How St. Louis' Hip-Hop Community Thrived in a Year of Social Unrest

Categories: Hip-Hop, Longform

Photo by Corey Miller
Five of the six members of MME -- a hip-hop collective making big waves through its music in the post-Ferguson era.

The lights are dimmed at the Luminary on Cherokee Street, where roughly 200 hip-hop fans have gathered for a special event showcasing the work of St. Louis' MME collective, a tight group of local artists who have been making big noise in the last year. Photos from a recent West Coast outing hang on a wall close to the front of the building, and a stash of merch sits in plain sight for anyone walking through the door. But no one is interested in any of that right now. It is the end of a long night, and the focus is on the stage.

The June 4 show kicked off this year's LAB series at the Luminary, a multimedia affair that pairs live performance with video projection. Each member of MME — Dante Wolfe, Mir, Lyrique, Con, Ciej and Mvstermind — has already performed individually before joining forces à la Voltron to close out the show with a group set.

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

As they prepare to perform the final song of the night, the group's de facto leader, Mvstermind, looks sweaty but determined. "We gotta do this shit for this city, man," he says. "Keep cultivating."

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St. Louis' Thriving Metal Scene is Catching International Attention

Categories: Longform, Metal

Illustration by Lauren Gornik

A crowd of roughly 100 people has gathered at the Fubar lounge in midtown to hear local metal band Fister debut its newest material — a single 44-minute composition entitled IV. No one in the band says a word before it launches into music that pulverizes the audience.

The volume is so menacing, you can feel the distorted down-tuned notes of bassist Kenny Snarzyk and guitarist Marcus Newstead rumbling your internal organs. Yet the tempos are slow enough for drummer Kirk Gatterer to occasionally pick up his PBR, take a sip and put it back down without missing a single cymbal smash.

The indecipherable screams emitted by Snarzyk and Newstead contain an intensity that recalls someone vomiting during a peyote trip, as if releasing the bad spirits from within in order to achieve transcendence. Heads in the crowd bang in slow motion, and after a few minutes, the relentless repetition becomes hypnotic and transformative. By the time the last chords cut off sharply, it feels like Fister has only been playing for five minutes — even though it also kind of feels like the audience just finished a marathon.

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Beatles Sister Louise Harrison Departs the Midwest After 50 Odd and Entertaining Years

Categories: Longform

Courtesy Acclaim Press
Brothers George and Peter Harrison visit their sister Louise in Benton, Illinois, in 1963.
If it weren't for coal, you would not be reading this. If it weren't for coal, a British wife, her Scottish husband and their two young children never would have left their home in Inverness, Scotland, in 1956 and taken a journey that led them to Canada, Peru and finally to Benton, Illinois, where they landed in September 1963.

The husband was an engineer in the mining business. The wife was George Harrison's sister.

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Why CDs May Actually Sound Better Than Vinyl

Categories: Longform

Of course vinyl records sound better than CDs. Or do they?
James Russell's mother told him that his first invention was the "automated battleship" he built when he was six. By the time he was thirteen, he was fixing toasters, irons and fans at a local appliance store in his hometown outside Seattle. The summer before he left for college, he was hired to set up a radio station -- transmitter and all -- something he'd never done before. He'd never even seen an antenna that big.

"That's why I am an inventor," says Russell, now 83. "I can envision how it should be."

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Tour Van Break-Ins Have St. Louis in Music-Industry Crosshairs

Categories: Longform

Ryan Farber
Members of the Districts were victims of a break in during their October 15 show at the Old Rock House.
The Districts, a four-man, indie-rock group from Pennsylvania, had just finished playing the Old Rock House on October 15 when its tour manager called the band over to share some bad news. Sometime during its 40-minute gig that evening, a thief (or possibly thieves) busted the driver's side lock on the band's tour van and nabbed hundreds of dollars worth of personal gear. The list of stolen items included a GPS device, a duffel bag of clothes, an iPod, a power inverter and a phone charger.

See also: Venue Owners Meet with Police to Discuss Rash of Van Break-Ins

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Lady Casa: Queen of the Ravers Launches a PR Push for Her EDM Party Compatriots

Categories: Longform

Stian Roenning
Lada Casa.
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek

Lady Casa is perhaps the country's most famous raver, and something of a cult leader to her tens of thousands of fans. When the Miami native makes a pilgrimage to LA and hosts an event on Venice Beach the day after seeing DJ Armin van Buuren, it quickly turns into a mob scene.

Not far from the guy who walks on glass and an Italian tour group, hundreds of ravers wait for hours in a snaking line to get Lady Casa's autograph, hear her wisdom and, most importantly, hug her. The event is billed as her 26th birthday party, as well as a benefit for local animal shelters.

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Blank Space Begins Major Expansion on Cherokee Street

Categories: Longform

Mabel Suen
Kaveh Razani, proprietor and now full-on owner of Blank Space.
"We've intentionally kept ourselves from being any kind of artistic or stylistic censors. We literally take everything that we can," says Kaveh Razani, founder of hybrid venue Blank Space. The venue, which first began as an open-ended art project, has evolved into a bar that serves art and music in tandem -- a confluence of culture for local artists and musicians alike. Following the recent acquisition of the building located at 2847 Cherokee Street, the venue is moving forward with major construction and renovation plans.

"For the first six weeks, it was like a summer camp sort of thing," Razani says, recalling the days before the venue even had a name. "Nothing was set in stone. We were just squatting in this building we had rented, making art, cutting up furniture." He and his team started their lease on January 1, 2012.

See also: Blank Space Turns Two; Major Renovations Coming Soon

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St. Louis Duo Letter to Memphis Release Debut LP at the prestigious Sheldon Concert Hall

Categories: Longform

Sarah-Marie Land
The founders of St. Louis group Letter to Memphis certainly know a good thing when they see it -- or hear it.

"The Sheldon," Gene Starks says with more than a little reverence in his voice. "That room is its own instrument."

"It's a very special room," adds Devon Cahill, almost whispering.

The esteem in which Starks, Letter to Memphis' guitarist, and Cahill, the group's vocalist, hold the Sheldon Concert Hall is warranted; after all, many have called the Grand Center venue "the Carnegie Hall of the Midwest," thanks to the room's perfect acoustics. That's why the indie-folk duo knows that debuting their album Phases there will be one of the most memorable performances of their lives.

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St. Louis' Bo & the Locomotive Is Poised for the National Stage

Buy Bo & the Locomotive some smoothies, and these guys will be yours forever.

Every great band has a story about the time it turned the corner, when something magical happened that brought its members' dreams of creativity and stardom just a little closer. Perhaps a record label fat cat takes notice of the group performing at a local dive bar. Or a talent agent catches a musician busking in the park. Or a local news station starts a band down a path of progressively bigger gigs just by having the group perform on a morning show.

Or maybe it all starts on Craigslist.

"I was looking for nude models for my private drawing sessions," Bo Bulawsky explains.

"Goth twink is what you were looking for, Bo; don't be silly," Peter Garea interrupts.

"Anyway, he responded and wanted to be my nude model," Bulawsky continues. "Turns out, he also was a band manager."

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The Grove's Close Confines Have Residents and Club Owners Battling Over Noise

Categories: Longform

Steve Truesdell
Doug Moore and Brad Fratello's patio and pool backs up to the Ready Room.
On June 24, as hundreds of fans entered the Ready Room — a new 800-person-capacity music venue on Manchester Avenue in the Grove — they were greeted with a warning sign: "Tonight's show features excessive volume levels. Hearing protection available at front door." The experimental-rock group Swans would soon treat the audience to one of its brutally loud and viscerally exhausting performances — a sweaty, two-hour set of heavy guitar drone and chest-thumping bass.

Next door at the Demo — a much smaller sister venue which opened its doors in May, just a month after the Ready Room — rock group the Paul Collins Beat christened the stage along with fellow pop-influenced bangers Sherbert and Bruiser Queen.

Inside the two venues, the crowds roared their approval. Outside, it was a different story.

"Throwing two bands in a blender is what it's like to be in our back yard," says Grove resident Brad Fratello.

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