The layout for Midwest Mayhem -- a show appreciation to donors and fans of KDHX -- included a total of seven stages that held often simultaneous performances. The City Museum is known for its exotic, maze-like structure that includes underground tunnels and scraped construction materials that serve as an adult-sized jungle gym. The jagged features all come together in an artistic canvas of concrete and colors.
Throughout the entire night concertgoers shuffled from set to set hoping to get a piece of all the action that surrounded them on every floor. On route to each set was an array of showgirls, hula-hoopers, and refreshments. With over 2,600 guests in attendance it was clear that St. Louis loves KDHX.
The first act to go on at Mayhem was Beth Bombara who took to the Whale Stage at 7 p.m. Accompanying Bombara were fellow musicians Carl and Anna. Fitted with a violin, guitar and banjo the trio opened up the night with a a taste of folk. The gentle opening was relaxed and allowed attendees to file through the door unaware of how spectacular the night would be.
Starting 15 minutes after Bombara was Pretty Little Empire on the Vault Room Stage of the second floor. Pretty Little Empire was the polar opposite of Bombara; its aggressive rhythms got the party started. Matching the band's rhythms were the showgirls and professional dancers that dropped jaws on the third-floor burlesque stage.
With so many great performances to cover during the night I kept busy running up and down the crowded steps trying to capture what I could.
Closing out the 7 o'clock hour was the Eaton Family on the fourth-floor Bale Out Stage. The four-piece folk group used a mandolin, violin and flute to harmonize the tune "Lover's Waltz" and other songs. One of the groups opening the 8 o'clock hour was the KDHX Blues Band (featuring 88.1 DJs John McHenry, Art Dwyer and Ron Edwards) on the Architecture Room Stage. Their St. Louis-style blues kept the crowd's feet stomping and swaying. Out of the five-man band the harmonica stood out the most by topping off the blues with sassy notes. Simultaneously, athletic hula-hoopers courtesy of STL Hoop Club twirled glowing LED hoops in the middle of the audience. Meanwhile, outside on the patio, performers tossed flaming hoops.
Adding danceable spice to the night was the latin flavor of Samba Bom. The female lead singer matched acoustic guitars, drums and keys with excitement during songs such as "Little Guy From Brazil."
Representing for hip hop, R&B and soul at the 9 o'clock hour were Nappy DJ Needles in the second-floor St. George's Chamber and Soul Alliance featuring CocoSoul in the Architecture Room. Host of KDHX's Rawthentic DJ Needles was there to spin vinyl in the classic hip-hop way. Needles was joined by percussionist Duane Williams for a blend of everything from hip hop to latin to rock music. One floor above singer CocoSoul brought her "diva" style to Mayhem to join Soul Alliance in a boogieing of the souls. Their groove took the stage to "back in tha day."
Going back down to catch more Needles, I was beginning to realize the difficulty of picking who I wanted to see. With the maze of performances in the City Museum there were many acts that I didn't get a chance to catch. These performers include: Sleepy Kitty, John Uhlemann, Carlos Jove, the Dive Poets, the Hibernauts, Rob Levy, Johnny Orr, the Lulus and the Folk School String Band.
Host of Ital Rhythms on 88.1 KDHX, Ital-K brought a digital crate of reggae hits to the party on the Mezzanine Stage. Kicking off the 10 o'clock hour Ital opened by taking requests for Bob Marley classics, and he served up each request from a deep catalogue. Back down on the first floor the Teddy Presberg Funktet entertained with their cross between rock and funk. The sextet combined the collaboration of a band with a DJ for a funky performance.
Closing out Midwest Mayhem was Funky Butt Brass Band on the Architecture Room Stage. As one of the last acts the St. Louis musicians did it right with a big swing-band style. The group lead a procession of audience members off the stage and down to the ground level of the City Museum to close out performances for the night in a true marching band fashion.