‘Poet-athletes’ break world record in St. Louis

Soccer balls — 428 to be exact — dribbled by an equal number of soccer players broke the Guinness world record for the most number of soccer balls dribbled at the same time. More importantly however was the exposure brought to the work of America SCORES St. Louis, a nonprofit organization that teaches kids how to balance and enrich their lives with soccer, poetry and community service. St. Louis University, along with some generous corporate sponsorship and a sea of yellow-shirted volunteers, provided the resources necessary to shuffle kids and their parents around the SLU field. Mayor Slay was on-hand to help count down the 6 minutes of dribbling required to secure the record.

America SCORES St. Louis’ next big production is the SCORES St. Louis Poetry Slam on November 18, 2011; the event will feature students reciting original poems. You may check out their website at Americascoresstlouis.org/.

‘You know how to play the blues if you’re from St. Louis’ An interview with David Dee

David Dee

Dannie Boyd

Local bluesman David Dee is recognized both nationally and internationally for his contribution to the blues genre. “The blues is whoever it fits,” he says.

Dee is known for his hit song “Going Fishing,” and others such as “Give Me Some Air” and “Forgive Me Girl.” He has performed with many of the top blues acts that have passed through St. Louis. According to Dee, “My destiny was to accomplish something in music.” When not playing music he spends his time working for the East St. Louis Police Department.

In the week leading up to St. Louis Blues Week I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Dee for an interview at his East St. Louis home. His home rests on a peaceful two-lane street that is ideal for watching cars pass by while his over-grown tree shades you from the sun. It was the perfect setting for a talk on the blues. Here he told me what the blues means to him and what led him to find his own definition: “You feel good when you hear something about you. That’s the blues.”

Dannie Boyd: How did you first get started with the blues?

David Dee: I first got started with the blues by singing. I like music period. When I was 12 years old I was singing with a spiritual group. The spiritual group broke up by the time I was 15 or somewhere in there. What I did then was try to get something together and possibly sing the blues. I really didn’t get deep off into it at the time because I didn’t know too much about it, but I remembered the blues when I was a kid.

And as I got older, I left home around the age of about 16, and I moved to Chicago away from my mom. When I moved to Chicago I got me a job and bought a guitar. When I bought me a guitar I started trying to play the blues. At the time I remember meeting Nat King Cole back in the ’50s. He was the only black man that I saw in the ’50s, that I know, that had something worthwhile, in good shape of living. I remember Nat King Cole’s songs and him playing piano.

He was the only man that I knew that really showed success with his background by singing. This was one of the only black men I knew. I knew a lot that sung blues. But as far as show, luxury and money, a black man didn’t have that in the ’50s. Very few of them did. But he was one of them. So I made up my mind that I was going to get into blues, or get into music period. Playing music, singing music.

After I turned about 21 I was drafted into the service. I was in the paratroopers for a couple of years. While I was in there I had two or three fellas together. We use to sing a little bit. I got discharged in 1960 because I was drafted in 1958. After I got out of the service I had a little group in the early ’60s. It was about ’63 or ’64. I had a little group called David and the Temptations. Later on I met some guys that played instruments and I started singing with them and I kept on maneuvering into the music. I had a bass player who quit my band, his name was Keith, so I didn’t have a bass player. We had show coming up in two or three weeks so it was my thing to learn how to play bass and fill in the spot. I learned how to play bass good enough to play a gig with my group.

After that I met another guy called Little Dave. He played guitar. Me and him would go around singing a lot. He played guitar and I played bass. Luther Ingram approached us to play for him. I had a band so I refused to. I said, “We can’t go to no New York man” (laughs). I figured if you go to New York, you’ve got to have money to come back just in case things don’t go like you expected. So Luther, he went on and we stayed here down in East St. Louis. I heard a few months later that Luther Ingram left his band in New York. I said, “Well, I’m glad we didn’t go.”

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LouFest preview interview: Ben Hinn of Troubadour Dali

Troubadour Dali

facebook.com/troubadourdali

It took awhile for Ben Hinn of Troubadour Dali and I to get together. Our first appointment fell through, and Hinn mistakenly showed up a day early for the second. When we were finally able to meet over coffee, Ben and I had a good, long conversation.

We talked about everything from the maturation required to record Troubadour Dali’s latest album (this year’s “Let’s Make It Right”) to why previously popular buzzwords like reverb, lo-fi and fuzzy don’t necessarily apply to them anymore. Towards the end of the interview, drummer Drew Bailey showed up and joined in.

Erin Frank: I actually requested Troubadour Dali for this interview because I saw you guys at the Lucas School House a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

Ben Hinn: Wow, that must have been like, 2007?

It was a while go. I really liked it, and my editor and I agreed that it was such a cool venue and it was a shame that it closed down.

I loved that place. It’s a shame. I wonder if anyone’s doing anything with it. They were starting to turn that church next door to a bigger venue, but I don’t think anything came of it. … I loved that place, I always had a good time there. I’m trying to remember the sound guy’s name. He was really nice and works around town still.

I read that you guys had a residency at Off Broadway for a while.

We did. That was 2010. They’re like our family, they’ve done so much for us. Steve [Pohlman, owner of Off Broadway] is the Man. We did a residency there, and I think we were talking about doing another one, maybe in winter. I’m not sure exactly. If it’s like last year, we’ll showcase a couple bands each time. … It was a great time. It was basically a glorified band practice for us, so it really helped us develop playing in front of people with improvising, and throwing stuff out there and there are a lot of people who came to the shows and could see things develop. It was a good experience.

What are the other venues that you’ve played or have seen bands play that are your favorites?

Off Broadway is definitely the place I prefer. I love the Duck Room, it’s a great venue to play. Cicero’s is actually a really fun stage. We kind of started off playing there, so I have a soft spot for it. And the Firebird, we’ve played a lot of fun shows there. They’ve hooked us up with a lot of shows playing for touring acts like A Place to Bury Strangers, Darker My Love, the Entrance Band. And now Mike [Cracchiolo] is booking Cicero’s as well. We played there about a month ago with the Strange Boys.

I love the Strange Boys. I started listening to them a few years ago and told people that it was sort of psychotic, like listening to the midget from “Twin Peaks” over this awesome ’50s guitar riff.

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah.

Your last record (self-titled) came out in 2009, and your most recent record (“Let’s Make It Right”) came out this year. I’d read on your blog that this new record was relatively easy to assemble because you had so much material just sitting around.

Yeah, there were a lot of factors that contributed to it being easier. The band itself was in a better state. Like all of us learned a lot in the six years we’ve been together, and the lineup has rotated so many times, so it’s finally kind of settled into a comfortable [place]. … It just feels better, and we’re having more fun, just playing better. And everyone has kind of delved into recording at home studios, so we were able to be more focused on what we needed to do. But as far as the songs, a few of them have been around for a while and we had the chance to play them out. All the bass and drums were basically recorded together, and most of the guitars were kind of overdubbed.

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The making of Née’s “Magic Love” video

Née

John Donahoe

Since the release of The Hands of Thieves EP, Kristin Dennis of Née has spent the last several months becoming a “pop” artist — a requirement of which, is of course, the music video.

Though the inspiration for the choreography was a result of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Kristin’s concept for the “Magic Love” video was aimed more towards a “junior high talent competition” feel.

“I asked my friends Lauren Keefer and Kimber Hall if they would be interested in choreographing and performing with me,” she explains by e-mail, “and, as good lady friends, they agreed. We had several multiple-hour practices at the studio I share with David Beeman on Cherokee where we watched videos that had certain vibes I was hoping to capture. Lauren and Kimber really added a lot to the process of choreographing as well as refining the creative direction of the video. Of course, the boys were really amazing as well. I am proud to have friends that I can work with who see what I’m trying to accomplish and can get behind it and really add to the effort in meaningful ways. Also, Off Broadway was the absolute perfect place to shoot. I had it in mind from the beginning, but when we got there and I was testing the lights… it became magic.”

Of all opportunities afforded to pop artists, Kristin is particularly fond of the requirement that one not take oneself too seriously.

“Née’s songs are often lyrically heavy,” she says, “but placing those sentiments in a much lighter sonic setting takes it beyond the ‘I’m writing a song about my feeeeelings’ arena and into a place where I feel I can be far more creative with my approach and do things that might be out of place if I was trying to be more Elliott Smith.”

And she is looking forward to expanding on that vibe as she continues work on the new Née record, which she hopes to release in September. Also in the next month you can look forward to more Née videos, a B-side and a cover of the Robyn song, “Call Your Girlfriend,” which will have an open casting call.

“We shot [“Magic Love”] without a crew or any budget (although I totally did spend $20 on sequins at Hobby Lobby),” she stresses. “David [Beeman] hit the lights, Lex [Herbert] hit the boombox and the stage light and Mic [Boshans] pressed record on my camera.”

So that’s how it came together, with a lot of practice, patience and even more sequins.

Magic Love by Née (Official Video) from Kristin Dennis on Vimeo.

Directed by Kristin Dennis
Shot at Off Broadway 6/27/11
Choreography by Kristin Dennis, Kimber Hall and Lauren Keefer
Cast: David Beeman, Michael Boshans, Kristin Dennis, Kimber Hall, Lex Herbert, Lauren Keefer
Budget: $20
Crew Members: See Cast Members

Concert review + setlist: Chris Mills and Magnolia Summer prove you can go home again at Off Broadway, Thursday, June 23

Chris Mills

reverbnation.com/chrismillsmusic

Last night at Off Broadway, if you leaned over to the next person to ask the traditional St. Louis get-to-know-you question — “Where did you go to high school?” — the overwhelming response would have been “Collinsville.”

Taking the stage at 10:40 p.m., Chris Mills jokingly welcomed everyone to the “Collinsville High School Class of 1992 reunion,” a reference to a group of his former classmates making up the majority of the audience. Never leaving his dry, self-effacing style behind, Mills played to the mostly 30 to 40-year-old audience full of friends, family and well-wishers fully enjoying the comfort of the tables and chairs set out for the evening.

Lapping the field with his beard, Mills, shaggy appearance aside, took the economical approach to this tour bringing only bassist Ryan Hembrey and drummer Dave Bryson along for the ride down his songwriting memory lane. Making few pauses between songs for sake of the late starting time, he blasted through 14 numbers in nearly an hour, with an intense focus on his new retrospective Heavy Years: 2000-2010. Though he left behind the dense pop arrangements (and witty stage banter for that matter) of his last two albums, The Wall to Wall Sessions and Living In the Aftermath, the songwriting brightly shone as a testament to how good these songs are in any arrangement.

Without deviating much from this new compilation, Mills kicked off the show with the first few tracks from the compilation in succession. New song “All Our Days and Nights” led off the evening before giving way to the upbeat, power-pop, two-and-a-half-minute burst of “Atom Smashers,” a song so infectious that listeners found their heads bobbing and feet tapping. Missing the familiar horn and string parts, the flair of orchestral pop in “A Farewell to Arms” was stripped bare. If you looked closely enough, however, you could see Hembrey mouthing the melody as he plucked along on bass. Yep, we heard the parts in our heads and missed them too.

Mills briefly mentioned the current tour from the stage stating that compared to playing the small venues of the Mid Atlantic and South that “this feels like we’re playing Giants Stadium.” Life on the road can be hard and isolating. Getting a homecoming reception of sorts can boost the spirits of any weary musician. Hanging out at the merch table before the show, Mills chatted with and thanked his old friends for coming out to the concert one by one. During the set, Mills gratefully thanked his parents for the band’s meal earlier in the day and the chance to utilize their free laundry facilities asking aloud, “Why did I bring all these quarters with me?”

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Interview: Stephen Seward dives into local music video

Stephen Seward

Photo courtesy of Stephen Seward

Stephen Seward has a new spin on an old idea, the music video. As a photographer living in the St. Louis area, he has taken it as a personal mission to give St. Louisans an introspective look into the bands that fuel our city’s music scene. I sat down with Stephen to find out first hand what sparked his interest and how he plans on going about making videos in the future. His first video featuring Riley James and the Band Men can be found on Vimeo.

Kelsey Mclure: I am interested in why you started making videos, You are a photographer first correct?

Stephen Seward: Yes.

So when did you make the switch into video? Is it just a hobby?

I am a photographer that does portraits and weddings and I kind of wanted a project that was personal that I could separate from my business that was different that could kind of fuel my creative passion, I guess you could say. So that is what enabled me to do that.

The video that you submitted to us was Riley James, do you know the musicians before the shoot?

I knew the bass player Aaron and I have some others lined up now thru him since doing that video.

Can you say who you have lined up?

John Henry and the Engine.

Very cool.

Yeah, I am very excited about that.

What kind of equipment do you use?

I shoot with the [Nikon D300S], it’s actually a still camera that does video. It’s a little bit different than traditional video cameras; it gives a much more cinematic look without having to use tens to hundred thousand dollar cameras.

That’s one of the things I noticed. Do you do a lot of extra editing work to get the cinematic look as well?

My goal with the videos is instead of a traditional music video, to do something that is more of an artist statement. I want people to watch the videos and feel like they have learned something about the band. I want it to be kind of raw and real. I have always been driven towards live music as opposed to studio-recorded stuff so I think that I kind of want to reflect that kind of thing in my videos.

And I think you definitely do, just judging from that one video. My favorite part was at the end when they crashed around. To see these guys that were almost quiet in the video then at the end here they are just having fun. Do you have a basic concept for the videos? Well, I guess you kind of went over that by saying it’s a personal project.

Yeah and I kind of want….I think St. Louis in the last couple of years has really exploded as an independent music city. I think a lot of it has to do with that there are so many more venues now. Maybe it was kind of always there, but it just seems like there is so much more new stuff coming through St. Louis now. I just wanted to be a part of it in someway. I kind of want to represent St. Louis music through the videos. And I am also hoping to do some of them out and around St. Louis.

I agree, I think so and especially in the last 5 years but maybe like you I just wasn’t apt to it or aware but I think St. Louis has really picked up. There are just so many great venues.

Yeah, like the Old Rock House.

And Off Broadway, the Firebird. St. Louis is a great stop on the east/west journey.

Yeah, you think of Austin or Seattle as the big music spots for that type of stuff but St. Louis is going to be like that too.

I think we’ll come around. So are the bands you are wanting to shoot based on the kind of music you enjoy?

I don’t want to limit it to just bands that I like, but definitely local bands that can hit the logistics of being able to do that type of video. So I guess there are some limitations but I definitely don’t want to limit it to one kind of genre.

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Concert review: Jónsi (of Sigur Rós) lights up the Pageant, Tuesday, November 2

Jónsi

myspace.com/jonthorbirgisson

It may seem pretentious to use the word rapturous to describe a concert-going experience, but the delight of seeing Jónsi Þór Birgisso is difficult to describe in any other way. Jónsi — singer and guitarist of Sigur Rós — is on tour for his 2010 solo record, Go. Expectations were set high for this tour for those familiar with the renowned live performances of Sigur Rós.

High expectations and all, this show did not disappoint. It was glowing.

Jónsi made a quiet entrance to a darkened stage for an intimate performance of “Stars in Still Water.” He brought the Pageant to nearly complete silence, save for his beautiful and fragile falsetto and an acoustic guitar, the moment felt delicate and sincere — a theme that would resonate throughout the evening.

The backdrop came to life with images of animated trees and animals that looked surreal and playful like something out of Spike Jonze’s reimagining of Where The Wild Things Are. The cinematic elements of the stage show added tremendously to the performance without being a distraction. This was more than just a rock concert; it was an immersive multimedia experience that intimately tied together the visual medium with that of sound.

The array of emotions and images that were displayed over the span of the 90-minute set were at times fragile, whimsical and touching, while other times the mood shifted to something more euphoric yet enchanting. The show was so well orchestrated between the epic and swelling sounds of Jónsi and his backing band and the beautiful visual imagery that it genuinely felt cinematic. It was as if theater, film and music had somehow merged together into a single experience, at once sincere and artistic.

Jónsi has dreamed up a sound that is haunting in its beauty and subtlety tender within the force of the music. The blend of synthesized, electronic elements with live instrumentation is one that many artist attempt to balance, but there is something organic about the music that Jónsi has created. One would think that images of machinery and technology would seem more appropriate to accompany heavily produced music; however, the images of nature — rain, snowfall, animals, flowers, trees — couldn’t have been a better visual representation of how this music sounds.

Nothing could better exemplify this than “Grow Till Tall,” the show closer. The song began with glitchy, electronic samples that created a cloud of frail ambience. As the piece grew more enthralling — the layers of strings thickening and the percussion entering — the images on screen grew more dizzying. What began as a small rainstorm with trees blowing in the wind picked up intensity to a heavy rain and eventually to a monsoon. Strobe lights mimicked lightning and the machine-gun style snare drum the thunder as the entire venue became engulfed in a storm of light, sound and fog. It felt very much like a Nine Inch Nails moment.

This show ran the gamut from light and tender moments to darkened chaos. The execution was wonderful. As the final song ended and the band exited the stage, the house lights went black for the musicians’ departure. The band returned a few moments later for a farewell bow to a standing ovation.

It was an appropriate ending to a theatrical performance and stage show that made for a magical night.

LouFest 2010 Preview: Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

myspace.com/titusandronicus

The Monitor by Titus Andronicus: The Concept Album We Needed

My friend Charlie recommended Titus Andronicus to me. He is a 26-year-old intellectual, although in hipster fashion would likely refute the moniker. He’s preachy, kind of like everyone else about my age. Emblematic of my generation, Charlie believes voting is meaningless because campaign finance laws make the power of an individual’s voice worthless. And when challenged by his father that, “You don’t have a right to complain unless you vote,” he responded, “Who cares anyway?”

Fueled by current economic turmoil and a divisive political landscape, the aptitude to question everything intensifies, and then drifts away into nothingness.

Enter: Titus Andronicus. Hailing from Glen Rock, N.J. the quintet has captured the existential enjoyment of our angst with lyrics like “It’s all right the way you piss and moan.” Ah, the confirmation we all thought we didn’t need, but rejoice in hearing.

Thomas Hobbes famously wrote, “Life is short, brutish and nasty.” Titus Andronicus could deliver that line with a fist pump.

The band is named after a lesser known Shakespearean tragedy. I can’t tell if the allusion carries profound meaning, or if the band randomly spotted Bill’s old transcript in an independent bookstore around the corner from me and dug how the six syllables flowed. Either way, who cares? It sticks.

The band has been touring our side of the equator promoting their latest album, The Monitor. Listening to The Monitor is like having a fun, heated debate with close friends that ends with someone saying, “You’re all crazy, now let’s go grab a beer.”

Alas, this is a concept album in the digital age where everything is reduced to bits. How perfectly antithetical! The album borrows its name from a Civil War battleship, but themes present in The Monitor are more personal than political. Weaving stories about a war in the 19th century with 21st century torment about falling short of personal actualization is difficult enough to explain, let alone pull off artistically. But the band has managed to fuse rock with the tragedy of America’s past: “If I go in on a donkey, let me go out on a gurney.”

Lead singer Patrick Stickles screams as if every word actually matters, and the band backs up his vocal rage alternating between chaotic, lo-fi punk and simplistic Springsteen anthems.

“The enemy is everywhere” is a theme laced throughout the album. It speaks more to our nature and how much easier it is to personify a demon outside of ourselves rather than focus on what’s wrong introspectively. It’s like having twenty bad roommates over years of apartment sharing without once thinking maybe I am the problem?

We are, after all, flawed intellectuals, and kind of preachy from time to time.


Titus Andronicus performs at 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 28 at LouFest. 88.1 KDHX is a media sponsor of LouFest.

Titus Andonicus: Live at KDHX 2/4/09

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