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Friday, 10 May 2013 15:15

Event review: Reveling in KDHX's 8th annual Midwest Mayhem at the City Museum, Thursday, May 9

Event review: Reveling in KDHX's 8th annual Midwest Mayhem at the City Museum, Thursday, May 9 Virginia Harold
Written by Will Kyle

Where to begin? The City Museum alone is a multi-level, dizzying attraction of slides, wrought-iron climbing structures, curiosities, aquatic life and gorgeous tile mosaics.

Add in a bevy of KDHX DJs, 19 impressive local bands, scores of local personalities, local beer and the head begins to spin. But make no mistake; Midwest Mayhem is perhaps the finest "spin" found anywhere all year in St. Louis.

My compatriot and I stumbled into the mayhem around 7 p.m. After passing the nicely flowing ticket taking and wristband process, I found myself at the Whale Stage watching Farshid Etniko perform a satisfying blend of Latin jazz and finger-plucked world music.

The rhythms were dulcet and tasty, a perfect primer for the evening. I meandered over to the gigantic freshwater tank adjacent the stage and found myself face-to-face with an enormous blue catfish who seemed hell-bent on devouring my face.

We ventured through the caves, noting the naked mermaid in the floor mosaic and found ourselves on the mezzanine to witness the Fabulous Foehners unfold sparkling jazz with an electric piano and a lap-placed guitar.

Upstairs, on the second floor Twangfest Stage, Tim Rakel and the rest of the Union Electric pushed forth tasty and brooding Cash-esque, indie-laced, folk rock. Soon after, we were in the blissful, air-conditioned St. George's Chamber as Ryan Spearman and a few friends rocked the Psychedelic Square Dance.

People with glow sticks crowded into the room, as a man strung with blinking LED's guided the square dance like a traffic cop crossed with the Mad Hatter. A drum machine pumped out a driving beat that neared the frenzy of Rednex's "Cotton Eyed Joe" as Spearman sawed on his fiddle.

On the third floor, Silhouette Man played for dollars and change, dressed in a black-lycra bodysuit, a top hat and old-fashioned dress. He posed and gestured creepily, allowing playful drunk girls to steal his hat and wear it for a picture before placing it back atop his head.

Near the Silhouette Man, St. Louis' own Arch Rival Roller Girls were perched high atop roller skates, handing out schedules and offering kisses and slaps for an unbeatably low price. There is just something about a woman that can kick the crap out of a guy.

Further on, the Beggar's Carnivale Burlesque show was in full swing at the third floor skate park. Marcus Eder and Lola Van Ella packed the large space with sweaty, hungry bodies looking for a show. I was blown away with Eder's cover of Man Man's "Engrish Bwudd." The song's gothic tone fit the style of the group, which included stand-up bass, violin, xylophone, a DJ, drums and a few acoustic guitars.

Four-piece Middle Class Fashion wowed with a sound reminiscent of the Indigo Girls mashed up with the New Pornographers. A topless, body-painted girl, compliments of the artist TEW, meandered through the crowd drawing the attention of every man (and woman) brave enough to learn whether or not tape covered her nipples.

Downstairs, Carlos G. Charles introduced Zion, a roots-laden Reggae group, complete with bass, keys, a throaty female vocalist, two guitars and a banging bongo and drum performance.

Up in a suspended metal structure connected to the caves, a woman sat cross-legged, sipped a Shift beer from a can and swayed to the music, enjoying her perfect vantage point as my compatriot noted two turtles in the aquatic life tank preparing to mount each other; even the reptiles were enjoying the good vibrations of Zion.

With stand-up bass, two guitars, brushed drums and delicious steel guitar, Colonel Ford's rocking honky tonk drew a large crowd back at the Twangfest stage. George Jones' "White Lightning" closed the set and found audience members young and old singing the words.

The Bottoms Up Blues gang pleased with two guitars, a sultry lead singer clad in a mechanic's shirt, a rocking harmonica player and a subdued set, that at points rose like a valiant phoenix fresh from the ash. A man in a red "Keep Calm and Kill Zombies" shirt bobbed his head as a dead ringer for the Big Lebowski's Walter Sobchak, complete with yellow-tinted 'Nam aviators, sauntered through the crowd.

Nappy DJ Needles and G. Wiz, wearing a "She Keeps on Passing Me By" Pharcyde shirt, pumped out a diverse set of old school hip-hop that included allusions to the Beastie Boys, Adele and Queen. Glow sticks flew, butts gyrated and white kids threw hands in hilarious gangster-esque positions.

I knew the night was shading weird when I witnessed two men, one wearing a banana suit, the other a bunny suit, hurling bright colored balls at one another in the patio's ball pit. Elsewhere, the three-piece Downstereo rolled out heady jams, while upstairs Melody Den, with David Lazaroff sitting in on guitar, rocked out southern style.

I passed KDHX DJ Papa Ray on the stairs on my way up to catch John Chiecsek, who after the funked-out nasty of Big Brother and the Master Blasters, included a man on washboard and serene flamenco, allowing lovers to dance in slow motion.

Finally, the night hit maximum overload when Big Mike Aguirre with the Rhythm Section Road Show and the Funky Butt Brass Band Horns gave new definition to the term "super group." The men -- clad in all white except KDHX DJ Andy Coco, who thrummed along on his bass behind the horns -- stood full of poise, swagger and bravado as they blasted the audience with St. Louis' finest jazz and power swing.

On my way downstairs for a taste of So Many Dynamos, I passed a blue-haired girl who smelled like Christmas, a cowboy and a drunkard who zinged by on the slide to my left screaming, "Yip-ska-doo!" So Many Dynamos rocked with a thick drum section, plenty of hooks and enough "Woah-o-ohs" to fill the dreams of any indie-kid.

As the shows wound down, I said my goodbyes to the many St. Louis personalities awash in the eclectic tincture of the City Museum, exited the doors and witnessed the most vibrant heat-lightening storm streaking the southern skies I have seen all year.

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