All Aboard for Fun Times: St. Louis show highlights for September 30

All Aboard for Fun Times Train

A couple of venue notes:

The haunted house at the old Lemp Brewery is up and running, so parking for anything at Off Broadway will be a challenge until after Halloween. Allow extra time to avoid missing any music (you can pay to park in the brewery lot, which the haunted house has taken over, for now; I think it costs $3).

It may have been due to who was playing, but the last few times I’ve visited the Crack Fox the amount of smoke has been quite heavy, bordering on oppressive (when I exited for relief between sets at the Cheveu show, the outside air hit my lungs like a frigid draw in the depths of winter). Keep this in mind if you’re sensitive or allergic.

As is usual for month’s end, a lot of venues haven’t yet posted for the next one. I’ll keep digging and send a second edition for the remainder of a crazy weekend. In the meantime, feast on these options:

Friday, September 30

This week’s free evening show at Atomic Cowboy (4140 Manchester) offers Butcher Holler, who will offer a set of trucker tunes to complement their usual country and rockabilly-styled offerings. This runs 6-10. You may encounter smoke if weather permits this to occur on the patio, as planned.

A multimedia note: the Webster University Film Series offers up an 90-minute program of rare music videos, starting at 7:30 in Webster Hall (470 E. Lockwood). Cost is $6 or less. From the film series website:

Rarely Seen Music Video 1962–1970 Various, 1962–70, International, 90 min.

Music Video collector Spike Priggen (of the and blogs) will present a program of rarely seen music video clips from his collection. First up is a program of Scopitones, the almost forgotten pre–cursor to the modern music video, shot on 16mm film and shown on an early type of Video Juke Box. Scopitone machines were usually located in bars and lounges, allowing for a slightly more risque feel than one could see on TV or in the Movies at that time. The 2nd half of the program will feature newly unearthed footage originally broadcast on French TV, including early live footage of bands such as The Kinks, The Who, The Yardbirds, Them, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding, The Moody Blues, The Pretty Things, & The Spencer Davis Group as well as clips of Nancy Sinatra, The Shirelles, Dion, Screaming Lord Sutch, Dusty Springfield, Sonny & Cher, The Electric Prunes and much much more.

Note: some (all/more?) of the program will be shown as part of a festival at Euclid Records on Saturday — details to come.

Higher Ground: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder and Benefit for 88.1 KDHX
Off Broadway 3509 Lemp 8–1 $8(+3 under 21) Smoke–free

Numerous local acts from the soul/funk/blues/R&B fields will honor the Wonder-ful One, and raise funds for KDHX in the process. Cost is $10 (3 more for under 21). Smoke-free.

A second (last?) chance to catch the Electric Light Orchestra tribute (from An Undercover Weekend) by the combined forces of Tight Pants Syndrome and Paper Dolls occurs at the Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust), starting at 9. Also appearing are electronic artist Dulad and Champaign’s Grandkids, who offer breezy folk rock. Free (all ages, but 20–under must be accompanied) and smoke free.

Congrats to Jenn Malzone of TPS and PD (also Middle Class Fashion) for snagging the RFT staff pick for female vocalist in the new Best of St. Louis edition.

Little Big Bangs / Tijuana Hercules / El Cento / The Union Electric
Lemmons 5800 Gravois 9-1 $5 Smoke–free

Experimental noise–punk from LBB. Chicago’s TJ sound like The Cramps — if they’d been into folk rock. Hailing from Dallas, EC are a trio offering what strikes me as a Post-Wave ’80s rock sound. Fuzz-laden, folkish rock from TUE.

Your humble servant,

Dick Caveat

Interview: From Led Zeppelin to Stevie Wonder, Teddy Presberg’s Resistance Organ Trio covers classics with imagination and style

Teddy Presberg

Sara Finke

Teddy Presberg’s Resistance Organ Trio is the kind of band that can deliver a smooth, jazzy version of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” followed by a rocked-out Led Zeppelin set. And this Friday night they’ll be tackling Stevie Wonder for Higher Ground: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder and Benefit for 88.1 KDHX.

The St. Louis-based band regularly performs at the Schlafly Bottleworks as part of Funky Wednesdays. For the past year, local veteran guitarist Teddy Presberg has hosted the event, and was recently joined by the other members of the Resistance Organ Trio: drummer Kyle Honeycutt, who also plays with the Dave Stone Trio, and Chris “LeClare” Stevenson, organist for the Scandaleros.

Despite having a relatively bare-bones setup, the trio muscled through both originals and covers with a full, funky sound.

Presberg’s power stance, contorted face and head of flailing curls let the Bottleworks audience know that he meant business, as if the roller-coaster guitar licks didn’t send a clear enough message. For an unexpected encore, he delivered the complete vocal line (on guitar) for “You’re Time Is Gonna Come,” and Robert Plant was transformed into a set of well-trained fingertips.

In the following interview, Presberg talks covering Led Zeppelin versus Stevie Wonder and gets revved up for his Higher Ground set, during which he’ll share the stage for the first time with local blues diva, Kim Massie.

Francisco Fisher: You’ve mentioned it’s harder to cover Stevie songs than Zeppelin songs. Could you explain that?

Teddy Presberg: The songs that we’re digging into are really heavy jazz arrangements. [Wonder] is just a fantastic writer, and so we’re looking at some really deep jazz changes and just gorgeous stuff. That guy could sing all over the place, and there’s a lot of unexpected twists in his arrangements. We’re doing that song, “Make Sure You’re Sure,” which is just like a novel of chord changes, really beautiful.

Zeppelin is a little more about the mojo, just a little more blues. I feel like if you get the vibe of the blues, you can pretty much do any blues. … Robert Plant, though, he’s singing along the lines of blues scale, but he’s jumping in between notes, just screaming and crying and hooting and hollering and growling, like a blues musician, and that’s really tough. It’s easier for me to take his melody because I can bend the notes, whereas the organ, he doesn’t have that luxury. So it’s fun, and I thought it was going to be really interesting in just learning. Studying Jimmy Page is fantastic, but we’ve been learning everybody’s parts.

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Thursday Morning Music News: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes nominations, Roberta Flack covers the Beatles and a pig flies over London

Tom Waits

Bob Dylan is in lukewarm water again over questions of plagiarism — this time for his paintings.

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band are contemplating music after Clarence.

Guns N’ Roses, the Cure, Eric B. and Rakim, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are all part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees for 2011.

NPR is streaming new releases by Ryan Adams, Zola Jesus, Wilco and DJ Shadow.

Hear “Metals,” the new album by Feist.

Roberta Flack returns with an album of Beatles covers.

Hear “Back in the Crowd,” another song from the forthcoming Tom Waits album.

James Brown may get the bio pic, tribute album and museum he deserves.

Roger Waters joins Foo Fighters on Fallon. Watch.

Jesse Winchester’s fight against cancer takes a turn for the better.

The KDHX Blog, Dr. Jeff of the Big Bang! and Rob Levy of Juxtaposition are all winners in the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2011. And 88.1 KDHX won the Reader’s Choice for Best Radio Station.

RIP Johnny Wright, husband to Kitty Wells, and country pioneer.

Robert Whitaker, the photographer who shot the notorious “Butcher” album cover for the Beatles, has died.

Facebook and Spotify: A match made to annoy a lot of people.

A pig flies over London. That can only mean the Pink Floyd remasters are ready.

Billboard takes a look back at 31 chart milestones for R.E.M.’s 31-year career.

Norah Jones’ side project, the Little Willies, readies album of country songs.

Paste tallies 25 one-hit wonders from the ’90s.

Berkeley indie Absolutely Kosher closes up shop.

Concert review: ‘Meet me, meet me, meet the perfect me’ in St. Louie, Louie. Deerhoof at the Luminary, Monday, September 26

Deerhoof at the Luminary, September 26, 2011

Johnny Andrews

Despite a history of fits and starts, and although once described as “discordant,” “chaotic,” and even “unpredictable,” last night at the Luminary, Deerhoof did not for a single moment want for a united front or lack audience appreciation.

Deerhoof showed “St. Louis-ians” what 17 years does to a band — tightly choreographed roving chorus-line footwork, perfectly synchronous guitar- and bass-finger picking and precision maneuvers punctuating the sounds: beep beep (tip toes), screech (finger point), bang bang (turn left, high kick). In fact, all four musicians seemed to be following the lead of some invisible maestro.

Then again, perhaps that conductor wasn’t so invisible — the 70 minutes of rocking out were dominated by the ethereal interludes of Satomi Matsuzaki’s chirping lullaby falsetto: “Basket Ball! Basket! Ball!,” “seagulls!,” and “Hollywood!” Giving credence to the Wikipedia telling of Deerhoof history that her 1996 arrival on the scene helped gel Greg Saunier’s prior musical expressions, Matsuzaki opened the show warbling, “ME to the rescue!” And mid-show, when Saunier paused to chat with the audience, it was her tap-tap-tap on the mic that snapped him back to attention. Yes, it seemed that Matsuzaki was making the trains of this rock railroad run on time.

Well, at least that’s what it seemed like to me. As with any work of abstract art, I suppose Deerhoof’s meaning of the message is in the eye of the beholder. My impression aside, universally, fans tend to classify Deerhoof as cacophony and chaos. Band bios suggest such expansive musical influences as “rock and roll of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, garage rock, post-rock, modern classical composition, pop, noise, and improvisation,” and album reviews identify such wildly varied thematic interpretations as “time travel, sports, smuggling, and Noah’s Ark” or “love and war, apples, and the atom bomb.” The band members have been quoted as saying that even they never know what type of sound they are going to create or what’s coming next. If that’s the case, then surely our personal interpretations are just a few of infinite possibilities.

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Looking back at Stevie Wonder’s ‘Innervisions’

“First of all,” said Paul Simon the night he was handed the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1976, “I’d like to thank Stevie Wonder for not releasing an album this year.”

That’s the way it was back in the 1970s. Stevie Wonder owned the Grammys, winning Album of the Year in 1974, 1975, and 1977. Nowadays, the Grammys seem to be randomly distributed among indie (Arcade Fire), country (Taylor Swift), Americana (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and jazz tributes to ’70s icons (Herbie Hancock’s Joni Mitchell record). Stevie Wonder, however, won his Grammys at a time when pretty much everybody loved him. He sold millions of records, the critics raved and his peers respected him immensely.

The first album for which Wonder was given the Grammy was “Innervisions.” It’s nine perfect songs about the imperfections of mankind. Stevie Wonder is sometimes mocked as having a pie-in-the-sky spirituality and a simplified “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” philosophy. But as cloying as “Ebony and Ivory” would be later in his career, the music he made in his phenomenal run back in the ’70s was never one-sided.

He sang of hope, yes, but that hope required a clear acknowledgement of evil, injustice and danger. He sang of belief in aid from outside, of a God that will take you to highest ground and of the way a lover can be there for you so you don’t have to worry about a thing, but he was also very clear that all change came from inside, and that you were ultimately responsible for your life.

Stevie Wonder was certainly responsible for his own music. Yes, he hired musicians to play parts — to spectacularly beautiful effect in particular by acoustic guitarist Dean Parks and electric guitarist David “T” Walker on “Visions” — but the vast majority of sounds heard on “Innervisions” were created entirely by Wonder himself.

His acoustic and electric pianos, Moog synthesizer and Moog bass, drums, lead and backing vocals are intricately layered on top of and across each other. You can hear him borrowing from jazz, blues, gospel, soul and funk. You can hear him taking out of thin air the ingredients necessary to create what has since become so intricately a part of our collective experience. “Living in the City,” “Higher Ground,” “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” — these are songs which dominate the skyline of pop music history still, 38 years after their creation.

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Another crucial video of Zion at Club Viva

This is an unreleased tune called “Jah Won’t Forsake Me,” recorded live at Club Viva by Glenda Roots during the Skank Records’ “Crying For Freedom” cd-release party on Sept. 14, 2011. Crucial tune. Zion and The Lion Roots Band rock.

KDHX photography highlights: September 18-24

An Horse, Vetiver and Those Darlins all made a stop at the Magnolia Avenue Studios, The Dodos, the Luyas, Dark Dark Dark performed at Off Broadway and Alison Krauss and Union Station spent Thursday night at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Joy Formidable, whose song “Whirring” caught the attention of Dave Groehl (he called it the best song of the year), rocked the Firebird and as always, Harvest Sessions carried on.

If you like what you see and need more, be sure to check out the full galleries in Music News on

The Dodos

The Dodos at Off Broadway. Ben Mudd


Those Darlins at Off Broadway. Kate McDaniel


Vetiver in-studio at KDHX. Kelsey McClure

Those Darlins

Those Darlins in-studio at KDHX. Nate Burrell

The Luyas

The Luyas at Off Broadway. Ben Mudd

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Album review: On ‘The Less You Know, the Better,’ DJ Shadow returns with new friends but not quite to form

DJ Shadow The Less You Know the Better

DJ Shadow
“The Less You Know, the Better”
Island, Verve

Contrary to its title, DJ Shadow’s “The Less You Know, the Better” is a fulfilling experience for longtime fans, but won’t blow away any newcomers.

It’s been 15 years since the California-based artist released his debut album, “Endtroducing …,” which holds a Guinness World Record as the first fully-sampled album. Since then, Shadow has become one of the most established names in the world of instrumental hip hop and trip hop, a term coined in MixMag to describe the musician’s often ethereal pairing of steady beats and spacey samples.

At its best, “The Less You Know” revisits the style of Shadow’s masterpiece album that came out a decade and a half ago and departs from the San Francisco “hyphy” sound that dominated his 2006 release, “The Outsider.” An obvious distinction in “The Less You Know,” as opposed to “Endtroducing …,” is the use (or perhaps overuse) of guest vocals, including Mos Def, Tom Vek and Yukimi Nagano. While these collaborations look good on paper, the resulting tracks do not measure up to their instrumental counterparts; they instead come off as uninspired attempts to modernize the album.

An exception is in a raucous number featuring Afrikan Boy entitled “I’m Excited.” Yet the track, which had been used to promote the album, was removed from DJ Shadow’s official website for a copyright infringement and does not appear on the deluxe edition. “I Gotta Rokk” does what it can to fill the void with gritty rap-rock samples that raise the intensity late into the record.

Critic Rob Harvilla recently noted in Spin that the highlights of the album revolve around tracks such as “Redeemed” in which DJ Shadow returns to the “ambient-turntablist grandeur that made [him] famous.” But in the dismissal of “Give Me Back The Nights,” a creepy, angry poem read over what sounds like a sample from a ’70s horror film, the reviewer neglects the genius of the track; it stands apart from the crowd-pleasers by being so weird and abrasive. Rather than drive the listener away, this piece should make them laugh out loud.

Indeed, DJ Shadow does whatever he wants, but within the hefty nineteen tracks on “The Less You Know,” he has room to experiment with what everyone else wants, too. Yet the over-produced segments of the album that feature guest vocals aren’t much of what the fans would want — especially not from an artist that specializes in instrumental hip hop.

In interviews, DJ Shadow has rejected comparisons with similar musicians and says that while there is a saturation of DJs today compared to 15 years ago, many of them are guilty of “lazy DJing”; they’re not producing creative content. Yet with the release of “The Less You Know, the Better,” Shadow does not offer the solution, even after throwing stones in a house of vinyl.

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