Joe Duepner's Posts

Joe Duepner's Photo I'm a volunteer KDHX music writer and music lover in St. Louis.

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Album review: Jump Starts reveal their full talent on ‘What Hides Inside’

“What Hides Inside” may only be the title to the new Jump Starts record but it aptly describes the current scene in St. Louis.

With phenomenal bands, restaurants and people hiding around every corner of the river bend city, both coasts should take notice instead of just coming to flyover country with their hands out for help with their most recent Malthusian disaster.

This second record finds the duo of Justin Johnson and Sarah Ross extending their roots into traditional southern Americana without breaking their rock foundation. Despite the Southern and almost country feel on a few songs, outside of “Stop Guessing” nothing remotely resembles the sombre affairs of the standard country song. Johnson and Ross blend and bounce their voices in a give-and-trade way only two people who have spent years together in a room with nothing but a guitar and some drums can.

The gorgeous harmonizing on songs like “There You Are” should provoke any band to question if they really need all those people standing around on stage. “What Hides Inside” is almost a misnomer as the duo puts everything on display for this record and captures the intimate fervor that pours out on stage. This may be the record that changes what hides inside St. Louis to what is loved outside of it.

The Jump Starts’ album release show is Saturday, November 10 at Off Broadway. Come judge for yourself to see if “What Hides Inside” has properly captured the energy and intimacy of the band’s live show.

“Stuck” – Jump Starts

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Concert review: First Aid Kit (with Dylan LeBlanc and Indian Blanket) heal all lonely hearts at the Firebird, Saturday, October 6

First Aid Kit at the Firebird. Photo by Jamie Dee.

The sisters of Stockholm, First Aid Kit, brought their cold weather and warm hearts and voices to a sold-out Firebird on Saturday night.

Playing to a packed crowd — donned in mostly plaid with a few solid colors and stripes in between — the real little monsters of folk displayed their talents.

Usually St. Louis crowds show up five minutes on either side of the main event kickoff. Saturday night was the exception — maybe because of the cold, but probably due to the enigmatic Indian Blanket, a local band that was playing a rare show. A cello and keyboard supported Joe Andert’s crowd-entrancing melodies. The singer also introduced Klara from First Aid Kit as a friend who was very nervous. She lent Indian Blanket a thread of plaidnum credit with a silky cover of Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.”

Shreveport, La.’s Dylan LeBlanc took the stage shortly thereafter. Backed by a fantastic steel guitar player and drummer, LeBlanc strummed through his beautifully-crafted songs. His voice faded in and out mirroring the slide guitar in a cross-instrument duet. The duet wavered back and forth like an old record left in the sun whose dips and swells can only truly be loved by its owner.

His set would have passed like a golden meadow out of a car window had Dylan not introduced his cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” with a strange diatribe about how black people are the best singers and how he never met a black person that couldn’t sing. Well, Dylan, exhibit A: Ol’ Dirty Bastard and exhibit B: Nicki Minaj.

First Aid Kit took the stage to a chorus of strings and strutted right into “In the Morning.” The only problem? Klara’s mic was not working. Not a problem, the two sisters strode to the center of the stage and launched into their YouTube famous Fleet Foxes’ cover over a rhythm section of voltage overloads and digital camera clicks.

After a fifteen minute break to fix one mic, the sisters and their drummer retook the stage to “Blue.” From there they soared into an astral set dedicating the effervescent “Hard Believer” to the acerbic Richard Dawkins and gliding through “Emmylou.”

With set highlights including a stellar rendition of Paul Simon’s “America” and “Ghost Town,” done as a second unplugged number, we can only hope First Aid Kit will come back to us someday.

See photos from the First Aid Kit show.

Concert review: Yelawolf (with Double B, the ChalkBoyz, Brett Gretzky and others) bring freestyle fire to Plush, Monday, June 4 / Todd Cooper

Someone told me the last time Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were here they spent most of their set making fun of St. Louis for not being a real city. Luckily for them, the zeros were nowhere to be found Monday night at Plush.

A gaggle of St. Louis hip-hop artists torched the stage before headliner Yelawolf fought fire with fire. If this reviewer gets any names wrong it’s because he’s been out of the game longer than a guy trying to beat Contra on only three lives.

Though billed as an 18+ show, a little kid no older than 12 was the first to move the biggest crowd I’ve seen yet at Plush. Invited on stage by the night’s MC, he got the crowd’s hands waving to classic Wu-Tang.

Double B took over the stage first. They made sure everyone knew they do not give an expletive, but they repeatedly asked if the crowd gave an expletive. Judging from the many hands and individual fingers in the air much of the crowd gave an expletive. Then the mic was passed to Saint Orleans. The Saint proceeded to work the crowd effortlessly. He pulled everyone in closer to the stage and vibed out to the sound.

Then there were the ChalkBoyz. Taking the stage looking like an oversized “Weekend at Bernie’s” they bounced the crowd and their bellies in unison. With their laid-back approach and attire they could be the guys standing next to you ordering a Whopper. So watch what you say because that guy could spit your face off…or be on bath salts.

Following the ChalkBoyz was the skinnier and faster Brett Gretzky. The up-kick in tempo was a welcome dichotomy. Neither of the two MC’s stopped ricocheting around the stage for their entire set. Both had energy and words in abundance and probably could have gone twice as long as their set length.

But if everyone got to play for as long as they wanted Yelawolf would have never been able to take the stage.

Dressed in a black fedora, black glasses, a black jacket and black pants with tattoos creeping out from every end of stitching, Yelawolf rolled out to ecstatic applause. Yela ran through not just his hits but other artists’ as well.

In the middle of his set he paused to bound through a few bars of artists he credited as his greatest influences. Running the gamut from Johnny Cash to Metallica the only genre he didn’t seem to touch on was dubstep much to the pleasure of many an ear. He also took a minute to recognize the recently-departed MCA of the Beastie Boys.

Though he might sound like it on recordings, Yelawolf proved he is not a lyricist whose skill comes from Pro Tools editing. He comfortably killed every syllable just as it appears on record. As he said in his freestyle, picking a fight with him is like putting Nikes on a cheetah.

‘Fast cars, fast women and fast food’ An interview with the ChalkBoyz

The ChalkBoyz hail from St. Louis and will be opening for Yelawolf and a gaggle of other acts on Monday, June 4 at Plush. The goofy rappers checked in for a few minutes to try and get you to stop taking pictures of yourself in the bathroom. Mosey over to their website to download “Chalk Dirty to Me” for free.

Joe Duepner: How’s it going?

Dyl Staxx: So good! We just spent Memorial Day weekend at Hurricane Harbor. We did the hotel and everything! A little sun burnt, but our future’s bright.

What artists first got you into music and inspired you to make your own?

Dyl Staxx: It wasn’t any specific artist that got us inspired but rather the lack of artists doing what we’re trying to accomplish. We saw a void that we thought we could fill.

Anybody out there you’re really feeling right now?

Dyl Staxx: There’s a handful of artists from our city who we feel can hold their weight against anyone in the industry. Tef Poe and Rockwell Knuckles are set to have an amazing year.

Any trends you guys wish would crawl back under whatever rock they came from?

Dyl Staxx: Taking bathroom pics of yourself, Angry Birds and thirst traps.

Do you each write your own lines or do you sometimes write for each other?

Dyl Staxx: We like to write separately. The recording process is the first time we hear what each other came up with. We have this confidence in each other knowing that they’ll bring the heat.

Where do you do your best writing?

Dyl Staxx: Driving down the highway, in the kitchen and on the toilet. I’m in my most relaxed state doing these.

Dommy Shades: I like to ride the Grant’s Farm train for hours until my verse is complete. It’s often not legible.

Do you keep a pad with you or record lines on your phone in the car or…?

Dyl Staxx: Whether we’re getting mad on a pad, or in the zone on the phone best believe we’re haulin’ ass.

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‘Weird underlying tensions you can’t put your finger on’ A pre-Twangfest interview with Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker of Wussy / Jay Brown

Cincinnati-based band Wussy will be playing Twangfest 16 at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room on Thursday, June 7. Formed in the early 2000s by Chuck Cleaver (formerly of Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker, the band plays witty and catchy indie rock, most recently demonstrated on the albums “Strawberry” and “Funeral Dress II.”

Cleaver and Walker gave KDHX a few minutes of their time to talk about what they’re listening to, how Lana del Ray makes them cry and the thick soup that is midwestern summer.

Joe Duepner: How are you guys doing?

Chuck Cleaver: We’re doing well. Well I can only speak for myself.

Lisa Walker: I’m doing fine [laughs].

What are you guys doing right now?

LW: This time of the week we cut out to do band stuff like answer emails or phone calls and things like that.

CC: Yesterday we ordered T-shirts.

LW: Today we order stickers.

CC: But if you didn’t mean what are we doing immediately and meant what is the band doing, we’re gearing up to go on a tour. We play your place first. Your town, not your house. Then we’re going to head west and go down the California coast across the desert.

Do you find touring in the summer is easier than touring in the winter?

CC: Generally, yeah, just because of the weather. Heat is a pain in the ass though.

Do you think more people come out to shows in the summer?

CC: It really depends. Any town that is a college town no, but it really depends where. Places like Chicago where they are really used to shitty weather people will come out anytime. Places that aren’t used to bad weather though, you don’t get anybody at the gig. Some people won’t come out just because of rain.

LW: Like here [in Cincinnati].

CC: I’ve had people say “I can’t come out because it’s supposed to thunderstorm.” I say, “Really?”

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Concert review: Pretty Little Empire, Scarlet Tanager and Thankful Tree serve up impeccable three-course audio feast at Off Broadway, Saturday, May 5

Pretty Little Empire at Off Broadway in St. Louis. May 5, 2012

Pretty Little Empire. Photo by Ben Mudd.

The lone-man outfit Thankful Tree took the Off Broadway stage after 9 p.m. with looping swells of guitar and brash puffs of harmonica to build the sonic backbones.

On top of that sound he plucked away on guitar and laid down soft vocals. People dressed in attire from different time periods and cultures drifted in and out through his songs’ melodies.

Scarlet Tanager jumped up on stage shortly thereafter and kicked the show up two gears. For the uninitiated, Scarlet bring a brand of rock that inspire you to lift your wine glass in the air to good and missed fortunes while a dress or suit of white. The crowd shouted the refrains back at the band after the songs had finished. It would be hard to imagine a better stage warmer. Scarlet brought the intense energy but piped it through a completely different filter than the headliner.

Pretty Little Empire opened with the crisply-new “Out of Control.” The soft opening of the song gives way to torrents of guitar. There was no looking back from there. Joined by the masterful David Beeman, Pretty Little Empire proceeded to kill it. Then resurrect it. Then kill it again.

The usual St. Louis show protocol is to vacate the premises immediately following the last song. Despite this — and despite the fact that much of the crowd had earlier attended either Kentucky Derby or Cinco de Mayo festivities — people hung around until close basking in the glow of a stellar show. Outside on the yellow-lit veranda, beer cans were clinked and dropped well into Seis de Mayo.

Concert review and set list: Social Distortion slows it down at Pop’s, Saturday, April 28


Mike Ness seems tired, or maybe just bored. I saw him about this time last year at the Pageant and walked away thinking I had seen one of the greatest shows. But after last night’s Social Distortion show at Pop’s, I cruised back home over the bridge a little more than underwhelmed.
Social Distortion is currently rounded out by Johnny “2 Bags” Wickersham on guitar (who traded off guitar solos with Ness and looks just like the late and former Social D guitarist Dennis Dannel), Brent Harding on bass and David Hidalgo, Jr. on the drums. Hidalgo is the newest member of Social, joining in 2010, and deserves to be in the ranks of Chuck Biscuits and Derek O’Brien as a punk-rock drummer.

Decked out in his now standard fedora, black suspenders and high-waist trousers, Ness and company took the smoky and antique trinket-adorned stage to Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” (it was the version with Johnny Winter). Of course, Ness made the dramatic appearance and bowed. Why the hell he doesn’t just get a punk rock gig in Vegas is beyond me. The classic blues song faded out and finally Mike Ness’ distinct Les Paul rang out the opening chords of “Bad Luck” and performed by far the most energetic song of the band’s set.

Social Distortion sounded fine for the first half of their set or so, ripping through those confessional hindsight rockers that Ness has come to master and even indulge in at times. Fan favorites like “Story of my Life,” “Sick Boy” and “I Was Wrong” reminded me of why I love Social Distortion so damn much. (And, yes, “Social Distortion!” replaced “self destruction” during the “I Was Wrong” chorus much to my pleasure and anyone else who has seen/heard that song live.) Mike Ness seems to know what we go through at our lowest points and how we feel in our moments of redemption. He captures those bittersweet sentiments perfectly in his songs.
However, as much as I love this band, it wasn’t too long into their rather brief set that I felt something was askew with the band. An organ/keyboard player graced the stage, and appeared to walk off stage as much as he played inaudible parts during the songs. But that wasn’t it. Something wasn’t right; the show just was not building up any momentum. There were moments when the musicians would be talking amongst each other and the venue was completely silent save for conversations regarding whiskey sours and leather jackets.
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Concert review: Mucca Pazza (with the Mad Titans) march, literally, through the Firebird, Friday, April 20

The Mad Titans did their share to justify opening for the extravagant Mucca Pazza at the Firebird on Friday night, but it wasn’t easy.

There are bands, and then there are 20-something-piece marching bands like Mucca Pazza that occupy an entire venue.

The Mad Titans hail from North St. Louis and played a blend of surf rock. Their instrumental jams surfed the Cosine waves of underwater mortgages on now classic Nintendo tunes of Final Fantasy and Zelda. Their upbeat and fast-paced tunes kept the crowd nodding and bobbing while waiting for the Balkan brats from Chicago.

They closed with a rendition of “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” a fitting end, as they were soon banished to the pits of Tartarus by Mucca Pazza.

It has to be near impossible to steal a show from the circus punks of the Second City.

The members of Mucca Pazza emerged from the crowd in marching band outfits and swarmed in front of the stage. Just a few bars into the cacophony of brass, drums and guitar the entire band began a serpentine march through the crowd. How does the electric guitar player march through the crowd you say? He straps on a helmet with a loudspeaker duct taped to it. Just like the audience not a member of the group ever sat down. When they did manage to all occupy the stage they took up the entire width in two lines.

Throughout the entire performance the band sent out drones. Two cheerleaders would burrow in and pop up with blasts of brass to scare unsuspecting patrons. The brass would take up positions on opposite sides of the Firebird and duel not just each other but the crowd. Nowhere was safe, everywhere was boisterous.

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