Best St. Louis Shows of 2011: Part Two
New Year's Eve isn't just amateur hour. It's a night-long, clown-car traffic jam of colossally defeated expectations, a dispiriting exercise in futility, even, or especially, when you're somewhere somewhat less coastal than Rio. In St. Louis, we have some worthy parties -- this year's Blind Eyes and Kentucky Knife Fight event at Off Broadway seems choice -- but there's no getting around the fact that a drunk tank would be more fun than half the over-priced folderol around town. And the company would probably be better down in the clink as well.
Tom Lampe Jay Farrar on the pedal steel for Colonel Ford
That's why New Year's Eve 2010 at the Schlafly Bottleworks ranks as one of the greatest nights of local music this year. Hard-shell honky tonk band Colonel Ford was holding forth, despite the fact that its regular drummer, Danny Kathriner, couldn't make the gig. Enter Mike Heidorn, yes, that Mike Heidorn, of a little band out of Belleville, Illinois called Uncle Tupelo, and another little band called Son Volt. He claimed he was out of practice, and he's not known as a country shuffler -- more a precise rock pile driver -- but shuffle and swing and scoot he did, as his old friend Jay Farrar cut the confetti on pedal steel, and guitar whiz Mark Spencer (of the Blood Oranges and innumerable sideman gigs) joined in on a few songs.
This event was both an introduction and a fundraiser. Tower Groove Records was a brand new collective and this was its formal introduction into society -- it's débutante ball. This all-day show was hosted at Off Broadway and featured around twenty local bands playing both inside on the stage outside in the courtyard.
The carnival included Warm Jets USA, Catholic Guilt, The City of Takers, Accelerando, Bunnygrunt, Death of Yeti, Peck of Dirt, Doom Town, The Feed, The St. Louis Shuffle, Tone Rodent, Beth Bombarda, Bug Chaser, Ransom Note, The Skekses, Fred Friction, The Hot Liquors, Theodore and Magic City. The bands played abbreviated sets and when it wasn't their turn to perform, they ran homemade carnival games to raise money. The party was fueled by love and run by volunteers. (As a fan of local music, I volunteered some time that day, too.)
This was a very heart-warming, feel-good, charitable event -- the kind of thing that usually happens at the end of the year. It was bustling all day with both volunteers and revelers; families were out with their little kids, dads munched hot dogs while moms helped their kids play a game of ring toss. (Named 'My Ding a-Ring' as a nod to STL music legend Chuck Berry.) The weather cooperated with a welcome break in both heat and rain, and people were streaming in all day. There was smiling, laughing, toe-tapping and even a bit of headbanging.
At then end of the (long, long) day, all of the people power had paid off. The group raised enough money to fund it's second big project: the TGR debut release, a double-vinyl LP featuring all of the bands involved. Look for the record early next year and for more big news from Tower Groove Records to be announced soon.
Oh Shit Moment: Looked to my left, there was Fred Friction dressed like a clown and smiling at the crowd. Looked to my right, there was TGR founder Adam Hesed (of Magic City) dressed as a ringmaster and smiling at the crowd. Both looked delighted and relieved.
Highlight of the Night: During Catholic Guilt's mid-day set, the unpredictable noise musicians were joined by a bunch of random kids in the crowd who wanted to rock. The kids were provided with instruments and they played along in the gravel in front of the stage. [pictured, video footage below]
I Went to a Showcase at Off Broadway, May 14
2010's best music blog I Went To A Show branched out into show promotions this year with I Went To A Showcase, a killer show that featured some of St. Louis' best indie acts. Garage rock/pop (the Blind Eyes, The Breaks and Tight Pants Syndrome) met twangy country/folk rock (Pretty Little Empire and the Dive Poets on the stage of Off Broadway on May 14 and the resulting concert stood as undeniable proof of our city's musical talent. Each band brought its A-game with engaging, high-energy sets that were long enough to satisfy their fans but never too drawn out to alienate anyone who just came for another act. The Cha Cha Chow food truck was also on hand to keep everyone in good spirits with its tasty tacos. In short, I Went To A Showcase was a perfectly organized concert of five fantastic local bands that demands a sequel.
Highlight of the Night: Watching drunk members of the Breaks loudly sing along to the Blind Eyes' set.