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Jimmy Griffin Talks Free Master Class at New Ballwin School of Rock

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Jimmy Griffin Talks Free Master Class at New Ballwin School of Rock
By Jaime Lees
Wed., Jul. 31 2013

One of St. Louis’ preeminent rock guitarists, Jimmy Griffin, is hosting an event this weekend to celebrate the opening of the brand new School of Rock in Ballwin, a rock band themed music school for seven to eighteen year olds.

Griffin is probably best known as the charismatic front man of local favorites The Incurables, but his many “side projects” keep him plenty busy during off hours. He’s a main figure in El Monstero, the impressive world-renowned spare-no-expense Pink Floyd cover band that just lasered through Verizon Wireless Amphitheater a couple of weekends ago. His other high-profile projects include Celebration Day (September 14 at Jefferson Barracks Park), Street Fighting Band (August 16 at Alton Amphitheater) and PettyCash Junction (August 2 at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company).

The seemingly inexhaustible Griffin spends his remaining time teaching private music lessons. His teaching skills will be on display at this two hour this School of Rock “master class” where he’ll be both playing guitar and speaking about his experiences in the music business. It would be difficult to find a more experienced or worthy man for the job. If you want your kids to learn from the best, this is a great place to start.

We spoke with Griffin on a rare day off about what to expect at his master class this weekend.

Jaime Lees: Tell me about your event on Saturday and what you’re going to do there.

Jimmy Griffin: It’s for the School of Rock, which has just opened up a campus here in St. Louis. My buddy Jordan Heimburger is a director there, and it’s a kid’s rock and roll camp. And, basically, they bring in artists to play for the kids and talk to them about their experiences in music. And I’ve done some events like that at Camp Jam, too, where people will come in and play a few songs, and then just talk to the kids because kids have tons of questions about things like that and how you’ve gotten where you’ve gotten. And you just kind of talk about life philosophies and musical philosophies and stuff that you can kind of pass along to the next generation.

You know, I’ve been doing this [music] since I was seventeen. And there’s been various ups and downs and, just any kind of knowledge I can impart to the kids is good stuff. It’s open to the public, so anybody can come. And I think it’s basically an event just to raise awareness of the fact that there is a School of Rock in St. Louis now. And the audience will be just anybody that’s interested in what I might have to say or who wants to listen to me play the guitar. And it’s to help them find out that there’s a place for their kid that might be interested in playing rock music for his life, or just for fun. I think that’s what it’s all about.

So the kids come with their parents and you’re there and you have the guitar, but what’s the scene like? Are you mostly answering questions or are you playing? Have you done one of these before, specifically?

I, personally, haven’t done one, I’ve watched a bunch of them and at the majority of them, the kids have a bunch of questions. And I’ll play a little bit and just show them– the main thing with kids, because of their level of honesty, is that you have to kind of show them something first. You have to kind-of prove something to them, that you’re worthy of them asking you a question in the first place. So, you get out there and you kick it for a little while and it’s basically a lot of question and answer. You know, just so they can ask questions about how you do what you do, and why you do what you do and how you got to where you do it.

What are some of the most common questions they ask at these kind of things?

The most common ones are: When did you start playing? What was your first band? What’s your favorite band? How is music different now from when you were a kid? Because they all know that I’m old, you know? [laughs] Now being that it’s a rock and roll camp, they don’t have to listen to me and most of them won’t. Which is fine because that’s what’s rock and roll about it! But for someone who has been doing it as long as myself, I think there’s things that I can tell them. I might be able to tell them some things that they might not get right out of the gate, and save them some time. Whether it’s figuring out people that they want to play in the band with or music they’re pursuing or things like that. Because there are so many avenues in music. It might just be something that you do in your room that brings you a whole bunch of joy. Or you’re a live performer or you’re a composer or you’re a studio musician or you play jazz or whatever it is, anything that you do with music can be really beneficial and can enrich your life in a bunch of different ways.

So what is something that you tell all the kids? What’s your best advice to them?

The best advice is that if you’re a good person you’re gonna end up playing good music with good people. And that’s the whole thing. You can be the greatest at whatever you are; you can be the best drummer, you can be the greatest guitar player. But if you’re a jerk, you will be sitting at home being the greatest guitar player in the world. And I know people like that. I know people that have never had the personal side of it together, and because of that, the guys that were more equipped to deal with the ups and downs of what music is are more successful.

One of the first things we always tell them is that nothing ever goes right in rock and roll. And it’s the guy that you don’t want to kill at a truck stop in the middle of Oklahoma at two in the morning that stays in your band, you know? A lot of things about music involve bending and being able to go with the flow and figure out your place in a group. If you look at a band like, let’s say the Rolling Stones. You have Mick Jagger in your band, he’s the Mick Jagger. And you might be the Bill Wyman, but Bill Wyman gets to do pretty much all the stuff that Mick Jagger does because he lets Mick Jagger be Mick Jagger. If Bill Wyman tries to be Mick Jagger, it doesn’t work, and then Bill Wyman gets kicked out of the band. And that’s part of it, too.

I also talk to them a lot about their first real band. Which is that band like, U2 or Aerosmith or those bands that got together when they were in high school or shortly thereafter. Those are very special things. And once that first band is over– I had one of those bands– once that first band is over, it’s never like that ever again. It can be really good, but it’s never like that first real band that you have. After that it’s always a little more professional, everybody gets a little more grown up. But those first bands are the ones where you can stay young forever.

Call the School of Rock at 636-220-8930 to reserve your space at this free event.

link: Riverfront Times

Full Circle with The Flaming Lips: 2012 In Review

Flaming Lips at LouFest. Photo by Khoolod Eid.

Flaming Lips at LouFest. Photo by Khoolod Eid.

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.

Flaming Lips and Yoko Ono - JAIMEVILLE.COM

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 (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

Alejandro Escovedo with Jimmy Griffin: Critic’s Pick

photo by Todd Wolfson

Alejandro Escovedo
8 p.m. Tuesday, May 15. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue.
By Jaime Lees
Thursday, May 10 2012

Every Alejandro Escovedo show should be required viewing, but this one promises something extra special for fans of St. Louis music. The rock-roots legend’s show will be supported by Jimmy Griffin, frontman of the Incurables and guitarist for El Monstero. A formidable talent on his own, Griffin is also a frequent wingman to Escovedo and did time touring as a member of his band last year. He will open the show with an acoustic performance of Incurables songs, then Escovedo will play solo before being joined by Griffin and an all-star collection of local musicians featuring members of the Feed, the Funky Butt Brass Band and Dr. Zhivegas.

After the Show: Escovedo and Griffin are hitting the road for a short solo tour (in a Lincoln) before Escovedo meets up with his band the Sensitive Boys.

link: Riverfront Times