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february

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under the blanket with hem interviews: keane, the finn brothers reviews: jimmy chamberlin complex, million dollar baby, nick hornby previews: the zutons, david mead

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FEBRUARY 2005

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PLAYBACK– TALK

Tracing His Roots On behalf of everyone who worked on the project, I’d like to thank you and Bryan A. Hollerbach for his kin-spirited review of the new, posthumous record by the late, great Rosco Gordon. I especially appreciate his spelling out the participation of drummer Ken Coomer of Uncle Tupelo/Wilco fame, since this might pique the interest of your rock readers and make them take a chance on an unfamiliar artist. Ken’s playing on the record is mighty indeed, going far beyond what those bands required of him. I also wanted to make a local connection, for those who buy local – the liner note writer and co-producer generously name-checked in the article (me) is from the area, lived here when we first recorded Rosco, and happily lives here again. As for “Lij,” that is the professional name (and old family nickname) of producer Elijah Shaw, Washington University class of 1989 and member (with me) of early-’90s local band Enormous Richard. Happy new year. —Chris King Hoobellatoo

A Mind-Opening Experience I’m a 38-year-old divorced father of three, living in Fenton. Sometimes I feel like a circle in a city filled with square holes. I often find it hard to fit in in St. Louis. That said, I just want to let you know that your publication is a joyous and welcome change of pace. It’s a comfort for me to know

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that you’re here, trying to open STL’s collective mind. What you’re doing to promote the arts, in all of its forms in STL, is much appreciated by my family and myself, as well as, I’m sure, many more people. Thank you for being around and providing this important work. I believe that the arts are a great way to bring fulfillment to everyone. Keep up the awesome work! My children and I are counting on you. —David Theiss

We’re in the Business of Wish-Fulfillment I really enjoy reading Playback and love how comprehensive your show listings are—more of them and easier to read than the RFT [The Riverfront Times]. Also, your story on Interpol was luverly! How can we get these guys to come here? C’mon, got any connections at The Pageant?! I’m going to Nawlins to see them in February, but a St. Louis show would be...just...WOW! Thanks, guys, for making something fun to read in the ole STL! —Michele Wiese The ad on page 11 should be just what you’re looking for.

LETTERS POLICY All letters to the editor are subject to publication. Letters may be edited for clarity or space. Letters are of the opinion of the writers and do not necessarily represent the beliefs of PlaybackSTL.

MOLLY HAYDEN

Oh Lamour February is an odd month. Here it is the coldest, most barren month of the year and we, the devoted-to-Hallmark nation that we are, have our most brazenly love-oriented holiday—Valentine’s Day—right in the middle. So this issue of PlaybackSTL is all about love. Our cover story features HEM, who invite Kevin Renick under the blanket and tell their tale of chance meetings and the joys of creating their intricate sounds. Profiles include The Finn Brothers, who have been making beautiful music for over 30 years, and Keane, whose love-drenched songs will have you reaching for that special someone. Our main CD pick this month is Love Rocks. Even our letters are filled with journalistic smooches. Joy has filled the PBSTL offices with the addition of office manager Angela Pancella. If there was ever an office that needed management it is ours, and her wit, patience, and dedication to making this magazine all that it can be will surely bring fantastic results. We welcome her with open arms and conversation hearts. Starting this month, we have also hired a new distribution service that should help us strengthen the PlaybackSTL network with new locations and on-time arrival. We have always said that distribution is the most important function of the magazine. If the magazine doesn’t make that last final leap into your hands, than all the efforts we put in to making it happen are simply in vain. We will keep you updated on our progress. Speaking of updates, you can get the love weekly by joining our e-mail list. Just go to our Web site and click on the button to receive weekly updates on upcoming events from Scooby, the Events Queen. You will also get chances for movie and concert tickets, cool new PlaybackSTL t-shirts, CDs, and books. So spread the love out all year and have a great February. Share it with the one you love: PlaybackSTL.

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Playback Pop Culture playSt. Louisack

CONTENTS PROFILES

NOW PLAYING

Finn Brothers ...........................................3 Keane......................................................5 Mardi Gras Music................................... 33

Cinema: Million Dollar Baby, Bride and Prejudice, Margaret Mead retrospective .... 24 Profile: Brian Hohfield ........................... 26 Our Filmy Substance............................ 27 Dispatch From Sundance ........................ 27

PLAY BY PLAY.....................................7 Love Rocks, Erasure, High on Fire, Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, LCD Soundsystem, Low, M83, Manic Street Preachers, Jason Moran, Reckless Kelly, Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys, Unwritten Law, M. Ward

LOCAL SCENERY ..............................30 PRETENTIOUS RECORD STORE GUY ........................................31

QUICK HITS .......................................12

TAKE FIVE ..........................................32

The Adored, Matthew Bayot, Tokyo Explode, War Against Sleep, Chloe Day, Mike Doughty, The Exies, The Violents

ELLIOT GOES .....................................32

BACKSTAGE PASS............................14

The Gentleman Callers

CURMUDGEON ..................................34

Something Corporate, The Forms, Queensryche

PAGE BY PAGE..................................36

THREE TO SEE ..................................15

DELIRIOUS NOMAD ..........................39

YOU ARE HERE .................................16

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? .............40

Currents 93: Rivane Neuenschwander Profile: Sheila Berger.............................. 21

Modest Mouse, Dav id Mead, The Zutons, Jump, The Fight, Tift Merritt, The Trip Daddys, Matchbook Romance

ON THE COVER .................................20

Nick Hornby, Dave King, Paul Thiel

PORTRAITS ........................................44

Hem

COME OUT AND PLAY ......................22

Josh Grigaitis TOM CHAPLIN of KEANE performs at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver last June. Profile on page 5. Photo by Jim Dunn

NEVER MISS A COPY Avoid the rush and make sure you get your copy of PlaybackSTL every month in the convenience and comfort of your own mailbox. For just $35 you get 12 months of great reporting on arts and entertainment, along with our monthly events listings, columnists, interviews—all in big, bold color. You will also receive the special edition PlaybackSTL T-shirt and two discount coupons for Now Hear This music store in Kirkwood. Name __________________________________________________ Address _________________________________________________ City/State/Zip______________________________________________ E-mail ______________________ Shirt Size______________________ PAYMENT METHODS: Credit (Pay Pal - We will e-mail you instructions)• Check (enclosed)

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Publisher Two Weasels Press LLC Managing Editor Laura Hamlett Associate Editor/Art Director Jim Dunn Contributing Editor Bryan A. Hollerbach Book Editor Stephen Schenkenberg Film Editor Bobby Kirk Live Music Editor Brian McClelland Theater Editor Tyson Blanquart Editors-at-Large Rob Levy, Kevin Renick Editorial Assistant Kimberly Faulhaber Office Manager Angela Pancella Contributing Writers Tyson Blanquart, Jim Campbell, J. Church, Chris Clark, Thomas Crone, Jim Dunn, Jason Green, Adam Hackbarth, Tim Hand, Mary Beth Hascall, Cory Hoehn, Bryan A. Hollerbach, Mandy Jordan, Byron Kerman, Bobby Kirk, John Kujawski, Rob Levy, David Lichius, Rachel McCalla, Brian McClelland, Sean Moeller, Jordan Oakes, Angela Pancella, Kevin Renick, Aaron Richter, Stephen Schenkenberg, Emily Spreng-Lowery, Pete Timmermann, Michele Ulsohn, Mike Wachsnicht, Rudy Zapf Cover Photograph Courtesy Rounder Records Contributing Illustrators Jessica Gluckman, Carlos Ruiz Advertising Sales Jim Dunn • 314-630-6404 or Jim@playbackstl.com Distribution Two Weasels Press LLC PlaybackSTL is published Monthly. Current circulation is 18,000. © All content copyright PlaybackSTL 2005. No material may be reproduced without permission. For advertising rates, submissions, band listings, or any other information, please check our Web site at www.playbackstl.com or send e-mail correspondence to Contact@Playbackstl.com. Submit calendar information to Events@Playbackstl.com. Manuscripts for consideration must be typed and e-mailed to Editor@Playbackstl.com. We want your feedback! write to Contact@Playbackstl.com. Subscriptions are available for $35/ year (12 issues) prepaid and include a free T-shirt. Send check or money order and T-shirt size to: PlaybackSTL P.O. Box 9170 St. Louis, Missouri 63117-0170 314-630-6404 Y Y Y We’re Online! Check out our Web site at www.playbackstl.com


THE BROTHERS FINN

PBSTL PROFILE

THE FINN BROTHERS

By Sean Moeller fter the table’s been cleared and the dishes have been washed at a Finn family get-together, don’t expect a badminton net cutting through the backyard lawn. Instead, the acoustic guitars are pulled out, given a fresh change of strings, and tuned accordingly for the post-meal entertainment, whether Tim and Neil like it or not. “We usually end up playing guitars and it’s like, ‘Well, here we go again.’ We drag out the same 20 or 30 songs,” Tim Finn said from his home in New Zealand. “We maybe do one or two of our own, but we’ll mostly do The Beatles or songs like ‘Wild Thing.’ We do a Van Morrison song called ‘The Irish Heart Beat,’ which we sang at our mother’s funeral. That’s getting to be a popular request. Our father—he’s 82 and still going strong—might ask for one of ours.” There are plenty of choice songs from a legendary career that’s lasted 33 years and spanned three successful bands—more than a modest point of note for a couple guys from that broken island floating between the Tasman Sea and the South Pacific. It’s a place known more for its quiet seclusion—almost a thousand miles off the east coast of Australia—and its sheep-sheering, not for producing some of the original templates of new wave and art rock. Crowded House and Split Enz—the esteemed ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s bands that the Finns steered—were influential in making it possible for Franz Ferdinand, The Walkmen, The Arcade Fire, and The Killers to get into our pockets just as Bloc Party and The Bravery will do this year. Split Enz, whose song “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” was recently recorded by Ted Leo, formed in 1972 and slowly began making early new wave before drifting into a poppier fashioning of rock ’n’ roll that took on the U.K. at a time when it was spinning through its punk explosion. They held onto a strong cult following before ending in 1985. At the time, Tim had already ventured off into the solo world and Neil didn’t see the point in forging on without the band’s chief member. He instead created Crowded House and saw great happenings almost from the onset. The band’s self-titled debut crept out of the shadows seven months later when it stormed American Top

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40 charts. They effectively disbanded in 1994, but reunited in Sydney, Australia, in November 1996 to play a farewell show to some 100,000 fans at the Sydney Opera House. Tim and Neil have both moved back to New Zealand, where they are raising their families 10 minutes away from each other in Auckland. Tim tries to swim every day and enjoys taking walks along the beaches, near the rocky shores, and tormenting crabs with his son. Since 1995’s Finn, those beaches are also the spots where he and his brother (six years his junior) go to write and paste together their collaborations. “It’s nice living in New Zealand because we do seem to be one step removed from everything,” Tim said. “And when we go down to the beach, everything sort of drops away.” Their most recent record, Everyone Is Here, was released last year and it is filled with complex melodies disguised as simple effusions and the kind of sensitive romanticisms that buckle and quake the knees of fillies. These are love songs hallmarked with the general principle of the big “L” prevailing at all costs. They show that with effort comes longevity, and with longevity comes an agreeable warmth. And these tunes, they are still coming out of the Finns without any forced persuasion. “For me, I find that they’re actually coming better now. We scrapped a lot of things along the way, but I think this record had a really nice organic growth to it,” Tim said. “Sometimes those pressures to write songs are good and sometimes you find yourself just squeezing some out. I don’t even intend to write sometimes, but I always do. I sit down at the piano and play for two hours every day,

just to play around with things.” Tim doesn’t look back often and revel in their shared catalog, but admits it’s been a good life and one where a lot of things have worked. “But it’s almost embarrassing, in a way, to take praise for good works because it’s always about inspiration,” he said. “It’s not just something your ego created. And at the same time, it does come from within. “I get inspired by beauty, but I think beauty is such a big term—who knows what it means? You know when you see it and you know when you feel it. I don’t particularly find roses beautiful, but some people do.” Touring is one of the catalysts for some of the inspiration that has led to many post-road downpours of songs. “Playing live can get corrupted. It’s really hard sometimes when you can hardly be dragged out of bed in the morning,” he said. “But when you’re tired and you’re in a strange place, you can mishear things and it might spark something in you. I remember a little boy came up to me and talked to me at a show once and he said, ‘It’s really good being small because it’s easier to pick things up.’ And I really liked that. I wrote ‘Small World’ [on Split Enz’s Time & Tide] about that.” The live show is one of the parts of the cycle that comes along with making an album, but the live show has taken on a different understanding for Finn over the three decades of gigging across the world. He feels there’s a faulty notion some artists have in which they believe that the record is the piece of art that will be immortalized and the one true way of judging a band. “A lot of people think that the live show is ephemeral. You show up and play somewhere and then you burn out and you’re just ashes,” Tim said. “But I’ve talked to people who remember that one show in a certain city from 1975 and they tell me about it with fire in their eyes. I realized that live shows last.” The Finn Brothers play The Pageant February 18.


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PBSTL PROFILE

KEANE: BECOMING DIFFERENT PEOPLE

KEANE

By Brian McClelland hile Keane’s delicate melodies and anthemic lifts fit generally in the same bin as the music made by their mates, U.K. weep-pop icons Coldplay—and their less successful used-to-be competition from Scotland, Travis—the combination of pianist/ songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley’s hefty, stickier melodies and vocalist Tom Chaplin’s angelic soprano easily bests their contemporaries in sheer talent alone. And they’re not nicking Coldplay’s “sound,” either. The bands have been playing this same kind of emotionally charged pop since forming simultaneously at University College London, when Rice-Oxley turned down his Brillo-haired mate Chris Martin’s invite to play keyboards so he could focus on the newly formed Keane. While the band—including drummer Richard Hughes—is an unconventional live power-trio, minus the bass and the guitar, the sound they create together, with a bit of help from a laptop or two, is astoundingly huge. Rice-Oxley’s piano alone is a revelation, effortlessly conveying the grandeur of a full orchestra. Although their former schoolmates got out of the U.K. and onto the charts first, Keane would soon enough cause a sensation of their own when Fierce Panda issued their debut single “Everybody’s Changing” in 2003, and a major-label bidding war erupted. The band eventually landed in Interscope mogul/legend Jimmy Iovine’s office and roster. Nearly two years later, still touring behind their lush 2004 full-length Hopes and Fears, Keane is back in America for another go-round of sold-out shows. Calling from a recording studio in “deepest, darkest Sussex, in rural England,” Rice-Oxley takes a break from working up new material for their as-yet untitled follow-up, due early next year.

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Is this the same place you worked up Hopes and Fears? Yeah, it is—a little farmhouse in the countryside near where I grew up. It’s about 500 yards from where Tom lives, as well. We did most of the last record here, although we did record some at my parents’ house nearby. How far along in the process are you? We’ve just done a few days, with maybe six songs in various states of disrepair. It’s sounding really good, but we’re taking it slowly to PHOTOS: JIM DUNN

leave ourselves space to experiment. We don’t want to get too settled too early on in the process. We feel we’ve got a really great record in us somewhere. We just need to work hard and push ourselves to bring that out. Stylistically, are the new songs any different? I think the key elements, the things that are really important to us, will still be there. But in terms of actual sound, I think it might be a bit more raw, and a bit more funky. Hopefully the end result will be something really exciting. How much collaboration goes into the writing? I basically do all of the writing, in the most basic form, as it were. But then we work together as a band to make some really exciting sounds, making sure the way we put the songs together, as a band, is really, really powerful. That’s something you can only get with chemistry—and a bit of perspiration, I guess—as a band. Do you use any backing tracks to add instrumentation live? I play three different keyboards— and Tom plays one, sometimes— and I’ve got my little laptop, which plays my bass parts from the record. I wish I could play the bass live myself, but I don’t enough hands, unfortunately. We’re quite into our technology. You’ve been touring nearly nonstop for two years now. Any highlights? We played the Glastonbury Festival this year in front of 30,000 people. Just sensational. And playing in America is always exciting. To go into towns like Phoenix, Ariz. or Knoxville, Tenn. and have people buying tickets. Mexico City was amazing! All we heard was screaming. Was America what you expected? I’ve been amazed—I think we all have—by how enthusiastic and welcoming the people are. When you’re traveling 5,000 miles to play a place a long, long way from home, it’s just amazing to have people actually come see us play and know who we are. Our fans in

America have been very giving and outgoing with their enthusiasm and encouragement, which is something we really appreciate. We’re not a swaggering, overconfident rock ’n’ roll–type band. You need encouragement sometimes when you’re in a strange place, and they’re always coming up and saying, “I love your record,” or whatever. That’s something you don’t get everywhere. I think it’s a very American thing and I think it’s brilliant. What can we expect from your live show? I think people may be surprised at how rocking we are live. We really like to put a lot of energy into our playing. When people meet us, we’re normally quite restrained and polite, but as soon as we get onstage, we just become different people. We’re obsessed and passionate about what we do, and I think that really comes across. I think people are quite shocked by that, and it tends to get them really excited. How familiar are you with tourmates The Zutons and The Redwalls? I’ve heard The Redwalls’ CD, and we really like it. We asked them to play and we’re really glad they’re doing it. The Zutons are one of our favorite British bands. It’ll be great to see them play every night. Who would you love to tour with? One who we’ve already toured with, Brendan Benson. He supported us on our last U.K. tour and is absolutely fantastic. And we absolutely love Rufus Wainwright, who supported us in March in Europe. So maybe if we had Rufus and Brendan playing, that would be pretty much my ideal gig, then. Keane plays The Pageant February 19.

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FEBRUARY 2005

PLAY BY PLAY

MUSIC REVIEWS

LOVE ROCKS:

A BENEFIT ALBUM FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN (CENTAUR MUSIC) L’amour, l’amour—love is in the air! In case you find yourself losing that loving feeling, the Human Rights Campaign is offering up a cornucopia of music with a two-disc set squarely focused on—what else?—love. The HRC has rounded up 32 artists spanning the gender and sexual orientation spectrum to celebrate love and commitment, regardless of who or how you love. The CD is chock-full of songs and artists you know and love and some you don’t...yet. Christina Aguilera chimes in with her tired ballad “Beautiful.” Yes, Christina, we all know we are beautiful no matter what they say, so let’s move on. Dido appears Eminem-free with her light and airy ballad, “Thank You.” She also had this to offer: “With so much misery, hate and war in this world, love is something that should be celebrated, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Maybe now she should tell “E” to stop hating. A few other notable mainstream acts that caught my ear are Dolly Parton with her sexual exploration song “Sugar Hill,” Dixie Chicks with their reaffirmation-esque ballad “I Believe In Love,” and Oleta Adams singing her R&B/gospel masterpiece, “Window of Love.” One tune that stands out above the rest is Simply Red’s “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” which they completely make their own. Mick “Red” Hucknall infuses their version with an amazing amount of sensuality and vulnerability with his sultry voice. The lesser-known artists are the ones who impressed me most. Jen Foster contributed a track from her 2003 album Everybody’s Girl entitled “She.” The song speaks of a woman’s love for another woman and how delicate

and beautiful it can become. Lesbians are also represented by mainstream icon Melissa Etheridge and her triumph-over-adversity rock song, “Giant.” Don’t worry, men, you are represented by none other than Yoko Ono and Matt Alber. Ono’s ballad, “Every Man Has a Man Who Loves Him,” has a quirky “Girl From Ipanema” feel, and her delicate vocals are quite inviting. In case Rufus Wainright is looking for a stand-in, he might want to look in Alber’s direction. Alber’s dry and emotionless vocals on “Walk With Me” are perfect as he warbles and croons about love. Rachel Yamagata stole my heart with her laid-back vocals as she swoons “Be Be Your Love.” Yamagata’s voice is so enchanting, it made me want to check out her 2004 album, Happenstance. What I admire most about the production of this benefit album is the rainbow of artists and music styles assembled. The HRC tried to invite everyone in by combining pop (Pink, Mandy Moore), rock (Etheridge, Nada Surf), R&B (Adams, Billy Porter), jazz (Dave Koz), country (Parton, Dixie Chicks), ’80s (B-52’s, Cyndi Lauper), and indie rock (Yamagata, Alber). The album as a whole inspires a hope that love will prevail no matter what people in Washington (boo, hiss) legislate to the contrary. So let’s get out there and love, people. Love! Love with all our conviction and might! —Jim Campbell ERASURE: NIGHTBIRD (Mute) I’ll admit I was worried at first when I picked up Nightbird. I was nowhere close to passionate about Erasure’s past two albums

(Loveboat and Other People’s Songs), nearly assuring myself that Vince Clarke and Andy Bell completed their mission to make Darwin proud. It was agonizing to realize this, because I cherished Erasure prior to 2000 (I don’t think it was an oversight that the band’s press release failed to even mention the release of Loveboat that year). With a shred of hope, similar to a beacon in a lunar eclipse, Nightbird takes the vital journey, nimbly crafted by Clarke and Bell in an effort to navigate back into the souls of their fans, with the ability to take more in tandem under their wing. Many appreciated the superlative intensity of 1990’s Chorus, and aficionados of Erasure haven’t found much to compare it with over the course of their four LPs and one EP since then. Even though Chorus will never be entirely matched, fresh tracks like “Here I Go Impossible Again” and “All This Time Still Falling Out of Love” come as close to it as they’ll get. Every self-respecting fan should see this as gospel. One aspect that Erasure has remained true to form is the yearning in Bell’s voice over the lush electronic landscapes created by Clarke, capturing every hill and valley. “With the light coming in/my desire to give in runs away with me/if I’m not good enough and my love is too much then forget it/now I am strong/carry me home/you can take it or leave it.” The only thing missing from “All This Time” is the backing track of roaring continued on next page

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PLAYBACK STL Play by Play applause and a shiny trophy of self-respect. With the recent sect of artists paying homage to the ’80s, Erasure’s trademark electronic shimmer has seen few changes over the course of 20 years. Even without the current invasion of acts redefining the synthesizer, Nightbird still stands out as an striking pop record. It’s possible that Clarke might have lucked out with the recent trend, but he cleverly used the trusty, thumpy rubberband synths as the heartbeat for each track, avoiding the ultimate kiss of death: self-parody. Alas, many of young Erasure’s peers should have avoided it, but haven’t. For the sake of argument (Goodness…will he just leave Loveboat in its dock already?), Loveboat was a feeble mistake, but with that said, they’ve never damaged their own integrity in any of their music. Appropriately titled, Nightbird flies the PM skies, knowing where the right places are sorted. Whether being pleasingly moody in “Sweet Surrender” or finding the sweet taste of joyousness in “Let’s Take One More Rocket to the Moon,” Erasure has every reason to celebrate 20 years of creating sincere music for the young and those who live every day feeling young. —Cory Hoehn HIGH ON FIRE: BLESSED BLACK WINGS (Relapse) Relapse Records are some mighty smart cusses. They don’t send out all their releases en masse to every media outlet in the world. When it comes to independent publications such as the one you’re reading, they send out just a select few. Examples: Mastodon, Unsane, Zeke, Alabama

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Thunderpussy, High on Fire, and others. This is a very smart move on their part. Just check out their Contaminated compilations. Mixed in between the aforementioned bands are some whose sound is a little more extreme. This marketing shrewdness also extends to their bands with more unusual names. Not to discount the talent of these bands, but when you go by the monikers Cephalic Carnage, Dying Fetus, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, or Necrophagist, your records are more likely to end up victims of abject ridicule than the recipients of glowing platitudes when placed in the hands of college radio stations or indie rock publications. Smart labels realize this and save their promos and postage for publications that would welcome said releases with open arms. Mastodon’s Leviathan graced our offices a few months back and on its tail comes High on Fire’s Blessed Black Wings. High on Fire have more or less always had their feet at least partially within the indie rock semi-circle with their debut, The Art of Self Defense, landing on Frank Kozik’s Mans Ruin imprint. When Mans Ruin folded, another indie—Tee Pee Records—picked up the distribution of their debut and the band landed on Relapse. Compared with Fire’s previous hammerhead Surrounded by Thieves, this record has notched up the speed a step to include some Slayer-like guitar licks and nods to Motorhead. Regardless of these slight stylistic variations, High on Fire remains as heavy and dense as always, with guitar work that’s repetitious yet pummeling and memorable. A notable lineup change is present as ex-Melvins bassist Joe Preston—who knows a thing or two about the mud and muck of rock—replaces George Rice. Recorded by Steve Albini, Blessed Black Wings hits the ground running with “Devilution,” “Brother in the Wind,” and “Cometh Down Hessian.” Wings ends quite nicely with the triad of “To Cross the Bridge,” “Silver Back,” and the outstanding slow builder “Sons of Thunder.” In most reviews, this is the place where I describe High on Fire with a sentence that implies a painful or otherwise unpleasant experience. Sorry, friends, Blessed Black Wings is not like getting your face eaten off by God or like having your head split open with a pick axe. Small consolation, I suppose, but Blessed Black Wings will just have to settle with being solid and highly recommended. —David Lichius JIMMY CHAMBERLIN COMPLEX: LIFE BEGINS AGAIN (Sanctuary) Jimmy Chamberlin achieved fame as drummer of both the Smashing Pumpkins, one of the most important bands of the ’90s, and Zwan, the innovative but short-lived Billy Corgan project. Now, under the name Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, he has released his first solo album, Life Begins Again. This album also marks his debut as a full-fledged songwriter, with multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler filling out the co-writing role. The album is a break from the classic Pumpkins/Zwan sound, with a Rhodes piano as the signature instrument. The 11 tracks are an even mix of interesting rock songs, with obvious influences of jazz and classic rock. The first track, “Streetcrawler,” is a multilayered instrumental with a driving piano solo. The combination of keys and electric guitar gives the


FEBRUARY 2005

song a diverse tone. Instrumentals are a focal point of Life Begins Again, with six of eleven tracks voiceless. “PSA,” another instrumental, begins with soft guitars, but quickly turns into a jazz-tinged creation with heavy bass lines. The title track, voiced by ex–Catherine Wheel singer Rob Dickinson, is a melodic rock song centered on thundering drums and strong guitar chords. Dickinson’s understated vocals make for one of the better tracks on Life Begins Again. The album’s peak is the ethereal “Loki Cat,” sung by the enigmatic Corgan. Originally meant to be an instrumental, the addition of Corgan’s voice gives the song expressive power. He lends a familiar feel, similar to something you might hear on the softer side of the Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Dickinson sings again on “Love Is Real,” while Mohler handles the vocals on “Newerwaves.” Both are good tracks with subtle vocals, allowing the music to be the centerpiece. “Cranes of Prey,” “Owed to Darryl,” and “Timeshift” are all instrumentals with heavy jazz riffs and a jam session–type feel. Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Chamberlin was weaned on the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie swing records; those influences are obvious throughout Life Begins Again. The real surprise of the album is “Lullabye,” sung by Righteous Brother Bill Medley. His low, delicate voice gives depth to the drums and guitar that drive the song. Given the signature baritone of Medley, this song could have easily not worked, but it comes off well. Life Begins Again is interesting and well performed. Chamberlin’s solo debut utilizes a variety of musical styles that makes for a rewarding listen. —Mike Wachsnicht LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (DFA/EMI) Since the mid’80s, James Murphy has toured hell so many times that, at a given set of crossroads, it seems he had a choice. He could have symbolically become a tour guide for Satan or taken control of his life and career as co-producer for the slickly cool production team for Death From Above (dotingly more familiar as DFA). Murphy was a punk-rock kid and hip-hop troubadour, finding his current hidey-hole in the new vast land of

disco rock where it’s starting to emerge in New York City. Now, all we have to do is patiently wait for the disco rock equivalent to Nirvana’s Nevermind to shake up the current state of music. LCD Soundsystem’s debut has the initiative to shake things up if America would only realize. Murphy spent years roving from locale to locale, taking mental notes along the way with his four-track recorder, some mics, and his drum machine in tow to reach the conclusion that he hated professional studios. He set up his own studio to compliment his own altitude of comfort. “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” is a nifty party track…about a party. Who hates a party (unless you have a Carrie complex)? The best thing about this homage to our favorite robots from France is the actuality that it’s not a Daft Punk knock-off. The infectious grasp of hooks will latch on long after the song is over. Murphy looks at the big picture of rock with great sensibility, intentionally not putting out any singles before the release of the album because when an album is purchased, what does one do with those singles if you’re not a keen collector? He also knows the fervor and significance of the last song on a record. It’s the kind of song that sways you to hear the compilation all over again. “The Great Release” sounds like an architect nanny for the child of Blur and Underworld. I know select individuals who only listen to songs like this. Even the most effortless melody can sound as if it took months to perfect when layers of sound, voice, and rhythm are applied carefully. Repetitions fail to sound repetitious in songs like this; sometimes phrasing can be so poignant that it needs to be declared more than once. Chivalry is not dead in the world of LCD Soundsystem, where you also get a bonus disc of the early singles. The tracks are fun for casual listening but the sequencing of the main disc is a splendid debut. —Cory Hoehn LOW: THE GREAT DESTROYER (Sub Pop) Remember the time in the earlyto mid-’80s when Micro Machines commercials starred the world’s fastest talking man—it just so happens his name is John Moschitta Jr., bless the Internet—and he’d continued on next page

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PLAYBACK STL Play by Play

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deliver a hurried pitch about those little piece of shit toys that were supposedly cooler because they were tinier than normal Matchbox cars? Now, remember him as the teacher in an episode of Saved by the Bell when he’s lecturing and Jessie Spano’s pencil is sending out a distress signal, working so hard to jot everything down? Assuming you have the barest minimum of an understanding about the speed at which an auctioneer works, you’ll be able to grasp this little conceptual exercise. We have to agree that the world’s fastest talker is faster than an auctioneer, but we must concede that an auctioneer would seem to have quite a slick tongue were he without any competition from someone in the Guinness Book of World Records. That auctioneer speaks very fast, just not fastest. Exercise over. Duluth, Minn., luminaries Low (guitarist/ vocalist Alan Sparhawk, his wife and drummer/ vocalist Mimi Parker, and bassist Zak Sally) are reverse auctioneers on their seventh record, The Great Destroyer. But it’s having come from being the antithesis of the world’s fastest band that they arrive at their new pace, slightly sped up, but in no right even mid-tempo. They’re simply slow, but not the slowest—as they’ve been on every one of their records since the band’s inception in 1993. They find time to get a little friskier, as they do on tracks like “California” (why every band needs to write one song about that state is still beyond me) and “Step,” but remain steeped in the slowcore that’s been a significant part of their career. “Death of a Salesman” summarily details the thoughts that must go through the heads of every lifelong group that falls just outside the big-muscled, grandest scheme of importance. Sparhawk mints the hesitant acceptance of friends and family to an endeavor as financially unstable and possibly unrewarding as being in an indie rock band when he sings, “They all said the same/Music’s for fools/You should go back to school/The future’s in prisons and math/So I did what they said/Now my children are fed/Cause they pay me to do what I’m asked,” behind a naked acoustic strum. It’s the kind of modest degree that wanders throughout the breadth of The Great Destroyer as a general credence—spectacular in its averageness. —Sean Moeller M83: BEFORE THE DAWN HEALS US (Mute) The sun recedes below the horizon and the city springs to life, propelled by the night. Phillip has locked himself in his room. He

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spent the day surrounded by peers; now he wishes to escape. He lights a candle, grabs a pencil, and begins to write. “In the Cold I’m Standing” laces the thoughts purging onto the page, and the bliss of solitude unlocks his stifled creativity. Jonathan rolls down the windows as he waits for the light to turn green. He hits the accelerator in his father’s car en route to pick up his friends, only remembering to turn on his headlights at the sight of a vacant police car. It’s the first summer since he got his license, and with nothing to do but cruise, he lets the air whisk his hair around and kicks up the volume, introducing the drivers around him to the synthesized layers of “Teen Angst.” Nathan sits alone at a bar. He can’t remember how much he’s had to drink, but it’s enough to make the taxi ride home a lonely one. An androgynous couple sings a simple ballad evocative of Julee Cruise’s Roadhouse performances called “Farewell/Goodbye” from a tiny stage. With a tear in his eye, Nathan stumbles to a pay phone. Lauren exchanges smiles with her friends while the DJ spins “Don’t Save Us From the Flames.” As the lights flash around her, she thrusts her arms into the air and moves her hips with seductive sweeps. The theremin’s whistle cuts through her, leaving her grooving body to exist only in the context of the music. Andrew’s head is spinning. His legs collapse beneath him, and he decides he needs to meet some new people. The deep bass pound of “Fields, Shorelines and Hunters” escapes the main room of the party, hitting him like a sledgehammer across the forehead. As the song washes away into a wall of static, his friends find him half conscious on the bathroom floor. The ambulance lights are the last things he remembers. Alex keeps her eyes shut to feign sleep. The arm cradling her close feels warm and strong, but thoughts of the argument keep her awake. She can tell he’s asleep by his breathing pattern, which hums to the subtle pulse of “Slight Night Shiver.” Love was made, erasing the hateful words, but her bitter emotions linger as she waits for morning. Katherine slaps the snooze on her alarm for the fifth time, cutting off the repetitive

waking bursts of “Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun.” She realizes her day will have to begin sometime. Rising out of bed, she prepares herself for work while the alarm strikes again; she lets it ring as she leaves her house to assimilate into the tedium of the daytime, waiting every second for the sun to drop and her life to resume. —Aaron Richter MANIC STREET PREACHERS: THE HOLY BIBLE (Epic) I used to be into tortured artists. I found them fascinating in that carwreck way, but I’m over it. I can believe the cliffs of insanity drop down further than I want to go; I don’t need to prove it to myself by watching how others tumble over the edge. Did Richey Edwards fall? Was he pushed? No one knows. After he wrote the lyrics and played guitar for this Manic Street Preachers’ release in 1994, he vanished and hasn’t been seen since. The mystery might have fascinated me once, but not anymore. Now I’m just glad the lyrics are largely unintelligible. Perhaps he knew something I don’t, and if I did know it, perhaps I’d want to disappear, too. Empathy has its limits. Luckily, Edwards’ bandmates aren’t afraid of catchy. Maybe the British penchant for overeducation extends to their attitude toward musicianship: They learn what needs to be learned about melody and rhythm and song structure. What other country has so much pop that rocks and so much rock that pops? This element of essential Britishness makes the Manic Street Preachers more tolerable than their gloom ’n’ grump American counterparts. Lead guitarist/vocalist James Dean Bradfield may be singing, “Gorbachev—celibate self importance/Yeltsin—failure is his own impotence” (on “Revol”), but the riffs just make you want to jump up and down. Most of the songs stick with you with their varied, but all masterful, songcraft. “She Is Suffering” goes for gentle pain; “The Intense Humming of Evil” goes Kraftwerk for the Holocaust’s sake. Epic has chosen to release The Holy Bible in the States for the first time in a “10th Anniversary Edition”: Two CDs revealing how continued on page 28


PLAYBACK STL

QUICK HITS

THE ADORED: THE ADORED (V2) Really good music creates emotions in and connections with the listener. Most of the time music makes you move your body, compelling you to dance, or at the very least tap a toe. The Adored’s selftitled EP offers some good music that definitely creates a fun-moving atmosphere. The Adored’s sound reminds me partially of Britain’s Supergrass, Blur, and The Clash. Track four, “I Don’t Care (What You Do to Me),” even calls to mind traces of U2’s Boy. On this five-song EP, the California quintet collaborates with Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) on “TV Riot” and “Sex Is Fashion.” “TV Riot” is a catchy, party-type song with tones of British punk and post-punk. The lyrics are not too terribly complicated or deep, and that is just fine. “She’s a Boy” contains hints of something borrowed with something new; the backing vocal harmonies provide additional energy to the tune. As a courteous tip of the cap to The Adored’s musical influences, Shelly lends his vocals to “Sex Is Fashion,” which shines as the final track. (MBH)

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MATTHEW BAYOT: YOUR FAVOURITE FRUIT TOKYO EXPLODE: ROCKER BOYFRIEND WAR AGAINST SLEEP: BORDERLINE PERSONALITY (Fire Records) Sometimes I have no idea what record labels are thinking. OK, most times I have no idea what record labels are thinking. Any rational, apparently conscious thought process that can logically resi;t in offering recording deals to David Hasselhoff and Ashlee Simpson has to be suspect. The trio of recordings here offered by England’s Fire Records makes me think they must haul in the month’s submissions, dip them in mayo, fling them against a toilet stall, and sign whoever sticks. The days of cohesion in a label’s roster are dead and gone. Fire Records Web site has The Lemonheads, Gigolo Aunts, Mercury Rev, Mike Watt, and Teenage Fanclub listed as artists. An impressive roster for an indie label, to be sure. Also listed are 700 other bands, including the ones reviewed here, that no one has ever heard of. Ever. What’s more, the site usually returns blank pages on the links to most of these artists, as well as the label’s history, contact information, and FAQs. I suppose if I were letting some of this stuff out onto the streets, I’d also want to take down my address and contact information. No one wants a flaming ball of shit hurled into his or her living room whilst trying to enjoy a nice afternoon tea. All right, maybe that’s a little harsh. Tokyo Explode certainly does. The guitars chug along, keyboards start making strange bleeping-bloopy noises, and suddenly a very Asian woman starts screaming about having devils in her pants. I shit you not. At first I wasn’t entirely sure that what I was hearing was English. Not that that’s a bad thing, but the strained efforts of “Girl” (as she’s listed on the album credits) at pronunciation and grammar come off as a bad (and somewhat racist) parody of Asians in general. “Boy” plays guitar and bass, and pretty well. Mixing elements of J-Pop, Stina Nordenstam, Bjork, Beck, and other more obscure ingredients in their musical stew, it’s a pretty interesting listen. Closing this EP is a cover of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” Really. It’s tough to recognize. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if that’s a good or bad thing. War Against Sleep is a one-man act in the vein of Five for Fighting or Summer at Shatter Creek, featuring singer and pianist Duncan Fleming supported by a roster of studio musicians. While listed as a CD single,

Borderline Personality actually has three songs on it. The title track is a bouncy little number, pretty catchy with its vocal hook and superbad Minimoog bass line. The second song, “Ride Away With Me,” foreshadows a rather sinister turn on the disc, as a strident, over-tinkling piano jabs the listener right in the eye as Fleming whines the title of the song, over and over again, for what feels like eight years straight. To put the final nail in the coffin, the last song, “Starling,” is performed as a lounge tune. More to the point, a Satanic lounge tune. To hear Fleming crooning, “Satan...is my name,” over plinking piano, thumpy upright bass, and cocktail drums is hilarious, whether unintentional or not. Matthew Bayot is a St. Louis native, and his press release says he plays psych-folk. I don’t know exactly what that is, and I bet that none of you readers do, either. Don’t feel bad, though; I don’t think Bayot knows what it is. If I had to guess, I’d say it means you play an acoustic guitar and sing through one of those things they have in studios that make it sound like you’re on the phone. Really slowly and listlessly. At least, that’s what’s happening on “Your Favourite Fruit,” the title track of this EP. Either that, or psych-folk is playing Indian percussion over strange techno bleeps and swells, with no vocals. That’s what happens on the second track. If that’s the case, Enigma is psych-folk. No, it’s definitely the phone-vocal thing. Except maybe with a band this time. That’s the third track. If that’s the case, psych-folk is what happens if you slipped every member of Interpol a heavy dose of Valium. I think if I had Valium, I’d like psych-folk. If I knew what it was. I’m all for a label having a wide variety of artists on its roster. I do have to question what is going on at Artist Development over there, though. Either way, if you’re in the mood for something Different with a capital D, www.firerecords.com is certain to plunge you straight into the undiscovered country. Just watch out for the pants-devils. (CC) CHLOE DAY: PIXIE RUNWAY (self-released) I tend the leave the young, sweet girl singers to the other fawning male writers on this publication. Chloe Day, a St. Louis native now transplanted to the shores of California, however, is unavoidable. Her CD has been bouncing from player to player in our house and her voice has been haunting me. The term “pixie” in the title is no accident; Day has this awesome voice that is sexy, sweet, and just a little predatory. For the most part, the songs are interesting and enjoyable. There is a feeling on the CD that Day is casting around for a direction, and any direction she does eventually pick will probably prove successful. In this case, it leaves the album somewhat uneven and incomplete, but don’t worry about that; variety is the spice of life. To get a taste of where Day shines, you need go no further than track one, “Catnip.” The song of seduction and addiction almost assuredly offers a bad end to its subjects, but Day literally purrs out the lyrics and makes it all seem so irresistible and worth the effort. Catnip, indeed. (JD) MIKE DOUGHTY: SKITTISH/ROCKITY ROLL (ATO) I am going to keep this short because Mike Doughty has a lot to say. The tales of Skittish, a series of songs that Doughty recorded at about the same time Soul Coughing was signed for their first album (Ruby Vroom) are well known. Soul Coughing went on to great success and addictions, and finally dissolved. Skittish, over the intervening years, was leaked and copied and passed around to all the kids. Beautiful, stripped-down songs, mostly featuring Doughty and his guitar, which showed his finely honed abilities of observation and wit. When it came time to do something after the end of Soul Coughing, Doughty decided


THE SHOCKING TRUTH PlaybackSTL is distributed to over 425 locations in St. Louis and across the U.S. (105 locations in 15 states and growing). Our Web site receives over a half million hits each month. And people actually read us cover to cover for our positive coverage. SHOULDN’T YOU BE ADVERTISING HERE? CALL 314-630-6404 UPCOMING ISSUES: 3/05: SXSW (distributed at the conference); 4/05: 3rd Anniversary issue; 6/05: Twangfest; 8/05: MMS; 9/05: Pop Montreal & Southpark; 10/05: PBSTLfest

to make the thing available online and at shows. It sold an incredible amount in this non-traditional fashion (I remember giving him my ten bucks at a show; comes with an autograph). Rockity Roll, the EP he released for fans in 2003, contains more of the same great Doughty material. This package from the nice folks at ATO Records takes all of the material recorded from 1996 to present (including some nifty alternate tracks) and puts them in one place. Consider it your late holiday present. If you haven’t already downloaded, illegally burned, or bought any of this stuff from the man in person, get out there and get this collection. It will get you up to speed and prepare you for what is to come from the ultra-cool Mike Doughty. (JD) THE EXIES: HEAD FOR THE DOOR (Virgin) The first two tracks on the recently released sophomore effort from The Exies reveal the overall sound to be significantly heavier and more abrasive than their 2003 major-label debut, Inertia. Based on the L.A. quartet’s desire to create a sound that better represents the intense live energy of their concerts, Head for the Door was recorded without most of the programming and arranging techniques used on Inertia, giving it a much more raw and stripped-down feel. Grammy-winning producer Nick Raskulinecz (Velvet Revolver, Foo Fighters) deserves partial credit for those results— he helped achieve exactly what the band had in mind. Most of Door’s 12 tracks are straightforward, no-frills, post-grunge rock songs in the vein of Puddle of Mudd and Fuel. The four stand-out tracks are the catchy first single, “Ugly,” the swirly “Baptize Me,” the short but fun “F.S.O.S.,” and the ballad “Tired of You.” The remaining eight tracks are all well written and played, but somewhat fail to further develop the promise and potential of the band’s debut. There’s nothing distinctly wrong with this record, but conversely,

there’s not much that’s deserving of a lot of praise. Sophomore slump? Maybe. However, it seems more likely that this is simply a case of a band attempting a style change that isn’t only unnecessary, it simply isn’t better. (MU) THE VIOLENTS: BABY (Parasol) The Violents are three grrrls from Champaign-Urbana who should quit their day jobs and get their collective cheeks on the road to rock stardom (if at least tour the Midwest). They first reared their heads with Rebecca’s Morning Voice nearly two years ago (and won raves from this corner for it), which distilled all the passion and fun that brims out of being punk girls with a shared love for Sleater-Kinnney doing their best to fend off the cold in an Illinois college town. Baby successfully takes all the positive aspects of that first album and, in a rare move for anything but a good band, eliminates much of the not so good. The Violents, with Darwin on their side, have evolved nicely. The five-song EP features good and, in some cases, great songs that are meant for singing along (exacting lyrics in the liner notes). The songs cover the usual territory of love, messing around, and she-done-her-wrong affairs of the heart. Aimee Rickman and Anni Poppen share the vocals; the smooth cool of Poppen nicely balances off Rickman’s high anxiety yelps. What the EP does most successfully is reveal the talent and cool personalities that make up The Violents. If we were all lucky enough to hang out in C-U (which is really getting a great buzz as a music town), we would definitely hope to hang out with Anni, Aimee, and Sally Mundy. There is much to recommend from this band and Baby is a great place to get your first fix. (JD) Contributors: Chris Clark, Jim Dunn, Mary Beth Hascall, Michele Ulsohn.

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BACKSTAGE PASS

CONCERT REVIEWS

Something Corporate w/Straylight Run, Hidden in Plain View, & The Academy Is...

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Mississippi Nights, January 17 The heart of any emo band is a battle between two competing elements: irony and sincerity. Go too far in one direction and you become a joke. Go too far in the other direction and you become, well, Dashboard Confessional. The Orange County, Calif., quintet Something Corporate manages to hit that combination right in its juicy middle. Their piano-driven music oozes the classic ’70s Elton John/Billy Joel aesthetic, incessantly catchy and instantly memorable. The lyrics somehow wield both the wit of fellow piano-rock purveyor Ben Folds and the heartbreaking intensity that’s launched a thousand Live Journal entries. Even having shorn his trademark leonine mane of hair, singer/pianist Andrew McMahon was still melting the hearts of the sold-out (and, not surprisingly, largely high school–aged and female) crowd. It’s got to be tough being in a band with this guy; not only was he front-and-center onstage, but his vocals and piano were higher in the mix than all the other instruments. The rest of the band still fired off each song with unbridled energy—with most of the highlights coming from the band’s latest, North—particularly a full-on rock take on the anthemic lead single “Space.” “21 and Invincible” and “The Astronaut” were noteworthy, but nothing brought the house down quite like “If You C Jordan.” Something Corporate’s biggest hit single had the crowd chanting along, “High school’s over, high school’s over,” a statement that was untrue for a big chunk of said crowd. How’s that for irony? The Academy Is… ably opened the fesCAMERON McGILL PHOTO by JIM DUNN

tivities. It says a lot about how far online promotion has gone that the crowd was singing along to their songs despite the fact that their album won’t hit store shelves for another month. The band isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel; it’s fairly obvious that the last albums from At the Drive-In and Thursday are getting a lot of play on their tour bus. Fortunately, great use of stop-start dynamics and some captivating melodies helped keep things interesting. The next band, Hidden in Plain View, didn’t fare nearly as well. Generic doesn’t begin to describe this New Jersey fivesome, a bland pop-punk outfit with generous bits of Used-style screamo. The band kept the energy up through the faster numbers, but even their fans began to get restless during their one slow song, a sappy, over-the-top ballad that felt tailor-made for the scene in every teen romantic comedy when the couple that you’re really, really hoping will get together have had their first fight and are thinking about each other even though they’re apart. Unfortunately for Hidden in Plain View, there aren’t going to be any more American Pie movies. Fortunately for those in attendance, they only played five songs. Once Straylight Run hit the stage, however, all was forgiven. The new project from ex–Taking Back Sunday members John Nolan and Shaun Cooper, Straylight Run’s performance was low-key but riveting. It’s hard to fathom why the band was included on this tour—their mature, melancholy pop strikes a much different chord than the decidedly more upbeat Something Corporate. Just about the only thing the two bands have in common is a piano. Despite the slowed tempo, Straylight Run still captivated with dreamy, atmospheric ballads formed from layers of swirling guitars

CAMERON McGILL/LORENZO GOETZ If you attended the PlaybackSTL-sponsored Innocent Words showcase at Frederick’s Music Lounge January 21 featuring Cameron McGill (above) and Lorenzo Goetz, you saw McGill and his band (in their second-ever show!) rock the house with McGill’s epic songwriting. Following their set, Champaign four-piece Lorenzo Goetz turned a January night in St. Louis into a steambath as they brought their Beatles-meets-Beck grooves to the fine folks at Fred’s. As they concluded their set, soundman Brian Marek announced, “The owner says you have to play 15 more minutes if you want to get paid.” Catch Lorenzo Goetz again February 18 at the Gearbox at Lil’ Nikki’s.

and perfectly placed synths. The set wasn’t all downbeat, however, with a fantastic lead vocal turn by keyboardist/bassist Michelle Nolan (sister of lead singer John) on “Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs,” a delicious slice of dancey new wave worthy of New Order, providing the pinnacle of an already fantastic night. —Jason Green

The Forms Hi-Pointe, January 20 The Forms’ debut EP Icarus is maddeningly incredible. Right when I realized that I was listening to one of the best indie/emo records I’ve heard ever, it was over. Nineteen minutes of revelation followed by dead air. My first thought was, “Where the hell was I when this record came out?” No matter. I caught air just in time before they were here and gone. As openers Chunnel played out their set, it was obvious from the start that these guys were good. Chunnel’s sound takes the base of Dianogah, with a little Victim’s Family and Couch Flambeau here and there. But unlike Dianogah, Chunnel spends far more time in periods of breakout guitar work, tweaking and noodling, building slowly into cohesive melocontinued on page 19


FEBRUARY 2005

Three to See Here are just three of the great original St. Louis bands that play around town on a regular basis. Check them out as soon as you can. Scorched Erth—Scorched Erth is a local band made up of four headbangers who have come together to play their own brand of brutal, fast-paced metal. It’s fair to say that anyone attending their shows had better bring their earplugs and be prepared for a real scorcher of a set. The band has a confident lead singer who puts on a lively show and an impressive bass player that audiences are not likely to forget. Just listening to the band’s music, though, is an experience in itself. The memorable “Rage” offers crowds a nice set of fast-paced guitar riffs and machine-gun drumbeats, but what is noticeably good about this group is just how solid everything sounds. Despite the fast tempos, the songs never fall apart and the band has no problem inspiring people to shake their fists or sacrifice their bodies in a mosh pit, which seems

to be a regular feature at their gigs. Certainly, the degree in which kids male and female are receptive to the group’s set is probably the most noteworthy aspect of their show. Scorched Erth has found a way to take their loud mix of distortion and screams and turn it into a show that people can enjoy. Miles of Wire—The first time I saw this band perform, I was glad to hear that they were local. After all, this is the Show Me State, so it’s nice to find a band that puts on a great show. The band has a very distinct, smoothed-out guitar sound that becomes addictive after hearing just a few songs of their set. Singer/guitarist Raphael “Ray” Maurice brings a lot of great vocal ability to the stage and his voice blends perfectly with the guitar melodies. It’s hard to leave one of their shows without having one of their haunting songs stuck in your head, and the band is visually entertaining as well. Maurice even has a tendency to change his look from one show to another, to the point that I didn’t even recognize him the second time I saw the band. Even if you live a bit outside of the St. Louis area, it would be worth it to drive a few

miles into town to go hear them play. The Cripplers—I first saw The Cripplers at the Way Out Club. It was on one of those nights where things just seemed to get started late and I was almost too tired to stay and hear their set. I have to say, though, even in my extreme state of fatigue, it would have been impossible for me to leave early once the band hit the stage because I was hooked right away. This local band likes to refer to their music as “Midwestern rock ’n’ roll,” and it certainly is good rock ’n’ roll. Singer/guitarist Jeff “JT” King does a great job of standing center stage and delivering the songs with ease. He has a way of drawing the audience in that makes it feel you’re at one of the band members’ homes, attending a private party. There’s plenty of great electric work with catchy hooks, and drummer Dave Devine is noticeably solid. There’s even a bit of punk rock influence thrown in the mix, which just makes things all the more interesting. It’s certainly nice to know that good Midwestern rock ’n’ roll isn’t hard to find. —John Kujawski

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Hi-Pointe is proud to host Emergenza International Music Festival Battle of the Bands! 8 BANDS EACH NIGHT! CHECK WEBSITE FOR LISTINGS WWW.EMERGENZA.NET wed feb 2, fri feb 4, sat feb 5, sun feb 6, wed feb 9, fri feb 11, sat feb 12, sun feb 13 fri Feb 18 – Jimmy Vavaks Birthday Bash w/ Gassoff, Riddle of Steel, sat Feb 19- The Misses 4th Anniversary Party! w/ 7 Shot Screamers and Irondoves

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YOU ARE HERE

ST. LOUIS ART MUSEUM

CURRENTS 93: RIVANE NEUENSCHWANDER GALLERY 337, ST. LOUIS ART MUSEUM

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ivane Nuenschwander, an artist from Belo Horizante, Brazil, has been described as a cannibalistic creator whose work is ripe with the corporeal: “paintings” of ground pepper, alphabets of dried fruit, calendars based on expiration-dated products. Her earlier works address more than what meets the eye—they simultaneously refer to and engage the mouth, the nose, the skin. In Carta Faminta (Starving Letters), the eating/digesting process was induced when the artist set hungry snails onto rice paper. While progressing through their edible landscape, the snails created maps of their travels. In her current exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, the more ephemeral touchstones of time, wishes, and coincidence put a decidedly esoteric affect into her oeuvre.

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I Wish Your Wish It’s a waterfall of candy colors, dripping down one wall of the gallery and spilling onto the side walls, whispering with the slightest movement as people draw near, dipping their fingers into the running hues. I Wish Your Wish is composed of thousands of ribbons, each bearing a wish printed in contrasting color. The artist asked friends of all ages, and from several countries, what it is that they would wish. By collecting the wishes, printing them in different languages, and securing them in tiny pigeonholes in the wall, Neuenschwander has secularly replicated a tradition that she found in the church of Nosso Senhor de Bonfirm in Sao Salvador. Some of the wishes are fairly mundane (“I wish I was drinking a margarita in my favorite bar in Mexico”), some are sad (“Deseo poder hablar con mis padres”—“I wish I could talk to my parents”), and some hit home (“I wish that the world would be without conflict,” “I wish I could figure out what has to be done”). On a recent visit to the exhibit, small groups and solitary people gingerly touched the ribbons, reading many of them out loud, often identifying with one of them. A dad asked his young son if he wished to be a rock star, while a knot of teens grinned in agreement with “I wish I had a big

flat and studio in the center of a big city.” In an earlier version of this piece, Neuenschwander made it possible for people to write their own hearts’ desires on pieces of paper and leave them, rolled up and inserted into the holes. One of the most poignant and generous wishes found among the many, “I wish your wish,” was one of the handwritten additions that she took and had printed onto ribbons. This opportunity to interact more personally with the work—and with those who come later to share in it—was a component that perhaps should have been left in place. As it is, the wall needs to be refurbished every evening after the museum closes, the chosen ribbons replaced with new ones. Drifting through this rainbow of wishes, it becomes apparent that Neuenschwander has tapped into a universal truth: We are all hoping for the same things. People take these thousands of ribbons and correctly follow the ritual of tying one to the wrist with three knots, making a wish in the process. It is believed that when the ribbon falls off, the wish will come true. If only achieving world peace were so simple. The video Love Lettering exhibits goldfish swimming in slow-motion through a Monet montage of a brilliant blue and varying shades of green. The fish have word banners attached to their tails, and as they glide to and fro, seemingly random words come into proximity, creating achingly terse messages: “MISS…ONE...MY LOVE...NO...WORD...LOVE...TO...YOU... FROM.” It becomes a contemplative exercise, watching the golden messengers float past in their perfectly blue world. Why fish? Perhaps because their paths appear to be random and change direction so quickly, like two people who are meant for each other passing in the street. And just how random are these words; they have been lifted from love letters. The art-

ist is obviously playing the “happy accident” card, upon which most romances are begun; the split-second when what could have been missed is actually caught. When visiting this piece, it was easy to get lost in the surface experience—enjoying the colors, the tranquil movements, the Zen-like perception that it cultivates; that all meetings are destined and have purpose. Then the cynical thought abruptly pops in: “This was very carefully edited.” Granted, the video has much better editing than television shows; but still it feels manipulative. (“See, nothing is accidental!”) Then again, isn’t all art? Isn’t each artist pushing an idea—their idea—with every piece that they exhibit? Art is communication, and the better artists are the ones who give us something to think about after we have left the room. Currents 93 is on display through March 10. *

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Kudos are in order for Takashi Horisaki (graduate student at Washington University and focus of “You Are Here” in October), who is a recent recipient of a Dedalus Foundation fellowship. The Dedalus Foundation, funded by the estate of Robert Motherwell, confers only two fellowships per year in the U.S. Horisaki is an emerging artist known for both sculptures and performance works that call into question humans’ reliance on the illusion of surfaces. Whether architectural or organic, his pieces serve as reminders that exteriors are deceptively simple, compared with the labyrinths inside. Getting the nod from the Dedalus Foundation is a sure indicator that Horisaki’s star is on the rise. We at PlaybackSTL look forward to following his arc.

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by Rudy Zapf


Rivane Neuenschwander, Brazilian, I Wish Your Wish, 2002

FEBRUARY 2005

SHEILA BERGER’S GEOMETRIC ABSTRACTION

PBSTL PROFILE SHEILA BERGER

By Jordan Oakes or Sheila Berger, art is more than what meets the eye. It can bring people together, put the whole world under a cultural canopy. “I always think it is amazing how beautiful objects travel so easily through the world,” Berger observes. “Much easier than people do.” Berger doesn’t mean that the post office is better than the airport. Art can transport people because it’s a visual language that’s understood by anybody—even those separated by oceans. Berger is originally from St. Louis, and her family still lives here. In the ’80s, she was a successful New York City model who appeared on the covers of magazines such as Vogue. But modeling was just the runway for a career departure, and in recent years Berger has become an artist who’s literally carved a niche for herself. Her “geometric abstractions” have attracted attention on both coasts and abroad. Berger still lives in New York, in the Chelsea Hotel with her husband (author Michael Rips, who wrote Pasquale’s Nose) and daughter. You can’t just check into the legendary Chelsea—you have to be invited to live there. Its residents are a carefully measured blend of artists and other creative people who enjoy relatively low rents and sometimes pay with their artwork when they don’t have money. Being original helps. Rather than paint, Berger works with things like vinyl, latex, wax, rubber, and zippers. Those ingredients sound sensual, and her work certainly is, but not in the carnal sense. There’s an energy, sometimes an urgency, to her work that belies the calming effect it can have on first impression. She’s used surgical wrap and razorblades. There is a singed, archaeological look to some of her pieces, more burnt than burnished, with broken patterns and textured surfaces. Berger uses a process called encaustics, which creates art by using heat to change colors. She says much of her work is inspired by memories, and there is a metaphor for fuzzy recollection in her patterned, fade-away abstractions. Without depicting them, they evoke things like Asian landscapes and holy walls, eroded civilizations (including our own), and unearthed maps. Heat. Sandstorms. If Berger’s art were music,

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its ambiance would be less Brian Eno than Ravi Shankar or Zamfir, with maybe a dash of Enya for universal accessibility. But there’s a streak of urban decay, American-style, in her work, too, as if she were angrily holding a funhouse mirror to the worst side of Uncle Sam. Berger, who works from home, remains humble, even as she can number among the owners of her work a CEO and at least one celebrity (worth mentioning because he has good taste in art). Interest in Berger’s work is gathering momentum. Many New York artists never leave town, and it shows in their craft. But Berger won’t paint herself into a corner. She’s still enthused about her recent sojourn to Turkey. “Two years ago I had a show in New York at the Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery,” she said. “Virginia Shore, a curator for the Arts in Embassy program, bought two pieces for a permanent collection for the American consulate in Istanbul.” This led to a special invitation for Berger to come to that city as a guest to share her work and teach art. “There were ten American artists and ten Turkish artists,” she said of the trip. Also invited (but unable to attend) was Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There was some irony in the fact that Berger, an artist influenced by Middle Eastern motifs, was teaching people who lived there. Her farfrom-home muse happened to be her students’ backyard. “I feel happy,” Berger said, “ that the inspiration of my work has returned to its origin in Turkey. It felt like all the years of traveling and creating art collided, coming full-circle. After the lecture, the students approached my translator and said they were surprised that my view of art was so much like theirs, that I was so much like them. That is what they were thinking. I only thought that I was a working artist speaking to young artists.” Berger was amazed at the uniting, disarming effect that beautiful objects can have. “We need to access the good parts from other cultures,” she said, “and not just the bad.” Berger has begun doing that already. This is far from art for art’s sake.

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From Top: Hagasophia, More Worlds, and The Return of Quiet


COMING IN MARCH: 3/5 - Armor For Sleep 3/13 - Death From Above 1979 3/14 - These Arms Are Snakes 3/15 - Turbo ACs 3/22 - The Spunks 2/3: Mike Park, Colossal, Jenny Choi, Roi, Robbie Hart 2/4: Mudvayne 2/5: Wound, Inimical Drive, Snobank, Postcard, GOD 2/9: River City Rebels, Fifth Row Felons, Psycho Dad 2/3: Mike Park 2/11, Early Show, Doors@6: In Place of Briar, lowercase, Adeline, Sincerely, I (Sincerely, I is one name), This Scarlett Sky 2/11, Late Show, Doors@9:45: With No Repent, SleepMachine, D-Align 2/14: The Toasters, Poor Boy Music, Red Light Runners, The Monskasities 2/15: The Fight, Shall We Dance, Femme Fatality, Sibylline 2/20: The Snake, The Cross, The Crown 2/17: Merauder, The Hoods, The Risk Taken, Agents of Man 2/18: Eighteen Visions, Emery, Remembering Never, Misery Signals (The Vintage Vinyl All-Stars DJ spin will follow show) 2/20: The Snake, The Cross, The Crown (all one band name), Waking Ashland, + TBA 2/21: Steel Train, Limbeck, Harvey 2/24: He Is Legend, Classic Case, Forever Changed, Blinded Black, Novella 2/25: Calico System, The Warriors, Deadsoil, Westcott, So They Say (The Vintage Vinyl All-Stars DJ spin will follow show) 2/26, Early Show, Doors@4): Solafide, Caleb Engstrom, The Lonely Hearts, Circa, Roi Elam 2/26, Late Show, Doors@7:30): Murder Happens, (6), Rend, Thanatos Eternal

412 N. TUCKER - ST. LOUIS, MO 63101 314-851-0919 - www.creepycrawl.com


FEBRUARY 2005

Backstage Pass dies that resolve in crescendos of hard, driving guitar. Keep an eye open for these two guys. With a name like Camp Climax for Girls, the next band had to at least be interesting. Employing a tongue-in-cheek mix of Zeppelin and AC/DC, they succeeded massively. I know to some this sounds sacrilegious, but I’d rather see good natured indie-rock vets up there having fun than a bunch of middle-aged guys in leather jackets taking themselves too seriously. Camp Climax makes it safe to rock out and not have to shower with a bar of Lava the next morning. Opening with “Almost Died, Dead,” Camp Climax played numerous cuts off their debut Ten Dollar Birds, including “I’ve Been Meaning to Axe You,” “Elbows in the Face of Disguise,” and “Less Blues, More Depression.” In the weeks preceding the show, guitarist Billy Wallace had teased a new cover they’d be playing on STLPunk.com, writing, “We got a new cover song to drop. It’s in drop-D too, how very metal of us. Word.” The mystery cover turned out to be the Melvins’ “Revolve,” from the 1994 Stoner Witch LP. Then came the aforementioned The Forms. Formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 2000, The Forms reminded me a great deal of Sunny Day Real Estate. Teres’ vocals have a quality similar to that of Jeremy Enigk’s, while remaining distinctly his own. His vocal style is less about specific words than creating melodies that hover and fill the air with their jaw-dropping beauty. And the fact that Teres is often unintelligible doesn’t detract from his performance. Incredible. As they played, my attention was less focused on what each member was doing physically than what was coming out of the sound system. By no means whatsoever am I implicating that The Forms put on a bad performance (they did quite the opposite), but they could not replicate onstage the quality of their recorded work. Whereas many rock bands can invigorate their tunes in a live setting by playing faster and nastier, the music of The Forms plays best in their recordings. After a taped introduction of the “Theme From Superman,” Riddle of Steel hit the stage to close out the show, immediately launching into “Revenge of R.O.S.” Their set consisted of the classics, the Pythons, and the new. Andrew Elstner, Jimmy Vavak, and Rob Smith showed, as usual, that the band is a consistent and dependable source for a solid evening of rock. During the set, bassist Vavak announced that their long-awaited follow-up is due from Ascetic Records this May. Titled Got This

from page 14

Feelin’, the new release should prove quite a treat for audiophiles, as the vinyl is slated to be released a full month before the CD. Yes sir. Albinism is everywhere. —David Lichius

Queensryche January 20, Pop’s In the mid-’80s, two of my friends went to a KISS concert in St. Louis. The opener? “Some band called Queensryche,” one of them said. “Everyone who wasn’t booing went outside to have a cigarette while they waited for KISS.” In Queensryche’s 25 years, they’ve attracted metal fans and alienated them time and again. One thing was made clear at Pop’s, though: As long as Queensryche is willing to perform (in its entirety) their magnum opus, the 1988 rock opera Operation Mindcrime, metalheads in the landlocked red states will mass at their shows like Bud tallboys on Dimebag Darrell’s grave. Queensryche’s 2005 stage show is one half greatest hits, one half Mindcrime. In the first half, the band egregiously failed to play either “Queen of the Reich” or “The Lady Wore Black,” the blistering metal songs from their first EP. Instead, they gave us a mix from their 1990 cash cow, Empire, including the title track, “Another Rainy Night,” and that constipation-inducing lullaby, “Silent Lucidity.” In fact, over the years the Seattle quintet has let their music become softer and softer (eventually even flirting with prog rock). In the midst of this tragic de-metallizing (a painful process akin to removing the adamantium from Wolverine’s bones, I understand), Queensryche disgorged a rock opera/concept album, which by definition is a grandiose and silly effort. Thing was, Operation Mindcrime rocked. Suddenly, a fan of Iron Maiden and Motorhead could admit to liking Queensryche, even in a roadhouse full of bikers with extra Y-chromosomes, should he find himself situated thusly. Alack, Mindcrime’s triumphs were shortlived. Soon Queensryche would accede to perceived market demands with soft metal, even committing the unpardonable sin of releasing the aforementioned “Silent Lucidity,” an execrable ballad on par with Black Sabbath’s “Changes.” And, you may recall, people went absolutely baby-shit over “Lucidity,” maybe because they were sucking nitrous oxide at the dentist when it first entered their cortex. It’s that kind of lame. Clearly, I am in the minority, though, because when Queensryche whipped

out “Lucidity” at Pop’s, the lighters flared up and everyone in the place sang along. The crowd erupted when the videoscreen backdrop came to life for the second act. When Queensryche does Mindcrime live, they do rock opera the way it was intended—with visuals, actors, and sets. The songs tell the convoluted tale of a young junkie who falls under the spell of a vicious cult leader. The drugs, the brainwashing, and the tender ministrations of an obliging hooker in a nun’s habit lead our man to commit a murder or two and then go bonkers. Finí. Along the way, two actresses dressed as nurses (in the standard nurse uniform of black patent-leather dress) got the crowd’s attention, but much of the charm of the live Mindcrime resides with Pamela Moore, a blonde singer who duets with Geoff Tate and portrays the illfated hooker. She had a warm stage presence and crowd-pleasing vocal power. The band sounded great, especially drummer Scott Rockenfield, who gets quite a workout over the two-and-a-half hours. Diehards in the audience could be heard grumbling about the absence of founding guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who left Queensryche eight years ago, but his replacement on guitar did an able job. The real question, though, is Tate’s voice. After hearing Rob Halford of Judas Priest live twice, I’ve concluded that metal singers with angel’s voices don’t give it their all live—it’s just too demanding to hit those highs night after night. The screeches and wails that turn our blood to ice are reserved largely for the studio. Tate’s voice was sweet, but he didn’t reach for those unholy highs in “Speak” and “Take Hold of the Flame.” It’s also very possible that his precise tenor gets lost in the mix at a rock club. Mindcrime’s finale must be seen to be believed. The nurses-in-leather strapped Tate into a straitjacket, and he somehow managed to cradle the microphone in his inert arms while singing the emotional coda, “Eyes of a Stranger.” Funny stuff. He was then rolled offstage in a wheelchair, to wild applause. —Byron Kerman

WEB EXCLUSIVES As always, don’t miss our Web exclusives, served fresh and hot on www.playbackstl.com. This month, we’ve got reviews of live shows by Ghosts in Light, Cameron McGill & Lorenzo Goetz, and Our Great Escape.

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ON THE COVER HEM

By Kevin Renick

You can take comfort now,” sings Hem’s Sally Ellyson in “Firethief,” one of many soothing tracks on Eveningland, the band’s latest album. That’s more than a lyric: it’s a mantra, a promise, and essentially a working aesthetic for this gifted Brooklyn ensemble whose brand of Americana sounds more romantic, more emotionally rich, than the norm. They aim to take you deeper into the heart of American music, reaching deeper into your heart in the process. The ecstatic response to Hem’s 2002 debut, Rabbit Songs, and their latest release suggests that more than a few heartstrings are indeed being tugged. Many listeners, it seems, need comfort these days. “That’s the theme of the album,” said Dan Messé, Hem’s keyboardist and primary songwriter. “I think at our best, in my best songs and Sally’s singing, we achieve some sort of ability to comfort. That’s definitely what we’re looking for.” The warmth of Hem’s music doesn’t derive just from its bucolic imagery or thoughts of family/romantic togetherness and childhood innocence. Simply discovering music like this, finding a band that goes against the commercial grain and weaves its own unique musical tapestry, feels somehow reassuring. Single-handedly re-creating the lullaby, Hem’s pastoral sound evokes buried memories and timeless melodies. “Singing was like recreation in our house,” said Ellyson, whose parents sang her and her siblings to sleep nightly during childhood. In church and on car trips with her family, she learned standards like “Down in the Valley,” “White Choral Bells,” and “The Ash Grove.” Regarding such songs, she added, “Dan and I have a great deal in common in terms of what we love in music. We love old music, the songs that evoke this heartbreaking sadness and…hope. Those songs are the ones that get you in the gut.” Ironically, we almost never heard Hem’s focus: the dulcet voice of Ellyson, who lacked HEM PHOTOS COURTESY ROUNDER RECORDS

both vocal training and designs on a music career. Comfortably employed as a TV producer on shows like 48 Hours, she answered a two-week-old Village Voice want ad for a singer only after being badgered by a friend. Messé, dispirited from hearing scores of singers who failed to match his vision, told Ellyson to send a demo. “But I didn’t have one,” she noted. “So he said, ‘Well, just come over to my house and sing some songs by the piano.’ Now that I wasn’t ready for. But I realized I’d made these lullaby tapes of songs that my parents used to sing my sister and brother and I to sleep with every night.” Ellyson delivered such a tape, but Messé didn’t hurry to play it; in fact, he did so only accidentally, intending to listen to something else—and Ellyson’s voice bowled him over. Messé quickly contacted her, thus filling the Hem lineup, which includes guitarist/producer Gary Maurer and guitarist/vocalist Steve Curtis. “It completely changed how we made records,” Messé said. “When we started working with her, Gary and I were immediately like, ‘Anything that gets in the way of Sally’s voice has to go.’ So we started carving out these huge troughs for Sally’s voice to inhabit, where no other frequency was getting near it. What we found by doing that was that we were able to have these really lush orchestrations without it sounding like a wall of sound.” The resulting blend of enchanting vocals and inspired arrangements landed Rabbit Songs on numerous 2004 “best of” lists. Songs like “All That I’m Good For,” “Stupid Mouth Shut,” and the aching “Lazy Eye” enthralled listeners. “It’s like being sung to by your mother, basically,” Messé remarked of Ellyson’s voice and Hem’s nostalgic sound. “I have a two-yearold son who’s in love with Sally. [“And vice versa,” Ellyson interjected with a laugh.] All he wants to hear is Sally singing. He literally wakes up and says, ‘Sally sing! Sally sing!’ And then he sings along.” Regarding Messé’s evocative compositions,

Ellyson also waxes enthusiastic: “It’s a real gift that I get to be the first person to sing them. One of the things I always loved about my parents’ singing is that it was just this subtle, beautiful experience. I tend to be drawn to that type of music. Meeting Dan and hearing his songs for the first time, I remember feeling like, ‘Oh my God! These are the most beautiful songs!’ I couldn’t have asked for more perfect songs that fit my taste and what I love.” Messé, meanwhile, admitted to autobiographical inspiration for his tunes. “But I don’t consider myself a confessional songwriter. It’s much more that I’ll take something that happened and turn it into a metaphor that makes sense for me. I like to keep a lot of myself for myself and my family. I don’t create a personal mythology.” Instrumentally, Hem’s two discs are primarily acoustic, with Messé’s delicate piano playing adding a texture that mirrors Ellyson’s tender vocals. Elegant strings also grace the CDs, especially Eveningland. Gershwin, Kern, and Leonard Bernstein count as influences, as does Aaron Copland. “Copland was a huge influence,” said Messé, “especially in the arrangements. If you listen to ‘Half Acre,’ that’s basically a big ripoff of Copland. He created what we considered the American sound to be.” To capture such magic on disc, of course, requires not mere desire but studio wizardry. When Michigan native Messé moved to New York to attend NYU, he met Maurer through studio projects, connecting with him both creatively and personally. Over drinks, the two of them then brainstormed with Curtis—a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at Cornell— about a simple but melodically rich Americana project. None imagined the distance they’d travel once Ellyson arrived. “We had a crash course with Rabbit Songs,” said Messé. To match the warmth of Ellyson’s voice, he and Maurer embraced analog—tape and old microphones. (“You’re dealing with


FEBRUARY 2005

old-school producers here!” joked Ellyson before praising their meticulousness.) Messé confessed that an abundance of electric guitar on Eveningland may have shocked some fans. “There’s not a single piece of wood, string, or electronica that can’t add something,” he remarked by way of disclaimer. “I would never say we wouldn’t record with a certain instrument—but we lean toward the acoustic stuff.” In that regard, working in Europe with the Slovak Radio Orchestra illustrated Hem’s ability to meet daunting challenges and put the music first. “We knew we wanted to have an orchestral sound on this album,” said Messé. Unfortunately, orchestras and concert halls from the first half of the last century were either unavailable or nonexistent. However, Greg Calbi, who does the band’s mastering, shared with them a project he’d been working on with the SRO. “And it was exactly the sound we were looking for,” Messé continued. “It sort of evoked the countrypolitan music we loved or the Muscle Shoals sound. So Greg got us in touch with the liaison over there, and before we knew it, we were on a plane.” The visit to the Slovak Republic was anything but smooth, though, noted Ellyson: “We got there, and there was no recording studio!” “They were renovating the control room,” Messé explained. “So the first day, we played through some of the arrangements we had. And we went out for this congratulatory dinner. We were all saying, ‘Oh, this is gonna be awesome. It sounds great!’ So we come the next day, ready to record the stuff we heard, and that’s when we discovered there was literally no way to get it onto tape. Gary basically created a studio from scratch, made from old eastern European equipment. No one slept. It was crazy.” When asked how they kept their heads through this ordeal, Messé and Ellyson simultaneously shouted, “Vodka!” Fortunately, Maurer’s studio savvy proved a saving grace, and the SRO’s sublime work now weaves its way through the tracks on Eveningland. On rustic gems like “My Father’s Waltz,” Curtis’s “Hollow” (“Probably my favorite song on the album,” said Messé), “Strays,” and “The Beautiful Sea,” the strings add elegance and textural richness to songs already emotionally potent and timeless. Miraculously, the songs still sound effortless. Also, there’s a cinematic flavor to Hem’s music which is no accident; the band members think in cinematic terms, and both of their albums contain short instrumentals much like film cues. “When I listen to this album, I have

WE HEAR FROM PEOPLE A LOT WHO GIVE BIRTH TO OUR MUSIC, OR THEY GET MARRIED TO OUR MUSIC. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT’S ONE OF THE BEST COMPLIMENTS WE GET. a movie in my head,” said Messé. “All great albums feel cinematic to me.” Ellyson echoed that sentiment: “I feel like personally, when I hear the music, I can see it in films so easily. So many times lately, I’ve been turned onto music through a movie, rather than through the radio. Marrying these two art forms can be powerful.” No Hem fan will be surprised if the band is asked to score a film someday, or if one of their songs underscores some particularly poignant celluloid moment. Hem songs are very romantic: you can well imagine a love-struck couple sharing a tender moment as Ellyson’s voice caresses the ears. Ellyson has also revealed herself to be a gifted interpreter of other people’s songs. An unexpected highlight on Eveningland is a cover of “Jackson,” long a standard for Johnny Cash and his wife June. “We needed to put something out in England because England had Rabbit Songs a year before America did, so we decided to do a little EP of covers, just to keep our profile up,” said Messé. “And my friend Tom Bodean had just given me a mix which had ‘Jackson’ on it. There’s that dialogue between Johnny and June Carter, where he brings his wife up and she’s talking, and he goes, ‘Y’know, I love to watch you talk.’ She says, ‘I’m talking with my mouth, it’s up here,’ because, you know, he was looking at her breasts. And I just loved that phrase, ‘I’m talking with my mouth.’ It’s straightforward. I mean, there’s a sexual undertone, too, but I think it’s really, ‘I’m being as straightforward as I can, the most important part of myself.’ And so we decided to call that album I’m Talking With My Mouth. So of course, we had to cover ‘Jackson’ if we did that.

And we went about reinventing it. As soon as we heard Sally singing it, we realized this fun little song was actually very melancholy.” Other interesting covers on I’m Talking include Elvis Costello’s “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Valentine’s Day.” But unquestionably, it’s Hem’s originals that have captivated fans the most. “We hear from people a lot who give birth to our music, or they get married to our music,” said Ellyson. “It seems to me that’s one of the best compliments we get. For a lot of people, the largest experiences in their lives, they choose to have our music accompany them.” Adulation from both fans and critics can sometimes heap pressure on a band; is it a source of inspiration or anxiety for Hem? “I don’t think it’s either so much,” said Messe. “We’re really our own harshest critics. If I have a lyric in a song that doesn’t ring true, Sally won’t keep her mouth shut about it. And with the sound, Gary and I will have a screaming argument until we realize what needs to happen.” “By the time it’s out, we’ve all fully embraced it,” added Ellyson. “So if the world thumbed their noses at us, sure, we wouldn’t be overjoyed, but we wouldn’t second-guess ourselves.” “We want more than anything to keep doing this,” said Messe. “We’re not making the most commercial music…but we made a decision that we were gonna follow our hearts. It’s definitely a struggle, but we just sort of cling to each other and this sound that we’ve created together—and hope that it’s gonna be a strong enough raft to carry us along.” Hem performs at Off Broadway February 9.

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THEATER

COMPILED BY TYSON BLANQUART

If you have an audition, show announcement, or other news of interest to the theater community, please e-mail theater@playbackstl.com no later than the 15th of each month. Also be sure to visit www.playbackstl.com for updated announcements throughout the month.

SHOWS OPENING 22

The Washington Avenue Players Project will presents an original work from Artistic Director Todd Schaefer and Holly Gitlin, So to Speak, Feb. 3–12. WAPP produces a nonstop show designed to provoke surreal thoughts and feelings focused on the joys and struggles people face along life’s great divide. The show will be performed at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Ave., Thurs.–Sat., Feb. 3–12. Tickets are $10, available at the door or by calling 314-412-5107. www.thewapp.com Spotlight Theatre will present two public performances of Broken Rainbows by Mary Hall Surface, Feb. 12 & 19 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar, 11 a.m. General admission tickets are $8. Broken Rainbows examines the issue of racism from the teen perspective. The show is directed by Spotlight Theatre Artistic Director Pam Reckamp. www.spotlighttheatrestlonline.org. Echo Theatre will be presenting the St. Louis premiere of Bold Girls by Rona Munro, Feb. 18–March 6 at the Soulard Theatre. Winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Bold Girls peers into the lives of four women in violence-torn Belfast. Showtime and ticket information is available by calling 314-995-2123. www.echotheatrecompany.org The New Jewish Theatre will present Unexpected Tenderness by Israel Horovitz Feb. 17– March 6; shows Wed., Thurs., & Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 2 & 7:30 p.m.; tickets $18–22. Unexpected Tenderness is a drama that explodes the myth that Jewish families are immune to domestic violence. The show is directed by Brad Schwartz. Tickets available by phone (314-4423283) or Web (www.jccstl.com/theater.aspx?pgID=893). Performances at the Sarah and Abraham Studio Theatre in the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Dr. in Creve Coeur.

WASHINGTON AVENUE PLAYERS PROJECT PRESENTS SO TO SPEAK at the ArtLoft Theatre Feb. 3–12

Curtain Call Repertory Theatre will present Sweeny Todd by Steven Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler Feb. 25–Mar. 6 at the Carrousel House in Faust Park. Tickets $13 advance/$15 day of show; call 636-346-7707 for reservations. Shows Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. www.curtaincallrep.com. The St. Louis Black Repertory Company will present Stories About the Old Days by Bill Harris Feb. 9–March 6. The play tells the story of an former blues singer living in a decaying church in Detroit. Tickets are $25–37.50, available at MetroTix locations, by phone at 314-534-1111, or online at www.metrotix.com. Performances Thurs.–Sun. at the Grandel Theatre, just north of the Fox Theatre. www.stlouisblackrep.com The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis continues performances of Frozen by Byrony Lavery through Feb. 6 at the Studio Theatre. Tickets $29–44. The Rep will also be presenting William Nicholson’s The Retreat From Moscow Feb. 9–March 11 on the Mainstage, directed by Steven Woolf. In Retreat, Jamie arrives for a visit with his parents to find them strangers not only to him, but to each other. Tickets $16.50–41.50. Tickets for both productions are available at MetroTix locations, by phone at 314-5341111 or 314-968-4925, or online at www.metrotix.com. www.repstl.org. The Alpha Players of Florissant will present Twelve Angry Jurors, Sherman Sergal’s adaptation of Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men, Feb. 4–13. The play is a tense story of 12 jurors debating the guilt of a suspected criminal, and a juror’s fight to do what’s right. Shows Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling 314-921-5678 or by going to www.alphaplayers.org; $12 general admission, $10 students/seniors. The show will be presented at the Florissant Civic Centre Theatre. Alton Little Theater will continue performances of Fences by August Wilson through Feb. 6 at the Showplace in Alton, 2450 North Henry St. Shows Tues.–Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. Tickets $12 general admission, $6 students/

seniors, available at the box office. Call 618-462-6562 for reservations. http://altonlittletheater.org Off Centre Theatre continues James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter at the Theatre at St. John’s through Feb. 6. The theater is located in St. John’s United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Pl. The story takes place in the South of France at King Henry’s Chinon Castle during the 24-hour Christmas court held in 1183. Performances at 8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., Sun. at 2 p.m. Tickets $15, available at the door. The NonProphet Theatre Company presents its signature sketch-comedy show, The Militant Propaganda Bingo Machine, every Thurs. through March 10 at the Hi-Pointe Café. Every week, the troupe races through 24 original sketches that leave no cultural stone unturned. From the smart and intellectual to the surreal and raunchy, the NonProphets spare no one in their adult-oriented show. The fun part is, the cast has no idea in what order the show goes in. That’s what the audiences tell them. Corresponding to the sketches, there is a twisted Bingo game that the audience plays throughout the evening, and winners receive prizes. Doors at 8:30 p.m., show at 9 p.m. Ticket prices are random, based on the drawing of a poker card at the door, and range from $5–8; 21+. www.nonprophets.com The Fox Theatre will host the US Bank Broadway Series productions of Les Miserables Feb. 1–13, and Mama Mia! Feb. 22–27. Les Misérables sweeps through three turbulent decades of 19th century France with the story of one man, the fugitive Jean Valjean, who is pitted against the cruel and self-righteous Inspector Javert in a lifelong struggle to evade capture. Tickets are $26–62, and can be purchased through MetroTix outlets. Mama Mia! is a musical that brings the music of ’70s super-group ABBA to the stage using three love stories. Tickets are $25–65; visit www.fabulousfox.com for performance times. The West End Players’ Guild will present Frank McGuinness’s translation of Sophocles’ Electra Feb. 4–13. The classic story of a girl’s quest to avenge her father’s death is given new life by McGuinness, who uses themes of abandonment and vengeance to relate the story to our times. The play is directed by Steve Callahan. Performances Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun., Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10, available at the box office. The show will be performed at Union Avenue Christian Church, located 733 Union Blvd. in the CWE. www.westendplayers.org Historyonics Theatre Company will present the newest historical play created by Artistic Director Lee Patton Chiles, Dancing on Air: Katherine Dunham. Called the Godmother of Modern Dance, Dunham’s legacy as a poet, choreographer, painter, and activist spans the better part of a century. The play is based on the true life and writings of Dunham, and celebrates the woman, who is still going strong at age 95. Performances at the Des Lee Auditorium in the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, Feb. 11–27 (Fri. & Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m.). Student matinees Feb. 16, 17, 23, & 24 at 10 a.m. Tickets $10–20, available at the box office. To make reservations, call 314-361-5858. www.historyonics.org


FEBRUARY 2005

The Touhill Performing Arts Center will host Grease for one weekend. Performances will be Fri. & Sat., Feb. 4–5 at 8 p.m., with a Sat. matinee at 2 p.m. One of Broadway’s biggest success stories, the show contains the classic songs, “Summer Nights,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and “Greased Lightning.” Tickets are $15–45 and can be purchased at www.touhill.org. The theater is located on the campus of University of Missouri – St. Louis. Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis will bring international star of stage, screen, and television, Susannah York, to perform her solo show The Loves of Shakespeare’s Women for one performance Sat., Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.. In her show, York portrays many of Shakespeare’s colorful female characters, from Juliet to Mistress Ford, Isabella to Constance. Proceeds will benefit the Festival’s year-round education programs. The show will be at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $30 and available at www.touhill.org. Olympus Theatre will present Sordid Lives by Del Shores Feb. 18–26, 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Performances will be at Spot, 4146 Manchester Ave. Billed as “a black comedy about white trash,” Sordid Lives pays homage to the writer’s Southern Baptist, trailer-dwelling kin. Tickets are $15; call 314-371-1330 for reservations. This show is for mature audiences.

THEATER NEWS

The ArtLoft Theatre, home to many local theater companies, is in need of donations to keep it operational and in compliance with city ordinances. Fox Associates will match donations up to $7,500. For more information, email Scott Miller of New Line Theatre at newchaz64@aol.com. Warren Arnold, a graduate of the program at Second City, will offer sketch writing courses through March 17. Classes are Thurs. from 7:30–9 p.m. at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue in U. City; tuition is $150. This course will focus on how to be creative and turn everyday events into written material, with a strong emphasis on improvisational acting. Call 314-725-6555 or visit www.cocastl.org for more information. The Muny has announced its summer season. The Forest Park institution will be presenting Beauty and the Beast June 20–29; Annie Get Your Gun July 4–10; Jesus Christ Superstar July 11–17; Singin’ in the Rain July 18–24; Mame July 25–31; West Side Story Aug. 1–7; and The Sound of Music Aug. 8–14. www.muny.com

POSITION OPENINGS/AUDITIONS

New Line Theatre is looking for a props master/ acquirer for their upcoming production of The Robber Bridegroom which opens March 3. Interested parties should contact New Line Artistic Director Scott Miller at NewChaz64@aol.com.

The Alpha Players of Florissant are currently seeking directors for their 2005–2006 season. The season will include Fiddler on the Roof, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and Auntie Mame. If interested, contact Alpha Players, 9 New Hope Ct., Florissant, Mo. 63033. Call Colleen Heneghan at 314-830-3554 for info. Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis will be holding auditions for The Tempest in a Flash, based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare. SFSTL is looking for one non-Equity male actor over 21 and one non-Equity stage manager for its touring production, which will perform at local schools late Feb.–June 19, with a possible extension. Call Education Director Christopher Limber at 314-361-0101 for an individual appointment; these are salaried positions. www.sfstl.com First Run Theatre is looking for set designers who would also serve as construction crew chiefs for its 2005 season; previous experience in set design and stagecraft a must. College students might qualify for credit for work as a set designer. Contact Donald Weiss at 314-680-8102, or by e-mail at d_weiss@firstruntheatre.com. www.firstruntheatre.com West End Players’ Guild will hold auditions for Yasmina Riza’s Art Sat., Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Ave. in the CWE. The show will be directed by B. Weller, and will run April 8–17. Roles are available for three men. Auditions will consist of cold reading from the script. More info: 314367-0025 or elknowsall@sbcglobal.net.

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PLAYBACK STL

NOW PLAYING CINEMA

MILLION DOLLAR BABY (Warner Brothers, PG-13)

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Some people may avoid the new Clint Eastwood film because it’s a boxing flick, and lordy, there sure have been a lot of those. But Million Dollar Baby, which Eastwood stars in and directs, isn’t merely a “boxing flick” any more than Mystic River was simply “a murder mystery.” Eastwood’s interest is in examining deep layers of character and the confounding circumstances of fate; the setting he chooses, although he takes pains to get details right, is just a canvas to fill in shades and hues of human drama. Million Dollar Baby is probably the most intimate boxing film ever made, due to Eastwood’s particular focus and a remarkable screenplay by Paul Haggis. Eastwood portrays Frankie Dunn, a grizzled, cynical boxing trainer who trades weary observations with pal Eddie “Scrap” Dupris (Morgan Freeman) at his seedy L.A. gym while watching low-level boxers work out, reads poetry, and writes letters to an estranged daughter. Scrap—one of Frankie’s former boxers—now lives in a room at the gym and helps maintain the place. He delivers trenchant observations in a voiceover that serves as the philosophical guide. “Everything is backwards in boxing,” he says. “It’s an unnatural act.” Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a hillbilly gal from a small Missouri town “somewhere between nowhere and goodbye,” shows up at the gym looking for a trainer. But Frankie has no intention of wasting his time on a “girlie,” when there are plenty of good managers around who will train female boxers. Maggie is utterly determined, though, and completely respectful of the veteran she calls “Boss.” He stubbornly resists her pleas until gradually—seeing her potential and rigorous work ethic—he succumbs. Maggie’s clearly got the moves and motivation to develop—the scenes showing her KO’ing various opponents are exciting to watch and totally convincing. Swank is remarkable here; her boundless determination to advance beyond her white-

trash roots is portrayed with rare depth. And the relationship between Maggie and Frankie becomes increasingly poignant as the film progresses. Two thirds of the way in, however, there’s a shocking development, and it completely changes the movie’s trajectory. This shift compels even deeper intricacies of character, and shows why Eastwood has been earning kudos all around with his filmmaking aesthetic. It’ll also likely challenge your own expectations as a moviegoer, as it’s tough to watch. Say what you will about Eastwood, he sure takes chances and asks big things of his audience in search of deeper truths. The chemistry between Eastwood and Freeman—one of our finest character actors—is hypnotic; they riff off each other convincingly, like veteran jazz musicians. But what will move viewers the most is the ever-surprising relationship between Eastwood and Swank. As Maggie, Swank thoroughly inhabits a character who’s vivid, compelling, and three-dimensional, illustrating that although sporting events and circumstances can’t be predicted, the story of one individual’s potential, hopes, and ability to cope with obstacles is one that’s always worth telling well, which Eastwood certainly does here. —Kevin Renick BRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Miramax, PG-13) It takes a master to tell a simple tale. Shakespeare and Jane Austen are such masters. Austen borrowed heavily from the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing for her novel Pride and Prejudice, the extraordinarily simple tale of boy meets girl. Because they are repulsed and oddly attracted at the same time, that they end falling deeply in love is a foregone conclusion; the artistry comes in telling such a predictable tale in an engaging fashion. Director Gurinder

Chadha, most recently of the overrated Bend It Like Beckham, joins austere company with her retelling of the romantic, comedy/drama. Chadha moves the story from the confining mores of early 19th-century England to the confining mores of present-day India, infusing the tale with Bollywood flair. The film is not only a love story, but also a cautionary tale about making assumptions. Lalita Bakshi (Aishwarya Rai) meets Englishman Will Darcy (Martin Henderson) and assumes he is a cad searching for a traditional girl who will not challenge him. Darcy assumes the provincial Lalita is such a girl and is uninterested, but as the two discover, they both are wrong and their destiny cannot be denied. There are many twists and turns that push and pull the couple, but all along it is obvious the happy ending is inevitable. Chadha, like Austen before her, takes sappy dialogue, conspicuous story, and clichéd moments and makes it all work because her characters have depth, and the actors inhabit them wonderfully. Chadha pulls the best from a strong cast. In addition to the leads, Danielle Gilles, Nitin Gantra, Peeya Rai Chowdhary, and Naveen Andrews turn in excellent performances. Aside from their talent, the cast is one of the most beautiful ever assembled. Of the four Bakshi sisters, two were Miss India and Rai went on to capture Miss World, but beauty is not reserved for the women. Andrews is creating buzz both on the small-screen (Lost) and in the multiplex (Easy and Rollerball). Gantra as the frumpy Mr. Wickham is handsome, even by Hollywood standards. The beauty is not confined to the cast. In the grand Bollywood style, Nick Ellis’s production design and Santosh Sivan’s cinematography are outstandingly over the top. The film flows along, creating a spectacular


FEBRUARY 2005

globe-trotting life. Unfortunately, Chadha also imported the Bollywood tradition of including outlandish, ridiculous musical numbers. The interludes here make those in Camelot seem subtle and integrated. The choreography is insane, the music is grating, and the lyrics are banal. These inane, out-of-place spectacles almost ruin the film. Luckily, Chadha does not let the musicals play out the best moments of the film. It is the emotion and poignancy of these moments that are the meat, and ultimately the saving grace, of the film. The power of the performances, the beauty of the film, and the depth of the characters overcomes the perfunctory plot and clumsy music videos to provide a funny, engaging, and touching film. —Bobby Kirk AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY MARGARET MEAD TRAVELING FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL The Webster Film Series will devote several nights in February to anthropological documentaries from the traveling Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival. The works are collected and distributed by the American Museum of Natural History and run the gamut of social-political topics. The five films of the series present distinct styles and studies of issues from across the globe. A Panther in Africa is a documentary following the daily life of Peter O’Neal, a member of the Kansas City chapter of the Black on the phone, parses out bits of information tempting the researchPanther party, now living in exile in Tanzania. O’Neal builds a com- ing, but revealing little. Unfortunately, the actor voicing the agent munity education center in his adopted home, providing a variety is not up for the role. He plays a caricature of what a government of skills training to the local Tanzanians, and also bringing at-risk agent should be, rather than a real person. While the film presents a quick sketch of an important, but largely forgotten, political figure youth from the U.S. to the compound, changing their lives. The programs are interesting and O’Neal is a charismatic in an interesting way, it is only a sketch, containing little detail or man holding his ideal together sometimes through sheer force of nuance. Marry Me traces the marriage of a Cuban woman and a German will. Accessible water for the villagers and bonding between the man as they face the task of blending their cultures and their famiAmerican youth and the locals are small triumphs the movie caplies. All of the popular themes and conflicts of a man tures. The subject is interesting, but the filmmakers WIN TICKETS to the taking on a woman with a child play out as Erik not only present only the sparsest details about O’Neal’s life Margaret Mead Traveling attempts to be a good husband to Gladis, but a good at home. The lack of context occasionally hinders Film and Video Festival, father to her eight-year-old son, Omarito. In addition to the fullness of the story. playing this month at the all the usual tensions, cultural issues stress the situation Afghanistan Unveiled is the gem among the Webster Film Series. Go to further. works. The most cinematic of the projects, it tells www.playbackstl.com and The potential is here for an interesting cross-cultural the story not only of women in remote areas of join our weekly e-mail list. study, but the film becomes an international version of Afghanistan struggling for equality, but also of the MTV’s Newlyweds, with less appealing lead characters. pioneering women making the movie. The production values are right out of the reality television handThe film focuses on the differences in treatment of women between the capitol, where the Western influence is the greatest, book. The story becomes a chronicle of the disintegration of a couand the outlying provinces, where strict religious laws are still ple whom everyone knew should not get married in the first place. Madanm Ti Zo follows the daily life of a Haitian midwife and enforced. The project itself is a breakthrough. In a country where herbal healer, opposed to traditional Western medicine that is at it was recently against the law for women to leave their homes unescorted, these women filmmakers travel freely, documenting odds with organic remedies. The Haitian system uses these wise elders as a type of triage, relieving the strain on the overworked their sisters’ pain. Ironically, the camera work, lighting, and post-production are far medical establishment. The subject is intriguing and the film has its moments, but the and away the best of the series. The women may just be learning cinema verité of following every aspect of the woman’s day goes their trade, but they have mastered many of the skills. a/k/a Mrs. George Gilbert is an experimental documentary about beyond languid pacing to just plain boring. The fact that Madanm Ti ’70s radical activist Angel Davis. The black and white film combines Zo is a cranky old hag, more tolerated than respected by her clients, stock footage, reenactments, and shady voice-over to unfold Davis’s does not help. Like all festivals, the quality of the works varies, but overall story. The film’s X Files–meets–JFK approach makes Davis a secondthis is an interesting batch of films containing something for every ary player to the researcher tracking her life and a guilt-ridden FBI documentary fan. agent. The agent confesses he coordinated surveillance of Davis —Bobby Kirk and hints at a deeper obsession. The agent, heard only as a voice

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L

PROFILE

BRIAN HOHFIELD

BRIAN HOHFIELD:

A HOLLYWOOD SUCCESS STORY WRITTEN IN ST. LOUIS By Emily Spreng-Lowery hen young, aspiring filmmakers ask screenwriter and director Brian Hohlfeld whether they should move to Los Angeles, he says, “Don’t even think twice about it. You’re 22 years old. If you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?” His philosophy is this: If people don’t try it, they’ll never know. “It’s just like playing the lottery,” he said with a laugh. But despite the odds, the Hollywood lottery is one that has paid off for Hohlfeld. After graduating with a theater arts degree from Saint Louis University, Hohlfeld worked in town briefly for Theater Project Company, where he started writing plays. “But I always knew I would have rather been in film,” he said. “So I wrote a couple of spec scripts and moved to L.A., sort of did the whole tempwork-trying-to-break-in thing for a year and a half or so.” Then, through a high school friend, director Ken Kwapis, Hohlfeld was offered a job rewriting a script for TriStar. “That project never got made,” Hohlfeld said, “but on the strength of that rewrite, I was hired by another producer to do another rewrite and then got an agent through that, and then just sort of kept working ever since.” Even if you don’t know his name, you probably do know some of the films he has written, especially if you have children. On Feb. 11, Hohfield’s most recent project, Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, will open nationwide. Along with co-writing the script, he also shares credit with Carly Simon for two of the songs. “I can’t even use the word ‘collaboration,’” Hohlfeld joked, “because I’ve only spoken with her briefly, on a conference call with about five other people.” Although Simon prefers not to collaborate, it all started when Hohlfeld included song lyrics in his script for Piglet’s Big Movie a few years ago. “Everybody took it for granted that it was from the book, and so she set it to music, thinking that A.A. Milne had written it,” Hohlfeld said. Even after it was discovered that Hohlfeld was the one who had penned the lyrics, the song was kept in the movie despite Simon’s protests. Then, when the Heffalump film was being made, it became apparent that—despite Simon’s

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talent—without really k ing the characters, it difficult for her to w character-based songs. they asked me to come after I had written the s take a stab at those lyric [Simon] put them to music,” Hohlfeld said. “It’s a thrill. I couldn’t be more excited about this. It’s an honor to share credit with her.” And speaking of thrills, Piglet’s Big Movie was one of five finalists in the screenplay division of the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Awards, losing out to Mystic River. Hohlfeld said that it was probably Piglet’s tone that people responded to: While the script didn’t talk down to kids, it also didn’t depend on pop-culture jokes and parodies, like so many children’s films do. Hohlfeld has also written romantic comedies and dramas, and said he estimates that, in total, he has been involved in writing about 50 films, which include the Pooh features, He Said, She Said, the spec scripts that he is still trying to sell, quite a few uncredited projects (such as The Mighty Ducks and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland), and the small, independent films he has made on his own. Hohlfeld said that the highlight of his career was a film that didn’t get made. It was a script he wrote the late ’80s about the AIDS epidemic, produced by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon (the folks who penned Stand by Me). “Once the script was finished, everyone just went nuts over it, and Ron Howard was interested in directing it,” Hohlfeld said. At the time, Howard was in London scoring Willow, so Universal flew Hohlfeld over to meet with him. Hohlfeld described the trip as an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. “On the plane over in the first-class section, Elizabeth Taylor was sitting across the aisle from me, and then I got to meet Ron Howard, and then we went to the scoring session and I met George Lucas, who happened to be there because he was producing [Willow], and then it was taking place in the Abbey Road Studios. It was just this wonderful five-day trip.”

t was about seven years ago when he realized that he only needed to be in Los Angeles about three weeks each year, since he could write anywhere. “Personally it’s just much easier to live here; it’s a better place to raise a family. I spent 14 or 15 years in L.A., and I never really thought of it as home. It’s just so strange and such a foreign world. I like the change of seasons, and I like being where I grew up.” The downside, he admitted, is that in Los Angeles you can see someone in a restaurant, and they might say, “Why don’t you come to a meeting tomorrow?” and the next thing you know you have a job. That, of course, doesn’t happen much in St. Louis. Nevertheless, Hohlfeld couldn’t be busier. In addition to his work on the Disney films, he teaches at both Webster University and HH Studio, which he founded with Carrie Houk. He also writes and directs plays for the Imaginary Theatre Company, along with serving on the board of Cinema St. Louis—where he oversees the organization’s annual CinemaSpoke Screenplay Competition. Filmwise, he is trying to get his script Lives of the Saints filmed on a larger scale than the original short version made several years ago. “It’s set in St. Louis, and the Arch actually plays kind of a dramatic function—not just as a prop or the backdrop, but it’s actually in the story. So it sort of begs to be shot here,” Hohlfeld said. But raising the necessary funds and finding a distributor can be difficult. “It’s a very long row to hoe and sometimes it just gets so frustrating,” he said. “You think, why would I do this? Why do I want to do this? Nobody might ever end up seeing it. But then it becomes about the work, and about the kind of quality work you want to do.”


FEBRUARY 2005

I was reading Rob Levy’s “Curmudgeon” way back before Dakota Fanning first ever opened her evil little eyes. As a matter of fact, I could write out a long list of child actors who have risen from the depths of hell since the day I discovered that exquisite (and always upbeat) column. Putting it this way, how many Facts of Life reruns that did not feature George Clooney have aired since that day in which I read Levy’s very first anti–Billy Corgan rant? We are talking thousands, baby! In light of this important fact, I would like to now dedicate this column to one of PlaybackSTL’s editors-at-large, our own Mr. Levy. I was going to do this much sooner, but I decided this was the most perfectly insane time to do it. No reason. Explaining this nonsense would not be consistent with my character. Former St. Louis area chap Eric Spudic is on a quest to preserve the greatness that is American cinema. He will be seen in the upcoming Fred Olen Ray movies, Bikini RoundUp and Bikini Chain Gang. Both will appear on pay-per-view and cable by mid-2005. No word on Spudic’s swimwear preference. Do you shoot industrial films? I have no problem with you bragging about your most recent gig. Drop me an e-mail. St. Louis Writer’s Workshop has put together a screenwriting workshop to be held Mondays, March 7 through April 4 (with the exception of March 28), 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at a location to be announced. The class is for screenwriters of all experience levels. The instructor, 15-year film and television production veteran Richard Eschenroeder, aims to discuss themes that sell in Hollywood as well as polishing nuts and bolts skills that could help a screenplay find its way to the top of the pile. Tuition is $120 and you need to get DAKOTA WILL REIGN

OUR FILMY SUBSTANCE BY ADAM HACKBARTH your applications in before February 23. For complete information, e-mail Denise Bogard at stlww@yahoo.com or call 314-692-2629. Director John Specht’s two-year project Electric Zombies nears completion. This is the first production of Specht’s new company Royalty-N-Exile and his first collaboration with Richard M. Novosak of Pay as You Go Productions/Crystal Wisdom. Most of Specht’s movies are distributed through Sub Rosa Extreme. Director Thomas Smugala’s project Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen is finally expected to fire up this month. James Dean Schulte and Srikant Chellapa have been brought in for the day-to-day production march as this long awaited local effort finally steams ahead into production. Visit www.abeautyqueen.com for more information and to invest piles of cash.

APOCALYPSE AND THE BEAUTY QUEEN

If you haven’t been paying much attention to some of our local film sites, then you probably missed Larva’s long-awaited premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel. To gawk at Rachel Hunter and have a brief Raising Arizona flashback, visit www.scifi.com/larva or check out this Missouri-made motion picture on the Sci-Fi Channel March 5. Adam Hackbarth is a St. Louis–based screenwriter. He is currently balancing his project Poolcide with an exciting new islandbased horror assignment that recently found its way to his door. His e-mail address is stlfilmwire@yahoo.com. No, he doesn’t hate Dakota Fanning. He’s just terrified of her potential for mass destruction.

ERIC SPUDIC

DISPATCH FROM SUNDANCE By Pete Timmermann As I write this, I am only in the middle of the second full day of screenings for Sundance 2005 in Park City, Utah, which means that the majority of events and screenings have yet to unfold—no films are yet receiving buzz based on screenings, which is the heart of Sundance and the attached media hype. Thus, please forgive glaring omissions of big films; they’ll arrive shortly. Of the nine films I’ve seen so far (eight features and a program of animated shorts), the documentary Rock School (which is almost exactly like a real-life School EVAN RACHEL WOOD of Rock, but don’t let that deter you) and the high school film noir Brick were by far the best. Also, I caught the new Don Hertzfeldt short, “The Meaning of Life,” which is a departure for Hertzfeldt (it’s not exactly a comedy), and it is as amazing as one would expect. In the coming days, I look forward to the Don DeLillo–scripted Game 6, the Crispin Glover–written and –directed What Is It?, and the Evan Rachel Wood black comedy Pretty Persuasion. But really, it seems that the goal behind attending Sundance in the first place is to be blown away by a movie you know absolutely nothing about, so I guess I’m looking C RISPIN GLOVE forward to that R movie most of all. Visit www. playbackstl.com in early February for Pete’s complete Sundance wrap-up.

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PLAYBACK STL Play by Play the album was mixed differently for the U.S. and the U.K., B-sides, radio appearances, plus a DVD with TV appearances and a documentary. All the extras would make more sense had the album been released here as scheduled ten years ago. Partly because it wasn’t, an album and group with cult status in the U.K. is barely known here. The press release calls The Holy Bible a “very aggressive rock classic that music fans in the U.S. need to discover.” Note to Marketing: You ain’t gonna get rock fans to discover an album if you only offer it in a bloated package. —Angela Pancella

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JASON MORAN: SAME MOTHER (Blue Note) Jason Moran is one of the most exciting young jazz players on the scene today. His piano work has established him as a fiercely original soloist and sideman; the trio he leads is a pulsing dynamo of creativity. One of the most eagerly awaited releases of 2005, Same Mother presents another adventurous set of Moran songs and interpretations. His signature avant-boogie style with intense harmonic complexity is displayed in full form. This time out, Moran turns to the blues, taking “a really slow, deliberate, and emotionally direct approach to things.” Having studied ’40s Mississippi prison songs for a Seth Mann short film soundtrack, Moran brings that “raw blues expression” closer to home. The songs are impressionistic evocations of his Houston upbringing and, in this regard, the album succeeds. Two blues romps, “Jump Up” and “I’ll Play the Blues for You,” rumble along with true roadhouse grit and a harmonic richness not always found in today’s blues. The latter is a classic by Albert King, whose band featured two of Moran’s uncles, both primary influences on his becoming a musician. While the blues dominate, the avant-garde is never far away and features prominently on “G Suit Saltation” and a reworking of Mal Waldron’s “Fire Waltz.” The former contains more open space than most Moran ventures, yet remains well anchored by the rhythm section. Moran’s working trio, which includes Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums, has been together for several years of touring

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and recording. Their sound on Same Mother is a powerful organic whole that burns any outfit going today. The addition of guitarist Marvin Sewell for this date is a new rub for Moran. Present on seven of the ten tracks, Sewell sometimes struggles to find room for his sound, at times overlapping Moran’s piano. The guitar fits in well on the above-mentioned blues romps, but Sewell’s best turn comes on the Prokofiev-penned film finale “Field of the Dead” (from Eisenstein’s “Alexander Nevsky”), where his chords help build a suspenseful feel. His acoustic guitar effectively inhabits the space of the more contemplative “Restin’” and “Aubade.” Sewell and Moran met while playing behind vocalist Cassandra Wilson; while Sewell’s is a unique voice, he doesn’t always fit this album. The unity that Moran achieves with his trio, so powerful itself, sometimes renders Sewell extraneous. Moran’s percussive stride piano and dense chords quickly overpower Sewell whenever he follows the guitarist’s solos. A Moran staple, his continuing study of “Gangsterism,” this time “…on the Rise” and “…on the Set,” opens and closes the album in a more bluesy and percussive way than in its previous forms. The blues and jazz do indeed share the same mother and this exceptional album combines the two in Moran’s highly original voice. It will certainly stand above most 2005 releases; Moran and company cover more ground in one session than do most groups. Moran fans will recognize his sound of Same Mother well and might even find themselves shaking their butts this time. If he tours to St. Louis, his show is a must-see for anybody who appreciates exploration and raw power from a jazz trio. —Tim Hand RECKLESS KELLY: WICKED TWISTED ROAD (Sugar Hill Records) Because a tiny red die chatters in the gutter behind its spine and its booklet unfolds into a board game like Candy Land gone Animal House, Wicked Twisted Road, the fifth CD from Reckless Kelly, suggests an inventiveness lacking in too many releases nowadays. The memorable whimsy of the disc’s packaging would dwindle into

inconsequentiality, of course, if the quintet in question made forgettable music. Happily, they don’t—quite the opposite, in fact. Reckless Kelly hails from Austin and comprises guitarist David Abeyta, multi-instrumentalists Cody and Willy Braun, drummer Jay Nazz, and bassist Jimmy McFeeley, with the latter Braun brother also serving as lead vocalist. God alone knows why they named themselves after Australian Ned Kelly, the outlaw who roamed in homemade armor in the latter half of the 1800s—nary a didgeridoo graces the disc under review. Nevertheless, on its 13 tracks, Wicked Twisted Road exhibits exhilarating range. The Pogues at their peak, for instance, would have had difficulty matching the bibulous verve and sly wit of “Seven Nights in Eire,” which opens with the lament of a fiddle and the jangle of a tambourine and closes with the piping of a pennywhistle, and other tracks, like the mordant love songs “Nobody Haunts Me Like You” and “Wretched Again,” bolster longstanding comparisons of Reckless Kelly to early Steve Earle. “Motel Cowboy Show,” meanwhile, pays propulsive yet poignant tribute to party-hearty honkytonking, and past a revving engine and squealing whitewalls, “Sixgun” takes listeners on a narrative journey that starts with armed robbery and roars along like a getaway car: “Sadie got a sixgun, she ain’t afraid to use it/The banker took us straight down to the safe and I blew it.” All things considered, then, on the highways and byways of modern music, Reckless Kelly’s Wicked Twisted Road puts the pedal to the metal—give it a test drive. —Bryan A. Hollerbach REX HOBART AND THE MISERY BOYS: EMPTY HOUSE (Bloodshot Records) “Last night, I left for the last time,” drawls Rex Hobart at the opening of a song called “The Good Ain’t Gone,” which itself opens the CD Empty House with a Telecaster salvo that would have sounded in situ four decades past in the Lucky Spot and other clubs in a California oil town roughly 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Yes: Bakersfield. In that regard, the 11-track Bloodshot disc positions listeners without hesitation


FEBRUARY 2005

and certainly without apology—those who wouldn’t be caught dead in a honky-tonk, frankly, should go and die somewhere else. Fans of early Merle Haggard, meanwhile, may well rank Empty House as a sonic petit mort. Without seeming slavish about it, if not quite in their timbre, Hobart’s vocals recall Hag’s in their surety, in the steeliness of their reading; decades apart, the two men appear to have sipped sour mash at the same roadhouse bar, though the younger musician perhaps insisted on a clean glass. (Kids these days!) Echoes of the legendary “Okie from Muskogee” also resonate in the lyrics of Hobart, a Missouri native who came of age in St. James, near Rolla, and who wrote all but one of the tracks here. Listeners should consider by way of example the wry humor of “The Tear I Left Behind,” “Let’s Leave Me,” and the hoist-with-his-ownpetard cheatin’ song “Heartache to Hide.” Better yet, they should savor the disc’s indisputable highlight, “I Don’t Like That Mirror,” a song at once reflective and terribly, terribly refractive—it’s a honky-tonk tour de force. Backing Hobart here are the hilariously misnamed Misery Boys, their playing anything but miserable: drummer T.C. Dobbs, multiinstrumentalist Solomon Hofer, lead guitarist J.B. Morris, and bassist Blackjack Snow. Most recently on 2002’s Your Favorite Fool, they’ve backed Hobart on three previous Bloodshot releases. Discerning music fans should do likewise. —Bryan A. Hollerbach UNWRITTEN LAW: HERE’S TO THE MOURNING (Lava Records) In recent months, bands like Green Day and Velvet Revolver have been bringing me back to my teenage years with steady doses of punk/hard rock music. Here’s to the Mourning is an example of a strong rock album. Unwritten Law draws on the traditional punk rock sound as well as utilizing vocal hooks in-sync with flowing guitar rhythms and hard-hitting percussion. Since 1993, Unwritten Law has stuck around the Southern California music scene, honing its craft. Consequently, this San Diego quintet has produced a solid foundation on its last five albums and live performances. The band has a distinct sound on its latest studio effort. Mourning showcases lead singer Scott Russo’s from-the-gut vocals wholeheartedly. Russo’s raspy but amazingly strong singing

reminds an avid U.K. rock listener of Kelly Jones, lead vocalist for the Stereophonics. Many of the tunes on Mourning have possible mass-listener appeal, be it on college, independent, or the typical corporate radio–owned stations on the dial. On the first sampling of the record, “Save Me” stands out immediately. The lyrics, “I went to heaven/I couldn’t get in for what I have done/I said forsake me/He said you’re crazy/You were too much fun,” really appeal to the ear. Whereas on “Hideaway,” “Dance with me, dance with me/Take off your pants with me” does not showcase Unwritten Law’s growing songwriting abilities. But I guess you cannot be a completely clean lyric band and still be considered a balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll band. So the latter’s lyrics serve the nasty rock ’n’ roll side of trying to bed a member of the opposite sex and the challenge that can, for some folks, be a reflection of our most basic desires. “Walrus” is noteworthy; the swell of emotion created with the additional string instruments is palpable. The Beatles and a hint of the Beach Boys bubble up here with the harmonies. You can just see people swaying their lighters to this one. Again, there is a somewhat strange thread between Unwritten Law and the strands on a few British bands’ coats. “She Says” is also quite radio-friendly and a favorite on the album. Hopefully, I won’t be the only one packing butane if these guys venture to the lovely Lou for a show on their upcoming tour dates. We are starving for some straight-up hard rock music in this town. Oh, how I miss thee, Rocket Bar. —Mary Beth Hascall M. WARD: TRANSISTOR R ADIO (Merge) I love reading press releases. The best of them are very helpful in attempting to suss out where an unfamiliar artist falls in the scheme of things; the worst are case studies in bad writing or ways to make an artist sound important when, deep down, the publicist knows they’re pretty lame. Fortunately, the sheet accompanying M. Ward’s new album Transistor Radio falls in the “helpful” category, and, even better, this is one phenomenal recording. “Even to the fully initiated, M. Ward comes off like a mysterious enigma, a half-named troubadour with an otherworldly voice and an old-time sensibility,” the press release states. Yep, what she said.

Matt Ward is a Portland songwriter who comes across as a bluesy, folksy, shadowy figure inhabiting a fringe area where all experiences are shrouded in mist, like the haze of half-remembrance. His clean, intricate guitar picking is strongly influenced by John Fahey, and his beguiling rasp of a voice reminds one, at various times, of Damien Rice, Al Anderson in love-song mode, and his contemporary peer Devendra Banhart. But honestly, it’s hard to pin this guy down. His voice is tremendously resonant, and he records it up front, with the perfect amount of reverb to make it shine in the mix. Transistor Radio “is dedicated to the last of the remaining independent radio stations,” according to Ward, and, indeed, many of the songs here—like the purely acoustic “One Life Away,” the metaphorical travel anthem “Paul’s Song” (with standout lap steel and hi-hat in the arrangement), and the gorgeous “Fuel for Fire”—sound like the kind of tunes you’d stumble across at the lower end of the FM dial on the open highway. On the latter song, Ward sings, “My heart is always on the line/I’ve traveled all kinds of places/The song is always the same/Got lonesome fuel for fire,” a verse reinforcing the sense of weary restlessness that pervades this disc. A few simple piano chords emerge from the mix surprisingly, to utterly spine-tingling effect. Every instrument, in fact, seems perfectly suited for its respective arrangement. “Big Boat” recalls Jerry Lee Lewis in the sparseness of its pounding piano and drums arrangement, and it’s also one of two songs featuring Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley on background vocals. Quite a cool little song. On “Four Hours in Washington,” Ward doubles the amount of echo on his voice, singing and playing with an urgency that make you think he’s trying to nail this song quickly before the plug gets pulled or some undesirable shows up to collect a painful debt. Other standout tunes include the mid-tempo jauntiness of “Radio Campaign” (with its memorable chorus of “Come back, come back my little peace of mind”), the atmospheric “Deep Dark Well” (with a foot-tapping rhythm and what sounds like a farfisa organ) and the beautifully sung “Lullaby & Exile,” on which Ward again earns chills with some unexpected whistling. “A trance is a spell/With a thrill wrapped up inside it,” Ward sings on this lovely track. The entirety of Transistor Radio induces a trance, actually, and the thrills wrapped in its layered grooves reveal M. Ward to be an artist of uncommon sensitivity and haunting musical depth. —Kevin Renick

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PLAYBACK STL

LOCAL SCENERY

EDITED BY J. CHURCH First of all, thanks to our faithful readers and (PR reps) for sending informative submissions to “Local Scenery.” Keep them coming! OK folks, get out your notepads because we have a lot to cover this month. Hopefully we can squeeze in a picture somewhere between the words. Every Thursday night, Smiley’s, on the corner of 9th & Barton in Soulard, hosts a jazz jam session featuring student musicians from Webster University and Lindenwood University. 314-537-0966 Guitarist Brad Johnson has joined the band Simmons, who have recently finished recording a new EP with J. Christopher Hughes. The CD should be out and available at www.simmonsband.com in February. Venus Envy is accepting submissions for the 2005 St. Louis exhibition. All women living within a 200-mile radius of St. Louis are encouraged to submit, however, the submissions must be received (not postmarked) by 30 Feb. 14, 2005. Application processing fee is $15. To submit, download the printable application form from the Venus Envy Web site at www.venusenvy.org/stl_press.htm or call 314-865-0181 and leave your name and mailing address. The Dog Town Allstars perform a monthly “First Friday” gig at Magee’s (4500 Clayton at Taylor in the CWE). The evening features a $2 premium pint special. The band also performs on the following dates: Fri., Feb. 11 at The Famous Bar (5213 Chippewa) and Sat., Feb. 26 at Stagger Inn (104 E. Vandalia, Edwardsville). T h e C o m e d y Forum (4141 N. Cloverleaf Dr. in St. Peters) is expanding its entertainment possibilities to the area by providing live music every Monday t h r o u g h Don’t miss MAD ARF, an art exhibit at Thursday. The Mad Art Gallery Feb. 18–25 to benefit Forum is now Stray Rescue. Photo: Stray Rescue.

booking bands to fill their 300-seat showroom. Bands interested in performing should contact Matt at funnyforum@aol.com or 636498-1234. All genres of music are welcome. www.comedyforum.com There certainly seems to be room for young musicians in our local scene and rarely do they sound tired. Sleepwalker managed to fill the Hi-Pointe Cafe with a crowd of teenagers when they played this month. Anyone still upset over the breakup of The Whole Sick Crew SIMMONS photo: GEORGE HICKER should take note that this band also uses violin Hop Avant-Garde,” a collection of paintings as a big part of their sound. by Jackson Brown is on display at the Bassist Robert Lloyd is no longer playing Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallery beginning in Conquest. He played his last show with Sat., Feb. 5 and running through Sat., Apr. 2. the local metal act when the band opened for There will be an opening night reception at Slayer last Halloween. Currently, he is playing Eyejammie, 516 W. 25th St., on Fri., Feb. 4 in Field of Grey, who have just recorded a from 6–9pm. CD with plenty of hard rock and grunge influElvis has left the building, but some ence; they have played shows with bands like local guys have stepped in. Miles of Wire Sofachrome and Black Dahlia. is planning to take a couple months off to Magnolia Summer is in the process of record the new album at none other than determining a release date for their new disc. It Elvis’s former home Sun Studios in Memphis. should be ready by fall. www.milesofwire.com The True/False Film Festival returns Feb. The River Homegrown Show is no longer 25–27 to the Ragtag Cinemacafe 23 N. 10th at Lil’ Nikki’s, but Ken Williams is exploring St., Columbia, Mo. Visit www.ragtagfilm.com two or three other locations to host the show. for details. 573-443-4359. Keep posted at www.theriverhomegrown.com. The old Moolah Shrine Temple on Lindell has Surfaces: Within & Without is a new juried been converted into a 400-seat movie theater, exhibit on view Jan. 24 through Mar. 5 at the the Moolah Theatre & Lounge (3821 Lindell), Art Saint Louis Gallery. The gallery is free and with a bowling alley downstairs and apartments open to the public weekdays 10 above. www.stlouiscinemas.com MODERN DAY ZERO a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to St. Louis–based Bionic photo: PATRICK VAUGHAN 4 p.m. Call 314-241-4810 or visit Grooves Entertainment has www.artstlouis.org for info. started a national support and Modern Day Zero’ single performance network called The “Sick Inside” is the #1 most Camp which will allow coast-toplayed song on KPNT 105.7 coast unknown and unsigned The Point and has been entertainers to tour and sell selected for inclusion on The their products nationally. To Addiction Vol. 5, a national get involved or know more, compilation of top independent please call 314-481-4332 or visit artists. The band’s debut album, www.BionicGrooves.com. Coming up for Air, was released Mad Art Gallery is proud nationally through Redeye to present MAD ARF, a charity Distribution. art exhibit with proceeds from a silent aucRustedShine have scheduled their release tion benefiting Stray Rescue. Local artists party for their debut CD Chameleon at have used Stray Rescue dogs as models to Mississippi Nights on March 4. Opening acts create photographs, paintings, metal works, are to be determined. www.rustedshine.com ceramics, and multimedia artworks. All art Bockman’s Euphio have changed their shown will available for sale. The exhibit name simply to Bockman. In early 2005, the runs Feb. 18–25 with the opening reception group will begin tracking for their first release and auction taking place from 7–11 p.m. on under the new moniker. The CD is being Fri., February 18. Free admission and cash bar. recorded at the Blue Note in Columbia, Mo., www.madart.com and at their home studio outside of Columbia. “Follow the Leader: Portraits of the Hipwww.bockman.net


FEBRUARY 2005

Greenwheel have parted ways with Island Records and longtime drummer Doug Randall. Meanwhile, the band is rehearsing with new drummer Drew Bailey and working on new material in St. Louis. Gallery 210 at the University of Missouri – St. Louis will be hosting three readings by authors PAT OTEC, TALLGRASS PRAIRIE, 2004, FIBER. this month. They include Part of the Surfaces: Within & Without exhibit on display at Art St. Louis through March 5. Robert Ford, author of the award winning novel, The Student Conductor, will read at 7 p.m. Feb. 1; Irish-American poets Natalie Anderson, author of Finding Fred Astaire, and Peggy O’Brien, author of the collection Sudden Thaw and editor of The Wake Forest Book of Irish Women’s Poetry, 1967-2000 Feb. 10, 12:30-1:45 p.m.; and David Haynes, author of The Full Matilda Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. Atomic Cowboy will be reopening soon on Manchester just east of Kingshighway. On Sat., Feb. 5, Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room hosts Marleyfest 2005, a tribute to the music of Bob Marley. The show features Murder City Players and special guests Dubtronix Reggae Band, Youths and Roots, and Yardsquad. Doors at 8 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m. $12. Music Folk (8015 Big Bend) welcomes Pete Huttlinger for the Collings Guitar Workshop on Sun., Feb. 6. Spots are available by contacting Music Folk by phone (314-961-2838) or in person. The

workshop begins at 1 p.m. and costs $25. Crypt33, The Pubes, The Scared, and Pale Face will blow your mind with murder and guts Fri., Feb. 4 at the Hard Rock Café (450 St. Louis Union Station). The all-ages show at is at 9:45 p.m., $5. On Sat., Feb. 12 Raven Moon will perform at a benefit for William “Woody” Wood in the Schindler Center at Holy Trinity Church (Fairview Heights, Il.). The event, which features The Greers, Meramec Jets, Chris Talley Trio, Split Rail, and special guests Mel Creasey, Zane Prosser, Brenda Cook, and Julie Jany, starts at 1 p.m. Food, drinks, prizes, and raffles are also included in the mix. For information, contact Carolyn Lewis (618-234-4146) or Sue Wood (618-3982293 or 636-677-5468).

MILES OF WIRE onstage at the PlaybackSTL holiday show. Photo: MOLLY HAYDEN

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PLAYBACK STL

TAKE FIVE

THE GENTLEMAN CALLERS

FOUR AND A HALF QUESTIONS WITH THE GENTLEMAN CALLERS By Rachel McCalla

You formed ten years ago; when was the first Gentleman Callers show? MP: July 1999.

Elliot Goes

MV: I think we thought of the name and started writing songs in 1998. Tell me about the name. MV: Kevin and I got the name from watching The Simpsons. There’s this episode where Homer goes over to Marge’s sister’s house to bug her about something and then there is this knock at the door. Then she says, “I’m expecting a gentleman caller. So Homer, you have to leave.” We thought that was pretty cool and we had already decided that we wanted to start a sick, Back From the Grave–type band. We also wanted to tie in a Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie–type thing. One of our first lines was, “Roses are red, roses are blue/a gentleman caller is here to see you.” We had all of these little tie-ins about the name, but nobody noticed. How do you describe your sound? MV: It’s hard because you want to say, “It’s just rock ’n’ roll.” But then people think it’s like Bruce Springsteen. I always thought it was more like early British rock ’n’ roll. Dirty rock. MP: We were listening to Back From the Grave and The Sonics when we started. MV: We have a definite R&B sound, too; I don’t think that’s something that people always catch on to. There aren’t many bands that sound like The Gentleman Callers. Where do you think you fit into the St. Louis music scene?

MV: There are not many bands that sound like us anywhere, really. I mean, you can compare us to other bands, but we kind of have our own style. KS: I think we fall into this crack where we are too crazy for people who listen to shitty, lame popular music. We’re not like that. But people who don’t like that are into fast, crazy punk music and they don’t really get us, either. MP: I want to point out that where we are today as a band was a completely natural progression. We were into punk rock and then we started to get into more garage-y punk rock like the Devil Dogs and Teengenerate. Then we discovered even older stuff, like the Rolling Stones’ first five albums. It was never like us sitting around saying, “Hey, let’s start a garage rock band.” I just don’t want people to think that this is some novelty thing that we put together. You know that could happen. MV: It happens all the time. MP: And we try purposely not to fall into the traps. We’re not going to go out and get matching suits. That was going to be my next question.

by Bosco (with illustration help from Jessica Gluckman)

www.mentalsewage.com

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Two of the members of The Gentleman Callers, Matt Picker and Kevin Schneider, have been playing together for so long, they can’t remember the name of the first band they started back in 1995. They were 15 years old. Ten years later, The Gentleman Callers sound exactly like they’re in a smoky underground club in London circa 1967. This is no slapdash band. These are not teenagers mimicking punk rock. The Gentleman Callers sound raw, but their music is skillfully crafted and expertly polished. Exceptional live, Schneider (bass/ vocals), Mike Young (guitar/farfisa), Mike Virag (guitar), and Picker (drums) are true showmen. Here are four white guys who can get any crowd to shake it. Loved by critics and average music lovers alike, The Gentleman Callers had a great 2004. Not only did they receive “Best Garage Band” for 2004 by The Riverfront Times, they were also asked to contribute to the Chuck Berry tribute compilation Brown Eyed Handsome Man. March 2005 will bring the full-length Don’t Say What It Is. Until then, you can see them at Lil’ Nikki’s February 4. Schneider, Virag, and Picker took some time talk and drink a few Rolling Rocks on a Sunday at the City Diner.

As they watch the Academy Awards, each of the boys is lost in his own daydream.

Henry fancies himself a pilot, just like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator.

As for Bosco, well, it’s all about winning.


FEBRUARY 2005

PROFILE

MARDI GRAS IN ST. LOUIS: GOT BEATS? By Angela Pancella

MARDI GRAS MUSIC

GUMBOHEAD (L to R): DAVID MILLS, RON SIKES, TIM HALPIN, ANDY COCO, BENET SCHAEFFER, TOM MARTIN. PHOTO BY DAVID LANCASTER.

T-Wayne and The Swamptones, Zydeco Crawdaddys, Gumbohead… these bands and more keep Louisiana in St. Louis’s soul within the month of Mardi Gras and throughout the rest of the year, but the preLenten frenzy for all the delights of the flesh gives us a convenient excuse to shine the spotlight on them now.

T-Wayne and The Swamptones Specialty: “Danceable Cajun waltzes and two-steps seasoned with a little zydeco, swamp pop, and honky tonk,” according to Cajun Dance facilitator Donna Eckberg (aka Dancin Donna, aka the Dance Gypsy—she who shares her knowledge at http://home.swbell.net/ o2bkjn/Cajun.html). What the heck is “Cajun,” anyhow? It’s a style named for the French settlers in Louisiana, émigrés from the Acadian region of eastern Canada. It has a country-western swing and French vocals that tend to sound like the singer is on the verge of tears. Creation myth: Thayne Bradford—T-Wayne—whipped out an accordion when he was performing in a western swing band. He started wailing in French—sort of. He’d been so keen to try a new style of music, he skipped any attempt at comprehension and learned the Cajun tune phonetically. Distinction: They’ve sure run through a bunch of names in their eight years of existence, including The Bayou Rats, The Bluebottle Swampcats, Les Chats Aller, and Fais Do Do. How do they sound? You won’t pay much attention if you’re a newbie and you’re too busy wondering how to avoid stepping on your partner’s toes. Bradford says, “The dancers created the band. The dancers take the focus off the group”—and that’s fine by him. He’s happy when the room is swinging, and at “the Cajun,” it always is. What do they play? “J’ai été au bal,” “Eunice 2 Step,” “Everything on the Hog is Good” (“except the eyeballs,” Bradford elaborates). Catch them at: the Focal Point at the Cajun Dance—but not until March 9. The Cajun dance is every second Wednesday of the month, but in February there is a special guest band and a special date: fiddler Dennis “McGee” Stroughmatt and his Creole Stomp perform on Feb. 2.

Zydeco Crawdaddys Specialty: Not exclusively zydeco, despite the assumptions you might make from the name. They’re also known to play Dixieland jazz and their own bluesy originals. What the heck is “zydeco,” anyhow? A blend of Cajun and African shout music. Bandleader Paul Jarvis figures the simple, chantlike melodies have Native American roots, as well. The name comes from an early hit tune, “Les haricots sont pas salé”—“The green beans aren’t salty”— since in slurred French “les haricots” comes out as “lay zy-dee-co.” Creation myth: Jarvis stumbled on Al Boudreaux’s Louisiana show on KDHX (now helmed by “Sunny Boy” Mason on Tuesdays from 4–6 p.m.) and thought nothing had ever sounded so good. He collected more than 60 tapes to analyze the music’s structure. Distinction: Until he hears a competing claim, Jarvis will say the Crawdaddys were the first zydeco band in St. Louis.

How do they sound? A bit rough around the edges, but that may be because they are breaking in some new musicians. What do they play? Originals with names like “St. Louis Mardi Gras,” traditional tunes like “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” or “The Second Line Dance.” (Ask Jarvis to tell you the history of second line dances if you’re into fun funeral facts.) Catch them at: Broadway Oyster Bar on Feb. 4, Patty Long’s 9th St. Abbey on Feb. 5 (from 3–9 p.m.), or the Great Grizzly Bear on Feb. 8—look for updates on www.zydecocrawdaddys.com.

Gumbohead Specialty: They call it “Red-Hot Louisiana Zydefunk,” and they mean it. Creation myth: Founding members Tim Jarvis and Andy Coco would often discover they were both attending the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Afterward they’d compare notes and tell each other, “Wouldn’t it be great if some band in St. Louis played the widest possible range of New Orleans music?” And then they thought, “Hey, we could do it…” Distinction: The Gumbohead logo, a cosmic-looking fella with a saucepan on his noggin, was designed by Mark Andresen, a New Orleans artist who has also done design work for the Neville Brothers. Andresen told Jarvis he’d gotten a voodoo priestess to impart some good mojo on the image. “Hopefully there’s no expiration date on the juju,” Jarvis says today. How do they sound? Zydefunky. Gumbohead have an easy camaraderie and infectious enthusiasm, not to mention incredible grooves. On a recent cold night in the Oyster Bar’s heated tent, the drummer was inspired to play the Southern Comfort lightbulbs hanging above him. What’s not to love? What do they play? “Everything from songs by The Radiators to The Iguanas to The Neville Brothers to Buckwheat Zydeco,” according to Jarvis. Catch them at: The Schlafly Krewe of Brewe Tent on the afternoon of Feb. 5 and the Broadway Oyster Bar that evening; many more gigs are listed at www.gumbohead.com.

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PLAYBACK STL

CURMUDGEON BY ROB LEVY

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Well, it’s a whole new year and while the world waited with baited breath (not really) to see who will be America’s Next Top (emaciated) Model or what (not so) great music is going to come out of American Idol, those of us in the living world have resolved to rise above these stains on the development of human civilization and read books, see movies, and indulge ourselves in lots of new and invigorating music. Wouldn’t it be great if 2005 began with no war, no genocides, and an end to famine? Alas, this is impossible because as long as Billy Corgan publishes poetry, Juliette Lewis sings, and Courtney Love acts, this planet of ours is in grave peril. Not to mention Moby—that guy is going to self-combust from excessive pretension. But it’s not all doom and gloom in the world. No siree, there are a lot of great artists whose plate tectonics will shift in 2005, causing them to rise above the percolating landscape of mediocrity and finally be heard by more than just those in the know. Here are a few examples… The New Year could be very good for several up-and-coming bands. Among the ones to keep an eye on are the amazing Bloc Party, who are readying their debut CD, Silent Alarm, for an early spring release. They will be huge! Also watch out for Montreal’s The Dears who have just toured with Morrissey and released No Cities Left on Spin Art Records. Portland’s Viva Voce is set for a strong year, as well. Their Lovers Lead the Way has been reissued and should push their dreamy pop perfections into the waking world. Manchester’s I Am Kloot is finally crossing over to the States by releasing their self-titled

second album on Echo Records. Two of the biggest new acts of 2005 will grace the stage at The Pageant over the next few months. The first is Liverpool’s The Zutons, who are generating a huge buzz after becoming the first band to play a gig at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in November. The buzz on this band is pretty big, and they may even steal the show. BLOC PARTY Leicester’s Kasabian, who mix a mild electronica sound with stark and edgy Britpop, are coming here in March with The Music. Their self-titled debut is finally getting a domestic release. They recently recorded a cover version of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s “Out of Space” as a B-side. Finally, keep an ear out for The Stands, who hail from Liverpool and make lush, Dylan-esque folky pop sounds, laden with the best bits of The Band for good measure. Their debut, All Year’s Leaving, is out now. In general, it looks like 2005 will be massive for music, with new albums from trusted friends and familiar faces like Beck, Sigur Ros, The Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, Saint Etienne, Primal Scream, Low, Doves, Lou Barlow, Stephen Malkmus, Queens of the Stone Age, Coldplay, The Darkness, Sleater-Kinney, Nine Inch Nails, New Order, The Deftones, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Outkast, and The Shins. It looks like the first breakout buzz of 2005 will be the revamped Queens of the Stone Age, who will solidify their massive status with steady touring. The kids are also waiting in great eagerness for March’s return of Mars THE DEARS Volta. They too will follow a new album, Frances the Mute, with a bevy of live tour dates in the spring. Club kids and hipsters alike are interested to hear what the return of Daft Punk holds. The French duo is also revving up for a big March return with their third album, Human After All. Having finished a short tour of China, Ladytron are currently hard at work finishing their next record, which should come out this spring. The band recently

signed a major-label deal with Island/Universal Records. Despite being dead for 20 years, Klaus Nomi remains an interesting an elusive character study. Director Andrew Horn has chronicled his life, music, and death in a new documentary called The Nomi Song. The Cars are getting the tribute treatment with Substitution Mass Confusion, a new tribute CD featuring several artists, including Jason Falkner and Butch Walker, putting their own stamp on their music. The Strokes are currently working on their third album, due out next summer. Spiritualized, Elliott Smith, Cat Power, The Black Keys, and Iggy Pop are just a few of the artists contributing to Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough, a new tribute CD honoring blues legend Junior Kimbrough. KASABIAN

photo by Jill Furmanovsky

As you enjoy the happiness of this New Year, please reflect for a few moments on the dreadful plight of those poor unfortunate souls in Britain who had to endure weeks of Band Aid 20’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? Could someone tell Creed that you have be great to actually have a greatest-hits compilation? They are milking one crappy popular song for far more than it’s worth. It is truly sad when the mediocre blatantly shill for cash. Former James singer Tim Booth has released a solo effort entitled Bone. The Dickies have reformed and are working on new material. Despite being split up for a little over three years now, The Blue Meanies recently reunited in Chicago for a series of special holiday shows. Their best album, Full Throttle, is being reissued on Thick records next month.


FEBRUARY 2005

In less exciting reunion news, Die Warzau has also reformed. M83 is following up Before the Dawn Rises with a short tour with Ulrich Schanuss. Schnauss canceled some dates with M83 last year after breaking his wrist in Montreal. Tom Waits will have a small part in Tony Scott’s new film, Domino. JUNIOR KIMBROUGH Comic book artist and musician extraordinaire Archer Prewitt has just released Wilderness, already garnering acclaim in Entertainment Weekly. Before they set a spell and work on semantics like recording a new album and getting a record deal, The Pixies are set to release a DVD chronicling their fast and furious “reunion” tour. They Might Be Giants just don’t know when to stop. The duo is releasing (yet) another unreleased collection of TMBG material entitled They Got Lost via their Web site. First Lindsay Lohan was only an annoying actress; now she’s an annoying actress and singer with hair like a collie. Rob Swift has parted ways with the XEcutioners. Mogwai, one of the greatest bands on the planet, is collecting a series of previously unreleased radio sessions into one collection entitled Government Commissions: 1996-2003. Les Savvy Fav recently announced that they are taking are taking an “extended hiatus.” They may release a collection of unreleased songs and instrumental tracks sometime this year. Depeche Mode has re-released Enjoy the Silence as a single with new mixes. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see Jessica REM

Simpson playing Daisy Duke as that much of a stretch. However, if she ever has another Christmas special, I’m going to send Simon Bar Sinister and Spellbinder over to her place to remedy the situation once and for all. It looks likes Lou Reed, The New York Dolls, and REM are in the mix to headline this summer’s Field Day Festival in upstate New York. You know, up there in that place near where the Facts of Life girls went to school. If you want more REM than you can shake a stick at, then you are in luck. Their entire Warner Brothers back catalog (from Green to 2004’s Around the Sun) is being reissued and repackaged this fall. Each album will have an accompanying DVD, as well as extra tracks and live recordings. Speaking of reissues, you won’t find “Killing an Arab” (based on Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger) on any of the new reissue CDs by The Cure. Mr. Bob Smith had such a fuss about its inclusion on the compilation Standing on a Beach that he wants to avoid any additional hassles from politicos, social groups, or weird music critics. Everyone can wave their martini glasses around with glee because the Thievery Corporation has returned with a new single “Revolution Solution” (featuring vocals from Perry Farrell) and a new album, The Cosmic Game. Finally, the demise of the Rocket Bar is a sad thing, not just because a great watering hole has gone by the wayside, but also because it was a hotbed for musical discussions of all shape sand sizes. It served as one of the few venues left in the city to feature local bands as well as bands lying underneath the radar of commercial radio without interference from the jackboot of Clear Channel. It also leaves a black eye on the city’s social scene because, if nothing else, the Rocket Bar was the one place where people left their bullshit at the door and got their drink on in peace and happiness. We should all feel pangs of sadness, but hold hope in our hearts because we are fortunate that in its wake we still have some great venues—like the Hi-Pointe, Creepy Crawl, Lemmon’s, and Frederick’s—that fight the system.


PLAYBACK STL

PAGE BY PAGE

BOOKS

Reading Spree

36

NICK HORNBY: THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE (Believer Books; 230 pgs; $14) No matter how hard he tries, Nick Hornby cannot escape writing about relationships. Whether these are about a boy or about couples trying to hang on, or the connections between song and listener, relationships have always been the core catalyst in Hornby’s books. So it comes as no surprise to see him at it once more, albeit differently, with his latest offering, The Polysyllabic Spree. The Polysyllabic Spree collects 14 months of Hornby’s essays from The Believer magazine, chronicling his personal reading habits from month to month while exploring his relationship with books that he buys, reads, and/or shelves. It is this relationship, between Hornby and his books, that serves as the backdrop for his wry and witty commentaries on the nature, content, and form of literature. With a cheeky allusion to musical conglomerate The Polyphonic Spree, the title refers to the esteemed editorial staff of The Believer, with which (as intimated early on) Hornby’s interaction is at times tenuous. To prove this point, Hornby slyly regales the reader with amusing tales of editorial memos and recalls a night on the town with the staff, as they attend a grueling reading by nominees for the prestigious but snooty National Book Critics Circle. From the onset, Hornby establishes that being a columnist requires a tremendous amount of balance and agility. Hornby accepts this challenge, creating a tone that interweaves his personal life as a writer, father, and music lover with his passion for reading. Humor and insight abound as he nimbly moves from book to book, tossing out clever asides along the way. Each column provides praise, criticism, and abundant fat to chew on, with several fine moments rising to the surface. Hornby recounts meeting Kurt Vonnegut, delights in reading Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), unabashedly praises Jonathan Letham (The

Fortress of Solitude) and relishes the words of J.D. Salinger. He even takes time to cast a critical eye on the works of his brother-in-law, suspense author Robert Harris (Enigma, Fatherland). Throughout The Polysyllabic Spree it is pointedly clear that beneath Nick Hornby’s perspectives on being English in Los Angeles, understanding baseball, and supporting Arsenal Football Club, lies a reader and author with a judicious passion for the craft of writing. He’s more than willing to take Meat Is Murder author Joe Pernice to task while championing Charlotte Moore’s George & Sam: Autism in the Family. None of this, though, equals the gushing accolades he festoons upon his hero, Charles Dickens. Hornby even goes so far as to devote an entire column to his experience with David Copperfield, breaking it down and sizing it up for our consumption. Likewise, after discovering 1930s novelist Patrick Hamilton through a Marah song, he obsessively reads his body of work at a fever pitch, taking us along for the ride. By the conclusion of The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby has done the relationship thing again. He’s formed a triangular relationship linking the passionate reader, the passionate columnist, and the passionate writers whose books inspired the scrutiny in the first place. This fascinating compendium is ideal for book lovers and those who are familiar with Hornby, McSweeney’s, or The Believer. Hornby has proved to be a top-notch wordsmith of discerning taste and dynamic prose; this does wonders for his column but may scare off casual readers looking for fiction along the lines of High Fidelity or How to Be Good. All the same, The Polysyllabic Spree is a wonderful literary feat, compelled by one man’s determination to celebrate the power of the pen by calling attention to the under-appreci-

ated—and rapidly becoming outdated—arts of reading and writing. —Rob Levy DAVE KING: THE HA-HA (Little, Brown; 368 pages; $23.95) Named for the botanical phrase for a boundary wall concealed in a ditch so as not to interfere with one’s otherwise idyllic view, Dave King’s debut novel is narrated by a mute disabled veteran (Howard) who has taken in his years-earlier girlfriend’s young boy while she gets a “tune-up” for drug addiction. King’s critically welcomed novel might have made a fine longer story or novella—there are a few well-realized scenes, such as when Howard takes the half-black boy to the barber’s. But as it is—at an unreasonable 368 pages—The Ha-Ha is clumsy and trying. The more room King gives himself, the more unsteady choices he makes: characters using words (“fatuous,” “precious”) that are miles from their established personalities, slightly off similes (“my body’s light and hollow and brittle, like a sculpture made of egg whites”—egg whites are brittle?), and lazy plotting (Howard claims “astonishment” watching two cops head toward his house, though the day before, after beating the hell out of some random guy, he’s “certain” the knocks on his door are from policemen’s hands). Most frustrating for the reader who hangs in there is King’s ending, which includes two scenes I’d been hoping not to witness: Howard’s late-night mounting of his John Deere mower, the healing machine he’d ridden earlier for pay before getting fired; and some contrived and undeserved last-page snuggles between Howard and his live-in friend Laurel. She seems not to mind the book’s recent past—Howard thrashing in the kitchen: “I’m on the ground now, I’m fucking roaring”—and even inclines her head to promote the transformed narrator’s head rub. She’s more forgiving than I. —Stephen Schenkenberg


FEBRUARY 2005

L

ocal literary enthusiast Paul Thiel has just published Under the Arch: St. Louis Stories—Glimpses of Life in the Gateway City by Its Writers. The book features 23 pieces by writers including William Gass, Mary Troy, and PBSTL-featured Daniel Stolar. Thiel, the book’s editor, recently chatted with Book Editor Stephen Schenkenberg about the project. So how did the book come to be? The book came into being as a result of my attending the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans last March. At the festival I met a fellow who had edited and published a book titled French Quarter Fiction, which was very well received. Hell, I said, I can do that. After ten years or so of promoting readings in St. Louis I have met a lot of talented writers. New Orleans has no monopoly on that. Actually, the scope of St. Louis’ writing talent is often unsung. It was time for me to start singing their praise. I contacted just a few writers whose writings I admired, and they in turn gave me names and put me on some e-mail lists. Before long I had quite a selection of stories. I decided to mix fiction with nonfiction, since there’s truth and fantasy in both. As you began, what were your criteria for publishable material? I picked stories that entertained me in one way or another. I was not going to publish a boring book. And at the same time, I wanted the writing to have some real quality. And I wanted a lot of variety. I contacted mystery writers for a sample of that genre, established writers of well-regarded literary merit, journalists for their perspective, and unknowns. Always, the criteria was that the pieces be interesting, well written, and tell a story.

Were you aware of all these authors before you began, or did you find them along the way? Most of the writers I already knew or knew of, and most had heard of me and trusted that I would do a good job. Some authors whom I had never heard of sent me stories, but I liked their work. And, it must be admitted, I had excellent help from several readers who read some of the stories and offered suggestions as to whether to include the work. Then, of course, there was the issue of the cover—one that would make the prospective reader pick it up. I contacted numerous artists, since I am active in that community as well. Nothing really hit me. Suddenly I recalled a woman whose work I had seen at an outdoor show in Augusta: Jennifer Roussin. She did the most amazing impressionistic work. I asked her to do a view of the Arch and, voilà, there it was, my cover. Has your idea of St. Louis and its writers grown or changed since beginning the book? I have always had the highest regard for the writers of St. Louis. From Eliot to Moore, from Williams to Inge, from Chopin to Hotchner to Troy, from Gass to Early, St. Louis is indeed blessed. Now there are also some new writers to take the national stage from our Gateway City eventually. And many aren’t in the book, and some are. There just is so much talent out there. Hear anthology contributors read from the book Feb. 3 at the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, 225 N. Euclid (at Lindell), at 7 p.m.

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BORDERS BRENTWOOD Welcomes Lost Highway Recording Artist Tift Merritt for a Special In-Store Appearance and Signing! Pick up your copy of Tift’s Grammy®-nominated album TAMBOURINE

BORDERS BRENTWOOD Friday, February 11 at 7:00 p.m. 1519 South Brentwood Blvd. 314.918.8189 See Tift performing later that evening at Blueberry Hill


FEBRUARY 2005

DELIRIOUS NOMAD COMPILED BY BYRON KERMAN

Brando and a cleaned up ON THE WATERFRONT punches its way into the TIVOLI on 2/25. Feb. 1: “African Burial Ground in NYC” presentation on accidentally unearthed bodies of slaves at Mo. History Museum (314-746-4599, www.mohistory.org)

part of Visualizing Women’s Health in Contemporary Art exhibit at Washington University Kemper Art Museum (314-935-4523, www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu)

Feb. 2: Word in Motion Individual Grand SLAM Poetry competition at Schlafly Tap Room (314-776-6927)

Feb. 11: Author of Blink Malcolm Gladwell reads from his work at Left Bank Books (314-367-6731, www.left-bank.com)

Feb. 4: Hoosierweight Boxing at Soulard Market Gymnasium (www.pandaac.com)

Feb. 11–12: Cod & Cask Festival at Schlafly Tap Room (314241-BEER, www.schlafly.com)

Feb. 4: Blind Boys of Alabama at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (618-650-2626, www.artsandissues.com)

Feb. 11–May 15: Material Terrain: A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape and Place group show opens at Laumeier Sculpture Park (314-821-1209, www.laumeier.org)

Feb. 4: Douglas Coupland reads from Eleanor Rigby at Left Bank Books, 7 p.m. (314-367-6731, www.left-bank.com) Feb. 4: Sister Helen Prejean of Dead Man Walking speaks at COCA (314-725-6555) Feb. 4–5: Atrek Dance Collective presents “Taking Flight” at Harris-Stowe State College (314-772-7778, www.atrekdance.org)

Feb. 14: Premiere Performances presents Modern Mandolin Quartet at Ethical Society (314-516-5818, www.umsl.edu/ ~premiere/concerts.html) Feb. 14: Love in the Loop, University City Loop lovey-dovey discounts and such (www.ucitymo.org)

Feb. 5: Charter Communications Grand Mardi Gras Parade in Soulard (www.stlmardigras.org)

Feb. 16: South African musician/singer Vusi Mahlasela performs at Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center (314-516-4949, www.touhill.org)

Feb. 5: Cory Spinks v. Zab Judah Undisputed Welterweight Championship Boxing at Savvis Center (314-241-1888)

Feb. 18: “Mad Arf” Stray Rescue benefit with canine art at Mad Art (www.madart.com)

Feb. 5–21: Venus Envy Healing Arts Workshops for Women on Qigong and self-defense as part of Visualizing Women’s Health in Contemporary Art at Washington University’s Kemper Art Museum (314-865-0181)

Feb. 19: Dance St. Louis presents Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo in Cinderella at Fox Theatre (314-534-1111, www.metrotix.com)

Feb. 6: Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade & the Making of the Americas opens at Mo. History Museum with live theatre, dance, and lecture (314-746-4599, www.mohistory.org)

Feb. 20: St. Louis African Chorus performs at Mo. History Museum (314-746-4599, www.mohistory.org)

Feb. 6: Fred’s Annual Superbowl Sunday Looney Toons Laserdisc Marathon at Frederick’s (www.fredericksmusiclou nge.com) Feb. 6 & 13: Celebrate the Gospel choir concerts at Mo. Botanical Garden (314-577-9400, www.mobot.org) Feb. 8: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Chamber group performs at Tower Grove Park’s Piper Palm House (314-771-2679, www.towergrovepark.org) Feb. 8: Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Parade in Soulard (www.stlmardigras.org) Feb. 10: Readings at the Contemporary featuring poets Tom Hunley, Aaron Belz, and Kirby Olson at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (www.belz.net/readings) Feb. 11: Screening of Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour as

Feb. 19–20: Great American Train Show at Collinsville Gateway Center (www.gatewaycenter.com)

Feb. 20: Dances of India performs at St. Louis Art Museum (314-721-0072, www.slam.org) Feb. 21: River Styx at Duff’s reading series presents authors Don Bogen and Michelle Boiseau (314-533-4541) Feb. 23: Spray-paint artist Brett Cook Dizney Hodges speaks as part of Washington University School of Art Speaker Series at Steinberg Auditorium (314-935-6500) Feb. 24: Former astronaut James Lovell at St. Louis Speakers Series at Powell Hall (314-533-7888) Feb. 26–June 4: Iain Fraser: Places of Mind and Keith Bueckendorf: Elsewhere new art exhibits at Sheldon Concert Hall Art Galleries (314-533-9900, www.sheldonconcerthall.org) Feb. 27: Oscar Night America Cinema St. Louis benefit at Moolah Temple (314-454-0042)

More listings online at www.playbackstl.com/Events

A ballet of violence, John Woo’s The Killer is a classic that will attract new devotees at Strange Brew: Cult Films at Schlafly Bottleworks, sponsored by Webster Films (Feb 2, 314-968-7487, www.webster.edu/filmseries.html). With choreographed gun battles so precise they veer into comedy, the film reveals the director at the height of his powers, before Hollywood ruined him. Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind features a library of forgotten books, a curse that repeats itself, and a disfigured man pursuing the hero through the nighttime streets of Barcelona. Shadow was such a huge bestseller in Europe, it sparked what’s been called “Zafonmania.” Hear the author read from the novel at Left Bank Books (Feb. 3, 314-367-6731, www.left-bank.com). A major new exhibit, Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade & the Making of the Americas, opens at the Missouri History Museum Feb. 6 with live theater, dance, and a lecture. The exhibit makes no bones about the fact that our nation was built on the backs of slaves. A life-size recreation of the hold of a slave ship is chilling (314-746-4599, www.mohistory.org). Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is noted for shaking up orchestras with her swooning, emotional performances on the violin. 39 Watch her emote with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra 39 (if the strike ends soon, that is) in works by Kodaly, Barber, & Nielsen (Feb. 11–13, 314-534-1700, www.slso.org); and don’t forget avant-garde solo cellist Maya Beiser, who performs with video projections as part of the Ovations! Series at Washington University’s Edison Theatre (Feb 12, 314534-1111, www.metrotix.com). The Webster University Jazz Faculty and the Film Series folks team up for a cool Valentine’s Day night at the school’s Moore Auditorium. The musicians perform a concert of Charles Mingus music followed by screening of Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog at (Feb. 14, 314-968-7487, www.webster.edu/filmseries.html). “Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat” gives me the shivers. A new Asian Cinema Series at the St. Louis Art Museum features Umarete wa meta keredo/I Was Born, But, a 1932 film with live accompaniment on sax, taiko drum, and bass by Chicago’s Tatsu Aoki Trio. (Feb. 20, 314-721-0072, www.slam.org). The musicians will not strip down to their skivvies, a lá the traditional taiko drummers, though. Sorry. If you still haven’t watched the magnetic Marlon Brando mumble his way to a revolution in acting, maybe now’s the time to catch the restored print of On the Waterfront at the Tivoli Theatre (Feb. 25–March 3, 314-995-6270, www.LandmarkTh eatres.com). RIP, Jor-El. The last time Curtain Call Repertory Theatre put on Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, Dennis Shelton showed off his golden tenor, Mrs. Lovett offered a convincing Cockney cackle, and that marvelous barber’s chair dropped bleeding victims down through a false floor. This time, the group has to deal with the accommodations of the Faust Park Carousel House, a difficult environment for theater, but there is a working carousel at intermission (Feb. 25–March 6, 636-346-7707). Mmm, meat pie...


PLAYBACK STL BAHA ROCK CLUB

MODEST MOUSE

305 N. Main St. • St. Charles, Mo. 63301 636-949-0466 • www.baharockclub.com Mon: Karaoke Tues: Original bands Wed: Big Daddy Rob

w/CASS McCOMB at THE PAGEANT February 23, 8 p.m. • all ages SOLD OUT • CALL: 314-726-6161 It’s been a long year, a good year for Modest Mouse. The band scored two Grammy nominations for Good News for People Who Love Bad News, a decoyed attempt at optimism, and were a hot commodity all over the country—scaring rock ’n’ roll elitists that hell must be freezing over if they were suddenly able to have meaningful conversations about Isaac Brock with their 15-year-old nieces and not just greasy, slightly paunchy men who passionately collect Songs:Ohia and Jandek records. They united unlike minds and peoples over simmering gesticulations on the divinity and passion of Christ, denting in police cruisers, and the uncountable, crazy ways we prioritize our lives. Brock’s lithesome examinations of an outside world, one positively fucked and peri40 odically still beautiful, became the strident liturgies of the masses. Did we finally get to that very period where Brock could be seen as something other than an indie rock martyr, a beguiling crusader for the underground and the feelings buried deep within it? Well, it’s here and it happened slowly. Through the band’s first eight years, they released slow and cynical records, with long titles (some things never change) and challenging content. They played small- to medium-sized shows in VFW halls to peaked crowds and scattered applause. They fought through police allegations, drug abuse, and lost members, only to bring forth an album that addresses all of those things in a way that kindles a heat that starts with the skin and moves in. Good News made us care about the short and stumpy, angry guy who wasn’t really inconvenienced or concerned if we cared or not. But we got the sense that he was going to crack open his ribs, pull them apart, show us what was inside, and speak one last time. And if we got it, we got it. If not, it was our misfortune. As it’s worked, Brock’s given himself as the ice-breaker in more social settings than any crystal ball could have predicted back when This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About was a new release and charting nowhere. —Sean Moeller

2/6: BXR Blues Bowl 2/12: Jazz Mandolin Project 2/13: Big Head Todd & The Monsters & Carbon Leaf 2/14: Social Distortion, Backyard Babies & Street Dogs 2/16: Kenny Garret Quartet 2/17: Gov’t Mule 2/18: Sage Francis & Soliloquists of Sound 2/19: G. Love & Special Sauce 2/24: Ani DiFranco w/Andrew Bird 2/25: The Schwag

B.B.’S JAZZ, BLUES & SOUPS 700 S. Broadway • St. Louis, Mo. 63102 314-436-5222 • www.bbsjazzbluessoups.com 2/1: Scott Miller 7p, Cryin’ Shame Blues Band 10:30p 2/2: Beau Shelby & Flyy Rhythm & Blues 9p 2/3: Leroy Pierson 7p, Marsha Evans Coalition 10p 2/4: Leroy Pierson 7p, Soulard Blues Band 10p 2/5: Bob Case & Wild Accusations 2p, Margaret Bianchetta & Eric McSpadden 7p, The Gamble Brothers Band 10p 2/6: Chris Duarte 8p, DJ Ranx & Dubtronix Reggae 12a 2/7: Sessions Jazz Big Band 8p 2/8: Ground Floor Blues Band 2/9: Cryin’ Shame Blues Band 2/10: Leroy Pierson 7p, Jesse Hoggard Blues Band 10p 2/11: Leroy Pierson 7p, Jesse Hoggard Blues Band 10p 2/12: Tom Hall 7p, The Bel Airs 10p 2/13: Darryl Herndon & Metropolitan Jazz/Rock Orchestra 7:30p DJ Ranx & Dubtronix Reggae Band 10p 2/14: Sessions Jazz Big Band 8p, The Bottoms Up Blues Gang 11:30p 2/15: Alvin Jett & The Phat Noiz Blues Band 9p 2/16: Cryin’ Shame Blues Band 9p 2/17: Leroy Pierson 7p, Marsha Evans Coalition 10p 2/18: Leroy Pierson 7p, Billy Peek Band 10p 2/19: Tom Hall 7p, Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings 10p 2/20: Darryl Herndon & Metropolitan Jazz/Rock Orchestra 7:30p DJ Ranx & Dubtronix Reggae Band 10p 2/21: Sessions Jazz Big Band 8p 2/22: Rich McDonough Blues Band 9p 2/23: Cryin’ Shame Blues Band 9p 2/24: Leroy Pierson 7p, Beau Shelby & Flyy Rhythm & Blues 10p 2/25: Leroy Pierson 7p, Rondos Blues Deluxe 10p 2/26: Tom Hall 7p, Bennie Smith & The Urban Blues Express 10p 2/27: Darryl Herndon & Metropolitan Jazz/Rock Orchestra 7:30p, The Yard Squad Reggae Band 10p 2/28: S Sessions Jazz Big Band 8p

BEALE ON BROADWAY 701 S. Broadway • St. Louis, Mo. 63102 314-621-7880 • www.bealeonbroadway.com Every Mon: Shakey Ground Blues Band Every Tue/Thur: Kim Massie & the Solid Senders Every Wed: Rich McDonough Acoustic Blues 2/4: Shawn Kellerman Band 2/5: Rich McDonough Band 10a & 9p, Scott Kay & The Coninentals 2p 2/11: Piano Slim and The Family Band 2/12: Rob Garland & The Blue Monks 2/18: Rich McDonough Band 2/19: Melissa Neels Band 2/25: Ground Floor Band 2/26: Scott Kay & The Continentals

THE BLUE NOTE 17 N. 9th St. • Columbia, Mo. 65201 573-874-1944 • www.thebluenote.com 2/4: Darryl Worley & Keni Thomas 2/5: Nachito Herrera & the Cuban All-Stars

JUMP at BLUEBERRY HILL’S DUCK ROOM February 15, 9 p.m. • 21+ TICKETS: $8 • CALL: 314-727-4444 You can take the cool quartet out of Carolina, but you can’t take the “Little Children” out of their name, because people will inevitably call them “The band formerly known as Jump, Little Children” or disregard the abbreviation completely. Though their name change has proven a difficult undertaking for the Southern-bred rockers, it’s a slight blip on the radar screen of a highly successful year. Their most recent album, Between the Dim and the Dark (developed under the guidance of famed producer Rick Beato), is a rock masterpiece with fanatic followers and critics alike. As if that weren’t enough, the band continues to tour in support of the record as its members simultaneously tend to interesting side projects. Amid this bubbling atmosphere, the band’s performances have reached a new level of enlightenment. With Jay Clifford’s delicate and unmistakable warble, the low hum of Jonathan Gray’s upright bass, Ward Williams’ aching cello, Evan Bivins’ steady percussion, and brother Matt Bivins’ veritable plethora of musical accompaniment (including tin whistle, accordion, mandolin, and harmonica) one thing is clear: The band is stronger than ever. If they say, “Jump,” reply, “How high?” because no matter what you call them, this is a band worth following. —Mandy Jordan BLUEBERRY HILL 6504 Delmar Blvd. • University City, Mo. 63130 314-727-4444 • www.blueberryhill.com 2/5: Marleyfest 2005 w/Murder City Players, Dubtronix Reggae Band and Youths & Roots Yardsquad 2/6: Arvin Mitchell 2/10: Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men 2/11: Tift Merritt 2/17: Datie Curtis w/Joni Laurence 2/19: Jesse Malin 2/20: Mofro w/The Navigators

BOTTLENECK BLUES BAR Ameristar Casino – St. Charles 1260 Main St. • St. Charles, Mo. 63301 636-940-4966 • www.ameristarcasinos.com

BROADWAY OYSTER BAR 736 S. Broadway • St. Louis, Mo. 63102 314/621-8811 • www.broadwayoysterbar.com Mon: Soulard Blues band Tues: Big Bamou Wed: Brian Curran 5-7pm Thur: Bennie Smith & The Urban Blues Express Sat: Brian Curran 6-9p 2/2: Tucker Rountree’s Sound 8p 2/3: Johnny Fox 5p 2/4: Johnny Goodwin 5p, Zydeco Crawdaddies 8p 2/5: Chickenfoot Gumbo 1p, Dash Rip Rock 5p, Gumbohead 9p 2/9: Alvin Jett & The Phat Noiz Band 8p 2/10: Lucky Dan & Naked Mike 5p 2/11: Tim Session 5p, Baker McClaren Band 8p 2/12: Jeff Coffin & Mu Tet 10p 2/13: Shakey Ground 3p, Johnny Fox 8p 2/16: G.O.A.T. 8p 2/17: Johnny Goodwin 5p 2/18: Tim Session 5p 2/19: Gumbohead 10p 2/20: Tiny Cows 3p, Tim Session 8p 2/23: Logan, Graham, Schaeffer & Murdick 2/24: Lucky Dan and Naked Mike 5p 2/25: Johnny Fox 5p, Soulard Blues Band 9p 2/26: Brian Elder Project 10p 2/27: Albert & The Einsteins 3p, Johnny Goodwin 8p

CABIN INN the City Museum 16th & Delmar • St. Louis, Mo. 63103 314-231-2489 Mon: Traditional Irish Jam w/Tom Hall Tues: Acoustic Jam w. Dave Landreth & Friends Wed: The Blackeyed Susies Thur: The Sawmill Band 2/25: The Bottoms Up Blues Gang

CICERO’S 6691 Delmar Blvd. • University City, Mo. 63130 314- 862-0009 • www.ciceros-stl.com Every Monday: Madahoochi & Friends Every Tuesday: The Schwag Every Friday: Jakes Leg Every Sunday: Open Mic 2/4: The Pat McClennen Band CD release w/WiK 9p 2/5: The Helping Phriendly Band 9p 2/10: Missile Silo Suite, Freshwater Collins & Silent Page 9p 2/12: Maxtone 4, Thos & eero 9p 2/13: Cannons 3:30p 2/17: Honey Tribute 9p 2/19: The Breakers, The October & Caleb Egelstrom 9p 2/20: Poetry Open Mic 8p 2/26: Semidivine, Leo & Lapush

COWBOY MONKEY 6 Taylor St. • Champaign, Il. 61820 217-398-2688 • www.cowboy-monkey.com 2/4: Bottle of Justus w/Green Light Go 2/5: Earlimart w/Headlights 2/10: Cornmeal, Green Mountain Grass 2/12: Sick Day, Broken Day, Further From Caution 2/13: Hangar 18 w/DJ Big Wiz, One Be Lo 2/19: Beat Kitchen, Punsapaya

CREEPY CRAWL 412 N. Tucker • St. Louis, Mo. 63101 314-851-0919 • www.creepycrawl.com 2/2: Action Action, Lovedrug, Bi-Level, Last Flight Home 2/3: Mike Park, Colossal, Jenny Choi, Roi, Robbie Hart 2/4: Mudvayne 2/5: Wound CD release w/Inimical Drive, Snobank,


FEBRUARY 2005

DAVID MEAD at OFF BROADWAY February 9, 9 p.m. • 21+ TICKETS: $8/10 • CALL: 314-773-3363

Postcard, GOD 2/9: River City Rebels, Fifth Row Felons, Psycho Dad 2/10: In Place of Briar, lowercase, Adeline, Sincerely, I, This Scarlett Sky 6p, With No Repent, SleepMachine, D-Align 9:45p 2/14: The Toasters, Poor Boy Music, Red Light Runners, The Monskasities 2/15: The Fight, Shall We Dance, Femme Fatality, Sibylline 2/17: Merauder, The Hoods, The Risk Taken, Agents of Man 2/18: Eighteen Visions, Emery, Remembering Never, Misery Signals 2/20: The Snake, The Cross, The Crown (all one band name), Waking Ashland 2/21: Steel Train, Limbeck, Harvey 2/24: He Is Legend, Classic Case, Forever Changed, Blinded Black, Novella 2/25: Calico System, The Warriors, Deadsoil, Westcott, So They Say 2/26: Solafide, Caleb Engstrom, The Lonely Hearts, Circa, Roi Elam 4p, Murder Happens, (6), Rend, Thanatos 7:30p

DELMAR LOUNGE 6235 Delmar Blvd. • St. Louis, Mo. 63130 314-725-6565 • www.delmarrestaurant.com Tues: Industry Night w/Jim Utz Thur: C Beyond & Chilly C Fri: Chris Hansen’s World Jazz Quartet & DJ Alexis Sat: C Beyond & Chilly C

DRESSEL’S PUB 419 N. Euclid • St. Louis, Mo. 63108 314-361-1060 2/11: Brian Curran, The Bottoms Up Blues Gang & The Round Ups

FAMILY ARENA 2002 Arena Pkwy • St. Charles, Mo. 63303 636-896-4200 • www.familyarena.com 2/17-19: Dare 2 Share 2/26-27: The Lipizzaner Stallions

FOCAL POINT 2720 Sutton • Maplewood, Mo. 63143 314-781-4200 • www.thefocalpoint.org 2/2 Cajun/Zydeco Dance w/Creole Stomp 8:15p 2/18: Al & Emily Cantrell 8p 2/26: Song Circle of Friends 2p, Paul Mayasich 8p

FOX THEATRE 527 N. Grand Blvd. • St. Louis, Mo. 63107 636-534-1111 • www.fabulousfox.com 2/1-2/13: Les Miserables

When singer/songwriter David Mead was dropped by RCA in 2003, Mead’s third album, Wherever You Are—meant to follow up 2001’s stunning Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne)–produced pop gem Mine and Yours—was already in the can. Leaving the album unreleased, he famously reemerged the following year with the critically acclaimed, sad country balladry of Indiana. Still touring solo behind that critical watershed, Mead plans to release Wherever You Are in a scaled-down EP version this spring. Although the sparse introspection of Indiana has brought Mead the best notices of his career, he says the unreleased songs are closer to Mine and Yours’ power-pop than Indiana’s somber ballads. “Indiana was very much born out of that situation of not really knowing what was going on with my career, or lack of, at the time,” Mead says of his label-drop letdown. “I wanted to do something comfortable, in a way.” Although pleased to finally see Wherever You Are’s songs released, he seems more excited about their new less-is2/18-2/19: Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in Cinderella 2/22-2/27: Mamma Mia!

FREDERICK’S MUSIC LOUNGE 4454 Chippewa • St. Louis, Mo. 63116 314-351-5711 • www.fredericksmusiclounge.com 2/1: Felix Culpa w/TBA 2/3: Steve Hinson’s Ragtime Open Mic 6p, Open Mic w/Brian Marek 8p 2/4: Big Breakfast & Lauren Gray’s 5 Piece Bucket 9p 2/5: Dutch Henry & Plaid Cattle 9p 2/9: The Gleam w/tba 9p 2/10: Open Mic w/Tommy Halloran 8p 2/11: The Meek and Matt McGaughey 9p 2/15: Mieka Pauley & Dean Fields 9p 2/17: Open Mic w/Bob Reuter 8p 2/18: The Silvermen, Toy Band & Thee Fine Lines 9p 2/19: The Rounders w/Arthur Dodge & the Horsefeathers 9p 2/22: The Variety Group 9p 2/24: Open Mic w/Brian Marek 8p 2/28: The Saps, The Warm Ones & Coupe Contra Coupe 9p

more presentation. “In standard making-a-record-for-amajor-label fashion, there was what I consider the meat of the album, and then there were three songs that were trying desperately to be singles,” Mead explains, laughing. “Not terrible songs, by any means, just not really connected to the rest of it as much. So I got rid of those—and I also got rid of one that was really terrible—and that left me with a really tight six-song EP.” As to whether Mead will leave pop behind for the more critic-friendly acoustic sounds of Indiana, he says, “I think Indiana works because of its honesty. I don’t want to make the mistake again of throwing up too much smoke and mirrors about my intentions. So I’m trying to avoid that on my new record, basing it instrumentally around what I can do with a trio, with me playing guitar and keyboards, and then a bassist and drummer. We’re keeping the arrangements sparse, but the feel is a lot more up, and a lot more, dare I say, groovy.”

Thur & Fri: Rondo’s Blues Deluxe Sun: Voodoo Blues w/Bennie Smith 4p, Erik Brooks 8:30p 2/12: One Kindred Soul 3p, Fairchild 9p 2/19: Rondo’s Blues Deluxe 3p, Fairchild 9p 2/26: One Kindred Soul 3p, Fairchild 9p

HI-POINTE CAFE

4500 Clayton Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63110 314-535-8061 Mon: Open Mic w/Heather Barth Thur: Jake’s Leg

JACKSONS

2028 S. 9th St. • St. Louis, Mo. 63104 314-773-5565 Mon: Tim Albert Tues: Lucky Dan & Naked Mike Wed: Park Avenue

LEMP NEIGHBORHOOD ARTS CENTER

THE HIGHDIVE

GEARBOX at LIL NIKKI’S

HAMMERSTONE’S

5800 Gravois • St. Louis, Mo. 63116 314-481-4812

3301 Lemp Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63118 314-771-1096 • www.lemp-arts.org 2/2: The Good Good, Nate Powell, Erin Tobey, Josh MacPhee & When Good Robots Go Bad 2/4: Black Bear & Epicycle 2/5: Horizontal Orange 2/6: Rob Ruz 2/11: PAL 2/12: Namelessnumberheadman 2/19: Broken Tape Choir & The Home Recording Project 2/21: Zegota

Washington University Mallinckrodt Ctr. 1 Brookings Dr. • St. Louis, Mo. 63130 314-935-5917 • www.gargoyle.wustl.edu 2/22: Letter Kills

1551 S. 7th St. • St. Louis, Mo. 63104 314-621-2181 2/3: Camp Climax for Girls, Railers of Kiev, Skarekrau Radio 2/4: Gentleman Callers, Transmitters 2/5: Mardi Gras Party—live music all day: Phonocaptors, Electric, Gasoff, Sex Robots, Sibylline 2/10: Aces and Eights, The Affair, Scene of Irony 2/11: J. Boozer, TBA 2/12: Hail Marys, Saw Is Family, Bonobos 2/17: Iron Doves, Angryland 2/18: Lorenzo Goetz, Long John Thomas & the Duffs, Aintry 2/19: Highway Matrons, Wormwood Scrubs, Bad Folk 2/24: TOK, Gun Metal Grey 2/25: Pixels, El Mail Boxos, Lester Shy & the Shyphonics 2/26: Reigning Heir, Misses, TBA

LEMMON’S

1001 McCausland Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63117 314-781-4716 • www.hi-pointe.com Mon: Open Mic Hip-Hop Thur: The Militant Bingo Propaganda Machine w/The Non Prophet Theatre Co. 2/2, 2/4, 2/5, 2/6, 2/9, 2/11, 2/12, 2/13: Emergenza International Music Festival Battle of the Bands: 8 bands each night (www.emergenza.net) 2/18: Jimmy Vavak’s b-day bash w/Gasoff, Riddle of Steel 2/19: The Misses 4th anniv. party w/7 Shot Screamers & Irondoves

51 Main St. • Champaign, Il. 61820 217-356-2337 • www.thehighdive.com 2/4: Jack Ingram’s Acoustic Motel 7:30p 2/8: Hit It Run 8 Old Skool DJ Party 2/13: 3rd Annual Valentine’s Day Auction 2/26: Innocent Words CD Release Party w/Lorenzo Goetz, Cameron McGill, Terminus Victor

THE GARGOYLE

—Brian McClelland

6655 Manchester • St. Louis, Mo. 63139 314-645-4904 Thur: Rhythm Rockers Sun: JackSons’ Five 2/4: David Dee 2/5: Project 3 2/8: Bob Case & His Wild Accusations 2/11: Powerplay 2/12: The Bottoms Up Blues Gang 2/18: 2nd Anniversary Part w/Gumbohead 2/19: All Over the Road 2/25: Powerplay 2/26: Relation

JAZZ AT THE BISTRO 3536 Washington Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63103 314-531-1012 • www.jazzatthebistro.com 2/2-2/5: Kevin Mahogany 2/11: Marda & Reggie Thomas 2/12: Marda & Reggie Thomas 2/14: Marda & Reggie Thomas 2/16-2/19: Russell Malone 2/25-2/26: Dave Venn Quartet

MAGEE’S

MANGIA ITALIANO 3145 S. Grand Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63118 314-664-8585 • www.dineatmangia.com Sun: Reggae Dub Spin w/Gabe and Dino Mon: Open Mic Hosted by Kieran Malloy Wed: Eightyfourglyde DJ Spin Fri: Dave Stone Trio 2/3: Jimmy Griffin 2/5: Palookaville 2/10: Johnny Fox 2/12: Brian Sullivan Quartet 2/17: Lauren Gray’s Five-Piece Bucket 2/19: The Good Griefs 2/24: Team Tomato 2/26: Miles of Wire

THE MARTINI BAR 4004 Peach Ct. • Columbia, Mo. 65203 573-256-8550 • www.themartinibar.biz 2/4: Studebaker John & The Hawks 2/5: DC Bellamy & America’s Most Wanted 2/10: Eddie Shaw & The Wolfgang 2/12: Liz Mandville-Greeson 2/18: Kim Massie 2/19: Kim Massie 2/24: Scotty Boy’s Steady Rollin’ Band 2/26: Hamilton Loomis

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THE FIGHT w/SIBYLLINE, FEMME FATALITY at THE CREEPY CRAWL February 15, 7:30 p.m. • all ages TICKETS: $8/10 • CALL: 314-8510919

42

1013 Park Ave. • Columbia, Mo. 65201 573-875-0588 • www.mojoscolumbia.com 2/1: CEX, Aloha & Weather 8:30p 2/2: Trebuchet, Beep Beep & Ven Beamer 8:30p 2/3: Ludo, New Clarity & Anchondo 8:30p 2/4: The Doxies, The Confident & Abileen 8:30p 2/5: Reb Norman Jackson & Pawn Shop Band 8:30p 2/7: James McMurtry, Israel Gripka & The Martyrs Brigade 7p 2/11: Dr. Woo, Red Guitar & Town Crier 8:30p 2/12: Hanger 18, One Be Lo & Majestic Legend 8:30p 2/17: Straylight Run, Bella Lea, Action Action & Firescape 7p 2/19: Bob Marley 60th B-Day Bash w/Dubtronics, East, Ras Tree, Sean Nicholas & B-Drastic 8:30p 2/24: Electric Eel Shock, The Thieves 8:30p 2/25: Nova Lunacy & The Evolultions 8:30p 2/26: The Bel Airs 8:30p 2/27: Free Blues Jam 5p

Amid the recent deluge of emo in mainstream THE MUSIC CAFÉ rock, it’s refreshing to hear one young band 120 S. 9th St. • Columbia, Mo. 65201 come out of their corner swinging. That band 573-815-9995 • www.themusiccafecolumbia.com Mon: Open Mic is The Fight. And the corner from which they’ve emerged is the very small town of OFF BROADWAY Dudley, England, a town singer/guitarist 3509 Lemp Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63118 314-773-3363 • www.offbroadwaystl.com K8 insists—in a thick and snappy English accent—is “Boring, man. Nothing ever hap- 2/4: The Good Griefs w/The Variety Group 9p Hem w/Dawn Landers & David Mead w/The pens here.” Along with her little brother, Jak 2/9: Tarbox Ramblers 9p (drums), and fellow Dudleys, Scott (guitar) 2/11: Public Display of Funk w/The Fundamentals 2/12: The Stephanie Brickey Band w/Mary Alice and Matt (bass), The Fight’s music will not make rock critics pine or pseudo-intellectuals Wood 9p 2/17: Chris Chandler & Anne Feeney w/Brandon passionately parley in coffeehouses. And Wann 9p that’s a good thing. Because, let’s be honest, 2/24: Sam Shaber 9p when you first heard Joan Jett let out her sig- 2/25: The Tripdaddys, Shame Club & Lost to Metric 9p nature scream in “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll,” were 2/26: Eke CD release party 9p you pausing for thought? The Fight’s music has the same primordial ooze. Quite plainly, THE PAGEANT 6161 Delmar Blvd. • St. Louis, Mo. 63112 it’s a knee-kick to some wanker’s crotch. 314-726-6161 • www.thepageant.com 2/3: Mitch Hedberg With just two releases under their 2/10: Carrot Top belt—including their latest release and 2/11: Lewis Black debut full-length Nothing New Since Rock 2/12: Tim Cunningham 2/14: Chevelle, Helmet, Crossfade, Future Leaders of ’n’ Roll—they’ve not hit big just yet. But the World & Strata don’t count these kids out. Acquiring the 2/15: Big Head Todd & The Monsters w/Carbon Leaf favor of Chad Gilbert (New Found Glory 2/16: Social Distortion w/Backyard Babies & Street Dogs guitarist) and Fat Mike (NOFX bassist and 2/18: The Finn Brothers 2/19: Keane w/The Zutons & The Redwalls head of Fat Wreck Chords) virtually over2/23: Modest Mouse w/Cass McComb night, they quickly teamed with producer 2/25: Moe Bill Stevenson (legendary drummer of Black 2/26: Keller Williams Flag, Descendents, and ALL), then Neal 2/27: Goldfinger Avron (Everclear, Yellowcard). It seems Lady Luck is firmly perched on their shoulder. And POP’S Father Time is certainly on their side. If The 1403 Mississippi • Sauget, Il. 62201 618-274-6720 • www.popsrocks.com Fight manage to last the first few rounds, 2/2: P.E. in another nice twist of fate, it may just be 2/4: Mountain 2/5: Shattermask DVD Shoot frontwoman K8 who gives the kids their

MISSISSIPPI NIGHTS 914 N. First St. • St. Louis, Mo. 63102 314-421-3853 • www.mississippinights.com 2/4: Motion City Soundtrack, Matchbook Romance, From First to Last & The Matches 2/8: STS9 2/12: PlaybackSTL presents Sevenstar w/The Hatch & Shame Club 2/25: Ludo & Pomeroy w/Anchondo 2/26: NIL8 & The Pimps

2/10: Otep 2/11: Soffocation 2/18: Danzig 2/19: Zoso: Tribute to Led Zeppelin 2/25: Jakie “The Joke Man” Martling 2/26: Wild Side: Tribute to Motley Cruue

POP’S BLUE MOON 5249 Pattison • St. Louis, Mo. 63110 314-776-4200 • www.popsbluemoon.com Tues: Worlds Most Dangerous Open Jam 2/2: Tim Moody Solo 2/3: Tango Loco

2/4: Reggae Ruffins – Bob Marley B-Day Party 2/5: Bob Case 2/7: Irene Allen Acoustic 2/9: Brian Curran 2/10: Wayne Kimler Jazz 2/11: Dave Black & Matt Kimmick 2/12: Naked Groove 2/14: Fab Foehners 2/16: Bootigrabbers Delight 2/17: Riverside Acoustic 2/18: Alsop Grossi & Halley 2/19: Flying Mules 2/22: WMD 2/23: The Bob Case Show 2/24: Ryan Robertson Trio 2/25: Percibal Potts 2/26: Cherri Octopi 2/28: Open Mic w/Shane Maue

RADIO CHEROKEE 3227 Cherokee St. • St. Louis, Mo. 63118 www.radiocherokee.net 2/3: Berry, Mandarin & Caleb Engstrom 8p 2/5: Horshack & the Wake Up Report, Target Market 9p 2/11: Music for Dream End & Airport Elementary School 9p 2/14: Emil Beaulieam, Jessica Rylan & John Wiese 2/26: Camp Climax for Girls, Lee Infield & The Timer

RIDDLE’S PENULTIMATE

KEVIN RENICK

MOJO’S

6307 Delmar • U. City, Mo. 63130 314-725-6985 • www.riddlescafe.com Tues: Jeff Lash Wed: Ptah Williams Sun: The John Norment Quartet 2/3: The Uncle Albert Band 8p 2/4: Jazz Renaissance 2/5: SWIRL 2/10: The Bottoms Up Blues Gang 8p 2/11: The Rockhouse Ramblers 2/12: The Unlce Albert Band 2/17: The Uncle Albert Band 8p 2/18: The Bottoms Up Blues Gang 2/19: SWIRL 2/24: The Bottoms Up Blues Gang 8p 2/25: Bande Caribe 2/26: The Flying Mules

RT WEILERS 201 N. Main Street • St. Charles, Mo. 63301 636-947-1593 Tues: Karaoke & Ladies Night Thur: Karaoke

TIFT MERRITT at BLUEBERRY HILL’S DUCK ROOM February 11, 9 p.m. • 21+ TICKETS: $10/12 • CALL: 314-727-4444

SALLY T’S 6 Main St. • St. Peters, Mo. 63376 636-397-5383 • www.sallyts.com 2/1: Open Mic 2/3: Orange Buckets 2/5: Cienemia Scope & The Dead Drive Fast 2/11: The Saw Is Family & Deviator 2/12: KRT w/TBA 2/17: Free Verse 2/18: Underface Army 2/19: Soma and Native Fiction 2/22: Fella 2/25: Eke 2/26: Operator 303’s variety show

Valentine’s Day is this month, and whether you have a sweetheart to celebrate with or not, one honey of a singer awaits you on stage if you show up at the Duck Room on Feb. 11. That would be the red-hot Tift Merritt, the best thing to come outta North Carolina since…well, heck, there’s none I’d put ahead of her, not even Ava Gardner. Merritt wowed critics and fans alike with her incandescent 2002 recording Bramble Rose, a song cycle as sultry as it was spirited, pitched somewhere between Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt. It stayed close to the roots of it SATCHMO’S 13375 Olive • Chesterfield, Mo. all, though, and Merritt wanted to jack up the 314-878-3886 volume a bit, both literally and figuratively. Thur: The Perry Woods Experience The result: last year’s Tambourine, on which Merritt’s rockin’ soul decided to explore, well, rock and soul a bit more than before. Though she sometimes crows an awful lot like Sheryl, and the Dusty Springfield comparisons may be a bit unfair, Merritt delivers the delirious goods on cool songs like “Wait It Out,” “Write My Ticket,” “Late Night Pilgrim,” and “Shadow in the Way.” This gal can sing, and in concert, she’s a fiery thing, indeed. Put on your “Diamond Shoes” and come on down for a blast of Carolina heat in this cold month. A show like this “Merritts” your attention, for sure. —Kevin Renick

Sat: Jeff Gwantley

SCHLAFLY TAP ROOM 2100 Locust. • St. Louis, Mo. 63103 314-241-BEER • www.schlafly.com 2/5: Otis 2/6: Stuart Johnson 2/11: Guitar Islancio 5p, Swing Set 8:30p 2/12: Guitar Islancio 5p, Farshid etniko 2/13: Tom Hall 2/18: Seldom Home 2/19: The Courthouse Steps 2/20: Brian Curran 2/23: The Mob Improv Group 2/25: The Flying Mules 2/26: The Bottoms Up Blues Gang 2/27: Peter Clemements


FEBRUARY 2005

WANT TO BE SEEN BY THOUSANDS OF MUSIC AND ART LOVERS EVERY MONTH? JOIN PLAYBACKSTL AS AN ADVERTISER OR EVEN SPONSOR A WHOLE SECTION. PLAYBACK IS EXPANDING AND WE WANT YOU TO BE PART OF IT! CALL JIM AT 314-630-6404 OR E-MAIL AT JIM@PLAYBACKSTL.COM. SHELDON CONCERT HALL 3648 Washington Blvd. • St. Louis, Mo. 63108 314-533-9900 • www.sheldonconcerthall.org 2/4: 1st Annual St. Louis Folk Festival 2/5: BR549 2/9: Julliard Jazz Small Ensemble 2/10: Preservation Hall Jazz Band 2/19: Tierney Sutton 2/23: Italian Seasons

STUDIO CAFÉ

10 YEARS OF

THE TRIP DADDYS w/THE UNMUTUALS & THE 7 SHOT SCREAMERS at THE WAY OUT CLUB February 12, 10 p.m. • 21+ CALL: 314-664-7638 Since their less-than-auspicious 1995 debut— at Molly’s in Soulard, a show singer/guitarist Craig Straubinger recalls as a good time, even though it was mostly memorable for an outta control drunken beat-down unleashed on a rent-a-cop by an ornery bar patron—The Trip Daddys have reigned supreme as St. Louis’s finest rockabilly outfit. As the band gathered steam through shit-hot recordings and regional touring, more prestigious gigs came calling, including a sold-out show opening for one of their childhood idols, Brian Setzer, at the House of Blues in Chicago. “They called saying they didn’t have our food rider,” Straubinger recalls. “Food rider? What would we like in our dressing room? Caught off guard, I said, ‘Uh, meat and cheese tray and a case of beer?’ Talk about dropping the ball. Next time, it’s lobster!” And the show itself was even better. “We sold much more merch than Brian and signed autographs for a good half hour or more.” To commemorate “10 Years of Daddy” all proper-like, the band will record their upcoming anniversary show for posterity with a four-camera film crew—led by Chad Eivins of locally produced music show Lepers TV—for a future live DVD. —Brian McClelland THE SHANTI 825 Allen Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63104 314-241-4772 Every Tuesday: Open Mic w/Heather Barth 2/3: Crawfish Boil 5p, Paul Jarvis 9p 2/4: Devon Allman w/The Schwag 9p 2/5: The Schwag 3-10p 2/9: Bootigrabbers Delight 8p 2/11: Johnny Fox 9p 2/16: Bob Case 8p 2/18: Scotty Strings 9p 2/23: Mary & Margaret 8p 2/24: Racket Box 8p 2/25: Rainy Daze 9p 2/26: Mark Gorden 9p

1309 Washington Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63103 314-621-8667 2/4: Tory Z. Starbuck w/3 State Machine 2/5: Silent Q 2/8: Riker’s Mailbox 2/11: Gary Austin w/Joe Camel 2/12: Ready the Cannon 2/18: Arch Rivals 2/19: TBA 2/25: Agency 2/26: Remedy

GET YOUR CLUB LISTED IN WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? FREE! We want to be the number one source of events for our readers. To do this we need your listings. You send it in and it will be here. Just send us your monthly schedule by the 15th of the month via one of the following methods: e-mail: calendar@playbackstl.com fax: 877-204-2067

THREE-1-THREE 313 E. Main St. • Belleville, Il. 62220 618-239-6885 • www.three-1-three.com Mon: Park Avenue Trio Tues: DJ Rob Gray Thur: DJ Kelly Dell, Just J, Andreas Ardesco

TOUHILL PERFORMING ARTS CTR. Univ. of Mo. – St. Louis • St. Louis, Mo. 63121 314-516-4949 • www.touhill.org 2/1: Natural Abridge Theatre & Dance 2/3: Women in the Arts 2/4–5: Grease 2/6: ASQ: Russian Splendor 2/12: ASQ: Beyond Words 2/16: Vusi Mahlasela 2/18: The Barber of Seville 2/26: Two Gentlemen of Verona

VENICE CAFÉ 1906 Pestalozzi • St. Louis, Mo. 63118 314-772-5994 Mon: Open Mic Tues: Late Happy Hour & Movies

WAY OUT CLUB 2525 S. Jefferson Ave. • St. Louis, Mo. 63118 7638-7638-7638 • www.wayoutclub.com 2/1: Meh & Free Dirt 2/4: Kurtis Gay 2/5: Cinemascope, Morpheate & Jennifer Damere 2/6: The Variety Group & Tight Pants Syndrome 2/7: The Highway Matrons & Paradise Vending 2/8: Nogs CD Release Party 6p, The Round Ups 10p 2/11: J Boozer 2/12: Bejeezus 2/13: That’s My Daughter & Stash Riders 2/14: Fifth Row Felons 2/15: Father Joe & The Consenting Youth, Triple X Smut & Tri-State Killing Spree 2/19: Bravo Company 2/20: Sisterloveshovel 2/21: Velcro Lewis & His 100 Proof Band w/Imperial Battlesnake 2/22: Saw Is Family, Billy Coma & Grain Belt 2/26: Team Tomato 2/27: Lung Dust 2/28: The Electric & Big Buildings

MATCHBOOK ROMANCE w/MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK, FROM FIRST TO LAST, THE MATCHES at MISSISSIPPI NIGHTS February 4, 8 p.m. • all ages TICKETS: $13/15 • CALL: 314-421-3851 It used to be when you saw the Epitaph Records logo on the back of a CD, you knew what you were in for: unaccessorized oldskool political punk, bands like Bad Religion, Pennywise, and Rancid. But things are changing over at the big “E.” Take Matchbook Romance, a hardcore quartet from Poughkeepsie, New York. With a sound full of dynamic time changes and emotive, gut-wrenching lyrics, the band easily slides into the screamo niche occupied by bands like The Used, but the strength of their songwriting puts Matchbook ahead of the pack. After aggressively whoring themselves out on the Internet, the band (then known as The Getaway) caught the ear of Epitaph founder (and Bad Religion guitarist) Brett Gurewitz, who signed them and produced their debut EP. Minneapolis’s Motion City Soundtrack has also made their way onto Epitaph. Although their debut, I Am the Movie, has a more melodic bent, they come from the same school of lyric writing, at times echoing emo progenitors Sunny Day Real Estate. Both MCS and Matchbook Romance share similar aesthetics, and also share equal time on a new, mostly acoustic split EP, offering a glimpse at the pair’s respective upcoming sophomore albums; expect to see even more when they take the stage. —Jason Green

THE ZUTONS

w/KEANE & THE REDWALLS at THE PAGEANT February 19, 8 p.m. • all ages TICKETS: $17.50 • CALL: 314-726-6161 The latest major-label, Jet-envy entry, Liverpool’s The Zutons, have the unwashed ’70s rocker formula down cold—with an extra smidgen of white-boy soul thrown in for flavor—on their debut full-length Who Killed the Zutons? Filled with songs that glide by on gritty cool and easy AM radio charm, Who Killed not only captures the vibe of 1970, but the actual song craft of that golden era of rock ’n’ roll, as well—including that period’s strong points (effortlessly undercooked production) and not-so-strong points (hackneyed, sometimes uninspired lyrics). The Zutons’ first single, and Levi’s TV ad jingle du jour—the one where 43 a German shepherd yanks the Levi’s right off a girl’s tiny, panty-clad ass, only to deliver them to a washboard ab’d dude who I sincerely hope is meant to be her boyfriend—the panting N’Awlins soul rocker “Pressure Point,” sounds instantly recognizable, in the same way that Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” sounded familiar (but without ripping-off a well-known Iggy Pop song in the process). Building from only a shaker egg and some righteous, Stonesflavored “hoo-hoo”s, the song is an exercise in repressed tension, until the final pressurecooker chorus blows up and suddenly there’s incredible rock shit everywhere. Who Killed The Zutons? often has the compilation feel of a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, somewhere between Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, only minus the funk (well, the black funk) and only half the cheese. Veering from the surf-ish opener “Zutons Fever” to the acoustic, delicately picked seventh chords of “Confusion” (sounding like a streamlined, more ladies-friendly version of Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut”), and ending up in a fucked-up James Dean car crash with the album’s best song, the Tijuana-flavored “Havana Gang Brawl,” the album sounds like a treasured mix-tape lovingly created by that older, slightly scary record store clerk. You know the guy. He’s more frightened of you than you are of him, you know. —Brian McClelland


PLAYBACK STL

PORTRAITS

BY THOMAS CRONE

JOSH GRIGAITIS: POP’S BLUE MOON/LOYAL FAMILY

44

For quite some time, you’d see Josh Grigaitis behind the bar at Pop’s Blue Moon pretty much anytime you’d walk in the Hill’s most-happening little tavern. Now, though, he’s much more likely to be holed up in his apartment, found in the back of the building. In there, he’s plotting some type of new project or improvements to an old one. There’s that new magazine. The big, two-day music festival scheduled for May. The major upgrade of a Web site. The incorporations of some new designers to his promotional efforts. Stickers, buttons, CDs, T-shirts. All coming, all the time. There are moments when he explains all the work in less-than-literal ways, showing that it’s as much about the process as the final results and that he’s enjoying the creative components as much as (if not more than) the bottom line. That he runs his business(es) with a smile and an ever-present, easygoing nature is a given, even at 2:09 a.m. after a particularly busy night at the Blue Moon. That just happened to be the time we finally got some time to chat about some of the current, varied efforts of St. Louis version of a young Bill Graham. How do you split up your time these days? I am running my father’s business and building my own. I usually spend a fourth of

the day running my own business, a fourth running my father’s, a fourth starting my new business, which is taking a turn for the better. The other fourth of the day is taken up by personal calamities, like my grandma’s house being struck by lightning, or my other grandmother passing away. People might be most familiar with Loyal Family. Let’s start out with that. Loyal Family is a vision of mine. It’s a group of like-minded individuals working together to create…what are we creating? Creating…something. Put a question mark there. It’s fun because I’m figuring this out as I’m going. It’s an ever-evolving project exposing artists to an accepting market. Where they can actually wake up in the morning, do what they love, focus on their passion, and be able to pay their bills. We help artists, musicians, painters, sculptors. Loyal Family is providing an avenue to give exposure to people, to allow you to make a living. It’s the art of promotion. The Web site [www.loyalfamily.com] we’re working on will focus on “business” and “pleasure,” the two focuses of Loyal Family. It will give a visual sense of what it all is. Your new business, I assume, is along the lines of booking. I’ve been booking music six nights a week for five years now. I looked at the number and it’s scary. I’ve put on 1,500 shows. Here and everywhere. Mississippi Nights, JackSon’s,

Cicero’s, Broadway Oyster Bar, the Venice [Café], and places I’m forgetting. I’m taking my experiences and stepping it up a notch. I got so busy networking and helping people out that I had no choice but to make it a business. I’m not a musician and I’m not what I’d call an artist. My creative outlet is to find one for everyone else. It’s that moment when the musician and the fan, the crew, the production team are working together and that wonderful moment happens. Everyone has a good time. The reviews come in and they’re positive. It’s like directing a movie and it’s fun. I cannot believe the things I’m working on right now, at 27 years old. It’s kind of dreamy, I have to say. Tell me about the show in May. The show in May is the biggest thing I’ve worked on. It’s a two-day music festival, with multiple bands from all over the country. The event is Zoe-Jam, held at Camp Zoe, which is in southern Missouri, in the Ozark Mountain Valley, the oldest mountain range in the world, I might add. It’s a 330-car campground. We don’t have acts to release yet, but there’re plenty to come on the Web site in February. And what do you do, purely for fun? I guess that’s the beauty of what I’m doing, what I’m working on. When you attempt to make your passion your living, it’s the best thing in the world. As far as separating your personal life from your professional, it’s pretty tough to do. At the end of the day, something I like to do is leave the building I live and work in. I get off of the Hill! Geez, when was the last time I wasn’t doing something?


Lunch Monday – Friday, 11:30–5 Dinner (nightly specials) Daily 5–10 Lunch Buffet ($5.95) Monday – Friday, 11:30–2:30

Open ’til 3 a.m. Nightly Reggae Every Sunday Night Dave Stone Jazz Trio Every Friday at 10:30 p.m.

COME FOR THE FOOD, but stay for the eclectic atmosphere featuring beautiful artwork, live music most nights, and the charm that only tradition can offer.

3145 South Grand Ave. 314-664-8585

www.dineatmangia.com

Serving the Finest Fresh Pasta in St. Louis for 20 Years

FEBRUARY at THE GEARBOX in LIL’ NIKKI’S 2/3 CAMP CLIMAX FOR GIRLS, Railers of Kiev, Skarekrau Radio 2/4 GENTELMAN CALLERS, Transmitters 2/5 MARDI GRAS PARTY, live music all day! PHONOCAPTORS, ELECTRIC, GASSOFF, SEX ROBOTS, SIBYLLINE 2/10 ACES AND EIGHTS, The Affair, Scene of Irony 2/11 J BOOZER (Americas Drunkist Band) 2/12 HAIL MARYS, Saw is Family, Bonobos 2/17 IRON DOVES, Angryland 2/18 LORENZO GOETZ (Champaign), Long John Thomas & the Duffs, Aintry 2/19 HIGHWAY MATRONS, Wormwood Scrubs, Bad Folk 2/24 TOK, Gun Metal Grey 2/25 PIXELS, El Mail Boxo, Lester Shy & the Shyphonics 2/26 Reigning Heir, Misses

1551 SOUTH 7th ST. • NEXT SOULARD MARKET • (314)621-2181 • OPEN UNTIL 3 AM



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