Concert review: Jamming the blues with G. Love and the Pernikoff Brothers at the Pageant, Friday, April 29

G. Love

Although G. Love is touring to support his new album Fixin’ to Die, both he and Special Sauce were alive, well and filled the Pageant with more blues than the Scottrade Center during hockey season.

Tonight’s scheduled opening act was Los Angeles band the Belle Brigade, but the group was unable to make it to the show due to transportation issues. Filling in their stead was St. Louis’ own Pernikoff Brothers, an acoustic folk rock power trio with Tom Pernikoff on guitar, Rick Pernikoff on harmonica and bass and Dan Germain on drums, with all three members handling vocal duties.

The Brothers play a sweet blend of catchy, up-tempo folk pop drenched in two and three part harmonies. Their playing tonight was top notch with Tom’s guitar work shining brightly above the rhythm section. As great as the playing was, the vocals are what really stole the show. All three have excellent voices and the harmonies were on the mark and tight without sounding unemotional and over-rehearsed. Of particular note was their excellent reworking of the Led Zeppelin classic “Black Dog” into a bluesy jam with vocals that would have made Robert Plant wish he’d had them writing the tune. The Brothers Pernikoff were a fantastic replacement opener and gave a very enjoyable, fun performance to get the crowd ready for G. Love.

G. Love grabbed a seat at center stage and fired up the crowd from the second he started to speak, much less before the band kicked in. Starting the show with “Milk and Sugar” from the new album Fixin’ to Die, Love and his long-time backing band Special Sauce ran the gamut from traditional Robert Johnson style blues to Grateful Dead style psychedelic jams, ’70s blues rock and B.B. King-style electric blues and back again.

G. Love has always been known for his stellar live performances and tonight was no exception. Special Sauce was in prime condition tonight, with bassist Timo Shanko keeping the groove while flying all over the fret board of his upright bass, Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens keeping perfect time and adding in some tasty drum fills and Mark Boyce handling the keys as if Pigpen McKernan and Cannonball Adderly were possessing his hands simultaneously.

I was especially impressed by the instrumental solos scattered throughout the set, most notably Mark Boyce’s fantastic piano intro to “Cold Beverage” and the individual member solos in “Parasite.” The band played a lot of old hits in a fresh new style, like an extremely fat and funky version of “Baby’s Got Sauce” and giving the first half of “Things That I Used to Do” a tight electric blues gloss before finishing it up in the original jazz based format.

The show’s encore was especially great, with G. Love performing “Superhero Brother” and “Booty Call” before being joined by the rest of the band for the new track “Smokin’”, “Just Fine”, “Fixin’ to Die” and a fantastic cover of Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

G. Love and Special Sauce definitely delivered the goods tonight. I don’t think a single person left the Pageant without a bounce in their step and a smile on their face.

Concert review: The Decemberists and Justin Townes Earle defy expectations at the Pageant, Wednesday, April 27

Decemberists / CJ Foeckler

The air outside the Pageant last night was uncharacteristically quiet and calm for a sold-out show. The relaxed crowd that lined up along both sides of the venue in the cold and pattering rain waited patiently to see the Decemberists and Justin Townes Earle play.

Inside the venue, the atmosphere remained laid back as well. For a second, the fans led me to believe that they weren’t really excited to see the show after all.

But as the pre-concert medley music of bluegrass and blues intensified, signaling that the show was about to begin, the crowd grew visibly anxious. When the lights went black they let loose, cheering, yelling and clapping.

Justin Townes Earle emerged on stage under a single spotlight, tall and lanky, dressed in white high-water pants, a grey jacket, brown boat shoes and oversized glasses. Alongside him was fiddle player Josh Hedley with a seemingly shy demeanor, a full beard and a small cowboy hat.

Together, they played a short, unrestrained and rustic set of country blues songs that were fervent and rousing. In a deep, thunderous voice, Earle howled lyrics so wildly that he stood on his tip toes. He strummed his acoustic guitar with such precision and depth that at times it sounded like two guitars were playing. As he sang, he hunched over the microphone and swiftly moved his feet in awkward movements adding to his classically southern nature.

Hedley was quick on the fiddle and vocally commanding as he accompanied Earle. In between songs, Earle delighted the audience with comical short stories that helped to introduce the next song. By the end of the set, the crowd was “lubed up,” as Earle put it and ready for more.

The Decemberists’ performance began with a controlled and effortless disposition, much like their most recent album The King is Dead, but the show as a whole was as obscure, moving and uplifting as the music for which the group has become recognized.

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Thursday Morning Music News: Morrissey confirms memoir, the Beastie Boys share new album and we bid farewell to Poly Styrene, Phoebe Snow and Hazel Dickens


Ann Powers takes the Pulitzers to task for ignoring pop music criticism.

Billboard suggests the music industry take a cue from Netflix.

A flood of amazing shows hit St. Louis this past week. Don’t miss all the coverage, from Arcade Fire to Lightning Bolt to Rural Alberta Advantage, at KDHX.

This week saw the passing of three very different but important singers: Poly Styrene, Phoebe Snow and Hazel Dickens.

EMI artists and songwriters raise nearly a million for Japanese Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Jason Aldean rules nominations for CMT Music Awards.

NBC rakes in the ratings with the premiere of The Voice, a singing competition produced by Mark Burnett.

Death Cab for Cutie announces tour dates and shares a new song from the forthcoming album Codes and Keys.

Listen to Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, the new album by the Beastie Boys, at Soundcloud.

Daniel Kolitz at Prefix interviews the Wrens.

The Flaming Lips are so sweet. They’ve released four new songs inside gummy skulls.

PJ Harvey isn’t playing St. Louis any time soon, so stream a recent and stunning concert from San Francisco at NPR.

Did you know Laura Cantrell has a new tribute album out to Kitty Wells? Neither did we till we checked in with the BBC.

The Guardian has details on Aretha Franklin’s first album in eight years.

Paste has news on Morrissey’s forthcoming autobiography.

ASCAP names uber-pop songsmiths Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald and Max Martin as songwriters of the year.

Enjoy photos of Arcade Fire’s big, illuminated balloons at Coachella.

Concert review: El Ten Eleven, Lynx and the Good Pyramid fight the crowd (or lack thereof) at the Firebird, Monday, April 25

The Good Pyramid at the Firebird

The Good Pyramid at the Firebird / Dannie Boyd

After the epic weekend of tornadoes and storms I went to sit in on the El Ten Eleven concert to get some peace this past Monday night.

The band took the stage at the Firebird located on Olive Street just outside the heart of downtown St. Louis. El Ten Eleven is a two-man band made up of Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty, a duo that specializes in instrumental multitasking. One of the spectacles of the band is Dunn’s conjoined guitar and bass on a double-neck body, which leaves one wondering just what the oddity sounds like.

The Firebird has a pretty simple layout with few extravagant details in its decoration. The flat black appearance of the club’s dance floor and walls is broken by a large mural of a flaming firebird that appears on the wall between the stage and the bar, somewhat out of site of concert goers. The good thing about the Firebird is that the smallness of the venue gives you a “right there” feeling of closeness to the stage. The crowd for the night was pretty homogenous, not having much diversity amongst the typical, post-teen college students. Their numbers were pretty small: about 30. It’s possible that the small crowd was due to the misfortune of this past weekend’s weather events and the ongoing catastrophe of the storms.

The show started at 9:10 p.m. with opening act the Good Pyramid. The St. Louis quartet consists of a guitarist, bass player, drummer and a keyboardist who alternated between the keys and a trumpet. The Good Pyramid played with a mellow techno-rock style that set the perfect mood for the lingering rain that lasted all day. My girlfriend Melissa described their music as, “[It] sounds like a walk in the park. A slow motion walk with leaves flowing everywhere.”

After the Good Pyramid closed out its set the sound check for El Ten Eleven began. As the person who conducted the sound check finished she began a surprise performance on what turned out to be instruments she setup for herself. The second opening (or middle act) was performed by Lynx who is traveling with El Ten Eleven. Lynx played original instrumentals she composed from a MacBook while accompanying the tracks on various instruments. The combination evolved into a great series of five or six songs I will attempt to classify as trip hop meets alternative, or as she stated “banjo-tronica.” As talented as she was Lynx didn’t get the full attention of the crowd until she started beat boxing which struck the audience as out of the norm.

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Concert review: Foals and Freelance Whales get up close and personal at the Firebird, Saturday, April 23

Freelance Whales at Firebird

Freelance Whales at Firebird / Meghan McGlynn

Truth be told, I went to the Firebird last night to see Freelance Whales, and not the headliner, Foals. What can I say? I like Foals, but I’m a sucker for a banjo. But getting down and dirty with Foals changed everything for me. The whole night rocked.

The Whales, a band from Queens, N.Y. mesmerized a packed venue — many of whom were likewise there to see just them — swapping turns on the glockenspiel while harmonizing vocals and toe-tapping through the standard indie-rock footwork.

Yes, their songs are featured on Starbucks ads and TV shows, and yes they default to the standard indie-rock wear (too-tight jeans, ironic vintage schoolmarm trousers, plaid, plaid, plaid), but the music does not lack integrity. The blend of synthesized electronics with various folk percussion instruments creates a vibrant energy live that is only hinted at in the commercial context.

Overall, the Whales are more than the sum of their parts. Weathervanes ostensibly is the product of the band members’ “dream journals” and “works to tell a simple, pre-adolescent love story: A young male falls in love with the spectral young femme who haunts his childhood home. He chases her in his dreams but finds her to be mostly elusive. He imagines her alive and wonders if someday he’ll take on her responsibilities of ghosting, or if maybe he’ll join her, elsewhere” … right. Well. Don’t let their TV spots or this talk of “ghosting” dissuade you from loving the Whales. So they tend toward the clichéd; it’s only on the surface, I assure you.

The sounds are hauntingly lovely and rife with possibility, and the Whales are definitely something greater than the ordinary indie rock band just emerging from mom’s garage. Dream log weirdness aside, the band members are accessible and friendly — just listen to their lyrics (“I am convinced / that we could be friends,” “since you are my friend”) — so nice! In fact, after their nine-song set, the Whales hung around for the rest of the show and chatted with fans (I even had a pleasant encounter with Nicole aka Doris in the restroom). I may not share your love of ghost stories, but I’m all over your music, and yes, we could indeed be friends the next time you’re in STL.

Nicole of Freelance Whales

Nicole of Freelance Whales / Meghan McGlynn

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Concert photos, Foals, Freelance Whales and the Naked and Famous at the Firebird, Saturday, April 23

KDHX Photographer Dustin Winter caught the sold out Foals show at the Firebird, Saturday night. Freelance Whales and the Naked and Famous opened the bill.

All photos by Dustin Winter. See more at my Flickr Stream.

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Concert review: Lightning Bolt, Spelling Bee and Parts & Labor electrify the Luminary Center for the Arts, Saturday, April 23

Lightning Bolt

The lightning and rain was hunching the smokers over when I arrived at the Luminary on Saturday night. Everyone else was jogging or speed walking to get out of the storm.

The foyer was chaotic, like one of those hyper-dramatic scenes in movies where people seem almost hysterical at ticket booths to get in to whatever’s going on behind the theatre doors. But once inside and wristbanded, people calmed down a bit — some even went back out to smoke — and I realized my mistake: No one was rushing out of the storm, they were here to see Lightning Bolt. They expected a storm tonight, a violent one. These people were exactly where they wanted to be.

Got your tickets guys, sold out show! was constantly ringing out from the foyer where likely a hundred Lightning Bolt fans were turned away. Again, I was skeptical of this Luminary place. How were they going to accommodate one of St. Louis’ great purveyors of entropic sound (Spelling Bee), much less Lightning Bolt, a band more comfortable playing on city streets than in the stage lights of a venue proper? But, upon entering I saw two stages. One, the main stage, wired to the house sound system, riddled with instruments; then, a stage almost directly at the entrance with a psychedelic, misshapen drum set, bass guitar, pedals here and there, and a veritable wall of speakers and amps looming behind (the Marshall on one amp was reformed to spell harsh). Lightning Bolt’s keep.

Mabel Suen and Joe Hess, aka Spelling Bee (and hosts of 88.1 KDHX’s Wrong Division), set the pace for the night, bringing raw surging, basement-weathered sounds to a tingling crowd. A single light shone on the duo from above as they tore into their first song, Suen’s gnashing guitar work actually done justice by the house speakers. Hess’s drumming too came alive for me, both nuance and brutal tom-ride crashes driving the music more than ever. And their set was short and sweet, whetting the taste of the highly appreciative crowd for whatever madness was bound to come.

Parts & Labor took the stage next; as a four-piece, they were the largest ensemble of the night. They seemed ready, on top of their sound, coming off the momentum of the release of their latest album, Constant Future. But their glossy presentation, the-lost in-the-mix, irrelevant guitar work, lyrics delivered almost under the breath (as if vocalist Dan Friel was reconsidering what he wrote), and Joe Wong’s stunning, ambidextrous, but nevertheless frequently over-the-top drumming all came together to warp their songs into complacency. At one point, Friel even looked frustrated at Wong’s calamitous song-closing drum fill, its conventionality (snare to tom to floor tom triplets) suggesting boredom or the stiffness of the song more than an exciting finish. And the crowd thinned, clapped less, took a breather before the main event, which after all may have been a good thing.

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Concert photos: the Civil Wars and White Dress at the Old Rock House, Saturday, April 23

The Civil Wars played to a sold out crowd at Old Rock House last night. The duo, made up of Joy Williams and John Paul White, proved incredibly playful both in their interactions with each other and their songs. They delighted the crowd both with there original work, and the covers they played. White Dress, the project of Arun Rae, opened for the duo. She certainly set an appropriate tone for the evening, singing songs of love, loss, and other lessons she learned living in rural America.

All photos by Kate McDaniel. See more at my Flickr Stream.

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