Your Guide to the Bands of RFT's Music Showcase

Your Guide to the Bands of RFT's Music Showcase
Josh Rowan

It is that time of the year again, when we celebrate the bands and artists who provide the eclectic and engaging soundtrack to life in the city of St. Louis. This is a music town, through and through, and the wealth and caliber of talent that lives among us cannot be overstated. From blues to hip-hop, from noise to pop, no genre is outside the grasp of St. Louis musicians, even as those very genres themselves continuously mesh together and blur, making categorization a daunting and sometimes impossible task.

The good news is we tried anyway. And now, it is our distinct honor to present you with the artists who are playing the RFT Music Showcase on Saturday, June 1, on Washington Avenue. (You can find writeups on all 130 nominees and vote online at www.rftmusic.com.) Read on and learn all about your new soon-to-be-favorite local acts, and we'll see you at the showcase. Congratulations and good luck to all who are nominated.

Alpha Brewing Company

3 p.m. Ben Bedford
Nominated in Singer-Songwriter
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay may be the de facto poet laureate of Springfield, Illinois, but if Ben Bedford continues on his current path, Lindsay may have to share a few garlands. A student of Midwestern and Civil War-era history and a devotee of Townes Van Zandt and Woody Guthrie, Bedford writes songs the way a master poet shapes a form. Lines interlink, rhythms reinforce meaning, and melodies rise up as naturally as flowers from good soil. Bedford's latest album, What We Lost, moves between visions of John the Baptist, the American Indian Movement and Vachel Lindsay himself, all sung with plangency and gravitas. His songs will make you reflect, but more important, they will make you feel.Roy Kasten

4 p.m. Zak Marmalefsky
Nominated in Singer-Songwriter
The music of Zak Marmalefsky is simultaneously of this age and not of this world. With a finger-plucked guitar and a clutch of heartbroken but witty songs, Marmalefsky conjures Depression-era street corners and speakeasys, where his rich, sincere baritone crooning might have once made him king of the minstrels for a day. For now, he'll settle for an air of folk-troubadour mystery. Following in the footsteps of Leadbelly and Dave Van Ronk isn't for the faint of skill or heart; Marmalefsky has both. His music — sometimes poignant, sometimes off-color, often both at the same time — is never a throwback put-on.—Roy Kasten

5 p.m. Fred Friction
Nominated in Singer-Songwriter
Fred Friction plays folk music capable of making the universal personal and the personal universal, often supplementing his sound by playing the spoons. A man who frequently and flagrantly ignores musical trends, Friction plays the music he enjoys and is often accused of being "weird." He most certainly is, and he does not give a fuck — he would continue to perform even if nobody ever listened, simply because he must express himself. Put plainly, Friction does whatever he wants. Fred Friction is forever Fred Friction, and that's why we love him. Jaime Lees

6 p.m. Jump Starts
Nominated in Pop
Justin Johnson and Sarah Ross understand the value of simplicity. Jump Starts proves this via the duo's stripped-down setup, lovely harmonies and catchy songs that need no more chords than you can count on one hand. Johnson brings the same lyrical directness and clean acoustic-guitar folk-pop strumming to Jump Starts that he does to Pretty Little Empire, but he comes off more carefree here. Ross propels this lighter mood with straightforward drumming on a kit loaded with fun knickknacks: maracas, splash and Chinese cymbals. The simplified approach lets the strong songwriting and engaging performances shine through with clarity. Jump Starts is lots of fun and the perfect pick-me-up for any fan who has accidentally overdosed on overwrought music. Bob McMahon


Copia Restaurant & Wine Garden

4 p.m. Via Dove
Nominated in Rock
Via Dove has some major swagger — and well-earned swagger, at that. Equal parts Rolling Stones, Soundgarden and U2, Via Dove pushes sweaty, carnal rock & roll that occasionally veers into pure rapture. Ballads or rockers, Via Dove's songs have a fiery heartbeat — a steady hum that reminds you that these tunes are about living. That hum is all the more pronounced these days, with new band members adding an even fuller sound through keys, a gazillion guitars and all the ass-shakin' tambourine you can handle. As a bonus at the live show, vocalist Andy Shadburne evokes the late Michael Hutchence's smolder and has eye sex with seemingly every audience member, smoothly drawing you into the band's thrall. With so many genres and subgenres of music these days, straight-up rock sometimes is overlooked. Via Dove is the band that shoves it back into your face and makes you wonder how you went without it for so long. Allison Babka

5 p.m. Lamar Harris
Nominated in Jazz
There are many faces of Lamar Harris. He is a soul-funk producer, a cross-cultural collaborator, a conspirator in the FarFetched collective, a member of Tribal Funk and a turntablist under the moniker DJ Nune. One could assume that the Lamar Harris nominated for Best Jazz Artist is the trombonist who has performed alongside jazz legends Christian McBride and George Benson, the one with the sensuous tone and smooth phrasing not generally associated with his main instrument. Calling Harris simply a jazz artist is limiting, which says more about the state of the genre than it does about his diversity of musicianship. Jazz fans often freak about their sacred music losing relevance. Lamar Harris fights this battle on the ground level every time he makes a sound.—Ryan Wasoba

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