The Cliburn Report 3: Trial by Jury

[I will be covering the final round of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June. Meanwhile I’m picking highlights of the current press coverage for your dining and dancing pleasure.]

This is the second in the grueling seven-day marathon that is the preliminary round of the Cliburn competition. Each of the thirty contestants will perform two 45-minute recitals in front of a live audience in the 2,056-seat Bass Performance Hall, located in the city’s Modern Art Museum on Commerce Street, and for a world-wide audience via the Cliburn Foundation’s professionally-produced live webcast at

The concerts start at 11:00 AM and run, with two 90-minute intermissions, until after 10 PM each day. It’s a killer schedule that reminds me of nothing so much as the old “continuous vaudeville” shows of a century ago.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the term (i.e. pretty much anyone who hasn’t made a study of the Vaudeville era), “continuous vaudeville” was an arrangement devised by producer Benjamin Franklin Keith in the early years of the 20th century whereby vaudeville theatres were kept open for twelve hours per day, with entertainment being offered continuously. The same bill of acts would cycle three of four times, with audience members coming and going at will. As Rick Easton notes in his on-line vaudeville history site, “[t]he continuous provided the illusion of a constant and thriving business, eliminating what Keith saw as ‘hesitancy’ on the part of patrons to enter the theatre until they were ‘reassured by numbers.’” It was a great deal for Keith; less so for his acts, who had time to do little else than perform and (maybe) sleep.

The Cliburn’s schedule may not be as punishing to performers as Keith’s was, but it seems to me that it must be every bit as hard on a group that’s equally as critical to the competition: the judges. They’re obliged to not just listen to almost eight hours of recitals per day but to listen attentively as well—a daunting task, to say the least. In his backstage look at the 1989 Cliburn, The Ivory Trade, Joseph Horowitz neatly summarizes the hazards of such a schedule: “Impressions, sharp at first, blur and refocus intermittently. The mind wanders. The ears tire.”

John Giordano

And yet listen they must, and with care. When the preliminary round is over, they’ll have to vote to advance twelve of the thirty contestants to the semifinals. If they take their jobs seriously (as I presume they must) they have to make sure that no nuance of any performance is missed. They need to feel confident that their twelve choices are, in fact, the best of the bunch.

I don’t envy them that task. Listening to some of the live webcast last night, I was struck by the stunningly high level of pianism on display. If asked to pick a “best” among the few I heard, I’d be hard pressed to do it with any degree of assurance. The members of this jury—headed by Fort Worth Symphony director emeritus John Giordano—have their work cut out for them.

KDHX photography highlights: November 6-12

The shows in this town just keep on keeping on. tUnE-YarDs sold-out Off Broadway with the help of Pat Jordache then several days later the third volume of STL Loud kept the walls shaking and the dance floor in motion. The Murder City Players put Jah love on at the Duck Room and the Blind Boys of Alabama with the help of Sara and Sean Watkins lay the soul down at the Old Rock House. The Blind Boys also came in for an in-studio, as did the indie-rock-pop-experimental supergroup Mr. Heavenly.

To see the full articles and complete photo galleries check out Music News and for the KDHX in-studio experience head to Live Performances. Get it at


tUnE-YarDs at Off Broadway. Ben Mudd

Blind Boys of Alabama

Blind Boys of Alabama at the Old Rock House. Nate Burrell

Murder City Players

Murder City Players at the Duck Room. Glenda Volk

Mr. Heavenly

Mr. Heavenly in-studio at KDHX. Kelsey McClure

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KDHX photography highlights: October 23-29

The Pageant’s Monday night dance party that kicked off the last week of October meant one of two things, One: Chromeo was in town with Mayer Hawthorne or Two: Monday is the new Friday. The Smokers Club Tour featuring Curren$y and Method Man kept the early-week party trend rolling and by time the Pageant cleared the haze it was Friday and time for the weekend to really begin with a post-World Series win Southern rock party courtesy of the Drive-By Truckers.

Austin based-trio Ume gave St. Louis a friendly reminder that Texas has exported more than a 2nd place baseball team and rocked the Firebird into a thrash trance. Peter Wolf Crier and Union Tree Review did their Indie thing at Off Broadway and Zion and the Lion Roots Band released their fourth album “Crying for Freedom” at Club Viva. The past week in photos was a busy one and proof that the KDHX photographers taste in music is as eclectic as their style.

To see the full articles and complete photo galleries check out Music News and for the KDHX in-studio experience head to Live Performances. Get it on at


Chromeo at the Pageant. Louis Kwok

Method Man

Method Man at the Pageant. Louis Kwok

Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers at the Pageant. Nate Burrell


Ume at the Firebird. Nate Burrell

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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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R.I.P. Jack Hardy, mentor, master and songwriting legend

Jack Hardy at KDHX

Sara Finke

The Bob Dylan news site, Expecting Rain, reports that Jack Hardy has passed away at the age of 63. Very sad news.

John Studebaker Hardy was a central figure, something of a guru actually, on the New York folk scene. He founded Fast Folk Magazine and the Songwriters’ Exchange workshops, and inspired a generation of post-Dylan folkies to write about more than just themselves.

I profiled Hardy in a February 1999 issue of the Riverfront Times: “a more literate Celtic Townes Van Zandt, grave in his tone and generous in his ideals, as rooted in the present soil and sky of Ireland and America as he is fascinated by the legends of the past.”

His output is vast, beginning with a classic self-titled album in 1971, and gathered, in part, on a mammoth box set called The Collected Works of Jack Hardy. I had the pleasure of reviewing the 2000 album, Omens, for

For his first new release since 1997′s Celtic-flavored The Passing, Hardy turns his attention to nonchalant, Americana-ready folk rock and a high-brow library full of poetic images. “I ought to know great literature by heart,” Hardy sings on the opening track, but his reading comprehension is hardly wanting. Hardy’s dense, mysterious conjurings of Irish mythology won’t be to every listener’s taste, though his love songs, with fragrant lines like “the willow weeps although unheard” and “’round this old house the wind it whines / with a knocking keeping time,” are as vivid and intense as any being written today.

Hardy visited the KDHX studios 3 years ago for a session with Songwriters Showcase. Stream the in-studio set (with a revealing interview) below or on the Live at KDHX page, see Sara Finke’s photos here and raise a toast to one of the very best.

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Concert review: Exter vs. Kimock bring classical rock to Principia College, Friday, February 25

Exter vs. Kimock

Hey there, Brother Dan here. I would like to share with you a concert review I received from a long time listener and member of my show, Ryan Moore. I was able to witness a fantastic show with him featuring Exter vs. Kimock from Bethlehem, Pa. What he puts into words, I couldn’t say any better. Enjoy!

Originally, my Friday night plan consisted of sitting right here at my computer researching and writing about prostitution, and that plan was to continue until Sunday night. Lucky for me, that plan changed at about 9:15 p.m. when Brother Dan invited me to attend the Exter vs. Kimock show with him at Principia College, a Christian Science College about 20 miles from where I live in Edwardsville, Ill.

Both of us knew what type of college Principia was known as when we headed into the thing, but neither of us knew what to expect, other than phenomenal music being performed by Exter and Kimock. The gig was upstairs in a building known as Howard Hall, which took some time to find, but as we ascended the stairs to the venue, we knew we’d found the right place. The sounds of a traditionally set up drum set, being played masterfully, and a cello being played in a very unorthodox way, were the first sounds to greet us. The further up the stairs we went, the more clear the music became….

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The Top 10 Live at KDHX Videos of 2010

KDHX has been hosting live music in-studio since the day we began broadcasting on 88.1 FM, nearly 24 years ago. Recently, we developed a system for volunteers to produce video of these sessions — giving the public a peek into the studios of KDHX.

We hope you are enjoying the results. Here are some of our favorite live in studio videos from 2010.

Watch the full playlist at YouTube and subscribe to our channel today. You’ll never miss a single video.

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Frontier Ruckus trip through the Midwest and KDHX

The strip malls of the Midwest are so maligned, perhaps rightly so, but they’re ours, and they’re not going away anytime soon.

Matt Millia, the singer and songwriter of Frontier Ruckus, knows that. He and his bandmates hail from suburban Detroit, and on their new record, Deadmalls and Nightfalls (due out on Ramseur Records on July 20), they celebrate and eulogize those plazas, and the ghosts that haunt them.

They’re places of memory, Millia explained during the band’s in-studio session on 88.1 KDHX and Feel Like Going Home this morning. They’re not places for a band this spontaneous and inspired, who take the old time instruments of saw, guitar and banjo (played with Scruggs-style speed and dexterity by David Winston Jones), and all the junk shop trumpets and worn-out drums, and make a memorable, melodic noise, in and around Millia’s flash flood of consciousness lyrics.

Fans of the Avett Brothers and Delta Spirit won’t want to miss them at the Old Rock House in downtown St. Louis tonight.

Frontier Ruckus Live at KDHX 7/14/10 by KDHX

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