Steady Diet of Atkins

Chet Atkins, that is

Jan 7, 2004 at 4:00 am
FRI 1/9

If it weren't for Chet Atkins, we probably wouldn't have country-pop behemoths such as Shania Twain and Garth Brooks. Atkins' work as a session musician and producer in the '50s and '60s was hugely influential on what's come to be known as the "Nashville sound," a style of country music that owes as much to pop (what with its layered strings, keyboards and horns) as it does to honky-tonk. But his greatest contribution to music was his own original guitar work: Atkins' fingerpicking style made frequent use of alternate tunings and jazz technique, and both broadened country music's horizons and elevated the art of guitar-playing to a new level.

The good people at Music Folk are right proud to bring John McClellan's "Tribute to Chet Atkins" to their store (8015 Big Bend Boulevard). One of America's great guitarists, educators and writers, McClellan is probably best known for his classical guitar work. In addition to heading Webster University's classical guitar department, he's performed throughout the world with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Jorge Morel and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, as well as with Kirk Hanser in the amazing Hanser-McClellan Guitar Duo. McClellan's true passion, however, is keeping the music of Chet Atkins alive, and this loving tribute to the seminal guitarist and producer features performances of Atkins' songs, stories of his life and instruction in some of the country giant's signature techniques. The event costs $20 and begins at 7 p.m., and participants can register by calling Music Folk at 314-961-2838 or visiting the store. -- John Goddard

The Insane Man in the Basement
The return of Fully Committed

The challenge: An actor must become 40 different characters in a one-man onstage comedy. The challenger: Todd Schaefer, who, as we learned in New Line Theatre's hilarious performance of Bat Boy: The Musical last year, has the stones for the job. The skinny: Becky Mode's Fully Committed, last seen locally in the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' downstairs studio about two years ago, is the story of a reservation-taker working the phones in the basement of a very hot New York restaurant. He has to deal with the ever-more demanding handler for a prima donna model, all sorts of high-strung tourists and tycoons and, of course, his fellow restaurant staffers, a nasty bunch indeed. Schaefer goes schizo to inhabit three dozen different characters for this funny show, presented by the Washington Avenue Players Project at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, January 8 through 24, at the ArtLoft Theatre at 1529 Washington Avenue (call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 for tickets; $15; -- Byron Kerman

All the Rage
At half the price

SAT 1/10

Since frontman Zack de la Rocha left hardcore hip-hop outfit Rage Against the Machine more than two years ago, the void has left fans of this strain of socially conscious groove feeling restless and empty (and no, the Chris Cornell/Audioslave sequel did not help).

Fortunately, for those Rage followers who have not forgotten that anger is a gift, a smattering of tribute bands are crisscrossing the country and dropping de la Ro's hits; it's a kind of temporary satisfaction. At Pop's (1403 Mississippi Avenue in Sauget), Rage followers of all ages can raise their fists and march around to a reasonable facsimile of the old sound.

Ohio-based Renegades of Funk: A Tribute to Rage Against the Machine will not appear as impersonators of the band (so don't expect Zack, Tom, Brad and Tim look-alikes), but until the originals come back with another bomb track, Renegades may be the next best thing (314-534-1111, $10). -- Mallarie Zimmer

Hothouse Horns

TUES 1/13

The Piper Palm House in Tower Grove Park was built to house tropical plants, "forming a very interesting feature for the inspection of visitors," according to an 1883 book by David MacAdam. But the venerable brick-and-glass structure is also blessed with spectacular acoustics, as anyone who's attended the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra's monthly Symphony Tuesdays can attest. Now in its fifth season, the series offers "Music for Brass" this month amid the Piper's Victorian splendor and gently swaying palms. What's not to like? It's free to attend, but you'll want to be there as soon as the doors open at 6 p.m.; the limited seating is available only on a first-come, first-served basis. The series continues through May 4. Call 314-286-4432 to find out more. -- Jason Toon

Earnest Goes to the Rep

If you saw the 2002 film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest starring Rupert Everett and Reese Witherspoon, with its overcluttered and exaggerated set pieces, you owe it to yourself to check out the theatrical version (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road; January 7 through February 6; $11 to $55;; 314-968-4925). The small stage captures the sense of stagnant sameness that surrounds the daily lives of Wilde's idly rich -- or at least irresponsibly profligate -- characters and the fantasies they must create to entertain themselves. Earnest, like so many of the author's works, is a drawing-room comedy that demands to be held to the drawing room. Knowhutimean, Vern? -- Andrew Schubert