The 2011 RFT Music Awards Showcase is our biggest ever: 78 bands, solo artists and DJs will play this Saturday on Washington Avenue. They represent nearly half the total nominees for the RFT Music Awards — an unprecedented number. St. Louis is happening right now.

As musicians continue to widen their scope of influence, it becomes harder and harder to contain them in categories; a band nominated as a solo artist may be drawing on everything from folk to punk to hip-hop. Think of this, then, as a starting point. And whether you spend every weekend at local shows or haven't been to any kind of show in ten years, there's an artist in the pages that follow who has the stuff to move you.

Be sure to vote for your favorite acts in the RFT Music Poll.



Sleepy Kitty Arts

Location Info

Map

Lola

500 N. 14th St.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Lucas Park Grille

1234 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Washington Avenue

BEST FOLK

Dubb Nubb
Dubb Nubb is an upbeat, eccentric duo that uses whistling, erratic hollerin' and woohoos to its full advantage on poppy, attention-grabbing folk songs. The twin sisters have been writing songs since they were fifteen. Earlier this year, Dubb Nubb played at Foam for the first St. Louis Secret Sound Festival, and on January 14, they released a split seven-inch with Cory Taylor Cox called Shiny Mountain. Additionally, the twins recorded a Daytrotter session early this year, which should be coming out soon.
— Chrissy Wilmes
5 p.m., Rue 13

We're Wolf
We're Wolf's simplistic, dreamy folk songs possess a lyrical maturity beyond the duo's collective years. Anne Romer and Maya Bailey Clark's voices sound quite similar; they often take full advantage of this by layering them in a way that complements the stripped-down strumming. The duo opened for Brandi Shearer at Off Broadway and played the first Crestwood Local Music Festival. The We Haunt the Same Houses EP was released in May 2010 and is available at shows, or fans can download free tracks from We're Wolf's MySpace page. (CW)
8:15 p.m., Flamingo Bowl (Palm Room)

Blind Nils
The Blind Nils is a collaboration between local folk musicians Cassie Morgan, Jerry Baugher and Adam Hajari. Each member brings years of solo experience and talent, which shows in the lyrical depth and complexity of its songwriting. The trio's been performing together as the Blind Nils since 2009, and it plans to release a debut EP later this year. (CW)
10:45 p.m., Copia Urban Winery & Market

Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine
Though some songs are adorned with only Beth Bombara's backing vocals or a gently strummed guitar, Cassie Morgan's sturdy voice and vivid bucolic images ably thatch the spaces in between. Since releasing its first full-length, Weathered Hands, Weary Eyes, last April, Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine has Emmylou Harris and Dar Williams fans sitting up and taking notice (it also notched a place in this paper's top ten albums of 2010). Recent high-profile gigs have included a 10 p.m. slot at the Duck Room for the Homegrown Showcase, and the act will be back on the stage in a week for Twangfest. Morgan reaches far beyond straight-ahead folk: Jazz and blues influences are represented here, and her latest song, "These Years," is a poignant and haunting look at life.
— RFT Staff
7 p.m., Copia Urban Winery & Market

The Skekses
Old-time folk meets the unholy blues in the spare and fierce sound of the Skekses. Taking its name from the reptile villains of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, the group keens and dreams through songs of murder, magic and monsters, carried by banjo, guitar, rattling percussion and Elly Herget's stratospheric moan. Recently pared down to the duo of Herget and Evan O'Neal (who drums for Pretty Little Empire), the Skekses proves that less is more isn't just a cliché. Herget is a gripping songwriter and singer with a voice that could tackle timeless Appalachian ballads if she chose, but whose original songs evoke the newer, personal tradition of Gillian Welch and Alela Diane.
—Roy Kasten
11:30 p.m., Rosalita's Cantina



BEST AMERICANA (ROCK)

Theodore
Theodore's third album, Hold You Like a Lover, which came out last year on Moon Jaw Records, was widely heralded as the band's best, and it brought its signature mix of blues, alt-country, jazz and something that can only be described as the essence of St. Louis to the attention of a national audience. This year promises to be just as big for the quartet. Recently it signed with the respected indie label Misra Records, which released the band's spanking-new EP Blood Signs last month. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Justin Kinkel-Schuster told the Riverfront Times in January that both Blood Signs and a full-length record that will, with any luck, drop by year's end "are (hopefully) manifestations of our desire to constantly out-think and outplay ourselves in every way, shape, form and sound." (RFT)
7:45 p.m., The Dubliner (Main Floor)

The Dive Poets
No band likes to be a called a "bar band," but given its name, the Dive Poets' fate has been sealed. The six players know where they're coming from and where they're going, and there's liquor and lyricism at every stop. Led by the songwriting of Eric Sargent, the band combines a rugged rock & roll rhythm section with wailing viola, over-the-top lead guitar and souped-up harmonies to make music that's essential honky-tonk listening — especially if the joint has a jukebox spinning Uncle Tupelo and the Replacements 24/7. But in the Dive Poets' bar, when the bourbon is drained and the tables return to their upright positions, the band will close out the night with a Sunday-morning hymn like "Lord, Take Me Home," and remind you that a good neighborhood bar can be the sweetest spot you'll ever know. (RK)

Pretty Little Empire
Pretty Little Empire heads straight for the gut. At a recent show an old '70s-rock fan told the band its set had touched his soul and that he would be straying from his well-worn rut to support the band in the future. It's not uncommon for the quartet to provoke such strong reactions; notoriously chatty St. Louis crowds fall silent at the first rich chords of vocal harmony. Occasionally performing with the Skekses' Elly Herget, Pretty Little Empire works the many traditions of rock & roll to charming and occasionally devastating effect, with frontman Justin Johnson's taut stage presence leading a consistent effort of uncommon sincerity.
—Kiernan Maletsky
9:30 p.m., Copia Urban Winery & Market

Union Tree Review
Union Tree Review has been busy lately — aside from playing myriad shows at Foam, Off Broadway, the Billiken Club and even the Pageant, it christened the first St. Louis Secret Sound Festival and played An Under Cover Weekend as the Postal Service. The band leased a space on Cherokee Street last year, which serves as a home and studio — last month the band debuted a single-take video for new song "44" shot in the space. (CW)
Midnight, Copia Urban Winery & Market



BEST AMERICANA (TRADITIONAL)

Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three
Pokey LaFarge doesn't just crank out Southern-tinged songs with hearty doses of soul, ragtime and blues — he's an encyclopedic fount on the genres' histories, and his great respect for it permeates every note. This year's Jack White-produced seven-inch, "Pack It Up" b/w "Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Chetham County," showcases the band's deep roots and far-reaching faculty. This spring he provided a boon to both his band and the genre he loves when he made an appearance on NPR's All Songs Considered "Tiny Desk" concert series. (RFT)

Rum Drum Ramblers
The Rum Drum Ramblers is a throwback to what Greil Marcus called "the old, weird America." Its second album, Mean Scene, out earlier this year, rambles through old-time country, jazz, blues and soul, carried by Joey Glynn's sonorous upright bass, the twang of Ryan Koenig's guitar and, especially, Mat Wilson's husky vocals and near-encyclopedic mastery of a century's worth of popular — and unpopular — music and guitar stylings. It's easy to compare the Rum Drum Ramblers to fellow nominee Pokey LaFarge — and, indeed, Glynn and Koenig comprise two-thirds of LaFarge's South City Three — but the Ramblers is a little looser, a little more freewheeling, the sawdust on the floor of the honky-tonk. (RFT)

Prairie Rehab
Consider Lacie Mangels one of the luckiest singer-songwriters in town: She snagged three-quarters of the Linemen and formed Prairie Rehab after singer Kevin Butterfield left town. But if her bandmates' past gives some credence to the young frontwoman, she still more than earns her keep on this year's excellent Philology album. Mangels is a keen songwriter with a poet's sense of how her words hit your ears as well as how they sink into your heart. The instrumentalists in Prairie Rehab frame her songs with well-appointed country and folk accoutrements, and this partnership has resulted in some graceful and emotionally mature music.
—Christian Schaeffer
6 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio

Colonel Ford
With a rotating lineup of St. Louis hillbilly and honky-tonk elite, Colonel Ford comprises a core membership of former Rockhouse Ramblers Gary Hunt, Dade Farrar and John Horton. The classic country supergroup brings a passion to artists like Buck Owens and Harlan Howard. No two shows are alike, especially when two-thirds of Uncle Tupelo — Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn — show up for duty on slide guitar and drums. But it's Hunt and Dade Farrar who are the driving force. Hunt provides a solid guitar backbone punctuated with classic twang, while Dave Farrar's rich, heartfelt vocals and upright bass antics make them worth seeing, regardless of who else enlists for the night. They honor the music that inspired them and bring joy with the heartache.
—Ryan Wasoba

Diesel Island
Alt-country wouldn't have happened without the country outlaws of the '70s. Take two members of one of the genre's pioneers, the Bottle Rockets (Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann), add long-time musical friends Kip Loui and Tim McAvin, throw in their collective love of Waylon, Willie and Merle, and you've got Diesel Island. Henneman's vocals are heartfelt on cuts like "(Don't Take Her) She's All I Got," and the band rips up "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" just like Waylon Jennings did before them. The song, like the band, is an alternative to Nashville's sleek flash. These boys make honest, rocking, agitated tales of regular Joes on the edge, letting loose with the regimented stomp of Ortmann's drums and the primal scream of guitars. (RW)



BEST SOUL/R&B (SOLO ARTIST)

Lamar Harris
Filling roles as a trumpeter, trombonist, arranger and producer, it's little wonder that Lamar Harris' schedule is packed with appearances at the city's most-respected clubs. Nor is it a surprise that something new is always percolating. His last album, Groove Therapy, functioned as just that: Jazzy songs flowed easily from one to the next, leaving infectious head-bobbing in their wake. Of course, there's more to come from this soul man about town: The Here and After, an album that Harris describes as a fusion of jazz, soul and electronica, is on the horizon. (RFT)
9:45 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio

Aloha
Back in 2005, Aloha Mi'Sho received her first taste of national exposure as a top-twenty finalist on American Idol. She spent the next several years studying her craft and developing her talents, before the independent release of her debut EP Badd in 2010. Working closely with fellow up-and-comer Bradd Young, Aloha captured on Badd the kind of mass appeal that you may expect from an R&B diva. Her saucy vocals and pop-friendly tunes have inevitably drawn comparisons to Beyoncé Knowles over the years (even Randy Jackson has commented on the similarity), but Mi'Sho is working tirelessly to prove that she can be a star in her own right.
— Calvin Cox
8:15 p.m., Lola

Bradd Young
After being signed to a major label at a young age, Bradd Young decided to work behind the scenes as a songwriter and producer rather than a recording artist. In 2009, he decided he would do both. Young garnered national attention with strong R&B singles like "Grown Man" and "Girlz" and scored a top-30 hit when he produced the Yo Gotti/Lil Wayne collabo "Women Lie, Men Lie." The mega-talented musician learned to play several instruments when he was young, including drums, guitar and piano. His abilities have helped the rising star to build quite a résumé; his production credits go on to include Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Kelly Rowland and Talib Kweli. (CC)
7 p.m., Lola

Teresajenee
It's difficult to classify Teresajenee. Is her sound hip-hop? Or straight-up R&B? Is her voice powerful enough for gospel or supple enough for soft pop? Is she St. Louis' answer to Lauryn Hill? Erykah Badu? Do we dare say Ella Fitzgerald? The Walnut Park native hasn't released any recordings since 2009's appropriately titled The Eklectic, but she promises that's about to change: Since January, she's been holed up in the studio working on part two of The Eklectic, which will contain live-band versions of some songs from the original album, plus new material. (RFT)
10:45 p.m., Lola

Bryant Stewart
Since Bryant Stewart released his A Perfect Change mixtape in December 2009, his buzz has grown exponentially. He's proved to be just as comfortable singing into a mic as he is rapping. Whether he's trading verses with Indiana Rome on "Living the Life," providing the hook on Nato Caliph's "Her" or holding it down solo on his single "We On," Stewart's talent speaks for itself. His newest project, Not Quite There, came out earlier this year and is available for download on his website. (CC)

Theresa Payne
As part of the Force collective, Theresa Payne's soulful vocals have found their way onto tracks with local veterans such as Rockwell Knuckles, Tef Poe and Indiana Rome. Her own single, "Glad I Found You," has been featured on the WHHL (104.1 FM) show STL Home Jamz, as well as at the weekly Monday-night Headquarters at the Gramophone. Be on the lookout for more live appearances and a debut EP in 2011.(CC)
8:15 p.m., Lucas Park Grille (Indoor)



BEST SOUL/R&B (GROUP)

Soul Alliance featuring CoCo Soul
There's no shame in being a cover band, but there's rarely much glory. Soul Alliance and its devastating diva Coco Soul couldn't care less about the latter. The group plays covers — from Rufus to Aretha to all soul and funk and even disco points in between — but they do so with absolute joy and total mastery of their instruments. With Mo Egeston dishing a dazzling range of tones and styles on the keyboards and Coco Soul prowling the stage like a panther in stiletto heels, Soul Alliance turns every gig into a party, a real party, where dancing and singing along to R&B chart hits isn't just for kicks. (RK)

MoTre
The Missouri trio of Jae Ci, Santana and Angelo came together in 1999 to form the kind of R&B group with street sensibilities that may have been common more than a decade ago but is much harder to come by in today's music industry. MoTre was named local R&B artists of the year in this paper's 2008 Best of St. Louis issue, and the release of Imperfect Gentlemen is imminent. Its smooth harmonies and rap-ready melodies recall an earlier time, when groups like Jodeci and Blackstreet dominated the airwaves. MoTre is currently appearing at clubs such as the Gramophone to promote the single "Crush," which features former Capitol Records recording artist Ebony Eyez. (CC)
Midnight, Lola

Fresh Heir
St. Louis is woefully short on singing drummers — come on, where are the Karen Carpenters and Levon Helms hiding? Luckily, there's Nick Savage, who emits his sweet, soulful croon as he works the skins with Fresh Heir. The neo-soul band brings in-the-pocket grooves and an '80s uptown elegance to its songs. Fresh Heir's versatility allows the band to back up hip-hop acts like Earthworms with ease, but Savage and his bandmates can dish out Vocoder funk, 808 beats and Stevie Wonder-like workouts across the course of a set. (CS)
1:15 a.m., Lola



BEST JAM/FUNK GROUP

Good 4 the Soul
The brainchild of bassist John King, Good 4 the Soul is more than just another jazz quartet. Collectively, the East St. Louis-based group has decades of music experience, and its members have shared the stage with music legends like the Temptations and BeBe and CeCe Winans. Its talent and experience are immediately evident to anyone who's caught the group playing live for Jazz at the Bistro, where the group performs regularly. Although G4TS is an instrumental band, it doesn't hinder the group's versatility. Its repertoire reaches beyond jazz to seamlessly incorporate pop, soul, gospel and other contemporary styles of music. (CC)

Messy Jiverson
The saving grace of most jam bands is their total lack of pretension and, needless to say, ambition. There's something weirdly refreshing about dudes just getting their solos on and not wasting time on dalliances like melodies or intelligible themes. But the veteran instrumental rockers of Messy Jiverson have a different kind of jam in mind. To the question "Can't we all just jam along?" Messy answers, "Probably not." The band's improvisations are abstract and dense, combining heavy brain food with even heavier and greasier slabs of groove, resulting in a sound that's one part Jeff Beck Group, two part Meters. Try to follow them if you can, but be prepared to shake it all the way down the psychedelic funk hole. (RK)

Brothers Lazaroff
It's a tribute to the multiplicity of American musical signifiers in the Brothers Lazaroff's songs that genre tags fall short of describing the band. Jeff and David Lazaroff took their love of folk-flecked Americana songcraft and bolstered it with dynamite instrumentalists (keys player Mo Egeston in particular) to help take the songs in a dozen different directions. Last year's Give 'Em What They Need played stylistic hopscotch from start to finish, but the band's supple and limber grooves make its shows an experience for the feet as well as the ears. (CS)

Dogtown Allstars
It makes sense that people flock to shows when the funky guys of the Dogtown Allstars take the stage — the band is, in a lot of ways, reflective of St. Louis itself. Even its moniker takes its name from a beloved, beer-drinking neighborhood. Like St. Louis, it's nothing too flashy, but there's a lot there if you know where to look (hint: For the Dogtown Allstars, that'd be Broadway Oyster Bar and Schlafly Bottleworks). Both have French (by way of NOLA) influences. It's been around a while and yet continues to draw adoring crowds who want to hear the same songs they've heard dozens of times: Free-flowing rhythms and good-time attitudes convince the band to keep the groove going and the crowd to grab one more beer. (RFT)
3:15 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Funky Butt Brass Band
Just based on the crowd reaction at the last two editions of the KDHX-sponsored Midwest Mayhem, the Funky Butt Brass Band may produce the most infectious music of any band in St. Louis. Both years, Funky Butt closed the showcase with performances that began upstairs in the City Museum and then migrated outside, with the audience in tow, to conclude the set in the parking lot. This should prove once and for all that New Orleans-style brass isn't just for Mardi Gras. The group's most recent release is last December's Holiday Brasstravaganza, recorded live during a show at Off Broadway, but the band is currently back in the studio, and we may see an LP later this year. (RFT)
4:30 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington



BEST ONE-PERSON PROJECT

Raglani
Electronica master Joe Raglani has recovered from the theft of all his equipment when he was on tour two years ago, both materially and psychically (he's heading back out on tour later this spring). And this time it's international! Well, he's going to Canada. Which counts. He organized a successful memorial concert/benefit for his friend, drummer Danny McClain, and even better than all of that, he's recording again. A best-of double-LP Husk and a collaboration called Bryter Layter both drop this summer, and he promises that a lot of releases that have been in the works for years will finally see the light of day. (RFT)

Syna So Pro
If Syrhea Conaway's work as Syna So Pro were a purely technical exercise in the creation of pop songs by looping and layering instruments and vocal parts, it would be astounding. Thankfully, the resulting songs can stand alone regardless of how they were put together, and Conaway's octave-spanning voice and multi-instrumental know-how combine to create bright, kinetic pop songs. Her creative spirit is restless, even when she's not working on her own tracks: Conaway recently began making "a cappella mashups" of local bands' songs, and for the first installment she sang snippets of Sleepy Kitty tunes and looped them into a stand-alone performance. Bands should be knocking down her door and begging her to pay them the same tribute. (CS)
10:45 p.m., Flamingo Bowl (Palm Room)

Black James
The American gothic leanings of Black James, a.k.a Jennifer McDaniel, creep from a dark, cavernous basement in south city. A St. Louis transplant by way of Knoxville, Tennessee, McDaniel transcends traditional folk and blues, on the strength of ancient ballads laced with eccentric narratives. Black James' songs unfold in a playful marriage of cotton-picked banjo, ghostly soundscapes and broken electronics; McDaniel's Southern drawl pairs with her impeccably sharp wit. Her self-released cassette, Waterhead, can be found on SoundCloud.
—Josh Levi
7 p.m., Hair of the Dog

.e
.e, a.k.a. Dottie Georges, continues to use everything from guitars, thrift-store keyboards, drum machines and her own whispery voice, plus a lot of obsessive knob-twisting in her home studio, to build up her dreamy, multilayered walls of sound that are completely unlike anything else you've ever heard. This year .e has started uploading her new projects to SoundCloud as she continues to tinker with an upcoming full-length. (RFT)
9:30 p.m., Flamingo Bowl (Palm Room)

18andCounting
If Stan Chisholm had a Wikipedia page, you'd find his name under the disambiguation of "hustle." Undoubtedly he'll get his own place in the all-important People's Encyclopedia some day, but you'd be hard-pressed to find the guy resting on anything remotely laurel-like. If he's not putting up an art installation or destroying the dance floor with deep cuts, he's releasing a monthly mix or teaching little kids about art. A 2010 recipient of our own MasterMind Awards for his interdisciplinary approach to art and music, Chisholm attacks everything with equal vim, no matter if he's busting a low-key set at Lola or getting rowdy at a one-off. While other DJs are busy jawing their ersatz "do work" philosophy, Chisholm's one of the few whose output is rivaled only by his ambition.
—Diana Benanti
9 p.m., Club Amnesia

Eric Hall
The line between music and art is frequently blurred; Eric Hall twists it into pulsating sound shapes. The artist/composer/improviser/producer/DJ is also a member of a half-dozen collectives (Grandpa's Ghost and N. Nomurai are two), and he taught a workshop on improvisation at this year's Crankfest. He carves out time to perform solo, whether at installations at various art galleries or in more traditional club settings. His sonic palette mixes whorls of hip-hop, jazz, doom metal and more to craft a wholly original artistic experience. (RFT)



BEST SOLO ARTIST (FEMALE)

Langen Neubacher
That was fast: Just two years after picking up a guitar for the first time, Langen Neubacher has already established herself as one of the strongest songwriters on the scene. She brings a frenetic devotion to whatever she's doing, whether it's music or her grass-roots organization, Self-Sufficient St. Louis, through which she's building the Dave Hagerty Community Garden next to Off Broadway. An appearance on the STL Loud Volume 1 EP now sounds like a benchmark from several evolutionary phases ago — and it came out in January. Look for Neubacher to release a recording of her own in the near future, featuring her fragile ode to the St. Louis community in "A St. Louis Love Song: What High School Did You Go To?" and more from her catalog of slaying open-mic confessions. (KM)
7 p.m., Flamingo Bowl (Palm Room)

Celia Shacklett
Childhood is never too far behind Celia Shacklett: Growing up in a remote western Kansas town, she developed a fan-mail correspondence with Bruce Cockburn in her teens, and his music and eventual friendship helped her endure lonely times in her early life. (Years later she would pair with him on her 2009 album, Transformateurs.) But bluesy vocals and gut-wrenching lyrics aside, Shacklett comes across as sunny and optimistic — which serves her well during her varied family-friendly performances around town and December's Yuletide Xpress Secular Holiday Sing-Along. Additionally, she fronts Celia's Big Rock Band and is a member of Fire Dog, and she devotes time to the young artists at the South City Open Studio and Gallery for Children. Little wonder, then, that last year she was the recipient of a Visionary Award from Grand Center Inc. (RFT)
7:45 p.m., Lucas Park Grille (Patio)

Beth Bombara
Fans of Natalie Merchant's more soulful moments will find a kindred spirit in Beth Bombara. Whether performing on her own or as part of Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine (or recording as Beth Bombara and the Robotic Foundation, for that matter), the Grand Rapids, Michigan, native can be counted on for soothing, self-assured vocals. For Lonely Pine, she provides harmony vocals, percussion and glockenspiel, but she's also released the EP Abandon Ship on her own, and her latest full-length, Wish I Were You, came out in November. The album's name comes from the first line of the song "Can't Win," a countrified rat-race lament that's laced with clever turns of phrase — and is more upbeat than its title and subject matter suggests. (RFT)
9:30 p.m., Lucas Park Grille (Indoor)

Morgan Nusbaum (Bruiser Queen)
Formerly of St. Louis' own twee-poppers the 75s, bassist Morgan Nusbaum has struck out on her own in the wake of that band's unfortunately premature demise. As the lead singer of taut trio Bruiser Queen, she gets an opportunity to showcase her full-throated yell, which is reminiscent of both Corin Tucker and Kristin Hersh at their most agitated. As a solo artist, her songs are quieter and more hushed but no less intense. In "Let It In" and "19," you can almost hear the emotions rush up from behind. Currently Nusbaum is hard at work completing her first solo album; this is an excellent opportunity to hear her continuously budding work.
—Mike Appelstein
8:30 p.m., Rosalita's Cantina

Ellen the Felon
Ellen Cook plays theme music for drifters, telling empathetic stories about simple pains and pleasures. She belts her songs with minimal accompaniment: a keyboard, sometimes drums (Matthew Reyland, a.k.a. the Mattranome) and once in a while the harmonium she obtained so she wouldn't have to be tied to an electrical outlet. Not much for convention or image control, Cook seems most comfortable while singing. That's true regardless of her audience, whether it's five people on a street-lit corner of Cherokee or a couple hundred at the Pageant, where she headlined the most recent Homegrown Showcase. (KM)



BEST SOLO ARTIST (MALE)

Teddy Presberg
Jazz artists seem to understand what so few rock bands do — that music is an open-source experience, and the more you can mix up the experience, the better it is for the musicians and the fans. Guitarist Teddy Presberg takes this methodology to heart on a weekly basis at his "Funky Wednesdays" sessions at Schlafly Bottleworks, where various jazz, funk and soul cats sit in and stir the pot. His own music as bandleader and arranger shows his fluency in all types of groove music: Meters-like funk workouts, silky jazz licks and lead-footed soul all get an airing. And given Presberg's revolving-door policy with other musicians, you simply never know what you're going to get at one of his shows. (CS)
10 p.m., Rosalita's Cantina

Javier Mendoza
With an impressive eleven albums under his belt in the last twelve years, Javier Mendoza is definitely one of the more accomplished independent acts in town. Since making the transition from a songwriter for Warner Chappell Music to a solo artist, his music has earned him numerous local and national accolades, as well as multiple placements on MTV's long-running reality show The Real World — and even an audience with Pope John Paul II. The Virginia-born, Spanish-bred singer writes his Latin-based mix of folk and pop in both English and Spanish (his last album entitled You was released in both languages), a talent he no doubt honed while writing for acts like Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias. (CC)

Caleb Travers
Caleb Travers' warm and wizened story songs flow effortlessly. They're vignettes that seem to have been culled from decades of loving and learning. And though Travers isn't quite 30 years old, the Paducah, Kentucky, native has established himself as one of the most respected artists in the region's thriving alt-country scene. A few years back, his band Big City Lights nabbed a Best of St. Louis Award for Best Alt-Country Band, he's been recognized for his talents as a singer-songwriter, and he's no stranger to being nominated in this category, either. His upcoming record, Lifetime, which will be released this fall, is said to reflect his love of pop and rock music. (RFT)

Joe Stickley
Though nominated in the Best Solo Artist (Male) category, Joe Stickley regularly performs as part of a duo with multi-instrumentalist Sean Canan. As the leader of that duo and of Americana outfit Joe Stickley's Blueprint, the St. Louis veteran puts his wry, wiry tenor and graceful touch with a melody to engaging purpose. With Canan, Stickley has been holding down a Sunday residency at McGurk's where the Celtic side to his songs and sound are given free rein. The duo's 2010 release, Loaded to the Gunwhales, presaged that turn toward Irish balladry and anthems. But Stickley's wise, singer-songwriter soul always shines through, no matter what musical geography he explores. (RK)

Marquise Knox
Marquise Knox is the youngest, proudest and most talented of all the young lions on the St. Louis blues scene. As a guitar slinger and soul shouter who studied under Henry Townsend, his way with the most familiar blues structures belies his twenty years. It's no surprise that with his first album, Man Child, recorded at the age of sixteen, he was honored by Living Blues magazine as "Best Debut Artist," and it's even less of a surprise that his guitar playing has been compared to all three Kings: Freddie, Albert and B.B. But what's most exciting about Knox is the sense of hunger in his performances. He knows that despite his well-deserved accolades and hard-earned audience he still has a lot to prove. And he injects that sense of urgency into every gig. (RK)



BEST JAZZ ARTIST

Hamiet Bluiett
Hamiet Bluiett is fond of recalling when he first was introduced to the baritone sax: It stood taller than he did. Since then he's grown into a master of the instrument, performing alongside Charles Mingus and Aretha Franklin, taking the stage at Carnegie Hall, and these days he makes time to teach music to local kids who are themselves knee-high to a sax. He founded the Bluiett Baritone Nation in the 1990s, and just this March he debuted his Big Orchestra Band-Youth Division. At 70 years old, he's at once a link to jazz's rich past and a vital inspiration for future generations. (RFT)

Dave Black
The dean of jazz guitarists in St. Louis, Dave Black can and does play everything. Whether jamming the electric Miles Davis fusion with the Teddy Presberg Funktet or getting into a Latin swing with Javier Mendoza, Black is always tasteful but never polite. He pushes and bends notes and melodies without breaking them, and his sense of harmonics is truly mysterious. He could play jazz straight — he knows the chords and the scales like he was born speaking in quarter notes — but he prefers to find the riffs that time forgot and that lesser musicians couldn't imagine if they tried. His regular solo gigs around town are clinics on the grace and fire of the electro-acoustic guitar. (RK)
8:15 p.m., Copia Urban Winery & Market

Denise Thimes
Denise Thimes recently faced the personal tragedy of losing a sister to a random bullet, but she continues to find joy and consolation in jazz. It takes a singer of Thimes' caliber and panache to skip through the pages of the American Songbook as if she alone had discovered the magical tome. It's not that she's beyond the influence of Ella, Billie, Carmen and the Divine Miss Sarah; it's just that she commands her own gifts. Thimes' precise diction, playful cadences, warm tone and elastic vibrato are just the individual parts of her artistry. The whole of her approach to jazz vocals is to serve the song but not be a slave to it. When she takes on a blues number like "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl" she gets sassy, brassy and sensual. When she glides into "The Very Thought of You," she finds a way to draw out witty wordplay and evoke a dreamlike mood that's suited to a candle-lit romance yet somehow transcends it altogether. (RK)

Peter Martin
Raised in University City as the son of two classical musicians, pianist Peter Martin studied at Juilliard and then established himself professionally in jazz as part of the highly competitive New Orleans music scene. Martin's fluid keyboard technique and his skill at providing thoughtful accompaniment eventually helped him become a preferred sideman for headliners like singer Dianne Reeves, bassist Christian McBride and trumpeter Chris Botti. Resettling in his hometown after Hurricane Katrina, Martin has continued to tour internationally, but he also has made a contribution to the local scene by presenting a concert series at the Sheldon and working with music students.
—Dean C. Minderman

Reggie Thomas
Reggie Thomas is a man of many talents: pianist, organist, bandleader, sideman for touring performers, recording artist, arranger/composer and educator at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Often teaming with his wife Mardra, a singer and actress, Thomas has been a constant presence and a consistent indicator of quality on the St. Louis jazz scene. At the same time, he's also developed a national reputation as a teacher and clinician for events such as the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Essentially Ellington festival at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center. This will be the Thomas' last summer in St. Louis. He has accepted a new job at Michigan State University, but he'll leave behind many enjoyable musical memories. (DM)



BEST BLUES ARTIST

Big George Brock
It's one thing to sing jazz and blues. It's another one entirely to live them. Big George Brock was born in the Mississippi Delta, where he worked on a cotton plantation. Later, he moved to St. Louis' fertile musical grounds. His 2007 album, Live at Seventy-Five, garnered much positive press; after its release he toured the UK for the first time ever. Now 79 years old, the singer continues to be a bigger-than-life presence on the stage and on the harmonica. Those wanting to witness a living legend at work can catch him regularly at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups and Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen. (RFT)

Roland Johnson and the Voodoo Blues Band
Roland Johnson isn't just one of the most purely emotional soul singers in St. Louis. He's also a terrific bandleader, directing the moves and grooves of the Voodoo Blues Band during its regular gigs at the redoubtable Beale on Broadway. If there's ever been a sure thing for live music in St. Louis, Johnson's residency is it. Dapper and smooth as a Lincoln just off the lot, Johnson understands what to do with an Otis Redding or Sam & Dave number. He sings like a man who knows the story of soul music, because it's ultimately his story, and he adds a new, sweat-stained chapter with every set. (RK)

Ground Floor Band
The Ground Floor Band has been a midweek mainstay at Beale on Broadway downtown for nearly a decade now, and its extensive gigging history stretches back at least another ten years before that. Led by founder and guitarist Charles Hunt, whose razor-sharp licks evoke Albert King and Albert Collins, the current edition of the group includes bassist Eugene Johnson, drummer David Timms and keyboard player Derrick Thomas and may be its strongest lineup yet. With all four members contributing lead and background vocals, the Ground Floor delivers groove-conscious interpretations of songs from a variety of genres, from straight-up blues to soul, funk, R&B and even disco, rock and pop. (DM)

Rough Grooves
A four-piece blues band in the classic style, Rough Grooves follows a musical path that winds from Mississippi to Memphis to St. Louis on up to Chicago and all the way back again. All four members are long-time veterans of the local music scene, experienced in mixing originals, obscure covers and familiar blues standards that keep crowds entertained and imbibing. Guitarist Rich McDonough and harmonica player and vocalist Eric McSpadden are both considered to be among St. Louis' best on their respective instruments, while bassist/vocalist Sharon Foehner and drummer Joe Pastor are bandleaders in their own right and are equally capable of offering solid support or taking their own turns in the spotlight. (DM)

Rockin' Jake
If zydeco, blues and R&B had a threesome, their bastard child would be Rockin' Jake. Letting the good times roll as the relaxing sounds of a harmonica groove with a little bass guitar, this band transports you onto Louisiana porch swings where music rolls off the waters of the bayou. An easy guitar rhythm kicks things off, followed by some bluesy harmonica. It's all about going back to the Big Easy where the girls all get freaky. When the brass instruments and piano join in, it's as if all the swamp people have come out to jam for the evening.
—Ettie Berneking



BEST ROCK BAND

Magic City
Magic City is a perfected cocktail of twang, rock, decades of experience and guttural, Nick Cave-esque vocals. The quintet has been performing all around St. Louis since January 2009 and has been busy in 2011: The group has gone on two tours of the South already this year, and its new album is scheduled for release on vinyl soon. (CW)
11:30 p.m., The Dubliner (Upstairs)

The Incurables
It's impossible to say who will be accompanying Jimmy Griffin's outfit on any given night, or whether you'll hear uptempo power pop or a introspective piano tune or a feedback-heavy rocker, but it's a given that the Incurables are one of the best live bands in town. Their latest EP, FM, out in April, is a homage to the radio Griffin listened to growing up (plus a nod to KDHX), with a single, "FM," a cover of Big Star's "The Ballad of El Goodo" and a few demos of previously released tracks. All of which only served to whet fans' appetites for the band's next full-length release, The Fine Art of Distilling, due out late next month. (RFT)

Rough Shop
A clip on Rough Shop's website from last December's Rhythm 'n' Rails on the Holiday Magic Express metaphorically shows the transformative power of music: As the quartet plays its song "Christmas One More Time" aboard MetroLink, the soulful, folksy rock adds color and warmth to the gloomy-gray neighborhoods and scrubby fields the train passes by. Over the years the band has fine-tuned its rich instrumentation paired with insightful lyrics and vocals that brighten even the bleakest winter day. (RFT)
7 p.m., Lucas Park Grille (Indoor)

Kentucky Knife Fight
St. Louis has long been a breeding ground for both punk and blues. The two genres are in our city's blood, all the way from Petey Wheatstraw to the Conformists. In the last ten years, a younger generation has begun to merge blues and punk with a distinctively brazen, trashy and twangy St. Louis style. Led by singer Jason Holler, Kentucky Knife Fight comes well armed with fist-jabbing rhythms, blown-out vocals, snarling guitar, purring organ and a vintage sensibility that's neither quaint nor hipster. This gang makes dark music for dark rituals in the shadows of the honky-tonks, but the band ultimately worships the blues, in both urban and rural forms, and it kicks the shit out of hillbilly music to boot. (RK)
Midnight, Hair of the Dog

The Blind Eyes
The Blind Eyes recently opened for Ted Leo when the singer played Off Broadway. The band held its own, which, as anyone who has ever seen Leo dive into a pit will tell you, is no mean feat. On June 11, one week after the RFT Music Showcase, the trio, which is comprised of Seth Porter on guitar and vocals, Kevin Schneider on bass and vocals and Matt Picker on drums, will release its second album, With a Bang. Its debut, Modernity, garnered comparisons to the Kinks, Squeeze and pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, and the followup promises more of the same smart lyrics, catchy rhythms and tuneful hooks that have made the group such a favorite around town. (RFT)
8:15 p.m., The Side Bar



BEST NEW ARTIST

Née
Kristin Dennis, a.k.a. Née, is that rare solo singer-songwriter who wouldn't be caught dead holding an acoustic guitar and strumming her sorrows. Her instruments of choice are the synths and samplers; her sounds glitch and thump and break apart, even at their shiniest pop edges. The rat-a-tat of hi-hat loops (created live by drummer Mic Boshans) meet chest-rattling bass while Dennis' voice floats above it all like a pop diva in the making. As a songwriter she's as careful and precise as her electronic layers. Her song "Absolom" is a gorgeous ode to discovering St. Louis and seeming to lose everything along the way. Née is currently working on her followup to The Hands of Thieves EP; it's another Kickstarter campaign, but at least she puts her playful imagination to good use with an absurdly cute promotional video. (RK)

Jay Fay
Most seventeen-year-olds don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, but Josh Fagin, a.k.a. Jay Fay, is different. The producer hasn't been on the grind for very long, but he's already proven to be a major contender on the electronic scene. In 2011 alone, he was tapped to open for Mount Kimbie and Steve Aoki, had two tracks pimped by scene king Diplo and managed to graduate from high school somewhere in there. Fagin played drums and percussion for nine years, and it shows — he understands beats on a biological level. Toying with various styles like baile funk and Moombahton to create stick-to-your-ribs dance music, Fagin's undoubtedly one of the most promising talents in town. (DB)
5:15 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

The Breaks
The Breaks is far from the first band to specialize in high-energy power pop, but it distinguishes itself with smart, dynamic songwriting and charismatic stage presence. Between rhythm guitarist Karl Stefanski's leaping and lead axe-slimger Sean Gartner's ferocious finger tapping, the quintet puts on a riveting performance. The band also did a fantastic job of capturing the verve of its show in the Odd Man Out EP, which sounds positively massive. The group recently shuffled instruments among its members, which includes new bassist Matt Wicks, in order to expand on the jerky post-punk aspects of its sound. Judging from the promising first new song written with Wicks, the Breaks is only getting better.
—Bob McMahon
8:30 p.m., The Dubliner (Upstairs)

Dots Not Feathers
Forgive Dots Not Feathers for opening up its sparkling and sweet full-length album, A Thousand Novels, with a hissy recording of the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The band doesn't need such transcendentalist clichés. It has figured out how to will its own way in the indie-folk world. Yes, all the trappings are there — the well-practiced but effortless harmonies, the baritone uke, synthesizer drums and trilling acoustic guitar and the droning cello lines — but how fresh and sunny and convincing they sound. What makes Dots Not Feathers special is its arrangements, the way a song like "Victoria" darts and rises and meditates, shape shifting but still demanding you hum along with its hopeful melody. (RK)
8:30 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio

The Vondrukes
The Vondrukes has a somewhat regal name, but the band's sound is pure beer-soaked flannel. Call it alt-country if you wish, but only if your definition of that cursed genre includes spastic cow punk and head-banging metal theatrics. On its debut self-titled EP, the band has a blast knocking back a case of homage to everything from Black Sabbath to Uncle Tupelo to Reverend Horton Heat. The manic fusion sometimes borders on the paranoid, as if singers and songwriters Jeff Griswold and Bob McKee believe they'll never shake their rock & roll demons. So they get drunk and turn up and play rockabilly and surf punk loud and fast enough to send the hounds back to Hell with tails between their legs and crushed tall-boy cans between their defeated teeth. (RK)

The Jump Starts
It's not as if singer and guitarist Justin Johnson is exactly hurting to have his songs heard; as the lead singer of Pretty Little Empire, he's become a standout presence with his impassioned performances. But alongside drummer Sarah Ross, Johnson also performs in the Jump Starts, and the simple two-person lineup gives space for his more direct, pop-friendly songs. With some raggedy acoustic guitar strums and Ross' often funky rhythms, the Jump Starts has the charm and panache of a bedroom-pop project — at times raw and unpolished but never short on feeling or heart. (CS)
7 p.m., Rosalita's Cantina



BEST POP BAND

Tight Pants Syndrome
Last summer, Tight Pants Syndrome emerged from another short hiatus with yet another new lineup. Fortunately, not much else has changed about the collective's all-encompassing approach to pop. Buzzing synths still peacefully coexist with jangling twelve-string guitar licks and doowop rhythms and harmonies, sometimes all at once. If anything, Tight Pants Syndrome has expanded its reach. (Yes, that's a harp in "New Hit Record," among other things.) The result is a bigger, more impressive sound reminiscent of the New Pornographers' glorious excess. But for all the pomp, Tight Pants Syndrome retains the charm of a bunch of friends bashing out tunes together. They're just really good at it. (BM)
10:45 p.m., The Dubliner (Main Floor)

Magnolia Summer
Chris Grabau's Magnolia Summer collective had a big year, from playing the inaugural LouFest to a February tour of the UK including a performance on BBC Radio 2. Undertow Records issued a deluxe edition of its 2008 release Lines From the Frame with its 2010 EPs The Slip That Leads Into the Fall and The Current Moves, which promptly sold out. Despite a lineup of musicians that pull duty in bands such as the Bottle Rockets, Grace Basement and the Linemen, Magnolia Summer continues a steady schedule of live dates that showcase a sound both orchestral and rootsy, where string sections, roaring guitars and slide guitar cohabitate. It all frames Grabau's rich lyrical tales of murder ("Rangeline"), loss ("Short Wave Decline") and dread ("To Better Days"). (RW)

Warm Jets USA
Jason Hutto's bands have never lacked for pop hooks, but the latest fuzz-pop project helmed by the music-community mainstay is particularly tuneful and well produced. Warm Jets USA's "Records" contains lovely, jangly riffs, while "Peach Fuzz" is a classic, two-minute loud-soft-loud burst. "Dumb" is even better, a jolt of greased-up '70s hot-rod rock; it goes down like a shot of whiskey. If you're a fan of unheralded, criminally underappreciated indie-noise bands from the '90s, Warm Jets USA is right up your alley.
—Annie Zaleski
9:15 p.m., Lucas Park Grille (Patio)

Jon Hardy & the Public
Though the public largely recognizes this pop band from its acclaimed 2007 full-length, Working in Love, the Public has gone through extensive lineup changes — just Jon Hardy and Glenn LaBarre remain onboard since the Working days. This year's A Hard Year EP marks a return to bittersweet lyrics — wistful memories, cynicism, falling back into old patterns and ultimately hope — all backed by spirited piano and drums. The band's tapped into a sound that the public (and the Public, in whatever incarnation) enthusiastically gets behind. (RFT)

Karate Bikini
Guitarist and singer Tim McAvin has been playing his smartly nuanced style of pop song around town for so long that his imprimatur has benefited bands like the beloved '90s combo Lydia's Trumpet and power-pop maestros Tight Pants Syndrome. But Karate Bikini has given McAvin the chance to create a true St. Louis supergroup: He enlisted guitarist John Horton (Bottle Rockets, Magnolia Summer), saxophonist Michelle Rae (Jon Hardy & the Public) and a few other scene vets to play clever, melodic rock & roll with some obvious nods to the past ("Kimberly Rew," a song about the Soft Boys/Katrina and the Waves guitarist, is a live highlight). Look for the studio release Sauce of the Apple Horse later this year. (CS)
1:00 a.m., The Dubliner (Upstairs)



BEST INDIE BAND

Sleepy Kitty
Band-name literalists and Myspace-track-only fans will be surprised at how hard Sleepy Kitty rocks. Especially when Paige Brubeck steps out from behind the keyboard to wield a guitar, the duo can thrash and wail with the best of '90s post-punk. At last year's An Under Cover Weekend, the band performed as Pavement, which isn't a bad reference point; there are few things more endearing to the cool kids of rock & roll. It doesn't hurt that Brubeck and drummer Evan Sult are consummate professionals onstage and off- — or that they have fully embraced St. Louis after finding musical success in both Seattle and Chicago. (KM)
5:45 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Troubadour Dali
It's been two long years since Troubadour Dali released its debut album, but the wait may finally be over. The psych-pop outfit has rejiggered its lineup yet again — current members are Ben Hinn, Kevin Bachmann, Drew Bailey, Andy Kahn and Benjamin Marsh — and is scheduled to release its second album, Let's Make it Right, sometime this August on Euclid Records. Promises Euclid impresario Joe Schwab: "I think people familiar with the first album will be blown away by the depth of the songwriting on this one. Most of the songs on the first CD were at least three years old once the CD hit the shelves. The songs are pretty poppy, with a good amount of the dreamy buzz that's been their signature sound." (RFT)
12:15 a.m., The Dubliner (Main Floor)

Humdrum
Don't take space-rock quintet Humdrum's name literally: They hum, and they drum, but never tediously, never predictably. The quartet's sophomore release, The Arrangement, is a rapturous prog-rock adventure, sometimes delicate and febrile, sometimes unexpectedly lush and hypnotic, as if Explosions in the Sky were sitting in to give the guitars a post-rock boost. Paul Maguire and Dan Meehan double and triple their vocals to fine effect, and the band's rhythms, while mapped out with mathematical precision, never feel stilted. A great single like "Silence" repays listening, combining digitally fuzzed guitars, galloping toms and what might be gong strokes with believably Zen lyrics of getting in touch with the cosmos inside your own head. It's trippy, sure, but a delightful, smart journey start to finish. (RK)

Bo and the Locomotive
Bo Bulawsky has been a team player for Berlin Whale, Exercise and Cold Bear Scout. But he has been reluctant to step out as a frontman in the public eye. Over the past twelve months, his long-running project, Bo and the Locomotive, has graduated from reclusive bedroom recording experiment to fledged-out performing ensemble. Bulawsky's hibernation period has yielded a batch of endearing tunes with lonesome melodies and sleepy harmonies à la Fleet Foxes, with Bo's low, warbling voice and quasi-sarcastic delivery front and center. Bo is celebrating his newfound rock band by doing rock-band things: going on tour and making a proper album chief among them. Bulawsky finally has the confidence to match Bo and the Locomotive's well-developed songs, and the timing could not be better. (RW)
10:45 p.m., Lucas Park Grille (Patio)

Flaming Death Trap
Too often bands, even good ones, tagged as "indie rock" only live up to the first part of the equation. With its scuzzy riffs, pounding drums, gravelly vocals and attitude to spare, Flaming Death Trap earns both parts of the classification. Just as good as its full-throttle attack is the songwriting, which features fantastic Pixies-esque leads and hilariously blunt lyrics. As invigorating as the fuzzy blast of Death Trap's early work is, it's heartening to see the young quartet branching out into alternately twangy and spacey textures in newer songs. It's hardly a reinvention of its successful sound, but it's a good sign that the band isn't going to rest on its laurels. (BM)
9:15 p.m., The Dubliner (Main Floor)

So Many Dynamos
It's been nearly two years since So Many Dynamos released its last album, The Loud Wars, on Vagrant Records. Yes, a prominent indie label picked them up. Yes, people outside St. Louis have now heard of them. And you know what? People here have forgiven them. People here even still love them. It's amazing. The quartet, consisting of Nathan Bernaix, Griffin Kay (until he moves to Colorado in the next few weeks, anyway), Clayton Kunstel and Aaron Stovall, has continued to tour and play around town, most notably around its new home base on Cherokee Street. We're hoping, though, that the Dynamos get back in the studio before another one of these music showcases comes around. (RFT)

Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra
Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra went in the Best Indie Band category because it had to go somewhere. But really, this group that composes and performs original scores for silent movies is unclassifiabe...and that's why we love it. Last fall, Rats & People, which includes Matt Pace (piano and trumpet), Brien Seyle (violin), Matt Frederick, Robert Laptad, Heather Rice and Emma Tiemann, made its St. Louis International Film Festival debut with a world premiere of its score for Benjamin Christensen's 1922 film Häxan; its most recent project is Buster Keaton's The Goat from 1921. (RFT)



BEST ELECTRONIC ARTIST

Safety Words
The beat-making, crate-digging, sample-manipulating duo Safety Words (Sean Price and Ian Jones) first perked up ears around town with The Ghostfaced Pixels Mixtape, an album-long mashup of Wu-Tang Clan lyrics set against eight-bit video-game soundtracks. The CD showed the pair's perverse sense of humor alongside its catchall approach to pop culture, but Safety Words refused to be written off as a one-trick pony. Jones and Price have continued to dig deeper, into the rich, dizzying world of library music and remixes (including one for producer Phaseone, who recently relocated to NYC). A new album is in the works, but until then, a Safety Words show provides a chance to see these curators as both dance commanders and sonic collage artists. (CS)

Half Gay
The duo of Floating Laboratories founder Kevin Harris and multimedia artist Mike Stasny makes deconstructed analog house music from the future with tornadic drums and synths. After donning some massive and insane headdresses made by Stasny, the duo (and sometimes trio) creates...well, deconstructed house music from the future. Seriously, this is probably what popular music will become in 30 to 40 years, complete with costumes and accompanying dizzy-making laser lights. Our grandchildren will love it. It's loud, erratic and danceable, with punishing rhythms and an abrasive charm. You get the sense they're grinning wickedly under those masks. (DB)

Ra Cailum
Bedroom composer Anthony Engelhardt started Ra Cailum still in the fevered throes of chillwave-itis, but it turns out the cure is just listening to better music. He's quickly evolved out of the easy-listening-for-the-aughts genre, trading Toro y Moi for Eno. At nineteen, he's well on his way to becoming a sound architect to be reckoned with. His latest EP, Infinite Value, is a confident exploration into ambient esoterica, at times recalling Phaseone or early Aphex Twin — electronic poetry rendered in euphonic watercolor. (DB)
7:30 p.m., Rue 13

Buz
Buz is drummer Charlie Hogland, who is also a member of experimental folk/multimedia project We Are Warm. The straight-up dance beats of a song like "Boomstick" stand in stark contrast to the jazzy piano tinklings found elsewhere (such as on "Battle Epidemic"). Buz is capable of waist-deep industrial sludge, too, and it's the constant variety that lifts the duo's overall soundscape into the stratosphere.
—Katie Moulton
8:45 p.m., Rue 13

Buxom Space Fish
This newly formed band has put out three albums since its inception in 2010. Originally little more than a recording project with a Doctor Who reference thrown in, Buxom Space Fish is now a complete band, keyboardist and vocalist included. And if you, like Dr. Who, spent most of your day traveling through space and time, you might do well to add a few of the band's bizarre electronic tunes to your playlist. This music may not make especially great dance-floor material, but that's not the point: The Fish focuses on the alien. Case in point: the aptly named "The Wedding March of the Space Fish" is an electro-pop rendition of Wagner's "Bridal Chorus." (EB)



BEST DJ

DJ Nune
Lamar Harris is a busy man. Filling roles as a trumpeter, trombonist, arranger and producer, it's little wonder that he consistently finds work as a musician at the city's most-respected clubs. As DJ Nune, he holds down a weekly spin on Fridays at Lola, drawing on his vast expertise to play gems from many genres. An active member of the local art scene generally, Harris lends his expert DJ skills to a wide variety of events, including the recent St. Louis Open Studio's Wall Ball. He still finds time to record his own projects; a new album called The Here and After is on the horizon. (RFT)
12:15 a.m., Flamingo Bowl (Main Room)

Needles
Since he got his start mixing in the late '90s, DJ Needles has become one of the best-known turntablists in the city. He's no stranger to the RFT Music Awards, either, having taken the crown of Best Club DJ in 2010 and Best Hip-Hop DJ the two years prior. Needles remains one of the scene's busiest contributors, finding the time to host a blog at ghettoblastic.com, a series of mixtapes and the KDHX (88.1 FM) show Rawthentic Radio between his live gigs, all while producing hip-hop and R&B tracks for some of the area's premier talent on the side. Needles is known for his discriminating and sometimes eclectic taste in music; his sets function as a crash course in quality music. (CC)
9 p.m., Lola's Absinthe Bar

Scotty Mac
Though veteran DJ Scotty Mac has been mixing it up for nearly two decades now, he's yet to get stale and continues to more than earn his place on the list of St. Louis' finest. He digs far into his deep crates to create dynamic, eclectic mixes designed to get everybody out on the dance floor — no matter who you are or what you say you like. Scotty Mac knows no limits. As he puts it, "Genre shmanra — if it's hot, it's in the mix." (RFT)

Forensic
Two minutes into a conversation with Forensic, he manages to out both Jekyll and Hyde as influences. At his regular shows in local clubs, the 39-year-old (Joe Bobnick to his mom) mixes and spins both progressive trance (a dynamic, hands-in-the-air Dr. Jekyll) and EMB-industrial music (a dark, sometimes brutal Mr. Hyde). Forensic brought his beats from upstate New York via an eight-year stint in Boston in an effort to fill a void for goth-industrial music in St. Louis. Two club residencies and a transition from vinyl to disc later, Forensic still manages to find the necessary balance between his Jekyll nights and his Hyde ones to keep the energy high.
—Kelsey Whipple
9 p.m., Flamingo Bowl (Main Room)

Flex Boogie
DJ Flex Boogie gets it. He knows that a well-timed song — a hot new mix from Europe, maybe? A funk-influenced groove? — can get the crowd on your side and keep them there. It all comes back to dancing with Flex — it's one of the things that got him into playing music to begin with, and packing the dance floor is what keeps him at it. And as a favorite on the city's DJ scene (he says he's been spinning for almost two decades), he continues to amass new throngs of booty-shakers while keeping long-timers loyal. He can be found working his craft at some of the city's hottest spots, including Lola and the Upstairs Lounge. (RFT)

Rob Lemon
It's no shocker that Rob Lemon has been dubbed the Lord of the St. Louis House DJs. For more than a decade, Lemon has been spinning some of clubland's finest mixes. But if you can't make his gigs or you feel your moves are too...um...advanced for your fellow clubgoers to appreciate, don't despair: Lemon has generously posted some of his best mixes on SoundCloud and his personal website, www.roblemon.com, so you can get down whenever you feel like it. (RFT)



BEST PARTY

Dead or Pregnant
Serge Patel and Jimmy McMinn do not consider themselves DJs in the way of other party hosts in town. But they have carved out a healthy niche on the scene with a clearly stated goal: By the end of the night, everyone's either dead or pregnant. Joint ventures with artists including Night VSN, Dollar Bin, London Calling and Propaganda haven't hurt visibility, and the duo's own periodic nights at Sol Lounge feature versatile mixes of dance music. The Dead or Pregnant crew's last event was a late March house party after Get Serious to celebrate, among other things, McMinn's 30th birthday and Patel's new job. (KM)
8 p.m., Lola's Absinthe Bar

Get Serious
DJ Cor(e)yography has quickly established one of the best parties in St. Louis. What sets the night apart is its uniqueness; you get a different theme and guest DJs every time you attend. Recent theme nights have included Get Serious .ly Wobbly, a dubstep night with a guest appearance from Chicago's Nameloc, and Get Serious.ly Murdered in honor of Friday the Thirteenth. That one featured recent Webster High graduate and eclectic beat-making wunderkind Jay Fay, who could not be more different from dub. Cor(e)yography's New Year's bash brought together five club-night heavyweights for one of the biggest turn-of-the-calendar blowouts in the city. (KM)
7:45 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Found Future
Mondays just wouldn't be tolerable in St. Louis without Found Future at the Upstairs Lounge. Woody Krummenacher and Josh Levi have been holding down the grown and sexy weekly spin at the South Grand institution since 2009, ensuring that your epic Tuesday-morning hangover was worth it. They're equally adept at dropping forgotten smooth disco and electro-boogie bounce, sprinkled among swagtastic hip-hop cuts and the latest remixes you haven't heard yet, from Sade and Gucci Mane to Diplo and Fred Falke. The dance party doesn't get started until late, but when it does, Levi and Krummenacher keep the floor full until the bartenders beg for mercy. (DB)

Kinky Disco
Scotty Mac's occasional party at the Upstairs Lounge has been going strong for three years. He plays an expert mix of insidious and good-vibes electronic music and has established a vaguely retro feel. Mac's been on the St. Louis scene for nearly twenty years, playing DJ sets around town and throwing these sorts of parties long before the current crop arose. In 2011, Kinky Disco will feature five installments: One was in January, another in April, and there will be one each in July, September and October. (KM)

London Calling
Like professional basketball and the name "Panera Bread Company," the DJ club scene has been a tough sell for some St. Louisans in the past. London Calling may not be singlehandedly responsible for the change in atmosphere, but it has certainly lit a fire under the asses of local hip-shaking hipsters ever since it was a fixture at South Grand's Upstairs Lounge. Now taking residency at the Gramophone, London Calling has become more than just a party: With the eclectic tastes of DJ Clockwork and his cohorts, as well as frequent out-of-town guests on deck, attendants might end up as cultured as they are sweaty. (RW)
2:45 p.m. & 4 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington



BEST RESIDENCY

_CommunityService_
18andCounting (a.k.a. Stan Chisholm) started out throwing his party at 2720 Cherokee before relocating to the Upstairs Lounge, where he made the _CommunityService_ moniker official and earned a weekly Wednesday-evening time slot. Chisholm, a 2010 RFT MasterMind Award winner, is also a visual artist who draws, paints and sculpts Styrofoam. But _CommunityService_ isn't esoteric performance art. With guest DJs ranging from Kase One to Ra Cailum to Luxxter, the night features an eclectic mix of dance-friendly electronics. (KM)
9 p.m., Club Amnesia

Headquarters
St. Louis can't get enough of the Force. The massive hip-hop collective has its own night, aptly titled the Headquarters, at everything-goes venue the Gramophone. The formula for the Monday-night residency is always the same: hip-hop, R&B, and soul spins and live rap sets from guys like Tef Poe, Black Spade and Nato Caliph. You never know who might be on the mic or commanding the turntables, but it's always guaranteed to be a see and be seen buffet of local talent. (DB)
6:30 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Mass Appeal
DJ Mahf's Mass Appeal has held down its spot at Atomic Cowboy for years. His work with Earthworms and Steddy P prove he's more than just a party-starter; he's as capable a technical DJ as they come. There's not as much wizardry at Mass Appeal. The goal is to get people dancing, obviously, and Mahf's knowledge of deep-cut hip-hop, funk, soul and plenty more make him well qualified for that particular task. After spending most of the spring on an interstate tour with Steddy P in support of its third collaborative album, Mahf is back at Atomic Cowboy just in time for the summer jam season. (KM)

The Wrek Sessions
The Wrek Sessions makes up in reckless momentum what it lacks in proper spelling. The Monday-night dance party at 2720 Cherokee, fronted by electronica sharks Mohawk and Heezy, features a rotating cast of local guests on the boards. Whatever crew shows up for a given evening samples a broad catalog of genres, including dubstep, electronica, drum-and-bass and experimental house music. The results are broadcast live from the venue for online listeners at electrolouis.com. If your Monday nights are short on dancing, you need only to check yourself before you Wrek yourself. (KW)
10 p.m., Flamingo Bowl (Main Room)

Rapture
In its half-decade of existence, Rapture has become the go-to party if you're wearing black and buckles or just looking for something a little heavier than you'll find almost anywhere else in St. Louis. It's been seven months since DJ Skeletal (a.k.a. Joel Lovins) moved the underworld festivities from the Complex to the Urban Lounge on South Grand Boulevard, taking DJ Sainte (a.k.a. Jen Griggs) as his cohost. Rapture has settled into its Monday time slot nicely, keeping the cover low ($3) and the music loud. (KM)
7 p.m., Lola's Absinthe Bar



BEST NOISE BAND

Britches
Britches formed in mid-2009 and a few months ago released a demo called, er, Demo. The death sweats of early Sonic Youth and Xiu Xiu's skeletal noise sculptures are a starting touchstone, but the trio skillfully uses silence and restraint to magnify the dread of its chaotic moments. Among its best songs is "White Noise," a grayscale pastiche of beauty and horror: Chiming melodies and grandfather-clock percussion devolve into marching stomps, macabre chants and gravel-embedded-in-knee riffs. (AZ)
6:15 p.m., Rue 13

Catholic Guilt
Though the name may lead you to believe it's some sort of pop-punk write-off, Catholic Guilt is anything but. Amid barriers of distorted squeals, squalls and drum fits, CG pummels through atmospheric drug-induced dirges that will leave your innards swirling and eardrums helpless. Relying on flickering guitar spurts and an arsenal of peddles, Catholic Guilt eases into its noise-ridden flare with calm-before-the-storm patience, which eventually spills into serious-as-a-heart-attack screaming and sonic bombast.
—Michael Dauphin

Ghost Ice
When Jeremy Kannapell flips open his battered black train case and the banzai noise attack begins, the world falls away. He appears possessed while he plays, body wracked with tics as if he is being electrocuted by his own sound: abradant, ghastly, like being sucked through the most beautiful stereo-panned black hole there ever was. Ghost Ice doesn't record, which is the only thing we can be mad at him for, but it's probably a blessing because almost every musician who listens to him considers chucking his pedals in abject defeat. Kannapell has been called one of the top noise artists in the country, and still he opens nearly every show he plays — a testament to his inexhaustible modesty. Ghost Ice the entity puts your head in a trash compactor, and then Jeremy Kannapell the Person thanks you, like you did him a favor by showing up to watch him bum around with some sounds. It's like getting a pat on the head from God. (DB)

Spelling Bee
Spelling Bee's Joe Hess and Mabel Suen are two of this city's hardest-working musicians. Over the past couple of years, the duo has sharpened its corrosive, light-speed sound by doing everything from opening for feedback gurus Lightning Bolt to playing out of town any weekend it can. Operating at antipodal points on the aural spectrum, Spelling Bee is able to construct a monumental trademark sound with its use of trebly guitar drenched in reverb and relentless drum triggers and percussion. When it's not cutting its teeth onstage or in the studio, you can find Spelling Bee raiding the airwaves or spreading the forbidden gospel across the country, redefining the DIY ethos. (JL)

The Conformists
The Conformists is here to confuse you. Having led the local avant-rock pack for over a decade, it remains St. Louis' favorite wolf in sheep's clothing. Holding vigil at the feet of Shellac and U.S. Maple, the band teeters on the edge of your mind with a calculated exercise in repetition and disjointed melody. The result is a kaleidoscopic mix of rigid bass and escalating tempos matched by the plangent tone of singer Mike Benker. Its most recent release, None Hundred, is the band's most realized material to date, exuding a confidence marked by powerful songwriting and masterful technical discipline. (JL)
7 p.m., The Side Bar



BEST EXPERIMENTAL ARTIST

Skarekrau Radio
Skarekrau Radio is the kind of band your mother would have warned you about if she'd had any idea such a band existed. The psychopathic rock collective is infamous for its onstage antics and shared affinity for playing its "warning orbs" (what the band calls shows) in the buff. Once you get past the costumes and the skin, there's still no end to the weird — Skarekrau breaks down free jazz, no-wave freakout and avant-garde rock rumblings with a rotating cast of vocalists screeching over the din like living hallucinations. (DB)

Bikini Acid
Bikini Acid's raw energy never fails to turn a crowd of wallflowers into a spastic dance party. Its instrumental meanderings bow to kraut originators Neu!, but the band possesses a psychedelic predilection for distortion and repetition like Chicago's CAVE. Drummer Caleb McMurry's graceful kit demolition is always a treat to see. He joins Josh Levi's militant bass to produce water-tight rhythms, while guitarist Mike Pitts' unpredictable shredding can either transfix or terrify. You have to catch one of them out or buy one of their cassettes at Apop Records until eight tracks become a thing again, because you'll probably never find a Bikini Acid album on the Internet. (DB)

Dust Bunny
Art-school blood brothers Dan Wamhoff and Chris McLaughlin play so well together you'd think they came out of the same womb strapped with matching Korg Electribes. The noisy duo punches out brain-draining sample soup that matches hip-hop chicanery with experimental deconstruction and innovation. McLaughlin's Electribe SX samples while Wamhoff's MX controls the synth sounds. It's a crunk hodgepodge of digital beats and analog bites, mixed, sequenced and molded live like sonic spinning taffy at just the punch of a few buttons and turn of a few knobs. With minimal vocals and plenty of hypnotic delay, Dust Bunny exists in the netherworld between rhythm and noise — ah, youth. (DB)

Kevin Harris
As the owner and resident of Floating Laboratories, Kevin Harris has been a galvanizing force in the experimental scene. For his solo, self-titled musical project, he is most interested in remaining on the fringe of creation. What you hear is as new an experience for Harris as it is for his audience, thanks in part to his semi-improvisation — but also because he is working with instruments and tracks he has either sourced himself or outright constructed from scratch. That makes his the exceedingly rare music that owes almost no sonic debt (though Harris certainly has ideological and aesthetic influences). The result is a sort of futuristic free jazz, where the thoroughly handmade tones and bleeps amount to a matter of principle. (KM)

Egg Chef
Underground darling Egg Chef is practically mandatory on any experimental bill in St. Louis. The Bellevillians defy genre classification, and it's impossible not to enjoy its high-octane performances and post-whatever sound. While it might not be for the average indie-rock fan on first listen, Egg Chef's brand of 400-BPM shit-kicking DIY makes sense live: When you see them in Hazmat suits, it's likely you'll start sweating just watching the band perform with its inimitable gusto. (DB)



BEST PUNK BAND

The Humanoids
The history of punk music is as tumultuous as the angsty lyrics of so many of its purveyors. But not so the Humanoids: Since the band formed in 1998, it's grabbed the title of this town's favorite punk band time and again. Fans can always count on quick-hitting two- and three-minute songs that pack infectious, hard-rocking wallops. Its new album, Year of the Snake, builds upon the band's trademark sound and even gives a nod to punk's forebears with a well-placed cover of Wipers' "Youth of America." (RFT)
1:15 a.m., Hair of the Dog

The Disappeared
While it seems like the Disappeared and its posi-core punk hymnals have been around St. Louis forever, it has only been four short years of steady local gigs and sporadic Midwest tours. And after churning out a few sturdy EPs and seven-inches, the band is finally ready to present its first official full-length, Bridges, via St. Louis' own I Hate Punk Rock Records. They twist angular punk-metal riffage around sing-songy shout-alongs, bottomed-out bass lines and speed-punk drum blasts. Pulling from almost every distant corner of the expansive fabric that is today's punk and hardcore base, the band tips its cap to the old dogs before them while trudging ahead on its own path. (MD)
8:15 p.m., Hair of the Dog

The Fuck Off and Dies
It only takes hearing one song to figure out what the Fuck Off and Dies is about: comically juvenile, catchy pop/punk. Stuck-up punk purists might scoff, but it's their loss. The Fuck Off and Dies shows are a blast. Songs usually fly by at fast tempos, and the band is smart enough to kill many of them before they're a minute old — songs like "We're Fucking Awesome!" and "It's Fuckin' Sauget!" don't need to be any longer. (And yes, every song title contains some variation of the word "fuck.") Beneath all the silliness there's a solid foundation of hooks and energy that ensure the band's appeal isn't wholly ironic. (BM)

The Haddonfields
If pop punk has taught us anything, it is that you can milk a lot of catchy music out of one simple formula. The Haddonfields has mastered its own variation: The band borrowed the recipe from the Queers, the Ramones and various Fat Wreck Chords bands. Nagging guitar licks over buzzy bass rhythms and fast-as-hell punk beats. The lyrics surely don't cover deep or lofty philosophy, but don't be surprised if you're singing along and tapping your feet by the end of the song. It's witty, it's fun, and it's all the things that makes pop punk so damn endearing to begin with. (MD)
Midnight, The Side Bar

Glass Teeth
To talk about Glass Teeth is to talk about its powerful live shows, which find singer Jeff Robtoy slithering through the audience and forgetting that quaint nicety known as personal space. But it's a good fit — the band's music entangles the audience in every snarled word and thundering drumbeat. And maybe making your audience uncomfortable is a good thing: The band opened for the legendary Hugh Cornwell this spring, and just last year, Glass Teeth was an RFT Music Showcase award-winner, garnering the most votes as the city's No. 1 Experimental Band. (RFT)



BEST HARDCORE BAND

Masculine Journey
The little brother of the local DIY scene has finally come into its own. This hardcore outfit (formerly known as Suburban Smash) has been packing a punch locally for nearly four years now. Undergoing tremendous development during this time, its sound has evolved from a low roar of traditional '80s-style punk rock to a domineering burst of audacious hardcore. With a new recording on the way, you can look forward to beating your head against the wall or taking the mosh to venues like Cranky Yellow and Apop Records. (JL)

Shaved Women
This four-piece has quickly become a staple in the punk community by embodying a DIY aesthetic and wielding a domineering death rattle unlike any local band around. These harbingers of chaos range stylistically from self-destructive hardcore to grinding walls of feedback. Shedding any sense of pretense, the boys of SW maintain a sharp focus on brainwave annihilation and the process of weeding out. Fans of Pissed Jeans, Sex Vid and Total Abuse will not be disappointed. (JL)

Doom Town
The Wipers' classic '83 jam from which Doom Town takes its name could very well have been written for Mound City. It is only fitting that this reappropriation comes from south-side legends Ashley Hohman, Ben Smith and Shaun Morrissey. Fueled by an angst and depression prevalent around these parts, Doom Town continues to explore the fire inside them through dynamic songs rife with panic and mania. Illustrated through intelligent lyrics, impeccable timing and a perpetual tide of tension, Doom Town's unapologetic approach to punk rock stands tall with a refusal to submit to its surroundings. (JL)
10:45 p.m., The Side Bar

Maximum Effort
Exerting a stiff paranoia, Maximum Effort performs a frenzied type of punk rock by way of conspiracy theories.  Known to rile crowds into madness, ME rages with an unshackled youthfulness, performing songs about everything from alien conspiracies to government cover-ups to space exploration. Singer Nick Zengerling's compelling vocals tell a story, shining a spotlight on the truth in a world shrouded in secrecy. Brandishing an electrified sound with a rock & roll core, Maximum Effort does a damn fine job as one of the few straight-ahead punk bands in a notably hardcore town. (JL)

Sweet Tooth
Fresh off the release of its Japanese Void seven-inch, Sweet Tooth continues to rip a hole in the country's midsection with its brand of blind rage and fast-paced hardcore. Blasts of raw power and furious drumming make this band a must-see for fans of bands like Deep Wound and Siege. With its intense live shows and exertion of savage ferocity, Sweet Tooth has raised the bar in St. Louis hardcore. Pissed and loving it, they leave no one safe. (JL)



BEST HIP-HOP/RAP ARTIST (SOLO)

Indiana Rome
With last year's impressive debut Who the Hell Left the Gate Open, Indiana Rome proved he could stand toe-to-toe with the other members of the Force. Featuring production from Needles, Trifeckta, Black Spade and Rome himself, the album is start-to-finish big drums and heavy downbeats. And Rome exudes confidence as an MC — think pre-identity crisis T.I., with direct nods to Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne and plenty of his STL peers. He delivers rhymes deliberately, leaning on vowels. Erick Richardson, Theresa Payne and Bryant Stewart lend hooks to an album that was already full of earworms to begin with. (KM)
7 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Prince Ea
Believe it or not, St. Louis has been hiding one of the best-kept secrets in hip-hop in our own back yard. While many might consider rapping and studying anthropology an odd match, Richard "Prince Ea" Williams manages both just fine. While Ea generally takes an intellectual approach to the genre, his lessons do not come at the expense of finesse; the kid can go bar-for-bar with the best of them. It comes as no surprise that Ea's potent wit, substantive lyrics and impassioned delivery have earned him the attention of Vibe magazine and Worldstar Hip Hop. What's even more remarkable is that he's the first (and only, to date) rapper to be featured in Discover magazine, thanks to his eight-minute musical tribute to the human brain. (CC)
11 p.m., Club Amnesia

Black Spade
Voted the Best Hip-Hop Artist in this paper's Best of St. Louis issue for two years running, Black Spade is showing no signs of letting up. He remains active in the local scene despite his very recent move to New York. Spade's thoughtful rhymes and wide range of subject matter set his music apart from the status quo, and his voice is well suited for a little soul-singing and harmonizing over his verses and hooks. As if that weren't enough, he is also one of the area's more innovative producers in recent memory. His critically acclaimed debut To Serve With Love was followed up by his first ever mixtape, last year's Build & Destroy. The album features all-new tracks (no "industry beats"), with appearances from members of both the Force collective and his California-based crew, the Hawthorne Headhunters. (CC)

Vandalyzm
It's been a big year for Vandalyzm: Last summer, the U. City rapper dropped the rerelease of his first album, Megatron Majorz Redux, on Soulspazm Records. It promptly hit iTunes' top 200 hip-hop albums list, comfortably sandwiched between 50 Cent and the Notorious B.I.G. Then this spring, a few weeks after Vandalyzm took his show on the road to Austin for a couple of performances at SXSW, he released his latest mixtape, Vandalyzm Is the Stepfather, with featured appearances from Tanya Morgan, Naledge of Kidz in the Hall, Diz Gibran, Marv Won and Nickelus F (among others). If you're looking for a primer, check out his January mixtape, B!%^h Im'Mis Talented, his selection of his own favorite tracks. (RFT)

Tef Poe
The Force is indeed a force in St. Louis hip-hop, and Tef Poe is one of its strongest members. His most recent album, the (ahem) tour de force War Machine, dropped late last year. It represents a departure of sorts for the battle rapper, who wanted to have more girls come to his shows. In March he followed it up with a new remix and video for his single "Out the Kitchen." But if you're hoping for more solo work from the scrappy MC, you're going to have to wait. Right now Tef is collaborating on EPs with fellow Force members Rockwell Knuckles and Black Spade (who also happens to be his brother); the project with Rocky, tentatively called Prestige Worldwide, is due out later this year, and War Machine 2 is slated for release this summer. (RFT)
7 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Nato Caliph
Few musicians of any genre are as respectful as the Force's Nato Caliph. Just check out the video for the slow jam "Her" that the hip-hop artist put out last summer. It features his wife, Dana, and their two children. Caliph's also proud that none of his rhymes contain any profanity and describes his work as "an abbreviated sociology course." His work, whether it's gospel-tinged singing or just smooth rhyming, is endlessly enjoyable. His message is perhaps best encapsulated in the refrain from "Appreciation," the lead single from his most recent album, last fall's Knowledge Cipher: "This is hip-hop — appreciate me." (RFT)
7 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Rockwell Knuckles
It's no surprise to see Rockwell Knuckles nominated again. The Force member is one of St. Louis' most eclectic — and energetic — hip-hop performers, ranging from traditional beats to more experimental sounds, and sometimes he even sings. His single "Government Name" off the Everybody Wins compilation was RFT's best local single of 2010. Rocky demonstrates his usual clever wordplay over a breakneck beat and then, for the refrain, moans, "Spontaneous lover," like, our reviewer wrote, "Prince on a Viagra bender." This year, Rocky's already released a project called You're Fucking Out, I'm Fucking In, notable for its sci-fi production and the killer single "Silly Human," and he's currently working on an LP with fellow Force member Tef Poe. (RFT)
7 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Lavelle Spitz
Lavelle Spitz is a fresh new talent finding his sea legs in the increasingly promising St. Louis hip-hop scene. Though only a few years out of high school, Mauri Lavelle Roberts has energy and ambition to spare — and isn't afraid to be his own hype man. After putting out his full-length, Looseleaf Statements, he got busy working on mixtapes; check out the new The City Slicker, which pairs Spitz's rhymes with unexpected grooves. He also participates as part of the reggae/funk extravaganza the Noam Chomskys and plays out on his own whenever possible. (DB)



BEST HIP-HOP/RAP ARTIST (GROUP OR COLLECTIVE)

Earthworms
This hip-hop quartet — including MCs Kama, Mathias, Black Patrick and DJ Mahf — comprises well-known solo talents, but together they prove there's strength in numbers, and never more so than on the group's latest release, 2009's Midnight at the Capricorn. Though the men give nods to St. Louis in their songs, the group has proven that spot-on scratching, tight vocals and unrelenting energy can grab fans far beyond this river town's banks: They've played Austin's South by Southwest, Hollywood's House of Blues and even hopped around the Continent, performing at military bases. (RFT)
10 p.m., Club Amnesia

Scripts 'N Screwz
The East St. Louis duo Scripts 'N Screwz delivered a nice Christmas present to their fans last year in the form of the EP The Hangover, which featured Loose Screwz' solo effort "On 10," previously released as a single and video in August and subsequently picked up by MTV. Screwz was also kind enough to serve as A to Z's SXSW correspondent this past spring. Scripts, meanwhile, has released his own solo album Director's Cut, which explores the dark, psychedelic side of hip-hop, drawing inspiration from Hollywood crime classics. The video for the single "The Darkness" appropriately featured Scripts being interrogated by soul singer Helen Marie. (RFT)
Midnight, Club Amnesia

Illphonics
Originally established in a recording studio at Webster University, Illphonics offers a refreshing take on alternative hip-hop. Frontman Larry "Fallout" Morris enthusiastically delivers his upbeat rhymes over the band's live instrumentation, which tends to draw its inspiration from a wide array of genres — including rock, funk and reggae. The resulting sound is surprisingly polished for a relatively young band, and its efforts are already paying off. Debut album Illphonics Presents Sound was among Vintage Vinyl's top-selling CDs of 2009, and the group followed up with last year's free five-track EP, Illusion. Having already opened for industry heavyweights such as Lupe Fiasco, Everclear and the Roots, Illphonics is regularly playing shows throughout the region, with its sights set firmly on breaking into the national spotlight. (CC)
9:30 p.m., Lola

40 'Til 5
40 'Til 5 has been holding it down in St. Louis since 2003. In addition to running the venerable local hip-hop showcase Loop Underground, the duo of emcee Ser Lesson and DJ/producer Urban One has cooked up three albums of traditionalist hip-hop. Ser Lesson likes to rap about destroying mics, smoking weed (40 'Til 5 = 4:20), stealing your girl and respecting hip-hop culture. It's nothing that hasn't been said before, but Lesson is clever in how he phrases his topics and flows directly on beat, ensuring that he gets his point across. It helps that Urban One is consistently on point with soulful, funky production that would make any rapper sound better. Something is working, at any rate: 40 'Til 5 has been a go-to St. Louis group to open for legends like Nas and LL Cool J. (BM)
1 a.m., Club Amnesia



BEST PRODUCER(S)

Tech Supreme
Tech Supreme is known as both a member and cofounder of the massive local hip-hop collective the Force. He's also known for the production work he's done over the past few years; his crunchy Southern snares and space-age synths have made their way onto many local artists' projects. After heading up production on Tef Poe's last couple of albums, Tech enlisted many of his cohorts from the Force — along with a few outsiders — for the recently released Supremacy album. The sixteen-track mixtape includes appearances by Rockwell Knuckles, Tef Poe, Nato Caliph, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan and too many others to name. (CC)
7 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

StarStrukk Productions
Rick Tha Rula and Foxx StarStrukk scored big production credits on the Lonely Island's "Like a Boss" and "Shy Ronnie," both of which landed on Saturday Night Live and exposed the University City duo to millions of people. Still, the team's focus is local, for now: Recent St. Louis projects include tracks for Tef Poe and Rockwell Knuckles, Theresa Payne, Ms. Kriss, Bradd Young and Aloha. StarStrukk is also working on finding a place in the national scene; a deal for a "Shy Ronnie" sequel fell through owing to unsatisfactory agreements on both ends, but other distribution deals are in the works. (KM)

Trifeckta
Trifeckta has become one of the most sought-after producers in St. Louis. He won the St. Louis Red Bull Big Tune contest last fall, beating mentor Tech Supreme in the process. His "Silly Human" is a standout on Rockwell Knuckles' spectacular You're Fucking Out, I'm Fucking In; the track samples Rick James' "Mary Jane," rendering the synth track apocalyptic and laying it over ticking cymbal and cavernous snare. That glorious feeling of doom pervades much of Trifeckta's work, notably on "Government Name" (which also got vocals from Rockwell Knuckles) and "Goddamn Right." (KM)

Nodzilla
With well over a decade on the local scene, Nodzilla (DJ Needles' producer alias) has a résumé that speaks for itself — with a reputation to match. In addition to his on-air radio job at KDHX and various live gigs around town, Nodzilla manages to release a consistently solid string of remixes and original projects, while contributing his soulfully nostalgic instrumentals to St. Louis' ever-growing pool of talented artists. His sample-driven style lends itself well to the hip-hop and boom-bap-soul genres and brings to mind a Midwest equivalent of Gang Starr's DJ Premier. (CC)

Stoney Rock
Stoney Rock, a.k.a. Black Spade, has become a beast on the underground circuit. His unique brand of hip-hop possesses an undeniable charm that has earned him the title of Best Hip-Hop Artist for the last two years in a row in this paper's annual Best of St. Louis issue. One of the most impressive aspects of his talent is that he's as capable a producer as he is as a lyricist/singer. Utilizing unlikely samples and vintage synths, Stoney Rock's compositions often have a warm, familiar quality to them, while managing to keep a fresh and experimental feel. (CC)

Urban Legendz
Local duo Byron B. and Perry "6th Sense" Slater make up the production team now known as Urban Legendz. Although they've been working together since 2005, the pair started getting serious local exposure in late 2009 and is keeping momentum. Urban Legendz has already scored credits on Tef Poe's War Machine, Teresajenee's The Ecklectic and Vandaylzm's B!&^H Im'Mis Talented to name a few, as well as landing collaborations with NY/Chicago rappers the Paxtons. Reportedly planning to release its first EP in the near future, Urban Legendz is on the verge of having a breakout season. (CC)



BEST METAL/THRASH BAND

Fister
Fresh off the release of its split twelve-inch with Lion's Daughter, Fister doesn't so much play music as bludgeon you with it. Its side of the split, titled And Their Masters Bled for Days, is a trudging trio of songs best played at ear-splitting volume while punching something. "Witchfucker," in particular, is a monolith of defiant bass and screaming guitar. "Santabbath" gets a reprise from the band's recent album, Bronsonic, which was originally released on cassette and later appeared online in an expanded Bronsonic — Lethal Overdose Edition with a half-dozen demos from 2009. (KM)

Everything Went Black
The past twelve months in the life of Everything Went Black have been anything but sunny. Shortly after releasing its Altars & Arsonists seven-inch, the band replaced two of its five members (one has since rejoined). Still, this change is a mild speed bump compared to the March 8 passing of guitarist and founding member Shagy Kennedy. Amid the darkness, there are reasons for optimism; the group recently landed an opening slot for Converge and contributed two powerhouse tracks to a split seven-inch with Louisville chuggers Rattletooth. "Card of Giants" is an underworldly dirge, and "Alaskan Demons" epitomizes the band's meshing of hardcore and metal, sounding like Black Flag crashing a Slayer show Kool-Aid-Man style. With a recent Tweet promising "heavier than shit new demos," there is more light on Everything Went Black's horizon: A full-length album will be released in October. (RW)

Borean Dusk
This Bridgeton-based metal quartet lists its influences as Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Mastodon and traditional European folk. The band's self-titled debut album, released in 2010, delivers on that promise with a sound that thrashes into progressive territory — and forgoes any pretense at vocals. Key track "Wolf Totem" begins with a pseudo-Celtic mandolin romp that would set the scene to any number of fanboy fantasy epics before a wolf howl signals the song's descent into heavy electric guitars. The song maintains its pursuit-on-mythological-horseback pace for nine rolling minutes. (Moulton)
7:15 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio

Lion's Daughter
Lion's Daughter is the sort of band parents fear. There are certainly more abrasive and profane groups out there, but this trio's strain of Sabbath-worshiping metal comes off like the sonic embodiment of fire and brimstone. Lion's Daughter makes most doom-metal groups sound as heavy as the band from the Free Credit Report commercials. Distortion drenches the band's riffs like pig's blood on a prom queen, and Rick Giordano's growl is nothing shy of demonic. With a new split twelve-inch with Fister, Lion's Daughter commits its evil ways to wax — and allows your folks to play the record backward to discover the hidden messages. (RW)

Cross Examination
One of the first clues that thrash band Cross Examination doesn't take itself too seriously is that one of its most popular songs is "Awesome Party Squad Unite." Another one is that, on Facebook, its bio states: "Professionalism is stupid; bios are even worse." So we'll just say — er, briefly — that it'd be a mistake to think its fun über alles attitude is code for careless performances and clumsy sampling. It's not: The band demonstrates a great respect for older rap and hip-hop, while its skull-shattering guitars and vocals implores the faithful — that'd be the dudes wearing the band's "Winning!" T-shirts — to "Raid your fridge." Though it hasn't had a new album since 2008's Menace II Sobriety, the band's been teasing new songs on its website. (RFT)



BEST HARD-ROCK BAND

Tok
Brothers Bryan and Matt Basler have kept the stoner-rock riffs alive and well as the twin pillars in Tok for some time now, and thankfully little has changed in that time. The band still bursts eardrums and melts faces with its live shows, and its records display a wide knowledge of the sharp, driving guitar rock of the past 40 years. Onstage the Basler boys may look like twin contradictions — guitarist Bryan with his long hair and mountain-man beard, bassist Matt with his clean-cut looks and natty threads — but that brotherly bond comes through once the hammer drops on their take-no-prisoners rock & roll. (CS)

LucaBrasi
LucaBrasi's second full-length album, The Norris Division, out last November, used melodic pop touches to soften the band's hard-rock edge. Singer Matt McInerney can scream with the best of them, but his voice turns out to be most effective when he's actually, you know, singing, and the single "Turned Around" is downright catchy. The quintet is filled out by Jerry Jost on guitar, Mike Jost on drums, Josiah Werner on bass and Bill Reiter on keyboards. (RFT)
9:30 p.m., The Side Bar

Greek Fire
Radio-ready rock quartet Greek Fire features Story of the Year's Ryan Phillips and Philip Sneed. Since the band formed in May 2009, its profile has continued to rise on the strength of hard-to-pigeonhole tunes and strong songwriting. Greek Fire incorporates the best bits of classic rock and '80s-era rock and metal; its music hints at Queen's pristine vocal and harmonic layering, Cheap Trick's driving power-pop and KSHE riff heroes. Greek Fire has a three-song sampler EP for sale at shows, and its official debut single, "Doesn't Matter Anyway," came out in March. (AZ)

Machree
Much has been written about Machree's genre-defying balancing act, but those who analyze the band's progressive rock through a microscope might miss the grand scheme behind its shape shifting. Every influence that materializes in a Machree tune is boiled down to its dramatic extract and reassembled with cinematic purpose. "Vulchurch," the A-side from the band's recent seven-inch, sets up mystery with Patrick Baum's opening line: "I came in the front door, but I left out the back way." The song maximizes confusion with a math-rock scatter of drum hits. New-wave synths overshadow the band's propulsion with an uncertain fog, and a metal-inspired bridge gives the already conflicted tune a climax worthy of scoring a fight scene. It doesn't much matter how many genres Machree fits into its cauldron when the final product is so organic, seamless and deliberate. (RW)
8:15 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington

Sine Nomine
While it is comforting that DIY-minded trio Sine Nomine appears content staying in the deepest realms of the underground, it's also a damn shame. The group's full-throttle 2011 album, Super Molecular Dust Separator, is the record that millions of disenfranchised, Metallica-raised teenagers worldwide don't realize they need to hear. The record is heavy and artistic and effortless. Thrashy screams share space with spoken dialogues (best line: "Fuck your insurance"), visceral gut-punches are layered with intellectual depth, and sensory-overloaded repetition draws dangerously close to hypnosis. In a perfect world, Super would be as influential to the heavy-handed bands of 2020 as Botch's We Are the Romans is to today's crop. Instead, Sine Nomine is likely to remain St. Louis' most triumphant little secret. (RW)

There's a Killer Among Us
For over a decade this combustible quartet has been creating a highly toxic brand of heavy rock defined by fragmented melody and discordant guitar wizardry. Too art damaged to fly the post-hardcore banner and too fragile to be classified as metal, its fusion of different influences meld into an unholy coalescence. Parallel to the likes of Colossamite and Murder in the Red Barn, TAKAU's sound is characterized by lyrics laced with anxiety and dejection combating hallucinatory guitar work and hyperactive percussion. This is dysfunctionality at its finest. (JL)



BEST NATIONAL BAND

Bunnygrunt
You'll find two disparate things on Bunnygrunt's Facebook page: One is the world's most vague bio, which sums up the band's eighteen years thusly: "Matt [Harnish] and Karen [Ried] liked some of the same bands, so they formed a band together to rip them off. Then some other stuff happened." The other is a meticulous list, compiled by Harnish, of every show the band has ever played, organized by year, since 1993. But for a band that has shuffled its members more than a dealing shoe, it has remained true to its sunny-punky sound and animated performances. The band's latest seven-inch, Lady, You Just Got Von Damaged! is no exception. (RFT)
10:45 p.m., Hair of the Dog

Bottle Rockets
Nearly twenty years after its inception, the Bottle Rockets has managed to create music that remains as vibrant as ever. Songwriter Brian Henneman's matter-of-fact social commentary on Midwest life is as frank as it ever has been. Now he's added a wiser, albeit salty, sense of cynicism. The back-porch storytelling over blues-drenched guitar licks have helped define the Bottle Rockets as the quintessential Americana rock band. And after spending the early part of the year serving as backup for Marshall Crenshaw, one has to wonder if Crenshaw's British invasion-infused soul has found a way to creep into TBR's reliably defined sound. (MD)

Story of the Year
The year of Story of the Year was 2003. The post-grunge upstarts released Page Avenue on Maverick Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, and the world outside of St. Louis began to take notice. The brooding but somehow exhilarating singles "Anthem of Our Dying Day" and "Until the Day I Die" had enough crunch and angst for the Warped Tour demographic and were just hooky enough to appeal to Green Day fans. But the band's ace in the hole has always been its anthems, the way it makes emo seem less about the individual obsessions of a charismatic singer like Dan Marsala and more about a world bigger than all the hardcore genres put together. In the eight years since Page Avenue, Story of the Year has continued to develop. Last year's The Constant made a play for the arena on a suite of bold — sometimes power pop, sometimes full-out metal — raves. (RK)

Ludo
In 2008, Ludo's wacky single "Love Me Dead" was everywhere: radio, MTV, Jay Leno, commercials for House. In the past five years, it has probably been the local non-hip-hop song heard most outside of St. Louis city limits. If released in 1998, or if budding rock bands could still release "hits," "Love Me Dead" would be played alongside Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta," and Ludo would currently be coping with the dismissive tag of one-hit-wonder. Instead, Ludo's Island Records debut You're Awful, I Love You marked the beginning of a steady career climb that continued with Prepare the Preparations, the 2010 release that dispelled any fears that Ludo might abandon its endearing quirks in the name of maturity. (RW)

Cavo
Named "Best Local Act Gone National" in RFT's Best of St. Louis 2009, Cavo has grown accustomed to arenas, touring with Mötley Crüe, Sick Puppies and Daughtry. The hard-rock quartet found major-label success on the strength of single "Champagne," in which you find lyrics like, "Coulda been the Champagne, the Champagne/Coulda been the cocaine." Yet the band's last release was an acoustic EP called Let It Go, and it showcased a softer side of the radio rockers and lead singer Casey Walker's voice. These heroes of the Point (105.7 FM) and KSHE (94.7 FM) are reportedly preparing a second full-length with Reprise Records, which we can speculate will build on the modern rock that gained them fame: tough-guy angst anthems that growl and surge like party songs. (Moulton)

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Spons2
Spons2

Did not see Jeremiah Johnson and the Sliders or any Blues!

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