Musicians, venue owners and organizers found new ways to make people care this year

Musicians, venue owners and organizers found new ways to make people care this year
Old Lights performing at Off Broadway.
Bill Streeter

This was supposed to be the year the recession finally melted away. Yeah, that never happened. An economy both bolstered and hamstrung by the Internet continues its glacial pace, and businesses and organizations everywhere are struggling to prove themselves to customers and fans. The music scene is no exception.

That spirit of "shut up and do something" was particularly strong in the St. Louis music community in 2011. Now more than ever, people will not spend their time or money on stagnant artists, and musicians, venue owners, promoters and organizers found ways to compel people by creativity, enterprise and social traction.

For some artists it was as simple as figuring out how to make a show a unique event. Two of the year's most successful musician residencies were Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra's series at El Leñador and So Many Dynamos' performances at Foam. Both were marked by a clear mission. In silent-film scorer Rats & People's case, it was the need for a new van in order to embark on a December tour. For the Dynamos, the residency provided a chance to test out new material (and a new member) in front of fans before holing up in a practice space and studio to record a long-awaited full-length recording.

A scene from the Tower Groove Records Carnival.
Bill Streeter
A scene from the Tower Groove Records Carnival.

Location Info

Map

El Lenador

3124 Cherokee St.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - South City

Foam Coffee & Beer

3359 Jefferson Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - South City

Cranky Yellow

2847 Cherokee St.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Retail

Region: St. Louis - South City

Peabody Opera House

14th St. and Market St.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Music Venues

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

The Pageant

6161 Delmar Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63130

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Delmar/ The Loop

Blueberry Hill

6504 Delmar Blvd.
University City, MO 63130

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Delmar/ The Loop

Sol Lounge

4239 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

The Firebird

2706 Olive St.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Midtown

Rocket Bar

2001 Locust St.
St. Louis, MO 63103-1613

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Luminary Center for the Arts-CLOSED

4900 Reber Place
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: St. Louis - South City

The Heavy Anchor

5226 Gravois Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63116

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - South City

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Album-release shows are always one-time-only affairs, but some artists found ways to make theirs even more compelling. Bo and the Locomotive — whose sharp, damaged pop evolves with each passing show — and orchestral folk quintet Union Tree Review joined forces and put out their records at a single show where they also sat in on each other's sets. The Masculine Journey hosted its seven-inch release on the roof of the City Museum, where bassist Travis Morgan set a world record for "Longest Time Spent on a Ferris Wheel." It doesn't take much to stand out.

In south city a group with little more in common than a sense of camaraderie formed Tower Groove Records. Its kickoff event was a carnival at Off Broadway complete with handmade games, prizes, food and a full day of music that ranged from quietly strummed guitar to torrents of violent noise. It raised more than enough to fund TG's next effort: a compilation on vinyl comprising new recordings from all the Tower Groove bands. Longer-tenured collections of musicians found renewed vigor. The Force, for example, embarked on its first tour amid a steady output of new releases from nearly every artist on its roster.

The central challenge for every active participant in a music community is finding ways to make people care. There was no shortage of enterprising solutions found this year in St. Louis, and many of them are detailed in the pages that follow: Ryan Wasoba looks at how high-quality recordings of all sorts are changing the pejorative connotation of "sounding local." Christian Schaeffer takes note of this year's assortment of successful tribute shows and asks how they differ from the work of cover bands and what value they add for musicians and fans. And Diana Benanti traces the roots of St. Louis' status as an emerging hub for electronic dance music.

Despite the great forward momentum in St. Louis music this year, some things came to an end. STL Home Jamz, the local hip-hop showcase, was unceremoniously yanked from the airwaves on the eve of its five-year anniversary. Mike Benker left local punk mainstay the Conformists after fifteen years, and fans took the opportunity of two farewell shows to express their appreciation for his work. Glass Teeth played its final show in July, and whiz producer Phaseone moved to Brooklyn. Theodore, a singular band of weary grace and explosive muscle, quietly fell apart in November.

Challenges faced by several DIY spaces were felt most clearly in the closing of Cranky Yellow, the curio shop on Cherokee Street whose basement hosted some of the year's most memorable local shows.

Still, though, it is a particularly good time to be a music fan here. An unprecedented array of venues, including the lavishly remodeled Peabody Opera House, are working aggressively to bring big names, fast risers and high-quality veterans to Mound City. LouFest, in its second year, featured a more diverse lineup and expanded size without losing its environmental and local focus. The reunion of '90s ska-punk hero the Urge was marked by a string of sold-out shows at the Pageant. Artists such as Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three, Prince Ea, Rockwell Knuckles and the Humanoids caught or held the attention of audiences around the world and told them to pay attention to St. Louis.

The year in St. Louis music was (and is) made of thousands upon thousands of moments. It is an impossible task to capture them all in any meaningful way, but we made an attempt to find a few points from which you might draw a reasonable outline. In addition to the glimpses offered in the timeline you see here, you can find extensive coverage of all things music in 2011 at rftmusic.com. Here's hoping the next twelve months will be as memorable as the last.


The Year in St. Louis Music Timeline

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2 comments
Wayne
Wayne

Hey Valoki, Why don't you get over yourself and go piss up a tree?Wayne

Valoki
Valoki

this article is the biggest load of bull**** i've ever read. I can't believe they mentioned a small fire at the fox (which really, has absolutely NOTHING to do with music), along with a rave reunion for a culture that "dissipated." Oh yeah? then why did you send a photographer to a RAVE in November and you didn't even mention it?!?! Also, Jimmy's lawsuit has nothing to do with music, it has to do with a bull**** claim against him. RFT, as much as i sometimes enjoy a lot of the things in your website and paper - i freaking hate you.

 
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