Music Showcase

Delmar Loop

Best Blues Artist

Bennie Smith
The royal pantheon of blues guitar is full of Kings, but here in St. Louis, the ruler bears the more workmanlike name of Smith. Bennie Smith has been plying his trade since the 1950s; over the years he's worked with more stars, legends and great-but-obscure singers and musicians than can be named in a short paragraph. He continues to perform several times a week in local nightspots, cementing the reputation he's built as a guitarists' guitarist, the master who journeyman guitar players go out to hear on their nights off. — Dean C. Minderman
9 p.m., 609

Henry Townsend
Given that he played music back in the day with Robert Johnson and has recorded in every decade since the 1920s, Henry Townsend is a true rarity, a blues original whose ties to the music's Delta roots are direct and personal. Now a nonagenarian, the man nicknamed "The Mule" limits his performances to very special occasions these days — but as a true blues survivor, he's earned the enduring esteem of the entire St. Louis music community. (DCM)

Big George Brock
Singer, harmonica player and showman extraordinaire Big George Brock is enjoying something of a late-career renaissance — thanks to two recent CDs that have caught the ears of both older blues purists and younger listeners whose first exposure to blues was via the likes of R.L. Burnside and his Fat Possum labelmates. Brock's take on the music reflects his Mississippi roots, with a raucous spirit and spontaneous feel that recall the excitement of the years when the blues first became electric. (DCM)

Soulard Blues Band
Now working on its second quarter-century together, the Soulard Blues Band has had a remarkable run as one of St. Louis' most durable and popular blues acts. Fans have stuck with them through many personnel changes and stylistic shifts, and their continued patronage has always been rewarded by a fine crew of singers and players assembled by bassist and bandleader Art Dwyer. With former lead guitarist Tom Maloney now back in the fold, and former lead vocalist and one-time Blues Brother Larry Thurston returning for the occasional gig, the current edition of the band more than lives up to its hard-earned reputation. (DCM)
6 p.m., 609

Marquise Knox
At fifteen years old, St. Louis blues phenom Marquise Knox hasn't been performing very long — but he doesn't let that get in his way. "I call myself the king of the St. Louis blues," says the young musician. "Some people think they all big and bad with the hip-hop, but that's not where it's at, all that stuff fell down from the blues." People are listening, and in the past two years Knox — who sings, plays guitar and blows a mean harp — has developed a healthy following in the blues clubs around town. — Malcolm Gay

Best Club DJ

DJ Kid Delicious;
Mathematics is essential to being a great DJ; matching beats per minute is crucial, lest mixing become an exercise in futility. Lucky for DJ Kid Delicious, math is innately woven into her artistry. While she's particularly well-versed in progressive house, Delicious also deftly infuses tribal beats, making ululations as common as techno loops. Always upbeat without being too atmospheric, she juxtaposes sounds without jumbling elements, making for a seamless flow of danceable digs. In a world of DJs eager to mix it all, Kid Delicious shows what a little scrutiny and structure can do. — Kristyn Pomranz
9 p.m., Pin-Up Bowl

Flex Boogie;
Look no further than South Grand hotspot Urban if you're seeking soulful, funky DJ nights — at least on the weekends, when the "Soul in the City" concept brings more than a little heat to the city. Chief among the Urban DJ posse is Flex Boogie, whose mixes are perfect for working up a dancefloor sweat or chilling out after one too many martinis. Expect disco swerves and downtempo dub, hip-hop breaks tinged with jazz, and hot cuts from artists ranging from A Guy Called Gerald to Gilles Peterson in Boogie's sets. — Annie Zaleski

Mike Gow
It's a vast understatement to say that DJ Mike Gow has had a pretty good year — especially if one considers that he became the first St. Louis electronic DJ ever to release a mix CD in stores. Gow's Residents: Vol. 1 featured impressive artists such as N'dea Daveport and Joi Cardwell, but more importantly helped show the rest of the world that high-quality trance and ethereal house doesn't only originate on the coasts (or remain limited to Gow's many nights spent entertaining patrons at Miso on Meramec). (AZ)
8 p.m., Pin-Up Bowl

Adrian Fox
Cute-as-a-button Adrian Fox proudly repped for the RFT (oh, heck, all of St. Louis) at this year's Winter Music Conference in Miami, thanks to his triumphant win at our annual DJ spin-off in March. But he also shared the decks with Boy George when the latter came to town last fall, and is one of the city's best purveyors of upbeat techno, tribal house and diva-driven soul; self-proclaimed faves include Frankie Knuckles, Kevin Saunderson and Danny Tenaglia. (AZ)

Scotty Mac;
The grizzled vet among the nominees, Scotty Mac has been pounding the wheels of steel around town since the early 1990s and is currently often seen spinning at Oz, Atomic Cowboy and 609. His greatest asset as a DJ is diversity; the 'Mac favors, as he so eloquently puts it on MySpace, "jazz-drenched house — heavily textured with juicy elements of soul, disco, tech, garage, latin, tribal, acid, funk, dub.... from the smooth and soulful to downright jumpin n' bumpin." (AZ)

Best Electronic Act

The Bureau
Bureau vocalist Mike Cracchiolo plays dominant basslines, the type that can devour listeners and force them to follow the rhythm's every whim. He also sings in a vulnerable baritone, recalling Martin Gore's emotional authority (but not austerity). This dapper quartet also stocks its songs with keyboard counter-melodies, stuttering drumbeats, piercing lead guitar and shadowy harmonies. The Bureau just worked on their debut full-length record, with Carl Amburn (Riddle of Steel, Russian Circles) assigned to corral their mammoth low-end rumbles onto slabs of wax. — Andrew Miller
9 p.m., Cicero's

Femme Fatality;
Incorporating a new member into an established act isn't easy, especially when said band is a duo that emphasizes on-stage interplay. But Femme Fatality pulse just as hard even after replacing Octavia Leito with Hephaestion Palermo last fall. The group wrings the sweat, style and sexiness from genres such as hip-hop, new wave and electroclash; their live shows are bawdy parties that use throbbing beats as foreplay fodder and turn akimbo indie scenesters into maniacs on the floor. Femme Fatality have vanished from local bills lately, a trend that's sadly going to continue: They've announced their breakup, effective after a final show in November. (AM)

Murder Happens;
With its casually homicidal moniker and propensity for gory publicity photos, Murder Happens satisfies the electro-industrial scene's bloodlust. However, the band isn't monochromatically moribund: The married couple (singer Brenda and guitarist Brian Merry) that heads this group also writes ethereal trip-hop tunes under the name Vela Uniform, and Murder Happens' sets draw from that band's repertoire (including a graceful Cure cover). Icy keyboard melodies and Brenda's delicate-chanteuse tones complement hard-crunching guitars and alternate singer Chumley's aggressive growls. (AM)

Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship
The description "computer-obsessed one-man band" conjures images of an onanistic mouse-clicking stage show that's much more entertaining for the artists than for the audience. But Corey Goodman, also known as Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship, simply pushes play and spazzes out, leading to sloppily compelling performances. Goodman puts his technological knowledge to smart use, decorating "Restart My Heart" with PC start-up sounds and mocking/celebrating the MySpace world with "Image Comment." A prolific perfectionist, Goodman inundates fans with new tracks while constantly tinkering with his existing material. (AM)
6 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

Polarized Mind;
By nature, electronica is sharply composed music built by synthesizers, robots and other indestructible items. So it's a testament to Polarized Mind that they can make the genre so intimate and gritty. The hypnotic duo compels its audience to dance like trip-puppets strung by the music, thanks to an industrial backbone and sexy-scary lyrics. At once futuristic and frightening — and fond of propelling a bit of gothic new-wave into the electronic age — Polarized Mind provides the attitude that computers lack. (KP)

Best Funk/R&B/Soul

"If he isn't as famous as D'angelo or Maxwell in a couple years, the universe makes no sense at all," the RFT wrote about Coultrain in 2003. Coultrain's best-kept-secret status makes a strong case for the baffling-cosmos theory, but this socially conscious soul crooner knows that the inherent unfairness of life is no reason to abandon dreams. "The poor keep gettin' poorer/Still we rise, like a rocket in the sky," Coultrain sings on "Rocket," a track from his Echoes of Autumn mixtape. Like Stevie Wonder, Coultrain acknowledges that ghetto life is a struggle — but he still refuses to overlook the community's strength and beauty. (AM)

Isis Jones;
Isis Jones is often heard imparting her wisdom as a DJ on both the Beat (100.3 FM) and Majic (104.9 FM). But Jones' honeyed voice sounds just as self-assured when she's performing her own creations — judging by the confidence permeating her 2005 debut, Woman Child. The CD features gentle grooves and tasteful horns that capture the nostalgic glow of neo-soul, while still nodding to the dulcet tones of modern girl-next-door divas like Ashanti. (AZ)

Kim Massie
Kim Massie never experienced the recording breaks earned by her better-known St. Louis soul sisters Fontella Bass and Ann Peebles — but when it comes to R&B belting, she has all the towering blues power to dominate a stage, even when she isn't grinding out her patented, super-size lap dances on unsuspecting Soulard tourists. Funk, blues, gospel, rock and jazz — genres are just fodder for her sexy growl and howl. Massie doesn't own classic covers like "Midnight Train to Georgia" or "Fever"; she crushes them. — Roy Kasten
7 p.m., 609

The FuFops;
Thanks to the FuFops, it's now impossible to mention the local R&B scene without including Belleville, Illinois. The group's sound is sometimes a throwback to soul of bygone times (albeit done in a style that's unmistakably fresh), as singer-songwriter MC Angel Z's words roll in rich and smooth over addictive, funky beats. Plus, the FuFops are reaching more fans than ever, bolstered by their opening performance for Afroman early last month at Pop's. — Kristie McClanahan

LaMar Harris;
Call it funky, call it jazzy, call it whatever you want — but LaMar Harris' seamless blend of electric guitar, horns and vocals forms an explosive combination. In his younger years, he crafted hip-hop infused with spiritual undertones — and these influences (along with brass-playing greats) are reflected today in an upfront style that's cognizant of the classics, yet all his own. Though his backup band is a rotating cast of characters, Harris is an artist whose passion is audible in his music, his life playing out in bold, brassy swaths. (KM)
8 p.m., 609

Best Garage/Rockabilly

Johnny O & the Jerks;
Johnny O & the Jerks is one of those bands that really seem to love to play. These boys will rock a house party, street festival, record store and, hell, even a music venue from time to time — all the while mixing the slow, thumping beat of the Stray Cats with the screaming glam of the Cramps to create some rocking, dirty Midwest blues. These little white boys will make you want to snap your fingers and stomp your feet while dirty-dancing to tunes about bad girls and zombie love. — Jaime Lees
9 p.m., Halo Bar

The Gentleman Callers;
The term "garage rock" can mean a lot of things, but for the Gentleman Callers it's all about simple, gritty grooves and detached cool. Last year's Don't Say What It Is offered enough swaggering, blowzy attitude and ready-steady-go drumbeats to please any Nuggets fan. Seth Porter's wheezy organ saddles up right next to Kevin Schneider's righteous yowl, taking the listener back to the days of beat clubs and raw rock music. If there's life beyond 1966, the Gentleman Callers prefer to ignore it. — Christian Schaeffer
10 p.m., Halo Bar

7 Shot Screamers;
Most rockabilly acts focus on hollow-body guitars and perfectly coiffed pompadours, and scrimp on vocals and decent lyrics. Not so with the 7 Shot Screamers: The thumping upright bass and slick licks are in place, but singer Mike Leahy croons smoothly above it all, mixing a little Bryan Ferry in with Brian Setzer. With the just-released In Wonderland, the Screamers have given their weight to the fledgling label Big Muddy Records, a cross-generational swap sure to please fans of all rockabilly varieties. (CS)
Midnight, Halo Bar

The Vultures;
Few young bands have caused the type of stir that the Vultures have produced over the past year. Barely legal but fully styled, these three south-city kids mix their love of raunch & roll with elements of Motown, surf-rock and rockabilly. On "Don't Stop Lovin Me," bassist/vocalist Ashley Hohman lets loose an unholy howl of greaser-chic love and fidelity, while chipper male voices harmonize behind the din. It's a perfect union of rage and restraint, all under the unrelenting beat of loose-limbed, pre-Beatles rock & roll. (CS)
1:30 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

The Trip Daddys; Don't label the Trip Daddys "neo-rockabilly"; there's nothing "neo" about them. For eleven years now, Craig Straubinger has led this trio from dirt bars to concert halls and back again and never wavered from the holy trinity of rockabilly: fast cars, fast women and big guitars. Always a great live act, the 'Daddys are now a St. Louis institution — although as the scene's elder statesmen, they'll face some competition from the youngsters that they've inspired this year. (CS)
11 p.m., Halo Bar

Best Hard Rock/Metal

Cross Examination;
Crossover pioneers like D.R.I. made it possible for old-school-punk-sounding groups such as Cross Examination to contend for headbanging honors. But what's most metal about these guys is their undisputed attitude: Whereas similar-sounding early-'80s D.C. outfits espoused a straight-edge lifestyle, Cross Examination touts its membership in the "Awesome Party Squad." And instead of calling for the impeachment of Bush, Cross Examination campaigns for the decapitation of Beatle Bob. With both metal and punk becoming as serious as by-the-book college deans, Cross Examination casts itself as the mischievous campus prankster. (AM);
Released in August, Harkonin's third full-length record Ghanima merges haunted-forest atmosphere with rock dynamics. But while they incorporate all crucial elements of black/death metal — hissed vocals, blast beats, an archaically ornate band-name font — Harkonin also emphasize melody, and their accessibly linear song structures allow them to recruit listeners outside of Satan's army. The group's technicality is impressive but not prohibitively intimidating, because their solos serve the songs rather than just showcasing skill. (AM)
6 p.m., Halo Bar

Head On Collision
Head On Collision features former members of Very Metal — and while this thrashing-mad group certainly deserved to commandeer that moniker, their new name works well with the highway-accident-gruesome artwork on 2005's Arise from the Wreckage demo. Their dual guitarists play lockstep full-speed riffs, like chained-together sprinters racing to the manic beat of Jason Brooks ' drums. Singer Todd Robbins sounds like a demon-possessed version of Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Dicky Barrett, gruffly enunciating lyrics about grave topics. Should Head On Collision claim this category, their reign will be bloody. (AM)

Ornament of Disgrace; Even if they don't win this category, Ornament of Disgrace have already landed one hell of a consolation prize: the local-support slot for October's St. Louis appearance by the legendary Celtic Frost. With a core group (guitarist Andy McKay, drummer Paul Collier, singer John Kingdon) that first formed in 2001, Ornament of Disgrace have perfected their musical chemistry, enabling them to concoct unfathomably complex death-metal compositions that only improve when re-created live. OoD is currently completing a full-length, though fans might still be parsing their dizzying 2005 EP, Christ Fails. (AM)

Many in town thought that the prolonged silence from LoFreq — i.e., its lack of shows and new music — meant that the band had broken up. But in reality, the power trio fond of describing itself with the adjective "thunderboogie" is alive, well and recording new tunes (vocalist/guitarist Gary also helps out at Tension Head on Cherokee Street). Judging from past recordings, there's no reason that future LoFreq tunes will be anything but stoner-sludge gems amped up on AC/DC riffage. (AZ)

Best Hip-Hop Artist

The Earthworms don't pretend to be hardcore. Well, OK, they pretend, but nobody believes them. Instead, their hopeful, positive, surreal lyrics expose them for what they are: really nice guys. Kama and Mathias, formerly of Core Project, share the mic with Black Patrick, and the turntables are manned by DJ Mahf, who is almost as talented as he is cute. The production shines on their debut, No Arms, No Legs, Just a Head and a Body, but see their live show for the chance to hear DJ Crucial's remix of their song "OneTwo" — and to see Mathias cutting a rug in his own unique way. — Ben Westhoff
9 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room

Spaide R.I.P.P.E.R.;
Spaide R.I.P.P.E.R. still isn't signed, but could he still be the self-proclaimed "people's champ" if he was on a label? We don't think so. Fact is, we like Spaide's status as the biggest St. Louis rapper no one outside of town has heard of. We like his growl, his braids and the way he doesn't curse in his songs. (Sure, he talks about cutting suckas up, but you can't have everything.) On second thought, it may be rude for us not to wish Spaide the national success he so covets, so we'll just say this: Don't forget us when you're famous, homey. (BW)
10 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room

Big Will/Da SLU Cru
Saint Louis University is known for many things, but being a hotbed of freestyle rap isn't one of them. So while it's curious that Da SLU Cru rep their hometown school, these fellas don't turn out backpack rap. Frontman Big Will is a six-time champ on BET's 106 and Park "Freestyle Friday" competition, throwing down an easy, slightly menacing flow. Big Will and his partner, Tyrant, rhyme over fuzzed-out Funkadelic riffs and minimal beats, threatening to create a new style of St. Louis rap. We'll see what they come up with. (CS)
8 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room

Ruka Puff;
Ruka Puff's album title proclaims I'm A Star — and with his high-rise Mohawk and flashy jewelry, he already looks the part. A member of the Supreme Team collective, Ruka spits rugged rhymes over grimy bass-heavy beats. Whether rapping about footwear (and delivering the most intimidating "don't step on my Pradas" warning ever issued) or comparing shoes to rims ("High Tops"), this mountainous MC economizes syllables. At the clubs, a commanding bark carries more weight than an ostentatious vocabulary. (AM)
11 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room

Black Spade
Black Spade has one foot firmly placed in the old school — the school led by A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, that is. Like those pioneers, Spade favors a sample-delic style of hip-hop where classic soul-jazz merges with socially conscious storytelling. Throw in his molasses-smooth, laid-back flow — a delivery that has nothing to do with Nelly's drawl and everything to do with Anthony Hamilton's croon — and Spade's poised to kick back like it's 1975 all over again. (AZ)

Best Hip-Hop DJ

If you ever stumble upon a large cache of high-caliber rap, hip-hop or R&B twelve-inches in the used bins at Vintage Vinyl, chances are you've just discovered the latest collection purge by Needles. But it isn't reinvention that's kept the affable DJ consistently near the top of the St. Louis scene; it's seamlessly mixed sets. Whether you're seeing Needles spin at Boogaloo, the Hi-Pointe or 609 — where he helms the long-running "jazzyphatnappy" night of laid-back soul, Afrobeat, hip-hop and more — he drops encyclopedic music knowledge and mad skills almost as much as he drops killer beats. (AZ)
11 p.m., Pin-Up Bowl

DJ Crucial
St. Louis has known for years that it had a gem in DJ Crucial, the man who helped make Blueberry Hill's The Science a must-attend Friday-night destination for hip-hop heads. But the rest of the world seems to be waking up to Crucial's talents, what with the warm reception to his first album, Test Presses and Dub Plates, a platter that features collaborations with hip-hop luminaries MF Doom, MF Grimm, Atmosphere's Slug and MC Eiht. (AZ)
10 p.m., Pin-Up Bowl

Charlie Chan Soprano
Monday nights at the late, lamented Hi-Pointe Café just wouldn't have been the same without the presence of Charlie Chan Soprano, a past RFT Music Award winner who's also heard on Craig Blac's Hot Morning Show on 104.1 FM. And while the veteran DJ doesn't have much of an Internet presence, he's become so well-known that national hip-hop magazines have cheekily punned on his name — cf. The Don of St. Louis, which Chan then used as the name of a mix CD. Oh, and he's also DMC's tour DJ (which perhaps explains the "Kings of Rock" megamix promo single that's shown up on eBay). (AZ)

DJ Agile 1
One might say that longtime Science DJ/F5 Records homegirl Agile 1 lives up to her name. For starters, the firebrand is just as passionate about crafting blazing hip-hop sets and winning battles as she is about production (check for samples of her work), or fighting back against racism and sexism. Oh, and did we mention Agile has a master's degree in education and currently teaches middle-school history? Knowledge certainly is power for this monster talent. (AZ)

When DJ Trackstar (a.k.a. Gabe Moskoff) isn't cooking up banging mixtapes at a dizzying rate that Robert Pollard would envy, he can be found spinning and/or supporting the local rappers at the Halo Bar — or collecting concerts, news and other happenings for his weekly e-mail newsletter. Throw in the work he does for his nonprofit, along with plentiful mentoring and coaching gigs, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a DJ who does more to improve the city and its scene. (AZ)
7 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room

Best Indie Band

Ah, good ol' Bunnygrunt. They've been known as the godfathers of St. Louis pop music since the mid '90s. They've been called "indie" and "cutesy." Heck, they've even been labeled "twee." But in reality, Bunnygrunt are ambassadors of a new genre we'll call BootyShakingPopalicious, with boy-girl harmonies and tail-feather-twitching beats producing tunes that are undeniably catchy. Although they took a break for a few years, the band's now back with the same sing-along, power-chord sound that can only be described as — you guessed it — BootyShakingPopalicious. (JL)
Midnight, Delmar Restaurant & Lounge

That's My Daughter
The three gals and one guy in That's My Daughter stick to the rock & roll basics: noisy, sexxxy tunes about making out and getting high. The songs are quick and dirty, and they stick to you like vinyl car seats on a hot August afternoon. Cory Hammerstone of the Mega Hurts recently joined the group, giving the band a twin-guitar attack. That's My Daughter's new record, Virgin Appeal, will be released this fall; look for their CD-release party at the Way Out Club on September 23. (CS)
4:30 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

So Many Dynamos;
Taking cues from destructo-pop bands such as Les Savy Fav and Thunderbirds Are Now!, So Many Dynamos make music that's off-kilter and somehow still danceable. In fact, the spazz-rockers upped the ante with their recently released album, Flashlights. The disc trades Moog explosions for contained guitar chaos — while pushing Aaron Stovall's yelps to the edge and jamming sing-along sections between buzzsaw guitars and lugubrious trombones. It's a juggling act that works, and Flashlights (along with its 7.3 rating on should propel SMD toward greater acclaim. (CS)
3 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

Ghost in Light;
Ghost in Light can hang with the noiseniks at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center or buddy up to cool-kid indie-rockers at Off Broadway — making it one of the few bands in town who don't have a specific clique to call its own. But this social fluidity has everything to do with how impossible it is to categorize the quartet's tunes. Their full-length debut focused on dreamy, lo-fi slo-core — references include Sigur Rós, Hum and Red House Painters — but their new demo layers plenty of post-rock-anguished vocals and throttling guitars atop transcendent instrumental textures. (AZ)
10 p.m., Delmar Restaurant & Lounge

Tight Pants Syndrome;
"Cocksure" was the St. Louis rock & roll single of 2005 — a tightly constructed, tempo-drop-shifting put-down that surged like a lost girl-group 45 and stung like an imaginary British Invasion of the south side. The only problem? Singer Marcia Pandolfi moved to Chicago, leaving the band's lineup in flux. (They've now settled on a lineup of Tom Stephens, Joe Scanlon, Brian McClelland, Scott Hermes and Lauren Tull; Tull's the newest member, on Moog synths.) Their take on '60s pop-rock may be sugary, but TPS have some of the tartest harmonies and leanest, fleetest rhythms on the local scene. (RK)
10 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Best Jam Band

Devon Allman's Honeytribe;
With music that's at once smoky, bluesy and rocking as all get out, Honeytribe sound just as natural covering Bob Marley's iconic "No Woman, No Cry" as they do on original songs like "Torch," the title track of their newest release. Fronted by Devon Allman (the son of Southern-rock legend Gregg Allman), these Midwesterners aren't just riding on nostalgic strands of DNA: Having jammed their way through Europe and the U.S. — their swagger and soul always riding shotgun — Honeytribe now boast a worldwide fan base. (KM)

The Schwag;
It's paradoxical to consider a Grateful Dead tribute band as laid-back, spontaneous and organized all at the same time, but the Schwag is exactly that. And it has to be: The group regularly plays 60 cities in 18 states, and since 1997 it's organized several outdoor Schwagstock festivals per year, events that draw thousands of people. Together for fourteen years, the Schwag is enduring proof that when a band goes where the music takes it, the fans will follow. (KM)
7:30 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

Fundamental Elements;
From their first strum, the Fundamental Elements trade in earthy mellowness that's associated with sunny island life (à la Jack Johnson). On many songs, the group members' drums and guitars are as plucky as the singing, and their sound is always deeply soulful without being utterly depressing. Infused with Midwestern sensibilities, their songs are free-flowing, often romantic and always masterful — tunes that could easily be the soundtrack to a rollicking barbecue with friends or a quiet night at home. (KM)

Dogtown Allstars;
You have to love a band with no pretensions. The Dogtown Allstars are straight funk-soul musicians that aim to get your hips shaking — nothing more, nothing less. They may be playing "Hip Hug-Her" or "Sophisticated Cissy" for the millionth time, but this quartet still puts some backbone into these classics. Helmed by organist Nathan Hershey (who's a hip-hop producer for Phat Buddha Productions by day), the Allstars mix Stax-era gritty soul and rolling New Orleans funk into bubbling, infectious grooves. (CS)
8 p.m., Delmar Restaurant & Lounge

Madahoochi possesses all the elements necessary to become a great jam band: fearless instrument playing, freeness of spirit and a harmonious infrastructure that lends itself to flawless improvisation. What makes Madahoochi truly outstanding, though, is how it transcends the jam genre. The three vocalists' timbres blend like Manhattan Transfer, they use unexpected key swaps that would stump Sondheim, and even James Brown would have to tip his mic to their funk. So don't compare them to jam bands like Phish or Leftover Salmon; it's a great disservice to suggest that Madahoochi is comparable. (KP)
10 p.m., Cicero's

Best Jazz Artist

Willie Akins
A modern jazz master of bebop, ballads and blues, Willie Akins brings deep knowledge, feeling and skill to every note he plays on the tenor saxophone. His early-Saturday-evening weekly gig at Spruill's has become a habit for many — including discerning listeners from all walks of life, up-and-coming musicians seeking to learn from (and possibly sit in with) a revered elder and visiting jazz stars paying respect to a local legend. St. Louis has spawned many fine jazz musicians over the years, but Akins' place in the hearts of local jazz fans is secure. (DCM)

Erin Bode
Since the January 2006 release of Over and Over, her second album on the St. Louis-based MAXJAZZ label, vocalist Erin Bode has been winning new fans everywhere. Although she still plays a lot of local gigs in clubs and restaurants, in the past few months Bode has also performed twice on national TV, toured Italy and appeared at some of the better jazz clubs in cities from coast to coast. She's gained artistic confidence too, adding more original material to her repertoire of standards and selected covers — thus solidifying her reputation as an artist to watch. (DCM)
10 p.m., 609

Hamiet Bluiett
As a member of the seminal Black Artists Group, co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet and one of jazz's preeminent voices on the baritone saxophone, Hamiet Bluiett is a musician of global significance. He came back home to Brooklyn, Illinois, a few years ago after three decades in New York, but is still in demand for gigs all over the planet. As a result, Bluiett's St. Louis concert appearances are relatively few in number, but he always provides a distinctive and memorable evening of music. (DCM)

Dave Stone
With bebop so deep in his soul that he knows every nook and nuance of its pre-, post- and free-forms, Dave Stone is to the St. Louis jazz scene what Bob Dylan was to the Greenwich coffeehouse scene: an innovator, a flame-keeper and ultimately a mentor. He still haunts the coffeehouses and night clubs of South Grand, humbly and graciously offering his tenor saxophone talents by collaborating with and leading the city's youngest jazz lions. And his Friday night residencies at Mangia Italiano are essential — jazz past, present and future writ in lightning leads and lithe swing. (RK)

Darin Gray
With a résumé that reads like a history of Midwestern experimental rock, bassist Darin Gray has little to prove and ideas to burn. While with the Dazzling Killmen, he shook out the heaviest hardcore rhythms this city has felt since the quake of 1811; alongside Chicago avant-gardist Jim O'Rourke, he's driven fissures into post-jazz; and with Grand Ulena, he's terrorized Wilco fans who still wince at the memory of the band's opening slot on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour. He remains an uncompromising provocateur and a fierce defender of music as the freest of expressions. (RK)

Best National Artist

Living Things;
Lillian, Eve and Bosh Berlin (or Rothman, if you prefer) are perhaps the hardest of our hard-rocking native sons, a post-glam metal band with disco hooks (check the mad catchy drum-'n'-bass bump of "Bom Bom Bom"), political rants and a marketing machine as big and as effective as the S.S. Titanic. If they've squandered their chance at world domination, they haven't squandered their undeniable talents: The ferocious sound of Ahead of the Lions — part Guns 'n Roses, part Nirvana — lives up its title, not to mention those Rolling Stone and Spin notices. (RK)

Son Volt/Jay Farrar;
Jay Farrar once tried relocating to New Orleans, but if he knows anything, it's his roots. He's an ardent defender of the St. Louis area, and his songs often capture the decay and glory, the poison and pearls, of this Midwestern outpost. If his musical concepts often look back to blues, country and '60s rock, his lyrical visions are always miles ahead, always beautiful and mysterious, even when unfathomable. Last year, his resurrection of Son Volt reconnected him with the most furious of collective rock & roll dynamics. Next year is anybody's guess. (RK)

Guilty pleasures of the year (so far): Snakes on a Plane, our "Without Me It's Just Aweso" T-shirt and Nelly's "Grillz." Sure, the song's a total style-over-substance thing, but it takes skill to make a track about optional orthodontia sound so tight. With verses from fellow Lunatic Ali, the Dungeon Family's Gipp and ultimate ice-man Paul Wall, this heavily rotated single is more pleasure than guilt. And one thing we'll never feel ashamed to admit? We love Nelly — then, now and for as long as he keeps showing love to the Lou. The notion that Nelly "put St. Louis on the map" is true but stale; what really matters is that, despite going multi-platinum, Nelly gives abundant time, talent and money back to his hometown. In an age of me-first musicians, Nelly's generosity and humility are as refreshing as they are rare. Smile for us, daddy! — Brooke Foster

Caleb Engstrom;
Like fellow Right Place labelmates Berry, Caleb Engstrom has solid ties to across the river (he attended college in Greenville, Illinois, to be exact). But the young Engstrom also once interned at Tower Grove's SCOSAG — giving him enough ties to St. Louis to consider him one of our own. Of course, we're happy to claim anyone this talented: Engstrom's 2005 album, Building Day One, features mournful piano, skeletal folk and searing, vulnerable vocals riddled with the ghosts of heartbreak and loneliness. (AZ)
6 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

So They Say;
Some blame MySpace for the demise of society, but you won't hear such complaining from So They Say, who earned a deal with Fearless Records in part owing to that label's president messaging 'em his phone number. The quintet's full-length debut, Antidote for Irony — a slick platter of emo-screamo-punk nuggets — demonstrated that the online attention was well-justified, although an increasingly confident live show is So They Say's biggest secret weapon. (AZ)

Best New Band

Rats and People;
Late at night below deck, the crew of the Rats and People pirate ship gathers to play their music. The old wooden boat creaks and sways as they duck down out of the sea spray to weave tales of travels, love and loss. Standard guitar and drums are layered with trumpet, violin and other instruments that will play in the wet, salty air. Their sound mixes in the drunken glory of the Pogues with the storytelling skills of the Dead Milkmen. The warm candlelight illuminates an unlikely ensemble band, ragged and strong on the open sea. (JL)
9 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Finn's Motel
Finn's Motel is the new project of Joe Thebeau, a sometime-guitarist for Magnolia Summer and a lifer on the St. Louis rock scene. (Old-timers will remember his '90s act, the Finns.) Thebeau's cred clearly speaks volumes: His band is considered one of the city's best new acts despite playing only one live show and not releasing its debut, Escape Velocity, until September 19. The preview tracks show a band following the proud Midwest tradition of loud, jangly guitars, smart hooks and intelligent lyrics. (CS)

James Will and the Engines of Creation;
James Will is the ex-Julia Sets art-punk and veteran Vintage Vinyl clerk who knows his feedback. If he now claims to be inspired by Replacements bootlegs, he's also got the MC5 and Big Star on his mind, or at least in his throttled Telecaster tone and in the pitiless attack of drummer David Pfeffer and bassist Bryan Clarkson. This engine is most definitely built for speed — but also for stripping gears and getting dirty in a very, very loud garage. (RK)
9 p.m., Delmar Restaurant & Lounge

Est. 1974
The bulk of the MySpace missives Est. 1974 sent out this summer involved frantic searches for a bassist, so that the hard-rockin' band could continue the momentum they started building by opening for the Sword and Orange Goblin. But once the trio find the perfect addition to their rhythm section, it'll likely be smooth sailing; demo songs they've posted show a young group of shredders beholden to stoner rock, '80s metal (the technique-laden kind, not hair or glam) and Guns 'n Roses. (AZ)
7 p.m., Halo Bar
Berlin Whale
To date, the bulk of Berlin Whale's shows have taken place under the radar at usual haunts the Creepy Crawl, Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center and the late Radio Cherokee. But these four young'uns have started earning serious overground buzz for their infectious brand of spazzy-but-not-spastic indie-rock. Burbling-carnival Casio keyboards, happy-feet beats and droning vocals match primitive gee-tars — making 'em kindred souls to locals Jumbling Towers and So Many Dynamos and nationals such as HORSE the Band. (AZ)
8 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Best Noise/Experimental

Grand Ulena;
Like a prison breaker who methodically constructs a tunnel only to destroy the evidence once he reaches freedom, Grand Ulena use repetitive guitar lines to build deep grooves, then buries them by detonating their cataclysmic rhythm section. Part power trio, part space-jazz odyssey, this instrumental outfit emphasizes intriguing atmosphere during serene passages and maximum volume during chaotic outbursts. Grand Ulena's members have gigged separately recently — guitarist Chris Trull and drummer Danny McClain collaborated with Brain Transplant's Chris Smentkowski, while bassist Darin Gray shared a Japan bill with Jim O'Rourke and Merzbow — but the band remains intact. (AM)

Ring, Cicada;
Much as aspiring rappers hone their flows using beat-only versions of hip-hop hits, so could fledgling rock singers perfect their delivery with the help of Ring, Cicada's largely instrumental templates. Relative to their peers in this category, Ring, Cicada follow a familiar verse-chorus-verse format, albeit with a wordless twist. Their riffs recall classic rock and grunge as well as prog and early-'90s indie. Demos from The Deuce, Ring, Cicada's 2007 follow-up to their Steve Albini-produced full-length debut, Good Morning, Mr. Good, establish the group's undiminished vitality as they approach their tenth year. (AM)

The Conformists;
Shirking convention, the Conformists refuse to put a photo of themselves up on their MySpace page — a gesture that certainly matches the fiercely unorthodox path the band has taken since forming in 1996. Albums arrive whenever they find a label that likes their sinewy punk precision and noise bursts (currently, 54°40' or Fight! for this year's Three Hundred). Even recording Three with legend Steve Albini didn't change the group's thundering sparseness and cathartic grooves; if anything, it just threw them into higher relief. (AZ)

Dancing Feet March to War
Few bands embody the DIY- (and free-) spirit and far-left-leaning politics of the Lemp-based noise scene better than Dancing Feet March to War. Formed by Stephen and Robert — no last names, please — in 2003, DFMTW have only released one album (2005's Movement) but continue to work on music as a trio, all the while perfecting throttling punk nuggets with anguished screams and smart, post-hardcore sensibilities. (AZ)

Skarekrau Radio
Skarekrau Radio is a religion unto itself. Witness how they self-describe on their Web site: "Skarekrau Radio is the Tempora IL Kuu Sect. This ever-expanding Sect use 'irratainment' to teach the warnings and revelations of the almighty God Kuu." Confused yet? You won't be when listening to their amelodic yet curiously soothing noise, screeds inspired by White House, XBXRX and other experimental gurus. Hear 'em on a recent twelve-inch split on regional label APoP Records or at numerous shows at the Lemp. (AZ)
8 p.m., Cicero's

Best Punk

The Beating
The good thing about the small, incestuous St. Louis music scene is that chances are talented musicians will eventually surface with other projects besides their main gig. Take the case of the Beating, which is composed of members of Eating Rats and Sayonara. They had a busy summer playing shows at the Czech Center, Radio Cherokee and elusive venue the Slaughterhouse, but stand to develop a much higher profile the longer they stick together. (AZ)

Blacked Out
Consider Blacked Out's inclusion in this category somewhat of a bittersweet event: The group has decided to break up after two-plus years together. While the scene's loss is somewhat mitigated by the new project formed by Blacked Out's core members (check it out at, St. Louis will certainly miss the old-school sensibilities and don't-give-a-fuck attitude found in breakneck-speed hardcore-metal hybrids such as "Mind Control" and "So Long." (AZ)

The Pubes;
The Pubes and Sex Robots share two members — Mario Viele and Maysam Attaran — but the two groups couldn't be more different. Whereas the latter peppers their brand of punk with ragged garage-pop heart, the former prefers their punk straight-up, no chaser (think a less-serious Circle Jerks or Black Flag). Tempos careen like a go-kart sliding on ice, with gruff vocals and greased-up riffs keeping pace. The cumulative result sounds like a gem of a seven-inch released somewhere around 1978. (AZ) Noon, Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

Sex Robots
Sex Robots are easily one of the most talented and hardest-working bands in St. Louis. They've earned their DIY-indie-rocker status by playing, recording and touring at a rate that outshines most other locals. And to describe the Sex Robots sound as pop-punk is a bit of an insult, because pop-punk usually doesn't sound this good; their songs contain both contagious hand claps and head-bobbing beats. (JL)
11 p.m., Delmar Restaurant & Lounge

Corbeta Corbata
To paraphrase music writer Frank Kogan, real punks don't wear black — they wear suits. At least that's the case for the three gentlemen in Corbeta Corbata, whose sharp looks don't soften the band's scathing guitar chugs and snaking bass lines. Singer Ben Smith lets loose like an unrestrained Ian MacKaye or an indignant D. Boon, leaving few moments to breathe in his terse songs. This is punk rock that pulls no punches. (CS) 8 p.m., Halo Bar

Best Reggae/Ska

Murder City Players
Any band that sticks around for nearly 25 years — with an ever-evolving lineup to boot — has to be doing something right. Just ask the Murder City Players, who are arguably the premier roots-reggae act in St. Louis, if not one of the best in the nation. Horns-heavy slow jams, dancehall and ska just begin to describe their repertoire; Murder City Players do it all, whether they're entertaining folks at the annual Lot fest or rocking the Lucas School House. (AZ)

While many of the ska bands that found popularity in the 1990s gave up the ghost years ago, MU330 have stubbornly stuck to their horns and skank-it-up riffs. New tunes that drummer-vocalist Ted Moll describes as "garage-surf" are in the works, and even though they don't play out as often now, they did manage to play gigs in Alaska earlier this year — leaving them only two states short in their quest to hit all 50. (AZ)

Dubtronix's DJ Ranx still keeps the late-late-Friday-night airwaves on KDHX (88.1 FM) full of dub-reggae goodness (his show's at two a.m. weekly), a commitment to quality tunes matched by his long-running band. The RFT has been trumpeting the sinewy grooves of Dubtronix for years now; see 'em live at the showcase and find out for yourself. (AZ)
7 p.m., Delmar Restaurant & Lounge

Dub Kitchen
Dub Kitchen remains an elusive presence in St. Louis, rarely playing out and offering only a perfunctory bio on their Web site. But make no mistake: This is dub reggae as played by a handful of white twentysomethings who — praise Jah — don't pretend to come from funky Kingston. The alternating male and female vocals come and go in a sweet, unassuming fashion, but this band's core is their rhythm section. Stuttering organ chords, rumbling bass lines and sharp snare hits fall into the cavern of echoing ephemera. The members of Dub Kitchen are proud students of '70s dub, and they keep the pot simmering at the perfect temperature. (CS)

Best Rock

Ludo manage the rare feat of writing and performing pop-rock songs that delight high school girls and jaded music critics alike. It's easy to be drawn to the band's happy-go-lucky sensibilities, which are informed by equal parts emo, ska and arena rock. But a closer listen reveals a band intent on challenging itself with varying time signatures, complex vocal harmonies and impressionistic storylines. All three of these traits can be found on the new track "Lake Ponchartrain" (available on Ludo's MySpace page), a dream-like travelogue through Louisiana that suggests hopeful new dimensions to the band's dynamic. (CS)

Red Eyed Driver;
A group of glam rockers whose idea of glamour is the Fall, R.E.M. and Oasis, Red Eyed Driver is a south-city band of a distinct metal. They're uninterested in dirty rock amateurism and obsessed with mini-symphonies to the teenaged gods of melodic, layered lushness — as well-suited for brooding in bedrooms as they are for test-cruising a new set of wheels. With newest member Jordan Heimburger aboard, they've added an electric guitar and dropped the keyboards. But Red Eyed Driver's complex vocal strategies, led by the wicked-ranged Bryan Hoskins, still make their songs soar. (RK)
10 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

The Love Experts;
Though formed in the late '80s, the Love Experts aren't really children of their era — unless you count the '60s psych-folk rock revivalists of the Paisley Underground. Steve Carosello's delicate high tenor drifts over gleaming, counter-pointing electric guitars, always rising straight through the climax to find more meditative moods. The Love Experts swing more than you'd guess from a band that names Television and Split Enz among its influences. In the pure aestheticism of their lyrical and musical ideas, the Experts make the plaudit "timeless" mean something. (RK)
1:40 p.m., Main Outdoor Stage

Riddle of Steel;
To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, Riddle of Steel don't get no respect in its hometown — at least, the amount of respect that should be given to a trio that's one of the tightest live acts in the city. Inspired by hefty stoner rock, the viscous riffs and layered noise-scapes of influential 1990s undergrounders (Season to Risk, et al.), and (sweet!) the Police, Riddle of Steel's tunes are needle-precise but loud as fuck. Hot dudes rockin' out, indeed. (AZ)

Lapush combines jangly, angular (jangular?) riffs with Thom Donovan's earnest, expressive vocals, like the Strokes guitarists jamming with that other Thom's band circa The Bends. This trio mines the best characteristics of alternative acts from the past two decades, with many of the selected influences hailing from overseas, and organically fuses these ingredients into warm, catchy songs that deserve an immediate berth on any buzz station's rotation. (AM)
8 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

Best Roots/Americana

Magnolia Summer;
When roots-rockers Nadine fizzled out a few years back, Magnolia Summer stepped up as the city's leading makers of warm, introspective rock music. The recently released From Driveways' Lost View plays down the band's Americana leanings and pushes soaring guitars, cavernous drums and Chris Grabau's sweet, yearning tenor voice to the forefront. View builds on an already solid foundation and suggests that the best is yet to come from Magnolia Summer. (CS)
1 p.m., Main Outdoor Stage

Bad Folk
All around town, people describe Bad Folk as "alt-country." But while it uses typically country instruments (banjo, steel guitar and saw), the band sounds much more like Tom Waits or even Nick Cave than any of those No Depression clones. In fact, Bad Folk's music would be the perfect complement to any "running from the law" sequence in a David Lynch movie. True experimental musicians, they add mandolin and accordion to their instrumental mix — and still produce tunes that are both melodic and tough. (JL)
6 p.m., Cicero's

The Bottle Rockets;
Thirteen years after its debut, the pride of Festus is now the pride of St. Louis (and Springfield, Illinois, home to their newest member, bassist Keith Voegele). Most of the other bands with their alt-country bloodline have broken up — or broken away from twang altogether — but the Bottle Rockets just keep making smart, tough, loud rock & roll with Missouri country soul that no stacked guitars could erase. Whether focused on love, lust, politics or their deep, abiding sense of place, the Bottle Rockets' songs are replete with real people facing real problems, dreaming real dreams — and rocking all the while. (RK)

For all the spaciousness of their arrangements and the impressionism of frontman Mark Ray's lyrics, Waterloo's most recent take on pastiche rock — ambient noise and acoustic beauty meeting over-cranked guitars — has the clean and clear thrust of the catchiest moments from heroes American Music Club, the Flaming Lips and Red House Painters. Ray makes the most of his timid voice: The fragility of his delivery draws out a persistent elegiac quality from Waterloo's dense and resurgent Americana. (RK)

Dirty 30's
If the Replacements played Southern rock, they might have sounded something like Cape Girardeau's Dirty 30's. Teaming with legendary roots producer Eric Ambel, the band struts and grinds through heavy, twangy rock that's too loud for Americana and too spontaneous for the typical indie template on its self-titled debut. To call them a bar band is no slur: They play fast and loose with free-wheeling blues-based guitar riffs, always a dependable soundtrack for drinking till last call and smoking up on the way home.
11 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Best Singer-Songwriter/Folk

Grant Essig;
Singer-songwriters are known for their impassioned wordplay — and while Grant Essig knows how to put the "woe" in "emo," he also has an electronic edge that allows him to convey his conscience in megabytes alone. Indeed, some of Essig's tracks are electronica-instrumental, but when he chooses to showcase his vocals, he varies from pixilated with noise (think Elliott Smith) to clear and resonant (think Damien Rice). Essig deserves props for his instrumental experimentation, but it's his ability to transcend genres that takes the crux of his confessionals to Dashboard proportions. (KP)
7 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

Joe Stickley;
Like an angst-less Bright Eyes, Joe Stickley and his band Blue Print combine a love of country and folk with a solid footing in good old-fashioned rock & roll. The Eagle and the Pearl, released this spring, finds the band moving beyond the acoustic trappings of its earlier work. The sweet-and-low pedal steel of one song segues into syncopated bassline of the next track, with Stickley's soft, sometimes husky voice telling tales of love, loss and the little mysteries that keep life interesting. (CS)
6 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Bob Reuter;
His solo shows are rare these days, his hellacious sets with Thee Dirty South climax in blues freak-outs he didn't write, and he's just as well-known as a KDHX (88.1 FM) DJ or a south-city photographer. But Bob Reuter is still one of the city's most dependable and significant songsmiths. His eye for detail is as precise as it is unforgiving, his voice a north-side-hillbilly paradox, and his command of rockabilly, country and pre-pre-packaged rock & roll unparalleled by any St. Louis songwriter not named Chuck Berry. (RK)
7 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Casey Reid;
The Tom Waits comparison is inevitable, so recognize it, but then do what Casey Reid has done to the obvious influence — listen to the voices inside him. The grit in his throat isn't artificial, and the blues in his folksy rock songs have been earned — not by paying his dues (he's 25) but by throwing all of himself, à la Jack White, into minstrelsy and coming out with an inspired mess of personal art, like a dark night of the juke-joint soul. (RK)
7 p.m., Cicero's

Jonathan Cour;
In just a few short months, Jonathan Cour has made quite a name for himself within the city — from a sold-out Duck Room show to an opening slot for Cowboy Junkies and Shelby Lynne at the LOMA festival. But the doe-eyed songwriter deserves all the attention he's receiving for his pensive tunes, which capture the heartbreak, uncertainty and general confusion of the college years and just beyond — thanks to soaring electro-acoustic music reminiscent of Switchfoot, the Fray and Howie Day. (AZ)
9 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

About The Authors

Jaime Lees

Jaime Lees is the digital content editor for the Riverfront Times.

Ben Westhoff

Ben Westhoff is the author of the books Original Gangstas, Fentanyl, Inc., and Little Brother: Love, Tragedy, and My Search For the Truth.
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