Show Review: KDHX's Midwest Mayhem at the City Museum, Thursday, May 22
It's hard not to swell up with hometown pride at an event like Midwest Mayhem. The annual fundraiser, thrown by KDHX (88.1 FM), collects many of this town's finest bands and lets them loose in the urban wonderland that is the City Museum. Great music played in fantastic surroundings in benefit of a cultural touchstone; what's not to love?
By the time I arrived at 7:30 p.m., parking was scarce and the venue was filling up with young and old alike - already a good sign. The Feed played the opening slot at the aquarium stage, battling the cavernous acoustics to pull out a set of fierce, heart-pumping rock & roll. The trio promises that a new full-length is on its way, and the new track "Stella" is a winner, with its amped-up new-wave energy. The band took this vibe to its logical conclusion by playing a cover of XTC's immortal "Making Plans for Nigel," sung by bassist Ben Reece (with lead singer Dave Grelle interjecting Andy Partridge's hooting background vocals).
The tiny stage at the Cabin Inn was reserved for acoustic folk music, and Rough Shop christened it with plenty of harmonies and deft picking. The trio played a set of sweet and lowdown tunes, clearly inspired from their tour of Europe's least-pronounceable cities (they played in Vohringen, Germany; Kematin, Austria; and Chur, Switzerland, among others). Meanwhile, Alvin Jett and the Phat Noiz Band played a set of brusque electric blues upstairs in the Vault Room.
Although the group has been around for years (and includes several old friends from my younger days), I had managed to miss seeing Dub Kitchen play live until last night. My loss: The seven-person incarnation of the band played soothing, danceable reggae that mixed good cheer with political awareness. The real revelation was Charlie Halloran's trombone playing, which gave a brassy resonance to the syncopated guitar strokes and bottomless bass lines.
I've spent several hundred words in the RFT's music section extolling the virtues of Jon Hardy & the Public, so I won't take up too much more space other than to say: Goddamn. Even with a new bass player and a fill-in drummer, this group manages to amaze. I asked fellow music writer Roy Kasten to name a better song than Hardy's "Cassius Clay" to come out of St. Louis since Uncle Tupelo's "Gun." He couldn't.
Part of the fun of Midwest Mayhem is stage-hopping, which invariably leads to missed opportunities. My devotion to Jon Hardy caused me to miss out on the Earthworms' set as well as Gumbohead's, though the latter group ended with a New Orleans-style second-line parade of brass player, tambourine shakers and dancers, all leading downstairs to the Aquarium stage, where So Many Dynamos finished the night with a nervy, high-energy set of new and old tunes. It was a fitting end to the night - so many styles and genres mixed together in one crazy warehouse of madness, shaking booties and stirring souls in the name of independent music.