88.1 KDHX DJ Spotlight: Jason Robinson of the Mixtape

Sara Finke

“You shouldn’t do a job just to do it; you should do a job because you give a damn,” says Jason Robinson, host of the Mixtape on 88.1 KDHX.

Now that he’s settled into his new, earlier time slot (Monday evenings, 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Central), the father of two and member of St. Louis rock band the Orbz paused for a discussion about music, life, mixtapes and how it all comes together.

Matt Champion: Let’s start with an easy one.

Jason Robinson: Sure.

How did you get started with KDHX?

Well, I started volunteering after I met [KDHX Co-Executive Director] Bev Hacker. I was doing my undergrad program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville majoring in communications, and one of my projects was to talk to someone who was a director at a station to get the feel for how it is day to day. I visited the offices over on Euclid and it was really interesting. I got to learn about how to volunteer and I picked up a packet that day and was like, “I’m going to take the first class, do orientation and become a member.” So that would have been about 10 years ago at the ripe old age of 20.

I had a nice interview with Bev and got interested right then. So I became a member, put in a demo and waited and waited until I heard from Andy [Coco, Production Manager] then cut another demo. At the time the name of the show was Ninja Rock Radio. I was working doing production and one of the things was to put together a package. What I did was a fake radio show that I recorded myself. It was interesting. I got to learn the board and the equipment there. That was my first demo. It was only about three or four years ago that I submitted it. I had to submit three shows worth of material. I was like “Okay!” Actually, I still have those mixes around somewhere.

Around three years ago I was working, well, volunteering I guess, for Riverfront Radio, one of the Internet radio stations. I had a show on there. That’s where I learned how to structure a show, and once I got that I was comfortable enough to approach KDHX. About two years ago I got a call in January that said, “Hey, we’ve got a slot open” and I was so jazzed that I didn’t even care that it was from 3 to 5 in the morning on a Monday. Well, Tuesday morning/Monday night. I made it in and started doing the show and found out that my wife was pregnant. 3 to 5 a.m. was not going to cut it since I needed to be up with those kids. It kind of snowballed from there.

I changed time slots about a year ago in January. I switched to 11 p.m.-1 a.m. to take over for Tim and Matt of Super Happy Fun Hour. I’ve been at that particular time slot since then.

What made you decide to choose the name “The Mixtape” and go with the random format?

It had a lot to do with the fact that when I was a kid that was how you expressed yourself to other people. You would put together a 90-minute tape of just stuff. That was when cassettes were the new thing. I’d go get some $5 compilations over at Streetside Records and mix the best tracks on those and give them to my friends and say, “Listen to this, you gotta hear this stuff, man.” I remember BMG mail order CD service. That was huge for me since I would send off for a bunch of stuff and then never pay for them. I’m sure that somewhere out there a BMG representative is still out there looking for me.

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Breaking: Van Dyke Parks in St. Louis at the Luminary Center for the Arts, April 5, 2012

Howard Stanbury

This just in from the Luminary Center for the Arts:

On April 5th, The Luminary welcomes the legendary composer Van Dyke Parks to the Elevator Music Series. Over the course of a 50 year career, Parks has worked with the Beach Boys, Joanna Newsom, Ringo Starr in addition to his own celebrated releases. Join us for this very special seated performance in The Luminary’s gallery space. Seating is limited to 250, so we recommend purchasing in advance.

Very exciting, and who knows when he was last in town? Tickets available through Brown Paper Tickets.

Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst expands its Black History Month celebration

The Beatles and Little Richard, 1962. Photo by Les Chadwick for Mersey Beat.

Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst covers many genres and sub-genres — British Invasion, Mersey beat, folk rock, garage rock, power pop, jangle pop, pub jock — but without the influence of African Americans it’s doubtful that many of those genres would exist, and if they did they would most likely not merit our attention.

It is because of this that I will be recognizing and celebrating those contributions by setting aside the four February shows (February 2, 9, 16 and 23) on P!TBBB.

This year I’ll be expanding said celebration. During the show’s first three years, the month featured three weeks of the bands that appear regularly on P!TBBB covering blues, soul R&B and other material either written by or performed by African Americans. The last show of the month has featured selections from the first three shows performed by the songs’ originators.

This year valis from Trip Inside This House will be joining me and providing the music for the February 2 show. Trip Inside This House is valis’ weekly exploration of the last 40 plus years of psychedelia; he will be bringing that expertise to P!TBBB. The show will feature two hours of music by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Muddy Waters and the Temptations, which will showcase the  contributions African Americans have made to psychedelia.

The remaining three shows will revert to the format from the last three years of Februaries. Those shows have not been finalized yet, but will no doubt mine selections from the following: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, the Kinks, the Searchers, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Tony Jackson, Manfred Mann and many more. You can expect to hear original versions by bands and performers like: Brenda Holloway, the Supremes, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Otis Redding to name several.

So, please join me (and valis) and celebrate Black History Month as we pay tribute to and celebrate the unique, dynamic and undeniable contributions made by African Americans to the music of Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst (and beyond).

Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst airs Thursday mornings, 5-7 a.m. Central on 88.1 KDHX.

Discovery: Charlie Parr drives a mean ‘Gospel Plow’ (MP3 download)

charlieparr.com

Charlie Parr is a Duluth-based country blues musician, a juxtaposition of location and genre which is only surprising if you haven’t heard of Bob Dylan.

At the deepest core of Dylan’s music, in all its peregrinations, is, quite simply, the blues, especially the country blues, a point Dylan punctuated with his two mid-’90s albums “Good as I Been to You” and “World Gone Wrong.”

Charlie Parr’s career, which goes back to the early 2000s, has always stayed close to the howling, hieratic vernacular of Furry Lewis, Son House, the Mississippi Sheiks, Dock Boggs and Dave Van Ronk. Greg Brown, another Midwestern, contemporary country blues-based musician, has sung Parr’s praises.

Just listen to Parr’s take on “Gospel Plow” and you’ll hear why.

Recorded in a baptist church in St. Paul, Parr’s new album is “Keep Your Hands on the Plow,” and features the talents of fellow Minnesotans Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker (of Low), among others. It’s hard-scrabble, joyous and profound — the way country blues should be.

You can catch Charlie Parr, live in St. Louis, at Off Broadway for a 7:30 p.m. seated show on Thursday, February 2.

“Gospel Plow” – Charlie Parr

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‘Flights of fancy’ An interview with Tara Young, Artistic Director of Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

cirquedusoleil.com

Michael Jackson the man may have left us, but his musical legacy lives on through his fans and his numerous hits, spanning across five decades.

Local MJ fans will have a chance to experience his music up-close and personal when the Estate of Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil present Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour at the Scottrade Center on February 7 and 8.

The show, written and directed by renowned pop concert director Jamie King, combines Michael Jackson’s music, moves and message with a sensory feast of more than 60 international Cirque du Soleil dancers, musicians and acrobats.

The show’s Artistic Director, Tara Young, took some time out for a quick interview about the production.

Amy Burger: What can Michael Jackson fans expect to get out of this show?

Tara Young: The true Michael fans will be touched to hear his voice and his words. Watching this performance, they will feel all sorts of emotions. They might feel like dancing, but may also shed a few tears. This show appeals to everybody, not only Michael Jackson fans. Our audiences have been simply amazing since we have started.

Is there live singing, or does it use Michael’s recorded music with live choreography?

The show is driven by Michael Jackson’s voice. Musical Designer Kevin Antunes had access to original recordings of Michael’s music. He isolated his voices and rearranged the music with Musical Director, and longtime Michael Jackson musician, Greg Phillinganes. During the show, it is Michael’s voice leading the way, but the rest is live. We have an incredible 12-piece band onstage — nine musicians and three singers. It is a very experienced band; five of them have performed with Michael Jackson himself.

How is this show unlike other Cirque du Soleil shows?

Unlike any other Cirque show is the right way to describe it. This show is probably closer to a pop rock concert, nothing like previous Cirque creations you may have seen. You will get Jackson’s signature moves and Cirque’s reputation for flights of fancy and astounding acrobatics. We have an incredible group of talented artists, some of the best dancers, the best acrobats and the best musicians all coming together to pay tribute to Michael’s legacy.

What role did the Jackson family have in the development of this tribute?

This production is the first ever tribute to Michael Jackson being authorized by The Jackson Estate. The Jackson family was consulted during the creation, but they weren’t directly involved. They have been extremely supportive since it started in Montreal this past October. Michael’s mother, Katherine, his three kids and some of his brothers attended the Montreal premiere, as well as our Las Vegas premiere. They have had only kind comments about the production.

What message do you hope the show conveys to the audience about Michael and his legacy?

There was a lot of pressure creating a production paying tribute to Michael’s music, legacy and his messages of peace and unity. We hope that our audience will leave the show having a better understanding of who Michael Jackson really was as a human being. Michael’s music has touched, and continues to touch, audiences of all colors, ages and genders. We are always amazed to see such diverse crowds every night.

Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour will be at the Scottrade Center, February 7-8.

Concert review: The Life and Times (with False Moves and Echo Bravo) intertwine joy and sorrow at the Firebird, Saturday, January 28

facebook.com/pages/The-Life-and-Times/29117150019

St. Louis band False Moves opened up at the Firebird last night with a set of skillful, pulsing, rhythmic tunes that featured two guitars, a bass and core-rattling drums.

The crowd stood back from the stage and adjusted their earplugs as False Moves’ loud rock came unhinged from their instruments.

After False Moves, Echo Bravo, also from St. Louis, took the stage and played about four freeway-influenced, distorted, motorcycle-bar tunes. Sadly, their set was cut short when a tube blew on the head of the guitarist’s half-stack. Despite the woefully truncated set, the band’s energy supported their punked-out, power-rock vibe and warmed the room nicely.

Echo Bravo’s drummer, Bryan Pollard, held the audience’s focus with wild, over-stated rhythms. Never have I seen a man drum like a monkey whose arms are about to fly-off and catch fire. I remember my jazz band instructor telling the drummers to conserve energy by keeping their arms under control and close to the set. Pollard is clearly an exception to this advice, as he made Donkey Kong drumming seem like a viable way to play, and if not, at least fun as hell to watch.

Kansas City-based headliners the Life and Times opened with “Pain Don’t Hurt,” from 2009′s “Tragic Boogie.” Lead singer and guitarist, Allen Epley cut loose with a darkened tenor that hovered above the instrumentation like a streaked, wasteland sky above a lost survivor. The slow, celestial rock played off the light show the band installed before their set.

On “Confetti,” also from “Tragic Boogie,” Epley sang about monsters and lovers: “They’ll catch you and eat you and stuff you inside.” The crowd closed in and threw their heads back and mouthed the lyrics. Drummer, Chris Metcalf, beat out syncopated rhythm for the massive chorus.

Next the band broke into songs from their 2012 release, “No One Loves You Like I Do.” Each track is titled simply by a different numbered day. The ten songs on the record run (out of order) from “Day One” to “Day Twelve,” and curiously, not all numbers are represented. Epley’s heartbreak vocals, searing guitar and some tragically-pure drumming enriched the record’s narrative pull and complex stance on happiness and love.

The crew kicked into “Day One” with a wall of reverb from Epley who sweated profusely and sang about his desire to possess an elusive woman: “I’ll slip my fingers through your fingers, just like lovers.” The detail of the lyrics juxtaposed nicely with the pain lurking beneath the up-tempo arrangement.

“Day Six” began and the crowd cheered as the song teetered with squealing guitar and wobbly drum and bass. “Don’t let yourself get tempted,” Epley advised. “I am the one, be good to me.” The scope was fantastic.

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Concert review: The Lemonheads (with Meredith Sheldon) party like it’s 1992 at the Old Rock House, Saturday, January 28

Evan Dando of the Lemonheads at Old Rock House St. Louis - January 29, 2012

Abby Gillardi

I had some concerns before this Lemonheads show, most notably wondering whether we were going to get the Evan Dando we all know and love or the Evan Dando that shuffles onstage and half asses the set in a daze.

Fortunately, last night at the Old Rock House, we got the former. By the time he came out with guitar in hand and broke into “Being Around” I felt like a traitor for not being dressed in ripped jeans and a plaid flannel shirt.

Massachusetts native Meredith Sheldon opened the proceedings at the Old Rock House around 8:15 p.m. with a solo tune before her band joined her onstage for a 25-minute set. The first thing I noticed was that Meredith’s vocals were buried in the mix and blending in with her guitar, making her very hard to hear. Once the band kicked in, her vocals became mostly inaudible. The music itself was the slower side of mid-tempo with a heavy bass/midrange presence. During a trip to the loo, I noticed that the speakers in the men’s room were highlighting the vocals so I took a minute to listen to Meredith’s voice.

She has a fantastic alto and a lot of strength in her voice. The combination was a lot like listening to a copy of the Breeders’ “Pod” from an alternate universe where Julie Doiron was singing lead. All in all not an unpleasant experience, but it would have been a lot better if the vocals had been louder in the club itself.

Around 9:30 p.m. Dando took the stage with his acoustic guitar and ran through a six-song acoustic set before being joined by the newest incarnation of the Lemonheads, consisting of Taking Back Sunday bassist Fred Mascherino and former Bad Brains drummer Chuck Treece. Once the band hit the stage, they immediately launched into “Rockin’ Stroll” and ran through the entire “It’s A Shame About Ray” album with a mercifully-short new song that Evan interjected between “The Turnpike Down” and “Bit Part.” The song was a basic 12-bar blues tune that sounded very out of place and forced, almost as if it were a Chappelle’s Show skit about white guys playing the blues.

The “Ray” set ended with the band leaving the stage and Evan crooning out an a capella version of “Frank Mills,” the last track of the original pressing of the album. He then strummed the first few chords of “Mrs. Robinson” before stopping, mumbling something into the microphone and laughing as the rest of the band rejoined him. They proceeded to run through another handful of tunes from the Lemonheads discography along with a few covers before ending the show with a fantastic rendition of “Style” from the album “Come on Feel the Lemonheads.”

Although there were a few times where Dando looked confused or had to refer to a notebook on stage for chords and such, the show was non-stop action from beginning to end. I did notice that he avoided a lot of the higher parts in the songs, either by changing to a lower register for the “hope in my past” chorus of “Rudderless” or just not singing as with the “Hells Angels” line from “Frank Mills.”

As far as the “It’s A Shame About Ray” portion of the show, the songs sounded like they did on the album — only with a harder edge. It makes me wish I’d have seen the original lineup back in ’92 when the album was released.

I went to the show with low expectations since the bands of my youth never seem to sound as bright as they did back then. Evan and company played a set that was as fresh and original as the first time I threw “It’s A Shame About Ray” in the CD player after having received it for Christmas 20 years ago. Evan’s voice doesn’t seem to have changed at all, and neither have the memories it brought back.

Concert review: Railroad Earth and the Pernikoff Brothers bring a summer festival vibe to the Pageant, Friday, January 27

Joanna Klein

Under the increasingly-crowded shade tree of a small hill, the 80-degree weather and cool breeze perfectly matched the sounds drifting from the side speakers. Such was the scene of my introduction to Railroad Earth four years ago.

But even in the chills of January, the inside of the Pageant last night felt nearly as perfect as that summer dreamscape. Railroad Earth is a band whose name is clearly justified by its sound. Forward moving and steady, the band uses traditional folk instruments to have a pleasant musical conversation.

Local act the Pernikoff Brothers were first to take the stage. Bringing funky acoustic sounds in the style of Dave Matthews Band, the trio invited attendees to leave their worries at the door for the sake of a good time. The group also hinted at traits reminiscent of another, more southern, set of rock ‘n’ roll brothers. Yes, that’s right: Kings of Leon echoes expanded just as the crowd did throughout the set. However, it would take more than passing pigeon problems to send these guys packing. Their three-part harmonies were perfect and the crowd was wowed as bassist Rick Pernikoff blew an outstanding harmonica solo as he steadied an intricate and funky bass line.

By the time Railroad Earth took the stage the crowd had doubled in size and the familiar smell of cigarettes and beer had been washed over by a patchouli tidal wave. All six members of the band were miked and calmly took their positions as they waved to the crowd. Beginning with a smooth bass line and spacey mandolin tones the band eased into the night with a deep breath that would later be released in a shout.

Everything began to work together. The sights, sounds and smells meandering throughout the building removed the weights of the week and freed shoulders to sway along. From the view at the back of the bar, the crowd in the packed pit looked like coconuts floating on gentle ocean waves. These waves kept in motion with the music as the band transitioned from song to song and offered up both older favorites and more recent tunes throughout their two-part set.

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