Your Guide to the Bands of RFT's Music Showcase

Your Guide to the Bands of RFT's Music Showcase
Josh Rowan

Your Guide to the Bands of RFT's Music Showcase

It is that time of the year again, when we celebrate the bands and artists who provide the eclectic and engaging soundtrack to life in the city of St. Louis. This is a music town, through and through, and the wealth and caliber of talent that lives among us cannot be overstated. From blues to hip-hop, from noise to pop, no genre is outside the grasp of St. Louis musicians, even as those very genres themselves continuously mesh together and blur, making categorization a daunting and sometimes impossible task.

The good news is we tried anyway. And now, it is our distinct honor to present you with the artists who are playing the RFT Music Showcase on Saturday, June 1, on Washington Avenue. (You can find writeups on all 130 nominees and vote online at Read on and learn all about your new soon-to-be-favorite local acts, and we'll see you at the showcase. Congratulations and good luck to all who are nominated.

Alpha Brewing Company

3 p.m. Ben Bedford
Nominated in Singer-Songwriter
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay may be the de facto poet laureate of Springfield, Illinois, but if Ben Bedford continues on his current path, Lindsay may have to share a few garlands. A student of Midwestern and Civil War-era history and a devotee of Townes Van Zandt and Woody Guthrie, Bedford writes songs the way a master poet shapes a form. Lines interlink, rhythms reinforce meaning, and melodies rise up as naturally as flowers from good soil. Bedford's latest album, What We Lost, moves between visions of John the Baptist, the American Indian Movement and Vachel Lindsay himself, all sung with plangency and gravitas. His songs will make you reflect, but more important, they will make you feel.—Roy Kasten

4 p.m. Zak Marmalefsky
Nominated in Singer-Songwriter
The music of Zak Marmalefsky is simultaneously of this age and not of this world. With a finger-plucked guitar and a clutch of heartbroken but witty songs, Marmalefsky conjures Depression-era street corners and speakeasys, where his rich, sincere baritone crooning might have once made him king of the minstrels for a day. For now, he'll settle for an air of folk-troubadour mystery. Following in the footsteps of Leadbelly and Dave Van Ronk isn't for the faint of skill or heart; Marmalefsky has both. His music — sometimes poignant, sometimes off-color, often both at the same time — is never a throwback put-on.—Roy Kasten

5 p.m. Fred Friction
Nominated in Singer-Songwriter
Fred Friction plays folk music capable of making the universal personal and the personal universal, often supplementing his sound by playing the spoons. A man who frequently and flagrantly ignores musical trends, Friction plays the music he enjoys and is often accused of being "weird." He most certainly is, and he does not give a fuck — he would continue to perform even if nobody ever listened, simply because he must express himself. Put plainly, Friction does whatever he wants. Fred Friction is forever Fred Friction, and that's why we love him. —Jaime Lees

6 p.m. Jump Starts
Nominated in Pop
Justin Johnson and Sarah Ross understand the value of simplicity. Jump Starts proves this via the duo's stripped-down setup, lovely harmonies and catchy songs that need no more chords than you can count on one hand. Johnson brings the same lyrical directness and clean acoustic-guitar folk-pop strumming to Jump Starts that he does to Pretty Little Empire, but he comes off more carefree here. Ross propels this lighter mood with straightforward drumming on a kit loaded with fun knickknacks: maracas, splash and Chinese cymbals. The simplified approach lets the strong songwriting and engaging performances shine through with clarity. Jump Starts is lots of fun and the perfect pick-me-up for any fan who has accidentally overdosed on overwrought music. —Bob McMahon

Copia Restaurant & Wine Garden

4 p.m. Via Dove
Nominated in Rock
Via Dove has some major swagger — and well-earned swagger, at that. Equal parts Rolling Stones, Soundgarden and U2, Via Dove pushes sweaty, carnal rock & roll that occasionally veers into pure rapture. Ballads or rockers, Via Dove's songs have a fiery heartbeat — a steady hum that reminds you that these tunes are about living. That hum is all the more pronounced these days, with new band members adding an even fuller sound through keys, a gazillion guitars and all the ass-shakin' tambourine you can handle. As a bonus at the live show, vocalist Andy Shadburne evokes the late Michael Hutchence's smolder and has eye sex with seemingly every audience member, smoothly drawing you into the band's thrall. With so many genres and subgenres of music these days, straight-up rock sometimes is overlooked. Via Dove is the band that shoves it back into your face and makes you wonder how you went without it for so long. —Allison Babka

5 p.m. Lamar Harris
Nominated in Jazz
There are many faces of Lamar Harris. He is a soul-funk producer, a cross-cultural collaborator, a conspirator in the FarFetched collective, a member of Tribal Funk and a turntablist under the moniker DJ Nune. One could assume that the Lamar Harris nominated for Best Jazz Artist is the trombonist who has performed alongside jazz legends Christian McBride and George Benson, the one with the sensuous tone and smooth phrasing not generally associated with his main instrument. Calling Harris simply a jazz artist is limiting, which says more about the state of the genre than it does about his diversity of musicianship. Jazz fans often freak about their sacred music losing relevance. Lamar Harris fights this battle on the ground level every time he makes a sound.—Ryan Wasoba

6 p.m. The Educated Guess
Nominated in Chamber Pop
Imagine twelve to sixteen musicians, ranging from a trombone ensemble to a keyboardist, placed an arm's distance from one other onstage. They're clad in a palette of black-and-white — a sea of suits. At center stage is Charlie Brumley. The 25-year-old controls the keys and sings like Randy Newman pre-Toy Story — the Randy Newman who hasn't existed since Brumley was born. Brumley is responsible for arranging most of the Educated Guess' ingenious brand of shimmy-shake jazz, which, in addition to trombones and keyboard, features saxophones, fiddles and trumpets. Brumley and trombonists Devin LaRue, Kenny Winschel and Kenny Summers have a new project debuting June 21 at Off Broadway. When asked for a hint, they'll say only, "Chrono Man Lives."—Blair Stiles

7 p.m. The Jungle Fire
Nominated in Soul/Funk
With an almost impossible to categorize sound, the Jungle Fire plays an upbeat style of music that one can only describe as classic rhythm and blues blended with soul and pop. Throw in a little funk and a heavy dose of the blues, and you have a band that many might ignore based on the description alone. The band is comprised of seven seasoned musicians, each from well-known and respected musical projects. Particularly of note are the Disappeared's Dan Johanning on guitar and bass player Justin Haltmar. (One of the greatest local players of his generation.) Haltmar stays surprisingly in the pocket on most of their recorded material, letting keys, sax and flute take lead roles — that is, when vocalist James Fields isn't dominating the tracks with his soulful voice. —Kenny Snarzyk

8 p.m. Theresa Payne
Nominated in R&B
If Theresa Payne's hope is to make "inspirational soul," she's more than on the right track. But with Payne you never can tell where and when inspiration will strike. Sometimes it's in a Janelle Monaé-esque cyberfunk, sometimes it's in a Stevie Wonder-esque throwdown, and just as often it's in a wholly modern channeling of gospel music — even when it's fully glitched and slammed out, as on the bracing title track to her latest release, The Moment. This may well be Payne's moment, and she has the talent to make you believe it too.—Roy Kasten

10 p.m. Pretty Little Empire
Nominated in Americana
Does Pretty Little Empire really belong in the Americana category? Eh, not really. If we had a Run-Down-a-Hill-While-Holding-Hands-With-Your-Love-And-Feeling-Like-Your-Heart-Might-Fly category, that might be a better fit. That's not to say that PLE's songs all have happy endings — far from it. There's plenty of misunderstanding, regret and release in singer-songwriter Justin Johnson's words. But Johnson, Wade Durbin (bass), William Godfred (guitar) and Evan O'Neal (drums) come together in such a frenzied Voltron of talent and emotion — on the albums, sure, but especially during the band's live shows — that you can't help but feel starry-eyed even during the melancholy tunes. Our prediction: At least one song from 2010's fabulous Reasons and Rooms will end up in a cell phone commercial about long-distance romance.—Allison Babka

11 p.m. Dots Not Feathers
Nominated in Folk
The Readiness Is All... are awash with scattered sonic surprises: Down-shifted tempos swerve into R&B bass undulations and Bop-It chirps, just covered by the two-part choir of omnichordist Jessica Haley and keyboardist Katie Brooking. DNF even exchanges lead singers from track to track with Haley and guitarist Ryan Myers homering over compositions that change directions faster than a knuckleball. Bassist Chris Dickey and percussionist Nick Blackburn are always ready to bat, honing their skills on the side as part of a metal band — another reason why DNF's version of folk is not so folk-y after all. —Blair Stiles

Midnight Palace
Nominated in Chamber Pop
Close your eyes while listening to Palace, and you're bound to "see" all kinds of crazy things. Stars twinkling over an old-timey carnival. A roomful of balloons just waiting to be kicked and tossed. A dance line of pastel unicorns. You get the idea. Palace often describes its music as sounding "like your childhood," and that's no lie. Palace songs are pillow fights and cotton candy and best friends doing that hand-slap-rhyming thing. They're unapologetic happy-dappy pop tunes that feature beautiful vocal harmonies and make you want to bask in the sun. Palace is what the Arcade Fire might sound like on a never-ending sugar rush. There's no crash afterward, though — only bliss. —Allison Babka

The Dubliner

7 p.m. The Hobosexuals
Nominated in Americana
The self-proclaimed "outlaw country" outfit fronted by Ryne Watts and Coop Cooper wears overalls onstage and sings vulgar ditties about sex, weed and moonshine. Oh, and it also had the gall to not only think of but agree to the moniker "the Hobosexuals." Perhaps the only thing the group takes seriously is its headfirst commitment to spaghetti-Western tunes, ranging from bar-fight enabling anthems to gin-drenched ballads for lonely nights at the saloon. The Hobosexuals recently celebrated a seven-inch on St. Louis' Big Muddy Records, a release format that actually seems futuristic for a band whose music could exist on yellowed player-piano rolls.-Ryan Wasoba

8 p.m. Old Capital Square Dance Club
Nominated in Country
Since 2005 Old Capital Square Dance Club has been writing and performing rock, folk and country songs with Americana charm. Headed by key members Jesse McClary and Zach Anderson, this six-piece band is doing its best to keep audiences entertained — and having a great time all the while. With its latest CD recorded (appropriately) by Jason McEntire at Sawhorse Studios, the Square has released its finest work to date. It's best paired with cheap bourbon as opposed to a fine cognac, BTW: This stuff's all about hard work and easy living.—Kenny Snarzyk

9 p.m. Prairie Rehab
Nominated in Country
Like the Decemberists' Colin Meloy or Okkervil River's Will Sheff before her, Lacie Mangels wields her vocabulary and poetic vision like a scalpel, using uncommon verbiage to get at universal truths. Her words and her plainspoken voice are at the center of Prairie Rehab, a twangy quartet that uses country music more as a suggestion than as a dictum. On the group's second LP, this year's Weights & Measures, gentle and nuanced melodies prop up Mangels' equally gentle and nuanced delivery, with Scott Swartz's pedal steel adding vibrant color enhancements. —Christian Schaeffer

10 p.m. Indian Blanket
Nominated in Folk
Joe Andert of Indian Blanket is a willowy young man with chest-length, caramel-colored hair and a mythical presence, with a voice that's also found in legend. Backed by Jim Hughes, Alex Beaven and cellist Katie Brown, the maestro curates mercurial folk songs that battle the din of chatty showgoers and ask for a listener's ear. His voice slithers out, in and around a crowd, finding moments of silence to erupt and showcase its beauty. Indian Blanket's résumé is bullet-pointed with impressive opening slots: Samantha Crain, Widowspeak and First Aid Kit, to name a few. Prior to the opening gig for FAK, Indian Blanket was quietly constructing songs out of Americana's modern permutations. Now after those attention-getting shows, Indian Blanket is poised to come out of St. Louis' woodwork and present itself as more than folklore. —Roy Kasten

11 p.m. Scarlet Tanager
Nominated in Chamber Pop
Terms like "lo-fi" and "twee" befit Scarlet Tanager, particularly seeing as how Susan Logsdon's delivery evokes Pacific Northwest sirens Kimya Dawson and Mirah. Yet these descriptors minimize the depth and breadth of the band's fun-folk constructions. The tracks on the band's 2011 debut, American Songbird, have yet to overstay their welcome, serving as a hype builder for the sophomore album the band is painstakingly crafting. No word on a release date, but the timing could not be better. The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men recently dug a hidden passage into pop radio for the kind of communal folk Scarlet Tanager deals in, and MTV recently plugged the band on Twitter and featured its tune "Zipcode" in an episode of The Real World. —Ryan Wasoba

Midnight Arthur and the Librarian
Nominated in Folk
If you added thought balloons to photos of Arthur and the Librarian at any of its shows, they'd all say variations of "Holy shit, I can't believe we're actually doing this!" Onstage, members of the folk group grin madly and bounce awkwardly while appearing surprised that people would pay to hear their sway-inducing tunes. It's like when Taylor Swift feigns shock as she receives an award, but you actually believe that Arthur and the Librarian means it. The effect is almost as enchanting as the music itself, which is best enjoyed while sitting in a park on a sunny day with a light breeze. With evocative songwriting, emotional harmonies and some damn thoughtful ukulele, Arthur and the Librarian songs kiss love both hello and goodbye. —Allison Babka

1 a.m. The VCRs
Nominated in Cover Band
One would not expect a '90s-rock cover band who formed in the offices of the Purina corporation to have as much cred as the VCRs. The group's punk-rock pedigree comes mainly from bassist Greg Stinson, best known as the guitarist of the Humanoids, and its reputation comes from its passionately authentic sets of '90s alt-rock hits, in which you may hear a chart-topper by Smashing Pumpkins or Weezer next to a forgotten gem like "Ready to Go" by Republica. In addition, the band brings two televisions onstage with stacks of VHS tapes, inviting audience members to swap out visual stimuli at their will. At last year's Grove Fest, VCRs singer Alex Kahn referenced this interactive schtick by changing some lyrics to Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta": "Only stupid people are breeding/The cretins cloning and feeding/And I only own two TVs."—Ryan Wasoba

Flamingo Bowl

4 p.m. Eric Hall
Nominated in Experimental
You could probably fill your iPod with nothing but solo releases from Eric Hall and still run out of room before you got to his collaborative work with other musicians. Last year he was put in charge of curating a massive installment of musical pairings at Laumeier Sculpture Park — and he actually pulled it off. That alone demands attention, but it wasn't enough for Eric Hall. He is constantly working on his craft — not so much for the fans as for his own sanity. It is pure, and it is good, but Hall's fans already know that. This is brilliant music for eager ears.—Kenny Snarzyk

5 p.m. CaveofswordS
Nominated in Pop
Led by the husband-and-wife team of Sunyatta and Kevin McDermott, CaveofswordS has garnered attention for the past year or so for its elegant, chilly minimal synth sound. Silverwalks, the duo's debut CD, was full of goth-tinged vocals, droning loops and trip-hoppy rhythms. One could imagine the McDermotts contributing to a This Mortal Coil record in the 1980s or perhaps opening for Portishead in the 1990s. On their Skillwavers remix CD, the McDermotts draw from a variety of like-minded local friends, including Ou Où, Spectator and Adult Fur. The pair plans to spend the next few months recording a second album, so be sure to catch one of the few live shows they'll have time for this summer. —Mike Appelstein

6 p.m. Brett Gretzky
Nominated in Hip-Hop (Group)
Brett Gretzky is a hip-hop duo schemed up after the clever coordination of fellow IndyGround artist, Steddy P. St. Louis resident Eric Farlow (Farout) and Chicagoan Jason Bommarito (JBomb) blend Show-Me State bravado with Windy City mellow into breezy records that beckon multiple listens. Farlow spits a barrage of polysyllabic ryhmes with a self-assured, breakneck flow — suffice it to say, he has speed and can pilot a search engine. Bommarito supplies comely melodies often accompanied by an acoustic guitar. His reggae-filtered contributions float methodically above sampled backing beats with the durability of a 100-year-old oak tree. Bommarito's grounded verses tether Farlow's sky-high ponderings to sounds scratched from IndyGrounder and fellow nominee DJ Mahf and producer Ben Bounce. Together, Farlow and Bommarito have churned out multiple solo and joined efforts, each more pleasant and cerebral than the last.—Blair Stiles

7 p.m. DJ Mahf
Nominated in DJ
DJ Mahf works from some place in his brain that pumps out enough enthusiasm to make his work look easy. Performing with a chilled zeal, the IndyGround DJ interplays dense minutes of thumping samples with crackling movie clips and fine-tuned, one-and-two-handed scratches. He has already banged around Kansas City's spirited Middle of the Map Fest with labelmate Brett Gretzky, crossed the northern American border and cut and pasted for Red Bull's Thre3style competition this year. Whether live or replayed through IndyGround's streaming footage, Mahf exudes the enjoyment he feels: In tempo he bobs at the waist, moving faster in the moments when he is inundated with the floor's energy, always looking pleased. It is Mahf's obvious enjoyment of his craft that puts his sets so squarely in the spotlight.—Blair Stiles

8 p.m. Franco-Hill
Nominated in Electronic/Dance
Franco-Hill defines itself as a "hip-hop jazz duo," and the group's music sounds better in real life than it reads on paper. Guitarist Michael Franco and drummer Jeffery Hill Jr. explore the gray space between organic and synthetic, between live performance and digital construction. The result sounds at times like the sample-heavy soul beats from a Madlib or J Dilla record, while other experiments recall the extraterrestrial IDM jazz of Squarepusher. The duo recently dropped Batman and the Black Bruce Wayne, a solid hour of material that could serve as a well-groomed LP for Franco-Hill were it not simply a collection of scraps from the band's impending proper debut Vibrate Higher.—Ryan Wasoba

9 p.m. Black James
Nominated in Electronic/Dance
When Jennifer McDaniel used to strum her banjo and sing her visions with a wavering twang, it was so much easier to hang a name on her. Now she makes listeners and critics work a whole lot harder, though the payoff is commensurate. As Black James, McDaniel has spent the last year or so immersed in beat music, using samplers, synths and effects to corral her evolving style. Last year's im A mirAcle was a mission statement hidden inside a cassette case, with two side-length pieces that comprise trip-hop, psych-folk, Gothic blues and more. If no one knows exactly where to place Black James in the local scene (she's as comfortable with experimental hip-hop showcases as she is on a noise bill), it's probably because St. Louis is still getting used to such sonic gatecrashing. —Christian Schaeffer

10 p.m. Adult Fur
Nominated in Electronic/Dance
Even when operating under the pseudonym Adult Fur, Ryan McNeely has long been a behind-the-scenes enabler. The average St. Louisan is more likely to have heard the beats he crafted for Rockwell Knuckles' fantastic Take Me To Your Leader mixtape, his feature on Tef Poe's song "Psycho Analysis" or his production on Mikey Wehling and the Reverbs' Nests in Tree EP than his own music. McNeely is currently hard at work on the new Adult Fur album, cryptically titled μ. If his new material is like everything else McNeely touches, μ is certain to sound like gold and potentially could give Adult Fur a well-deserved moment to step out from the tech crew and into the spotlight.—Ryan Wasoba

Hair of the Dog

6 p.m. Cathedral Fever
Nominated in Hardcore
From the ashes of Stretcher! and some of the former members of Rites of Impiety comes Cathedral Fever. If you like Cursed, American Nightmare/Give Up the Ghost or any other prolific hardcore band that rose to prominence in the early aughts, you'll love Cathedral Fever. Frontman Jerry Rose leads the way with his intense hair-whip breaks in between screaming fits. CF is usually the hardcore band that ends up playing the DIY metal shows, shaking attendees awake in between slow, regurgitated, merch-core bands in the Fubar lounge. Cathedral Fever is spreading like wildfire: Catch it, then burn to a crisp. — Jimmy Eberle

7 p.m. Black Panties
Nominated in Punk
From the disturbing depths of Luc Michalski's mind comes the fast, intense punk/garage rock of Black Panties. Originally a one-man band (now a full band featuring other local punk heroes), Michalski would perform with a microphone and guitar to prerecorded drums. With a complete lineup, the band now has less of a gimmicky feel, allowing the true nature of the songs to take the forefront. Black Panties' tunes will grab you by the cheeks and violently threaten to make out with you for upward of 90 seconds at a time — proof that one man's trashy riffs are a full band's pleasure treasure.—Jimmy Eberle

8 p.m. Little Big Bangs
Nominated in Rock
Before it was nothing, and before it was mushmaus, a clandestine operation was afoot on Cherokee Street. An abandoned-looking space calling itself Pig Slop housed some of the rowdiest shows in St. Louis. One of its best moments came when Little Big Bangs opened for Brooklyn's Japanther. Sweaty, shirtless audience members swung from the ceiling rafters like their ape ancestors, pumping with pure passion and adreneline, while kids pushed and shoved each other back and forth across the floor. Little Big Bang's Lucy Doughtery, Ryan Macias, Eric Boschen (who share vocal, guitar and bass duties) and drummer Drew Gowran played a ferocious game of round robin with Japanther. Had '90s grunge the spine of a scorpion and power pop's soul-sucking catchiness, it would sound like Little Big Bangs' brawling version of policially skewed punk that bumps, hips and crosses its arms alongside anarchy. —Blair Stiles

9 p.m. Pink Sock
Nominated in Hardcore
Pink Sock plays hardcore while stomping firmly on the self-destruct button, appearing wholly content with falling apart and slapping things back together in messy, disjointed fashion. Vocalist Travis Hanrahan spits words in the form of a heated rant, giving the impression that the band is embroiled in total punk-rock stream of consciousness. While not improvised, the songs come organically, and Pink Sock feeds its crowd accordingly. The guitars are ceaseless with feedback, and the drums keep the music sorted in quick tempos. While Pink Sock started off abstract, its DNA was no doubt altered by south-city hardcore, and the result feels engaging and unhinged.—Joseph Hess

10 p.m. Catholic Guilt
Nominated in Noise
With Catholic Guilt, your ears take a gamble. Semi-composed and often improvised, the group grinds through new ideas, builds on found sounds and seldom stops to take a breath. The band's darkened drone incites regret and guilt, relaying a noisy dirge through drums and feedback. Catholic Guilt shares musical DNA with Bug Chaser and Escalade, and often includes members of Shaved Women as well. The band's twisted set burns slowly, with each piece as distinct as the next. Catholic Guilt offers a nihilistic take on free jazz, and it remains a singular force in the St. Louis experimental scene.—Joseph Hess

11 p.m. Anodes
Nominated in Post-Hardcore
Anodes unearths spiritual hardcore while keeping tightly wound to early emo. While these thoughts may seem like they would clash, Anodes manages to uplift through force-fed melody and genuinely fierce vocals. Vocalist A.J. Hofstetter breaks into guttural screams only to leak spoken-word passages through cycles of rising tension. Drummer Casey Oliver applies subtle jazz under Sean Survant's vibrant riffs, while bassist Katie Brown pulls the sound together with care, providing power under walls of heavy abrasion. Anodes feels aurally unstoppable, balancing melody against strict rhythm to offer a lovable take on an otherwise harsh, acquired taste. —Joe Hess

Midnight Sine Nomine
Nominated in Post-Hardcore
The inclusion of a "Post-Hardcore" division in this year's awards is the cleanest categorical fit for the platypus of a band that is Sine Nomine. Experimental? Yes. Metal? Sort of. Noise? To some. Punk? In a broad sense, yes. Americana? The argument could probably be made. But the concept of being rooted in hardcore and progressing beyond sounds most like Sine Nomine's forte. The band recently announced a break from shows, which would be a bummer for fans of a less ambitious band, but the last time this happened Sine Nomine returned with two albums that seemingly materialized from the ether with the specific intent to crush skulls. —Ryan Wasoba

Lucas Park Grille

5 p.m. Town Cars
Nominated in New Band
After serving as a sidewoman in countless St. Louis bands over the past few years, Melinda Cooper grabs a guitar and takes center stage in her new project, Town Cars. As befitting of someone who has played in bands that span many genres, Cooper is as at ease writing mid-tempo alt-country as she is with hard-charging rock. The common denominator is Cooper's sweet-but-tough voice that cleanly cuts through the mix. This extends to her live shows, which range from solo gigs to affairs featuring her many friends and collaborators, depending on who is available that night. Town Cars proves what we've all suspected: Melinda Cooper is as good a songwriter as the many musicians she backs up. —Bob Mcmahon

7 p.m. Middle Class Fashion
Nominated in Pop
Middle Class Fashion has spent most of 2013 recording and mixing Jungle, the band's second CD. Judging from what we've heard at live shows and through a couple of rough mixes, it promises to be a worthy successor to 2012's Girl Talk, with plenty of rich, piano-based songs that hit a sweet spot between Elvis Costello and Ben Folds Five. On tracks like "Stuck" and "Kingdoms," lead singer/pianist Jenn Malzone sings about awkwardness and unwanted situations in a way that's simultaneously cutting and sympathetic, complete with a heavy dose of self-aware humor and irony. There may not be a local band that seems happier or more excited to be onstage, so do not miss. —Mike Appelstein

9 p.m. The Reverbs
Nominated in Psych
Mikey Wehling rose to local prominence as a member of the six-headed jam-bot Messy Jiverson, and he was a stately, dependable presence on guitar. But under his own name and with the Reverbs, Wehling continues to outpace his jam-band contemporaries with forays into more subtle grooves and electronic rhythms that have made him at home in the genre-demolishing FarFetched collective. On the recent EP Nests in Tree, Wehling and his Reverbs reach for celestial horizons, away from the Casio beats and simple grooves of earlier recordings. Wehling continues to push his own boundaries, testing his hypothesis that the groove can spin out infinitely.—Christian Schaeffer

10 p.m. 18andCounting
Nominated in DJ
Stan Chisholm uses the 18andCounting pseudonym for every aspect of his art, whether it is his cross-medium visual work or his Unstrumental Raps, but 18andCounting is most visible as a prolific DJ. Chisholm spins records the way a jazz soloist quotes bebop licks, with a wealth of information at his disposal and the taste and technique to react to exactly what his situation demands. Lately, 18andCounting sets have involved live collaborations with musicians like So Many Dynamos drummer Clayton Kunstel, a format that many turntable handlers are not brave enough to attempt. Chisholm's adaptiveness is a reminder that he is first and foremost a great musician, even if a conventional instrument is nowhere to be seen.—Ryan Wasoba

Outdoor Stage

2 p.m. Big Brother Thunder and the Master Blasters
Nominated in Soul/Funk
When you take a name like Big Brother Thunder and the Master Blasters, you'd better not be fronting. And this funk and soul-jazz band never does, instead grinding out heavy grooves and well-caressed chilldowns that often sound like War fused with contemporaries such as the Menahan Street Band or Monophonics. Featuring horn maestro Drew Franklin and singer Sheri Faccin, the band often performs as a sprawling eight-piece, and yet it never sounds chaotic, even when guitarist Matt Vianello goes into full-on Hendrix jam mode. Soul-revival bands often play it by the book. The Big Brother crew is writing its own funk story in its own way. —Roy Kasten

3 p.m. Tok
Nominated in Hard Rock
This year Festus alt-rock power trio Tok finally took a break from playing Lemmons just about every week to finish and release Gold Hen House Vol. 1, a new EP that stands as the group's first release since 2008. Thankfully, Tok picked up right where it left off, providing the same crunchy but melodic attack and fluid shredding that it made its name on. While plenty of bands make music rooted in this '90s sound, Tok distinguishes itself from the pack by its sense of fun. Whether it's song titles such as "I Wanna Crash My Car," guitarist Bryan Basler's snake-charming dancing or the band's affectionate parody of the folk/blues sound favored in St. Louis on "Sliding Into Misery," Tok brings a sense of levity sorely missing from today's alt-rock scene. —Bob McMahon

4 p.m. Demonlover
Nominated in Psych
Such is the total of their combined talent that it's hard to listen to Demonlover and fathom that the band consists of only three musicians: two multi-instrumentalists/vocalists and one spectacularly adroit drummer. Though the group is best known for its trippy, authentically weird psychedelic rock, the Demonlover sound is fluid and constantly evolving. The trio might dabble in galloping Americana or delicate jazz or even tongue-in-cheek hip-hop; they're equally comfortable whatever the genre. Because its skill level is so impressive, the sound so unpredictable, Demonlover shows are always a must-see. — Jaime Lees

5 p.m. Capone
Nominated in Cover Band
Quick: Name a band in St. Louis that has an eighteen-and-up explicit warning on the welcome page of its website. Shattermask? Wrong. Clownvis Presley? Wrong twice. Capone is the name, and '80s hair metal with a dose of S&M (if that's not redundant) is its game. These weekend warriors have the scarves, the bandanas, the skulls, the tats, the mascara and, for all we know, the cucumbers wrapped in tinfoil in their leather pants. But mostly they've got the rock, tumescent and titanic, to make the hoariest songs of hairiest hair bands — Poison, Ratt, Warrant and Mötley Crüe, for starters — sound insanely fun again. —Roy Kasten

6 p.m. Dance Floor Riot
Nominated in Cover Band
In the distant future, recorded music will be locked up in legal hell, and we'll require wise cover bands to relay the Top 40 hits of today and yesteryear. Dance Floor Riot seeks to replace the DJ, spinning pop on its head in proper rock fashion. This six-piece chews through the night club with guitars, keys and drums while bringing the dance to your favorite bar. The heavy twist on the mainstream supplies the good vibes and properly provides a fresh look on old favorites. The usual show runs for four hours, with three separate sets of expert jams. Catch Dance Floor Riot's view on the classic and new, and don't forget your dancing shoes.—Joseph Hess

The Over/Under Bar and Grill

7 p.m. The Jeremiah Johnson Band
Nominated in Blues
With a deep Southern twang and a fully electrified sound, the Jeremiah Johnson Band could have been major country-blues-rock stars in an age when the Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top still roamed the earth at full chart-topping power. And who knows? Johnson and company may yet become national stars. "Southern Drawl," with its Marshall Tucker Band flutes and nods to simple pleasures like baseball and fishing, is an irresistible single, as catchy (and twice as tough) as anything you'll hear on country radio today.—Roy Kasten

8 p.m. The Bottoms Up Blues Gang
Nominated in Blues
You don't have to sew a patch onto your leather jacket or undergo rigorous hazing to join the Bottoms Up Blues Gang. Simply live in St. Louis, play an instrument and speak prewar blues like a second language; you will be riding alongside ganglords Kari Liston and Jeremy Segel-Moss in no time. The band's open-door policy and revolving-door membership works because a plethora of like-minded local musicians (including expert harmonica-slinger Adam Andrews) are beyond comfortable riffing on the duo's songbook. The Gang's tunes could pass as age-worn classics, especially when coming from the pipes of Liston, a charismatic frontwoman with the voice of an angel, expelled from heaven for debauchery.—Ryan Wasoba

9 p.m. Troubadour Dali
Nominated in Psych
Psych-rock revivals come and go, and it would be a mistake to view Troubadour Dali as merely bandwagon chasers. The bandmates have the instrumental chops and the songwriting skills to hold their own with the Black Angels and the Tame Impalas of the world while still cultivating a unique sense of progressive-rock identity. The band has ventured outside St. Louis for wide-ranging tours, and though its members have managed to channel their loud, dense sound in the studio, Troubadour Dali is best experienced onstage, earplugs firmly canaled. This ain't known as one of the heaviest live bands in town for nothing. —Roy Kasten

10 p.m. Bear Hive
Nominated in Indie Rock
"Best new band." "Band to watch." Bear Hive has rightfully earned some major accolades over the past couple of years, but we can't help but consider the trio our little secret, in the best way possible. There's a magical quality to the way Chris Phillips, Joel Burton and Nate Heininger perform together — a feeling of "Damn, they're good! And they're MINE!" — that we just don't want to let go of, no matter how big they get or how many music experts notice them. These multi-instrumentalists fill albums and rooms with sonic sighs, expressive lyrics and foot-stomping riffs, echoing dreamy Death Cab for Cutie or a more earnest MGMT. Bear Hive is the band to hold in your heart now, because by next year the secret may be out, and it'll be too late. —Allison Babka

Rosalita's Cantina

4 p.m. Acorns to Oaks
Nominated in New Band
The twisted mind of Chris Ward, which already brought us St. Louis' funniest Twitter of the year, is the same brain behind the strange folk/synth hybrid Acorns to Oaks. Sitting behind and stomping on a tiny bass drum while practically bursting out of his skin with his singing and guitar strumming, Ward is a sight to behold in concert. His absurdist, impassioned comedic voice shines through on songs like "Every Day Gets a Little Bit Worse" and his ballad about Patrick Swayze, but a heartbreakingly sincere song about a dog and death proves that this is not a joke band. Ward's lyrical idiosyncrasies and Win Butler-esque yelp will be matched one last time at the RFT Music Showcase by Kate Peterson's operatic voice and arsenal of instruments (keyboards, accordions and theremins, oh my!), and Matt Champion's impressive vocals are not to be discounted. —Bob McMahon

6 p.m. Sleepy Kitty
Nominated in Indie Rock
Not enough can be said about how much Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult (collectively, Sleepy Kitty) bring to the St. Louis music-and-arts scene. As if the duo's beautiful handprinted concert posters and overall enthusiasm for St. Louis culture weren't enough, we get music too! What starts as a standard, stripped-down pop song often gets deconstructed and reconstructed though layers of reverb, loops and shifting beats. Brubeck and Sult have a knack for collaging different elements of indie, pop and rock in a manner that tips a hat to the past while forging ahead down a creative path that's entirely their own. —Michael Dauphin

8 p.m. Aquitaine
Nominated in Indie Rock
When Aquitaine rechristened itself after a stint as Supermoon (and then, briefly, Super Maroon), the band made its intentions as Union Jack-waving Anglophiles known at An Under Cover Weekend by covering Oasis. If that was your first exposure to this ensemble of scene vets, you got a taste of the guitar-heavy, melodically driven songs on the band's debut EP, American Pulverizer, Part 1. You could play "spot the influence" with certain songs — Joy Division, the Bunnymen, the Jam — but you'd do well to remember that Aquitaine uses its influences as a jumping-off point, as singer and bassist Will Hildebrandt has the voice, charisma and cocksuredness required to sell this material.—Christian Schaeffer

The Side Bar

7 p.m. Fumer
Nominated in Hard Rock
Fumer shakes the brain with oppressive volume. Huge drums carry this wall of guitars via slow, sharp tempos. Fumer's landlocked rock is rife with nihilist lyrics and grunge riffs. Twenty years ago, it'd be sitting cozy in a Touch and Go Records distro, but this is 2013. At first this might evoke '90s nostalgia, but Fumer's angle feels like a proper sequel rather than a retread of worn-out songs. The vocals are delivered from the gut and sit low within the mix. The guitars are overemphasized, and parts often drone with psychedelia. Stoner metal leaks into Fumer's rock & roll, providing a swamped and messy sound that champions timeless rock & roll spirit.—Joseph Hess

8 p.m. Foxing
Nominated in Indie Rock
Foxing's Conor Murphy sings onstage like he is locked away in his bedroom. As he throws his voice around to an anonymous audience, it appears he is without awareness of a crowd presence. When he chooses to sing, he is alone — no PBR-laden palms, no glassy-eyed gazes to distract him. Of course, he is not alone. He is backed by drummer Jon Hellwig, guitarists Eric Hudson and Ricky Sampson, and bassist Josh Coll. Together they appear to labor through their pain and make emo-fied indie punk punctuated with movie clips. To go to a Foxing show or listen to the band's recordings is to witness catharsis through music. Makes sense: There's no placebo to trick the brain into curing itself of discomfort, and half the boys of Foxing are too young to buy alcohol.—Blair Stiles

10 p.m. Bruiser Queen
Nominated in Rock
Loud and messy, lean and mean, catchy and snarling, fast and unguarded, the music of Bruiser Queen demolishes any facile notions of garage rock. Based in just two musicians, lead singer and guitarist Morgan Nusbaum and drummer Jason Potter, Bruiser Queen wouldn't pull a punch if the world depended on it throwing the fight. Nusbaum's range as a singer, from a cutting snarl to a spiraling metallic wail, and Potter's crash-and-jab attack on the drums make for a potent, dance-inducing rock & roll show.—Roy Kasten

11 p.m. Tight Pants Syndrome
Nominated in Pop
Unlike, well, tight pants, power pop never goes out of style — in part because it was never really in style in the first place. It inhabits its own alternate universe of chiming guitars and yearning harmonies. Here in St. Louis, Tight Pants Syndrome has kept the power-pop flame burning brightly for years now. On its newest release, the four-song All Alive EP, the band provides lethal doses of catchy melodies, harmonized hooks and reverb-laden guitar licks. Fans of the first few New Pornographers albums should find much to admire here. If four songs ain't enough for you, sit tight: A full-length CD is expected later in 2013.—Mike Appelstein

Midnight Volcanoes
Nominated in Electronic/Dance
"Energy" is the operative word when it comes to noise-rock duo Volcanoes. Heavily distorted bass and dirty buzzing synths fight with propulsive drums and Eric Peters' screaming vocals in a hectic, invigorating clash. Even the quieter moments brim with tension that usually builds into an explosive eruption. In concert, the duo keeps the adrenaline flowing by never pausing between songs, an impressive feat for a band where both members take turns playing drums (synth loops make this possible). For all the cool noises and lively stage presence, Volcanoes has a knack for catchy, concise hooks that are well suited to the group's tendency to repeat them often. Simply put, those needing more chaos in their music should check out Volcanoes. —Bob McMahon

1 a.m. Bug Chaser
Nominated in Psych
Bug Chaser isn't merely a band. It's an experience. The group's many members make music and present it as a sort of interactive art show. Few bands in town are so on top of their presentation game — this fun-loving crew often dresses up in costumes, plays with themes and offers up hilarious YouTube videos. And while the fans respond well to the constant reflection to their affection, the extra efforts are gravy: Bug Chaser's music stands on its own. It is controlled pandemonium. It's a psychedelic circus. It's full-blown insanity. And it seldom fails to amaze. — Jaime Lees

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