Five bands keeping the St. Louis hardcore-punk scene alive and thrashing

St. Louis' rich punk history has grown exponentially from the likes of '70s bands Raymilland and the Welders to '80s cult figures Drunks With Guns and White Pride. Through the '90s and into the early '00s, the ball continued rolling with bands like Cardiac Arrest and Civic Progress, which sprouted from important communities such as the 2 Keys Industries and the Slaughterhouse.

However, as shows migrate from venue to venue, with bands and people moving on, a question is often asked: Are people still doing this stuff?

Shaved Women: One of the bands keeping St. Louis hardcore alive.
Shaved Women: One of the bands keeping St. Louis hardcore alive.
Doom Town.
Doom Town.

In a word, yes. Like any growing community, punk continues to break the boundaries of social and musical norms. And luckily, a new wave of hardcore stalwarts has stepped up. In typical fashion, the hardcore-punk community is an ever-growing swap of bands, band members, shows and venues that continue to thrive off a love for raw chaos and a significant cultural bond. Although some of these bands have been around for a while, they continue to make their marks, ensuring that St. Louis is known for its invaluable talent, unmatched hospitality and unflinching heart.

Doom Town
Operating from the south side of St. Louis, this Wipers-obsessed band's roster reads like a punk-rock rap sheet. Featuring St. Louis everywoman, Ashley Hohman, Ben Smith (of the late Corbeta Corbata) and Erik Meyer (of Sweet Tooth), Doom Town has solidified its sound with the recent addition of Shaun Morrissey (of Humanoids fame) on drums. Taking notes from Swedish punks Masshysteri and punk legends X, DT sounds like a garage-punk squall underlined with a galloping rubber-band rhythm. Sharing vocal duties, Hohman and Smith's songs are lyrically superb, focusing on introspective tales of south-city paranoia, calculated anxiety and breaking away from societal chains. The band self-released its demo early last year, complete with a silk-screened cover and 'zine-like insert. The band's latest recording, a self-titled seven-inch, will be released on New Dark Age, the label run by the Red Dons' Will Kinser, in the upcoming months. Having played numerous live shows across the St. Louis area, the group plans to take its act overseas for a European tour very soon. Whether at a live show or on the street, the members of Doom Town transcend the typical punk stereotypes. Shaved Women
Born out of the disintegration of local grindcore heroes Las Contras, Shaved Women has made a mark in the hardcore scene by standing alone as one of the only bands in town to harness a unique brand of feedback-drenched dirge. The quartet has bridged the gap between weirdos and punks, feeding the frenzy with a heavy dose of downer-vibe vocals and caterwauling walls of noise and feedback. Lead singer Ben Salyers' animalistic vocal approach meets the power-grinding guitar of Chris Eck, while acrobatic bassist John Birkner's erratic style pounds to the crashing waves of percussion from drummer Tom Valli. Treading the line between crushing hardcore and acid-induced sludge, SW's broken-down sound is akin to bands such as Pissed Jeans, Sex Vid and Total Abuse. Shaved Women's flawless live shows are characterized by their ability to simultaneously smolder and combust; band members often throw themselves to the floor in a nihilistic rage. Following its demo from last year, the band has been busy putting out more recordings available to the public. It's just released a new twelve-inch, graced with the artwork of local genius Jeremy Kannapell (a.k.a. Ghost Ice) and screenprinted by Cacaw's Kyle Reynolds), on Rotted Tooth Recordings, while a live tape (recorded at Apop Records is on the horizon. Maximum Effort
Alien conspiracies and punk rock? Who knew they'd be the perfect match? Apparently Maximum Effort. The band's been around for over two years now, solidifying the lineup with bassist Justin Rao. Mixing UFO-conspiracy-theorist literature and chugging punk power chords, Maximum Effort has brought fun back to the St. Louis punk scene. More rock than punk, this south-city quartet exhibits proficient musical skill, coupled with catchy-as-hell punk riffs. Stylistically similar to the West Coast punk sound of the late '70s/early '80s, ME conjures memories of Dangerhouse Records bands and the Angry Samoans. Lead singer Nick Zengerling's paranoid lyricism rants and raves with tales of black helicopters, secret agents and government cover-ups. As proof of its excellent songwriting, ME showcases its ability to rile up camaraderie with sing-along songs such as the anthemic "NOYFB (None of Your Fucking Business)." With plans of future recordings, you can expect Maximum Effort to continue spreading the gospel, exposing the truth that is hidden from us all. Sweet Tooth
From the east side of things hails Belleville/St. Louis cronies Sweet Tooth, which has made a name for itself as one of the newer and more exciting bands to rise from the heap. These kids take a lesson from the school of legendary hardcore vanguards Deep Wound, Void and early '00s thrash from the likes of such bands as What Happens Next. Its first demo, Sugar Rush, is an examination of teenhood and suburban angst, delivered by powder-keg bursts of angry vocals and lightning-fast drums. With songs clocking in at under two minutes, Sweet Tooth's furious brand of stop-start hardcore explodes with screamed lyrics that cover everything from skating to the corruption of youth. The band's chaotic style is marked by extremely fast tempos, a love for traditional hardcore breakdowns and heavy mosh parts. Live, singer Kevin Tod commands the floor, thrashing about in a surge of rabid mania backed by bassist Landon Zirkelbach, and brothers Erik and Martin Meyer. Sweet Tooth has just released its Japanese Void seven-inch on Cowabunga Records, and it already has plans for another seven-inch in the near future. Like any good band, Sweet Tooth has a handful of tours under its belt, with an East Coast jaunt planned for the 2011 summer. Serving as inspiration to anyone doubting hardcore, this youthful quartet remains fun and enthusiastic in a community stifled with jaded has-beens and bottom-of-the-bottle burnouts. Suburban Smash
Suburban Smash has been around for years now. Starting out when they were still young enough to be grounded, these former county kids have progressed immensely. Initially influenced by the likes of the Crucifucks and Articles of Faith, Suburban Smash has fine-tuned its sound in terms of songwriting and speed. Admittedly terrible in its infancy, SS has changed up its style over the years, but always with a firm foot in hardcore. Headed by the Plant brothers Mark and Alec (kin to Scott Plant of Civic Progress/To No End) the group's fast, stomping approach is reminiscent of bands such as Life's Halt and Infest. The group's songs explode with furious bouts of vexation ignited by the festering boredom borne out of suburban sprawl. Demonstrating a punk-rock ethos, SS has carried on the duties of the DIY community by releasing tapes on its own and bringing bands to basements throughout St. Louis. Having just recorded a new tape, Suburban Smash plans on a future release and tour. Claiming that this fresh material is the band's best to date, Suburban Smash is changing its name and reforming. this will put an end to the Suburban Smash moniker, it also ushers in a new era for the boys.
 
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14 comments
Benton Park is for Lovers
Benton Park is for Lovers

This is a great article. To all of you idiot elitists who want to bash Josh for this for not including you, sod off. It is crystal clear that this article isn't about the ONLY FIVE BANDS keeping the scene alive. It's just 5. Period. 5 of many. I'm pretty sure no one feels like reading a 20 page article listing dozens of bands in St. Louis okay? Furthermore, if you're going to be douche baggy about this, then you need to realize that you're part of the problem, not the solution, and maybe you should just get the fuck out.

hxpunxfanz
hxpunxfanz

Wow. Where the fuck does this mention anything about the Lemp Arts Center being an important force in driving the punk scene in STL? Josh, just because you have beef with that place, doesn't mean it's okay to leave important information out of the picture as though that place never existed. It's the Midwest's oldest DIY venue and is very important in shaping the punk scene. A lot of people outside of Saint Louis recognize that. Also, there isn't much mentioned of Dazzling Killmen, Yowie, The Conformists, etc. Nor is there anything about APOP Records. Keeping important details out of the picture so that you can skew the reader's knowledge of STL's hardcore punk scene is not good journalism. At all.

Josh Levi
Josh Levi

There is only so much space to work with in regards to print. I decided to focus on a very small part of the established/growing hardcore/punk scene. I can only hope that you, the reader, view this article as a stepping stone for future pieces on important bands on the fringe. Of course, bands like Very Metal, Ultraman, The Zanti Misfits, etc. are no longer often mentioned, but they are still relevant in the scheme of things. I could've easily gone the other route and wrote about Gang Control, Leeches, Armatron, etc. i.e. bands that are still developing, but that will hopefully happen in due time.

Unfortunately, Suburban Smash had changed their name after I had submitted the article a few weeks ago. Note: Erik Meyer is no longer in Doom Town. My mistake. Thanks.

WILDUNDERSTREETS
WILDUNDERSTREETS

Do any of these bands have even ONE song about offing pigs? NODo any of these bands have reputations for swinging chains at their audience? NOCAN EVEN ONE MEMBER OF ANY OF THESE "PUNK" BAND CLAIM TO HAVE STOPPED A SINGLE WAR? THE ANSWER OF THIS IS ALL NO

Dear Bad Guys at RFT
Dear Bad Guys at RFT

Just so you internet nerds know, Suburban Smash is called Masculine Journey now.

michaelhigh
michaelhigh

Articles like this can't win, someone's inevitably left out, and the bands chosen to represent the scene are not even the tip[ of the iceberg of what's important.Why was Ultraman left out? Bent?

Blowme
Blowme

these bands are good, but you are a fucking moron.

A Guy
A Guy

Doom Town, Masculine Journey (Formerly known as Suburban Smash), Sweet Tooth with God Fodder8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19.Apop Records, 2831 Cherokee Street.314-664-6575.

Heath Parker
Heath Parker

Oh man, you have to mention Glass Teeth. That 7 inch is great!

Ali Sehizadeh
Ali Sehizadeh

Dude, I don't know who you are, but I just want to make a few things VERY clear.

First, how the fuck do you consider yourself a "hxpunxfan" when you don't even know what hardcore punk is? Dazzling Killmen, Yowie, and The Conformists ARE NOT hardcore!! Yowie isn't even labeled as "punk rock;" they're distinctly math rock due to their spastic odd-time signature rhythms. So please do us all a favor and stop talking about shit as though you're an expert.

Second, don't attack Josh for not mentioning the Lemp! It's very clear that this article is about BANDS who make the hardcore scene alive in STL, not venues. In fact, St. Louis' hardcore punk scene isn't really involved with the Lemp anymore. It used to, but that was 6-7 years ago.

Third, I can assure you that there isn't bad blood between Josh Levi and Lemp. Although he's not around at the arts center anymore, there is still a lot of respect there. Before I became involved, he was an active volunteer for many years. He's helped out the organization a lot, and we thank him for that. If he had beef with the Lemp, he wouldn't have been playing Noisefest this year.

Don't be a troll. Do your research before you open your fucking mouth.

Ben Salyers
Ben Salyers

I fail to see how lemp is relevant to this conversation. I think maybe one of these bands has even played there. While it is undeniable that Lemp has shaped where these bands are and the members have seen many great shows there. It is how ever not a big part of what is going on now. As this article is on the current crop of bands mentioning Lemp would not make sense.

Ben Smith
Ben Smith

The Lost Cross in Carbondale IL is the midwest's oldest functioning DIY venue.

Annie Zaleski
Annie Zaleski

FYI -- this article was tied to a show at Apop on Saturday, with God Fodder/Doom Town/Sweet Tooth. And it was focused on the bands, not venues; no slight was intended toward anybody. Had the piece been a round-up of the community's places to go see shows, both of those would certainly be included.

Annie Zaleski
Annie Zaleski

Yeah, we had already gone to press when Josh pointed that out, unfortunately. Sorry about that -- we'll note a correction.

 
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