RFT Showcase Preview: Listen Before You Go (Part Two)
Our continually growing sampler of tracks from 2011 RFT Showcase performers has outgrown its initial installment -- you can still listen to those fifteen tracks right here. There are twenty-four more below, with handy-dandy photos and biographical information. Sit back, hit play, and dream about how awesome this Saturday will be.
All the tracks on this page appear courtesy of the artist and are meant for sampling purposes only. Please support these bands by going to their shows and buying their albums.
Cassie Morgan & the Lonely Pine
Nominee for Best Folk Artist
7 p.m., Copia Urban Market and Winery
Three interesting things, courtesy of Cassie Morgan
As a duo we try to think of different ways to arrange songs to make
things interesting and fill out the sound, which is why we bring an
assortment of "instruments" to our live shows (such as wine glasses,
cell phones, and a toy piano, to name a few). Many of the instruments
we use were found or repurposed, so they tend to have a certain amount
of character on their own.
"No More Tears" (the track available for streaming) is from our 2010
release "Weathered Hands, Weary Eyes." The song is largely inspired
by the imagery and trials of "Love in the Time of Cholera," by Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, which is what I was reading at the time.
Our stage mascot is a Battleship board game, which serves as perfect
base for the toy piano. When we're on the road it's always there in
case we get bored; so far we haven't gotten bored enough to actually
pull out the game and pretend we are naval strategists, though.
Dots Not Feathers
Nominee for Best New Artist
8:30 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio
Courtesy Dots Not Feathers
Three important things you need to know about Dots Not Feathers, as said by member John Baier.
- 1. All but one member of Dots Not Feathers are "current or former vocal music majors at University of Missour-St. Louis," said Baier.
- Drummer Jonathan Goldstein drummed with band fun. For two years, from 2008 to 2010.
- Dots Not Feathers has some exciting music news. "We'll be releasing our new EP, Come Back to Bed at our Speakers in Code sponsored show on June 14 at Off Broadway," said Baier.
Sound Bites: "Shoulda Coulda" by Dots Not Feathers, from its album A Thousand Novels. Dots Not Feathers-"Shoulda Coulda"
The Jump Starts
Nominee for Best New Artist
7 p.m., Rosalita's Cantina
Courtesy The Jump Starts
It's not as if singer and guitarist Justin Johnson is exactly hurting to have his songs heard; as the lead singer of Pretty Little Empire, he's become a standout presence with his impassioned performances. But alongside drummer Sarah Ross, Johnson also performs in the Jump Starts, and the simple two-person lineup gives space for his more direct, pop-friendly songs. With some raggedy acoustic guitar strums and Ross' often funky rhythms, the Jump Starts has the charm and panache of a bedroom-pop project -- at times raw and unpolished but never short on feeling or heart.
Pretty Little Empire
Nominee for Best Americana (Rock)
9:30 p.m., Copia Urban Winery & Market
Courtesy Pretty Little Empire
Pretty Little Empire heads straight for the gut. At a recent show an old '70s-rock fan told the band its set had touched his soul and that he would be straying from his well-worn rut to support the band in the future. It's not uncommon for the quartet to provoke such strong reactions; notoriously chatty St. Louis crowds fall silent at the first rich chords of vocal harmony. Occasionally performing with the Skekses' Elly Herget, Pretty Little Empire works the many traditions of rock & roll to charming and occasionally devastating effect, with frontman Justin Johnson's taut stage presence leading a consistent effort of uncommon sincerity.
Nominee for Best Soul/R&B (Solo Artist)
9:45 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio
by Peter Wochniak
Filling roles as a trumpeter, trombonist, arranger and producer, it's little wonder that Lamar Harris' schedule is packed with appearances at the city's most-respected clubs. Nor is it a surprise that something new is always percolating. His last album, Groove Therapy, functioned as just that: Jazzy songs flowed easily from one to the next, leaving infectious head-bobbing in their wake. Of course, there's more to come from this soul man about town: The Here and After, an album that Harris describes as a fusion of jazz, soul and electronica, is on the horizon.
Nominee for Best Folk
11:30 p.m., Rosalita's Cantina
by Ben Mudd
Old-time folk meets the unholy blues in the spare and fierce sound of the Skekses. Taking its name from the reptile villains of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, the group keens and dreams through songs of murder, magic and monsters, carried by banjo, guitar, rattling percussion and Elly Herget's stratospheric moan. Recently pared down to the duo of Herget and Evan O'Neal (who drums for Pretty Little Empire), the Skekses proves that less is more isn't just a cliché. Herget is a gripping songwriter and singer with a voice that could tackle timeless Appalachian ballads if she chose, but whose original songs evoke the newer, personal tradition of Gillian Welch and Alela Diane.
Nominee for Best Jam/Funk Group
3:15 p.m., RFT Outdoor Stage at 11th & Washington
by Corey Woodruff
It makes sense that people flock to shows when the funky guys of the Dogtown Allstars take the stage -- the band is, in a lot of ways, reflective of St. Louis itself. Even its moniker takes its name from a beloved, beer-drinking neighborhood. Like St. Louis, it's nothing too flashy, but there's a lot there if you know where to look (hint: For the Dogtown Allstars, that'd be Broadway Oyster Bar and Schlafly Bottleworks). Both have French (by way of NOLA) influences. It's been around a while and yet continues to draw adoring crowds who want to hear the same songs they've heard dozens of times: Free-flowing rhythms and good-time attitudes convince the band to keep the groove going and the crowd to grab one more beer.
Syna So Pro
Nominee for Best One-Person Project
10:45 p.m., Flamingo Bowl (Palm Room)
by Corey Woodruff
If Syrhea Conaway's work as Syna So Pro were a purely technical exercise in the creation of pop songs by looping and layering instruments and vocal parts, it would be astounding. Thankfully, the resulting songs can stand alone regardless of how they were put together, and Conaway's octave-spanning voice and multi-instrumental know-how combine to create bright, kinetic pop songs. Her creative spirit is restless, even when she's not working on her own tracks: Conaway recently began making "a cappella mashups" of local bands' songs, and for the first installment she sang snippets of Sleepy Kitty tunes and looped them into a stand-alone performance. Bands should be knocking down her door and begging her to pay them the same tribute.
Nominee for Best Hard-Rock Band
9:30 p.m., The Side Bar
by Jess Dewes
LucaBrasi's second full-length album, The Norris Division, out last November, used melodic pop touches to soften the band's hard-rock edge. Singer Matt McInerney can scream with the best of them, but his voice turns out to be most effective when he's actually, you know, singing, and the single "Turned Around" is downright catchy. The quintet is filled out by Jerry Jost on guitar, Mike Jost on drums, Josiah Werner on bass and Bill Reiter on keyboards.
Nominee for Best New Artist
10 p.m., The Dubliner (Upstairs)
Courtesy The Breaks
The Breaks is far from the first band to specialize in high-energy power pop, but it distinguishes itself with smart, dynamic songwriting and charismatic stage presence. Between rhythm guitarist Karl Stefanski's leaping and lead axe-slimger Sean Gartner's ferocious finger tapping, the quintet puts on a riveting performance. The band also did a fantastic job of capturing the verve of its show in the Odd Man Out EP, which sounds positively massive. The group recently shuffled instruments among its members, which includes new bassist Matt Wicks, in order to expand on the jerky post-punk aspects of its sound. Judging from the promising first new song written with Wicks, the Breaks is only getting better.
Warm Jets USA
Nominee for Best Pop Band
9:15 p.m., Lucas Park Grille (Patio)
Courtesy Warm Jets USA
Jason Hutto's bands have never lacked for pop hooks, but the latest fuzz-pop project helmed by the music-community mainstay is particularly tuneful and well produced. Warm Jets USA's "Records" contains lovely, jangly riffs, while "Peach Fuzz" is a classic, two-minute loud-soft-loud burst. "Dumb" is even better, a jolt of greased-up '70s hot-rod rock; it goes down like a shot of whiskey. If you're a fan of unheralded, criminally underappreciated indie-noise bands from the '90s, Warm Jets USA is right up your alley.
Nominee for Best Noise Band
6:15 p.m., Rue 13
Britches formed in mid-2009 and a few months ago released a demo called, er, Demo. The death sweats of early Sonic Youth and Xiu Xiu's skeletal noise sculptures are a starting touchstone, but the trio skillfully uses silence and restraint to magnify the dread of its chaotic moments. Among its best songs is "White Noise," a grayscale pastiche of beauty and horror: Chiming melodies and grandfather-clock percussion devolve into marching stomps, macabre chants and gravel-embedded-in-knee riffs.
Nominee for Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist (Group or Collective)
9:30 p.m., Lola
Originally established in a recording studio at Webster University, Illphonics offers a refreshing take on alternative hip-hop. Frontman Larry "Fallout" Morris enthusiastically delivers his upbeat rhymes over the band's live instrumentation, which tends to draw its inspiration from a wide array of genres -- including rock, funk and reggae. The resulting sound is surprisingly polished for a relatively young band, and its efforts are already paying off. Debut album Illphonics Presents Sound was among Vintage Vinyl's top-selling CDs of 2009, and the group followed up with last year's free five-track EP, Illusion. Having already opened for industry heavyweights such as Lupe Fiasco, Everclear and the Roots, Illphonics is regularly playing shows throughout the region, with its sights set firmly on breaking into the national spotlight.
-- Calvin Cox
Nominee for Best Metal/Thrash Band
7:15 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio
Courtesy Borean Dusk
This Bridgeton-based metal quartet lists its influences as Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Mastodon and traditional European folk. The band's self-titled debut album, released in 2010, delivers on that promise with a sound that thrashes into progressive territory -- and forgoes any pretense at vocals. Key track "Wolf Totem" begins with a pseudo-Celtic mandolin romp that would set the scene to any number of fanboy fantasy epics before a wolf howl signals the song's descent into heavy electric guitars. The song maintains its pursuit-on-mythological-horseback pace for nine rolling minutes.