It was at Streetside Records on Delmar that I snapped. The store was filled with a never-ending line of J-Kwon fans, waiting with newly purchased copies of Hood Hop to catch an autograph and a moment with St. Louis' newest star. J was holding court in fine form, taking his time with each fan and posing for pictures. So it wasn't his fault. And it wasn't Hood Hop's fault, although overall the album is pretty slight, with nothing that comes close to matching the unstoppable force of the lead single, "Tipsy." It wasn't Streetside's fault, nor could I blame Vintage Vinyl (which had hosted a similar event the night before). It wasn't the sycophants or the fans lined up like cattle or the Hood Hop posters everywhere. What pushed me over the edge was that I couldn't tell if a particular woman standing next to J-Kwon was a publicist or a reporter. And I wondered if it mattered.
It's a little unfair to pile the sins of Nelly, Chingy, Murphy Lee and the other St. Lunatics onto J-Kwon and his very friendly publicity folks. And don't think we're going to stop covering the biggest music stories in St. Louis. But at that moment I'd had it with pop-hop and publicists, with radio-friendly unit shifters. I needed a cure, a rock & roll loofah to scrub the jade off my skin.
The next night I got my ass to the Creepy Crawl.
You can't just want to rock to go to the Creepy Crawl, you have to need it. The walls are caked with enough nicotine to murder your uncle. It's dark, people over 21 are kept in a cage, and on packed nights its harder to breathe than at a Phish concert. But show up on any given weeknight and you're guaranteed zero pretense, zero hype and a healthy dose of what local music is all about.
Wolfman and the Tasties was just what I needed. Unpolished in the extreme but exuberant and snotty, the Tasties are barely old enough to shave (a few of them probably don't). The audience was made up of other teens and parents of the band members (properly quarantined from embarrassing their children by the fence). Parents were the only ones who cared that a reporter was there, but their proud comments about their spawn's mandolin mastery and solo projects were light years away from publicist pestering. The kids were too busy being kids: dancing, holding hands, having cell-phone conversations in the middle of the crowd, eyeing each other in fear and desire. Onstage the Tasties provided a soundtrack of shambling, horn-driven pop to this adolescent carnival. Maybe it wasn't very good. But the bittersweet nostalgia for every basement show I ever saw, that sad awareness of youth escaping mingled with the knowledge that the circle will be unbroken, was worth a dozen gold records.
Most of the teens stuck around for the next act, Pennington, from Greenville College, about an hour east of the Lou. The band was rocking some fairly standard Maverick Records emo, but they rocked it, pulling it all off with pure passion. The good old-fashioned three-guitar assault gave Pennington an edge, a deep sound they used to bury the audience. (More members equals more rock, no matter what the White Stripes say.) Their stage presence was great too, full of hopping and flailing and stomping with the beat. And the two singers offer the ladies both kinds of indie hunks -- one dark-haired and bespectacled cool, the other blond and surfer-shaggy. In the middle of one song, which was (of course) about being dumped, the shaggy one delivered my all-time favorite emo moment: In a lull, he leaned forward and offhandedly muttered, "This girl left me for a guy in Greenpeace," just before the band exploded into a frenzy of kick-your-ass.
I was reborn. I even stuck around for the Blink-182-derivative-in-the-extreme fellas in IQ*22, and in my kindly mood gave them points for slipping a "Jenny from the Block"/"Milkshake" medley into one song. Cheesy punk covers are a trend that can always stand another revival, at least at the club level. And the club level was where I was at, and I was loving it.
Now, what's going on with that new Nelly album?
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.