The May Day Orchestra Is One of 2018's STL 77 Honorees

Once again in 2018, ​the RFT recognizes ​St. Louis' ​unparalleled musical talent by presenting the STL 77, ​our list of 77 acts who did big things in the last twelve months. From now through June 16, the kick-off date of our huge two-day music festival ShowcaseSTL, we'll be announcing two ​honorees per weekday on our music blog. For last year's STL 77 picks, go here; for the complete lineup for ShowcaseSTL, go here.

Tim Rakel has fronted a handful of bands over the past fifteen years — the raggedy Bad Folk, the harder-charging Union Electric — but the May Day Orchestra holds a special place in his collected songbook. A songwriter with a burly, stentorian delivery and a desire to tell knotty stories rather than make easy rhymes, Rakel returned with a new May Day lineup at the beginning of 2018, and its album Wake pinpoints the band’s strengths. On the album, Rakel sings of Yusuf bin Hasan, a Kenyan revolutionary who led a massacre in Mombasa in 1631. But for Rakel and his bandmates, the story is launch pad for themes of colonialism and revenge, and with new guitarist Charlie Tabing’s searing leads, these songs work as equal parts history lesson, parable and rock song.

Recommended If You Like: folk operas, the people’s history, Son Volt

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