Local bands hit the big-time -- or do they?

Feb 7, 2001 at 4:00 am
Two area bands, having recently inked deals with the major labels, are no doubt bound for glory, bankruptcy, rehab or, most likely, a combination thereof as they attempt to take it to the next level. First, Mesh, who sound like Creed or a harder Matchbox Twenty, have signed with Capitol Records, which has informed them that they will be treated very specially by the label and that everyone in the whole company is very excited to have them aboard. "Part of the reason that the members of Mesh feel that Capitol Records is the right 'fit' for this band is the lack of a harder-edged rock band that exists on the label as of now," says the band on their Web site ( "While the label is full of accomplished alternative bands like Everclear, Radiohead, Dexter Freebish and St. Louis' own Stir, they are lacking a hard rock band on their roster, and that is the role that the label envisions Mesh filling. Everyone from A&R to radio promotion to marketing and sales at Capitol seems genuinely excited about this St. Louis quintet, so at the end, it was a fairly easy decision who to sign with."

History tells us that major labels get "genuinely excited" about all the bands they sign but soon thereafter sneak up and bludgeon them to death. But, sincerely, we wish Mesh the best of luck in scoring a big-deal platinum record. We also hope they understand that when Capitol/EMI is sold to one of the other four major labels in the next six months, all those label people who seem "genuinely excited" about them will be out of jobs, or covering their asses, and that a kiss on the cheek from a major label is often followed by a stab in the back. If the members of Mesh are looking for advice, they should call Radio Iodine, Pale Divine, Colony, Robynn Ragland, Three Merry Widows or New World Spirits. All, no doubt, have fascinating stories about the major-label killing fields; we've heard some of them.

Second, Soma Holiday, a band we've never heard that has slipped under -- or over -- Radar Station's radar has mysteriously been signed to Island/Def Jam. Word on "the street" is that they, too, sound like Matchbox Twenty. But we wouldn't know. We've never heard them. They're from St. Chuck, and, as with Mesh, we wish them luck. Their first job should be to hire a publicist.

To complete the triumvirate, local modern-rock combo Just Add Water is playing the major-label Dating Game these days, strutting and posing for the bigwigs while they sniff around and see whether the band's exuding that certain odor that smells like money. After receiving serious queries from a handful of the big-deal labels, the band will be showcasing its music for all to hear and praise at Mississippi Nights on Friday, Feb. 9. Of the three groups, Just Add Water is the best -- even though we just admitted we've never heard Soma Holiday -- a backhanded compliment, sure, but it's true. Any fan of big-whoop modern alternative guitar rock should maybe attend this gig, maybe.

The best medium-size rock venue in St. Louis is slamming its doors for good next month. The Firehouse will cease to exist on Saturday or Sunday, March 3 or 4, gone as a result of ... who knows? Lack of interest? A dying scene? Lame-ass, lazy bands who don't promote their shows? An ultracompetitive marketplace in which a handful of venues vie for the affections of a few touring bands -- and a near-monopolistic corporate promoter who can make or break a club solely on the basis of that promoter's interest in putting bands there? Poor business planning? Lack of musical knowledge? Bad luck? Perhaps the closing is the result of a combination of factors, but it most definitely is not because the space wasn't a good one. The Firehouse was by far the best rock room of its size in the city, though it was too often half-empty, and the restaurant sank like a stone. The Firehouse as a venue will be missed, and some smart soul with a passion for DJ culture would be wise to snatch it up and turn it into an unsophisticated, unpretentious, no-dress-code, no-glowsticks-allowed dance club; a place that understands that hard-soled shoes suck for dancing and that it's more fun to dress down than up when you're interested in shaking the proverbial rumpah.

The other interesting dynamic-shifter on the scene is the recent partnership between the House of Blues and Pop's over on the East Side. Pop's got the shaft in its partnership with SFX when the Pageant opened; gigs that were once the meal ticket for Pop's -- Eddie Money, Linkin Park, April Wine, for example -- are now playing the Pageant, and, as a result, Pop's ended up stuck with a long list of tribute bands on their calendar.

A relationship with House of Blues, mind you, doesn't mean that Pop's will be a House of Blues; it'll still be Pop's. What it means is that House of Blues will be going head to head with SFX in the St. Louis market, and this could result in more shows all around. A touring act that draws 1,000-plus people will have two venues competing to book it, and two venues trying to lure crowds could spell a good season in St. Louis.

Teaser: Several other big-deal venue changes are taking place on the St. Louis rock, singer/songwriter and punk scenes. We just can't write about them yet because they haven't officially gone down. You'll know when we know.