This past Friday, nine Saint Louis bands got together for a KDHX benefit at Off Broadway and paid tribute to the late Warren Zevon, a songwriter who doesn’t get near the props he deserves. I can’t think of a genuinely funnier or smarter writer in American music.
The evening captured the sweep of his work, from the wry and winsome opening song “My Ride Is Here,” wisely selected and sweetly harmonized by Auset and Brad, to the randy satire “Hula Hula Boys” of Jon Bonham and Friends, played with Tom-Waitsian growl and determination, to the acoustic blues punk of Bob Reuter (backed up by fellow KDHX programmer Fred Gumaer and Ryan Spearman on fiddle and mandolin), who did “Excitable Boys,” “Lawyers Guns and Money” and “My S**t Is F***ed Up.” Leave it to Bob to turn a potential train wreck of under rehearsal into a riveting bit of musical self-psychoanalysis. Tenement Ruth gave the songs — “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” and “Ain’t That Pretty At All” and a cover of a cover, “Jesus Was a Cross Maker” — a Velvet Undergroundish quality and Melody Den came out of semi-retirement for a harrowing “Keep Me in Your Heart,” “Carmelita,” “Mannish Boy” and “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.” The band has rarely rocked so hard.
Photography, streaming audio and more after the jump.
Chad Stuart was in the British folk-rock duo Chad & Jeremy. The duo had 11 top 40 hits in that decade before splitting up, and while they’ve gotten together a couple times since then, nothing much ever came from those reunions — until the most recent one. Last year the duo re-recorded a number of their songs from each of their albums. It’s a strategy taken by many bands and artists with results that often make you wish they had just left well enough alone.
That’s not the case with Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde’s ARK-eology. The songs are close to the originals, but they don’t try to exactly reproduce them, nor do they attempt to update them using the style of the day. What they do is update the quality of the recordings and perform them with “respect for the song” as Chad explained in our interview. It’s obvious that the duo has a lot of respect for the songs and a real fondness for the material. On 88.1 KDHX’s Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst this week, I played a couple tracks side by side with the originals. The depth and warmth of the new rendition was remarkable: the vocals were as clear as the originals, with a bit of experience adding charm and character. The result is nice overview of the duo’s time together.
Now that they have our attention, Chad & Jeremy are planning a release of new material next year, as well as a DVD which will feature the history of the band through performance clips and many of the bits from ‘60s-era American television which featured the group’s music: Batman, The Dick Van Dyke Show and more will be highlighted.
Chad Stuart proved that he knows how to do an interview. He was very much at ease and funny, and he also went in-depth on a number of subjects regarding the duo’s tumultuous career. He and Jeremy Clyde were not just a couple of mop-top puppets. They were serious about entertaining and they did it with humor and charm, writing and arranging some great songs, and evolving effortlessly with the changing landscape of the ‘60s.
Listen to the interview podcast below, and go hear and see the duo for yourself. They’ll be displaying their knack for harmonies and well-constructed pop songs on Friday evening, October 23, at the venerable Sheldon Concert Hall in Saint Louis.
Last night at Off Broadway I learned a few things about Toronto band the Wooden Sky: 1) They’ve been playing together since around 2003, starting out as Friday Morning’s Regret, a name no one regrets changing. 2) They’ve never played Saint Louis before, and their bass player has a tendency to confuse the city with Seattle. 3) When it comes to free PBR, they can hold their own. 4) Off Broadway is the “nicest club” they’ve played on a long, first US tour (they’ve opened a few dates for “death country band” Elliott Brood). 5) The Wooden Sky is louder than the RFT critic’s pick suggested. 6) That’s a good thing. 7) They have repressed “klezmer metal” tendencies, which may not be a good thing. 8) They have many more sturdy, memorable songs than a band this unknown should have. 9) They understand how to communicate those songs, sometimes quietly, sometimes manically, to an audience of only 20 people. 10) They won’t be unknown for long.
I wrote about the song below, “Something Hiding for Us in the Night,” in the Riverfront Times last week. I can’t fully explain what the song is about, though in lyrics and sound it captures a certain unconscious, almost Freudian dread, a dimly dawning realization that the uneasy dreams we all have mean more than we dare guess—but in the end we’re all in this dark dream together.
The Voyces’ song “Let Me Die In Southern California” reminds me of so much, most of which I shouldn’t say, lest you never listen to it for the first time or again.
But I’ll say it anyway.
The thick, opening guitar hook: Thin Lizzy’s “Wild One”
The melody: “Sister Golden Hair”
The whole damn thing: “Horse With No Name”
The guitar solo at 2:45: A mega-compressed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” but not as awesome.
The voice: Auto-tuned Matthew Sweet, but auto-tuned well.
It’s classic rock red meat, sure, in a Hold Steady sort of vein (but not as jubilant), utterly without irony, nearly without self-consciousness.
The Voyces are mostly former Californian and now New Yorker Brian Wurschum, with Jude Kastle, Frank Carreno and Eric Puente backing him up. The band’s second full-length, Let Me Die in Southern California (released in September on the Planting Seeds label), is a song cycle devoted to the Golden State even when it’s not. It’s gentle and reflective at times, cool and boss at others, a little nostalgic, a little mythic, and always indebted to ‘70s California pop. It won’t change your life, but it will warm up your autumn wherever you are.
Visit the Voyces online for more free downloads.
This week, Spazztick featured “melodic sludge pop” outfit Egg Chef, from Belleville, IL. The group, who showed up to the KDHX studios clad in matching hazmat suits, was recently selected as the “Best Band Name” by the Riverfront Times in its annual “Best of St. Louis” issue. To find out the interesting origin of their name and to hear a full set and interview from the group, check out the archived KDHX live performance from October 13 here.
“Big Dark Puddle” – Recorded live at KDHX 10/13/09
“Your Kung Fu Sucks” – Recorded live at KDHX 9/22/09
I first heard of John Henry and the Engine about two, maybe three years ago, via a loose, somewhat lo-fi rock and roll EP called Charlie Baby. The sound and the songwriting had a serious Springsteen jones, with some contrapuntal alt-rock guitar hooks thrown against the dive bar band arrangements. I liked it. I heard promise.
The band’s first full-length, Under the Yellow Moon, released last year, built on that foundation, but took a harder blues turn at times, while skirting around the edges of country music in ways that surprised me. And now, on their new vinyl EP, I Don’t Wanna Know, the young Saint Louis band, has made a modest but more convincing country turn, with ripping and crying fiddles, spare acoustic strums, honky tonk piano, and some tight harmonies, especially on the title track. And the songwriting is sharper, more concise, more resonant.
Though I’ve often gone on record to voice my displeasure at shucks-and-grin country joke bands like Southern Culture on the Skids (who, to be clear, have transformed their approach), I do think country music should be fun to play, serious fun. And that’s just how John Henry and the Engine play it on this fine, new three-song slice of Americana life.
Catch the band at their vinyl release party tonight (Friday) at Off Broadway. They’ll be joined by Tom Schraeder, Mike Kendrick & The Blue Eyed Sons, and Matt Nichols.
I Don’t Wanna Know – John Henry and the Engine
Full disclosure: I’m a Twang Gang member, which means I may not be in full possession of all my faculties.
That said, Twangfest 14 is revving up. Dates are June 9-12, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri (of course). Last year’s festival boasted four full nights of hard core twang, rock, soul and more twang, including headliners Alejandro Escovedo, Big Sandy, and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit.
As always, Twangfest is presented by KDHX Community Media.
We’re also very pleased to announce the finalists and winner of our first Twangfest Flickr Contest. Lots of folks snapped some great photos and shared them on Flickr, and we’ve got the cream of the crop at Twangfest.com.
And finally, we’ve got a new order of the very awesome Twangfest 13 t-shirts, as well as bodacious skull posters, designed by Jason Baldwin. These are going fast, so stock up at the KDHX store. Christmas shopping done.
Paula Rhodes went to high school with me in Saint Louis. She was a cute, smart, well-liked student, and the section editor for the Hazelwood Central yearbook her senior year. She went off to study at the University of Missouri, and remained active in theater. After attending a state school, she’s become even more state-of-the-art. The Missouri native now lives in Los Angeles, where she is working on a new project called Final Cut, an online horror movie production company. Paula brought me up to speed in an e-mail conversation.
What made you get into the horror genre?
I love many a genre, but when my co-creator, Cathy Baron, and I got together to brainstorm a web series, I had a horror film script I’d written that we realized we could easily web-ize. Plus, between the two of us we’ve died something like ten different ways in various horror films (you can check out our credits here and here, so we felt that we knew our way around the world of fake blood. :) We knew some amazing SFX artists, plus we recognized the increasingly dark trend in what audiences were into. Just look at all the vampires flying about the airwaves.