Since I became a programmer on KDHX just over a year ago one of the most rewarding things I’ve found is making a connection with a listener. Positive feedback comes in via the phone lines, through the KDHX e-mail or when you run into a one of those listeners at a show. When they let you know that what you do makes a difference to them you feel you’ve fulfilled a part of KDHX’s mission.
A few weeks into Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst I got an e-mail from Tom Stephens from St. Louis’s own hook-driven power popsters Tight Pants Syndrome. Tom expressed how much he liked the show and asked if I had heard of a particular artist. I followed the links to find Clovis Roblaine and then Nice Boys — both a perfect fit for the show. Or, he’d tell me if I play so and so, I’d probably like this or that band. After numerous tips I warned Tom that I’d have to rob a bank to get all this great music and that maybe he’d like to come down one morning and play guest deejay so we could share some of this stuff with the KDHX audience.
So Tom’s coming down this Thursday morning, September 3 from 5:00 am – 7:00 am CST, and we’ll get into a bunch of his favorites. Trust me: If you’re interested in the lesser known corners of British Invasion, sixties rock and power pop, this show will be right up your alley. Here’s some of what you might hear: Roll-Ups, Donuts, The Sweat, Wigs, Stanley Frank, Nice Boys, Strangeways, Radio City and Numbers.
Plus, it’s always fun to hear musicians when they’re up that early.
Bonus MP3 from Tight Pants Syndrome, “Waitin’ On a Signal,” recorded live at KDHX.
I can’t say that I’ve attended every year, but the Lot Festival, which started up in 1998, is one of my favorite ways to wind down the summer. Sponsored by Metropolis St. Louis (and co-sponsored by KDHX), it’s a low-key, hype-free, locally produced, outdoor concert on the parking lot of the Schlafly Tap Room. It’s free and all ages.
This year there will be booths with art and non-profit organizational folks, local restaurants with food, guest DJs and a solid line-up of Saint Louis bands: Luca Brasi, the Hibernauts, Jon Hardy & the Public, Soulard Blues Band, the Dock Ellis Band, Hazard to Ya Booty, the 75s, and the Blind Eyes.
I’m especially fond of the group that goes on around 9:20 pm, Jon Hardy & the Public, a band that hit my radar in 2007 with the album Working In Love, one of the finest records to come out of Saint Louis since, I dunno, Nellyville. They’ve also become a hellacious live act, with a hard and soulful horn section, keyboards, a deeply grooved rhythm section and Hardy’s street-tough baritone front-and-center. In the band, two southern genres come together–soul and power pop—and then burst apart with emotional songwriting.
Hardy and Co. recently released a four-song EP of Randy Newman songs, which is available for exclusive, free download here, and just cut a cool video for the title song, “Little Criminals.” They’re working on songs for a new record (release date unknown), and were kind enough to stop by the Magnolia Avenue Studios of KDHX to play some music and chat about where things stand.
Below you can listen to a sneak preview, the new song “Worst I Ever Had,” and catch the whole session on 88.1 FM or streaming live @ KDHX.org, this Wednesday morning at 9:00 am CST, on my show Feel Like Going Home. And don’t miss them down at the Lot Festival on Saturday evening.
Jon Hardy & the Public – “Worst I Ever Had” – Live @ KDHX
I guess I was 15 when Scott, my best friend and idol (he was a year older and had the best beer can collection in town), showed me a record he’d just bought with his lawn mowing money: The Blasters. “I don’t know why I bought this,” he said. “It sounds like Sha Na Na.” The album cover was wild, a crazy, sweaty cartoon grimace, and I wanted to hear it. He played it for me, and I remarked that it sounded more like Elvis. Scott let me have it and I still play that album, and it always takes me back to the way rock & roll really, really felt as a kid.
Dave Alvin wasn’t the singer in the Blasters. That was his older brother Phil, but Dave played guitar and was already writing songs that are American classics. Since then Dave has moved in a more songwriterly direction, and if I often miss the rockabilly blues punk, I don’t regret the way his lyrical voice has opened up to harrowing stories like “California Snow” or mysterious portraits like “Everett Ruess.” And he’s still one of the best guitar players you’ll ever have the pleasure of being blown through the back of a club by.
So it was a coup for KDHX to have Dave Alvin and Christy McWilson (formerly of the Picketts) stop by the studio for an unscripted, live-without-a-net acoustic session on the Back Country this past Saturday. The two were in town for a Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women show at the Duck Room. That project finds Dave with a cadre of some of the finest musicians in roots music (Cindy Cashdollar, Amy Farris, Lisa Pankrantz, and Sarah Brown for starters), who also happen to be women. It also finds him having more fun than he has in years.
For the in-studio session, Alvin and McWilson turned to three covers: Kate Wolf’s “Here In California,” Moby Grape’s “805″ and Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera.” He agreed to video but McWilson, feeling a bit underdressed, preferred the camera steer clear of her. But her voice, as you’ll hear on the videos, is a soulful clarion call.
Amy LaVere is no stranger to Saint Louis, though she’s only had a handful of shows in town. This past June she opened up the first night of Twangfest, filling the cavernous space of the Pageant with her alluring voice, a uniquely Memphis blend of grit and delicacy, and her rhythmically supple (she’s an underrated slap bass player) jazz, blues, soul and rockabilly songs. If Hot Club of Cowtown and Alejandro Escovedo hadn’t been waiting in the wings, I could have listened to her all night.
It’s safe to say she would have found her voice on her own, but the voice she did find owes much to Jim Dickinson, the legendary (adjective not used lightly) Memphis producer, session man and mentor to many, who passed away on August 15. I spoke to Amy on the phone the day before, and she was hopeful for his recovery, saying that Jim seemed to be getting better as he was greeting visitors by flipping them off. She desperately wanted to record another album with Jim (who produced her first two LPs). My full interview with Amy will run in the August 27 Riverfront Times, but here’s a salient quote:
“[Jim] encouraged me to take risks, to make mistakes, and to experiment. He reminded me that music is about being spontaneous and youthful and not agenda driven.”
You can hear that in nearly every recording Dickinson produced, played on, or inspired. The list is long and essential: Big Star’s Third, The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me, Aretha Franklin’s Spirit In the Dark, Ry Cooder’s Into the Purple Valley, Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, and a little record called Sticky Fingers. That’s Jim’s piano on “Wild Horses.”
Jim is gone now, but Amy LaVere will be coming back to Saint Louis, playing a full night at Off Broadway on Sunday, August 30. I wouldn’t miss that evening for all the soul food in Memphis.
Amy LaVere “Killing Him” (produced by Jim Dickinson)
Scott H. Biram stopped by KDHX on his way into town this afternoon to perform a few songs.
This is “Sinkin’ Down” from his new album, Something’s Wrong / Lost Forever, on Bloodshot Records:
It’s been five years since the most primal of all alt-country bands played Saint Louis. Slobberbone was back last night at Off Broadway, along with long-time buddies Glossary. As the videos below attest, rock occurred (that and record-breaking consumption of PBR tall boys). Look for my full review at the A to Z Blog later today.
North Carolina Afrobeat band the Afromotive performed live at the Magnolia Avenue Studios this past July, and Ebony Hairston, the KDHX Blog’s newest contributor, was in attendance. Photos by Chabel Caler Jiménez.
“Music is universal. I played with different bands, funk, jazz, mixed bands. Life is a big city and we are a village,” Adama Dembele of the Afromotive explained. Demebele learned the ajembe from his father and has played all his life. He hails from the Ivory Coast and has been traveling with the Afromotive for around two years now.
The sound of this band makes you feel like you just took a vacation to a heavenly riot of drums. Its improvisational wall of sound features guitars, trumpets and keyboards. Coolest people ever; everyone speaks and sings in a multilingual groove. Thank you, or (E-ne-che) for taking time out for the KDHX audience.
The Afromotive – 7/8/09
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Hello! Robyn Haas here. I’m joining the KDHX staff for the next year as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I’m excited to be working in St. Louis for another year, after having been here for the past five years. (This is the seventh place I’ve lived… so having been here for five years is pretty significant!)
I’m here at KDHX to work on the Interactive Web Media Project. Our goal is to spend the next year working to improve KDHX’s online presence. I’ll be taking a look at all the ways KDHX currently interacts online, talking to community members (you!) about how you use the website and what you would like to see, and doing research on the many web technologies out there. In the end we’ll be rebuilding the website to better facilitate ongoing conversations between KDHX and the community. As we go, I’ll be blogging here regularly to keep you in the loop.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this process. Feel free to post comments below or send me an email!