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
Like a well-seasoned dish, Tenement Ruth's mix of hot and sweet is well-tempered, satisfying and a little bit addictive. The sweetness comes through in Melissa Anderson's vocals, which are pretty and powerful in equal measure. The heat emerges via the fiery six-string guitar played by her husband, Dave Anderson, who's also a whiz on the pedal steel. Add a stellar rhythm section, and Tenement Ruth's smoky, seductive country rock lulls you into a dreamy haze — before landing a few well-placed sucker punches. (CS)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 7 p.m.
It's tough to decide what's more attractive about Theodore — is it the to-the-bone songwriting or its restless, creative musicianship? Justin Kinkel-Schuster's lyrics narrow in on woe, worry and wantonness with a poet's precision; his instrument-swapping bandmates, meanwhile, paint a perfect backdrop with loud guitars, bowed upright bass, mellow horns and raucous percussion. But Theodore's continuous oscillation between country weepers and boundaryless maelstroms ensures that it's both a must-see live act (as at this year's SXSW) and an excellent studio band (see 2008's Defeated, TN). (CS)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 10 p.m.
Best Americana/Folk (Untraditional)
The Dock Ellis Band
The Dock Ellis Band has no interest in cutting its down-home influences with trendy eccentricities or artsy gimmicks. No, Dock Ellis serves it up straight — like an oversized shot of rail whiskey, straight, no chaser. The band's barroom-country-meets-Southern-rock tunes are a fitting backdrop for early summer drinking nights out in St. Louis, thanks to their references to hometown sports, run-ins with the law and comical romantic misadventures. Add to this the always-entertaining Jesse Irwin, who provides quick-witted stage banter, spot-on covers of country classics and a few more drinks for good measure — and you've got yourself one hell of a night on the town. (SM)
If Pokey LaFarge's bio claimed that he landed in St. Louis via some magical, time-traveling boxcar that plunked him on a set of rusty railroad tracks alongside the Mississippi River, you could almost believe it. As it stands, the story of how LaFarge arrived in our city isn't nearly so whimsical: The ex-Hackensaw Boys member met the cats at Big Muddy Records (which put out last year's Beat, Move, and Shake LP) in North Carolina and liked the Lou and its people enough to move here. Either way, the singer and guitarist — who's also spent a lot of time in Louisville, Kentucky — brings with him an old-timey sensibility and a love of prewar blues music. (CS)
To say that the Monads has matured is like saying the pirates of Hormuz have gotten more sophisticated. But the quartet has matured — by tightening, tuning and synthesizing while it pursues its heathen raids on both bluegrass and punk. It knows one speed — runaway tanker truck — but, thanks in large part to Matt Shivelbine's exquisite fiddle work, the Monads keeps the structure of its whiskey-swilling, death-defying songs from splintering to pieces. And the band still takes no prisoners live, leaving a trail of broken blood blisters and busted banjo strings along the way. (RK)
The Cucina Outdoor Stage, 4 p.m.
Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra
These days, most soundtracks are utterly commodified, pure product placements divorced from cinematic aesthetic and story (when those even exist). This band, formed out of the ashes of gypsy-punk rockers Rats & People, is like a well-trained army standing athwart the bastardization of a once-noble art form. The bandmates make swirling and stirring instrumental sounds to accompany silent films, notably by directors such as Buster Keaton and F.W. Murnau, but their music, intricate and suggestive, can more than stand on its own. (RK)
The Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 8 p.m.
The vivid imagery and rolling cadences of Wooden Kites vocalist Brian Potts immediately call to mind the folksy rambles of Neutral Milk Hotel or Bright Eyes. But the band's blend of heavy piano textures, vintage synth flourishes and heavy-handed drumming gives it a sound all its own. In fact, until it broke up last weekend, the Kites was probably one of the hardest bands in town to categorize, as it often cycled through a variety of styles live — from folk-influenced indie rock and hard-driving country to dirge-like, minor-key blues and sea-shanty drinking songs. (SM)
Best Blues Artist
Alvin Jett & the Phat noiZ Blues Band
Alvin Jett and his band recently celebrated the release of Honey Bowl, which is a recorded testament of the guitarist's skills on the six-string and the mic. Honey Bowl assured listeners that Jett and company have mastered the genre's love of tongue-in-cheek sexuality (check out the double-entendre-laden title track) while still keeping an eye on social issues (the crack-head lament "Zombie Land"). But you listen to the blues for the licks as much as for the lyrics, and Jett has a blistering technique that goes from cool and smooth to hot and raw at a moment's notice. (CS)
Big George Brock
George Brock's adopted hometown of St. Louis sits midway between Mississippi and Chicago — a parallel to how his music blends the rural blues of his Southern birthplace with the electric sound popularized by Chess Records in the '50s. Although now in his mid-'70s, Brock is still going strong: He remains a powerful vocalist and ebullient showman who punctuates his band's ragged-but-right arrangements with spare, no-nonsense blues-harp playing. — Dean C. Minderman