By Jaime Lees
By Roy Kasten
By Melinda Cooper
By Jeremy Essig
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On this year's official SXSW showcase list, singer-songwriter Dan Dyer claims St. Louis as his hometown. But his official biography tells a different story: Dyer now lives in Austin, Texas, and actually appears to have left the city several years ago because "there is not much of a music scene in St. Louis."
Too bad that Dyer didn't stick around a bit longer, because he would certainly regret those words. At this year's SXSW music festival (which takes place in Austin from March 12 to 15), the St. Louis music community boasts no less than eleven bands performing. In fact, the Lou hasn't been this well-represented in Texas in years. (Perhaps ever?)
Then again, this healthy SXSW showing is merely a reflection of the excitement buzzing around local (and frequently packed) clubs. The music community doesn't seem afraid of success or of showing ambition anymore; and most important, being from St. Louis no longer seems like a liability, but a source of pride. Inferiority complex? What inferiority complex?
Here's a rundown of all of the local night showcases and day parties announced so far. Stay tuned to the A to Z music blog (blogs.riverfronttimes.com/atoz) for updates and plenty of dispatches about the local (and national) happenings during SXSW week.
Gentleman Auction House: Big things are afoot for indie darlings Gentleman Auction House in 2008. With a record deal in hand from Columbia's Emergency Umbrella Records, the septet is gearing up to release an EP, The Book of Matches, and then its debut full-length, Alphabet Graveyard. The latter features plenty of songs the band has honed during its recent live shows. In other words, expect sugar-spun indie rock sprinkled with wispy harmonies, twinkling orchestration and plenty of visceral grooves, including a Rick James sound-alike (no, really) and a reggae number that shouldn't work — but does. (11 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, Club 115)
Magnolia Summer: Chris Grabau — and whatever bandmates he can rope into coming with him — performs as Magnolia Summer during Undertow Records' annual SXSW showcase. That night generally feels more like a family picnic than a music industry event, and this year is no different: Caleb Engstrom, Glossary and the Monahans, among others, will join Magnolia Summer on the bill. Grabau and Co. are playing a rare local show at Off Broadway on Saturday, March 22, while new songs — which are often augmented with gorgeous fiddle parts from Grace Basement's Kevin Buckley — are also on the horizon. (Thursday, March 13, Habana Calle 6 Patio)
Ludo: After years of playing renegade SXSW gigs for anyone who would listen, Ludo has graduated to a plum official showcase slot on the strength of its new album, You're Awful, I Love You. This debut for Island Records showcases the quintet's strongest songwriting yet — while maintaining its commitment to scrambling together power-pop, Moog-punk, ska and fuzz-rock. Appearing with Ludo at SXSW will be the band's March tourmate, the Presidents of the United States of America. (8:50 p.m. Thursday, March 13, Cedar Door)
Shame Club: After Shame Club released the smoldering Come On late last year, the Detroit stoner-rock label Small Stone Records swooped in, signed the quartet and decided to re-release On to a wider audience. The label's excitement is understandable: With touchstones as diverse as Dinosaur Jr., Sly and the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin, the album is like a sequel to the Dazed and Confused soundtrack — or a really great classic rock station where the DJs have an encyclopedic knowledge of music history to impart. Bring your earplugs because Shame Club always turns the amps up to eleven. (10 p.m. Friday, March 14, Room 710)
Story of the Year: The Lou screamo kingpins sound rejuvenated on "Wake Up," the lead single from their April 22-released album, The Black Swan. Recorded for new label Epitaph Records, "Wake Up" is an adrenaline-inducing punk-pop anthem that's slick without being sterile. The quintet will be whirling and shredding its collective vocal cords on Warped Tour all summer. (1 a.m. Friday, March 14, Habana Annex Backyard)
Club-hopping at night is only part of the SXSW fun, however. After all, everyone needs a cocktail (or three) to ward off the previous night's hangover.
Twangfest and KDHX (88.1 FM) are again cosponsoring a two-day afternoon soiree at Jovita's. Thursday's lineup includes Ha Ha Tonka, Black Diamond Heavies, David Bazan and Scott H. Biram. On Saturday, locals Jon Hardy and the Public — think an indie-soul version of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe's trenchant power-pop — will share the stage with Wussy, Steve Poltz, the Redwalls, Chuck Prophet and more.
The Saint Louis University on-campus venue the Billiken Club is also curating its own stage on Thursday afternoon, in conjunction with the Twangfest/KDHX party. Appearing will be the "This Is American Music" lineup (including the Drams and Grand Champeen); the experimental electro duo Pattern is Movement; heartfelt Neil Young-ish folkies Deer Tick; Gentleman Auction House and keyboard-prog spazzes So Many Dynamos. The latter bunch of gearheads is fresh off finishing its third full-length, which it worked on with an impressive list of collaborators, including Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla and mixer Alex Newport (At the Drive-In).