Full Circle with The Flaming Lips: 2012 In Review
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Dec. 20 2012 at 11:54 AM
Editor’s Note: The end of 2012 is upon us (also the end of the world, if you believe in that sort of thing), so we thought we’d put a cap on things by sharing some of our personal favorite shows, albums, events and general shenanigans. Join us as we indulge in some navel-gazing!
When I write articles for RFT Music, I’m not just reporting on music happenings — I’m writing about my life. One day my priorities might change, but for now what matters the most to me is music. Maybe that’s wrong or unhealthy or something, but it’s true, and luckily most of my favorite music moments of 2012 have been documented in some way on these pages.
I’m lucky in that I have a lot of freedom in this space. It’s curated not only by people who give a crap, but by people who value what I have to offer. After seven years of writing for this publication, I’m still grateful and excited for the opportunity. I absolutely adore my job here at RFT Music. My life is my work and my work is my life, and I’m honored to share it with you.
That said, here was my life in 2012:
I rang in the New Year in Oklahoma City. My sweet old dog, Ruby, had just passed and I was in the middle of some serious grief. I ran away for the weekend to hang out with old friends and see two shows with the Flaming Lips and my spirit animal, Yoko Ono. At the stroke of midnight, I was tipsy on pink lemonade moonshine, bathed in kisses and standing inside a massive sonic blast fortified by a fog of rainbow confetti, flashing lights, jumping lasers, hundreds of bright balloons and the twinkling reflections off of a giant disco ball. The Lips played Beatles covers with Yoko and Sean Lennon and Nels Cline; it was absolute bliss and served as a strong reminder of the healing power of live music.
I’ve been saved again and again by amazing music — most of it local. I’m a huge fan of so many of our local bands. Many people wait years for their favorite bands to tour, but for me, my favorite bands play all the time. As an extra treat, I get the opportunity to write about these St. Louis music makers: Lion’s Daughter, Prince Ea, Jimmy Griffin, Jans Project, Demonlover, Roland Johnson, Fred Friction, Nelly and the list goes on and on. I know that a lot of what I write reads as love letters to St. Louis, but I just can’t help myself — St. Louis just makes it too easy. Stop being so awesome and I’ll stop writing about you. Until then, the locals have my heart. (Extra double shout-out to people that I’m proud to call my friends, the hard-working folks at Big Muddy Records, Tower Groove Records and the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra.)
I’m not sure why, but this year I felt particularly productive. I was given space to write about music-minded locals who inspire me creatively (Thomas Crone, Dana Smith), about St. Louis music history (STL 2000) and I got to hype the touring bands that I was the most excited about (Future of the Left, R. Ring). I’m still not quite over the fact that I actually get paid to get drunk and watch Guided by Voices, to eat pizza and listen to Taylor Swift, to try to convince readers that Heart is badass, to watch classic bands like Kiss and Mötley Crüe, to review Madonna from the second row, to jump into the world of Juggalos, to get Sinead O’Connor‘s take on St. Louis (and Chuck Berry) and to praise my personal heroes like Bonnie Raitt and Henry Rollins. If you can find a girl that is luckier than me, I’d sure like to meet her.
Under the advice of my very favorite punk rock couple, I attended a show with a band I’d never heard before: I saw Useless Eaters at CBGB and it was the best damn show I saw all year. These kinds of happy accidents only occur when you actually listen to the suggestions of others, so try keep some cooler-than-you friends around.
And though I was stoked on the lineup this year at our big summer festival, LouFest, I had originally declined to do any LouFest coverage. I wanted a weekend of fun, without having to spend all night writing reviews. But there was a last-minute rescheduling and Kiernan came and found me right before Dinosaur Jr played. He needed someone to write about Dino’s set. I said sure, knowing that it would actually be easy– on some level I’d been prepared to review a Dino show for at least half of my life. Kiernan hunted down an empty beer box for me to write on and then he went back out into the crowd, off on his next mission. I found a pen, ducked under a friend’s umbrella and wrote my notes out on the cardboard. Improvising ain’t just for musicians, you know, and the Dino review turned out to be one of my favorite things that I wrote all year.
The second night of LouFest, I again found myself at the emotional mercy of the Flaming Lips live show, but this time as a participant. I danced onstage with some of my favorite people, and I absolutely rocked that slutty Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz costume, if I do say so myself. It was one of the best days of my life and it’s far too personal to write about here, but trust me, it was a good time and I felt absolutely smothered in love.
Since then my life and routines have gotten back on schedule, and this fall has been one great event after the last, and with the upcoming holiday season is bringing tons of shows that I’m excited about– I predict that I won’t get much sleep through the end of the year.
As for the future, who knows? I’m excited about the new crop of weirdness on the South Side. Magic City, Black James, Syna So Pro, Demonlover, Bug Chaser and Horsey Drawers have my interest right now, but nobody can predict what insanity will come in 2013. I, for one, can’t wait. Bring on the New Year. I’ll be lurking in the many venues, festivals, dark basements, loud practice spaces and fancy recording studios around town. See you at the barricades.
link: Riverfront Times
By Jaime Lees
Published on January 12, 2009 at 2:43pm
It’s a packed Tuesday night at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups, and the crowd doesn’t pay much attention when three young gentlemen wearing dapper hats and sharp trousers take the stage. But less than a minute into the trio’s set, most of the room is captivated. Two of the men share singing duties, exploring the deep, pained voices of the blues. Occasional hootenanny-style off-microphone hollering energizes the audience, as does a mournful, wailing harmonica.
A previously unmoved patron with a gentle face like fine, worn leather cracks a smile. He releases an exhilarated “Hot damn!” and commences tapping his toes and beating out rhythms on his polyester-covered thigh. The Rum Drum Ramblers have won over a new fan — an increasingly familiar occurrence to anyone who’s seen the group live since it started playing together in 2007.
To the uninitiated, the Ramblers might seem like an atypical blues band. The group features three young white kids in their early twenties, all of whom have roots in the punk scene. (Their previous groups include the Vultures and Nineteen.) But guitarist Mat Wilson, bassist Joey Glynn and harmonica player Ryan Koenig are no dilettantes, and they often look to their DIY roots for guidance. The group averaged three performances a week in 2008 and will perform anywhere; favorite haunts include pizza joints, rock clubs and even street corners. As Wilson explains, “The variety of places we played this year was just ridiculous. We’ve taken so many random gigs. You have no clue — I have no clue where we’ll pop up.”
And invites aren’t even necessary — sometimes, the band will just host its own damn party. The Ramblers’ label, St. Louis’ own Big Muddy Records, threw one hell of a hoedown this summer at a pavilion in Tower Grove Park. Lit by the moon and mountains of tiny tea candles, a couple hundred revelers passed bottles of hooch, shook their tail feathers and reclined on quilts in the grass. The trio’s set was acoustic but powerful, spreading energy and good vibes out into the warm, dark night.
That spirit lives on in the band’s debut recording, Hey Lordy Mama Mama Get Up and Go. It’s an electric, lively EP that sounds polished — but still preserves the rawness and passion of its shows. In between sets at BB’s, we caught up with Mat Wilson and Ryan Koenig and discussed what makes the Rum Drum Ramblers tick.
B-sides: Tell me about why you chose to play all of the different places you played last year.
Ryan Koenig: If you just play the same club every week, you just get the same crowd. When we play BB’s we draw the blues people. When we play the Blues City Deli, we draw from that neighborhood. When we play CBGB, we draw all the punk rock[ers] and the young community that hangs out on South Grand.
Mat Wilson: As a blues band, we can drag some shit out and entertain people for four hours, or we can step in CBGB and play 30 minutes of material and kill it. We can also play an electric set or an acoustic set, or a set with horns and a drummer or without it, or with guest players. The fact that we can do anything like that at a show makes it fresh.
What do you guys think you sound like? What’s your inspiration?
Wilson: I would say, like…I’m pulling from pre-war Chicago blues. Like, the first electric blues.
Koenig: I’m into a lot of the country blues and just country in general. But then I also like a lot of the Chicago stuff and the New Orleans stuff. I tell people it’s just American music.
Wilson: Yeah, American music. I like it when people call us Americana more than blues ’cause it’s not like we’re… hoochie-coochie men. [Laughs] Our thing is getting as much variety as possible and not just sticking to clubs in the blues scene. Because I’ve seen enough of it, and we can totally do it with a punk-rock ethic and kind of be troubadours with what we’re doing. We don’t need the blues society to book a blues show. We can bring a blues show any fuckin’ place we set up and play.
What music do you have in common that you all love?
Wilson: Jimmy Reed. Otis Rush. Magic fuckin’ Sam. A lot of that more obscure Chicago blues. Bo Diddley. Mississippi Sheiks, big time.
Koenig: Also, our same tastes include the Clash and the Damned, Johnny Thunders and the Circle Jerks.
Wilson: Punk rock definitely came first for me, but it wasn’t until I picked up a Muddy Waters record and John Lee Hooker record until I realized those dudes were punk as fuck. And I didn’t think that because I wanted everything to be punk rock, but because I recognized an intensity that was there.
Koenig: One thing I think modern rock lacks is intensity. I think the way to bring the intensity back to live music and to clubs is to be playing stuff that’s not just what’s out there now. To show people that it’s still alive, I guess.
Wilson: I think that blues is definitely the original struggle music, just as I saw punk rock when I got into it. Now we’re going through historical times just as they were then. So if you hear some new material that reflects on what’s going on now, it might be interesting. We know that blues didn’t die. Punk rock didn’t die.