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Issue No. 3-APR ’14

the liner notes of st. louis

PLACE YOUR BETS Belleville’s OLD SALT UNION Goes All In On A Bluegrass Career

DIY The hell NOT? INSIDE: SYNA SO PRO • FUTURE ISLANDS • Divino Niño • Record Store Day!

A Guide to STL’s Indie Record Labels

Papers Please On Tour In Europe, Stopped By The Cops—Now What?

Eleven Magazine Volume 10, issue 3

complimentary | ELEVEN no mo sno yo!| 1>>



Volume 10, Issue No. 3

Front of the book 5 Editor’s Note 6 Where Is My Mind? Columns 8 Introducing by Sam Clapp

April 2014

eleven’s musicalendar Recommended Shows 24 Temples, Record Store Day

Bring On the Night Show Previews and Reviews226

con trails

9 Watcherr by Curtis Tinsley Creep Highway

10 Paper Time Machine by Paige Brubeck Think Pink

12 Behind The Scene by Jarred Gastrecih Syna So Pro

features 14 Golden Hour: Introducing Bailiff by Caitlin Bladt 16 Playing for High Stakes with Old Salt Union by Hugh Scott 19 Band On The Run: An American in Peril by Josephine 20 The Underdogs: St. Louis Record Labels by Sam Clapp .

Priests, Welcome to Night Vale, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Say Hi, Ghost B.C., The Faint, Black Lips, The Dodos

Blue Beat 29 by Jeremy Segel-Moss . Festival Reservation Bill 328

Hot Rocks Album Reviews2 30 Syna So Pro, Dum Dum Girls, Divino Niño, Guerrilla Swing, Future Islands, Bible Belt Sinners, Dead Rider, The Men, Thumpers

The Rebellious Jukebox 32 by Matt Harnish . Vacant Grave, Fister

The Way Back Page Show Us Your Tats 35 Jim Winkeler

by Suzie Gilb & Theo Welling

Cover: Ren Mathew, Josh Siegel, and Owen o’Malley of Bailiff. Design by Paige Brubeck. photo courtesy Bailiff.



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Do You Know About:

Eleven Magazine Volume 10 | Issue 3 | April 2014 Publisher Hugh Scott Editor-In-Chief Evan Sult Special assignments editor Paige Brubeck WeB Editor Hugh Scott photo editor Jason Stoff Art Director Evan Sult CONTRIBUTING Writers Dave Anderson, Caitlin Bladt, Curt Brewer, Paige Brubeck, Ryan Boyle, Juliet Charles, Sam Clapp, Raymond Code, Thomas Crone, Jenn DeRose, Suzie Gilb, Matt Harnish, Jordan Heimburger, Gabe Karabell, Nelda Kerr, Cassie Kohler, Kevin Korinek, John Krane, Josh Levi, Rob Levy, Bob McMahon, Jack Probst, Jason Robinson, Jeremy Segel-Moss, Robert Severson, Michele Ulsohn, Chris Ward, Robin Wheeler, Rev. Daniel W. Wright PHOTOGRAPHERS Nate Burrell, Jarred Gastreich, Abby Gillardi, Patrice Jackson, Lee Klawans, Louis Kwok, Adam Robinson, Jason Stoff, Bill Streeter, Bryan Sutter, Ismael Valenzuela, Angela Vincent, Corey Woodruff

Illustrators Paige Brubeck, Sean Dove, Tyler Gross, Lyndsey Lesh, Curtis Tinsley, Sam Washburn proofreader Tracy Brubeck Promotions & Distribution Suzie Gilb Ann Scott Consultation Clifford Holekamp Derek Filcoff Cady Seabaugh Hugh Scott III Founded in 2006 by a group including Jonathan Fritz, Josh Petersel and Matthew Ström ELEVEN MAGAZINE 3407 S. Jefferson St. Louis, MO 63118 for ADVERTISING INQUIRIES Hugh Scott calendar listings LETTERS TO THE EDITOR We welcome your comments. Please let us know if you do not want your letter published.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR US? ONLINE Copyright 2013 Scotty Scott Media, LLC

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Editor’s Note by Evan Sult

Getting Lucky The first time it happened to me, I was working at a music magazine in Seattle called The Rocket. Every year The Rocket did its Annual Record Review Revue, in which we promised to write about every single self-released album that was sent in. Every year, we were deluged with demo tapes and CDs, and everyone filled a bag and went home to listen to the results, which were almost always incompetent, garbled, or just plain awful. There’s a perfectly good reason most of these bands were unattached. But my batch also included a tape I didn’t find in my backpack ‘til later, and when I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I played it another couple of times to make sure I wasn’t just filling in the gaps myself, but no: this was great music. I checked the cover: it said Death Cab For Cutie on the front, You Can Play These Songs With Chords on the spine. The artwork was done by hand in colored pencil. There was absolutely no contact info. There was nothing to do but put an ad in the back of the mag asking whoever this Death Cab For Cutie was to contact me. They did (or rather, Ben Gibbard did; he hadn’t quite assembled a proper band yet), we became friends, and my band Harvey Danger got to take Death Cab on their first tour, got to tell everyone around that there was this new band they had to hear, got to watch Death Cab’s rise and rise as the world got hold of them as well. It’s a heady feeling. It doesn’t happen very much, but when you’re actively involved making music you get access to all kinds of bands no one’s ever heard. A lot of them are pretty good, and a lot of them aren’t, but every once in a great while one of em is undeniably the real deal. You know it when you hear it, and you know that, whether or not they ever get the attention they deserve, you’re lucky to have heard them, to have yourself at the moment, to be on the inside of a secret about music that everyone doesn’t yet know—may never know.

Unconventional workspace for the unconventionally employed

My love of Bailiff’s music is well documented—hell, I wrote their first bio, which basically recounts the night I was in my Chicago practice space and heard a fantastic repeating 5/4 riff that turned out to belong to a couple of guys writing their first few songs. That was Josh Siegel and Ren Mathew, two thirds of the new band Bailiff (though they hadn’t quite assembled a proper band yet). There was something about Josh’s deadpan vocal delivery and simultaneous rhythm/lead guitar style, in combination with Ren’s almost tribal sense of rock groove that was hypnotic. We became friends and I asked them to play with my band Bound Stems (and So Many Dynamos, who I hadn’t yet met—a pretty damn good night all around), and have kept close track ever since as they’ve conquered the Chicago music scene and started touring nationally. I’ve been looking forward to Bailiff’s upcoming release for a long time, in part because I think the world might finally catch up with their majestic live shows and meticulous recordings, and in part because I knew I wanted to put them on the cover of Eleven. This is exactly why a music magazine exists: to turn readers on to the real deal, to introduce the city to a fucking great band overflowing with talent and potential but for the moment still available in the regular world, still playing among the regular mess of bands down at the club. Josh, Ren, and Owen are also some of my favorite people, as it turns out. I’ve asked Josh to write occasionally for Eleven (he wrote the February cover story on one of his favorite musicians, Richard Thompson), and I’ve spent many nights on the floor of their Chicago apartment. But I’m not excited to have them in the magazine because they’re friends; I’m excited to have them in the magazine because these friends are in a great band, and the sooner you know about them, the better. Welcome to the club. | ELEVEN | 5

WHERE IS MY MIND? This Month in the History of Now



ly !

lo-fi cherokee can’t stop, won’t stop Bill Streeter originally began his Lo-Fi STL video series as a way to document bands in the city—and in City Museum specifically. The idea was simple: find an interesting spot (not a hard task in City Museum), do a one-shot runthrough of a song, and post the results. No editing, no trickery, just documentation. Turns out there’s a lot of room in that idea. On April 12, Streeter and a crew of photographers are shooting Lo-Fi Cherokee, a one-day event in which they somehow propose to shoot 16 different bands in 16 separate venues along the street, as a crowd of interested observers looks on. It’s a crazy idea—but this is his third year doing it, so he must be doing something right. Each year Streeter has invited a host of new bands to participate, and found all new venues along the relatively short street. In 2013 Streeter opened up his own video-production storefront, Hydraulic Pictures, on Cherokee, and this year’s bands include Cherokee locals Née and Bruiser Queen, alongside some of STL’s strongest bands, including Popular Mechanics, Middle Class Fashion, Ellen The Felon, Syna So Pro, and more. The big news, of course, is that this year’s Lo-Fi Cherokee will include a performance by Streeter’s friend Pokey LaFarge, who will be freshly back in town from a tour of New Zealand. This year will also feature a couple of bands from down the road, including Columbia, MO ragers The Hooten Hallers and Springfield, MO’s The Yowl. And that’s where things get particularly interesting, because it turns out, upon investigation, that The Yowl is really fuggin’ cool—as in, you should check them out immediately. (That’s them, in black and white on the next page.) >> They’ll be playing Don’s Muffler Shop (of all places) at 11am, so if you’re planning on joining in the Lo-Fi action, get there early, because this is a band you’re going to want to clap your ears on sooner rather than later. Check out their “Lips of the Apocalypse” video if you need proof, and remember, you heard it here first. Streeter and crew welcome a crowd to witness the madness. These are some of the best bands in the city—and region, and country—attempting to pull off a day that some would say is impossible. Should you be there to see what happens? Probably. I would if I were you. Evan Sult

11 reasons to love record store day 2014 There are two great traditions in St. Louis in April: the Cardinals open their season, and the record stores open their doors wide, crank up the live music, break out the beer, and attract vinyl collectors like flies to honey on Record Store Day. Here are some highlights among the many releases you’ll find around town on April 19—if you get there early, and if you play it smart, because a lot of these things actually are very limited editions. Hugh Scott LCD Soundsystem | The Long Goodbye This is going to be massive in every way.  A five-disc box set, recorded, mastered and mixed by James Murphy, of LCD’s now legendary final show at Madison Square Garden in 2011. It will have a wider release in May, but you can get it first on RSD.    J. Spaceman & Kid Millions | Live at Le Poisson Rouge – Recorded last fall in NYC, two cuts of completely improvised post-rock from the guru of Spiritualized and Onieda’s Kid Millions.  It’s gonna get weird in here!  The Pixies | Indie Cindy – The Pixies will have a fresh new release—their first full studio album in 20 years, in fact—in a limited vinyl release. Deal or no Deal, this will be a must listen. Devo | Live at Max’s Kansas City – November 15, 1977 –  For the first time, this  legendary show from this legendary band in this legendary venue is being released on vinyl. Listen up for a Bowie cameo! Gram Parsons | 180 Gram: Alternate Takes From GP and Grievous Angel – An amazing collection of outtakes first released on CD in 2005, now in a 2XLP set

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Built to Spill | Ultimate Alternative Wavers – BTS’s first album, released in 1993, spent years out of print and released here for the first time on vinyl. Finally! Cults | Upstairs at United – Fresh off their tour with The Pixies, Cults is releasing a live LP recorded, in analog, just this last February. Surfer Blood | Pythons Demos – Limited to only 1000, featuring the demos that led to their excellent Astro Coast Joy Division | An Ideal for Living – Another reissue from another classic and often underappreciated band. Their first album, released in 1978, has been remaster from a newly cut master recording.  OutKast | Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik 180g numbered reissue of the record that introduced the ATLiens.  Aerosmith – Sometimes it’s easy to forget how awesome Aerosnith was in the early days. Scoff all you want at “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”—I’m right there with you—but Rocks, Draw the Line, Night in the Ruts and Rock in a Hard Place reissues? Yes please!

Ready steady go!

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Lovers of the music, are you ready? This month marks the opening of Mike Cracchiolo’s latest venue in St. Louis, The Ready Room, with of Montreal’s show there on April 2. Even while some question the need for a larger, 800-capacity venue in town, Cracchiolo’s already filling up the calendar with ace acts like Mates Of State, The Dandy Warhols and The Faint. After looking at his track record and talking to him for just a few minutes about the new venture, one is left with few doubts that he will “make it so.” Janet Noe Rhoads

is a concert fan or a touring musician, or a newlywed couple or event planner, our goal is make them feel welcome and happy. For the redesign you worked with Space Architectural Design Studio, correct? Is there a certain vibe or feel they went with in their design? Mates Of State

Why “The Ready Room”? A friend made a list of suggestions for names and it jumped out. It speaks to the multi-purpose nature of the space, and just sounded right. Also, it could be interpreted as a Star Trek reference, so it’s a little shout out to my nerd brethren. What drew you to The Grove as a location? The Grove is really growing as an entertainment district and I feel like we’re getting in at a great time. Geographically, I think it helps being as it’s close to South City and there are other venues and late bars around. Being right off the highway is a huge factor as well. People travel for shows, it helps if the trip is simple. You’ve said that the space will be available for other types of events? We’re planning to offer the venue as a space for meetings, dinners, receptions, etc. I am looking forward to that side of the business as a new challenge in particular. We’re in the hospitality business; whether the customer

Space did the majority of the design work, yes. It’s essentially a repurposed industrial space and that shows in the design. We basically started with a big, open room, so the challenge for them was how to best utilize the available space, and I think they nailed it. People seem really excited about of Montreal as the headliner of the grand opening, and now STL band Middle Class Fashion has been announced as first opener. Will there be a lot of opening slots for local bands, as you’ve done with Firebird? Unfortunately, there probably won’t be as

many opening spots on the bigger shows as those bands tend to bring their own support, which is really no different from how it works at Firebird. That said, we will still be trying to create opportunities for locals wherever we can. Since the room has a smaller “bar side” as well, we’ll be looking to put some local content in there on the weekends. What will the bar selection be like? Will people be able to bring food in like they do at Firebird? One of my favorite things about Firebird is that Jimmy Vavak, the bar manager, does an awesome job of maintaining an interesting variety of craft beers, which is challenging in a music venue. I think it’s important to maintain a selection of many types to please the “beer snobs,” and there’s so many good local breweries around now, so we’ll try to feature those. The bar is going to be open on non-show nights, so the beer menu is pretty important. We’ll also have a draft selection. We aren’t going to have a kitchen, but bringing in food is fine. Will you be handling most of the booking? Yes, for the most part, but the truth is that good booking is a team effort. I’ll be doing most of the in-house booking for the large stage and Jake Snyder (Ready Room bar manager, also the booker for the Demo) and I will be working together to book the small side. Mike Judy and Pagan Productions are promoters we have a lot of history with, and they’ve already got shows on the books. Other promoters have expressed interest as well. At the end of the day, the more we can offer concert goers, the better. | ELEVEN | 7


New bands in their early days by Sam Clapp

con trails There’s something magical about a two-person band. Maybe it’s the frank conversation between the guitar and drums, or the strange turns the songwriting can take when there aren’t four or five band members following along. Maybe it’s the lack of keyboardists. Luckily for us, the new St. Louis two-piece con trails is up there with the best, distilling the shambling strains of ‘80s and ‘90s indie rock into songs that are alternately inventive, tender, and heavy. Luke Sapa, the drummer, and Kevin Guszkowski, who plays guitar and sings, were kind enough to meet me one Friday afternoon to talk about how they work, their influences, and the possibility of a con trails cassette release. Eleven: So, how’d you guys start doing your thing? Luke Sapa: Well, we go to school together, we go to SLU. We met pretty much right away freshman year, and Kevin had some stuff he’d been doing solo, just recording guitar and adding drumbeats. Was that the same kind of stuff you’re doing now? Kevin Guszowski: Definitely similar, but different. I never really played any of that stuff live—it’s just recorded. I don’t know anything about recording, really, but some of the techniques I used for that we used for con trails. I mean, some of the riffs or the chords are the same, but they’re not really the same songs a lot of the time. I think it sounds different. LS: But that’s how it originally started, just like, “Oh, these are great, I really want to play on these.” KG: I think adding real drums made them sound more aggressive, I guess. Photo by Abby Gillardi

How do you record now? LS: The drums are done by themselves at his apartment, with just one mic, which is probably something we should definitely improve on. But yeah, it’s just one mic and then he goes back through with his guitar.

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KG: Yeah, I just go back and put a couple guitar tracks and a bass in. We started adding bass to our songs, to the recorded stuff. What role does the lyric writing play? Is that important at all to you? KS: I mean, I do spend a considerable amount of time writing the lyrics. Like I said, I’m [an English major], so I’m into that kind of stuff. But I also like the idea of the voice as a real instrument, so I think that’s how it comes across, especially in the recordings. But I don’t know. I’m thinking about putting up the lyrics on our Bandcamp. I guess I just have some reservations about really letting people see them. That’s one of the advantages of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s noisy, so you can hide a little bit. KS: I think overall, it’s about the guitar work. That’s what I’m more interested in ultimately, is letting the guitar kind of speak. Part of it is the fact that a lot of the things I’m playing are too complex for me to be able to sing over, and since there’s just two of us, I think I’d just rather play the guitar. Do you guys ever sit down and think “We want to sound like this band or this thing,” or is it more just like two brains colliding? KS: We both listen to a lot of music, and a lot

of different kinds of music, so I think that definitely has a large influence, but it’s not something we’re actively thinking about. LS: I think we each have our own little ideas of what it sounds like, obviously, but then what’s been really interesting is hearing what other people think it sounds like. And a lot of it is the same. We get a lot of different early nineties alternative bands, which is pretty cool, I think, because its something that we’re both clearly influenced by. But when I first heard it I was like, “I don’t think that’s what it is.” KG: The best band I think I’ve ever heard that we’ve been compared to is Swirlies. I was the most excited by hearing that. LG: Yeah that was a little mindblowing! And Duster. I think Duster was a good one. So are you guys into cassette culture? Is it just that you happen to be hanging out with people who are? LS: Not really, but I think I’m gonna get into it! KG: It definitely seems to be coming back a little bit. LS: So my theory is that you have two things here. You have people’s cars, which, you know, the younger crowd’s gonna have shittier cars with cassette players in them, and then also like with the record player comeback, a lot of the old record players have cassette players as well. KG: Really? I didn’t know that. LS: Yeah, the first record player I had had a cassette player in it. So I think that’s how it’s sorta creeping back in there. Check con trails out yourself at:



by Curtis Tinsley | ELEVEN | 9

PAPER TIME MACHINE Curated by Paige Brubeck


Think Pink If there’s one color scheme that seems to work over and over again, it’s pink and black. Hot pink just attracts the eye. Plus it plays well with others: I’ve never met an ink that doesn’t mix well with hot magenta. It’s a great color for printed posters too, because it’s unique to the physical world: it’s basically impossible to accurately reproduce magenta or neon pink on a computer screen. It’s even hard to take a picture of it sometimes. Hot pink ink is best experienced out in the world, on paper that has been screenprinted or letterpressed—that’s when you really see it in its entirety. In my own designs, I find myself using hot pink or neon pink or magenta all the time. And often, when I opt not to use a bright pink in favor of a duller magenta or a dusty rose, I’ll mix and re-mix and adjust the ink until, sure enough, there’s another bright flourescent poster in the portfolio. Luckily it never gets old—and right now these posters can remind us that brilliant color will one day return to the St. Louis landscape in flashes of celosia, cyclamen, and cleome, now that winter is allegedly over.

1. Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks, St. Vincent Bimbo’s San Francisco, CA January 5, 2006 Designer: Lil Tuffy 2. The Flaming Lips, Richard Davies Moe Seattle, WA May 10,11 1995 Designer: Art Chantry 3. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Flaming Lips The Lyric Oxford Oxford, MS June 27, 2012 Designer: Print Mafia 4. Pink Spiders, Bruiser Queen, Gemini Hustler Cicero’s St. Louis, MO April 13, 2011 Designer: Jason Potter

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2 5. TV on The Radio Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN September 14, 2011 Designer: Hatch Show Print 6. Pujol, Bruiser Queen, Carriage House Off Broadway St. Louis, MO July 8, 2012 Designer: Jason Potter 7. Smoosh, Sleepy Kitty, The Break Schubas Chicago, IL July 6, 2010 Designer: Sleepy Kitty

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Behind the Scene Bands in Their Native Environment

Photographs by Jarred Gastreich

SYNA SO PRO Syna So Pro is the one-woman band of Syrhea Conaway, who uses a complex amalgam of loop pedals, guitars, basses, keyboards, violin, and elaborately layered vocals to summon richly tapestried songs from seemingly nowhere. Her whimsical stage show often includes banter between herself onstage and herself in the practice space.

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What are the results of waking up next to all your instruments every morning? It’s easy to lay down some otherworldly ideas that I hear in my sleep. Sometimes I’ll hear it and only remember it for a few minutes. I’ll try to record a general idea to work on some other time. When I had a regular 9-5, weekends were the times I would practice the most. Like first thing in the morning. There was nothing better than getting out of bed, and not even attempting to put clothes on. Just walk to my gear and practice until I realized I was starving. | ELEVEN | 13

Golden Hour With a powerful new album and a hard-driving work ethic, now is the time to get to know BAILIFF

Bailiff, The Feed,

by Caitlin Bladt

Photo by Jaime Endick

The last few weeks have been bleak for some local music lovers. Besides the endless cold weather, many St. Louis music fans are filled with unease as more information about the proposed Summer Rocks concerts filters out. A huge, multi-million dollar, two-decade long corporate music festival? A fest that, even before approval, has been accused of pushing the historic Bluesweek Festival and the iconic Taste of St. Louis out of the city, and seems dangerously close to stomping all over the glory and wonder that is LouFest? I don’t like it. One has to wonder if anywhere in all these corporate stooges there are still talented people making thoughtprovoking rock that also melts your face off. Friends, I have heard your concerns and I share your fears, but don’t worry—I’d like to introduce you to Bailiff. In 2007, future Bailiff lead singer and guitarist Josh Siegel informed one of his professors at the University of California at Berkley that he was going to be leaving school to return to his home of Chicago

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to start a band. His teacher advised him simply: “Don’t procrastinate.” Siegel took the advice to heart and put up a Craigslist ad looking for bandmates upon his return home: “Do you consider

Divino Niño

Thursday, April 10 Off Broadway

Radiohead to be soul music? Do you hear Muddy Waters in between the notes on the White Album?” “I hear blues music in a lots of things that would never actually be called blues,” Siegel explains. “Like Irish music and Native American music—all these things have these really ancient, kind of simple things that everyone tapped into.” The ad got the attention of drummer Ren Mathew; after some good practices and great conversations, the two decided to add a bassist and start working together as a band. Starting out, there wasn’t a grand plan for the band’s sound beyond the vagaries of Siegel’s Craigslist ad. Siegel says the two decided they were going to meet twice a week to rehearse, with Mathew bringing along a tape recorder to document their ideas. Slowly, the sound of the band began to cohere—rooted in music history and technique, especially electric music,

Photo by Chris Pagnani

to more creative places than they had ever ful album featuring surprisingly light, but with fresh, exploratory arrangements. been able to achieve previously. virtuosic melodies—but the circumstances Writing sessions were intense, focusing on “We were pretty surprised that someof its creation left a great deal of room for finding the deepest, most instinctual part times that kind of manual labor approach the band to grow on the next album. Chief of the rhythmic groove while respecting the actually resulted in ideas that we never among the many changes was the inclusion architectural clarity of pop music’s shape would have come up with otherwise,” Siegel of Owen O’Malley on bass. While writing and and brevity. says. touring with Red Balloon, the band went Those two rehearsals a week extended While some of these exercises didn’t through what Siegel describes as a “band to frequent emails in which the two musiresult in full songs, much of the work the break-up” with their original bassist; after cians shared songs they admired, pointing band did during the “camp” found its way some casting about, O’Malley was invited in out specific portions that they particularly onto Remise, the new album set to drop as a replacement and new member during enjoyed. They engaged their record collecApril 22. the writing process leading up to the studio tions and Youtube in equal measure to find “I don’t know what percentage of sessions for the next album. inspiration, and picked up the frequency the songs on the album came from those “A lot of the record responsibility [on with which they attended touring shows exercises, but certainly the stuff we learned Red Balloon] was on just me and Ren,” Siegel passing through Chicago. Slowly, the sound from working with both those guys got says. “But this time has been a lot better of the band’s unique blues- and folk-infused applied to the album as a whole,” O’Malley just because the band is a lot happier and heavy rumble took shape, and the finished says. healthier.” songs began to stack up. When they headed back into the Along with the line-up change, the band Bailiff’s influences include modern studio—again with Sorenson behind the opted to use Kickstarter to fund the album, standards such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin board—this extensive preparation had the an experience the band says was stressand Radiohead while also looking to tradiadded bonus of giving the band more leeway ful but ultimately rewarding as they far tional folk music, the African desert mystiin working on the album in the studio. While surpassed their fundraising goal. cism of Tinariwen, and modern innovators in the past, Siegel says they worked such as Yeasayer, Tune-Yards, and more on the fly, the preparation they Buke & Gase. As working musicians completed during the writing camp and scholars of the form (Siegel is made the process far more relaxa guitar teacher by day; Mathew’s ing. By contrast, the process for Red history includes jazz drums and Balloon was more chaotic; Siegel trumpet), they look for the common says some songs the band recorded element inside their influences so didn’t have lyrics written when they they can expand on the heavy swing started working on them in the of blues music, the loud crunch of studio. classic ’70s rock and catchy, relent “Even though that was exhilaless pop hooks. rating when we succeeded, there “I feel like we let all our influwere always times where I was like, ences from every kind of era make ‘All I’m doing is making this more their way into the songs,” Mathew stressful,’” Siegel says. “I remember explains. “We listen to exotic music feeling calmer going into the studio and make pop songs out of that.” [for Remise], and had much more Their first release was 2008’s intention behind everything we were mm hmm, a four-song EP that doing.” immediately established both their Mathew adds that, while many slow-burning, explosive bluesy bands head into their sophomore stomp, aloof vocal authority, and albums with the weight of critical exacting instrumental chops—the expectations on their shoulders, the liner notes assure the listener that Opposite: Bailiff’s Owen O’Malley, Josh Siegel, and Ren Mathew. members of Bailiff felt comfortable “3 of the 4 songs were first takes,” Above: Bailiff at Midcoast Takeover’s 2014 SXSW showcase last month. going into the new album. “It didn’t feel with “no editing, no digital effects.” like the kind of situation where we had The members of Bailiff also tried a Over the next three years Bailiff estabto one-up our first record or something,” drastically different approach to songwritlished itself as a formidable presence in the Mathew says. “It all flowed pretty naturally.” ing, creating their own “songwriting camp.” Chicago scene, as word of mouth over their Though Red Balloon was well received, They hired two “camp counselors” to give commanding live show began to draw larger one hint to the band’s feelings about the them writing assignments every week—Dan and larger crowds. Finally, in 2010, they comparative process of creation can be Smart of the Field Auxiliary and Jon Alvin, contacted producer Beau Sorenson, who found in the title: “remise” is a fencing term, who produced Bailiff’s last album. The duo has worked with bands like Death Cab For for when a swordsman fails in the first provided the band with songwriting exerCutie, Superchunk, Yellow Ostrich, and Field attempt to strike, but instead of retreating cises each week which were then turned in Report, about working together. Sorenson follows immediately with another attack. and critiqued. agreed, and together they constructed Red The new album doesn’t back off of the first “We really wanted structure,” Siegel Balloon, Bailiff’s first full-length album. one’s densely layered harmonies or worldly says. “I think when you’re in the creative They self-released the album in June 2011 rhythms; if anything, Remise’s charging process you can use the excuse that things to glowing reviews and ravenous fans. chords, tight bass syncopation and deft, didn’t feel right or something. But with this But while they found a great deal of soaring melodies ratchet up Red Balloon’s [arrangement], it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t success with Red Balloon, Bailiff went in tension and release. From the captivating feel good: we have to write a bridge for this a different direction when they started song by Monday.” work on their new record. You can’t hear The group unanimously agrees that the interpersonal friction in the final these structured, rigid exercises took them product’s ten tracks—a grungy, power(Continued on page 33) | ELEVEN | 15

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Five Belleville, IL natives are working hard to become the next big name in modern bluegrass by Hugh Scott

Photo Courtesy Old Salt Union


ld Salt Union have stacked up their chips and they’re pushing them all to the center of the table. It’s easy to see why they have confidence in their hand: in just under two years, the Belleville, IL, natives have gone from a mishmash collection of musicians, a few of whom knew little or nothing about string band music, to a top-notch bluegrass band booking gigs all over the country, including last summer’s Wakarusa Festival in Arkansas and a big one just last month at the Daytona 500. This summer promises a slew of high-profile national festivals as well, like their scheduled Indiana appearance at the annual John Hartford Tribute Festival in June. These tours and these gigs have not come by luck. Like the music that influences their sound, the players who make up Old Salt Union—Ryan Murphey (lead vocals, banjo, dobro, harmonica), Dustin Eiskant (guitar, uke), Jesse Farrar (bass, mandolin), John Brighton (violin, mandolin) and Justin Wallace (mandolin, guitar, piano)—do it the old-fashioned way: with hard work and dedication. Dedication, that is, not only to the music, but to the business of music. When Eleven sat down with them at their practice space in Belleville, the conversation started with the music, but drifted inevitably towards the business. We wanted to find out how they accomplished so much, inside and outside the city, in such a short time. It all starts with the music, of course. To play bluegrass, one must be nimble, dextrous and completely in sync with fellow players. In Old Salt Union, five come together as one. On stage and off, the band’s members have created a bond and a brotherhood amongst themselves that is reflected in their playing. It’s hard to imagine that a band could get this tight so quickly—but they have. “I know for me, playing jazz, it’s a lot of the same elements,” says Farrar about bluegrass. “It’s a lot of improvisation, a lot of qualities I really enjoyed in jazz. You don’t ever get the same Old Salt Union show twice, which is great for me. I love that John will do something every show that you’ll go, ‘Oh shit! That was awesome!’ And it’s the same with all these guys, so it’s great.“

What’s even more remarkable is the diversity of influences each member has, especially since none of the members count traditional bluegrass in their list. But like John Hartford, Jay Farrar, Pokey LaFarge and so many other St. Louis artists before them, they were ultimately drawn to a stripped down, pure Americana sound. “St. Louis, in the later ’90s and early 2000s—the music culture got lost,” says Farrar. “But in the early 20th century, St. Louis was the place to be. Everyone was here. And that never really goes away.” The city’s position on the map has been a big part of the sound that issues from it. “We’re south enough to get some influences there, and then draw from everywhere else too,“ he says. “We were down in Texas playing and they called us ‘Yankee Grass,’” says Murphey with a smile. “To us, we’re not Yankees, we’re right here in Illinois. We’re close enough to the south to have that, but we’re close enough to the north to where we can have that. We can relate to either.” As much as the boys in the band appreciate the core sound of bluegrass in the raw, those other musical interests glint throughout Old Salt Union’s compositions. From traditional jazz to ’90s alternative, Weird Al to Led Zeppelin, there are modern elements influencing the songs’ structures and particalr pleasures. Old Salt Union isn’t trying to recreate a soundtrack from deep in the Appalachian hills—they forego the “high lonesome” vocals and instrumental breakdowns of traditional bluegrass in favor of song structures that are more familiar to modern music listeners. The resulting songs are more accessible, lighter and airier than traditional arrangements. This pop sensibility separates Old Salt Union not only from more traditional bluegrass bands but also from the many other jammy, bluegrass-influenced bands that dot the jam-band scene and summer festival stages, like Greensky Bluegrass or The Infamous Stringdusters. The songs are primary here, not the jam—though the jam is damn important too. “I think we’re pretty open about the fact that we’re not traditional bluegrass,” says Wallace. “We’re not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. What we’re

trying to do is combine traditional bluegrass with an alternative structure and a hook.” Right from the outset, the band set their goals on some high stakes, and they’re playing to win. Last summer, Murphey challenged the band’s members to quit their day jobs. He laid it out there: he wanted to see all five members go full time with the band by the start of 2014. And indeed, as of January, all five have left their day jobs and dedicated all of their time to the growth of the band, musically and financially. “It wasn’t any easy decision,” says Eiskant, “but to me, it’s what needed to be [done] to get us to that next step of a band and as musicians. I’ve never been classically trained, I’ve been playing guitar for roughly ten years, but you can only push yourself to certain limits.” Limits are about the only thing this band doesn’t set for themselves. What is their next goal, according to Murphey? “Late night television!” he says immediately. “Seeing Pokey [LaFarge] on Letterman was awesome!” adds Eiskant. While late night TV might not be calling right this second, Old Salt Union is setting up to have their biggest year yet. Farrar looks forward to the touring season. “The festival circuit this summer is a big part of the plan,” he says. To some, it would feel like quite the gamble, leaving jobs and careers, but not in Murphey’s opinion. “It’s confidence [as a band] because we’re there, but there is so much on the business side of this. They say it’s 10% music and 90% business, and that ain’t no shit!” Until now, Murphey has acted as the de facto manager: he’s been the one booking the gigs and selling the band. “It’s a lot of business,” he admits. “Whether it’s getting the merch together or setting the website up or putting your banking account together or doing your taxes, there’s just so much.” Now, with all five members pulling full time for the band, they can all pitch in and help with the business side of things. “We’ve all picked up and implemented different duties,” says Eiskant. “Everyone has picked up their role. Instead of one or two people feeling like they’re doing all of [that] aspect of it, we’ve all spread it out. If this was just a hobby, that would be one thing, but it’s real now.” The band is hardly drawing blind in | ELEVEN | 17

“We’re open about the fact that we’re not traditional bluegrass. We’re not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. We’re trying to combine traditional bluegrass with an alternative structure and a hook.”

this game either: while wo rking up their musical chops, they’ve also been able to ask for some insights along the way. The band’s family connections are strong, and right there in their legendary Belleville surnames: Jesse Farrar’s father is Dade Farrar, and his uncle is Jay Farrar, both of Uncle Tupelo and solo-career fame. In addition, Jesse and Dustin are cousins, who share another uncle from Uncle Tupelo, drummer Mike Heidorn. “Mike is chock full of advice,” says Jesse. “That was my first crash course in the business side, I sat down with Mike for about five hours and just talked business.” But it’s not just the phone calls and the self-promotion that got the band going— they have to have the chops to bring the crowd. “There was a quick turn from when we would play and it would be our family and some friends to now, when we play St. Louis, it’s all fans!” Murphey says. The band also predicts a lot more growth within their music as they continue barreling forward. “I think with this next album that we’re about to record, this is the first fully collaborative effort,” says

18 | ELEVEN |

Murphey. “Each song, you see the signature of all five of us.” In the end, when those chips are down, it all comes down to the basics of the game. String music seems to enjoy a pretty reliable cycle of popular attention, popping up every decade or so. From the surging popularity of Mumford & Sons today to the ubiquity of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack of 15 years ago, there seems to be a space reserved in popular culture for the sounds of well-played bluegrass. Jesse Farrar thinks it’s built into the public’s musical appetite, as the sugar surge of radio music creates a pang for more substantive musical calories. Bluegrassoriented music “is a rejection” of popular music, he says, “but more of a reaction. There’s all this over-produced stuff for ten or fifteen years and then there’s a want. A natural reaction off that. You want something real,

you want notes, you want intonation issues, you want real music.” At the same time, the trick is playing your cards right: finding the balance between the authenticity of traditional forms and the appeal of modern stylistic innovations. “The ones that can strip it down, those are the ones that kinda rise to the top,” says Farrar. “[They] can strip it down and be vulnerable and still resonant, you know?” Like the rest of the members of Old Salt Union, he recognizes that the band is in a pivotal moment. There’s an opening in the larger musical culture for their band or a band like theirs, and what they do now could make the difference. But even as they play for larger audiences like the crowds at the Daytona 500, they’re careful to maintain the acoustic instrumentation and layered harmonies at the core of their music. Farrar considers that aspect of the band crucial to their stage show’s appeal. Onstage, “Ultimately, we are at the most vulnerable point,” he says. “We don’t have pedals [or effects]—the natural sounds are coming from us. So I think it resonates with people, it’s what people connect with. “

An American in Peril by Josephine

Illustration by Paige Brubeck


e’re in Bavaria on the edge of the Austrian border. The car in front of us suddenly lights up in the back window. It says “Polizei—Bitte Folgen,” which translates to “Police—Please Follow.” We pull off at the nearest exit. Two polizei come over to our car and ask for our passports. They’re dressed in matching fleece vests and jeans, straight out of a Land’s End Catalog. Huh. Kind of informal… maybe they’ll be nice? I’m sweating. Police make me sweat. So do customs officers, and anyone with weapons. I decide to name them Ernie and Bert in my head to soften them up a little. Dieter, our tour driver, has been talking a lot since we handed over our passports. It’s all in German and I don’t know what he’s saying. Fred and I look at each other nervously, as Dieter’s tendency to ramble even in English could get us in trouble here. He reminds me sometimes of Animal from the Muppets, smiley and excited. Bert and Ernie raise their eyebrows and asked Dieter to get out of the car. They hand him a plastic cup and point in unison (like a pairs skating team) to a truck at the other end of the gas station. Dieter walks across the parking lot and disappears behind the truck. Fred stares. “Are they making him pee in a cup behind that truck? Out in the open?”” he asks me. “Yes,” I say. “That’s crazy! Uh oh. We’re screwed.” If the last few days have been anything to go on, I know Dieter will probably fail any pee test. He also happens to have chosen today to wear his Grateful Dead t-shirt. Not that it should matter. But still. What if our whole tour is down the drain? A few minutes pass, and the pee test is conclusive. Shit. Polizei Bert escorts Dieter to the police car. Ernie asks us, “Can you drive? One of you? Follow to the station?” I say, “Yes? I mean, yes. I can do it I think...”  It’s been at least 18 years since I’ve driven a stick shift. I slide behind the driver’s seat and say to Fred, “Hold on!”  I keep laughing like a hyena, totally from fear, every time I grind the gears. Once our car limps into the station,

Josephine plays and sings in a two-piece touring band with Fred. They’re traveling the world and she’s keeping notes.

Band on the Run An Occasional Series

Ernie and Bert tell us to wait there while they take Dieter into an office building. An hour goes by, and Fred and I freak out and run a lot of what ifs. Will Dieter be arrested? Can I drive this car for three weeks of the tour? Will we have to rent a car? What about all the time booking and organizing, and the money spent on airline tickets and merch? I’m swinging back and forth between being pissed off at Dieter and then worried about him and then worried about us. Maybe we can call our friend Wolf? He’d know what to do. Wolf lives in Bavaria, not too far from the Austrian border. He’s a saint of a man who’s helped us with driving on a few tours. My stomach stops hurting thinking about calling Wolf. As we contemplate walking to the nearby bakery and asking to borrow a stranger’s mobile, Bert appears and hands us back our passports. There are no marks

or weird stamps in them. I’m so relieved I almost pee myself. Which reminds me that I really have to pee. So does Fred. The station is locked, so we knock on the glass door. Bert comes out, and I say, “Toilet?” He sighs “I take you,” he says. “Then I take your friend.” Bert’s mouth is in a pucker like he’s smelling something bad. It’ll be worse if I don’t get to a toilet, I think. He leads me down two flights of stairs to the restroom and waits outside. After I’m done, we walk back up the stairs and he turns to Fred, mouth still puckered.  “Now I take you.” Once we’re back in the car, it starts to rain. And get dark. We wait. Another hour crawls by before Dieter finally emerges from the station and climbs into the backseat. He gives us a big grin and says, “It’s okay. They took a blood test. Jo, you have to drive. They’re watching. They say I can’t drive for 24 hours.” Ohhhhhhh holy crap thank god. Whewwwww. We can leave! And we still have Dieter to drive us on the tour! We can still play shows! But wait—I have to drive to Austria now? And they took a blood test?! | ELEVEN | 19

So, here’s the situation: in the last 20

Store Day itself is a tourniquet, an annual reminder that physical products still exist and need love to stick around. years, digital production and the Internet have demolished Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s no the traditional record industry. There are all kinds of statismusic being made. The same technologies that annihilated the record industry blew tics to show the dire state of the giant record companies of open the doors of music production, so now old, but the fundamental fact is that physical record sales go bands can record, distribute, and promote music for a fraction of the former price. In down every year. And the shrinking hasn’t stopped: accordthe age of Bandcamp, it’s totally feasible ing to a January 8, 2014 Rolling Stone recap of the music for musicians to do it all. industry’s performance, even sales of digital downloads sank Who, then, are the intrepid souls who start small labels, who throw their time 6% from 2012 to 2013. and money down what Robert Severson, Pancake Master of STL label Pancake As a result, major labels have largely stepped away from the role Productions, calls “one big money pit”? Why do they stick out their of building bands, pouring their remaining money into the promonecks for the creative projects of others, producing and distributtional fireworks that keep the few bands at the top of the food chain ing the tapes, records, CDs, and seven inches that form the physical bustling through awards shows, ad campaigns, and ever-glossier proof of a St. Louis music scene? costume changes. The big indies—Merge, Matador, Sub Pop, Drag We asked the daredevils who run St. Louis’ labels why they do City, Jagjaguwar, and the others—have staked out some space on a what they do, and they all started from the same impulse: the joy in sinking ship, mostly relying on the cache they developed in record working hard on something good. Running a record label is an artistic stores before the physical album itself became endangered. Record process in its own right, with all the highs and lows that come with

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the territory. For Joe Schwab of Euclid Records, the appeal of running a label is based in the work itself. “My favorite thing about doing a label is simple: dealing with creative people,” he says. “Not just the musicians, but the cover artists and graphic designers as well.” Pat Grosch of the newly formed label Mounds Music echoes the sentiment. He got into the game, he says, because being “around extremely creative individuals as they let you into their projects, and thus their hearts, is reward enough.” People start running labels for pragmatic reasons, too. Local scenes are generally composed of loosely organized groups of friends with various degrees of interest in promoting themselves. Forming a label can coordinate the knowledge and energy of young and veteran members of a city’s scene, as well as provide an infrastructure for artistic cross-pollination. Damon Davis of the FarFetched Collective sees his label as an artists’ union. He started FarFetched, he says, to interact “with artists and [foster] connections between us in the music community.” Like Tower Groove Records, FarFetched considers itself a “collective” rather than a traditional label, pooling and guiding the resources of its members to create opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, while avoiding a top-down structure that relies on the spending

BDR / Rerun Records The BDR / Rerun collaboration is all about issuing lost gems of the ’70s and ’80s. Jason Ross, of Rerun, and Matt Harnish, of BDR, have done much to dig up, dust off, and reissue St. Louis punk, post-punk, and rock ’n’ roll gems from The Welders, Max Load, and The Retros. After a period of silence, the label is returning April 1st with a bunch of releases from vintage Milwaukee bands.

Big Muddy Records In a business where many labels close up shop soon after they open, Big Muddy Records is a crusty old uncle on the scene. Chris Baricevic lost a bet and started up the operation in 2005 with the self-titled Vultures EP, and gradually began putting out records by some of the city’s best-known Americana acts, including Pokey LaFarge, Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost, The Hooten Hallers, and Rum Drum Ramblers. According to Baricevic, big things are in the works for Big Muddy: “a constant cycle of life and death, ulcers and dishwashing jobs,” he says, “and we might have a hot dog party for our brother Brice.” He’d also like to say that Record Store Day should be about giving record store employees gifts.

Don’t Touch My Records The mission of D.T.M.R. is simple. Gabe Karabell, founder and tapemaker, says, “I just want to document some of the bands that I like before they break up.” Karabell is casual about the whole thing, but since 2012, the label has been in the right place

habits and profit seeking of old-school labels. Pancake Productions’ Severson was frustrated with the heretoday-gone-tomorrow nature of a lot of St. Louis music, so he started his label, Pancake Productions, partly just “to be an entity that never died.” And a coordinated scene is easier to explain to outsiders, so a label can be a doorway to out-of-state promotion. As Extension Chord co-founder Tim Rakel puts it, “an umbrella label seemed a good strategy for promoting music from Saint Louis.” And then there’s the most fundamental concern of all: getting the music out! Major labels and even the big independent labels have simply never had an interest in putting out a lot of adventurous and underground music. Gabe Karabell of Don’t Touch My Records says it best: “Small labels have been killing it since the ‘50s and ‘60s, so I’m not surprised that the real jams remain underground to this day.” Small labels work hard for the bands on the ground, and we owe so much excellent music to lonely owners. To get a sense of what’s really going on in the vinyl mines, we conducted a census of a dozen local labels in honor of this year’s Record Store Day. See a label you’re interested in? Check it out! None of these labels scratch your itch? Go forth! Start your own!

at the right time to release music by The Brainstems, Rat Heart, Wild Hex, and Shaved Women. The only downside, Karabell says, is “waiting in line at the post office to mail tapes when I’m late for work.” What’s up next? The debut of Self Help, “a new band with folks from Doom Town, Los Contras, The Vultures, Jack Grelle’s band and the Bill McClellan Motherfuckers.”

Eat Tapes Eat Tapes is Matt Stuttler’s cottage industry, an all-cassette label that started when Stuttler moved from putting out tapes for his own projects to putting out tapes for his friends’ projects. The label has released material for Burrowss, Bruiser Queen, and others, but Stuttler has made a specialty out of sticking two bands together on one split tape. Split tapes are definitely in line with the label’s mission. As he puts it, “labels like Eat Tapes operate on a local/regional level that concentrates on supporting bands/ artists that aren’t going to necessarily have mass appeal. But who cares about that?”

Encapsulated Records Encapsulated is the new, improved incarnation of I Hate Punk Rock Records. In 2012, owner Mike Jones opened Encapsulated Studios, a punk rock fortress in Maplewood where bands can practice and record, and where the operations of the label are centered. The label is home to punk and hardcore acts from St. Louis and around the country, including Bent Left, Black For A Second, Fister, The Haddonfields, and Jetty Boys.

Euclid Records Euclid Records (the store) has been around for thirty years, but the label has only been putting music out since 2009. The label got started pressing in-store sessions onto vinyl singles and selling them for the benefit of The New Orleans Musicians’ Relief Fund, but Euclid has quickly expanded the roster, issuing full-lengths by Troubadour Dali and Sleepy Kitty. Joe Schwab, the owner of both the label and the shop, sees underground labels and independent stores as closely entwined. “The only game in town these days are independent record stores,” he says, “and we’re the ones that have been pushing indie bands and indie labels.”

Extension Chord Records Tim Rakel and Melinda Cooper of The Union Electric started Extension Chord Records last year as a way of releasing work by their side projects Town Cars and The Chainsaw Gentlemen. The label racked up five releases in its first year, and it’s moving fast: Town Cars’ debut CD is coming out this year, and the honchos are considering expanding the label’s roster. According to Rakel, the organizational headaches and sometimes glacial movement of the production process can be demoralizing, but ultimately, he says, “it | ELEVEN | 21

makes most sense to go ahead and do everything on your our terms.”

FarFetched Collective The goals of FarFetched go beyond simply distributing music. According to founder Damon Davis (aka Loose Screwz), the collective aims to “create and nurture all forms of progressive music everywhere,” and even more fundamentally, to “create art that is genuine and thoughtful and make a living from that for my artists and myself.” FarFetched is home to artists including Scripts ‘N Screwz, 18andCounting, CaveofswordS, and Black James. One of the few labels in town that works in hip hop as well as experimental music, Davis calls the label fundamentally focused on community and collaboration, an “artists’ union” rather than a hierarchical business. Look out for releases this summer, including a vinyl release of label comp Prologue III.

Mounds Music Mounds Music is the brand-new project of a few of the Bug Chaser dudes, an effort to put high-quality analog recording into the hands of local acts. Pat Grosch, Jake Jones,

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and Zeng secured a start-up grant from the Regional Arts Commission late last year, and they’ll be producing between six and ten cassette releases in the next year. According to Grosch, Mounds will be a creative platform, “an attempt to provide some new opportunities to musicians, and help let them focus on their craft—music— as we manage the production side.” The list of future collaborators is long, but Mounds is currently cooking up cassettes by Maximum Effort, The Bad Dates, Kisser, and Zak M. Details will be revealed soon.

Pancake Productions Robert Severson, Pancake Master, created Pancake Productions as a production company for his student films. Sometime in the early 2000s, though, he started a one-man band, Googolplexia, and got caught up in music as well. Severson began by issuing a blizzard of albums by bands both present—Firedog, Popular Mechanics, Spelling Bee—and past, such as The Shitty Friends and The Fantasy Four. Investing in the releases of broken-up bands is not a particularly lucrative move, financially speaking, but certainly reflects the label’s ethos. “Pancake Productions has never been about turning a profit,” he says. “In some ways it’s not even about breaking even. Really it’s just about using every last dime (of both real money and credit extended to me) that I have to get good music out and

available.” There’s a lot ahead for Pancake Productions, including a Vanilla Beans EP, a potential Stonechat CD, and “some top-secret things in the works for summertime.”

Spotted Race For the last year and a half, Spotted Race has been churning out tapes from the city’s punk and hardcore underbelly. As operator Martin Meyer puts it, Spotted Race exists to release “bands that deserve to be put out but probably wouldn’t be otherwise.” Meyer has assembled around 25 releases, by hand, for free, all to get the word out about bands that would normally never be heard outside the city. His work is paying off, though: Spotted Race has sold enough tapes, at home and around the world, to afford to release a Ruz flexi disc, a Black Panties flexi, a Trauma Harness LP, a Nos Bos flexi, a Dem Scientist 7-inch, and a Lumpy And The Dumpers 7-inch.

Tower Groove Records Tower Groove Records is less a label than a loose collective of South City bands. Tower Groove’s been silent for a few months, but in the last several years Adam Hesed, Jason Hutto, and the rest of the collective have made some very unique releases happen. They got things rolling with a double LP compilation of 22 bands, and last year Tower Groove released a mail-order singles series: each month of 2013, subscribers received a brand-new single that paired two local bands. | ELEVEN | 23

TUESDAY, APRIL 8 PhantoGraM, Teen at the Pageant


oF Montreal, Ortolan, Middle Class Fashion at the ready room

Gary nuMan, Big Black Delta, Roman Remains at Firebird

Wayne hancocK, Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers at off Broadway

Vertical ScratcherS, The Defeated County, Grafted at Firebird

the PacK a.d., Shark Dad at off Broadway

dtcV, Spaceships at the demo





apRil 2014

dotS not FeatherS, Volcanoes, Palace, Emily Otnes, Amen Lucy, Amen at Plush

the MinuS FiVe, Magnolia Summer at off Broadway

Vanilla BeanS (EP release), Matt Harnish’s Pink Guitar at Melt

loSt in the treeS, All Tiny Creatures at

local natiVeS, Moses Sumney at the Pageant

aziz anSari at the Fox

Kamoske at the ducK rooM

with DROwNERs aND bOOgaRiNs • wEDNEsDay, apRil 30 at thE FiREbiRD It’s almost like Temples came into existence because the world needed some fresh rock superstars. In Kettering UK, a couple of narrow handsome lads looked up from their record collections long enough to record the supremely confident “Shelter Song” and “Colours to Life,” a pair of perfect backward-looking pop songs that encapsulate everything great about polished psychedelia. Then, just to keep up with demand, they formed a band, impressed the Rolling Stones, Johnny Marr, and Noel Gallagher, and put out the impeccable LP Sun Structures just last month on Fat Possum. “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” goes the old Pantene commercial—and you could hate on James Bagshaw and tom Warmsley for having debuted with one of the most crystalline, ideal albums of the last several years, but what would that get you? Better to just get yourself to the Firebird and catch them while they’re still playing venues, not festivals and arenas. Evan Sult


Photo in collaGe By ed MileS

zaK M., Serial Melancholia, Strong Force at Meshuggah

cheVelle at the Pageant

Wildeyed (EP release), All My Vices, Crowns at Plush

aMy SchuMer at Peabody opera house

When Bob Reuter died last year, he had just assembled the best band of his long career: whipsaw punks who treated his songs like a bucking bronco and treated Bob’s songs with the righteous disrespect that made them great. Their set at his memorial was some of the best goddamn rock music this town has ever seen. Why would you ever miss this show?

daVina and the VaGaBondS, tommy halloran’s Guerrilla Swing at Gramophone

record Store day Pt. 1 with bands all day at euclid records


accelerando, Syna So Pro, Major Cities, 3 Of 5 at crack Fox

todd Snider at the Sheldon

MateS oF State, Hidden Lakes at ready room

Ben KWeller at off Broadway

extreMe inStitute By nelly ShoWcaSe at the demo


BoB reuter’S alley GhoSt, Redmouth, Accelerando at off Broadway

MarquiSe Knox Band, Bob ‘Bumblebee’


chucK Berry at the duck room

Once you’ve seen Gloom Balloon, you’ll understand: Patrick Fleming (Poison Control Center) is working something out, and you’re caught in the process. Luckily, his id can boogie. If you’ve ever loved and lost and then gone pretty much bonkers, these songs will speak volumes.

GlooM Balloon, Christopher The Conquered, Matt Harnish’s Pink Guitar at the livery


il diVo a MuSical aFFair: Greatest Songs of Broadway Live at Peabody opera house



Scan this qr code, or go to for a listing of club addresses. Check out our expanded calendar of events at, powered by

Mentioned this issue comedy show



MoBB deeP at old rock house

teMPleS, Drowners, Boogarins at Firebird


BlacK liPS, Natural Child at Firebird


anGel olSen, Promised Land Sound at off Broadway

arcade Fire at chaifetz arena

toM SauK, Dubb Nubb, The Big Idea at the Gramophone

todd rundGren at the Pageant

Bone thuGS-n-harMony at Pageant


ellen the Felon, Adartis, Carriage House, Jeremiah and the Red Eyes at heavy anchor

the Faint at the ready room

These guys use less distortion than most of their Nashville buddies, but they counter with sharp indie songcraft, bouncing irresistible hooks, and keeper lyrics.

the Joy oF PaintinG, Grafted at the demo


the caPtain’S Son, Fumer, Soma, MakeshifT at heavy anchor

the educated GueSS, Al Holliday and the Collegiate Shag Brass Band at off Broadway

John Mceuen and John Carter Cash and Family: A Tribute to the Carter Family at the Sheldon


old rock house

lo-FanG at off Broadway

record Store day Pt. 3 with bands all day at euclid records

GhoSt B.c., King Dude at Pageant


Prince triBute with Theresa Payne, Ransom Note, Steve Ewing Band, Super Hero Killer, Mo Egeston & CoCo, Brothers Lazaroff at the Gramophone

rulerS, Pat Eagan, Grace Basement at Plush

Via doVe (EP release), Bear Hive, Last To Show First To Go at off Broadway

Say hi, Big Scary at the duck room

Get yourself out of the house and into one or more record stores today. Apop, Euclid, and VintAgE Vinyl all have bands playing starting around noon, exclusive RSD merchandise, and plentiful beer. This is our national holiday—get where the party is and celebrate! (Check the record stores’ websites for show details.)

record Store day! record Store day!



tyPhoon JacKSon, Ellen the Felon, Tok at heavy anchor


the triP daddyS (album release), Robbie & The Rockin’ Fools at lemmons

illPhonicS, Née, CaveofswordS at Plush


reV. horton heat feat. Deke Dickerson, Nekromantix at Plush

BailiFF, The Feed, Divino Niño at off Broadway


Assembled from various Algerian refugee camps, Tinariwen is the real deal. There’s an ancient rhythm in the songs—but also a very modern, very heavy duty electric guitar drone that will set your mind adrift. It’s world music, and it’s also some seriously hip rock shit.

tinariWen, The Melodic at old rock house



dax riGGS, Lions Of Hazelwood, Hideous Gentlemen at off Broadway

GunGor at the Gramophone

B.B. KinG at Peabody opera house

Kate naSh at the ready room

Why? at the demo

neW MuSic enSeMBle: claire chaSe at the Pulitzer

roB MazureK and darin Gray at tavern of Fine arts

oneohtrix Point neVer, Eric Hall, Kevin Harris + Chad Eivens at Kranzberg arts center


aleJandro eScoVedo, The Sensitive Boys at old rock house

neW MuSic enSeMBle: claire chaSe artist talk at regional arts commission

J. roddy WalSton and the BuSineSS at off Broadway

WolF eyeS, Raglani, Self Help at apop


Live Music


You can pine for the days of punk gone by... or you can find the bands who keep advancing the story. Priests brought DC’s vital underground scene to the Firebird March 17, opening for Mary Timony’s new project, Ex Hex. Priests’ lead yowler Katie Alice Greer took over the stage with the kind of charismatic excess that only a true Photos by Bryan Sutter punk instigator can summon.

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Welcome to Night Vale Live Monday, March 17

The Pageant Watching a live performance of your favorite podcast may not seem like the most entertaining way to spend an evening. An evening in Night Vale, however, where eerie Lovecraftian horrors and Twin Peaks-style mysteries are described by a Garrison Keillor-like small-town radio announcer, is something else entirely. The most popular podcast on the Internet, updated twice monthly, Welcome to Night Vale has become a legitimate cult phenomenon. Set in the fictitious southwestern city of Night Vale where the dog park is off limits and the Sheriff’s Secret Police keep order, a five-headed dragon is running for mayor, and lots of black hooded creatures skulk around. Meanwhile, the city supports an annual bluegrass festival as well as a radio station that only broadcasts numbers, and wonders about a glow cloud that really should not be messed with. At the center of all of this Cecil Baldwin, an old-school radio announcer who uses the style and delivery of classic radio programs of the ‘20s and ‘30s. Baldwin serves as the gatekeeper to this very odd kingdom, reading the news and community calendar, offering advice to listeners, and setting up segments of Children’s Fun Fact Science Corner, bizarro radio spots straight out of The Twilight Zone. Creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor brought Night Vale to St. Louis for an hourlong live presentation of their podcast, and despite the visual minimalism, the show was a spectacle. Baldwin’s urgent report-

ing of a librarian escaping from the Night Vale Public Library was captivating, and the Pageant crowd hung on every word as Baldwin related the beleagured townsfolk’s terror at the deadly menace slipping through their city’s streets. The crowd was exuberant throughout the performance. Many arrived in full Night Vale costumes; the rest simply listened and laughed uproariously. The musical atmospherics are composed by a band called Dispirition, who skillfully mesh elements of trip hop, sweeping film scores and downbeat electronica to frame the events of each podcast. For the show at the Pageant, it turned out that Dispirition’s contributions were pre-recorded; nonetheless, they perfectly set the needed macabre tone. Every podcast features The Weather, a musical interlude during which indie musicians (Adam Green, Dan Bern, and Mount Moon have all been guests) perform songs during breaks in the drama. For the St. Louis show, Eliza Rickman provided both a brisk opening set and The Weather, highlighting music from her recent release, O, You Sinners. Rickman’s lively use of the dulcimer, accordion, bells and hurdy gurdy made contagious, kooky sounds and poppy melodies that left the crowd wanting more. The whole troupe was in top form and on a tear, summoning joy, laughter and fear from thin air. As a podcast, Welcome to Night Vale is entertaining; in its touring form, the show proved a huge success, playfully working the seam between traditional radio dramas, modern metanarratives, and up to the minute pop music performances. Rob Levy

Live Music his upright piano, wailing melodies over bourbon-drenched piano solos. There’s no better confine than the wood and brick Off Broadway to host this forward-thinking throwback’s raucous sound. Besides showing up on a bunch of TV show soundtracks and live on Letterman, last year they announced that they’d moved from Vagrant Records to ATO for their next album, and they’re picking up fans faster than a booze hound howls for another round. The band’s music is tight but their show is reckless, heavy rock ‘n‘ soul that feels you up at the door, pickpockets your boredom, and leaves you poor and happy. You’ve never seen a band have so much fun onstage; it should be criminal. They come armed to the teeth and fully loaded. They’ve thrown piano stools out of windows. Get ready to to show Tennessee what we’re made of, St. Louis. KEVIN KORINEK >>PREVIEW

Say Hi, Big Scary Saturday, April 19 <<Review

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Eternal Summers

Tuesday, March 18

Off Broadway The second St. Louis appearance by the Brooklyn-based The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart brought a burst of kinetic dream pop to Off Broadway. A skillful balance of both old and new material, their show bounced and bopped through a preview of material from their third album, Days of Abandon, due out this month. Leading off the up-tempo set with two new numbers, “Art Smock” and the crunchy “Until the Sun Explodes,” the set announced a new angle on the band’s sound, from the saturated ethereal pop of previous releases to a new stripped down, power-pop sound. As performed live, their new single, “Simple and Sure,” crackled with fuzz and shimmering bass and guitars. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart kept up with their back catalog as well. The stage swirled with energy; the band made it clear that they’re firing on all cylinders, switching gears smoothly to cover more familiar terrain with “Heart in Your Heartbreak” and “The Body” from their 2009 eponymous debut. “Young Adult Friction” was the night’s highlight with its contagious guitars and bass, and “Come Saturday” was tight with densely packed percussion. Vocalist Kip Berman was loquacious throughout the evening, thanking the crowd for their support. Early in the popfectious presentation he noted that his relatives were in the audience—their presence may have served as a motivator for the punchy

vocals and spastic motion he displayed onstage. Meanwhile, the whole band unloaded a relentlessly bombastic salvo of pop fireworks. This is clearly a band on the make, eager to show off their growing maturity. The lush new material has a more direct pop feel that transfers to their vigorous live show as well. Sharp and awesome in their own right, Roanoke’s Eternal Summers opened with a set of grimy dirge pop consisting mostly of songs from their latest offering, The Drop Beneath. Their murky haze served as the perfect complement for the focused sonic conniptions of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Rob Levy >>PREVIEW

J. Roddy Walston & The Business Thursday, April 3

Off Broadway J. Roddy wants to get rowdy and doesn’t care who knows it. Slung forth from the nowheresville of Cleveland, TN, just close enough to share borders with Georgia and Alabama, Walston and his unkempt quartet hit the stage like a jugful of freshly lit bottle rockets, with a county whistle and a whole lot of pop. Alongside fellow alt-pushers Shovels And Rope and The Drive-By Truckers, these guys are retooling the southern rock sound for a newer generation. Walston plays piano and guitar but refuses to touch a digital keyboard, so The Business is centered around the 300 lb. touring Yamaha piano that the band lugs onstage for him each night. He’s a long-haired Jerry Lee Lewis, shaking and rattling as he bangs away on

Blueberry Hill Duck Room Despite not having released an album in nearly three years, Seattle-by-way-of-NY guitar pop band Say Hi (formerly Say Hi To Your Mom) are out on tour. Why? Who knows. But really, when you write hookfilled records like 2006’s downtrodden masterpiece Impeccable Blahs and sing in a depressed work-day monotone, you can tour for whatever reason you like. Eric Elbogan is the band, much like your Trent Reznors or your John Darnielles, so he can take his nerd-and-pony show on the road whenever he pleases and, if luck is on our side, can maybe squeeze in “Sister Needs a Settle”— the best Spoon song Spoon never wrote— then we’ll all be all right. In fact, it’s barely the band’s presence that matters to fans of Say Hi, because it’s Elbogan’s verbose and witty lyrics landing like left hooks that make his band the under-appreciated should-have-been band of the 2000s. Small steps towards that kind of Mountain Goats-y ubiquity have started presenting themselves, like when their song “Devils” from 2011’s Um, Uh Oh landed on Gossip Girl, but mainstream indie love has so far been fleeting. Let’s change that, shall we? Jason Robinson >>PREVIEW

Ghost B.C.

Sunday, April 20 The Pageant Six ghoulish figures draped in hooded clerical robes, the one in the middle some kind of demonic pope, grip their guitars and glare through full-on skull face paint into the fogshrouded crowd. The first chord rings out. It’s the actual music that takes most | ELEVEN | 27

Photo: Bryan Sutter

It was bittersweet, but mainly sweet, the night The Blind Eyes when up for their final encore together—until the crowd demanded a second encore, of course, at which point they were firmly off script and in the capable hands of their own previous material. Jon Hardy & The Public opened with their own crowd-rousing set, but Seth Porter, Kevin Schneider, Matt Picker and Andy White were the night’s affable leads, taking plenty of time to thank the folks who brought them this far. One can only hope that their thoughtful brand of literate, jangly power pop stuck around long enough to influence the coming wave of STL bands... and that the guys themselves keep busy with new musical projects. ECS

listeners, including the most ardent metalheads, by surprise. The cadaverous makeup and Satanic trappings certainly lend themselves to the assumption that Ghost B.C. is aligned with the darkest regions of Swedish death or black metal. But the truth is that, while Ghost B.C. does actually hail from Sweden, the music they make sounds nothing like the screaming brutality of some of their countrymen. Instead, these costumed Satanic priests belt out a chugging ‘70s heavy metal that owes a great debt to Alice Cooper, Dio, Black Sabbath and/or Judas Priest. It’s all there, too, from lead singer Papa Emeritus’ operatic crooning to the blues-influenced riffing of the Nameless Ghouls. (Yes, the entire troupe is referred to only as Nameless Ghouls and no, no one has ever seen them out of costume). Instead of arming themselves with double bass pedals and electronic noisemakers and trying to out-noise bands like Liturgy, Ghost B.C. takes a big step backwards into the classics of the genre, making heavy metal for a wider audience, including people who might even enjoy the odd organ sounds of “Secular Haze,” one of the more experimental of the tracks on their new album Infestissumam. The record, and the band’s approach to heavy metal, is a refreshing change of pace for what seems to be a genre that is heading more and more towards the fringes and subgenres with each new band. Jason Robinson

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The Faint

Saturday, April 26 The Ready Room The Faint’s new single “Help in the Head” opens with a blast of ear-churning noise, which might signal to the band’s old-school fans a return to the ear-bleeding postindustrialism of their 1998 debut, Media. In the years since that album, The Faint has become known not for that original drill-and-hammer sturm und drang but for New Wave keyboard assaults coupled with a barrage of punk/post-punk angst. 2004’s Wet from Birth coupled violins with synths and burbling bass and was best exemplified by the hit “Southern Belles in London Sing,” recalling the best tunes of Berlin and Gary Numan. While the 2014 iteration of The Faint is driven more by noise than by keyboard quirks, the band’s one constant remains Todd Fink, lead singer and keyboardist. With a voice out of Gahan and Gore’s wet dreams, Fink throws some weirdly specific lyrical flourishes into the new songs. The many styles actually serve to ground The Faint in a kind of timeless haze—if you were to listen to their albums out of order and weren’t told they were by the same band, you could easily be convinced that each one was by a different artist. So who are they really? The anarchoelectro-punks of “Drop Kick The Punks” or the disaffected piss-takers of “Your Retro Career Melted” or the sensitive beat-driven

balladeers of “Fish in a Womb”? The real trick is being all of them at once. It’ll be pretty interesting to see how—and if—they pull it off in a live setting. Jason Robinson >>PREVIEW

Black Lips, Natural Child Tuesday, April 29 The Firebird It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an all-out, sweaty, drunken dance concert, one of those shows where you’re not entirely sure whose sweat is on you, and you’re a little afraid of getting punched in the face but mostly don’t care because that’d be kind of an awesome way to get a black eye. In the last few years, Black Lips have become one of those bands everyone knows even if they don’t know them. From the inclusion of their “Bad Kids” in Joseph Gordon Levitt’s twee classic 500 Days of Summer to the now-ubiquitous T-Mobile ad asking you to break up with your contract while blaring “New Direction,” everyone from your mom to your Justin Bieber-loving kid cousin has heard at least a snippet of the self-described “flower punk” band from Georgia. But even with the forays into the mass market, Black Lips’ sneering, speeding, in-your-face-punk-meets-southern-rock just screams for a rowdy mosh pit. And the band seems to have no intention of leaving behind their dirty roots. The music video for the band’s new single, “Boys in the Wood,” is filled with incest, violent beatings, rape and

Live Music torture—it’s a thoroughly nasty piece of work about the backwoods dregs of the earth, and looks like it’s meant to act as a giant middle finger to those pink, poppy ad spots. But really, is there anything more punk rock than the band’s 2012 tour of the Middle East? You can show up for either version of the band—the ad spot or the bad boys—but all I can say is, everyone had better be dancing at this goddamn show. Caitlin Bladt >>PREVIEW

The Dodos, Pretty Little Empire Sunday, May 4 Off Broadway Tragedy strikes when you least expect it. For Meric Long and Logan Kroeber of San Francisco band The Dodos, it came in 2012 with the sudden death of guitarist and collaborator Christopher Reimer, just as they were all starting to work together more closely. The Dodos have regrouped in the past two years, and last year released their fifth album, Carrier, on Polyvinyl. With an increasingly electric sound that keeps the spark in American indie rock, the band is an Instagram feed for your ears. Their sound merges doubled harmony flight patterns with heartbeat drum beats and a unique collection of onstage toys. Seriously: this band is applied art-pop, with frequent use of old xylophones and tap shoe tambourines. More somber and yet somehow more melodic than ever, Carrier moves fluently between bluesy, homemade folk and a driving rock-oriented rhythmic undertone. It’s the sound of a busker at a stranger’s beach campfire and the sound of the train that brought him there. Carrier’s compositions are soft yet memorable—and when the lyrics hit, it’s with the salty slap of a cold Pacific wave. The Dodos have proven with the new album that they can weather the storm and find something useful in its lashing. Let the waves take you. Pretty Little Empire, one of St. Louis best-kept secrets, is an ideal STL answer to The Dodos yearning songs. The band marries folk-rock melody to foot-stomping harmony, recalling the heydays of The Band or, more recently, Mumford & Sons. They keep their beat close to the bone, never revealing their true love of a good hook until they’ve snatched you up. High off their new selftitled album on Extension Chord Records, this is a band you can’t help but feel genuinely affected by. This will be Pretty Little Empire’s first show back since the fairly sudden departure of drummer Evan O’Neal for parts West. He’s a hell of a drummer and a big part of the band, so it has taken the band a little while to figure out a next step. Happily, though, they’re back in stride with the help of Bruiser Queen’s Jason Potter. So let them be heard— the secret’s not safe with me. Kevin Korinek

BLUE BEAT by Jeremy Segel-Moss

Festival Reservation Bill 328 Earlier this year a bill was presented to the City of St. Louis by ICM, a Los Angeles production company, in conjunction with local developer Steve Stogel. The Festival Reservation Bill 328 proposed to give ICM sole rights to use Soldiers Memorial in downtown to put on music festivals called Summer Rocks on both Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, in exchange for a yearly fee of $400,000 plus a cut of the ticket profits paid to the city. Included was a non-compete clause that barred other prospective large festivals, local or otherwise, from setting up in St. Louis during the period of the contract, which could extend ten or even 20 years into the future. The bill was set up to be fast tracked through the Aldermanic Committee and was loaded with, in my opinion, bad business practices for the City. I was not the only one. Frustration among the St. Louis music community was prevalent. So, I started a petition encapsulating the wide range of criticism I was hearing. The petition requested that the Board Stop or revise the fast track approval of Festival Reservation Bill 328 because of the 10-20 year Non-Compete Clause, lack of inclusion of St. Louis music, food and art, the displacement of already existing world class events, and the lack of an impact study on how Summer Rocks will affect St. Louis events and organizations. After two day-long aldermanic meetings, a petition against the bill signed by over 2,200 people, a remarkable amount of community leaders and general population speaking against the bill, comprehensive media coverage, the displacement of three events even without the passage of the bill, and many questions left unanswered, the committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full Board of Aldermen for a vote in April. They did this despite the outrage over beloved events Bluesweek and Taste of St. Louis moving to Chesterfield, and despite an even greater outrage over the noncompete clause and lack of significant inclusion of indigenous talent. They did it despite the petition and despite the fact that, with the exception of Davide Weaver of 2720/Art Dimensions, there was not a single person who was not paid to speak in support of the bill who voiced a pro-bill opinion at either meeting. To be clear, I don’t think many of us are against music festivals of any size. And there has been some confusion around the bill’s non-compete clause: basically, it only

applies to festivals that are multi-stage, multi-band, multi-day festivals that sell more than 25,000 tickets a day and have a budget of more than $8 million for the weekend. Honestly, we don’t have, and haven’t had, anything like that in St. Louis. However, to think that St. Louis wouldn’t develop a festival of that size for the next 20 years seems a little shortsighted. But possibly the most disappointing component of the bill and festivals was the lack of inclusion of local talent. For those of us who live St. Louis music and art every day, who know the talent here is as good if not better than anywhere else in the world, who understand the heritage we represent and the economic powerhouse we could be, we were very disappointed. Angry even. There are other points of concern. ICM has never put on an event like this, in any city, ever. And while the bill includes the option for ICM to walk away from the deal any time they want, the city would not have the equivalent power. Even minus the cultural issues, the question remains: is this good business for St. Louis city? Is it good business to sign a 10-20 year contract with an unproven company with no mechanism for the city to cancel the contract? The most positive aspect of this whole situation has been the huge number of voices raised in defense of our culture. It has been reaffirming to hear so many conversations on so many levels about the state of our music/art scene and how we would like to see it developed in the future. Conflict such as this offers a unique opportunity to reinvestigate the direction of our community, make a plan for the St. Louis we would like to see, and to start working together to manifest the vision. Whether you’re a music fan, musician, or venue owner, now is a good time to ask yourself: what is this city’s vision of its future? How can we work together and consolidate our voices so that, in the future, city officials and businesses see what we do and how we live as a positive economic commodity? Ultimately, when it comes to Festival Reservation Bill 328, we all have to do our own research and reach our own conclusions. Look up the bill, read it, and ask yourself a couple of questions. Whether you agree or disagree with the bill, what are you going to do about it? And what can we do, as citizens of St. Louis who love the city and its deep-rooted culture, to influence future situations? There is an army of artists in St. Louis. We have power, we have passion, and we have every tool we need to help create a St. Louis we can all be proud of. | ELEVEN | 29

Album Reviews


= STL band (current and/or honorary)

Syna So Pro

Loop Talk Vol. 1: The Power of One; the Power of You Self release

Guest List It’s Record Store Day, so this month we go straight to the source—a record store employee—for his top picks on the big day. Jack Probst of Euclid Records welcomes you to the store on the weekend of April 19, but don’t get between him and his picks... LCD Soundsystem The Long Goodbye: Live at Madison Square Garden Warner Brothers

This’ll probably drain my entire budget: a 5-LP set of the final show. It’s the same thing released on BluRay/DVD a couple of years ago, but with an all new audio mix done personally by James Murphy. A career spanning, 3-hour set with appearances by Arcade Fire and Reggie Watts.

The Flaming Lips 7 Skies H3 Warner Brothers

The Lips have had some mighty releases for the past few RSDs, including the vinyl version of their collab album Heady Fwends, and this year is no exception: a version of their 24-hour-long song condensed into 50 minutes. Finally, I’ll actually be able to listen to at least some of this in one sitting! (They’ll also be putting out a 45 with their cover of DEVO’s “Gates of Steel,” backed with the original recording.)

Chad VanGaalen I Want You Back Sub Pop

Singer/songwriter/animator/all-around-talented dude serves up a 7” of four new tracks that won’t be appearing on his upcoming album, Shrink Dust.

Django Django Porpoise Song Because Music

The London based electro-rock quartet are putting out a swirling colored 45 with a cover The Monkees! ’Nuff said.

of Montreal Satanic Panic in the Attic (10 Year Anniversary Edition) Polyvinyl

This one is very special to my heart, as it not only marks 10 years since this album came out, but it was also the first thing I ever bought at Euclid Records when I was hired. Yes, it’s going to be 10 years for me in the record business, and my seventh Record Store Day! I love this record; it’s like the perfect mix tape, with each song perfectly flowing into the next, and jumping in and out of styles. Limited to 2000 copies, and each record is a different color!

30 | ELEVEN |

Following the implosion of shoegaze legends Stella Mora, bassist and vocalist Syrhea Conaway was free to create something truly unheard of. Her idea was to make an entire band out of one person— after all, there’s no way you can have an inter-band struggle if it’s just one person, right? So came Syna So Pro (originally a shorthand for Syna’s So Professional, and not, as some thought, Syna’s Solo Project) and with it, the wild live shows. If you’ve never been, it’s a sight to behold: Conaway builds songs piece by piece using looping pedals and vocal effects, swirling and combining the elements of the song until all at once it’s a giant explosion of sound

Dum Dum Girls Too True Sub Pop

One of the most exciting things in music is watching someone you know is good get even better. So it’s been following the Dum Dum Girls the last few years, as frontwoman Dee Dee made quantum leaps in songwriting between each release. Their last EP, 2012’s fantastic End of Daze, seemed to point towards another big step forward for the Dum Dum Girls—and yet, Too True finds them mostly reaching a plateau.  There’s nothing here as risky as the stunning six-minute “Coming Down,” from their last full-length, Only in Dreams, which found Dee Dee hitting high notes she’d never even reached for before. Instead, Too True is mostly content to stay inside her range, charting a course somewhere between the lush romanticism of The Cure and the even more lush melodrama of the Shangri-La’s or Ronettes. In other words, exactly what we’ve come to expect—a

happening right in front of you and even though you were there to witness the whole thing it becomes hard to believe the sound you’re hearing is issuing from that one solitary woman standing in front of you, blasting you out of your own head with song. Syna So Pro’s first album, 2009’s Make Two People Happy, tried to capture that lightning in a bottle and succeeded. On Loop Talk Vol. 1, however, matching a propulsive live experience isn’t the goal. On this platter of delightful sounds, all of which require headphones to really “get,” you are instead provided access to that feeling of giddy creativity and endless possibility that fuels Conaway herself. “Numbers” takes its time before counting itself into oblivion, washing up and around the ears and straight overhead. The heartbreaking vocals of “Answer Me Straight” almost override the massive Arcade Fire-esque buildup, while elsewhere, in the intriguing a capella workout of “Fengyang Song,” even the lyrics are abstracted into Chinese so that they became strange blossoming shapes of pure sound. On every track, it’s there: that headlong rush towards madness, each song a wave waiting to take you away, anchored to reality only by the brisk propulsive drumming of Lucky Old Sons’ Corey Woodruff. Even with its endless layers, Loop Talk is a too-short experience, clocking in at under 32 minutes. By album’s end it makes one wish desperately for the speedy arrival of the second volume. Jason Robinson

melancholy beauty, an aching joy, but nothing more. “Rimbaud Eyes” sounds like a lost Bangles or Go-Gos track, drenched in layers of glimmering ‘80s echo and decaying romance. “Lost Boys and Girls Club” cribs the rhythm and quivering guitars from the Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” to diminished effect. “Evil Blooms,” in which a bouncy drum machine pins down layers of distorted bass and echoing surf guitar, holds the key lyric to the whole album: “Why be good? Be beautiful and sad, it’s all you’ve ever had.” Unfortunately, Dee Dee seems to have followed her own advice. “Trouble Is My Name,” a senior promsounding slow-dance ballad that is the album’s truly memorable track, oddly fades out right as it nears an emotional climax, leaving the resolution hanging and ending the album with an itch left unscratched. Which is maybe a metaphor for the whole experience. Too True is a fine album, competent in every way—the songwriting is strong and precise, the production is immaculate, the performances are tight—but for the first time in her career, Dee Dee sounds like she’s holding back. Ryan Boyle

Divino Niño Pool Jealousy Native Sound

Four rad dudes meet and decide they’re all on the level, so naturally they start a band. Fusing a plethora of styles, from Latin to surf rock, Divino Niño has found the perfect balance between airy, South American funk grooves and pitch-perfect ‘60s psychedelia. They’re ready to play you songs that will shake your rump and soothe your aching soul. After originally meeting as young boys in Bogotá, Colombia, vocalists/guitarists Camilo Medina and Javier Forero rediscovered one another in Florida, and have been playing together since 2003. After landing in Chicago, they joined with Forero’s college friend Guillermo Rodriguez to start writing songs, but the proper version of Divino Niño came with the addition of rhythmatist Pierce Codina. The sound that these young rakes make together is a foxy, crooning, sepia-tinged transmission from steamy ‘70s Latin American dance clubs. “Moonlight Girl” has an M. Ward feel to it, with echoey guitar and soft vocals, but also has some roots in that Stax sound, and a killer psych guitar solo. “Pink Diamond” kicks off with a fantastic bass line, and blows out to a full garage-soul rocker. “It’s Been Like It Never Used to Be” is a gem, a slow swaying crooner filled with a distant sadness, yet tinged with sweetness. Closing track “Marta,” sung entirely in Spanish, is the trippiest of the bunch, with warbly backing vocals and Brian Jones guitar licks. Light up the lava lamp by your hi-fi, and pop this slow burner on to loosen up. Divino Niño has some serious talent for a band that’s only been together since 2012, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from them in the near future. Jack Probst Divino Niño plays Off Broadway Thursday, April 10 with Bailiff and The Feed.

Guerrilla Swing Under the Catalpa Trees

Photo by Kyle LaMere

Self release

Guitarist/singer Tommy Halloran has been keeping STL in touch with its jazz roots for 20 solid years now, but it’s only in the last couple years that he formed a formal quartet, Guerrilla Swing. They’ve been gaining steady momentum and welldeserved attention around town, and they keep it rolling with their first studio effort, Under the Catalpa Trees, a 13-song collection that, with the exception of standards “God Bless the Child” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” was penned by

Guillermo Rodriguez, Javier Forero, Pierce Codina, and Camilo Medina of Chicago’s Divino Niño, who played Eleven’s first ever Where Is My Mind Tonight? party at Mushmaus last year. Just sayin.

Halloran himself. Those familiar with Halloran’s signature style as a solo act will find comfort in the similarities of his work with Guerrilla Swing, but will also be pleasantly surprised by how much the band arrangements complement his songs. There’s a talent to knowing when to let others shine: the band is obviously composed of skilled musicians, and the proof is in the putting songs ahead of players. Mark Wallace’s upright bass waits to assert its voice at just the right moments, as in “Said Too Much” where Halloran, “drunk and leanin’ on a parking meter,” croons over a lone bass line and keeps time with a fingersnap, his lopsided grin practically hanging in the air above the record. Wallace and drummer Kaleb Kirby work the rhythm section with ease and the occasional tasteful flourish, never stepping on each other’s toes. Kristian Baarsvik is the wild card in Guerrilla Swing—though his primary contribution is the tenor and alto saxophones, he also contributes flute and accordion to the album. And man, can this guy play! I’m a sucker for a great sax player, so “Caffeine!” is a particularly pleasant listen, a delightfully danceable swing/ska tune that would feel incomplete without Baarsvik’s contributions. Under the Catalpa Trees is an absolutely solid album all the way through, and a musthave for STL jazz or swing lovers. Good luck not makin’ babies to this one, Saint Louis! Suzie Gilb

Future Islands Singles 4AD

On March 3, Future Islands graced our homes with their network debut on

The Late Show. If any band deserves to be on television, it’s this hard-working Baltimore trio—or quartet, which they are when they bring a live drummer along like they did for that performance. Led by the spirited, incomparable Samuel T. Herring, the band played a rousing version of “Seasons (Waiting on You),” the opener to their new record, Singles. Herring works the room like an intense motivational speaker, directing each performance in natty outfits and singing songs of devotional love and heartache, but busting out in fits of manic dancing with the occasional sort of death metal growl. The man is infectious, stealing every performance, radiating positive energy and confidence. Afterword, Letterman lost his shit, proclaiming, “I’ll take all of that ya got!” Soon after, the Internet did, too. After signing to the legendary 4AD this past year, Future Islands have released their most accessible and listener-friendly album to date, so it looks like 2014 will be their breakout year. Sure, their 2010 album on Thrill Jockey, In Evening Air, was flawless from stem to stern, but casual listeners may find Singles easier to fall for. Keyboardist/ drum programmer Gerrit Welmers has toned down his synth ever so slightly, so the band sounds a bit less like fellow Baltimorean Dan Deacon, but the backing beats are still spot on. Bassist William Cashion is always prominently featured in the mix; his lines on “Spirit” and “Back in the Tall Grass” would be impossible to fade into the background. And Herring’s lyrical phrasing is just as eloquent as ever—though lines like “she feeds me daily soul / she talks right to my soul” from “Sun in the Morning” don’t look like much on paper, the power in Herring’s voice elevates even the simplest words to true poetry. Future Islands searches inside the saddest songs for the bouyancy hidden inside them. Things are looking up for them. Jack Probst | ELEVEN | 31

Album Reviews

Bible Belt Sinners

Sunday Best Self release

At its best moments, Sunday Best is a fantastic rock release. Miss Molly Simms’ voice continues to get better and better, and when she really hits her stride, she’s up there with the very best. Given another few years, she could make singing the phone book sound amazing. And Andrew Bono’s lead guitar work is top notch throughout every song. Definitely a lead guitarist in the old school style, his ability to keep things simple yet fill up so much space is a powerful argument for lead guitar as an art form unto itself. In some moments, however, Sunday Best feels like a group of extremely talented musicians playing roles in an attempt to hide their natural greatness. Where Miss Molly Simms’ solo debut, 2012’s Revenants, included some tenderness and slowed-down grooves among the grit, on this release the band spends most of the album barreling forward at a million miles an hour, when some of the time they would

benefit from slowing it down and giving the songs time to find themselves. It’s within their reach: on final track “Goodbye St. Louis,” the band keeps up a good pace but gets the burn across as well. It feels like the band passed on a golden opportunity to make a good thing great—which is too bad, because one can tell from listening that in terms of sheer raw talent and ability, the Sinners are probably one of the best bands out there. The album starts with a solid one-two punch of “The Killer” and “Pistol Packing Preacher,” but “Bad Guy” and “Lake Michigan” feel like filler tracks. “Lovesick and Blind” seems like it’s positioned to be the album’s big single, but it doesn’t quite earn that spot. Even so, both that song and its neighbor, “Empty Bottles,” feel as though they’re the most honest songs on the album. The biggest problem with this release is that it lacks a certain authenticity. As good as the band is, it seems at times they’re trying too hard to sound like this was produced by Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. While I certainly have no problem with recalling the past, one must always keep an eye on the future. Rev. Daniel W. Wright

The Rebellious Jukebox

Life at 45 RPM by Matt Harnish

I should probably admit up front that I don’t go way back with the St. Louis metal scene. I was just a hair too young for the shows at Turner’s & a hair too punk (or whatever) for the Landing. There was always metal that I liked, but I somehow never dove into that scene as hard as I dove into the punk & indie rock of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s that made me the man I am today (or whatever). I’ve easily seen more local metal in the past five years than the previous twenty, so, although I saw their name on flyers all the time, I never saw Vacant Grave, or even heard them until I picked up their 45 at a record show a couple years ago. It’s definitely a product of the late ’80s, & is perfect for it. The singer goes for that falsetto screech at the end of every line, & there are dive-bombing guitar solos galore. The credits list which guitarist is playing which solo, of course. The recording quality is pretty iffy, & I feel like the website I found claiming they sold 10,000 copies of this record might be exaggerating things a bit, but I’m super happy to own this, & would love to hear more of the St. Louis ‘80s metal I foolishly missed out on. Ominous doom-thudders Fister are a shining example of why I’m happy that I finally started going to local metal shows, & their newest release, a split 45 with Oregon band Norska, is a bite-sized intro into their world. They’re prone to pummeling a riff into submission for as long as it takes, but the time constraints of the 45 force them to tighten it up just slightly. They lock into the groove right away, screaming at the listener & punching him in the guts, but still manage to squeeze a little noodly bass solo in the middle there, a surprising dynamic lull before the howling roars back in. Norska’s side reminds me of a heavier Helmet, with that sort of tight-wound groove that makes you nervous, even while you’re nodding your head. I give this record 6 skulls (or whatever)!

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Dead Rider

Chills on Glass Drag City

Leading off on the same foot that guided US Maple’s deconstructed rock-n-roll excursions, Dead Rider’s newest LP, Chills on Glass, lands the other foot in a wonderful mess of fused musical territories. Dead Rider revels deep in well-constructed musical perversity, grabbing elements of glam, electronica, ‘60s and ‘70s soul funk, and operatic prog—filtering it through Chicago-brand discordant rock led by experimental rock veterans Todd Rittman (US Maple) and Thymme Jones (Cheer Accident). Leaving plenty of room for experimenting via electronics and Rittman’s extended guitar techniques, Dead Rider produces full-fledged songs, most of which land around the five minute mark. Seeking a new sense of rhythmically steady bounce, percussion takes the lead: saturated drum tones hit especially hard in this group, and quite often all instrumentation takes a step back to let the percussion serve as guide. Sawtooth synth lines and sidelong guitar strums sneak in beneath the attentiongrabbing falsetto vocals to keep the songs together, while the sometimes dueling vocals serve as landmarks, gently reminding you where the chorus and verses lay. Vibe-wise, Chills on Glass makes for an especially fun listen—and similar to  the post-punk groups who were unlikely suspects for the dance-floor anomalies they produced, Chills on Glass has more than a handful of sensual twisted-pop rockers (see “Blank Screen” and “Weird Summer”) that would be danceable candidates, not unlike The Fall’s confusing sense of funk, or Bowie’s more eclectic numbers. Raymond Code

The Men

Tomorrow’s Hits Sacred Bones

The Men seem to be aging backwards through rock history. From the turn-ofthe-’90s noise-punk of 2011’s Leave Home that first got them noticed, to the first-wave ’80s indie on follow up Open Your Heart, down to the hazy country- and garage-rock of last year’s New Moon, each album gets younger as The Men get older. Now comes Tomorrow’s Hits, a foray into pure ‘70s boogie rock— more like Yesterday’s Hits, right? Don’t let the cover’s Big Star homage fool you: this album explores some

Album Reviews very unfashionable influences, mostly for good—ZZ Top, the more rocking side of The Band, Grand Funk Railroad, even Ted Nugent’s glory years. But The Men haven’t forgotten their strengths, as the best of these songs attack with the force of their punk past, even while they embrace the boogie. While Tomororw’s Hits is short, the songs are not. There are only eight tracks, but they regularly drag into the five-minute realm, in some cases continuing to groove long after the words have run out. On the best songs, this extended jamming is awesome and earned, but the lesser tracks sag under their own weight. “Another Night” is among the best songs this band has produced, reanimating Van Morrison’s idea of blue-eyed R&B into a glorious free-for-all, blasting horn section included. “Sleepless” offers some shambling piano rolls straight out of Music from Big Pink, while “Different Days” rips like the Clash. Despite the weird Bob Dylan-isms of its lyrics and vocals, “Pearly Gates” may justify the entire album: a real rave-up with dissonant guitars and squealing horns barreling over a barroom groove with the kind of wild abandon usually reserved for trains going off their rails.  The Men’s breakneck shape-shifting

has been thrilling, but while all of their workman-like albums have been pretty good—Tomorrow’s Hits included—none have been truly great. Which may come down to a lack of a strong identity. Even their name, The Men, is vague and faceless. They’ve proven to be expert chameleons, able to seamlessly adopt the styles and modes of different eras, but they have yet to drop the disguises and show their true colors. Even after five albums in five years, we still don’t know what kind of men they really are. Ryan Boyle

Things that go thump: electronic dance music, your head when you accidentally bang it against something, Bambi’s rabbit friend knocking a hollow tree, and the drums on “Marvel,” the opening track on this superbly named London duo’s Sub Pop debut. A wave of ambient noise washes upon the shore as soon as the needle follows the groove, and then a pounding beat builds. It’s a fitting start to a record of well thought out dream-pop songs.

Thumpers started out as an informal project between John Hamson Jr. and Marcus Pepperell, who used to play together in a band you’ve probably never heard of called Pull Tiger Tail. They passed song demos back and forth via email; Hamson was playing and touring with various bands like Noah And The Whale and Friendly Fires at the time, so Thumpers came to fruition over distance. The songs from Galore bring to mind bands like Suckers, Super Furry Animals, and Menomena—groups of musician who concentrate on all the little details in each recording, and whose voices blend uncannily in tone and harmony. The album is chock full of handclaps, spirited harmonies, playful samples, tinny guitar noodles, and truly captivating choruses. Songs like “Dancing’s Done,” “Roller” and “Tame” deliver marvelous hook after marvelous hook. The subject matter may be serious and introspective—”we had our hearts lost,” begin the lyrics on “Unkinder (A Tougher Love)”—but that doesn’t bring the bouyantly danceable songs down one bit. Even when the tempo slows, Thumpers manages to stay completely engaging and beautiful. This is celebration music, illuminating to the soul and rejuvenating to the body. Surrender to the thump, enjoy it, lose yourself in it, and be uplifted. Jack Probst

BAILIFF Continued from page 15

seem possible to recreate the complexity of their recordings, but the bands’ early attention to performability pays off even in the newer, denser material. “I think this band takes rehearsing and preparing for shows very seriously,” O’Malley explains. “We put an effort in making every show feel like a special event.” Siegel also credits some of the electricity of their live shows to careful study of music from the ’60s and ’70s. “There was something back then about keeping the momentum going,” he says. “Like working on transitions between songs—writing little parts that might not be on the records but have the two songs connect to each other.” O’Malley also thinks the secret behind Bailiff’s live shows could be something simpler than that. “I think the three of us really enjoy playing music together and I think that translates,” he says. In the last few months, Bailiff’s live audiences have grown exponentially through a series of opening stints for bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Jeff The Brotherhood. The band’s biggest show though came about through sheer dumb luck. “We opened for the Lumineers in their hometown, almost like a fluke,” Siegel says. The band was opening for Chicago native Joe Pug when he was asked to step

in and open for the Lumineers in Denver. Pug brought Bailiff with him. They played two shows in Denver that day—the first was at a barbecue with a speaker system that barely worked and an audience of about eleven people. “We really had to psyche ourselves and be like, ‘Let’s hang in there, because this is going to be good,’” O’Malley remembers. “And four hours later we played the exact same songs in front of 2,000 people who loved it. It was one of those yin and yang days.” Moving forward, the band hopes to keep expanding their audience. Mathew is pulling for a spot on Ellen or Jimmy Fallon’s show— he wants to meet Questlove, of course. O’Malley is hoping for a European tour. But what they all agree on is that they want to play their newest record for as many people as possible. “The general goal is to just get the music in front of as many people as possible,” Siegel says. “We’re really proud of the album, we want people to hear it. We want to play in front of as many people as possible.” So while the Summer Rocks concerts continue their unimpeded march into downtown St. Louis, rock legends continue feuding, and Princes of Pop continue to misbehave, just remember—Bailiff is out there, waiting in the wings, ready to crush it at a moment’s notice.

melodies to the thick wall of sound, everything that makes Red Balloon a great debut album makes Remise an instant classic. (Also, it should be said, a “remise” is an alternate word for a “carriage house,” the peculiarly Chicago apartment building style where the band resides, practices, and writes music together—another sign of the band members’ personal bonds.) With the new album completed, Bailiff is getting ready to head back out on the road and is planning on staying out as long as possible. They’ll be hitting St. Louis at Off Broadway on April 10. “We’re touring a lot more, so we’re feeling that responsibility of getting back to the cities where we started to build up fanbases, which is something that we’ve never experienced,” Siegel says. Bailiff’s live shows are pretty much legendary among their fans. From the very earliest days of the band, rave reviews poured in for their performances, using words like “electric” and “mesmerizing.” It’s completely engrossing: Siegel plays guitar like he has at least three hands, performing the rhythm and the intricate lead phrases simultaneously while Mathew and O’Malley fill in the air around him with deep rhythmic pulse and high, smooth backing vocal phrases. It doesn’t

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s the worth of an image permanently drawn on your body with needles? Worth a story at least. There are some tattoos worth elaborating on around STL’s music community, and we’re looking out for ’em.

Show Us Your Tats Curated by Suzie Gilb Photos by Theo Welling This month I met up with Jim Winkeler, bassist for N. Nomurai and The Conformists, to talk with him about the half-sleeve on his left forearm, a recreation of an intricate Salvador Dali painting entitled Metamorphosis of Narcissus. The tattoo itself was done by STL-based artist Josh Rowan at a couple different shops: it was started at The Inkwell in Belleville, IL, and finished at All Star Tattoo. Minus a three-month hiatus in there somewhere, it took about a year to complete— roughly 100 hours total under the needle or, as Winkeler puts it, “several days’ worth of tattooing.” “He was intense about it,” recalls Winkeler of Rowan’s dedication to recreating such an intricate piece. “Truthfully, we both were, ’cause I had to have needles driven into me for a hundred hours.” The tattoo, now about a decade old, has kept up surprisingly well, too. “I have to get the orange touched up,” says Winkeler. He says that Rowan was never worried about his work, but “some of the other guys at the shop were worried it was gonna blur, and it didn’t at all.” Part of the reason was Rowan did something slightly unorthodox: “To do the outline, he used a single needle,” says Winkeler. “And he watered down the black ink so it only left a very, very thin, light gray outline. So, then he went back and filled in

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all the color free-hand, so it left no outline.” The effect is that it “looks like the painting instead of looking like a tattoo,” Winkeler says. “Some sessions we’d only get an area done around the size of a quarter,” says Rowan, when asked about the experience. “[I] enjoyed every minute with Jim.” Unfortunately, Josh Rowan no longer tattoos, but he is still quite active in STL’s art community—you may have seen his work on some 4 Hands labels, and he’s preparing for an exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, among several other projects.



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