Because Chris Baricevic Is Putting St. Louis on the Musical Map
One of 75 reasons we love St. Louis in 2016
By Jaime Lees
Chris Baricevic is just 30 years old, but he’s already been the steady heartbeat of the south St. Louis music scene for more than a decade. The label he started eleven years ago, Big Muddy Records, is one of the region’s most revered musical organizations, the St. Louis equivalent to Jack White’s Detroit-born Third Man Records.
Big Muddy is not some vanity DIY project. It isn’t even a “boutique” label. Its artists are robust, well-practiced, world-class musicians ready to greet the world — Baricevic’s long roster has included Pokey LaFarge, Jack Grelle, Sidney Street Shakers, Rum Drum Ramblers, the Hooten Hallers, Southwest Watson Sweethearts, 7 Shot Screamers, Arson for Candy, the Monads and the Vultures.
Baricevic sees his role at the label as a hybrid of motivational producer and a spiritual mentor, but he’s more like a seasoned mountaineering guide, willing to carry the baggage so his artists can climb higher and claim their own victories. Baricevic often takes on the role of therapist or shaman (or maybe even mother) when leading his charges. He encourages them to develop their talents, embrace their community and to create art without ego.
His responsibilities go deeper than his current bands, though. He’s been the executor of beloved St. Louis musician/photographer Bob Reuter’s estate since Reuter’s 2013 death, and he’s also currently in the process of licensing the music of early 1960s local blues legend Henry Townsend for reissue. Baricevic does this all quietly and without fanfare. In fact, he’s so accustomed to staying out of the spotlight that he’s only now getting around to performing his own music with his new band, Kristo & the Strange Places.
Pure-hearted and a bit of a romantic, Baricevic’s humble exterior conceals a man who is naturally ambitious and seemingly inexhaustible. Authenticity is at the core of everything that he does, and he explains that he only cares to be involved with music that is “screaming from the soul.”
This St. Louis native has big plans for the city to “start to claim our creative landscape.” He promises, “If I get the resources I need, there is nothing to stop us.” Believe that.
link: Riverfront Times
St. Louis Ranked in Top 50 U.S. Cities for Music Fans
Posted By Jaime Lees
Fri, Jul 15, 2016
According to a recent report from consumer spending website ValuePenguin.com, St. Louis is ranked as the 42nd best city in the United States for music fans.
I’d never heard of Value Penguin, so I knew not to trust the results. What is a Value Penguin, anyway? It sounds like a new mascot for Aldi discount supermarkets. Still, in the little preview photo that I saw, it showed my beautiful city as “high ranking” (with a bright blue dot) so I expected us to be #1. I clicked over to bask in the warm glow of rocketing civic pride.
I glanced at the very top of the list and didn’t see St. Louis. I scrolled on down to #5. Still no St. Louis. By the time I got to #10 and didn’t see the Lou I knew that this list was crap and that Value Penguin was populated by morons.
Ranked #1 on the list is Nashville, so-called “Music City.” Well, that’s convenient. That’s like saying Chicago is the windiest city in the U.S. just because that’s what people call it. No, you lazy jerks, the windiest city in the U.S. is actually Jackson, Mississippi. And just because you call yourself something doesn’t make it true.
The rest of the nation might concede that Nashville is country music city, but that’s about it. I knew a guy who was an audio engineer in Nashville for a decade and he said that 95% of the studio recordings that get done there are either country or Christian or both. He was so starved for any version of rock & roll that he almost cried tears of joy when he was hired to work on a Paramore record. Yes, Paramore, that “band” that consists of one marginally attractive Hot Topic employee and whoever they pay to stand behind her while she grunts and fluffs her hair. That’s what passes for rock in Tennessee. No thank you.
I skimmed farther down the list and finally saw our ranking. Ah, #42. They say that 42 is a special number and that it’s the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.” I knew we were magical.
I also noticed that a city in Florida is a whole eighteen slots ahead of us. Florida? Florida is only good making the rest of the country feel smart. The only decent music that ever came out of Florida was from Tom Petty and he got the hell out of there as soon as possible. I feel so bad for music fans in that state. Its biggest stars are Marilyn Mason, Aaron Carter, Pitbull and Limp Bizkit. You poor, sad, floppy dick-shaped peninsula.
Value Penguin used fifteen categories to piece together this whack-ass list, each with their own weight and specifications. Cities were scored based on their performances in various arbitrary contests. Some of the categories made sense (how many record stores per 1,000 people) and some of them made use of wild card factors like the average amount of days with precipitation per year, average closing times at bars and the percentage of population using public transport to commute.
Yes, any of these things could influence the lives of music fans, but so could literally thousands of other factors. And as a statistics professor once taught me, correlation does not equal causation. You don’t have to be a numbers geek to see that this methodology is, at best, an elaborate game of pin the tail on the donkey.
So suck it, Value Penguin. We think that a good city for a band is also a good city for a fan. A good music city has multiple concert events to choose from each night. A good music city sees huge draws for local musicians. A good music city has volunteers and organizers and valued event planners. A good music city has cheap door prices. A good music city has affordable housing and a low cost of living. A good music city has musicians who support and celebrate each other. A good music city has dedicated and active fans. A good music city has small shows with big turnouts.
A good music city looks a lot like St. Louis, thank you very much.
– link: Riverfront Times
St. Louis Earth Day Festival Digs Deep This Year for Impressive Local Music Lineup
By Jaime Lees
Tue, Apr 19, 2016
Concert season in St. Louis has arrived. Each year as the temperatures rise our fine city shakes off its deep winter sleep and blossoms into a major hub of quality musical entertainment. At the first hint of spring we start looking forward to months of free outdoor public concerts: the Whitaker Music Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Jungle Boogie concert series at the zoo, the major headliners at Fair St. Louis and all of the wonderfully crappy cover bands provided by smaller local festivals and carnivals.
This year the St. Louis Earth Day Festival is really getting in on the action. Taking place this Sunday, April 24 in Forest Park, the musical talent for the event is decidedly local, original and diverse. Instead of offering just the usual expected Americana, folk or jam bands, the schedule features DJs, punk rockers, general weirdos and representatives of many different styles and genres of the St. Louis music scene.
Scheduled to perform: Swear Beam, the Vanilla Beans, DJ Needles, CaveofswordS, Illphonics, Matt Wynn, Bruiser Queen, JOIA World Percussion Ensemble, the Griddle Kids, Steely James, Arson for Candy, Tortuga, Gary Schoenberger with Perfect Strangers and the Funs.
The most common reaction for local music fans reading this lineup has been delighted shock. How, we wondered, did the St. Louis Earth Day crew manage to seek out and book some of our city’s best musicians and bands? Clearly, somebody with extensive knowledge of the local music scene had some sort of influence there.
We didn’t have to dig long to find out that the little seed that grew this lineup was Jenn DeRose. In addition to being the program manager of the Green Dining Alliance, DeRose has played many roles over the years in St. Louis music culture: She’s done time at Vintage Vinyl, been a DJ at KDHX, worked with Big Muddy Records and is an avid concert-goer. (And — full disclosure — an occasional RFT Music contributer.)
DeRose says she simply suggested bands that she wanted to see and that she felt represented St. Louis as a whole.
“Most of the bands that we contacted were very stoked to do it,” DeRose says. “If we would’ve asked these same kinds of bands ten years ago, I don’t know that they would’ve been as enthusiastic, but I think that everybody is kind of on board now. Global warming is real; climate change is real. It’s an important issue. We’re losing species like crazy. Also, it’s a really fun festival. And 50,000 people showed up last year, so I think the entertainers were really excited to jump on board.”
Mike Leahy of Tortuga (and long-time St. Louis favorite 7 Shot Screamers) is one of those excited for a chance to perform. “I was shocked by how solid the lineup is for this festival,” Leahy explains. “Forest Park is such a beautiful place with such a great history — to be playing a well-organized festival there is an honor. Tortuga is stoked to play Earth Day Fest because it feels like a real homegrown event. It’s so much fun playing around St. Louis these days; so many great bands, organizers, venues and events like this. We’re a lucky town.”
Also using the word “solid” to describe the lineup, musician Sunyatta McDermott of CaveofswordS says that she’s excited to “get the chance to see so many great artists in one day” while also supporting the cause. McDermott has carried a passion for environmentalism since she was a teenager, and she jokes that she even sacrificed her Aqua Net Extra Super Hold for the ozone. In addition to performing at the festival, she and the rest of CaveofswordS express their commitment to a more livable world through simple everyday decisions like recycling, embracing a plant-based diet, driving used cars and finding their clothes in thrift shops.
Musicians as a group, in fact, are actually fairly green naturally. They buy used instruments, they carpool frequently, they share practice spaces, they lend each other equipment and they DJ with previously owned records. This sharing of resources is not only essential to growing a scene, it also helps to keep the planet clean. According to DeRose, so does supporting your local scene.
“I think promoting local music is an important part of sustainability,” DeRose says. “If a city is more dense, it is more sustainable. Which is maybe counter-intuitive, but with shared resources, our carbon footprint is lower. And the way to attract younger, active people to the city is through promoting local music and letting it thrive. That’s part of why we need to start including local bands — to really showcase what St. Louis can do.”
Find out more information about the St. Louis Earth Day Festival at stlouisearthday.org
– link: Riverfront Times
Vintage Vinyl Partners Split; Lew Prince Moving On
By Jaime Lees
Tue., Jun. 16 2015 at 7:15 AM
Tom “Papa” Ray is now the sole owner of Vintage Vinyl. After more than three decades of sharing duties with co-founder Lew Prince, Ray assumed full ownership yesterday, as Prince moves on to new adventures. Both men talked to the Riverfront Times, sharing their pride in the store. The reason for the split? As Prince says, “I did this for 35 years. My kids graduated from college and it’s paid for. My house is paid for. Now I get to do something different. It’s just that simple.”
Vintage Vinyl started in 1979 when Ray and Prince began selling used records out of a booth at Soulard Farmer’s Market. The business thrived and eventually put down roots on the west end of the Delmar Loop in University City.
The store was recently named as one of the ten best record stores in the U.S., which only confirmed what locals already knew. Vintage Vinyl has long served as a hub of St. Louis music culture. In addition to the expected music store wares, Vintage is also a friend of the local scene: it stocks tons of local music, frequently hosts local bands for in-store performances and boasts a thriving paper fliers section just inside the front door, internet be damned.
“I’m looking forward to continue working with the best staff that we’ve ever had in the 35-year history of the store,” Ray tells us. “And being a part of the musical community in St. Louis as well as the record store mothership in the Delmar Loop.”
Vintage Vinyl ownership isn’t the only musical venture in the life of Tom Ray. He’s also a long-time DJ at KDHX who currently hosts the Monday drive-time slot with his show the Soul Selector. He was also recently tapped to curate a compilation released by Trojan Records and is known to play a bit of harmonica with blues acts around town and on tour with Los Angeles band Vintage Trouble.
Ray credits the shop’s success to the rich musical history in St. Louis.
“I would say that we started with the knowledge that we saw that there was a responsibility to not only serve our customers but to understand how important of a foundation city St. Louis is in American music — which is something that I often saw ignored by other store owners,” he says. “It was almost like they were oblivious to the fact that, you know, we have musical greatness in our DNA here in St. Louis.”
And though the Soul Selector is now the sole owner of Vintage Vinyl, co-founder (and White House award-winning) Lew Prince was kind enough to grant us a jovial exit interview of sorts late last night. (Prince is also a former RFT writer.) Here, he walks us through his history with Vintage Vinyl, his political views and his plans for the future.
Will you please explain to me your current situation?
It basically is: Tom and I started this company 35 years ago. I did this for 35 years. My kids graduated from college and it’s paid for. My house is paid for. Now I get to do something different. It’s just that simple. I don’t know what it is yet, but something different!
Until then, maybe you get a couple of naps in?
[laughs] You know, I am going to take the next month or two off. I love to travel. One of the benefits of the job that I had was the way that Tom and I structured the company. It wasn’t something that was going to make us a bunch of money, but [it did] give us free time to do the things that we want. I mean, you see Tom go on the road with Vintage Trouble, the band he plays with. You see Tom go off on the road opening for bands as their DJ.
And over the years the two things that I’ve done is, first, pretty much every year or so I take a month or two off and go hiking in the Himalayas, go hiking in the Andes. I go up a river in Thailand. I spent months and months walking around China in the late ’80s. I spent months walking around Tibet in the early ’90s.
Oh my god.
Yeah! And this job is what freed me to do that. I think I’m headed to the Himalayas for August and part of September. There’s a little former kingdom up there called Sikkim that’s between Nepal and Bhutan, that used to be a separate country but now it’s part of India. It’s one of the places in the Himalayas that I haven’t walked so I’m going up there, I think. When I get back I’m hoping to find a job.
And the second thing that I’ve always been able to do is to go off and do these political things that I’ve done. I’ve been a spokesperson for Business for Shared Prosperity and Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, which is a national organization for almost a decade now.
So, I don’t get paid for any of that. But it sort of frees me to be part of the political process in a really interesting way. So maybe I’ll do something with that.
I really think that you’re a local hero when it comes to stuff like that.
[laughs heartily] You know, I totally backed into that stuff. I was really pissed off when dumbass George W. Bush kept talking about “job creators” and all of these backwards things. So I thought, well, through Vintage Vinyl I’ve created a couple of dozen jobs. I had about 25 employees. And I just thought that he was wrong. Most small business owners that I know really want their people to be able to earn a decent wage and understand that national health care or some form of healthcare for everyone is really important. And I’ve always done issues that, like, essentially have a moral center.
Yeah, it seems like employees who are well taken care of are better employees, too, right?
Absolutely. I think as Americans we sign this deal that we’re going to take care of each other. That this is a country that is constructed to be — at its root — classless. That is to say: anyone from one class can move to any other class if the system is working correctly. But it’s not working correctly right now. And simple things like a basic wage and safe working conditions and reasonable health care are how we help each other in this country.
I’m interested how you build on your interests. You built Vintage Vinyl so clearly you can do things and get them done, and now that applies to your political interests, too.
I’m really good at organizing certain things and motivating people to accomplish things together. The structure at Vintage Vinyl has never been top-down. It’s always been sort-of like an amoeba. [laughs] We’re all pushing against the wall and we’re all pushing in the same direction. And that’s sort of how I do what I do.
Well, Vintage Vinyl is a retail store but it’s also a community center.
Yeah, Tom and I very much wanted it to be the musical center in St. Louis. We wanted it to be a place where people who were interested in a certain kind of American music or world music could find each other. Because Tom and I found each other at college, you know? We have known each other since 1970. I was a sophomore and he was a freshman at Webster University. I was playing guitar and he was playing harmonica and we hit it off musically. We had very broad, broad tastes. The range of the things that we liked was really similar. And in the days before the internet, the way that you learned about music was going through each other’s record collections. And he and I both had pretty vast ones, even then, and we discovered things. Like, “Oh, you like that! Wait until you hear this guy!” You know? That kind of stuff. That’s how Tom and I bonded. And, you know, here we are getting close to 45 years later.
You’ve been riffin’ off of each other for a long time.
Exactly, exactly, exactly. Between us both, I think it’s three wives and five kids later. [laughs]
Tell me about, maybe, your best moment as far as organizing the store or tell me a story about something that really sticks out that really touched you.
Somebody sent me a column that some young woman wrote on the internet a couple of months ago. And it was a woman that I absolutely remember. I think she was a high school kid. What she wrote was that she came into Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis and she described to the guy working there — and she described me as the guy: bearded old guy with a t-shirt — she’d told me what kind of music she was interested in. And I suggested some things to her and she chose a Led Zeppelin record. And I told her it was good choice and why. She took it home and she loved it, of course.
And since then, she said most of the time when she goes to a record store and describes her taste, that people laugh at her. You know, there’s kind of a music snobbery that goes with some record stores and she was really appreciative that the first time she went into Vintage Vinyl that nobody did that to her. She wrote that it made her feel brave and the whole thing was kind of a thank-you note to me.
I always felt like that what’s we’re supposed to do and that’s what we try to teach the employees. And in the beginning it was hard. In the beginning Tom and I were really bad at hiring people. The store got better when Tom and I quit hiring people because we hired people that we thought would be really entertaining, as opposed to people who might be good for the job. [laughs]
So, once we handed over the hiring and said, ”Look, what we want are people who are evangelical about music — people who are going to take the sound that someone is describing and find it for them. And the next time they come in maybe the employee says to them, “If you like that sound, here’s the next one. If you like ZZ Top, maybe you wanna hear Muddy Waters.”‘ And that’s kind of the theory.
That’s very sweet. Then you guys get to kind of go on a journey together.
Yep! And I’ve gotten to do that with thousands and thousands of people. You wouldn’t believe just the nice things that people have done for me and said to me over the years. I’m at the point now where people who I turned onto music as teenagers are now working for me. They became managers at my store. And it’s pretty cool.
But the thing to really get into this article is that I’m looking for a job! Because what I got for Vintage Vinyl won’t support me until I collect Social Security. So anyone out there who is looking for somebody who can run something or organize people or who has a nice slightly-unpopular charity [laughs], I’d be really good at that. So this is my job application. I’m hoping to get about five or six of these interviews so that I can use them all as my job applications, I gotta tell you.
I do have pretty good skills at building an effective value-based organization. Vintage Vinyl is built much more on a value system than on a commercial notion or I’d have some fuckin’ money! [laughs]
I am bizarrely selfish about how I spend my time. Basically, in life, you’re just trying to keep yourself entertained. And I’m desperately trying to keep myself entertained by doing things that please me. But at the same time, what pleases me involves both my aesthetics and my value system. And that’s really all there is. If you spend your life that way, I don’t think you get to have many regrets in the end. I’m inside of twenty years from the end. Eh. And it’s part of the reason that I don’t want to go to work everyday doing retail. I want to do something else. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’ll find it.
Full disclosure: this writer volunteers at Vintage Vinyl one day a year to distribute free Schlafly Beer to music lovers on Record Store Day.
St. Louis’ premier presenter of high-end musical weirdness, New Music Circle, is offering some pretty great deals on its upcoming shows at the Stage at KDHX.
New Music Circle is an organization that is “dedicated to the creation and performance of improvisational and experimental music” and it’s been supplying St. Louis with cool, artistic, adventurous, creative, innovative, weird, touching, intellectual, off-the-map and joyfully WTF events since 1959.
The mission of The New Music Circle is to contribute to the cultural life of Metropolitan St. Louis by sponsoring presentations of concerts, multimedia and other cultural events, with emphasis on contemporary music; to provide by means of these presentations, additional professional opportunities for musical and associated talent; to enhance thereby the attractiveness of Metropolitan St. Louis as a place of residence and livelihood for the members of these professions; and to stimulate interest in new musical and associated activities.
All of the upcoming NMC events at KDHX are available at three price points:
– Struggling Music Lover
New Music Circle board member Rad Widmer offers a little history on this system of ticket pricing:
“For many years, NMC had a discount for ‘students and artists.’ A few years ago the NMC board felt that the artists category was too exclusive and didn’t really reflect the board’s intent,” he says. “So we eventually came up with the phrase ‘struggling music lover.’ Or sometimes ‘struggling music supporter.’ Anyway, the board’s intent is to make the shows as affordable as possible, and having a sliding ticket price based on the honor system seems to work well for us. We hate to have someone miss a show because they can’t afford it.”
“While the $20 admission is a significant help to us keeping this operation going, it’s our goal to keep these shows as affordable and accessible as possible, and we just want to have options available for the wide range of audiences we get,” explains NMC program coordinator Jeremy Kannapell. “We have diverse turnouts in age and backgrounds: both younger and older people, students and artists, as well as people who have not heard the presented artists before and are just curious to check it out and see what they are about.”
So go check out these upcoming events. But don’t be a jerkburger– pay the full price if you can at all afford it. That money goes back into bringing you more cool events. But if you are struggling and you still just must attend, enjoy the show for half price courtesy of your friends at New Music Circle. Keep them in mind as a great organization to donate to the next time you’re flush.
Upcoming events and links to purchase from Brown Paper Tickets below:
Matthew Shipp / Michael Bisio Duo
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 28 @ the Stage at KDHX
On Fillmore (Glen Kotche, Darin Gray)
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 3 @ the Stage at KDHX
Gerald Cleaver’s Black Host
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25 @ the Stage at KDHX
Tim Berne’s Snake Oil
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 8 @ the Stage at KDHX
To stay updated on New Music Circle events, “like” the Facebook page here.
link: Riverfront Times