Tag Archive | St. Louis

Why Do We Complain So Much About LouFest?

photo by Jaime Lees

photo by Jaime Lees

Why Do We Complain So Much About LouFest?
By Jaime Lees
Tue, Sep 15, 2015

St. Louis loves to complain. We’re also passionate about our city. Mix up this cocktail and we’ll drop our customary Midwest politeness: You’ll hear enthusiastic speeches about every regional issue from the opening of a new IKEA to a possible new football stadium.

There are many things that divide this town, but most complaints are dropped if the matter in question has been shown to benefit the residents. Arguments are often ended with a conciliatory, good-natured, “Whatever. If it’s good for the city I guess it’s fine.”

But LouFest has been met with outright ire since the annual music festival began six years ago. Seasoned festival-goers whine that it’s too small. Those of us accustomed to smaller concerts whine that it’s too big. And each year the lineup is met with cries of “LameFest” or “more like PooFest.” Every single year there is an avalanche of criticism for this music festival, even if it does bring in money and is “good for the city.”

Why? I’m not sure, but I have a theory. I think that we’re all quick to whine about LouFest simply because of the actual name of the festival.

Most other major music festivals don’t have a tight association with the cities in which they are held. For example, while we all know that while Lollapalooza is now held in Chicago, it doesn’t necessarily represent Chicago. It could be held anywhere or moved to any other city without losing its identity. But with a name like LouFest, it’s implied that this festival somehow represents St. Louis.

This is why we all get bitchy. That “Lou” gives us assumed ownership, and therefore a free pass for complaining rights. And when I look at the LouFest lineup, it doesn’t at all represent the St. Louis that I know. So just like everyone else, I start complaining, too.

I interviewed LouFest founder Brian Cohen and executive producer Charlie Jones a couple of years ago and they really won me over. I asked nothing but hard questions and I was impressed with their answers. To be blunt, I expected them to be annoyed at my insistence that the festival didn’t include enough local acts in decent time slots. They countered my questions with a list of all of the regional considerations they’d included, like making a point of booking a couple of local bands each year and renting space to St. Louis merchants. They also stressed that they didn’t have to include any local flavor at all. True. Very true. Can’t argue with that.

I’ve been to LouFest on three different occasions to see three different bands. One time was to see Dinosaur Jr (on a side-stage at a criminally early time in the day) and the other two times were during different years to catch separate headliners. As such, I’ve seen with my own eyes that LouFest does lots of things right. From the very beginning the organizers were focused on recycling, encouraging people to bike to the festival and general eco-friendliness. And it’s lovely see major touring bands while lounging on the grass of beautiful Forest Park instead suffering through the flooded concrete bathrooms at Riverport.

I prefer my music just a little weirder than most festivals offer, so I never really expect the LouFest lineup to thrill me. But this year, in particular, the lineup immediately struck me as relentlessly bland. As I looked over the list of performers I realized why: Women and people of color were woefully underrepresented.

So I crunched the numbers.

I did an informal tally of the artists listed on the lineup (not including support musicians) and came up with a total of 128 performers. Of the 128, 112 are white men and only six are women. By my estimation, the LouFest lineup for 2015 was 90.6 percent white and 95.3 percent male.

Even if my calculations are off a bit here, the official numbers would still show a huge discrepancy. And if I’d included support musicians in my calculations (such as our beloved local talent — the backing band for Pokey LaFarge) the numbers for white male performers would just go even higher.

That is something to complain about, and I can’t imagine an acceptable excuse for this remarkable lack of diversity. I know nothing about what it takes to execute an event of this size, but I do know the talk on the street. I know what gets said in the real world, and what’s being said isn’t nice. In the months and months of planning that it must take to put together a lineup, somebody should’ve noticed this offensive trend in booking. I can’t call any festival that features 87.5 percent white male talent a success. Not here and certainly not now.

In a city with multiple richly diverse (and thriving) music scenes, this lack of women and people of color just doesn’t make any sense. And with the “Lou” included in the LouFest name, I expect to see some mirroring of our population — and the organizers just repeatedly miss the mark.

Maybe LouFest needs some kind of image consultant to point out these overlooked and/or ignored aspects. Some pieces of LouFest’s PR campaign just seem tone deaf. For example, in the weeks leading up to the fest, an electronic billboard on Highway 44 advertised multiple cheesy LouFest designs. Most were innocuous, but one of the designs seemed downright condescending to women: “LouFest: He is going, and yes, he thinks you’re cute.” So (straight) women (or gay men) only go to music festivals to flirt? Can’t they just like live music, too?

It’s bizarre that these kind of issues continue to exist in 2015, especially with an event that is so high-profile. I understand that it’s a corporate-sponsored major event and that it involves contracts and a lot of moving parts, but someone needs to be accountable for overall quality control.

I cast my vote with my money this year for a better, more representative LouFest: I didn’t go.

But I want LouFest to do well in the future — I’d just be happier if it did a better job of showcasing the city it claims to celebrate. Yes, lots of other festivals and smaller local events could be accused of this same issue, but LouFest is not just any weekend festival. Like it or not, LouFest is part of our face to the world.

So here’s what I ask of LouFest: First of all, fix your irresponsible advertising strategy. It’s not cute. Second, fix your future lineups. You can easily neutralize your white man problem by doing one very simple thing: include more locally-sourced musicians. (It’s eco-friendly!) If you look to our own neighborhoods, you’ll find a diverse pool of talent where women and people of color are plentiful and celebrated. Do it for us, your potential local-music-loving attendees.

Basically, LouFest, we like you because we think you are good for the city, but you need to start doing a better job of earning that “Lou,” OK?

– link: Riverfront Times

Vintage Vinyl Partners Split; Lew Prince Moving On

Lew Prince (left) and Tom "Papa" Ray at Vintage Vinyl. / Photo by Jon Scorfina

Lew Prince (left) and Tom “Papa” Ray at Vintage Vinyl. / Photo by Jon Scorfina


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.

Read on:

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.

A future shopper (or possibly employee) outside Vintage Vinyl on Record Store Day 2015. / Photo by Jaime Lees

A future shopper (or possibly employee) outside Vintage Vinyl on Record Store Day 2015. / Photo by Jaime Lees

Full disclosure: this writer volunteers at Vintage Vinyl one day a year to distribute free Schlafly Beer to music lovers on Record Store Day.

link: Riverfront Times
link: Feminist Hero: The Guy Who Sold Me Led Zeppelin IV

77 Things I’d Rather Do Than Listen to a 77-Song Wilco Rarities Box Set

Alpha Mike Foxtrot, the upcoming Wilco rarities collection.

Alpha Mike Foxtrot, the upcoming Wilco rarities collection.

77 Things I’d Rather Do Than Listen to a 77-Song Wilco Rarities Box Set
By Jaime Lees
Mon., Oct. 20 2014

I have an issue with Wilco. It’s a personal beef. My problem is this: Wilco is considered a Chicago band and the band members encourage this bullshit fallacy.
Wilco is from St. Louis, goddamnit.

Technically, Wilco is from Belleville, Illinois — an odd little town just on the other side of the state line. Belleville does have its own unique history and weirdo arts culture, but it is our next door neighbor. For those not familiar with the regional geography, here’s a little lesson: Belleville is about fifteen miles from St. Louis, but it is around 300 miles away from Chicago. So a Belleville band claiming allegiance to Chicago is about as ridiculous as a band from right outside Los Angeles repping Phoenix, Arizona.

That marker there right next to St. Louis? That's Belleville.

That marker there right next to St. Louis? That’s Belleville.

You could say that I suffer from a common case of St. Louis Inferiority Complex, but I prefer to think of it as a flaming, incurable infection of civic pride. And Windy City, you should know one thing: Wilco has been cheating on you with us. Wilco concerts up north are all “Via Chicago” and talking up some magical silver bean, but when the band plays here it’s all “Casino Queen” and “We used to play at Cicero’s!” and then that hobbit guy sings about the Landing in “Heavy Metal Drummer” and we cheer because, OMG, we’ve been to the Landing, too.

Now, I think Wilco is pretty okay musically. I saw Nels Cline play with Yoko Ono a couple of times and I thought he was freakin’ amazing when he was freed from the confines of dizzy alt-twangover tunes. Some might call Wilco lo-fi “dad rock” or whatever but I like dad rock. I like dads. And on occasion, dads have liked me. (Hey-o!) And I thought the sound diversity on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in particular, was interesting, but I was in college and on pills.

It’s hard to know how to feel about the songs sometimes because the lyrics are part beautiful poetry, part nonsense. These two extremes are frequently squished together into the same song, too. For example, take “Ashes of American Flags.” The line “All my lies are always wishes” is some deep intrapersonal shit, but the song begins by explaining the design and function of an ATM before it delivers us this: “I could spend three dollars / And sixty-three cents / On diet Coca Cola / And unlit cigarettes.” What? Where? First of all, did you have coupons? Because you got a good deal, homeboy. Also, why would anybody ever buy cigarettes that had already been lit? Nonsense.

Wilco live shows are long. Long and frequently awkward. Sometimes everything is rolling smoothly and we audience members are all happily singing along to cutesy pop tunes about alcoholism like “Passenger Side” and then, oh then, comes “Misunderstood.” The beginning of that song is so pretty and so sad, but halfway through you should excuse yourself to take that long-overdue potty break because Mr. Tweedy is about to scream “Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!” at you for the next twenty minutes. It’s the worst part of any Wilco show. I think it’s intended to be intense but it’s just obnoxious. Dude just keeps on barking like an annoying neighbor dog while the stage lights flash dramatically — I’m sure people have been murdered for less.

In any case, because Wilco dismisses my city, it’s my instinct to dismiss Wilco. #TeamSonVolt.

Just the other day I read that Wilco is going to release a 77-song rarities box set. Snore. That’s the kind of thing that hardcore fans can get into, but I read it and thought about how torturous it would be for me as a casual / reluctant fan to listen to that whole tedious thing. I mean, bloated box sets of demos and b-sides and half-finished songs are rarely worth it in general. Even the Beatles couldn’t pull it off. Remember those crappy anthologies with the collage covers? I feel sleepy just thinking about them.

So here’s a list of 77 mundane, slightly annoying and/or truly terrible situations and chores that I’d rather deal with than listen to than the upcoming Wilco rarities box set. There is only so much time in a day, you know? Have fun with that lake effect snow this winter, poser Chicagoans. And the sauce goes under the cheese. Learn it.

01. Pay my bills.
02. Dust my ceiling fans.
03. Apply sunscreen.
04. Go shopping on Black Friday.
05. Get a splinter.
06. Get a paper cut.
07. Have a pebble in my shoe.
08. Talk to my co-workers about their weekends.
09. Get my period.
10. Have a flat tire.
11. Forget to fill the ice cube tray.
12. Run out of toilet paper.
13. Eat Provel cheese.
14. Get pins and needles.
15. Find the end on a roll of packing tape.
16. Watch someone sneeze and then touch a door handle.
17. Not have change for the parking meter.
18. Miss my flight.
19. Go to the DMV.
20. Do my taxes.
21. Be hungover.
22. Get asked “Is Pepsi okay?”
23. Pick up dog poop.
24. Make a new spreadsheet.
25. Commute.
26. Go to church.
27. Get a mosquito bite.
28. Unload the dishwasher.
29. Get a flu shot.
30. Scrub the inside of my refrigerator.
31. Accidentally hit the FaceTime button.
32. Sit in a waiting room.
33. Drive through Kansas.
34. Have my stapler run out of staples.
35. Be on hold.
36. Drop Visine in my eyes.
37. Forget my pizza in the oven.
38. Go to the post office.
39. Mop the floor.
40. Get a pap smear.
41. Have a three-inch leech up my nose.
42. Be on house arrest.
43. Bite foil.
44. “Drink” bubble tea.
45. Hang out with spiders.
46. Receive an unsolicited dick pic.
47. Have jury duty.
48. Find a mailbox.
49. Water my plants.
50. Parallel park with an audience.
51. Get stuck at a train crossing.
52. Watch golf.
53. Get a tattoo removed.
54. Watch a full ad online without clicking “Skip This Ad.”
55. See a puppy that I can’t pet.
56. Use self check-out at the grocery store.
57. Get fitted for a bra.
58. Eat a cookie that I think is chocolate chip but is really raisin.
59. Fold a fitted sheet.
60. See a photograph of Oprah’s feet.
61. Forget my gift card at home.
62. Get a check that isn’t signed.
63. Go to Whole Foods on a Saturday afternoon.
64. Use a telephone with a twisted cord.
65. Hear someone say “for all intensive purposes.”
66. Read gratuitous hashtags.
67. Speak to an adult who reads teen vampire novels.
68. Go to City Hall.
69. Speak in public.
70. Forget someone’s name.
71. Hear the phone ring while I’m in the shower.
72. Watch Seinfeld.
73. Have a rubber band line in my hair.
74. Shave my legs.
75. Wait for my windshield defroster to work.
76. Take out the trash.
77. Listen to Wilco studio albums.

– link: Riverfront Times

Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago talks about touring and life after Kim Deal

Black Francis, David Lovering and Joey Santiago (L-R) by Michael Halsband

Black Francis, David Lovering and Joey Santiago (L-R) by Michael Halsband

Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago talks about touring and life after Kim Deal
By Jaime Lees
Thursday, Feb 6 2014

“Other than Kim not being around anymore, for me personally, really nothing has changed,” Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago explains from a hotel room somewhere in the northeastern United States. “I still appreciate it. I’m still enjoying it. I look forward to the first day of the tour, as always. I still count down. Like, ‘How many more days until I get back on the road?'”

Santiago is on tour now, on an off day between shows in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. A couple of minutes into our interview, he mentions that he’s going through a divorce. He is referring to his personal life, but his band has recently gone through a divorce, too. Fan favorite Kim Deal, Pixies bass player and vocalist, left the group last year, leaving fans and critics to wonder what would become of the seminal act. Will they be declared dead? Will there be some kind of Van Halen-like Pixies version 2.0? Will the Pixies ever knock it off with the drama?

The group initially imploded in 1993, just as the alternative-rock movement gained international momentum. It was no secret that its members struggled with constant friction, ego problems and personality differences. Santiago says he and the rest of the group are “very passive-aggressive” — an understatement, considering the band originally broke up via fax. But their popularity seemed to skyrocket shortly after that, leading most to conclude that the angsty crew peaked just a little too soon.

The members of the Pixies are seen as the godfathers (and godmother) of modern indie rock. Started in 1986 by Santiago and vocalist/guitarist Charles Thompson (a.k.a. Black Francis) as a college band, the foursome that soon included Deal and drummer David Lovering accidentally sparked a movement that would become the early ’90s alternative-music revolution. The band’s trademark “loud/quiet/loud” song structure was aped throughout the indie uprising, most notably — and blatantly — on Nirvana’s megahit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” At the head was Santiago, the shy, quietly talented figure who still holds the key to that Pixies sound in his fingertips. If Charles Thompson and Kim Deal were the Lennon and McCartney of the group, Santiago was proudly the George Harrison.

He tells RFT Music that his contributions are usually the last piece of the puzzle: Thompson writes the song and lyrics, and it’s Santiago’s job to add the finishing touches and not “barf all over it,” as he eloquently explains. “Let’s keep the story line,” he says. “Blend in when you have to, in a good sonic way that doesn’t get in the way. And when it’s time to divert; [the guitar] needs to start rubbing against the music. That way it kind of lives in its own world.”

After the breakup, each member spoke of unresolved issues and seemed to have little contact with one other as they moved on to other pursuits. Santiago found work as a Jonny Greenwood-type, scoring films and television shows. Lovering tried his hand at being a magician. Thompson plugged away at a notable solo career and formed a new band called Frank Black and the Catholics. And Deal took her talents elsewhere, starting up the Breeders — a band that became, arguably, more successful than the Pixies. So it came as a surprise when the Pixies announced a reunion tour more than ten years after its disbandment.

The very idea that a band who seemed to kind of hate each other would get back together was slammed by critics as a moneymaking maneuver, but most Pixies-starved fans didn’t seem to care. To the great joy of the many younger fans who missed the alternative heyday, the group reformed in 2004 and played worldwide to sold-out crowds. It was all of the original members playing their now-classic songs, making the tour feel less like a cash grab and more like a victory lap. Each show was celebratory, a deserving band finally getting its due.

But a decade has passed since that initial comeback, and there have been some major changes to the lineup. Since Deal left last year, her bassist/female singer slot has been replaced twice — first by Kim Shattuck of the Muffs, and now by Paz Lenchantin of A Perfect Circle and Zwan. Santiago sings Lenchantin’s praises, saying, “With Paz it’s a no-brainer for me. I just love it. She’s got a great reputation. We’re lucky to have her.”

This shuffling of the standard lineup brought the same old issues with fans and critics, making it even harder for naysayers to give the benefit of the doubt. Deal was an integral part of the Pixies sound, especially live. Fans wondered how they could go on without her — they also wondered if this was finally solid proof that the band members were just in it for the money.

“Yeah, you know, of course that’s part of the reason. But that’s not all of the reason. If that was the only reason, we wouldn’t be doing this at all,” Santiago bristles. “As long as people still wanna see it, that’s reason number one. And a close second? Yeah, it’s for the money, you know?”

“What do they want us to do?” he continues with a laugh. “What if I started digging a ditch? Would they be like, ‘You’re just doing that for the money!’ Fuck it, this is the only thing we know how to do. We enjoy it. We’re really good at this. Does it make money? Of course it does! Why? Because we’re good at it!”

Despite having to adjust to a new member, Santiago says, most of the songwriting process remains the same. “We’re one of those bands that, when we get together in the studio, it’s like we have this magic that just happens,” he explains. “We have a certain sound, you know? It’s because we have good quality control. Charles probably writes subconsciously to impress us. When he writes for the Pixies, he’s writing for me, for David, for Kim — but she’s gone now. But he’s writing for us. We’re very stylistic. We’re individuals.”

He’s right — those individual styles, when combined, still make magic. The Pixies recently released some singles and a pair of EPs that are almost too good to be true. The efforts don’t sound like a group of past-their-prime musicians trying to recapture a long-lost spark; the music is solid and, well, just sounds like the Pixies. So, what’s really changed for Santiago in the last decade? Not much, he says — his eagerness to explore new musical territory while still proving himself onstage as a Pixie remains strong.

“I’m a Renaissance man! This is what we do!” he says, laughing. “It’s just a matter of me keeping busy. It keeps me off the streets. And, you know, I like to flex my brain muscles. I like to challenge myself.”

The Pixies
8 p.m. Thursday, February 6.
Peabody Opera House, 1400 Market Street.
$39.50 to $59.50. 314-241-1888.

link: Riverfront Times

Bob Reuter Memorial Show: A Review in Photos

photos by Jaime Lees

photos by Jaime Lees

Bob Reuter Memorial Show: A Review in Photos
By Jaime Lees
Mon., Sep. 9 2013

When legendary local musician, writer and photographer Bob Reuter died suddenly last month, friends and loved ones were grief-stricken. Reuter played in and documented the south city scene for decades, leaving behind a vast amount of artistic work and no shortage of fans and admirers. Last night his bandmates, collaborators and friends came together at the Casa Loma Ballroom to pay tribute to Reuter’s life and work.

The list of participating musicians was long and impressive, pulling from both Reuter’s deep past and current projects. Between performances of his songs, friends were on hand to read his poetry and discuss his various art projects.

The event also offered items up for auction, with proceeds to benefit the Cowboy Angel Foundation, a fund set up to continue and secure Reuter’s legacy and provide funds to disadvantaged musicians.

We documented the entire event in a photo diary. As a tribute to Reuter’s work in black and white photography, we did our best to present the photos in a manner as close to his signature style as possible and to capture the scenes that he would have wanted to witness.

It is our sincere hope that these photographs relay the love, energy and talent that was in the room. Reuter couldn’t have been given a better tribute than what we witnessed last night.

Photos below:

link: Riverfront Times

LouFest Expands, Keeps St. Louis Fans in Mind

Alabama Shakes (photo by Timothy Norris)

 

LouFest Expands, Keeps St. Louis Fans in Mind
By Jaime Lees
Thursday, Sep 5 2013

Now entering its fourth year, LouFest has outgrown its toddler phase and is ready to play with the big kids. What began as a relatively small affair has expanded into a respected event with national recognition; in years past it was somewhat of a boutique festival, far from the behemoth sonic sprawls created at Coachella or Bonnaroo. Occupying a plot of land in Forest Park, the LouFest organizers kept the concert cozy, ensuring a quality experience built around a small stage setup and local vendors.

Brian Cohen, founder of LouFest, first held the event in 2010 and set out to build an annual destination festival. Cohen’s recent partnership with C3 Presents is the latest step in that growth process. As the third-largest concert promotion company in the United States, C3 Presents organizes massive events — including President Obama’s inaugural celebration and other multiday music happenings like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Whatever the company does, it does big, so regular LouFest attendees should expect something extra special this year — something that Charlie Jones, executive producer at C3, refers to as “an elevated experience.”

What’s New

The inclusion of such a massive promotion company (and the connections that come along with it) has opened up new options to the LouFest organizers. In LouFest’s past, the bands were staggered on two different stages, but this year there will be a third stage and some overlap of set times. Instead of being able to see every set all day, music fans will need to make some choices. This new factor might be viewed as a possible inconvenience by previously spoiled LouFest attendees, but it is a standard practice for larger music festivals, and Cohen sees it as a positive thing, providing fans with the opportunity to see more bands.

“This year there has to be some decision-making to determine what bands you want to see,” Cohen explains.”Maybe you stay for half a set and then run to another stage. So that’s all part of the dynamic that makes it more interesting and exciting.”

C3’s Jones agrees with Cohen’s movement theory. “The park is huge. If you’ve been there the past couple of years, they’ve only utilized a very small portion of it. This year is not going to be that much bigger in a sense that there’s that many more people, but we are utilizing more of the grounds so that there’s more room to spread out with your blankets and move from stage to stage. Part of the philosophy that we have with producing events is motivating people to move around and experience other things, whether it’s music or food or just their friends.”

The Lineup

It’s hard to imagine the festival topping the psychedelic dance-fest that occurred last year. And though rain threatened to ruin parts of the event and forced muddy audience members to scramble for shelter, the show went on, and went on spectacularly. Headliners the Flaming Lips and Girl Talk made sure that the energy went up after the sun went down, and daytime sets by Son Volt, Dinosaur Jr and Dr. Dog were of legendary quality.

This year the lineup is more visually and sonically subdued, but it’s no less powerful. Headliners include monster acts Wilco, the Killers and the National. Rounding out the bigger names on the list is Alabama Shakes, a band that has gone from playing the Old Rock House here less than two years ago to getting near-top billing at LouFest. Like any large and diverse music festival, the lineup features often-seen touring bands awaiting their dues (Ra Ra Riot), hippie favorites (Trampled By Turtles), newer buzz bands (Wild Cub) and the electro-dance flavor of the moment (Icona Pop).

Charlie Jones (C3 Presents) and Brian Cohen (LouFest)

Charlie Jones (C3 Presents) and Brian Cohen (LouFest)

LouFest and St. Louis

Historically, LouFest has been a local operation from top to bottom. Organized and run by Cohen’s St. Louis-based company, Listen Live Entertainment, there has been great care taken to make sure that the festival welcomes and includes native businesses.

Says Cohen, “The beer is represented by two local favorites, Anheuser-Busch and Schlafly. Anheuser-Busch sponsors our main stage, and Schlafly has their beer garden. Our food court is full of local favorites, and in our market square we have local fashion and local retailers that come out and provide great things for people to browse through. So all in all we are a St. Louis event, born and bred. We try to reflect that in everything we do. We’re all about the city. We’re all about being a place to showcase the best that St. Louis has to offer. Not only music, but food and fashion and everything else. Our event is about celebrating all of those things.”

If there has been any criticism of LouFest over the years, it’s the fact that it’s called “LouFest” and that the name might imply the inclusion of more local bands on the lineup. But the festival has included local bands every year, even if their performances have been relegated to the earliest possible time slots.

“What we have done from the beginning is make sure that local bands are represented in the lineup,” Cohen explains. “That’s very important to us, and that’s a tradition that we want to keep. Other festivals don’t really do that. They don’t have a commitment to their local scenes, at least in the public way that we do.”

Over the years LouFest has featured performances from locals Kim Massie, So Many Dynamos, the Bottle Rockets, Magnolia Summer, Sleepy Kitty, Jumbling Towers and Jeff Tweedy (arguably a St. Louis native via neighboring Belleville, Illinois). And that streak doesn’t end — Tef Poe and Kentucky Knife Fight are on the bill for 2013.

“It’s a balancing act to determine how many to include, because part of the appeal of festivals is bringing bands to St. Louis that don’t really come here that often,” Cohen says. “So while there’s plenty of local talent that we could put on the stage throughout the day, we need to strike a balance between bands that you can see often in St. Louis and those that are going to provide a unique experience that our fan base doesn’t get to experience very often.”

Jones echoes Cohen’s “bigger picture” sentiment: “Whenever we go to a new market, and specifically St. Louis, it’s not necessarily a goal just to make a big music festival, but it’s to try to create an event that’s going to become part of the community and hopefully be thought about as something to do in that community for many, many years to come — a true cultural event that represents the park, the city and the fans that would come to it.”

LouFest
12 p.m. Saturday, September 7 and Sunday, September 8.
$55 to $95. Forest Park, Highway 40 (I-64) & Hampton Avenue.

link: Riverfront Times

Cementland: Future Music Venue?

Cementland

Cementland: Future Music Venue?
By Jaime Lees
Mon., Jul. 15 2013

I have a proposal: Let’s turn Cementland into a music venue, St. Louis.

Because it would be fitting. And perfect. And because, well, I want everywhere to be a music venue.

Maybe it’s a symptom of Midwest ingenuity, but we like alternative performance spaces. Many of my favorite concert memories involve inventive and/or illegal locations, and this summer it seems like more and more events are taking place outside of the regular music venues. Stag Nite in the Woods is coming up this weekend. Local punks are hosting BYOB generator-powered shows on the riverbank. Just last weekend there was a huge house show off of Cherokee Street. And a few weeks ago I was lucky to catch a performance in a modern plaza outside the Old Post Office downtown.

My raver friends have been doing this for decades now, hosting parties in vacated warehouses, abandoned railroad stations and other places that are otherwise unoccupied. And though there’s an occasional rave in a cave or a park or a barn or a skate rink, historically these parties have been hosted in the industrial area of north city, not far from the Cementland location.

Illegal parties thrive here partially because it’s kind of a lawless land. With little or inefficient police presence, sometimes there is no one around for miles to either protect or harass these party pirates. But north city is experiencing a resurgence of sorts, led by urban pioneers seeking cheap land, organizations interested in preserving the beautiful old buildings and people looking to open businesses in cool locations. These groups are hellbent on resurrecting the once-thriving neighborhoods, now crumbling because of crime, neglect and brick theft.

I can appreciate that, but I don’t roll much to the north side, preferring, instead, to let others fix ‘er up before I partake. A pioneer, I am not. While I’ll admit to a vague passing curiosity for what lies in the darkness on the edge of town, I’m a cautious person. I see the beauty in decay, but I also see the danger that could result from this particular style of voyeurism. Most of the architecture up there is beyond beautiful, but the places that look like they’ve been bombed and then rained on with syringes are not for me.

But I have curiosity and a sturdy pair of boots and a deep interest in all things Bob Cassilly-related, so I found myself at Cementland over the weekend, checking for any changes at the location and thinking, again, that this place could be the coolest music venue ever.

Cassilly’s work is well-documented, and so was his recent death on location at Cementland and the issues with his estate. The loss of his life was not just a loss for his family and friends, but also to the local arts community and to people interested in a better (and greener) St. Louis. As the designer, visionary and proprietor of the City Museum, Cassilly’s memory looms large. In a city that is notoriously adverse to change, Cassilly was a badass who pushed boundaries with a combination of childlike hopefulness and adult stubbornness.

He was prolific, especially in town, and he’s left his mark all over the city. Those turtles at Turtle Park? The apple chairs in Webster Groves? The sea-lion sculptures at the zoo? That giant butterfly outside the Butterfly House in Chesterfield? All Cassilly’s. Though his time was cut short, it he still accomplished a nearly inconceivable amount of work during his life.

Cassilly’s unique artistic marriage of architecture, sculpture, industry and business caused a cross-pollination effect, encouraging all sides in a parallel way. He remains one of the main figures in the revitalization of Washington Avenue and, in effect, all of downtown St. Louis. And it’s hard to imagine newer free public art projects like the Citygarden being welcomed or completed in a pre-Cassilly downtown. His work sparked a renaissance.

I have a bit of a bias here because I have a special interest in Cassilly’s life and work.

Some years back, I was almost his personal assistant. We had friends in common, and I was recommended to his family as someone who was artistically minded, patient and bullshit allergic. After passing some sort of prescreening, we started digging into what my daily duties would include. I’d have to keep his life organized, schedule meetings, endure his moods, indulge his whims and be able to politely tell people to fuck off. None of that was any problem. But when it became clear that the job also entailed a fair amount of nannying for his two young children (including driving them to soccer practice), I declined the position. I can tell people to fuck off all day, but I don’t do juice boxes.

Anyway, I’d always held a fondness for the man’s work in my heart, but after an insider glimpse into his busy, crazy life including constantly trying to keep up with family, projects, lawyers, red tape and city officials, I had a new respect for Bob, personally.

And his vision was always strong, even at the incomplete Cementland. I’m sure his plan for the area was greater and grander than any of us suspect, but the site already contains some of Cassilly’s signature style. Brightly painted concrete bits and bent iron sculptures stand proudly near what would’ve been the entrance, poking out through fields of overgrown weeds.

My Cementland exploring partner and I were in awe the sheer scale of the project. When Bob did anything, he did it big. And there is plenty of space to work with here, especially when you think of it as a potential performance venue.

The already-present bowl shape of the land is all set up to be an outdoor amphitheater. The numerous buildings, trailers, sheds and shacks on site could be easily converted into mini-venues, bars, concessions, lounges, backstage areas and storage space. In addition, the on-site silos could serve as natural echo chambers and sound enhancers. The area has very few neighbors (therefore very few potentials for sound complaints), and the parking options are endless.

The inside of the property had minimal graffiti damage, and it didn’t appear as vandalized as I’d feared, but maybe it was Cassilly, himself, who did some of the spray paint jobs. Who knows? And while there are piles of metal and concrete everywhere (which were probably intended for use as building materials), it all seemed to be in decent shape. It wouldn’t take much effort to clean out the debris and change the property into something else. In fact, doing this would be keeping with Cassilly’s legacy of using spaces that were set up for one thing and presenting them in a new, entirely different context. After all, this is the same guy who turned the mostly abandoned International Shoe building into a world-class tourist destination in fewer than three years.

If he’d been able to finish the project, the potential for the surrounding area would’ve been endless. Would people have tried to build lofts near the confluence? Would there be food trucks on Chain of Rocks Bridge? Could I finally rent one of those mini-mansions built on the water pumps in the river?

Cassilly was magic, and it would be shame to see his vision to go waste. Somebody needs continue on in his honor. Assuming that the property eventually goes up for sale, I hope the proper entrepreneur steps up. Let’s do what we do best and drop some music on it.

— pictures here

link: Riverfront Times