LouFest, Day One: Bottle Rockets, stephaniesid, Airborne Toxic Event
(A to Z has several writers and photographers covering LouFest. Reviews and photos of the other bands from the first day are in separate posts.)
"These are the first musical notes of Loufest!" Brian Henneman crowed, and the members of the Bottle Rockets were off, igniting the first set of St. Louis' inaugural LouFest. The BoRox wasn't on the original bill, but stepped up when the Northwoods couldn't make it. After the fact, though, it's impossible to imagine the festival kicking off without the band, which served as a loud-and-proud rep for its hometown.
Jason Stoff Bottle Rockets kick out the jams. Check out our entire slideshow of LouFest Day One.
Bottle Rockets fans are great - and dedicated. The BoRox Twitter feed on Friday read: "Set your alarm clocks! Tomorrow, high noon, we will crank up the drums, crank up the bass, crank up the Les Paul in yo'face at Loufest! Noon, it's the new midnight! It's 5 o'clock somewhere! Have breakfast, come on down!!!" Before soundcheck began, about thirty people had heeded the call, filling in the sliver of shade at the front of the stage. The crowd quadrupled by the end of the set.
During the 50-minute, all-electric set, the BoRox burned through hard-country-rock classics. From a fist-pumping "I'll Be Coming Around," off 1994's The Brooklyn Side, to the defiant and funky "Hard Times," from 2009's Lean Forward, the band pulled from both ends of its catalog. During the highway-driving rocker "Indianapolis," Henneman said Jeff Tweedy - who performs Sunday - was part of the story that inspired the song: "He wasn't one of the 'boys at Firestone'; he was at the bar with me."
"Welfare Music," played second-to-last, was maybe the highest moment of the set. During the breakdown, Henneman and guitarist John Horton let their guitars have an intimate conversation over light military drum, whittling down into absolute silence in which Henneman sang, "Baby fall down, baby get up, baby needs a drink from a loving cup..." It was enough to chill the sweat rolling down your spine.
The BoRox did their best to make St. Louisans believe in the future of this event - and in the river city as a music city. "The more people come, the more we'll get to do this. Before you know, this'll be the new South by Southwest," Henneman proselytized. After a hometown set like that, with all of day one stretching out ahead, the crowd cheered. Why not? Anything was possible.
The crowd shuffled over to the Orange stage just as stephaniesid introduced itself: it's pronounced "Stephanie's id," as in "id, ego and super-ego." Such introductions were necessary for this small band out of Asheville, North Carolina, which was making its first appearance in St. Louis. The three-piece describes its sound as "pop-noir," and coming off the straight-ahead rock of the Bottle Rockets, the crowd was in for a bit of a jarring transition. By the set's halfway point though, though, both Stephaniesid and the crowd seemed to find its footing.
Stephanie Morgan fronts the three-piece and appeared yesterday as everyone's bouncy, theatrical little sister, with a guitar in hand and pigtails on top of her head. Morgan paired her grainy, jazzy voice with a lot of personality, hand gestures and exaggerated facial expressions. Her voice could shift in a breath from a quirky Regina Spektor purr to a hellcat yell that recalled a '90s Lilith Fair leftover.