Originally posted at djearlybird.blogspot.com, July 20, 2003. The first show I saw in St. Louis was in a Hill basement in the summer of 2003. North Carolina’s Bellafea headlined and were utterly inspiring. Since this week’s RFT includes a feature on Mount Moriah, featuring Bellafea lead singer Heather McEntire, let’s revisit that time...
Last night was the long-awaited Dear Nora show. I still love the serendipity of it all – that the show promoter also happens to be the office manager at my temp agency. Funny how things work out that way. The show was at her house, which is near the Hill neighborhood toward the south part of the city. When I got there, the show itself hadn’t gotten underway – there were just a bunch of people in the backyard hanging out, drinking PBR and barbecuing Morningstar Farms pizza burgers (my veggie burger of choice). Eventually everyone moved down to the basement for the show. The basement is at the end of a longish concrete slope from the backyard. Inside, there was music equipment, Christmas lights ringing the walls and ceilings, and flyers from past basement shows. Amy’s basement appears to be quite the hotspot for touring bands. The entire Candy-Ass Records roster seems to have played there at some point, as well as a big chunk of K, Mr. Lady and Kill Rock Stars.
First up was Cuando Greg and the Chives, which was just two young women on Casio, violin and guitar. Most of their songs were twenty-second snippets, with a longer foray into rap and a funny cover of Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never.” They handed out penny whistles, kazoos and fur-lined drums to the audience, so we all got to be honorary Chives for a little while. (I played a drum for a couple of songs.) I have no idea how this would translate to record, but for a basement show it was perfect. Local singer/songwriter Anna Roland followed with half a dozen songs of her own, and then Dear Nora took the makeshift stage.
Now, let me once again stress how happy I am that Katy Davidson and crew chose to stop in St. Louis. Still, I still must be honest: this was the least impressive of the three Dear Nora shows I’ve ever seen. Too many private jokes and too much goofing around in between songs, nearly obscuring Katy’s voice and great sing-songy melodies. I thought of the two Dear Nora shows I saw in Seattle: one was a tight, winsome set on a Sunday afternoon, the other was an intimate solo performance at a Capitol Hill clothing store. Both times, they had a similar casual stage demeanor, but it made the live show that much more personal and enjoyable. Tonight there was just something lacking. Having said that, I hope they’ll come back to St. Louis sometime soon – if there’s one constant about Dear Nora’s live shows, it’s that each of them is different.
A short break, and then Bellafea came on to close the show. A guitar/drum boy/girl duo from North Carolina, they put on the best set of the night, effortlessly swinging between Beat Happening fragility and Sleater-Kinney emotional workouts. The lead singer even occasionally used a quavering voice quite reminiscent of Corin Tucker’s. They stayed on just the right side of the line, though, never becoming too overbearing or melodramatic. They even threw in an excellent version of “No Depression” – possibly as a nod to St. Louis’ local legends Uncle Tupelo? Anyway, I enjoyed their set. Even bought their CD.
So it was great to see a show again. I haven’t been to one since early May. Hopefully more will follow. (I’m going to see Radiohead next month, but that’s pretty much all that’s on the schedule at the moment. I’m not even sure if that counts as a “show.”)