Live Free or Die

Its time to vote for your favorite St. Louis band. Would some malt liquor and acid punk help you decide?

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Ah, democracy. Invented in ancient Greece as the truest form of government and now seen mostly on American Idol, the one-man, one-vote ideal is a cherished part of our way of life. It's America: mom, apple pie and the Riverfront Times Music Awards. That's right: In these pages you'll find the ballot for electing the finest troubadours and MCs the Lou has to offer.

The day our ballot is released is traditionally the day the Music Editor's phone goes batshit. There are some changes to the ballot this year, so there will probably be more questions than usual. To help stem the tide, I'm putting a helpful and informative FAQ here to answer the usual questions.

How do you select the nominated bands?

A cabal of 32nd-degree Masons who meet above the Moolah movie theater select the bands by slaughtering an albino goat and reading its entrails. The word for this is "haruspicy."

No, really.

Nominations are solicited from RFT freelancers, local DJs, record-store clerks and other hip folks. The results are compiled by an uncommonly handsome man and turned into the ballot.

Why did you put Band X in Category Y? They don't fit into that genre at all!

Very few musicians go around saying, "Man, we totally fit into a category! How common are we?" While in a perfect world we could have a category for "Southern rock with touches of early Pink Floyd," in real life we have to stick a band into a category or not put them anywhere. We try to put bands into categories where an average listener will find them.

Why isn't my band nominated?

Remember when you were six and you stepped on your pet gerbil and then told your mom that it ran away? God saw that.

No, really.

I honestly feel like we have one of the best slates of bands in the history of the awards. There just isn't enough room to nominate every worthy band in St. Louis. Sorry.

What the hell is this "Best National Artist" category?

Some categories become dominated by heavyweights who have national promotion machines behind them. Let these guys pick on someone their own size for once.


Don't just sit there. Vote. And if you want to know more about the nominated bands, get ready for our Music Showcase on June 5, when a huge chunk of the roster will rock the socks off the Delmar Loop.

Oh, Camo malt liquor. Why, Lord, why?

Let me backtrack. The Tin Can is a great bar with delicious food and really affordable drinks. Too affordable, actually; cheap enough that when one of my friends suggested we try a sixteen-ounce can of Camo, I went along (my guidance counselor was right, peer pressure is a bitch). Even after the waitress asked, "Are you sure?" Even after she said we couldn't send it back. Even after she explained that a lot of people tried to send it back. True to its name, it came in a camouflage can. Its slogan is "Distinguishingly Smooth," which is true in the sense that it didn't have any chunks in it. I guess it was smooth. Not silk-smooth, more like the smoothness of polished black leather, if that black leather is encasing the lead sap smashing into your skull.

So my note-taking later that night when I checked out the metal madness of the Scared and Debris Inc. at the Way Out Club wasn't stellar. Or even existent. But the two bands still managed to make an impression, particularly Debris Inc. With former members of St. Vitus and Trouble, the band has a metal pedigree, and the old fellas onstage banged out a nasty-nice mixture of sludgy punk and deep metal riffs. Local boys and openers the Scared did a good job of keeping up with their own manic metal style. Even through a Camo haze, a random trip to the Way Out ranks up there with the finest pleasures the St. Louis scene has to offer.

Are the Flaming Lips the best band in the world? Is it possible that the most interesting music being made today could be coming out of Oklahoma? Warmer than Radiohead or Wilco, bigger showmen than anyone outside of U2 and more creative than all of the others put together, the Flaming Lips have made seven classic albums (and a few crappy ones in the beginning) in their twenty-year career and reinvented indie rock theater with their blood-squirting, furry dancing, balloon-popping live shows. Make the call for yourself on Friday when the Lips' biopic, The Fearless Freaks, comes to the Webster Film Series.

Fearless Freaks director Bradley Beesley has filmed the Lips (and directed their music videos) for more than ten years; Freaks provides as intimate a glimpse into a band's life as I've ever seen on film. You see their early "punks on acid" shows, meet frontman Wayne Coyne's parents, even see multi-instrumentalist Steve Drodz preparing to shoot up heroin (he kicked a few years ago). The film's major flaw is that as interesting as the band members are, their biographies don't match their music. Nonfans would be better off grabbing a copy of The Soft Bulletin, headphones and a chemical of choice. You won't be a nonfan for long. For those of you who already are in the know, the film starts at 9 p.m. and is prefaced by the short LSD A-Go-Go.

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