A little more about this past Saturday’s RFT Music Showcase. I’m too tired to do a whole minute-by-minute summation like last year. However, I once again had the opportunity to marvel at how much St. Louis’ music scene has progressed over the past few years. There really is a lot going on here. I’m not that much of a scenester, so when I do get out to these local events, it’s usually a fresh experience for me. I enjoy meeting people and participating.
I got there early in the hopes of catching Black James, a rootsy solo project that sounded intriguing to me. Unfortunately, they did not play. So I hung around the outside area for a bit, watching Warm Jets USA for awhile (fine cover of the Stooges’ “TV Eye”) until it was time for me to DJ.
My “DJ set” consisted primarily of fiddling with my iPod, but that’s OK – whether or not I care to admit it, much of the best music I’ve collected these past few years has been digital. All the same, it was a blast getting to choose music and set the tone of the room again. My venue was the VIP area of Flamingo Bowl, so people were kinda streaming in and out. I didn’t get the impression that anyone was really paying attention to the music, but it’s not as if anyone left with their hands on their ears, either. I’ve collected quite a bit of ’60s and ’70s soul over the past half-decade, both legitimately and through archivist-oriented websites like Funky 16 Corners, and that made up the bulk of my set. As much as I enjoy writing, I absolutely adore DJing. It’s the quickest and most direct way to share music I like with others. More soon, please.
I caught most of Ellen the Felon‘s outdoor set after that. Ellen Cook is a woman-about-town who plays dramatic piano-driven ballads. Backing her is drummer Matt, who has an unfortunate tendency to throw every drum fill he knows into every song. He seemed to have Neil Peart ambitions, but a Ringo-sized kit. I sat outside, watching the sunlight start to fade over the buildings and enjoying the moment.
Afterward I headed across the street to see Beth Bombara and Cassie Morgan & the Lonely Pine play Lucas Park Grille’s patio (another outdoor event). You’ll recall how much I enjoyed both of them last year; both are excellent songwriters and engaging stage presences. In order to earn my wristband, I had to volunteer to introduce a couple of bands and thank sponsors. I picked these two, since I knew I’d be there anyway. Believe me, I didn’t waste any time telling jokes or asking the crowd how they felt tonight, and I didn’t have one of those t-shirt bazookas. I just kind of mumbled my introductions and let the professionals take over. It’s hard to believe I actually tried to do this – play in a band in front of people – a long, long time ago. Much happier behind turntables or a laptop now.
In between sets, I headed inside, where I got to see Middle Class Fashion play. They were probably the pleasant surprise of the night. Musically, they specialize in piano-driven pop with hints of Ben Folds and Elvis Costello. That usually wouldn’t be my thing, but MCF distinguishes itself in two ways: 1) lead singer/pianist/primary songwriter Jenn Malzone knows how to write some killer power-pop hooks, and 2) all three band members appear irresistably enthusiastic and happy to be onstage. Malzone occasionally speeds up a little before getting to a chorus, as if she’s super-excited about getting to the next part of the song. I was very impressed, and I look forward to hearing them in a proper venue. (They play all the time, so I’ll have a chance soon.)
I also got to see a little of Celia’s Big Rock Band on my way out. They were OK, although I wasn’t so into the funky rhythm section. But that’s my problem, not theirs.
I considered sticking around for Tight Pants Syndrome, a straight-up power pop band featuring two-thirds of MCF. Instead I headed up the street to catch Bruiser Queen. I’ve written extensively about BQ’s singer/guitarist Morgan Nusbaum, dating back to her time in the much-missed 75s. Since teaming up with drummer Jason Potter, her songwriting has sharpened considerably. Swears, BQ’s proper debut, is full of loud, memorable and screamy songs that remind me of a Midwestern Sleater-Kinney or Muffs. Tonight, playing in front of an audience of drunken fans and strange Washington Avenue people (this being a meat market-style club district on typical weekend nights), they were absolutely on. So glad I got to see them.
It was now about 11:00 pm. I considered hanging around to see Bunnygrunt, but as with last year, several hours of running in and out of venues left me exhausted. So I just went home. Here is some photographic evidence of a busy day.