Your Guide to the Bands of RFT's Music Showcase

Your Guide to the Bands of RFT's Music Showcase
Dan Zettwoch

It's a new record for the Riverfront Times, everybody. Write an "88" down in the books — that's the number of talented musical acts performing in the 2014 RFT Music Showcase. Each year we spend the first Saturday in June celebrating the bands and artists who provide the soundtrack to life in St. Louis, and this year's event is set to be our biggest ever.

It also marks the first time the showcase will be held in the Grove, along Manchester Avenue, and that's pretty exciting too. New beginnings have their own energy to them, and the bars and venues on that vibrant strip could easily provide the perfect backdrop to some of your best memories this summer — memories of fun and singing and dancing as your soon-to-be-new-favorite musicians play their hearts out.

In your hands is a comprehensive guide to get you started on finding those favorites. If you are still reading this intro, you are focusing on the wrong part of this article. Move along now — you have some 10,000 words' worth of St. Louis' finest to learn about. Read up, and we'll see you Saturday!

ATOMIC COWBOY LOUNGE

11 P.M. Parisian

Nominated for: Best Electronic (Eclectic)

Safety Words, the now-defunct, sample-heavy duo of Sean Price and Ian Jones, was a glorious, otherworldly novelty; Jones' solo work as Parisian took his love of atmospheric beats to new, oftentimes darker, depths. His debut EP, Those Emotions Ran High, was dense and ambient, but still largely beat-driven. Last year's Daul Kim EP came from a seemingly more morbid place. Inspired by the journal entries of a South Korean model found hanged in her Paris apartment, Parisian took Kim's crises of identity and channeled them into amorphous, skittering compositions. — Christian Schaeffer

MIDNIGHT Wax Fruit

Nominated for: Best Electronic (Dance)

Wax Fruit's body of keyboards pushes fire through speakers in strict timing while sultry femme vocals build underneath. The duo carefully slithers around synth-pop, sounding somewhat menacing, albeit danceable. This might be the B-side of a long-lost '70s sci-fi film soundtrack — a song only heard in the background at some post-apocalyptic night club. Wax Fruit's live show feels equally lo-fi, with a penchant for intentional hiss and hum, which is fitting, because both heads behind the band come from a background in harsh noise. Songs end with abrupt howls and, sometimes, tonal chaos, shredding any semblance of careful wave. Recommended for the goth who is too lazy for makeup but hip enough for black vinyl gloves. Joseph Hess

1 A.M. Black James

Nominated for: Best Electronic (Dance)

Burn your banjos and cram your clarinets: The Black James of 2014 is not the witchy woman you first saw singing murder ballads. Jennifer McDaniel seems to be in a continual state of evolution, and even her official releases refuse to stay in one place. 2012's im A mirAcle was a collage of knotty, glitchy, dubby beats mixed in with twisted Americana. These days, McDaniel is most often found behind a sampler as she corrals footwork-inspired beats and her own entrancing vocals. So don't go to a Black James show expecting the same thing you saw last time, but if you're especially lucky, she'll bring her dancers/hula-hoopers with her.– Christian Schaeffer

BAD DOG Bar & Grill

3 P.M. Dad Jr.

Nominated for: Best Hard Rock

Dad Jr.'s brand of rock is definitely "hard," as in, "hard-to-play." At times, the band's gutter-rock guitars feel more prog than punk, and the drums come packed with busy beats. But the band pulls it off without any significant hitches. The songs feel tongue-in-cheek, as if the band's members don't give a shit, but they're not fooling anyone — tunes this succinct and perfectly played don't come without hours of practice. This band is for the kid who never grew up — the kid whose mom played Raw Power by the Stooges to her unborn child while it was still in the womb and unable to escape the rock & roll. — Joseph Hess

4 P.M. Shut In

Nominated for: Best Hard Rock

Everything about Shut In is cranked up to twelve, including vocalist Chris Bacott's desperate howls behind the mic and the heavy-handed beats crawling out from behind the band's tonal wall of guitars. This power trio maybe takes the word "power" too literally, but there's plenty of song to be had within the noise. Shut In tends to rail on riffs ad infinitum, but that's not to say its use of repetition is boring — quite the opposite. Bacott and company know when to release a song into the wild, only to wrangle the sum of its parts into catchy, heavy rock music. Highly recommended for music nerds who believe 1988 to 1994 were the only years worth living. — Joseph Hess

5 P.M. Kenshiro's

Nominated for: Best Garage Rock

With devil-may-care guitar riffage and a rhythm section that's strapped in tight because it's about to hurl itself off a cliff, Kenshiro's is a punk band with a distinctly St. Louis sound. Guitarist Julio Prato isn't afraid to solo (and he knows his classic-rock shredders as well as he knows his post-rock switch-flippers), bassist Antonio Leone loves a good, steady groove, and drummer Joe Bayne digs those jazzy little fills before getting back to what he and the band do best: bash their garage-rock brains out. If you're looking for a band to make you fall in love with punk again, Kenshiro's has a proposal: Put down your PBR and rock harder. — Roy Kasten

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