down the rhythm section with funky, bubbly grace. The Dogtown Allstars may not have invented the groove, but they carry it on expertly. (CS)
Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 8 p.m.
Somewhere between smooth jazz, disco and the Star Wars cantina house band, the sound of Lamar Harris' trombone, trumpet and tuba funk is like nothing else in St. Louis if not planet Earth. Manipulating all manners of electronic effects and hip-hop hip-beats, he makes horns speak in strange tongues, click and bleat like bent circuits, and yet somehow express the improvisational spirit of heroes like Miles Davis and Gil Scott-Heron. (RK)
Brandt's, 10 p.m.
If you're going to do the corporate cover-band thing, you might as well go all the way. Arvell Keithley isn't just a frontman he's an industry. His bands frequent gala events and weddings, from Boeing to Busch, offering up note-perfect simulacra of the Four Tops; Earth, Wind and Fire; the Gap Band and Elvis Presley. A rousing master of ceremony, with a surprisingly supple voice, he's done more to get white people dancing than all the Jell-O shots and Jägermeister in St. Louis combined. (RK)
Thrifty R&B fans are in luck every Tuesday and Thursday, when both Kim Massie regulars and curious weekday drinkers cram into Beale on Broadway for her bi-weekly residency. Walking into one of these nights is not unlike the blues-club scene in Adventures in Babysitting, where the uninitiated are moved to participate while simultaneously feeling overwhelmed by the talent and charisma on stage. Massie's sassy stage presence isn't even the best part. No, that's her thick, sonorous voice, which remains commanding through her own songs and blues standards alike. (JL)
Nite Owl lives up to his moniker in a few senses of the word. An early-morning RFT interview took place after he had worked all night at his "day job" as a resident counselor at a children's shelter and as a musician he's seen around town almost constantly, performing his unique brand of soulful hip-hop to anyone who will listen. And people certainly are: Legendary New Jersey hip-hop label Select Records signed him to a record deal, while last year's Now You Can Boo Me has earned him some serious attention from the city's movers and shakers. Annie Zaleski
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 9 p.m.
Best Garage Band
The Gentleman Callers
For a time these Nuggets-obsessed garage rockers seemed more like the Gentleman Stalkers. Two years ago, with the release of Don't Say What It Is, their slashed and slurred Kingsmen-esque sound was omnipresent on the south-side and beyond scene. Kevin Schneider sang with a boozy yelp and guitarist Mike Virag sprayed and scattered all the right and wrong notes, which went a long way toward rewriting the Brit Invasion formula. With the recent departure of drummer Matt Picker, the Gentleman Callers are giving their dance card a break. When they return to performing, they'll surely remain mod but not trendy, trashy but melodic, danceable and more than a little off-kilter. (RK)
Johnny O & the Jerks
Johnny O & the Jerks are everything you could want in a young trashabilly band. They're dirty, adorable and chaotic, and they play sexed-up, unrestrained rockabilly music with the urgency of a punk band. While barely old enough to drink, these kids sure seem like they'd know a thing or two about getting down and dirty. Apart from their coltish appeal, the Jerks' contribution to the St. Louis scene can't be overestimated. Drummer Chris Baricevic has started his own successful record company (Big Muddy), and the band itself regularly contributes to both live shows and recordings by its friends and labelmates. Rock on, you dirty little Jerks. (JL)
Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage, 4 p.m.
Finally, a garage-rock band with an Edgar Allen Poe fetish! The Nevermores (as in, "Quoth the raven...") write songs like "I Lost Lenore" and "Tell Tale Heart" and favor the color black, but their crunchy, sneering songs are more punk than poetry. Composed of former members of Tomorrow's Cavemen, the Fuzztones and Thee Lordly Serpents, this quartet cruises through fast-paced, fuzz-bombed tunes with a nod to the Sonics and the Pretty Things. (CS)
Long John Thomas & the Duffs
It sounds like Long John Thomas & the Duffs took the title of Chuck Berry's St. Louis to Liverpool to heart. This trio takes the mod/garage revival to its logical conclusion by playing Mersey-Beat-era songs and like-sounding originals with British accents and twangy, Duane Eddy-inspired guitars. This year's Presenting... found the Duffs completing the '60s mod circle by imitating British guitar groups who were themselves imitating American R&B combos. (CS)
Ryan, Ashley and Joey have moved from young, fresh-faced punkabilly upstarts to leaders of this city's garage-rock scene in the time in takes most bands to write their first album. Two years of constant gigging have turned the Vultures from an occasionally shambolic opening act into a tight, consistently thrilling headliner. The band's recent split seven-inch with labelmates Johnny O & the Jerks gives a taste of a new full-length that's in the works. (CS)
Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage, 2 p.m.
Best Hard Rock/Metal
Like the old-school thrash bands of yore, Cross Examination takes strident stands on serious problems plaguing the scene. Take "Mortal Kombat," which addresses the mosh-pit martial artists whose freewheeling feet have turned hardcore shows into athletic-shoe gauntlets: "Careless ninjas in the place/That kick me right upside the face." Those karate kids can't keep up with Cross Examination's insanely fast riffs, basslines and backbeats, which are re-created live with startling accuracy. Andrew Miller
Now comes hate, and darkness, and the black marrow of Walpurgisnacht oozing thickly from the cracked bones of the damned. Now comes evil, and bile, and a scabrous invocation to the wickedness of human flesh. Now comes sacrilege, and blasphemy, and the infernal delights of Harkonin. "Heavy" as in loud, "heavy" as in massive, "heavy" as in Heavy. Fucking. Metal. Sharpen your horns, limber up your neck muscles, and prepare for war. (PF)
Head On Collision
Head On Collision isn't like other metal bands. For one thing, its members smile constantly. And though it still sports the Flying V and performs the requisite headbanging, Head On Collision is different (and so good) because of the tuuunes, dude. There's no joking when it comes to the music; it's dead serious when it comes to rocking you. Each member has a distinct job: Bassist Dave Carr bumps out a backbeat, guitarist John Hancock thrashes and guitarist/vocalist Pat McCauley wails all on top of drummer Jason Brooks' brutally hard hits. They're authentic without being obnoxious a rare quality in their genre. With the support of a new record label (Beer City Records), HOC are planning to hit the road even harder than the booze in 2008. (JL)
Like a grizzly bear roaring awake from a winter's slumber, Shame Club has recently come out of hibernation for shows perhaps because the quartet is on the verge of releasing its long-awaited next album, which it worked on with Carl Amburn (Riddle of Steel). As before, expect its tunes to resemble Led Zeppelin going on a road trip with Queens of the Stone Age to the California desert controlled substances optional, but encouraged. (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6 p.m.
Blending the foggy tones of doom metal with a propulsive space-truckin' pace, Spark Thugs provide a serious buzz for headbanging stoners and classic rockers alike. Tony Stone's roaring blues-infused baritone, strong enough to soar above his high-volume guitar leads, recalls Glenn Danzig, Jim Morrison and Ian Astbury. On the impending EP American Shogun, this power trio rides heavy grooves like a mythical hero corralling a minotaur, with strong, steady hands on the thrashing beast's reins. (AM)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.
Best Hip-Hop DJ
Look, anyone can download some Young Jeezy onto his MP3 player, hook up a couple of speakers and call himself a hip-hop DJ. Velveeta can also sit on a shelf and bear the label "cheese." But that nasty orange cube ain't the real deal, friend, and neither is DJ Look-Wutz-on-My-iPod. You want a hip-hop DJ who still hauls around the crates, who can barely move through his house without falling over vinyl, who plays out every week without fail. You want Needles. On Sunday nights, he rocks U. City hot-spot 609. On Wednesdays he hosts a new DJ night, Tableturnz, at Filter. And every Monday he holds it down along with his legendary DJ partner, G.Wiz, on KDHX (88.1 FM)'s The Remedy. The man is absolutely everywhere. If you haven't seen Needles spin, you're probably under house arrest. Brooke Foster Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 8 p.m.
DJ Trackstar is...a DJ. Yep, it's right there in the name. But here's the rest of it, the stuff that won't fit on CD covers and show flyers: Trackstar is a hip-hop scholar. He's a mentor to dozens of kids, an inspiration of the highest order. He's a savvy businessman and a tireless supporter of the STL scene. He drinks too much Red Bull. He has to drink that much Red Bull. How else could one person put out thirty mixtapes in less than four years? Trackstar's mixes juxtapose national heavy-hitters (Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah) with up-and-coming St. Louis talent. The brilliant emcee Lupe Fiasco one of his hip-hop heroes hosts his latest release, Boogie Bang 7. And you'll find Trackstar spinning in the Halo Bar every Friday night. He's a DJ, remember? (BF)
Pin-Up Bowl, 8 p.m.
On a track from his album Noodle-Arm Whimsy, Chicago rapper Serengeti opines: "DJ Crucial's dope." The man speaks the truth. Crucial is dope. And inventive. And wildly talented. Proof can be found on last year's amazing Test Presses and Dub Plates, which starts out strong (the beyond-legendary DJ Premier does the intro) and never lets up. Of particular note is "Slum Lords," a collabo with the Committee that blows most other life-in-the-STL tracks out of the water. Check out Crucial's live skills at one of his many gigs (he's a regular at chic Loop spots, including Delmar Lounge and Modai). And when you see him, be sure to say congrats he and his wife, the equally dope DJ Agile One, welcomed twin boys to the family in March. (BF)
Pin-Up Bowl, 9 p.m.
Charlie Chan Soprano
Charlie Chan Soprano comes by that final appellation honestly. No, he's not involved in the waste-management business (we're pretty sure), nor does he have a strange preoccupation with ducks (we don't think) but like HBO's larger-than-life Tony S., Charlie Chan Soprano is a force of nature, a presence that cannot be ignored. He's the godfather of the St. Louis DJ scene, no doubt. But where Tony is haughty, Charlie Chan is humble; his involvement in the community is nearly as legendary as his skills on the decks. Everyone knows and respects Chan, from the old-school heads to the kids coming up. He plays out tirelessly and some less-than-stellar battle emcees might know him as the Hi-Pointe Café's judge, jury and executioner. Hey, somebody's gotta be the heavy, capice? (BF)
Damn, son: Mahf is nominated twice this year, when you stop to think about it. His prowess as a DJ think tight, jubilant, uproariously fun sets featuring hot hip-hop, funk and jazz tracks is evident both in his solo performances and when he mans the tables for the excellent hip-hop crew Earthworms. Not content to just be a kickass DJ, Mahf also performed with now-defunct rock band Essence of Logic and co-hosts a show on the buzz-worthy Internet station Riverfront Radio (www.RF97.com). Check him out Wednesdays at the Upstairs Lounge night 84, or catch one of his frequent sets at the Atomic Cowboy. Just look for the guy who seems truly in love with his craft, the guy with the 200-watt smile. (BF)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 10 p.m.
Best Indie Band
Like the Ramones, the four members of Berlin Whale tend to use the surname "Whale" when referring to themselves in MySpace messages a darling conceit that aligns perfectly with their adorably lo-fi dance-rock. Rickety Casio keyboards and surrealistic lyrics collide in joyous tandem; think the B-52's, New Order and Talking Heads riding a Tilt-a-Whirl together. Whimsical without being cutesy (and stuffed with more melodies and harmonies than a Broadway musical), Berlin Whale's upcoming debut album is an equally jubilant affair. This is DIY new-wave at its most primitive. (AZ)
Cicero's, 10 p.m.
Spunky, passionate band seeks hot encounters! We are height/weight proportionate, white, bi-curious, Bunnygrunt. We enjoy long walks on the beach, movies, working out, cooking and creating appealing, melt-your-heart, adorable pop music. Seeking indie music fans who enjoy dancing, singing along, catchy choruses and discreet, kinky fun! Our many fans no longer satisfy our needs and we would love to experiment and explore with you. Let's meet in a loud, smoke-filled venue and see where the night takes us. Serious replies only. (JL)
Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 12 a.m.
Ghost in Light
It's a mistake to pigeonhole Ghost in Light as merely an "ambient" outfit. Since reconfiguring itself as a trio, GiL has become quite comfortable (and more adept) at integrating doses of throttling post-rock and dynamic volume shifts with its quieter moments. In fact, in concert is where the band truly shines: Though each individual member is talented in his own right Shae Moseley's ferocious, rock-steady drumming anchors Chandler Evans' intricate guitar work and Josh Evans' evocative, heartfelt vocals Ghost in Light's music becomes greater than the sum of its parts. (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 8 p.m.
There's very little that isn't earnest about Say Panther, from the way the collective signs off its MySpace announcements ("Yours Truly, Say Panther" is a personal favorite) to its sweetly shambolic tunes which combine the orchestral glee of the Arcade Fire or Beulah (trumpet! cello!) with dashes of echoing new-wave rock and Britpop's merry melodicism. Then again, Say Panther's pure-of-heart nature is what makes the young co-ed band such a joy to experience, both on disc and in concert. (AZ)
Cicero's, 6 p.m.
So Many Dynamos
Haters like to dismiss So Many Dynamos as a clone of the Dismemberment Plan, a beloved bunch of prog-dance geeks from Washington, D.C. But not only does the Edwardsville quartet see the D-Plan's dorkdom it raises the nerditude by incorporating spiky post-punk, zippy electro and (of course) stone-cold, Yes-styled prog-i-tude. Just try to resist headbanging through the heavy-metal breakdowns in "Progress" or breaking out your snappiest dance moves during "We Vibrate, We Do." (AZ)
Cicero's, 9 p.m.
Best Jazz Artist
Willie Akins A seasoned veteran who commands respect for his musical ability and inspires affection with his humility and humanity saxophonist Willie Akins represents the gold standard among local mainstream jazz players. Akins performs bop, ballads, blues and standards with equal aplomb, swinging authoritatively on the uptempo numbers and unfurling fat-toned, meditative lines on the slow ones. He's also been a mentor and teacher to many younger musicians, someone always willing to share his knowledge, both explicitly and by example. (DCM)
Considered by jazz critics to be the most important baritone sax player of his generation, Hamiet Bluiett ranks with Gerry Mulligan, Harry Carney and a few others as one of the greatest ever to pick up the instrument. As such, his place in jazz history would be secure even if he hadn't also co-founded the groundbreaking World Saxophone Quartet, which helped pave the way for successive generations of jazz musicians seeking to embrace both tradition and innovation. Bluiett's busy schedule still keeps him on the road for much of the year, making his occasional hometown appearances that much more of a treat. (DCM)
Erin Bode's career seems to have stayed on a steady upward trajectory over the past year. She's sung in showcase clubs across the U.S., appeared twice on national television, toured again in Europe, and even done some high-profile charity work, helping put together a CD to benefit a girls' school in South Africa. Bode's pop-jazz sensibility cuts across musical boundaries, uniting listeners of otherwise disparate tastes, and her crystalline voice and personal charm seem more than sufficient to ensure future success, no matter what stylistic direction her muse takes her. (DCM)
Dave Stone Trio Thanks in large part to his weekly stint at Mangia Italiano, saxophonist Dave Stone is something of a south-side saint, a bespectacled hero of the horn and a favorite of South Grand dwellers. While this has helped make him known around town, it's also made him easy to ignore. That would be a mistake: His trio works mostly in the realm of jazz standards, and it does so with respect to its musical forebears, while using the framework of these classics to showcase considerable improvisational talents. (CS)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 8 p.m.
Brian Sullivan Quartet
Drummer and band leader Brian Sullivan isn't genre-shy. He's gotten his rocks off with the Tripdaddys and swung with twang-punks the Round-Ups, but he's best known for bridging the gap between progressive, electrified jazz and traditional hard bebop. He has the flair and range of a gifted percussionist, crafting sounds and polyrhythms from his kit like a master conguero. His quartet, a mainstay from the Delmar Lounge to Erato, features a rotating cast, but at this Sunday's showcase he'll be joined by Bill Schafer on tenor sax, Sadeeq Holmes on keys and Bob DeBoo on double bass. (RK)
Brandt's, 9 p.m.
Best Live Act
The true test of a live band is whether it can convert non-fans by the end of a show. That's Berlin Whale's special talent. While all the quartet's songs quiver with shimmy-shaking rhythms snugly lace up those dancing shoes "Sweet Sixteen" is clearly its best song. An off-kilter keyboard drones, then white-tornado drumming and see-sawing riffs chime in; all crescendo together into the song's opening lines, which sound like they're being sung by a gang of misfit cheerleaders. (AZ)
Cicero's, 10 p.m.
Femme Fatality built its whole concept around an electroclash-y live show: two dudes hopping around on stage, singing over pre-recorded keyboard compositions and tarted-up like the teenage girls who comprise their audience. But Femme Fatality quickly stopped being a joke and became one of the most marketable bands in town. With the recent addition of three new band members, multiple instruments and a record contract (with Atlanta label Stickfigure), things are getting serious. What began as a funny idea has now grown to fill a big, gaping hole in the city's electro scene. Hey, somebody's got to make the kids dance. (JL)
Riddle of Steel
After spending a few years cycling through drummers, Spinal Tap-style, Riddle of Steel has finally settled on Rob Smith (who's also in Traindodge and resembles Animal the Muppet live) a gesture toward lineup continuity that's made all the difference in the band's live shows. In fact, the phrases "face-melting," "brain-bending" and "eardrum-bursting" come to mind to describe the power trio's rock maelstrom, which is a heady mix of meedly-meedly-mee riffage and Failure-style melodic sludge. (AZ)
7 Shot Screamers
Tours with punk legends (i.e. X's Exene Cervenka) and the occasional one-off big-deal gigs (the CD-release parties for Nekromantix in California, a gig at SXSW) have helped the 7 Shot Screamers become one of the city's rowdiest bands. Chris Powers manhandles his upright bass as if it were half its size, while singer Mike Leahy darts around the stage like a toddler on a sugar high whether the band's lashing out punkabilly originals or an appropriately doomy cover of the Stones' "Paint It Black." (AZ)
Main Outdoor Stage, 5 p.m.
So Many Dynamos
So Many Dynamos are always on the road with somebody, whether it's a Nintendo-core outfit (HORSE the Band) or a group that's a bit more up its stylistic alley (nerd-rock heroes Harvey Danger). The quartet's tight, entertaining live set certainly reflects this constant pavement-pounding: Drummer Norm Kunstel's beats stop on a dime in synch with Aaron Stovall's robotic-precise keyboard, while guitarists Ryan Wasoba and Griffin Kay provide plenty of self-deprecating humor and manic thrashing from the sides. (AZ)
Cicero's, 9 p.m.
Best Local Release
(on a label)
Blinded Black Under the Sunrise (SideCho) www.myspace.com/blindedblack
This emo sextet has turned heartache and disillusionment into hard-hitting epics. Under the Sunrise doesn't skimp on glossy production, but its slickness doesn't detract from the complexities of Blinded Black's arrangements it's an integral aspect of the band's sound. Singer Jeff Nizick leads the band through time changes and tempo shifts while the twin guitars switch between chugging chords and nimble solos. Chuck Kraus may be the band's secret weapon when he steps in on harmony and background vocals and his synthesizer leads add a touch of spaced-out prog-rock to the mix. (CS)
Finn's Motel Escape Velocity (Scat) www.myspace.com/finnsmotel
2006 was the year that Joe Thebeau stepped back into the spotlight, taking time away from his role as trusted sideman (in Magnolia Summer, among other bands) to reintroduce his considerable songwriting talents to this city. Escape Velocity deals with middle-age and suburban stasis through references to the myth of westward expansion (specifically the Arch, as heard on "Eero Saarinen") and the promise of scientific advancement. Like a more hi-fi version of Guided by Voices, Finn's Motel stuffs clanging guitars, tossed-off hooks and moments of pop brilliance into these seventeen tracks. (CS)
Halo Bar, 9:30 p.m.
Casey Reid Cephalclog (Big Muddy) www.myspace.com/caseyreid
Casey Reid is nothing if not authentic or rather, to be more specific, the wizened blues and folk tunes on his debut are as heartfelt and genuine as music gets. Crafted with a merry band of junkyard misfits, Cephalclog resembles a joyous religious revival. Washboards scrape, a patchwork choir harmonizes, sparse guitars pluck, and Reid's sandpaper voice intones tales of heartbreak and hope creating a collection that's nothing short of a total-spirit catharsis. (AZ)
Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage, 3 p.m.
Sex Robots Sex Robots (Roadhouse Tunes) www.myspace.com/sexrobots
Here's the best (and most appropriate) way to listen to the Sex Robots' self-titled album. Pick the next sunny, insanely warm St. Louis summer day. Insert the trio's CD into the car stereo. Roll down the windows all the way. Find the nearest freeway on which to go juuust above the speed limit (in other words, avoid 64-40). Crank the volume as far as it'll go. Enjoy the catchy-as-flypaper tunes, which span ragged power-pop, old-school-punk and bar-band bluster. Repeat as needed. (AZ)
So Many Dynamos Flashlights (Skrocki) www.myspace.com/somanydynamos
Perhaps it's a clichéd statement to make, but one might need a crowbar to remove So Many Dynamos' second album from the CD player. For that matter, one might need a crowbar to extract the quartet's songs from the brain. Whether it's the nonchalant paranoia of the danceable "Search Party" or the motor-mouthed chants driving "Home Is Where the Box Wine Is," Flashlights is a little bit unhinged post-punk, a little bit chaotic electro-prog and always a whole lotta fun. (AZ)
Cicero's, 9 p.m.
Target Market No Thrills (Afternoon) www.myspace.com/targetmarket
Like their buds (and kindred stylistic souls) So Many Dynamos, Target Market is skilled at making math-rock accessible to those who start sweating at the mere mention of calculus. Last year's No Thrills is bursting at the seams with spinning time signatures and criss-crossed melodies, all rendered with precision and a clear sense of purpose. Think the noisy comet-trails of the Pixies, with the brainiac edge of Talking Heads and the melancholic moments of Smoking Popes. (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 10 p.m.
Best Local Release (self-released)
Jumbling Towers Jumbling Towers www.myspace.com/jumblingtowers
Jumbling Towers' self-titled album contains no fat and very little over-indulgence in studio trickery. Mixing the taut rhythms of post-punk with nearly psychedelic keyboards, the quartet writes unhinged rock & roll songs with no shortage of dramatic movements. Singer Joe DeBoer yelps and shouts through cryptic songs like "Pure Jew" and "He's a Cop Now" in a style that mixes the menace of the Walkmen with the detached gaze of early Pink Floyd. Debut records rarely come so fully formed. (CS)
Cicero's, 7 p.m.
Gentleman Auction House The Rules Were Handed Down www.myspace.com/gentlemanauctionhouse
The seven members of Gentleman Auction House cram an album's worth of possibilities into their debut EP. These six songs reflect the modern state of American indie rock specifically in their use of orchestral flourishes, sing-along choruses and hushed harmonies. Rules begins with the title track, a nod to the gentle folk of Bright Eyes (a reference point for the rest of the EP), while the next track, "A Hospital or Heaven," adds some Brill Building-esque piano and a modest trumpet solo. Somehow, amidst all the instrumentation, the band remains modest and humble, engaging in a kind of selflessness in supplication to the songs. (CS)
Main Outdoor Stage, 4 p.m.
Ghost in Light After Fox Meadow For a certain kind of music geek, the concept of song-sequencing makes or breaks an album. The members of Ghost in Light certainly believe this to be true, if After Fox Meadow's seamless transitions between spaced-out reflection and brazen chord-bulldozing are any indication. Buzzing keyboards, harmonic latticework and spidery riffs abound conjuring the yawning noisebursts of Explosions in the Sky, early Smashing Pumpkins and Hum's burnt-sugar sheen. Perhaps most important, there's no shortage of heart stitched into Meadow's proficient musicianship. (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 8 p.m.
The Linemen Through Side One www.myspace.com/thelinemen
There's nothing "alt" or "insurgent" about the Linemen's brand of country music. Singer and songwriter Kevin Butterfield sings in a gentle, quavering croon, backed by an able band of musicians that knows how to keep the focus on the singer and his songs. On the band's debut, Through Side One, Jodee Lewis adds some sweetening with her background vocals, and Scott Swartz's pedal steel lends an ethereal grace to these rooted, rootsy songs. (CS)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 11 p.m.
Nite Owl Now You Can Boo Me www.myspace.com/nitroowlious
Last year, LaMore Maclin hit a confident stride with Now You Can Boo Me, an old school, heavily soul-influenced, sometimes minimalist hip-hop record that matched spare, languid beats with cutting and satirical wordplay. "My attitude's like Andy Kaufman," he lays down on "Jump On It." He continues: "My head is like a sharkskin/But my flow is like the skin of a dolphin." Nite Owl's slick all right, but he's also soulful, and he doesn't just talk the talk: He works as a counselor at a children's shelter. (RK)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 9 p.m.
Red Water Revival Under the Frostbidden Years www.myspace.com/redwaterrevival
If Red Water Revival was based in Brooklyn, every single NYC-centric music blog would be salivating over the stomping psych-blues tunes on its debut, Under the Frostbidden Years. As it is, the quintet gives both stalwarts (White Stripes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and upstarts (the Ponys, Earl Greyhound) a run for their bombastic money as on "Fairest of Seasons," which smokes and snarls like a howling, swamp-blues exorcism. (AZ)
Best New Artist
It's about time that a band from St. Louis took its cues from the shaggy, sexy garage-rock youthquake popularized by the Strokes. Enter the Daybreak Boys, a trio that's quickly become a live favorite around the city as much for its ragged riffs as for frontman Ryan Sears' scruffy looks. Be sure to pick up the band's recent The Bowery EP, which contains four songs suitable for your next impromptu hipster gathering. (AZ)
Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage, 5 p.m.
Heroes of the Kingdom
Collinsville-based power-rockers Heroes of the Kingdom prove that Craigslist is good for more than just finding an apartment or posting missed connections; after all, the quartet found its drummer by posting an ad on the site. Naturally, the scope of Heroes' music matches its mighty name: Think Cheap Trick-style pop bombast, with dinosaur-size thumps of Led Zeppelin and prog complexity the Mars Volta would kill to have. They have the power! (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 7 p.m.
Huey's breakout single, "Pop Lock & Drop It," might spawn the hottest dance-along craze since the Macarena except, you know, "Pop Lock & Drop It" is actually good, and you probably won't have to watch your boss dance to it at the office holiday party. Huey's infectious beats and sexy flow make him the heir apparent to the St. Louis rap-radio throne, and his charming attitude just might keep haters at bay. And with guest spots from known hip-hop quantities like YoungBloodz and a track ("When I Hustle") produced by the excellent Jazze Pha Huey's just-released debut LP, Notebook Paper, already has plenty of cred. (BF)
While mainstream mall culture has certainly co-opted the concepts, ideologies and even fashion of punk rock culture, the mere existence of bands such as the Humanoids ensures that the underground counterculture will never die. The quintet takes its cues from the old school (Descendents and Germs, we're looking at you) and from vintage-leaning groups such as Dillinger 4 both in blistering gigs and on its blink-and-you'll-miss-it debut EP, The Humanoids Are Born. (AZ)
Halo Bar, 11:30 p.m.
Shoegazer, noun: A person prone to liking and/or performing shoegazing music, a genre that's characterized by ear-numbing blasts of distortion, generous doses of reverb, and vocals that range from ethereal to buried-in-the-chaos. Stella Mora, noun: A local co-ed band of the shoegazing variety that likes its guitars loud and its songs filled with pleasing textured drones. Kindred spirits: Lush, Curve, My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver. (AZ)
Halo Bar, 8:30 p.m.
Walkie Talkie U.S.A.
Since its debut late last summer, Walkie Talkie U.S.A. has quickly developed a sizable fan base. The loose collective plays packed venues with a casual grace that can only come from years of practice and indeed, all of the band's members are veterans of the St. Louis scene. (Bands represented include Sexicolor, Red Eyed Driver, the Phonocaptors and the Tripdaddys, among others.) In Walkie Talkie U.S.A., they've combined their expert talents to create hard indie rock with a foxy, fuzzed-out core. The stylistic diversity of their songs is impressive, and the pop components electrifying hooks and intoxicating choruses are exceptional. (JL)
Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 1 a.m.
Cuban Missiles Cuban Missiles singer Mike employs a snotty, scratchy delivery reminiscent of Less Than Jake's Chris Demakes, but his band's sound bears little resemblance to ska. For that matter, Cuban Missiles strays far from the Descendents' classic pop-punk template, even though they mine that group's catalog under their cover-band alias Sour Grapes. On its 2007 full-length Applaud the Apocalypse, the quartet plays a darker, grittier style of melodicore, with surgically sharp guitar leads, rumbling rhythms and downbeat hooks. (AM)
Despite being in existence for only a few months, the Humanoids' punk pedigree is already impeccable to the tune of an appearance this fall at Gainesville, Florida's well-respected event The Fest; a killer Descendents cover; and opening slots for the Queers and Agent Orange at the Creepy Crawl. But what's most refreshing about the quintet is how little pretension exists within the execution of its no-brakes speedballs; whereas other bands try really hard to sound this badass, the Humanoids make it look easy. (AZ)
Halo Bar, 11:30 p.m.
Lye by Mistake Like James, the tot from Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies who expires after ingesting "lye by mistake," first-time Lye by Mistake listeners might feel as though they've swallowed something much stronger than expected. The group's recently released Arrangements for Fulminating Vective contains some of the most dauntingly technical compositions ever to escape the area, from squealing high-speed solos to complex jazzy interludes to pyrotechnic drumwork. Lye by Mistake's vocals might be harsh, but sublime melodies hide inside its labyrinthine instrumental passages. (AZ)
Even though both groups are gifted at constructing memorable melodies, consider grit-punks the Pubes the yin to the Sex Robots' bubblegum-punk yang. (Obligatory reference point: The two outfits share band members and a label, so any similarities are purely intentional.) Heavier than conventional pop-punk but still accessible, the quartet isn't performing at the showcase because it's currently on a cross-country tour in support of a new album, the cheekily named Peat Sounds. (AZ)
7 Shot Screamers
Despite constant tours, 7 Shot Screamers is not a "local act gone national." No, its status is even better: The quartet is an in-demand national act that insists on staying local. These guys are only in their twenties, but they've been rocking this town since they were wee adolescents. The Screamers represent for psychobilly, which is sort of the sexier, crazier side of rockabilly. Though they do sound much more like the Cramps than the Stray Cats, don't be confused by the labels. At its core, 7SS is an energetic punk band that always gives an impressive, enthusiastic performance. (JL)
Main Outdoor Stage, 5 p.m.
Best Pop Band
Gentleman Auction House
Zeitgeist meets exuberance in this young septet, and while plainly inspired by the mini-marching-band antics of the Arcade Fire and the Decemberists, the band knows the difference between emulation and inspiration. Kiley Lewis' flute and sci-fi keyboards (not to mention handclaps) provide a secret weapon and slyly guide the band's identity through songs of twisted dreams and emotional fuck-ups. The bandmates regularly close by drumming on anything they can get their hands on. Not even their audience is safe which, in rock & roll, is as it should be. (RK)
Main Outdoor Stage, 4 p.m.
The Hibernauts sound completely British. In fact, the band sounds so completely foreign that it's hard to imagine that its breezy, informed Britpop was born in the U.S.A. It's a compliment, really: If they messed up their teeth a bit and obsessed over "football," they could easily pass for a seasoned European band passing through the Midwest on tour. Instead of writing them off as second-rate Blur rip-offs, St. Louis audiences are rightfully astounded by their pretty, unassuming indie-pop. In a genre plagued with dull repetition, the Hibernauts are a revitalizing breath of fresh air. (JL)
All of Ludo's hard work has paid off in a big way in the past year. The quintet inked a major-label record deal with Island Records and landed the opening slot for a string of shows with college-rock faves O.A.R., among other achievements. This summer will be even busier for the Moog-punks, with more Warped Tour exposure and the imminent release of their Island debut on the horizon. (AZ)
Sex Robots sound like they should have been on the Empire Records soundtrack. The band consistently produces delightful little nuggets of delicious power-pop, most of which are bright and encourage sunny little dreams of rainbows, flowers and lollipops. In fact, Sex Robots make you wanna scream, "Wheeee!" especially when they bust out one of their sexy little Beach Boys-esque, surfy guitar solos. They claim to be heavily influenced by Cyndi Lauper, which makes perfect sense, because the Sex Robots just wanna have fun, too. Whee! (JL)
That's My Daughter
This punk band is not your father's daughter, and they're not the gay kitsch trio who scored the Comedy Central hit "Tight White Jeans." That's My Daughter is Sara Oberst, Tim Dreste, Lindsay Reber and Cory Hammerstone, and its take on punk draws as much from devil metal as it does from the Ramones, incorporating as much grrl-pop attitude as it does urban alienation. More satirical than political, the band turns noise riffs into sludgy guitar stomp and tosses off hooks like so many meaningless make-out sessions hot, sloppy and sticky fun. (RK)
Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 11 p.m.
Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist
Earthworms. Earth...worms. Such a humble, unassuming, just-crawlin'-along-don't-mind-me name for such an incredibly vibrant group. Then again, maybe the guys in this whip-smart collective Mathias, Black Patrick, Kama and DJ Mahf are thinking about the earthworm's other characteristics. You know: Tough. Able to thrive in the underground. Always regenerating, nearly undefeatable. Yeah, we get it now. If you're not hip to the Earthworms yet, you're missing out on one of the city's most exciting crews. The live show is a raucous party, and the album No Arms, No Legs, Just a Head and a Body is a rap-funk amalgam of the highest order. These guys took top honors last year, and they're worthy contenders again. You owe it to yourself to check out Earthworms but please don't send us the bill when your feet are sore from dancing. We gave you fair warning, after all. (BF)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 11 p.m.
Family Affair should've blown up huge by now. Their solar-flare-hot single, "U Go Luv tha Family," is as tight as anything playing on national radio at the moment. In fact, it's better, because the duo twin brothers Mr. REP and QB tha Classic laid this track down over a year ago. That means that, instead of biting the string-section samples and the chill-yet-menacing flow, these guys presaged it. Family Affair received plenty of spins on The Beat (100.3 FM), which is awesome. But it'd be great to see these talented emcees take it to the next level. After all, how many twenty-year-old rappers do you know who confide that "confidence came from my Moms and the ghost of my Granny?" Talk about respect. (BF)
There's no getting around it: Most rap-rock sucks a big one. So what are the Midwest Avengers to do? They produce hip-hop with a rock & roll foundation and it's amazing. They sound nothing like the obnoxious Limp Bizkits and Linkin Parks of the world. The Midwest Avengers flow smooth, intelligent lyrics over propulsive hip-hop beats with a freeing rock & roll style. Unlike many other local bands, its recordings and live shows sound phenomenally professional. Slick and dignified, the Avengers' primary genre of hip-hop is gently skewed as they embrace elements of funk, jazz and even a little classic rock. (JL)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 7 p.m.
The self-proclaimed "Midwest Underground King," Ruka Puff organized the Midwest Monsters Music Conference in January to help his peers and loyal subjects perfect their industry hustle. He also extends advice to his enemies: In April, the thunder-voiced emcee left the message "If you're hating, kill your fucking self" on his Web site. Ruka's latest single, a club-ready ode to "thick" ladies called "Peanut Butta," combines massive bass drops, a melodic whistle and a seductively sung hook ("I know you wanna touch me.") (AM)
There aren't enough female emcees in the game, period. So we're incredibly lucky to have one of the best right here in St. Louis. Toyy, a quick-spitting, deep-thinking rapper from north city, has brought her skills to the underground scene for the past several years. The sister of Jia (and the late Katt) Davis, Toyy furthers the family legacy with her smoky voice and take-no-prisoners rhymes. She performs with Jia in the Committee (for our money, one of the absolute best St. Louis crews) and also takes the stage solo. Tired of seeing women in hip-hop treated as little more than bootylicious props? Yeah, so are we. Let Toyy show you what real talent is. It's about damn time. (BF)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 6 p.m.
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.
Dubtronix Led 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 Vision on 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)
We're having a bit of a venue crisis lately. Clubs keep shutting down, and they say it's hard for local bands to find a good place to play. Right? Well, Team Tomato doesn't seem to be feeling the crunch. The quartet appears to be busier than ever and is playing its own brand of dynamic alternative rock all over town. So what makes Team Tomato so special? Well, it has lavish drum solos, the indie-country elements of late-'80s R.E.M., the catchy guitar hooks of Nirvana, killer Beck covers and it plays enchantingly layered melodies with style, bitches. Try to keep up. (JL)
Halo Bar, 10:30 p.m.
Walkie Talkie U.S.A.
A super-group of sorts, Walkie Talkie U.S.A. features present and former members of Nadine, Red Eyed Driver and the Phonocaptors. Together they communicate on multiple frequencies: proggy, Stooge-y, glammy, heavy but mostly massively loud. Singer and songwriter Jason Hutto has the rock stance; legs akimbo, he could straddle all the Marshall stacks onstage. Plenty of those, and plenty of power chords channeled through tricky changes that never obliterate the melodies drawn out by Bryan Hoskins' freakishly high harmony vocals. (RK)
Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 1 a.m.
With deep family roots in Missouri country, Kevin Butterfield carries on the tradition of Show-Me State-born singers such as Ferlin Husky, Porter Wagoner and Wynn Stewart and he does so without even trying. With his shaved head and angled jaw, he looks more like the poli-sci graduate student he is than a country balladeer. As leader of the Linemen, the city's stone-cold, hillbilly-deluxe band, or as a regular solo performer at Iron Barley, his tone is always pure country heartache. (RK)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 11 p.m.
Jumbling Towers lead singer Joe DeBoer has no problem enunciating. Every word is clearly pronounced; each syllable given its full weight. This dramatic, stage-ready style is coupled with his curious accent, which sounds vaguely British. It may be an act, but DeBoer's belief in these songs and his assuredness in his voice cuts through the pretension, making it a perfect match for Jumbling Towers' jagged, bristly brand of rock & roll. (CS)
Cicero's, 7 p.m.
Veteran blues and jazz belter Kim Massie is to the St. Louis R&B scene what Skylab was to space: Her range is stratospheric, and you never know high she'll take you, or where or how hard she'll land. She has the growl of Koko, the swing of Aretha and the pure St. Louis soul of Ann Peebles all of whom she isn't afraid to challenge by covering. She can pull you up to your feet by purring a smooth jazz tune and then knock you back in your seat with the least-clichéd, hardest-edged version of "Proud Mary" you can imagine. (RK)
When scatting fast and jazzy, Casey Reid can sound like Tom Waits; when howling madly, he's as scary as Hasil Adkins; and when he gets low-down and mean, he can be as sexy as Jim Morrison. For a junkyard blues punk, he's a fairly protean singer, more technically gifted than the spontaneous combustion his songs require, and more willing to take risks than most blues singers. And he does in fact know his blue notes: Reid just doesn't hit them; he chews them down to the cold, hard bone. (RK)
Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage, 3 p.m.