By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
You can vote for your favorite bands and artists through midnight Sunday, June 7, either online, by filling out the ballot in this week's RFT or at the various RFT Music Showcase venues. For info on the RFT Music Showcase -- wristband sales, maps and such -- go here.
The Bottle Rockets
The idea of a Lifetime Achievement award might seem a little strange to long-time fans of the Bottle Rockets. During its fifteen-plus years of touring and recording, Brian Henneman's outfit has never rested on its laurels or demanded credit for being one of alt-country's sonic architects. Instead, the quartet has weathered lineup shifts and record-label hassles by staying true to its smart, broad-shouldered roots-rock. In fact, Bloodshot Records will release a new BoRox LP, Lean Forward, in August — and the core elements of the band's sound (Henneman's steely eyed but good-natured lyrics and loud guitars with equal amounts of twang and bite) will no doubt be on display. — Christian Schaeffer
Fuck-it-all twee-punk rock shouldn't age gracefully, but in the case of Bunnygrunt, which formed in 1993, lineup changes and stretches of obsolescence have only made the Matt Harnish-led project stronger, noisier and livelier. Karen Ried rounds out the core duo, although the pair has long been supported by a revolving cast that transforms delirious primitivism into the sonic equivalent of a pillow fight to the death. The band's songs have hit the movies, and its following is properly cult, but Bunnygrunt retains an undefeatable spirit of spontaneity, wit and fun-for-the-sake-of-fun that is the essence of rock & roll. — Roy Kasten
The Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, midnight
Even when Kim Massie isn't singing a blues song, the lady still sings the blues. Her voice is full-bodied, soaked through with emotion, and imbued with a lifetime of love and heartache. Along with her band, the Solid Senders, Massie holds court twice a week on Beale on Broadway's tiny stage, and even while seated, she can command the audience's complete attention as she takes requests and exhorts the patrons to fill up the tip jar. Whether she sings something by Led Zeppelin or by her beloved Aretha Franklin, Massie owns each song with a gospel choirmaster's grace — and a juke-joint singer's knowing wink. (CS)
Murder City Players
For many, reggae isn't about innovation as much as its love of a traditional musical language. This is certainly the case with the Murder City Players, which has stayed true to the genre throughout its 26-year career. With devotion and discipline, the band has avoided the temptation to follow trends or exploit the occasional ska resurgence. In other words, Murder City is fluent enough in reggae to edit Desmond Dekker's Wikipedia entry — or faithfully cover the Wailers, like it did at last year's An Under Cover Weekend. New music is in the works (release date and format: TBA) but rest assured that the act still parties like it's 1967, one upbeat at a time.— Ryan Wasoba
The Pageant, 8:15 p.m.
The Trip Daddys
It's hard to think of another St. Louis band that so purely channels the city's diverse and rich musical history. But as long as the music rocks, it's all the same to local rockabilly vets the Trip Daddys. For nearly fifteen years, the trio has been churning out authentic St. Louis rock & roll: a no-nonsense mix of old-time hillbilly blues and Western swing augmented by machine-gun-burst guitar solos. Craig Straubinger's high-intensity stage theatrics and tinges of Misfits-esque punk edginess further keep the group's sound from drowning in nostalgic reverie. — Shae Moseley
Halo Bar, 11 p.m.
Best Americana/Folk (Traditional)
The back-to-basics Americana and Replacementsy rock of Leadville belies the catchiness and distinctive sweetness of singer Tom Buescher's tunes. On the forthcoming Time Kills, mandolins, acoustic guitars, Telecasters, accordion, fiddle and full-band harmonies weave in and out, creating sonic stories of roads taken and abandoned, risks won and lost. And so Leadville isn't so back-to-basics after all, and there's nothing folk about them — this is rock & roll with a warm, rootsy heart. (RK)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 9 p.m.
It's unfortunate for St. Louis that the Linemen recently called it quits as a result of vocalist/songwriter Kevin Butterfield's move to Montreal. But the band's legacy remains vibrant: It released two solid albums (2007's Through Side One and this year's Reconsider) and brought a refreshingly gimmick-free brand of straightforward, classic-country music to venues around town. The perfectly controlled cracks in Butterfield's silky tenor croon banter with Scott Swartz's pedal-steel flourishes, while the veteran rhythm section of Greg Lamb and John Baldus perfectly rounds out the Linemen's pure, delicate sound. (SM)
In storytelling and joke-making, things are always better, funnier and rife with more possibility when they're arranged in sets of three. (For proof, see the story of The Three Little Pigs and the TheThree Stooges.) This rule holds true in music as well, at least when considering Rough Shop's singer-songwriters. Individually, Andy Ploof, Anne Tkach and John Wendland possess distinct voices and refined songwriting styles; together, the trio combines folk, rock, blues, bluegrass and jazz with an amiable grace and expert chops. (CS)
Pi, 10 p.m.
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
The phrases "low-key" and "guitar hero" don't often appear in the same sentence, but both could be applied to Tom Hall, whose laid-back stage presence tends to make one forget that he's a truly exceptional guitarist. Hall has absorbed Delta blues, folk and a host of other styles to create his own approach to acoustic roots music, while his personal picking style displays both a deep understanding of the blues and fluid technique. (DM)
Brandt's Café, 8 p.m.
A blues singer with a love of funk, soul and jazz, Uvee Hayes is a versatile performer who is at home with every genre she approaches. Her latest record, Play Something Pretty, is a guided tour through her range — she can be deep, soulful and stirring or move toward nimble, jazz-inflected fare. Hayes made her first recording in 1969, and in her 40 years in the business, she has grown into an assured artist who makes sure that the blues are alive and well in St. Louis. (CS)
Rum Drum Ramblers
Give the Rum Drum Ramblers a stage — or hell, create a makeshift one out of just about any space big enough to fit three people — and the rowdy, ragtag blues bunch will play a set. The tireless act is found racing around to venues traditional (BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups), cult (Blues City Deli, CBGBs) and high-profile (Halo Bar, after Sharon Jones) multiple times a week. It even found time to record an old-timey, sepia-toned LP for Big Muddy Records, Hey Lordy Mama Mama Get Up and Go.— Annie Zaleski
Racanelli's Cucina, 7 p.m.
The Sol Lounge's recent appearance on the local social map is in no small part due to St. Louis nightlife fixture Flex Boogie, who's one of the city's most versatile DJs and producers. His Gilles Peterson-like range includes jazz, downtempo, hip-hop, house, broken-beat and dub-step. Flex can either be heard spinning in the newly renovated, elegant upstairs section of the Central West End hot spot, or in its main room the second Saturday of every month.— Kristy Wendt
Pin-Up Bowl, 8 p.m.
Nina Simone's earliest RCA recordings include audio of her admonishing a musician: "You're pushing it. Just relax. It'll go up by itself. Don't put nothin' in it unless you feel it." Alphahouse veteran JNX has the deft ability to spin stripped-down music that goes up by itself, whether he's at the Upstairs Lounge on Saturday night or performing at a Sunday afternoon Rebound party at F15teen. Alphahouse members such as JNX use minimal, house and techno tracks to their best advantage, but courteously request that you leave your shiny Ed Hardy shirt at home. In other words come for the music, and JNX will deliver soulful, naked, of-the-moment tracks for anyone who wants to listen. (KW)
Home Nightclub's resident DJ, Rob Lemon, has been behind the decks for more than a decade, and has played alongside internationally renowned artists Benny Benassi, Paul van Dyk and Deadmau5. His glitzy, synth-heavy progressive tracks have a polished, high-energy appeal that fits Home's upscale bill, while the fast-paced minimal and deep house tracks he spins at Sol early in the evening are an effective Saturday night jump-starter. (KW)
Whether he's spinning deep warehouse for a Fly event at the Upstairs Lounge, tribal on Sunday afternoon at F15teen, soul on Lush's rooftop patio or entertaining a recent disco obsession in the basement of the Thaxton, Scotty Mac is targeting those who are on the periphery, nodding their heads. They'll be dancing soon — his mixes are dynamic and slick, his transitions are as undetectable as he wants them to be, and his tracks always have one thing in common: fun. (KW)
Ask improvisational DJ Thumpasaurus about the evolution of his dubstep repertoire, and he'll reply, "I'm just a simple reptile trying to prepare for the Ice Age." Thumpasaurus started as a funk DJ, but after a five-year run as the host of Good Times on KDHX (88.1 FM), he now incorporates ghetto tech, dubstep, minimal and trance for the promotional group Nasty Rumor on Tuesday nights at the Old Rock House. Thumpasaurus is also one of the few controllerist/live PA artists in St. Louis: He uses a laptop and MIDI controllers instead of turntables or CD players to churn out grinding, glitchy, unpredictable sets that have all the chaotic energy of a good jam band. (KW)
Pin-Up Bowl, 7 p.m.
Ask Bikini Acid to hear some recorded music, and bassist/keyboardist/de facto vocalist Josh Levi (who's also in Worm Hands) apologizes that all he has to offer are cassettes. That charming antiquity marks the trio, whose Krautrock-influenced, midnight-hued psych-rock can hit like a sledgehammer or float like a post-apocalyptic morning. Fans of Bardo Pond, Black Angels and Fuck Buttons would be wise to head to Bikini Acid's shows at places such as Mangia and aPop Records. (AZ)
Sure, Dottie Georges' solo project is the result of hours of obsessive knob-fiddling and reclusive multitrack experiments. But .e's classification as a noise artist stems from aesthetic alone. She stacks sparkling guitar chords and the occasional thrift-store keyboard atop janky drum-machine beats like an awesome game of Jenga, balancing seemingly endless layers with hushed vocals and sweet melodies. Among all the noise, .e's dreamy bedroom-pop couldn't be further from abrasive. (RW)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 7 p.m.
Like many noise artists, Eric Hall is curious and prolific. Unlike many noise artists, Hall is fearless and consistent, succeeding whether improvising found-sound collages; remixing twee-poppers Bunnygrunt, sludging up with stoner metal outfit N. Nomurai, mashing up "99 Problems" with "99 Red Balloons" as DJ Lil' Daddy Reba McEntire or performing John Cage compositions with samples made from striking the Arch. Such versatility leaves little room for pretension — and in fact, Eric Hall is just a kid in a candy store when it comes to sound. (RW)
Vintage Vinyl, 6 p.m.
The duo of Kevin Schlueter and Chris Muether is aptly named: Its shadowy instrumentals sound like the soundtrack for the condemned walking to their execution or an Edgar Allan Poe short story come to life. Cinematic, grayscale cellos and clarinet (courtesy of Muether) do a danse macabre with Schlueter's droning soundscapes; think Glenn Branca, A Silver Mt. Zion and other spook-imental instrumentalists. A fave of Cherokee venue Cranky Yellow, the Lonely Procession bewitches by exploring the things that make us uncomfortable. (AZ)
If Brian Eno taught us anything, it's that the corralling and manipulating of raw sounds, waveforms and frequencies is a fine art in and of itself, on par with mastering the guitar or violin. Joseph Raglani, who performs and records under his surname, has taken the act of knob-twiddling and turned it into an art form, by crafting instrumental pieces that range from dark and throbbing to bucolic and mystical. Sadly, Raglani's entire arsenal of synthesizers, effects pedals and signal processors was stolen after a recent show in New York City, but if there's any justice, his gear will be returned or replaced and he can continue creating challenging, intuitive music. (CS)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 6 p.m.
At its heart funk music is all about simplicity: the repetition of a groove, the dependable rhythm of a drumbeat, the few chords it takes to make audience members bob their heads or shake their asses. The Dogtown Allstars has remained a St. Louis funk fixture all these years by keeping things simple: The quartet borrows the formula from the almighty Meters — jazzy guitar, gospel-fueled organ and an in-the-pocket rhythm section — to make music that drips with soul and oozes sophisticated cool. The well-trod dance floors of this city's music clubs are a testament to the quartet's ability to squeeze out the funk — and never stray too far from the groove. (CS)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 8 p.m.
Funky Butt Brass Band
In New Orleans second-line brass bands can be found in nearly every African American neighborhood, as ragtag groups featuring trumpet, trombone and saxophone players play both traditional brass-band music and modern hip-hop and R&B songs. These days, St. Louis has its own second-line-style group in the Funky Butt Brass Band, where a sousaphone holds down the low end and bright brass and woodwinds carry the tune. Expect to hear such standards as "When the Saints Go Marching In," but don't be surprised if the Funky Butt boys throw in a little Bob Dylan and Fats Domino for good measure. (CS)
The Cucina Outdoor Stage, 2 p.m.
If you're craving some Louisiana music but can't make it to New Orleans, a big helping of Gumbohead is the next best thing. With an extensive repertoire of Crescent City R&B, soul classics and zydeco tunes, it's always ready to let the good times roll, by bringing a bit of bayou flavor and a musical taste of the French Quarter, Tremé and the Ninth Ward to the streets of St. Louis. (DM)
Since being a showcasing artist at this year's SXSW music festival, Teresajenee's reputation seems to be expanding by the minute. Her music ranges from conventional, R&B-style ballads to electro/alternative soul and beyond. Her vocals are often warm and gentle (reminiscent of Dionne Farris), but she's quite comfortable experimenting with less contemporary styles as well. Her appropriately titled June-released album, The Eclectic, will undoubtedly underscore Teresajenee's versatility and bold approach to the genre.— Calvin Cox
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 7 p.m.
More than just a gifted musician, Lamar Harris is a man of many talents. He doesn't just play the horns — he also writes, composes and arranges his music. Harris mixes traditional brass sounds with drum samples and electronic synths, achieving a modern-soul vibe with a vintage edge to it. He has already worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, from George Benson and Musiq Soulchild to Common and the Roots. (CC)
Brandt's Café, 11 p.m.
Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist (Solo)
When he's not busy schooling New York underground sensation Charles Hamilton on the art and ethics behind beat-making, sewing his own clothing line at art exhibitions or producing tracks for nearly every talented artist in town, Black Spade is a lyricist. And anyone who heard his debut album, To Serve with Love, knows he's a damn good one, too. Thing is, his smart, slick verses are often eclipsed by his catchy sing-song hooks and self-produced beats that are as soulful as they are innovative. Don't believe it? Hear his vocal dexterity for yourself August 1, when the multitalented Spade shares the stage with Lupe Fiasco at Live on the Levee. — Keegan Hamilton
Topping his outstanding 2007 debut album, Northside Phenomenon, was a tall order, but Rockwell Knuckles may have done it with a mixtape called The Glow. Rocky's rhymes were already packed with more movie references than a Tarantino script, and so he made a quasi-concept album peppered with lines from the '80s cult classic Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon. And like Bruce Leroy, the film's kind young kung fu master, Knuckles ended up kicking some righteous ass with "See N Say," a self-described "Mayor Slay diss." Now, thanks to an impressive performance at SXSW and support from influential hip-hop blog the Smoking Section, Rockwell Knuckles' gospel is starting to spread to area codes other than 314. (KH)
You may have heard about Tef Poe and his "mooning the Nazis" incident earlier this year. But that's nothing new; Tef's been "showing his ass" on the microphone for years. He's one of the area's scrappiest emcees, and when he starts letting the punch lines fly, you'd better get out of the way. His Glory 2 God mixtape is a good example of what he's capable of, and it features production by his brother Black Spade. (CC)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.
With his reputation as a talented producer, emcee and performer preceding him, it comes as no surprise to see Vandalyzm back on the ballot this year. His delivery changes as often as his subject matter does — which is definitely a good thing. On one track Van may take the slow, staccato approach, and on the next he's likely to assault the beat with the precision of a sniper. His Bitch, Cause I Felt Like It mixtape is due out this year. (CC)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.
Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist (Duo or Group)
An urban funk-and-underground hip-hop collective, Earthworms crosses the club-conscious cuddle-thuggery of Nelly with the easy-going spirit of De La Soul to create a distinctively St. Louis style of dance music. With emcees Mathias, Kama and Black Patrick riffing on simple pleasures such as girls on ten-speeds, John Cusack flicks and pot luck (yeah, that kind of pot), and with DJ Mahf on the tables and beat circuits, its charismatic live performances have recently earned the group slots at SXSW and a well-received European tour. (RK)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 8 p.m.
Two catchy songs with grammatically sketchy hooks blew up over the past year: Yung L.A.'s ubiquitous hit, "Ain't I," and the equally addictive single from Family Affair, "Here I Is." It's no surprise, considering that twin brothers Q.B. and Rep are among the most charismatic and consistent hip-hop artists in the city. Whether the pair is breathing fire while helping out close friend Rockwell Knuckles or rocking its own standout material (like the new The Family Blessing EP), it all goes back to what the Walnut Park natives proclaim in the chorus of their hit: "You said you lookin' fo' the best? I'm like, here I is." (KH)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.
Jason and the Beast
Few would have predicted Jason Braun's evolution from ne'er-do-well barfly and open-mic hipster into a full-blown spoken-word beat maestro. As leader of Jason and the Beast, he more than dabbles in hyper-literary, name-check science, declaiming his rhymes over heady hip-hop arrangements, courtesy of Jerry Hill and Mic Boshans (among others), who proudly claim to use "no stolen samples." Braun's heroes remain the Beats, Bukowski and the Bard; his own voice is getting tougher and more musical with every performance. (RK)
Vintage Vinyl, 7 p.m.
Scripts N Screwz
Scripts N Screwz isn't your average East St. Louis rap group. In fact, there's nothing average about the pair, period. For starters SnS produces and acts in films, including The Color of Justice (a documentary about a death-row inmate who may have been wrongfully imprisoned) and The Hunger, a hip-hop musical in the vein of Purple Rain due out later this year. Then there's its music, which runs the gamut from UGK- and Outkast-inspired bangers to downtempo, Joy Division-influenced raps about heroin addiction. Words like "unique" and "eclectic" only begin to describe the duo, which single-handedly shatters any preconceptions about hip-hop from the Ill(inois) side of St. Louis. (KH)
Vintage Vinyl, 8 p.m.
Splitface and June 16th
Producers Nate Womack and Chris Krug operate under the aegis of Splitface and June 16th — and in the process, remind hip-hop listeners that a song's production and construction are at least as important as the words that go over them. By digging up dusty soul and jazz sides and infusing them with lightning-quick scratches and analog drum-machine beats, the duo creates a modern marriage of the old and the new. Last year's Raydeeohh featured guest rappers from the Frozen Food Section and the Deadly Alliance, but the lyricists were just icing on the dense layer cake that Womack and Krug had baked to perfection. (CS)
Best Hip-Hop DJ
The Beat Street Crew
Anyone who thinks that St. Louis hip-hop started with Nelly needs to go directly to Vintage Vinyl on certain summer Saturdays, when the Beat Street Crew is outside spinning old-school jams and break-danceable beats. The collective — which features DJ Needles, G-Wiz, Fly DX, DJ Alejan and occasionally other luminaries such as B-Money — contributes years of experience to its craft, as evidenced by seamless scratching and mixing of tunes and deck acrobatics. (AZ)
Main Outdoor Stage, 1 p.m.
Congratulations are in order for DJ Crucial: His label, F5 Records — which has come to be known for its quality independent hip-hop — turned ten years old in 2008. Crucial does much of F5's production and has collaborated on songs with MF Doom, Slug and MC Eiht, with a style comparable to New York's DJ Premier. If you've never watched him mix before, do so; Croosh is one of the best scratching DJs around. (CC)
Now off his European tour with the Earthworms and Fresh Heir, it's back to the grind for DJ Mahf. (Well, somebody has to hold down Johnny Gitto's.) Mahf also works the turntables every Friday at the Atomic Cowboy, where he's known to mix in '80s pop and rock music with his hip-hop. He also produces Homemade Junk, a high-energy, mashup-style mixtape series with some interesting combinations of rap and electronica. (CC)
Pin-Up Bowl, 10 p.m.
From spinning records over the airwaves on the Beat (100.3 FM) and KDHX (88.1 FM) to hosting weekly events at local venues like 609, DJ Needles has been exposing people to classic hip-hop for more than a decade. Last year saw the continuation of his Soul Searching and Sure Shots mixtape brands, plus the birth of a new series called Raw. Nodzilla has also produced tracks for local acts Tef Poe, Jada Avenue and John Hill. (CC)
Pin-Up Bowl, 9 p.m.
DJ Trackstar's mixtape series, Boogie Bang, is up to Vol. 18, for those keeping count. Additionally, he's had his hands in numerous other projects, such as best-of compilations for Royce da 5'9" and Joe Buddens. Oh, and did we mention Rockwell Knuckles, Wafeek and Gotta Be Karim's latest albums? How about the DJ gigs in and out of town (SXSW, for instance)? This guy's everywhere — take a breather, Trackstar! (CC)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.
Best Indie Band
The Radical Sons
On "I'm So Sick of the 21st Century," singer Ben Goldstein snarls, "I'm feeling nostalgic for things I've never known." But that feeling of rock & roll belatedness never becomes an existential crisis on the band's debut EP, Throwing Knives. The Radical Sons understands the promise of rock music: You can make it any way you want to, even if your young heart's desire sends you back to the Velvet Underground, the Replacements and the power-punk of the Jam. The band is making its own way through fragmented guitar lines, a jab-and-dart rhythm section, and withering social and self-critique. (RK)
Cicero's, 6 p.m.
James Bishop is used to change. When Say Panther emerged in 2005, it was the latest "dancy" indie band in town. But just a year later, the young band had a new lineup and new songs. Joined by brothers Joey and Sam, a new drummer, backup singers, and original drummer Robby Ritter on trumpet and keys, Bishop ushered in the band's new sound, which evoked the organic pop of Broken Social Scene. Say Panther began 2009 as a four-piece, with yet another sonic change; songs trended Southern toward Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket. With Ritter moving away this summer, change is again nigh, but here's hoping a proper release is also on the horizon. — Steve Kozel
The Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 9 p.m.
The defining sound of contemporary indie rock has nothing to do with brittle guitars, Casio keyboards or Anglophilic vocal exertions. It's the group shout-and-response, a trick that can quickly become a cliché, but something that the Sham uses sparingly and to joyful effect. Whether blasting out short, Pixies-esque missives, stretching out with a sense of Television-esque adventure, or just getting glitchy and synthy, the band follows smartly crafted tunes in and out of their private demons to find a genuinely exuberant space. (RK)
Pi, 11 p.m.
So Many Dynamos
As the first local band in recent memory to sign to a prominent indie imprint (Vagrant Records), the "Dynabros" has legitimized its implicit status as the foremost indie band in St. Louis. The quartet's seeds of influence (the formative Dismemberment Plan/Les Savy Fav/Q And Not U fusion) and inspiration (a tireless work ethic of nonstop touring) have yielded a crop of younger bands over the past six years. With its Chris Walla-produced Loud Wars out this summer and its Rolodex busting with droppable names, So Many Dynamos has transcended its roots. (SK)
Since the release of the Concealer EP in late 2004, Target Market has flitted around the space between pop-slanted indie rock and uptempo post-punk. While the resulting colors have always been vibrant — with influences running the gamut of touchstones, from Death Cab for Cutie and Yo La Tengo to Enon and Pavement — the edges have at times seemed a bit soft. With a new full-length, Up on the Moon, however, the picture has truly come into focus, with a sharp outline of identity and the deliberate hues of maturity. (SK)
The Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 11 p.m.
Troubadour Dali has recruited accomplished producer Bill Racine (Mates of State, Rogue Wave) to mix its long-awaited album, which is due in August on Euclid Records' new label. But the act hasn't exactly been sitting around doing nothing during the past couple of years: It's cycled through several lineups and carved out its own sound, away from the Brian Jonestown Massacre-influenced sonics which defined so much of its early output. An expanded lineup has enabled Troubadour Dali to incorporate more atmospherics and shoegaze-type textures — thus transforming its live show into an enveloping collage of ambient noise and pulsing pop-song constructs. (SM)
The Cucina Outdoor Stage, 1 p.m.
Best Jazz Artist
When famous jazz musicians passing through St. Louis have time to go out and hear a local performer, more often than not, it's Willie Akins they go to see. The veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist has been wowing out-of-towners, entertaining local listeners and mentoring young musicians since the '60s — and though woefully under-recorded by today's standards, Akins continues to impress with his technical mastery, emotional engagement, encyclopedic knowledge and musical integrity. (DM)
Known internationally as one of the top baritone saxophonists in jazz, Hamiet Bluiett has made his mark as a bandleader and composer, a sideman to legends such as Charles Mingus, and as a member of both the original Black Artists Group and the World Saxophone Quartet. With the range to caress a beautiful ballad one minute and launch a free-jazz skronkfest the next, Bluiett brings both raw power and a canny intellect to every musical situation. (DM)
Erin Bode and bandmate Adam Maness were burning the candle at both ends last year: In addition to handling most of Bode's songwriting, the pair released two albums and continued to perform locally, nationally and overseas. Despite contending with a full schedule, Bode hasn't let the quality of her music — or the phenomenal clarity and angelic tone of her voice — slip. Perhaps that's why her soothing blend of jazz and folk continues to win over new fans with each passing year. (CC)
The sidewalks of South Grand don't have a star-studded "walk of fame" like they do in the Delmar Loop, but if they did, you can guarantee that saxophonist Dave Stone would be among the musicians, bartenders and scene-makers lionized. A regular performer at Mangia Italiano, Stone and his revolving cast of collaborators can go from hard bop to a laid-back groove at the drop of a beer bottle. His hard-edged tenor sax solos can be thorny or fluid, but either way Stone and company make sure that jazz music isn't pushed to the background. (CS)
Always a versatile performer, Jeanne Trevor has done musical theater for the Muny and other local companies in addition to fronting her own small group in clubs and concerts. Though Trevor can sing pop, cabaret and Broadway very well, she shines brightest as a jazz singer in the classic mode. The veteran shapes meter and melody to her own ends and improvises alongside her musicians in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter. (DM)
Dude Nukem, winner of Best Band Name in RFT's 2008 Best of St. Louis issue, is an unabashed party band, one that molds the influences of Rich Kids on LSD and the Cro-Mags with Metallica. After essentially being the house band at the now-shuttered Building R, a punk warehouse on South Broadway, Dude Nukem carried that momentum into gigs around St. Louis, building a small but dedicated following of heshers. Since forming, it's released "Till Death Do Us Party" in limited quantities and hopes to release the Dude EP, a four-song seven-inch, this summer. — Nick Lucchesi
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 11 p.m.
It's been a hectic past year for Cross Examination, what with the release of its debut LP, Menace II Sobriety, and a West Coast tour. Still, the city's "Awesome Party Squad" doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon, even as its five-year anniversary approaches in August. The band's live performances are as raging as they've ever been, and with the release of Sobriety, the blogging heshers have put Cross Exam in the same company of thrash icons that influenced the band itself. (NL)
Head On Collision
"Don't refer to Head On Collision as 'party thrash.'" That's the message put out by bassist John Hancock, who also proclaims, "Fuck the party, this is thrash." The metal band, formed in 2003 is well schooled in heavy-metal history. That is to say, HoC sticks to fast-forward thrash, but isn't afraid to roll its riffs back to a punishing, marching pace. After a listen, heshers realize this stuff is much too pissed off to be considered party music. This year HoC will be recording new material, while singer Pat McCauley will be writing a music column for Thrasher. (NL)
Mongolian Clusterfuck's lineup consists of eighteen- and nineteen-year-old thrash rippers fond of donning jean jackets and Anthrax T-shirts. So what else is new? This type of band is plentiful in a city the size of St. Louis. However, newcomer MCF sets itself apart with youthful energy and a gnarly live show, perfected on the plywood stage at Building R, the long-gone south-side warehouse. "That place was insanely epic," says guitarist Joe Genens. The St. Charles-area band recorded twelve songs last summer for a full-length record, which is set for a DIY release soon. (NL)
Sine Nomine ceased making noise in 2006, but the act was apparently just hibernating: The band woke from its slumber a more ferocious beast than it was when it stopped. Its distorted, horror-film dissonance is more gory and its crap-your-pants lows more solid — impressive from a bass-less trio — while abrupt blast-beats burst forth like they expect an afterlife greeting from 72 virgins. Sine Nomine defies genre classification — but that's representative of its refusal to paint by anybody else's numbers, not a sign of confusion. (RW)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 10 p.m.
Best New Band
Although Exercise emerged directly from the dissolution of Berlin Whale — and Casiotone aficionado/vocalist Trevor Berkholtz led both bands — it's a mistake to conflate the two. Although the former band was all dance-punk knees and elbows flying everywhere, Exercise is much more sophisticated and nuanced. Tape manipulations, math-rock rhythms and abstract, early-'80s synths ensure that the trio is versatile enough to open for diverse acts, including Parts & Labor, El Ten Eleven and Yea Big + Kid Static. (AZ)
The Delmar Restaurant & Lounge, 10 p.m.
Glass Teeth's name fits its music, which is sharp, uncomfortable and potentially bloody. Still, the quintet takes more care and consideration when making its abrasive, bristling hardcore than most bands of its ilk: The precise stops and starts give the songs some definition, and Mark Early's synth lines likewise add distinction. Of course, it's all scene-setting for Jeff Robtoy's from-the-depths vocals, which combine elements from David Yow, Johnny Rotten and Jello Biafra into something fierce. (CS)
Halo Bar, 7 p.m.
A pop band with a love of rough-cornered garage rock, the Midtown Thieves burst onto the scene the old-fashioned way: by playing lots and lots of shows. Drummer Jason Potter (who's also in Left Arm) lends the band a little credence and creates rock-solid beats, but Rebecca Reardon's self-assured, playful vocals make the whole mish-mash gel so well. The quintet is planning on releasing an EP later this year, but until then scope it out at any number of south-city's tightly packed music clubs. (CS)
If you needed another reason to love Belleville, Illinois, consider the Mhurs. The quartet calls Belle-vegas home, but thankfully makes enough trips across the river to entertain audiences with its buzzy, fuzzy and hook-laden power pop. Jonny Maguire's joyfully overwrought vocals and Carter McKee's eardrum-filling guitars hearken back to a time when the phrase "alternative rock" meant something — and the band's fifteen-track, self-titled record is overstuffed with so many psych-pop riffs and impossible-to-parse lyrics that you gotta think that somewhere, Stephen Malkmus is smiling a knowing grin. (CS)
Vintage Vinyl, 9 p.m.
Honest acoustic music and harmonies never go out of style, which is why the Northwoods has so quickly earned gigs around town since relocating from Boston last year. Accordingly, the duo takes heavy cues from the Northeast's college-folk scene, rootsy bluegrass acts, and patron saints such as James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel. Watch for a Northwoods album at the end of June. (AZ)
Racanelli's Cucina, 8 p.m.
For a band that landed on the scene early last year, the Pragmatic has managed to slide into some classy local support slots, alongside indie elites such as the Faint and Dan Deacon. But Karl Kling's warm, Gibbard-ish lilts and Remix Artist Collective founder André Anjos' blend of bubbling synth leads, gooey portamento drips and heavenly pads — all served up over deep, muscular square waves and chopped-up drum loops — make the Pragmatic's tracks sound as classy as fine dining. (SK)
Best Pop Band
If the Blind Eyes' debut, Modernity, at first recalls the promise of the Strokes' debut, a closer listen to the LP suggests a band more in the thrall of pure, youthful pop — mono Kinks, Nuggets-era garage and pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys — than one concerned with its own image. Formed out of the vintage-obsessed Gentleman Callers, the band now sounds securely up-to-date: The guitars ring brightly and tensely, the vocals shift from a croon to a wail, and the tunes have a supple, catchy complexity. (RK)
Cicero's, 8 p.m.
Gentleman Auction House
To say that Gentleman Auction House had a busy 2008 is a vast understatement: The group released its debut full-length record (Alphabet Graveyard), a companion EP and a disc of original Christmas songs, and toured the United States. That same tireless work ethic inspired GAH to overhaul its mild-mannered folk-rock sound into a rhythm-driven, keyboard-addled pop explosion. For as danceable as its new songs are, Eric Enger's lyrics have become increasingly confident and refined. (CS)
Main Outdoor Stage, 4 p.m.
Grace Basement began as a solo recording project for Kevin Buckley, whose low-key vocals, melodic sensibilities and pop-friendly arrangements made his debut, New Sense, a must-hear. A full-time band now aids Buckley; loads of live gigs during the last year have helped the group coalesce, while giving a kick-start to older material. Grace Basement's sophomore record, Gunmetal Gray, will be released later this summer — and fans of the space between mellow folk and sunny pop will want to grab a copy. (CS)
Racanelli's Cucina, 6 p.m.
Jon Hardy & the Public
Nearly everyone who heard Working in Love, Jon Hardy & the Public's 2007 album, fell hard for the band's brand of rock & soul, as well as for Hardy's honest, direct songwriting. Most of the people who accompanied Hardy on that disc has left the band, but it's a testament to his vision as a songwriter and bandleader that the Public hasn't missed a step despite the shakeups. One of the most dependable live acts around, Hardy and his crew are likewise great on record; a free, download-only EP of Randy Newman covers dropped earlier this week. (CS)
Main Outdoor Stage, 2 p.m.
One Lone Car
While most past-fetishizing pop bands aim their adulation toward the '60s, '70s or '80s, One Lone Car sets its stylistic Delorean back a mere fifteen years, to a time when catchy, four-chord alt-rock songs reigned supreme. In fact, "Twenty-Three," from March's EP23, would feel right at home on a Buzz Cuts infomercial: The song borrows Gin Blossoms' open-chord jangle, Better Than Ezra's vulnerable choruses and Superdrag's "ba-ba-bas." Coincidentally, the hard-touring One Lone Car has shared stages with all three of these bands. (RW)
Main Outdoor Stage, 3 p.m.
If the Ramones were punk sisters (mostly) instead of brothers, it might have sounded something like the 75s. The trio of Morgan Nusbaum, Laurel Mydock and Scott Lasser plays loud, primeval and danceable rock with songs that capture the wisdom of children facing up to aggression ("I Wanna Kill My Boyfriend") and relationships born out of boredom ("Finders Keepers"). The style may echo the cute-and-cynical K Records aesthetic, but the 75s is redeemed by volatile rhythms and pure power chords. (RK)
Cicero's, 7 p.m.
Black For A Second
To hear singer Joe Jordan describe it, the past year has been like "having an IV of beer and pot in my arm." That is to say, Black For A Second's hectic local show schedule has put the typically introverted singer into the spotlight more often than he's used to. The talented group's sound veers between punk and indie rock, carried by guitar-driven melodies and Jordan's impressive, throaty vocals. After numerous lineup changes — and demos that only made it into a few hands — Black For A Second is looking to record a full-length this year. (NL)
God Fodder might have the most tasteless punk single in St. Louis history. In fact, its way-too-soon song "Shoot the Mayor" — guess what it's about — was a jaw-dropper even among hardcore punks. But for a group that sounds remarkably like Toronto's popular Career Suicide (whose own Sars EP raised eyebrows), God Fodder is staying obnoxious and perfecting its sound: jangly, distorted guitars and snotty vocals from singer Ratatpat. The group's recording its highly anticipated debut LP this summer. (NL)
Halo Bar, 8 p.m.
The Humanoids started out playing Bad Brains medleys at basement keg parties about three years ago.The quintet has progressed musically, but it's largely kept its formula intact, which is a testament to its stable lineup. The Humanoids is recording this month for a still-untitled full-length record, its third release. "The record has not been easy," says guitarist Greg Stinson. "It is my first time being a part of writing [a record] this long, and I want nothing more than something that is great from beginning to end. Let's just say many, many riffs and 'almost-songs' have lost their lives at the chopping block." Stinson also says a two-week tour of the Northeast is planned for this summer. (NL)
Halo Bar, 9 p.m.
The brand of punk Left Arm unleashes isn't as traditional as the other nominees in this category, but it's no less valid. The trio's roots are firmly in the proto-punk garage, all sloppy dirt-rock à la the Stooges and MC5, and its heart is with proto-grunge howlers such as Mudhoney. Accordingly, Left Arm traveled to Detroit last year and worked with Jim Diamond (the White Stripes) on some songs; the resulting single, "Electric Babies," screams out of the speakers like a bottle rocket, all frenzied vocals and a raucous riff mudslide. (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 8 p.m.
Although Sack Lunch shares members with hardcore band God Fodder, its music is saturated in pop-punk melodies and nasally vocals that stick with listeners all day. But the St. Charles-founded duo of Jake Jones and Luc Michalski (and a cast of backing musicians) has moved beyond its days covering vintage Blink 182 songs. Although its new songs are still obnoxious, funny and in no way earnest, the growing number of originals reveals enormous potential. (NL)
Fraternal twins Marc and Alec Plant formed Suburban Smash two years ago, playing all-over-the-place hardcore punk that didn't impress many in local circles. But after lineup changes and rewritten songs, the band took the punk scene by surprise with an impressive 2008 demo that conjured Void and the chaotic side of early-'80s hardcore. In the past year, Suburban Smash has landed on the bill of nearly every worthwhile local punk gig, which has helped it tighten its set and accrue an ever-growing fan base. (NL)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 9 p.m.
Best Rock Band
You don't need to be a virtuoso to be a great rock & roller — punk was founded on this principle — but it sure as hell doesn't hurt. Just ask the three members of the Feed (keyboardist Dave Grelle, bass/sax player Ben Reece and drummer Kevin Bowers), who are all highly proficient musicians. But the trio's on-the-fly intuition makes its music click. When the Feed jams, either on its own pop- and blues-based songs or on its deep arsenal of cover songs, the show becomes a game of musical hot potato in which everyone (especially the audience) wins. (CS)
Main Outdoor Stage, 6 p.m.
Gold Tooth guitarist/vocalist Jeff Gallo has been playing in obnoxiously loud-as-hell rock bands around St. Louis since the late '80s. His relentlessly heavy, down-picking bass style helped alterna-rockers L.O.V.E. develop a sizeable cult following here in the early '90s — and he recently joined fellow Best Rock Band nominees Shame Club as well. But in Gold Tooth, Gallo gets to put his low-rumbling growl of a voice on display. His gravelly, purely evil scream always cuts through the band's thick-as-molasses drop-tuned riffs. And while Gold Tooth doesn't break much new ground, it's very accomplished in a style of metal- and punk-influenced rock that people don't get a chance to hear all that often anymore. (SM)
Halo Bar, 10 p.m.
The bouncing power-pop and slow-burning rock balladry of Jimmy Griffin's band the Incurables at first might seem like an unlikely direction when one considers the blistering metal riffage and wicked guitar-soloing of previous bands such as Kingofthehill or Walkie Talkie U.S.A. But regardless of where this music is coming from, it works really well: Griffin, fellow constant contributors Bryan Hoskins and Jordan Heimburger, and a rotating cast of musicians bring a live show that can simply be described as proficient, competent and full of honesty. (SM)
Cicero's, 10 p.m.
In a category that mostly consists of well-seasoned St. Louis music-scene veterans, it's nice to see relative youngsters LOGOS rounding things out. In fact, when many of the musicians nominated in this category were rocking the Landing, guitarist/vocalist Cullen O'Donnell and bassist Zach Czajkowski were still in elementary school. But anyone who's witnessed a high-octane LOGOS live show knows that the pair's ages are a moot point. The band's technically proficient sound is awash in riff-heavy classic-rock nostalgia, but it also incorporates elements of progressive rock and a wide vocal range that can sweep the spectrum from low, brooding baritone to blood-curdling high-pitched screams — often in the course of a single song. (SM)
Main Outdoor Stage, 5 p.m.
It's odd to think of '90s hard rock by the likes of Helmet or the Foo Fighters as classic, but such is the march of time — and such is the spirit of LucaBrasi, a quasi-super group drawing from members of Adair, the Urge and Ulcer Inc. The band gives grunge and angst-metal another life in the form of phased-out, grind-and-shred guitars, an assault-weapons spray of drums and bass, and the raw voice of Matt McInerney, who howls convincingly through the battering attack. (RK)
Cicero's, 9 p.m.
Stoner-sleaze stalwart Shame Club has been rather quiet lately, which is an odd state for one of the loudest bands in the Lou to find itself. But there's a good reason for the silence: Lineup changes in the past year have left lion-haired vocalist Jon Lumley as the only original member. Still, with new bassist Jeff Gallo (who's also in Gold Tooth) aboard, Shame Club should exhibit the same mighty roar it displayed on its Small Stone Records debut, Come On. (AZ)
Best Singer-Songwriter (Female)
While Beth Bombara so far has largely focused on Beth Orton-esque, downtempo, melodious folk-pop, her recent project, Beth Bombara and the Robotic Foundation, pulls her into the orbit of the Breeders and, at times, Bettie Serveert. Her clear and warm alto makes her confessions believable, while the rhythmic instincts of her band are always sharp. Bombara's recent songs come tailor-made for a long, late-night drive through a dense forest, where shadows emerge, shiver and linger in the memory. (RK)
Pi, 7 p.m.
Celia Shacklett wears many hats around town – bassist for Fire Dog, singer of children's songs and driving force behind the Love-O-Rama artist collective. But it's her work as a songwriter that came into focus this year with the release of a solo CD, Transformateurs. The disc displayed her good-natured charms and easy manner on the microphone, while uncovering the hints of darkness and ache behind her happy-go-lucky demeanor. (CS)
Brandt's Café, 10 p.m.
If there's a coffeehouse in Heaven, Cassie Morgan will have an unlimited engagement on its tiny little stage. Her breathy voice is both seductive and confessional, and the minor key and slightly jazzy arrangements on her Pine So Sweet EP show that she knows how to frame her songs with just the right amount of gauze and candlelight. With her band, the Lonely Pine, Morgan has been making her way across a few St. Louis stages, but she hasn't lost the vocal intimacy that is so crucial to her songs. (CS)
Pi, 8 p.m.
Leslie Sanazaro Santi
A concert-hall-ready pianist, Leslie Sanazaro Santi sings and writes personal pop that suggests the best of Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin, while remaining true to her own experience. Her tart, high voice has a deceptive range and a sense of urgency, notably on the relentlessly catchy and radio-ready "Hot and Cold." Her overall sound is easygoing and AAA-approved, but she can surprise you with a jazzy turn or barroom blues like "Put On Your Shoes" — dancing shoes, that is. (RK)
Best Singer-Songwriter (Male)
Everyone who knows Fred Friction as host of KDHX's Fishing with Dynamite recognizes his Uncle Tupelo jones. He starts off every Thursday morning with a track from and a shout-out to that "little band from Belleville." As a singer and songwriter, however, Friction is very much a self-made man, a raw dive-bar poet who sings of doomed but hopeful characters over simple guitar strums, classic country melodies and the intermittent belch. He's an irreverent Americana rapscallion, to be sure, but his songs are bad habits you'll never want to shake. (RK)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 11 p.m.
The 2007 release Working in Love was a breakthrough for Jon Hardy (née Lutjens). It revealed a songwriter realizing a wholly personal vision — it was a breakup album, after all — within the forms of classic soul and pop songwriting, the kind of tunes that would have been top-shelf productions of the Brill Building. The recording sounds professional enough, but it's the songs — which are economical and catchy as memes — that sustain it. In simple lines like, "You know love don't work like that" and "You're the name that we all say," Hardy plants emotional seeds that expand in the listener's mind with natural, metaphorical force. (RK)
Main Outdoor Stage, 2 p.m.
These days, Bob Reuter has more incarnations than Jack White. He's still one of the town's most compelling photographers and radio personalities, he still performs solo in cafés and bars, and he now fronts two bands: Thee Dity South and Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost. The former sounds like an exorcism of Howlin Wolf's ghost from a north St. Louis punk's body, and the latter captures what that exorcism sounds like recorded in a kitchen at the end of the world. In all cases, his images are fierce, original and true. (RK)
On his first album, Blue Weathered Dreams, Caleb Travers let his deep, sonorous voice and his acoustic guitar do most of the talking. But since then, Travers (with help from guitarist-about-town Jimmy Griffin) has plugged in and given an electric jolt to his songs, which recall the uptempo roots-rock of Tom Petty and Ryan Adams. Regardless of the sonic accoutrements, Travers can hold his own: His never-faltering voice and an ever-growing songbook owe a debt to his forebears, without being beholden to their templates. (CS)
Brandt's Café, 9 p.m.
Best Album (self-released)
The Educated Guess
West Skyline Drive
Ambition can be a curse, especially in young artists, but it's to Charlie Brumley's credit that his band, the Educated Guess, makes good on its big dreams. West Skyline Drive isn't exactly a concept album — it's more a series of loosely connected songs that centers on the American pioneer spirit, set to suitably twangy and grandiose music. Still, Brumley's knack for big-sky arrangements and E Street-indebted piano-playing make him a young artist worth watching. (CS)
The Cucina Outdoor Stage, 5 p.m.
Jesus Drank Wine
Fred Friction's long-in-coming solo debut isn't an easy listen. He makes no effort to smooth over that craggy slur, earned by a lifetime of smoking 100s and supping on Stag beer, and cares nothing for rhythmic or melodic variation. These are country songs, three chords and Friction's twisted sense of the truth, sweetened slightly by instrumental assists from the likes of Tom Hall and John Horton. The album makes clear his debt to Americana junk masters like Tom Waits and Johnny Dowd, but songs like "The Whiskey I Drink" and "Little Baby Dreams" are enough to guarantee him last-call sing-along immortality. (RK)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 11 p.m.
The Helium Tapes
The Helium Tapes
After years of gigging around town, the Helium Tapes made its recorded debut last year. The wait was worth it, though: Sunyatta Marshall leads the group with a sweetly beguiling voice, and guitarist Tim Lohmann contributes both sonic inventiveness and an ear for pop dynamics. Much of the album is a throwback to the dark-tinted psychedelia of the '60s underground, although the Helium Tapes honors this heritage by updating it for modern times. (CS)
Kentucky Knife Fight
The Wolf Crept, the Children Slept
On The Wolf Crept, the Children Slept, Kentucky Knife Fight takes its liquor-soaked, corn-fed barroom rock and commits it to tape, without losing any of the rebel spirit that infuses its live shows. Singer Jason Holler sounds assured throughout the disc and embodies the restless, unrepentant spirit of the drifters and scoundrels that populate his songs. Meanwhile, his bandmates kick in the right amount of outlaw country and roots-rock to make the tunes stick to your ribs. (CS)
The Cucina Outdoor Stage, 3 p.m.
Defeated, TN is anything but. A thematic and musical victory, the album transcends the condescending term "local release." Eerie and mysterious, but also direct and passionate, the sound is psychedelic country-rock, in the vein of Beachwood Sparks and Sparklehorse, filtered through a box full of letters found in an attic and the personal connection Theodore makes to those stories. With a joyful lo-fi noise, the band creates an old, weird American world that is both self-contained and expansive. Discovering this record — properly released only on vinyl — is like being let in on a secret that you can never promise to keep. (RK)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 10 p.m.
Tight Pants Syndrome
Singles The comings and goings of band members make it hard to fix the identity of Tight Pants Syndrome. Still, this career-spanning collection is remarkably cohesive and more than enough to cement its reputation as the catchiest and craftiest of St. Louis pop bands. Channeling a sound that's part Beach Boys and part Sonics, the album celebrates and scoffs at love and lust, with intricate harmonies, fuzzy guitars, spangled keys and a sense of fun that's as relentless as the hooks are. (RK)
Best Album (on a label)
Gentleman Auction House
Alphabet Graveyard was the album on which Gentleman Auction House finally earned the right to have two drummers in the band. Although its beat-based songs received a professional overhaul in an actual studio, the band wisely retained its sharp corners — the quickly strummed guitars and buzzy keyboard blasts add gristle to Eric Enger's introspective, fractured story-songs. Made by a band with big dreams and a solid vision for its sound, Alphabet Graveyard is the sound of indie-rock ambition made real. (CS)
Main Outdoor Stage, 4 p.m.
Head On Collision
Thrash band Head On Collision knows a thing or two about the power of metal. Ritual Sacrifice is like a diabolic mashup of Dark Angel, Slayer and maybe Anthrax — and what it lacks in originality (ripping off your shirt and breaking skin in a mosh pit never gets old), it makes up for in extreme shredding, pile-driving double kick-drums and vicious vocal rage. Does this band hate war, revile violence and renounce Satan? Who cares? This record kicks your teeth in and makes you beg for more. (RK)
Lines from the Frame
The themes of Magnolia Summer's third album — memory and release, the weight of the past and the feeling of utter freedom — distinguish it from the perpetual glut of semi-roots-oriented rock releases. The country connection is here, especially in the touches of fiddle and steel guitar on the lovely "Birds Without a Wire," but this is largely a rock record, with the charging, urgent guitars of John Horton and singer/songwriter Chris Grabau. The latter's voice has never sounded stronger, more supple and personal, and the band as a whole has clearly found its own poetic, thrilling soul. (RK)
Pi, 9 p.m.
Recorded over twelve years, this double album captures Prisonshake in a 22-track hall of mirrors, each song reflecting a different side of its DIY rock aesthetic. There's art-rock, Stooge-rock, punk rock and garage; there's heavy '70s-riff rock and noodly fusion, glam and psychedelic expressionism. What holds it all together is the disciplined, ever-in-the-groove rhythm section of Patrick Hawley and Steve Scariano, even as singer Doug Enkler pushes the envelope of snarling, gnashing punk vocals, and guitarist Robert Griffin lights said envelope on fire with a stunning range of styles and textures. (RK)
Of Sirens Born
Part switchboard operator, part air-traffic controller and part composer, Raglani manipulates the noise humming from his analog synthesizers and molds it into something warm and human. On Of Sirens Born, his debut for much-loved indie Kranky Records, Raglani proves that his wordless compositions can tell a story and carry a theme — by asking listeners to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks. (CS)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 6 p.m.
Rum Drum Ramblers
Hey Lordy Mama Mama Get Up and Go
This set from the best blues band in St. Louis that the tourists will never understand comes just as advertised. The trio shouts and shakes through holy and unholy subjects, in a collective throwback to the acoustic jump and jive that ruled the juke joints in this town circa 1942. The rhythms beat with life, the songs are all original, the camaraderie feels palpable, and the sound of speaker-shredding harmonica, piercing acoustic guitar, and warm and thumping bass is simply timeless. (RK)
Racanelli's Cucina, 7 p.m.