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Best Country Band (Alternative) St. Louis 2007 - Caleb Travers and Big City Lights

His Ryan Adams jones shows, but so do his good nature, ambition and talent. Travers is pushing all of 25 and his band, including veteran pedal-steel whiz Scott Swartz of the Linemen, is pushing this son of south city toward more than just Telecaster strumming and dirt-road divining. His band can play it Stonesy, Byrdsy and Whiskeytowny without ever sounding dated or in denial over how much room they have for growth. Travers sings with wiry strength, with an inviting slur and unfaked Midwestern drawl, and his songs get their hooks in, indirectly echoing pure country-rock, whether from the Eagles or Buffalo Springfield. Travers and band are currently finishing up their first EP. It promises to be the twang fix a flagging alt-country scene needs.
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34 comments
Josh Travers
Josh Travers

Hey bro if you read this Congratulations you are my freakin hero man. Keep it up. Oh yeah and I was just wondering if you remember who gave you that very first guitar lesson, lol. Later

Caleb Travers
Caleb Travers

I just want to say thank-you to everyone in STL whose welcomed this "unestablished" newcomer so openly & warmly including Roy, the RFT, Steve & Kit down at Off Broadway, Jessie Erwin, Justin Brown & everybody at Chippewa Chapel Open Mic, Laura Hamlet & Jim Dunn at PLAYBACK:stl, & all the awesome bands & players that I've gotten to meet & play shows with! Having only been on the scene for 6 months & with no record or merch to speak of this kind of honor is really amazing & totally unexpected. All I can say is that the band & I don't take this sort of thing lightly & we're gonna keep working hard to make some of the best songs we can. See you at the shows!

Pat Liston
Pat Liston

wow, I felt kinda bad that there were more comments here than on my humble "best male vocalist", but after reading all of this, I don't feel too bad anymore....... more isn't always better? LOL!!! ...being over here in the shadows is just fine.... heh heh heh

ReidB
ReidB

Wow. Caleb, my friend, if you read this...good job on sparking such debate. Says a lot about your songwriting. Keep it up, good sir.

jchristopherhughes
jchristopherhughes

rev,

a gentleman\'s response. thanks for redirecting the comments to mr.travers.

i am glad you dig the music. my belief is that you and mr.kasten both will enjoy Caleb\'s record when it is finished. i hope you and roy do not take my comments personally.....i am never one to quell passionate discussions. i do greatly respect and support what you respectively do. i have seen strawfoot, remembered the band being pretty cool. i have read, and enjoyed mr kasten\'s work for years. both of you are active members of the st.louis \"scene\"...and you both obviously have great taste in music by bands that i have recenlty been in :) (insert guffaws here...)

seriously though....i agree with many of your individual points, and wish you both the best. i just thought it was fair to give some web space to some comments about the subject at hand...caleb travers and big city lights...they deserve the 2 meg or whatever of webspace...and much more. I am quite proud of my time with the band, the recording we made, and frankly am just a champion of caleb and the guys in the band.

discussions are always good...but fellas....ask beatle bob to get the f#$ of the way and step up to the bar and get that fukin bourbon and groove on some good music. wish i could join you....its getting cold up here already !!

for what its worth, perspective on how a \"scene\" sucks is changed alot when you are no longer in said \"scene\". seems like some damn fine music of varying genres is being created as we speak in the gateway to the west...

but what do i know...i am a cheesehead now.

peace

jchristopherhughes

Rev
Rev

true dat...sorry caleb, I do wish you the warmest of congrats and regards...as stated early in this melee, I think your music is quite awesome...respect fer youse...I don't have the energy to push on with this little argument any longer, but if anyone wants, they can copy/paste my previous statements where applicable...it's the weekend, I've got bourbon to drink and music to play...roy, the offer still stands...

hands across america...mango bourbon fer the starving children...

jchristopherhughes
jchristopherhughes

first off, i would like to identify myself. i am jchristopherhughes, st.louis expat, and record making guy. i have played in many bands from the st.louis scene over the past 15 years, and produced and recorded probably several hundred in my latest career as a producer and engineer....i recently was the drummer for caleb travers and big city lights (until being replaced by mr john halloran) and also have been mixing their new EP that was produced and recorded by myself and the super cool and talented scott schwartz. these days i reside in milwaukee, but get bits of info about the music scene in the lou on occassion. its cool to see mr travers getting some recognition. I was hoping that the comments following the nice commentary on my. travers and his band by mr kasten would contain discussion of CALEB TRAVERS and BIG CITY LIGHTS. while i can see both sides of the discussion played out above...i have in my older years become a bit more accepting of the existence of OPINIONS....and the fact that some OPINIONS have a bit more circulation to the masses via a local paper, radio show, internet blog..etc. i think that each of your individual points are being obscured by the jabs and name calling. you are both passionate about your music. THAT i can respect in ANYBODY. it seems that the two of you need to talk it out over said mango bourbon, and agree to disagree. my feeling is that when opinions turn to personal attacks on character, or talent....man, THAT sucks for everyone. roy thinks the scene is flagging...the rev does not. roy does not like the rev's band...i know plenty of people who do, including your truly. ok. cool. you both seem to dig caleb...and so i would like to add a bit of comment to this page redirecting the focus to mr travers and his band....and share a bit of MY opinion of him. i will refrain from slamming anyone...(with the possible exception of some self deprecation) in the process.

for what is worth rev. and mr.kasten. i respect you both, and i am always open to discussion...and bourbon...but not fucking myself...btw..should you either collectively or individualy run into myself or mr travers...i believe it's fosters....correct caleb ? i'll stick to the pbr, thanks.

caleb is the real deal. i have seen caleb's songwriting and musicianship grow in huge bounds in the last year that i have known him. his vocal ability has always impressed me....dudes got a VOICE....and something to SAY. his songs are based on experience, and his words and images reflect a much older soul, but with the excitement, hope and fervour of youth. he writes what he knows...and i believe is developing into quite a songwriter. i think he has put together a young, hungry band that will help get give his music more punch, energy and dynamics...i can't wait until they have a ton of gigs under their belt. again, OPINIONS here...but i think in just a few years, mr travers will be gaining regional and national attention, and more importantly find an audience who digs his music.

shameless sorta-self-promotion following : caleb will have a new EP coming out soon that I am in the process of mixing. the multi-talented scott schwartz has been producing and recording overdubs with caleb and the band, adding to the essentially live record that we cut a few months ago. as a long time musician and producer, i can say that its completely refreshing these days for a young artist to want to "capture a moment" in the studio of real musicians playing together in a room, instead of protooling the music to death. there is some great playing from mark shisler on piano, mr shwartz on pedal steel and electric, caleb himself on acoustic and elec gtrs, the rock solid chris bosslet on bass, and yours truly trying not to mess up a great band...on drums and percussion. i am obviously biased when it comes to caleb and the band...as they are good friends...and truly decent human beings as well....however.. my professional OPINION (for whatever thats worth..)is that they are on their way to a great career...and have created a damn fine first recording effort to help spread the word and the music.

i am excited to see where caleb and the band go with their music. its exciting for me, as someone who now views the local st.louis scene as an outsider, to see a new crop of really talented bands making some proverbial "buzz" in st.louis. i don't have an opinion on specific "scenes" in st.louis...i just like music...and other bands i have been very impressed with of late have been... jon hardy and the public, say panther, daybreak boys, salisbury, stella mora, the helium tapes, victoria, the feed, the incurables, kevin bilchik, gentleman auction house, king thief, riddle of steel, ring cicada, troubador dali, lapush, john henry and the engine, and many more that are just not coming to mind with 3 hours of sleep.

point is.... there is alot of cool stuff happening in st.louis. lets take the focus back to that. hopefully this nice accolade will bring Caleb Travers and Big City Lights to the attention of more music lovers out there.

apologies for the hijacking of the discussion at hand.

carry on.

best,

jchristopherhughesjchristopherhughes@yahoo.commilwaukee, usa

Riy's my Hero
Riy's my Hero

put down the shovel and let go...copy/paste:that's just language man...obviously you don't write articles that consist only of "why I hate the rev" by roy kasten...jesus, man..you do however, quite often find a way to jab certain styles whilst pumping up the type you deem to be authentic alt-country, evidenced by this article and the main point from so many posts ago... a main point you've had such a hard time finding, btw...and yes, Roy, my boy, I'm well aware that our review was penned by someone other than you, and folks often write about things that may fit into this umbrella, but by and large, you are the go-to alt-country guy...your name wasn't listed on this article, yet I knew who I was talking to right from the git-go...again, you take every word as some huge end-all, be-all declaration when it's just language...it's all semantics...yer reading into things far too much...and taking sentiment far too literally...put down the shovel and walk away...

one more copy/paste (cause this little argument just isn't worth new material) : grow a thicker skin if you're putting yourself out in the public arena...if you're going out in the rain, carry an umbrella, or be prepared to get wet...

Roy
Roy

Oh, I get it now. You stand by everything you've said, even though you don't mean what you've said! You didn't really mean I was the "sole voice" of alt-country. You just said it. You didn't really mean that I've done nothing but "dog the scene." You just said it. And your offer of a drink? Did you mean it or did you just say it? Who can tell anymore, Rev. Either way, I'll pass, since I don't care for mango, though, um, wait, you probably didn't mean mango either.

the Rev says PS
the Rev says PS

PS-that offer to share a shot still stands...I know, fuck me and my fucking bourbon...but what if it was flavored with...mango?

roy's my boy
roy's my boy

groan...I know you really want the last word in all of this, I know you won't drop it until you do...but good god man...you take every word at such a large face value..."done nothing but dog our scene"...that's just language man...obviously you don't write articles that consist only of "why I hate the rev" by roy kasten...jesus, man..you do however, quite often find a way to jab certain styles whilst pumping up the type you deem to be authentic alt-country, evidenced by this article and the main point from so many posts ago... a main point you've had such a hard time finding, btw...and yes, Roy, my boy, I'm well aware that our review was penned by someone other than you, and folks often write about things that may fit into this umbrella, but by and large, you are the go-to alt-country guy...your name wasn't listed on this article, yet I knew who I was talking to right from the git-go...again, you take every word as some huge end-all, be-all declaration when it's language...it's all semantics...I stand by everything I've said, if you're so narrow that you have to read into every sentiment as some huge declaration against you or some horrible lie about your character, well there's nothing I can do to pull you out of that...

one more time, for posterity...grow a thicker skin if you're putting yourself out in the public arena...if you're going out in the rain, carry an umbrella, or be prepared to get wet...you once told me, long ago, that if I'm in a hole I should stop digging...now, I hate to be the one to point this out, but I'm not holding the shovel right now...

Roy
Roy

Hey Rev. You're mistaken--again. If you read the RFT, you'll know that I'm not the "sole voice" of alt-country and you'd know that other writers cover it, sometimes doing features on the music. Christ, Rev, you even have a blurb from one of them on your myspace page! Can you be honest for five minutes? I would have no problem if you'd said I was a horrible writer. That would be opinion. But it is not opinion to say I only check out a "select few bands." That's wrong, but OK, you say it was a mistake, so that's fine. It is also not opinion to say that I have done "nothing" but dog the whole scene while praising certain types. That's also wrong, and I'm really not fine with that. That's not "merely giving your opinion" and it's not a simple mistake. It's a false statement about me and my work, and sorry, that's intolerable.

Rev hearts Roy
Rev hearts Roy

nothing personal, just generalizations...no lies, just opinion...if I'm mistaken about something, well, I'm mistaken, but a liar that does not make...you may write about a great many band and see a great many show but your coverage is still confined to one side of the genre, in my opinion, and it would seem that you and you alone are the "altcountry" correspondant for the RFT. And as the sole voice of alt-country in this town I have a problem with your condemning a scene and a sound, and that is all I meant by my main point, a main point that's painfully obvious to the rest of the world, whether they agree with it or not, and a main point it took you 18 comments to get around to addressing, and still just barely... Perhaps I should have been more specific when making my regards to your musical scope in my initial comment, but I never would have dreamed you'd knit and pick every word of the statement looking for falsehoods, assuming everything is some personal jab against you and your storied careeer...if I said you are a horrible writer who can't piece a sentence together fer shit, (and I'm not saying that before yer panties get even more twisted) that might be a false accusation of your work, but as it stood, I merely gave my opinion...like I said, grow a thicker skin if you're putting yourself out in the public arena...oh, and PS.....the offer to buy you a shot stands...

manyourgo, ladies and gentlemen...

Roy
Roy

Rev, you disagree that the alt-country scene is flagging. I have zero problem with that disagreement. Zero. I have a different perspective on the scene (I've been around a while), but I'm happy your corner of it is thriving. And for the record I've written very supportively of some of the bands that show up to your twang bangs. It's dishonest of you to imply otherwise. But what's intolerable is for you to make false accusations about my work. And that's what you did. It's not insignifcant when you lie about what I have and haven't done for music in this town. It's personal.

brian
brian

is it me, or has Roy come off like a complete asshole in all of this? one little jab, because umbrage was taken at the word "flagging", and the dude flies off the fucking handle. completely unprofessional bullshit - but the dude has apparently been everywhere, recorded everyone, seen everything, so the rest of us should shut the fuck up...?

manggongna, you touchy mutherfucker.

the Rev
the Rev

Name calling it is...Fine, Roy, I stand corrected...you go to more shows than anyone in town...you are a show-going-to machine...Sadly, through this whole exchange, you opted to focus on the small insignificant details around my main point, obviously you go to more than just a few shows, so I should have merely said, you look down your nose at certain genres and deem them unworthy, because you have this elititst viewpoint on what alt-country is authentic and what is a novelty, and I'm tired of you jabbing at us and our genre...I'm tired of you deeming our scene flagging... But the point was there...you just avoided it...You never really even tried to discuss said main point, quickly reverting to defensive, childish behavior, as I no doubt, bruised your very fragile little ego...uh oh, I called your ego little, I lied again...that you would denounce the stag nites and twangbangs and claim them to be an unviable part of a flourishing scene only shows how out of touch you really are with local music...at least our little corner of it...lest you call me a liar again, let me clarify: I'm sure you're quite with-it with some scene somewhere, but certainly not ours, and our community makes up a large part of the "alt-country" landscape you claim is flagging...(uh-oh I went back to my original, main point again, time for more name-calling and demented rationalizations from the ole' Roy-Toy...)

Bottom line, you avoided my point all the way through this written sparring match, focusing on broad generalizations, and never really rose above bickering like a little kid. You're supposed to be a professional journalist, try acting like one instead of like an 8 year old...I guess, since you've made it quite obvious that you're incapable of anything other than childish name calling, I'll reduce myself to your level for a moment with my official, dignified response: I'm rubber, you're glue...and etc...

Roy
Roy

Rev, that you're a liar isn't name calling, it's a statement of fact. No twisting needed, just your words: "If this certain someone ever came out to shows other than a select few bands..." That's a lie. And now you admit it, because you say I see a wide variety of bands. Good to have the admission. You said: I "do nothing but dog the over arching scene in small trite shots whilst praising the type of bands you're producing." That's two lies. So now you lie again: "I never said you only write about the bands you produce, you pulled that accusation out of the air, I said the type of bands.." But that's exactly what I wrote, Rev. I wrote "the type." So I called you on your lies. Big deal. I'm sure it's not the first time. I called you a coward because you can't admit your dishonesy, but since you admitted it in one case, I'll withdraw "coward" for now--at least until you send up another absurd smoke screen. Rev, honestly, I don't know what's more pitiful, that you think "twang bangs" and "Stag Nites" constitute a thriving golden age or that you don't even know what a fool people say you are behind your back.

Rev and Roy=BFF
Rev and Roy=BFF

Well, �what the?� you got yer wish�So, wow, I really hurt your feelings, there, Roy my boy...didn't realize you were such a sensitive guy...all it took was one statement, the main point being, the scene isn't "flagging" and you immediately reduced yourself to name calling and self aggrandizing...you dug for deeper meaning in my words and missed the main point completely...yes, you may see a wide variety of bands, but I don't see you supporting a large part of the scene, because you deem it unworthy of your high alt-country standards, which from listening to your show (quite often, I might add) means well produced and safe alt-country. And there's nothing wrong with that style, it's very relaxing stuff...now, I never said you only write about the bands you produce, you pulled that accusation out of the air, I said the type of bands...again, the type of alt-country that's floating dangerously close to the mainstream of nashville-pop...and like I said, that side of the coin is fine and good, though I prefer a wee bit more edge and darker angst in my country...alt-country is a large umbrella, that a lot of "sub-genres within a sub genre" fit into, and I've never drawn the line in the sand dividing us. Truth is, I have a lot of respect for just about anything twang that's not coming out of the nashville-pop side of things, and we've played alongside a bevy of musicians from various "sub-genres within..." from Ringenberg to Whitmore to the Meat Purveyors, (an no, I�m not tooting my own horn, I�m illustrating the point of different types of alt-country musicians) and the respect we give and receive with these folks is great, and the crowds always blend well, each band leaving with new fans. Our city's getting more and more great bands spanning the alt-country highway visiting our fair city, sharing the stage with locals like us, often times, because of locals like us, yet you continuously belittle the Gothic-Americana sound, or anything that doesn't maintain your formula for good music. Just because our influences are different, just because we have more alt than country sometimes, doesn't make us, or the genre we fit into, novelty music...There are fans across the country and around the world that would disagree... But I digress�My point, which you avoided in your responses, opting instead for childish name-calling and an un-necessary pissing match, was that the scene isn't dying and your little jabs about what's authentic in country, and what our scene needs are rather elitist, at least that's how the tone is to me...and it in no way helps our local music community, or the venues that support it...

You are a journalist, you write for the public arena...that means people might read it, and some might disagree with ya. When you put your work out there, you'd better be prepared for criticism. Just like our music may be loved by some, hated by you. You said your peace about how you feel about my band and my sound, albeit as a way to avoid my point, and that's your right, that's your opinion, and other than letting you know I'm not too concerned with yer opinion of us, I let it go...grow a thicker layer of skin, Roy, folks are going to disagree with ya, that's why there's a letter to the editor section in almost every paper and magazine. Thing is, most professionals don't lower themselves to name-calling and cursing. For a professional word crafter, I would have thought your responses might have been more eloquent, I thought you might actually absorb the point of my initial comment and respond to your statement about our "flagging" scene...but I reckon your panties got twisted before you finished the first sentence, and it was all down hill from there. we can go back and forth until the cows come home, I say the scene isn't dead, or flagging, you call me a coward or accuse me of illiteracy...I'll parry and counter with a yes, but my point is you should stop tearing down our community...you'll dodge and maybe tell me to fuck off or something fun and intellectual, and I'll say, yes, but...back to your original statement...you'll tell me I can't sing...I'll say, I know, but, back to your statement about the scene...and etc...it's really a pointless argument...I made a statement about your declaration that our scene was flagging, and you read into everything around that statement, twisting the words into something far more personal than it is, at least for me...

(okay, now let's all sit back and wait...let's see what names he calls me this time around...or perhaps he'll jump right back to telling me how much he thinks my band sucks...this is fun...mango)

Greg
Greg

I only started listening to alt-country this past year, and started when I heard Caleb Travers play. Yes, now I have a stash of Ryan Adams and Wilco CDs. But this "son of south city" got me hooked.

Roy
Roy

You just said, what was it again, Rev? Can't quite spit it out, Rev? That I've only seen a select few bands and only praise the types I produce? Is that what you said? I think it was. Right there on the screen. That's personal. So you're not just a fraud. You're a liar and a fucking coward too.

the Rev.
the Rev.

aw Roy, there's nothing personal there...I don't give a crap what you have or haven't done in yer career...I just said...well, you can scroll up and read what I said at yer leisure...gosh, you're an excitable one...does this mean we hain't friends?

I'll have a shot in yer honor anyway...

Roy
Roy

You know, Rev, you started with the personal shit about me, what I've done and haven't done in my career as a critic, what bands I have and haven't seen or covered, and you really don't know what you're talking about, so fuck you and your fucking bourbon.

the Rev
the Rev

well then...as long as we can agree I'm right...thanks, buddy...lemme buy you a shot tonight..differences of opinion are nothing a little bourbon doesn't bridge...

I know it's not necessary, but....mango.

Roy
Roy

You know, you're right, Rev. I stand corrected. The more I hear you the more I think flagging is well on the way to both dying and dead.

the Rev
the Rev

and when it's raining, carry an umbrella...all good words of wisdom...dying, dead, flagging...the sentiment's all the same...don't question my ability to read and compute when you've spent this entire childish exchange glossing over the main point of my intitial comment rather than address it right from the beginning...like I said the sentiment's there...

oh, and don't mistake passion for obsession, Roy, my boy...

Roy
Roy

When you're in a hole, Rev, stop digging long enough to learn to read. I neither think nor wrote that any scene was dead, so you can stop being sick about it and get back to your regularly scheduled obsession with your micro-niche of a sub-genre of a sub-genre of country music.

the Rev
the Rev

you're still missing the point, here, pal...while you keep bringing it down to a pissing match, I'm merely telling you the scene hain't dead, and I'm tired of hearing you say it is...I don't really care what your resume looks like, and I never brought up money...you can talk all the trash you want, but what it comes down to is one very simple fact..I'm sick of you declaring the scene dead, or fake or any other derogative adjective...say what you will, but there's a lot of folks out there who just might disagree...god forbid, someone disagree with ya...

as far as yer opinions of the "gothic-trash-country" as you so aptly put it, well...that we can discuss another time in another arena...

Roy Kasten
Roy Kasten

Hey Rev. You really have no idea what you're talking about, do you? I've produced or helped produce bluegrass, folk, rock, hard country, alt-country, old time, country-punk, country jazz, country rock, singer-songwriters and Irish pipers. And never made a dime or written a word on any of them. If you want me to produce novelty-gothic-trash-country, show me the fucking money. You want me to stop criticizing that fakery, show me the labotomy. For ten plus years at the RFT, I've spilt more ink about more and different "twang" bands--including some of the ones that play your "twang bangs"--than you have coin for 50 years of advertising budgets. For three years I've played more "alt country" on KDHX than any DJ save Fred Friction. And you have the abject cluelessness to call that "nothing."

rev
rev

Oh boy, Roy...

I could give 2 sheets what you think of my band or my vocals...we have our fans and we have our fun...what I care about is the simple fact that you are way too short sighted about what a thriving altcountry scene is. you do nothing but dog the over arching scene in small trite shots whilst praising the type of bands you're producing, and it's not healthy for anyone. If you've been out to the stag nites and twangbangs you've seen some good crowds of folk having a great time to some great live music...the bands respect one another, and enjoy one another's work... some might call this a scene. some might call it a thriving scene,--I certainly wouldn't consider it flagging.

my point and criticism isn't whether or not you like me or my band's music... my point is: this scene hain't flagging, no matter how much you may wish it were...so like I said, git off yer high-horse.

Roy
Roy

Hey Rev. If you're going to call me out, call me out. Also, know what you're talking about, before you do so. I've been to Stag Nite, I've also heard your band, Strawfoot, and don't like the style or the sound or the songs or a certain someone's lead singing.

And no kidding it doesn't have to sound like Tupelo to be valid twang. It also doesn't have to sound tired, out-of-tune and up to its nasal passages in bullshit shtick.

rev
rev

ps-I do agree that caleb is awesome and quite deserving of the best of award, don't get me wrong. it's the over arching attitude towards the scene as a whole from certain writers that gits me all riled up.

the Rev
the Rev

I just read the best ofs...will someone please shake a certain writer and let them know the alt-country scene is not flagging nor in need of much, other than a little attention?

sheesh. it doesn't have to sound like tupelo to be valid twang...the early/mid nineties are not the glory days of alt.country...those days are right now. If this certain someone ever came out to shows other than a select few bands, he would see this twangcentric scene is not in a decline. Quite the contrary, it's done nothing but grow over the last 2 years, producing a great community and great bands... if this certain someone ever found his way to a TwangBang or a Stag Nite, they'd be eating their words.

You know who you are, get off yer high-horse and quit with the music snobbery...

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