A Celebration of All Things 314

Us

The first (hopefully annual) LouFest took place a few weeks back in Forest Park. Two stages, free water, great local food, and bands from near and far came together to make for an awesome weekend. The whole event was so St. Louis (unrelated, yet awesome link) that the only way to describe the bands I liked is through tortured local similes.

Day One

Local boys So Many Dynamos are like The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Tight, dense and intricate, the Dynamos’ music moves forward with irresistible propulsion, much like the narrative that tells the story of the Lambert family. It is rare to have a non-opinion of either the band or the novel. One either loves or hates them.

Lounging

New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus are The Royale. I had heard about them for a while and I was pretty sure that I would enjoy them, and when I finally got around to checking them out I was not disappointed. In fact, since then, I’ve probably listened to their most recent album The Monitor. I evangelize Titus Andronicus to everyone much in the same way that I evangelize The Royale’s fish tacos. Also: lots of beards.

Lucero is like the 2004 World Series. Awesome on paper, initially intriguing, but ultimately a let down and over far too soon due to the singer’s (alcohol related?) illness.

Folding Chairs Allowed

The Airborne Toxic Event are Pi. The undisputed champion of Day One, if you didn’t like what they had to offer, you have bad taste. Like the incomparable Bucktown deep dish pizza, The Airborn Toxic Event combines many sonic elements into one appealing product. Highly recommended.

Built To Spill reminds me of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Been around forever, a little bit worse for the wear, but still chugging along. Their set showed signs of rust, but “Carry The Zero” is as strong a single as was played all day.

Bedouin

Broken Social Scene was just like Six Flags. Huge, intense and trying really, really hard to entertain, these earnest Canadians closed the first day with a large, long set. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, but I definitely understand the appeal there. There were definitely highlights, most notably “7/4” and their latest single “Forced to Love,” but by the end of their set I was ready to go.

Day Two

Carolina Chocolate Drops are similar to the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Like an especially well-preserved relic from a bygone era, this North Carolina string trio play old-time fiddle and banjo music rooted in the Piedmont region. Their intricate finger-picking skills are rarely seen in this day and age, but their cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style” gave it all a modern twist.

Girlz

Cory Chisel was the personification of the Way Out Club. Smoky and ragged with a white v-neck t-shirt, Cory Chisel gave a raw and soulful set of Americana folk-rock. Maybe a little out of his element on a sunny Sunday afternoon, you could smell the PBR seeping out of his pores from where we were sitting. Still, a good performance.

Self Portrait

Jeff Tweedy is the St. Louis Cardinals. People came from all around to see the Wilco frontman play solo. He was indubitably the main attraction, and his star power almost certainly helped get the festival off the ground. His set (unlike the 2010 Cardinals) did not disappoint. Tweedy reworked classic Wilco songs for solo guitar and commanded the attention of the audience like few other solo artists could. Mayor Slay declared Sunday “Jeff Tweedy Day,” and the day was most certainly his.

Jen, Kate, Kim

She & Him closed out the festival with a set deserving of a comparison to Crown Candy Kitchen. Zooey Deschanel’s voice is as sweet as the famous malts at the north side landmark and M. Ward’s raspy baritone is as rugged as the neighborhood. Together, they made great music and put a fitting bow on a great concert.

Parasolin'

Now, we spent most of our time lounging on blankets and sitting in lawn chairs, so I didn’t get many shots of the band. If that’s what you are looking for, local concert photographer Todd Owyoung was there and he has great shots from both days. The rest of our photos are here.

Phoenix Rises at The Pageant

Lisztomania

Phoenix is a rock band from France. Still here? OK.

Lights!

Their bright, dancey pop rock has almost repaid the debt incurred by Johnny Hallyday. Plus, their lyrics are in English, which is pretty much required for becoming huge in America. I’ve been a fan for a while and when I heard they were coming to town, I jumped at the opportunity. Jen, Chris and Rob joined my in my quest to take in the best music that the French have to offer.

Colors!

One thing I was not prepared for, was the awesome light show. I never really associated Phoenix with trippy, awesome light displays, but that just goes to show that I can be wrong about things from time to time. The lights were awesome, and it gave an extra element to a surprisingly energetic show. While their records are tight and nuanced, their live performance is much more powerful. They even made me like “Fences,” a song that I think is out of place on their most recent album.

One of the neatest moments was at the end of an extended instrumental jam, a white curtain came down in front of the stage and the guitarists were projected as 20-foot shadow puppets. It was surreal and fantastic.

Shadow Puppetry!

Openers Toro y Moi were also really good. I don’t know a single thing about them except that they are an American band with a French name (as opposed to Phoenix, which is the opposite), but after seeing their set, I’m interested in finding out more.

The Black Lips in Concert

So I tricked my wife and sister into going out on a school night to see The Black Lips at The Firebird. Kate was a fan already, but even then I don’t think that they knew what they were getting into.

The first opener was local band The Blind Eyes. I had never heard of them before, but they are really, really good. I will be keeping an eye out for them in the future.

The second openers were The Box Elders out of Omaha. Two double-necked guitars + a drummer who also plays the keyboards = loud, awesome rock and roll.

And while those bands were good, the Black Lips were definitely the main event.

It was wild, raucous, sweaty, dramatic, and awesome. Without getting too far into it, let’s just say before that night I’d never seen a musician:

  • catch his own loogie as it drips off the ceiling,
  • or throw up on stage in the middle of a song,
  • or play a guitar solo with his dick.

And that was all the same guy. So yeah, it was friggin’ awesome.

This is Jen, giving her thoughts on that night. I had to sit down halfway through the show or else I would vomit due to all the loogies (the dude was spitting and catching them in his mouth) and thank goodness I did not see the guitarist puke on stage. EWWWW! By the way, I’m too old to stay out that late on a school night.

A Night With a Legend

Sometimes, you say to yourself “I should do this thing before I miss my opportunity.” Sometimes, you get around to doing it, and sometimes you don’t. Chuck Berry is a St. Louis legend, the father of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the first person elected to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He’s been playing monthly shows in the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill for pretty much ever, and we never got around to going. With the announcement of his performance at The Pageant, we decided we could not let this opportunity slip, gathered a posse and hit the town.

Of course, we couldn’t see a legend on an empty stomach. The seven of us (Andrew, Beth, Kate, Katie, Kim, Jen and myself) took an early dinner at Ranoush, a Middle-Eastern joint located where the esteemed Saleem’s used to be. With our large group, the proprietor suggested a family-style feast. A huge spread of mezes (small plates, appetizer-like dishes) were brought out on two platters: hummus, tabouli, falafel, baba ganoush, and foul moudames with pita bread to mop it up all up.

We were warned not to fill up on the awesome appetizers, but of course, we could not hold back. Only when the main course came, did we realize our folly. The main course was a huge mound of beef and chicken kebabs, grilled together with shrimp, onions and peppers. So good!

Just when we thought we were done, the baklava came out to end the meal, and it was hella tasty. Sweet and flaky … mmm! A rosewater tea was the grand finale, and we waddled down the block to The Pageant, satisfied for sure. We will definitely be back to Ranoush, and we would recommend the family style meal to anyone.

We made sure to get to The Pageant early; not only was it was a sell-out, but our friend’s brother’s band The Rugs were the openers. It was extremely trippy to see a person you know rocking on the stage of The Pageant. They churned through 45 minutes of energetic garage rock before yielding the stage to Joe Edwards. The don of The Loop, Edwards gave a warm welcome to Chuck and out he ran, spry and agile for an octogenarian. Now, I don’t want anyone to get it twisted: as far as musical performances go, this won’t be making any top five lists, but Chuck has always had a rep as an erratic performer, and the dude is 83 for chrissakes. We weren’t expecting anything other than a quick run through the hits and that was pretty much what we got. The highlight of the night was the sing-along during “My Ding-a-Ling”, and that kind of says it all. Despite the rough edges, I’m not sure there is anything more spine-tingling in my world than the first bars of “Johnny B. Goode,” and that did not disappoint.

So yeah, Chuck Berry isn’t exactly in his prime, but he was past his prime on the day I was born. It was a thrill to see him and I’m glad I got a chance to pay tribute to one of the all time greats.

After the show, we popped into FroYo. This is only really mentionable because it was my first time there, and I am a convert for life. Delish!

Anyway. Good friends, good food, and good music make for a good night.

Farm Aid 2009


When I heard that Farm Aid was coming to St. Louis back in August, I was ecstatic. Really, how often does Farm Aid come to St. Louis? I had to take advantage of this opportunity.

It has been forever since I’ve sat on the lawn at Riverport (yes, I still call it Riverport, it will always be Riverport to me) but I wasn’t about to spend THAT much money on seats. The day of the concert was perfect, sunny, a slight breeze, perfect jeans and tee-shirt weather. Brandon, Bob, Katie and I gathered at the house to have some chili before heading out and packed some snack foods to keep us from starving. When we got to Riverport, the lines to get in were ridiculous, but luckily, we had a connection: Brandon. He has a Verizon phone which allowed us to jump the line a bit but even, the concert had started by the time we got in. That’s okay, though, we found a perfect place in the middle, spread our blankets on the ground and camped there for the next 8 hours.

From the website, I was under the impression that there would be local farmers there, selling their wares and that was not true. There were many booths with information about organic food, bees, research, etc. But not much local produce or food. Sure, all the food that was sold in the normal snack areas were supplied by local farms but it just wasn’t the same.

As for the lineup, I was only interested in the later shows. I was really there for Wilco and Dave Matthews, but to see legends, Willie Nelson and Neil Young play, that was pretty cool. My sister fawned over Jason Mraz while her friend was super-thrilled about John Mellancamp. To each their own. Even though I didn’t know all the bands, I just enjoyed being outside, listening to music and hanging out with friends. Oh, and of course, people-watching. I do have to say, this concert did bring out all sorts of people, we had the potheads, the hoosiers, the bikers, the preppies, you name a type of person, I guarantee, they were there. Good times.