The Conformists Return to Form with Original Vocalist Mike Benker

Categories: Live and Local

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Chris Muether
An outdated photo of the Conformists. Former bassist James Winkeler (right) has been replaced by Chris Boron (not pictured), who initially replaced singer Mike Benker (center), who has returned to the group. Got it? Good.
It's just before midnight on a dreary Tuesday night and Christopher Dee, Chris Boron and Patrick Boland of the Conformists are sitting around a small table outside the Royale, sipping drinks and pulling on cigarettes as they remember nineteen years of playing music around St. Louis. Only a thin canvas covering separates the bandmates from the falling rain, which after a day of thunderstorms and showers has slowed to a drizzle.

"This is a great place to be a band. It's super cheap, its easy to have a practice spot, you're a hub in the country. The city is a big part of our identity for sure," says Dee, who plays guitar in the band. "I think something about being secluded here and having to let your creativity keep you occupied and busy does something a little bit different than it does elsewhere where you have this built-in reputation."

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Tortuga Is a Homecoming for Mike Leahy and the Big Muddy Records Family

Categories: Live and Local

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Robert Rohe
Mike Leahy and Chris Baricevic of Tortuga.
By Jenn DeRose

Those familiar with Mike Leahy as the frontman for 7 Shot Screamers or as the man behind the face paint of Clownvis Presley might be surprised by his new project. Tortuga, a desolate take on country-rock as viewed through a psychedelic lens, is Leahy's first foray into solo songwriting instead of, as Leahy puts it, "having four guys involved in the writing process like we did in 7 Shot Screamers."

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The Beat Goes On: A Stage IV Cancer Diagnosis Won't Stop Ken McCray

Categories: Live and Local

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Screenshot from Superjam promotional video.
Jeff Gallo and Ken McCray performing in Superjam.
Jeff Gallo and Ken McCray are sitting in a Starbucks in south city, sipping coffee as they reminisce about the bands in which they have played together over the years. Gallo wears a Faust Beer trucker hat and a white shirt that doesn't quite cover the giant "Missouri Route 55 South" tattoo that stretches across his forearm. Across from him, McCray wears a light blue Superman T-shirt. He has bright blue eyes and cleanly cut blonde hair. He looks strong and healthy.

At a glance, you would have no idea that he's been battling cancer for the past three and a half years.

See also: Best Drummer St. Louis 2014 - Ken McCray

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Beloved St. Louis Act Nadine to Reunite for Twangfest, Honor Memory of Late Bassist Anne Tkach

Categories: Live and Local

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Halski Studios
Nadine gets back to its senses.
When the members of Nadine take the stage at this week's Twangfest, it will be the first time the band has played its songs in concert in more than a decade. For a period in the early 2000s, Nadine was widely seen as St. Louis' Great White Hope for break-out success, thanks to smart songwriting, hooks that had both rootsy and poppy appeal, and an atmospheric edge that pushed the songs away from square convention.

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St. Louis Hip-Hop Trailblazers MME Get a Showcase at the Luminary

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Photo by Cory Miller
Hip-hop collective MME.
Of rapper ciej's event at the Luminary next week with hip-hop collective MME (Mediate. Meditate. Elevate.), he says, "I might perform on the ceiling." MME will descend on the space at 2701 Cherokee, an incubator for new ideas in the arts that presents visual art exhibitions, an artist residency program, concerts and LAB, a one-year old event series that pushes musicians beyond their music.

Formed last summer, LAB offers local musicians a venue to explore their ambitions and the different dimensions of their artistic practices. AstThe Luminary's Operations and Events Coordinator Liz Deichmann explains, "We are interested in pushing the conversation of music past traditional concert experiences." The Luminary's interior, now bare of furniture in anticipation of a floor refurbishing, provides artists a literal blank canvas to do with what they will.

MME will kick off this year's LAB series on June 4 just as the collective is coming off a successful ten-city tour with stops that included SXSW in Austin, a two-night performance in Denver and an unexpected trip to Los Angeles for a last-minute show. Not only did the group sell of out merch, but its trip was mostly financed by a fan-funded GoFundMe campaign. "The tour gave us the strength to continue to trust ourselves," relays Mvstermind, the troupe's de facto leader.

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St. Louis' Volcanoes to Call It Quits This Week

Categories: Live and Local

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Eric Peters and Jon Ryan. Photo by Melissa Maciorowski.
The guys in dance-rock duo Volcanoes really want St. Louis to know three things: They don't hate each other, they're not in a period of mourning and nobody's dying.

See also: Volcanoes Are Breaking Up

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Via Dove to Say Goodbye with a Final Show at the Firebird

Categories: Live and Local

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Jason Stoff
Via Dove will play its last show this Saturday, June 6, at the Firebird.
Less than five minutes into lunch at the Royale, Via Dove guitarist Michael Tomko is already laying blame for a recent stage mishap at the feet of the band's singer, Andy Shadburne. Thanks to his energetic and theatrical performance style, Shadburne is notorious for spilling drinks onstage. He sent a scotch and soda flying during a show at the Ready Room last month. Later in the set, Tomko slipped on the resulting puddle while attempting to land a jump.

Coming from a band that recently announced its breakup, the public airing of grievances is perhaps no surprise. What may be, however, is the complete lack of acrimony from either musician as he tells the tale. Shadburne laughs as he compliments the guitarist for never missing a note, while Tomko, a giant grin stretched across his boyish face, recalls considering landing strategies even while still in mid-air.

See also: Stream Via Dove's Fugue State Now For Free

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Rap Group 3 Problems Could Be St. Louis' Next Breakout Act. Here Are Their Best Videos

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Photo by Ben Westhoff
Swagg Huncho (left) and Lil Tay of 3 Problems, a North County St. Louis group whose popularity is suddenly snowballing.

3 Problems is a St. Louis-based rap group making some of the most beautiful and troubling hip-hop out right now. Its members are Lil Tay, who lives in Jennings, Swagg Huncho, who lives in Ferguson, and Relly Rell, who recently got ten years for second-degree murder.

All three of them are eighteen, and though most RFT readers likely haven't heard of them, they're practically celebrities among north-county high school kids. They get recognized on the street, they posed for pictures at the Michael Brown protests, and they're increasingly asked to do features and shows. (You can catch them tonight at the #OshayParty at 419 Gano Ave.) They even recently got written up in Rolling Stone by an amazing local journalist. (Ahem.)

The guys get compared to Rae Sremmurd and have something of a Chief Keef vibe as well -- melodic but rough. More than anything, their music has a timeless quality, with honest-feeling stories about growing up in a tough environment. Their hooks are incredible -- just listen to their most recent mixtape, A Problem Story -- and judging by how quickly their following has been snowballing, they could be breakout national stars. (They're definitely hindered by Relly Rell's incarceration, but the other two members are so skilled that they can make it as a duo.)

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Wizard World Comic Con Brings Music from the 8-Bit Universe to the Live Stage

Categories: Live and Local

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Jason Hayes of Critical Hit.
Get ready, St. Louis -- a sea of zombies, superheroes and aliens is once again about to take over the America's Center on Washington Avenue. When pop-culture/sci-fi convention Wizard World Comic Con returns to the Gateway City this weekend, the Rams' home will swap out AstroTurf and tear-filled beers for a wall-to-wall assault of celebrities and comic-book references that even ace reporter Lois Lane would have trouble sussing out.


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Kimya Dawson to Play Surprise Show at Foam This Wednesday

Categories: Live and Local

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Photo by Rhett Nelson
Kimya Dawson
Singer/songwriter/Moldy Peach Kimya Dawson will play a surprise solo show at Foam this Wednesday.

The booking comes courtesy of local music blog iwenttoashow.com. Thanks to a Twitter conversation, the site's co-founder, Jess Luther, had originally booked Dawson to play a show in her Soulard apartment -- "We occasionally host house shows for travelling musicians and locals when proper venues aren't available or financially viable for the artists," she explains -- but interest proved significant enough that the show has now moved to the Cherokee Street venue.

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