Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pokey LaFarge & Co. Pop Up At The Mud House

The news broke on Facebook and Twitter Monday afternoon that Pokey LaFarge & his band would be playing a free surprise show somewhere in St. Louis the following day.  After all kinds of conjecture and rumors, from Off Broadway to The Lemp Brewery and beyond, finally on Tuesday morning the Tweet went out revealing the show would be out back at The Mud House on Cherokee St.  Perfect!

Treating it like an "open rehearsal,"  as Pokey said, the short show served as a warm up for the band before they head south to Austin as part of an official South by Southwest showcase this weekend.   It was also a chance for many in St. Louis to see the two newest members of the band, Chloe Feoranzo on Clarinet and TJ Muller on Trumpet.  They joined the original South City Three, Adam Hoskins, Ryan Koenig and Joey Glyn.

Eleven photographer Lee Kuehner snapped off a few photos from yesterday, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New letter from Eric Williger

The Eleven Letters page has been blowing up lately with comments relating to a couple of letters submitted by Eric Williger. The first, "Caught up in the hipster fads of yesteryear" (Dec '12/Jan '13), included a response by me inviting Williger to contribute to the magazine. His submission, which I titled "What's Gone Wrong with the St. Louis Music Culture" (a direct quote from within the piece) turned out to be less article than artifact, in that it discussed the musician Angel Olsen but also covered various opinions about STL's music community. That piece generated a lot of conversation on Facebook and several responses in letter form, which we published in the March issue of the magazine.

Below is a "clarification" that Williger asked me to run. The quote he refers to is from the second submission.
- Evan Sult, editor

I'd like to not be mistaken for trying to revise or even defend my prior writing ("Caught up in the hipster fads of yesteryear," Dec '12/Jan '13, "What's Gone Wrong with the St. Louis Music Culture," Feb '13), but there is one point from my piece in the February issue that I feel has been principally and commonly misunderstood, and I would like to release a clarification.  Here's the quote: "[...]a large part of this problem is that a lot of the music that is lauded by the local music press--and that is rewarded by larger audiences--is boring. A lot of it is what you might call 'adult contemporary rock.' Many of the biggest bands are hellbent on copying stuff like Wilco, Pavement, The National--bands whose influence should be long dead. There's plenty of funk, soul, blues, ska, reggae, jazz, and other dead genres. But the thing that unites all of it is how incredibly, obnoxiously, depressingly derivative it is."

The misinterpretation that I've seen from this is that people feel that I am saying that it is the responsibility of the bands to make music that I, personally, find to be "interesting." This isn't the case at all. As the top line there suggests, it's the fault of music press for lauding acts out of laziness when the band's primary accomplishment is sounding very much like another band. I am very possibly in the minority here, but I'd much rather hear someone talking about an artist that is pushing boundaries unsuccessfully than hear someone talk about an artist that is living within the set boundaries comfortably.

 The people who seemed to be most offended were members of bands or acts who felt like they were making music for the fun of it, rather than to appease some "higher power" or get famous. Of course, I have no issue with that. Make the music you want to make. Please, if anything, do that. But it is not the place of the music press to praise you just because you are relatively competent on your instruments and you fit easily into the booking schedule of clubs that tend to have really awful bands as headliners.

My point here is that I was taking no jabs at any bands  or musicians--those that aspire for fame as well as those who couldn't care less. It was strictly a comment about the music press, and all those people that contribute in non-musical ways to the atmosphere of the "local music scene" wherein people should feel creatively free.

 I would also like to take this opportunity to say, on the public record, that I did not come up with the title for the piece in the February issue. Had I titled it, it would've likely been something boring, like, "Angel Olsen as a case-study in the failings of the St. Louis' music scene," which would've gotten far fewer of you to read it. I worry that the melodramatic title that the piece received led some to color it as a very negative laundry list of problems, whereas I saw it as a relatively positive piece.

 Eric Williger

REVIEW: Samantha Crain and Indian Blanket, Tuesday, February 19 The Gramophone

Restlessness is a torment best faced with a smile. Thus is the lesson proffered by Samantha Crain, the Oklahoma-based Americanarian whose spirited sermon resonated through the Gramophone Tuesday night. “I feel like I lived here at some point,” she said with a sly grin. “I probably did.”

The lively evening celebrated the release of Ms. Crain’s new album, Kid Face, the latest roadmap to the feisty folksinger’s unending quest to find a muse that will help her escape her hometown. Graciously treating the packed crowd to several of her new tunes, Ms. Crain’s wondrously commanding voice rose up over the band’s Wurlitzer keys and cigar-box guitar as she left no rootsy cornerstone unturned.

Highlights abounded, from the sweepingly beautiful title track from Kid Face to the Frisco-jam “Equinox” to the fervent “Devils in Boston.” Ms. Crain explained how the latter is actually a geographical misnomer—New York City is even too large syllabically—and song after song, she proved herself the latest in the Sooner State’s long tradition of wordsmithery. “I’m almost young this year, now that I’m older,” she crooned in the dusty blues-infused “Paint.” Somewhere, Woody nods.

Earlier in the night, reclusive St. Louisian Joe Andert made a rare appearance as the crowd warmed up beneath Indian Blanket’s masterfully woven aural tapestry. Layered strings, each with its own purpose, entwined in plateaus of anticipation until the band allowed itself resolution, always in an unexpected direction. Andert displayed a sharp folksinger’s ear for entering each song just before the audience expected it and then turning the rhythm on its head once they caught up with him. Indian Blanket flaunted boundless creativity throughout in a set that culminated fittingly in a cover of “Moonshiner,” the woefully wily lament penned by one of Woody’s best students. 
Kyle Kapper

>>PREVIEW: White Mystery, The Brainstems, Dad Jr, Bruiser Queen, Animal Talk, Skarekrau Radio Tuesday, March 5 at mushmaus

Alex White has been shaking her kinky red hair for years now, fronting a variety of different bands in Chicago. She’s a garage-rock dynamo who always seemed like she should be playing to bigger crowds than she was—it was clear she had a vision for her shows, and just needed a crowd who could keep up,

Turns out the secret was to turn up the red: White Mystery is a two-piece band with her brother Francis Scott Key White, who sports just as much ginger shag and shakes it just as hard. Their hair is as eye-catching as any light show—moreso, because anyone can throw up some lights. They rock in a brash and bratty way, and their songs rain down like body blows. They did a ton of touring last year in the US and abroad, including a long stint with the legendary Shonen Knife. 

This show celebrates zine releases by both Mr. Ben of Freezer Burn, and the goofballs behind Acid Kat Zine. Both have been livening up the STL music world for awhile, and this is a perfect opportunity to get in on the joke. 
by Evan Sult