The 2012 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is two weeks away. And if that is our own St. Louis Music holiday, then consider this the season: Throughout May, we've been making our cases for all 125 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year, introducing the nominees from one or more of our 25 categories. For each artist you will find a photo, a streaming track to sample and a few words from the staff at RFT Music.
Bruiser Queen The male/female two-piece band has a long and distinguished history. Way before Jack and Meg, compact two-piece bands like the Spinanes and Kicking Giant were making plenty of noise while maximizing precious van space. Over its two-year lifespan, Bruiser Queen has joined that tradition, gradually trimming down from its original four-piece incarnation to the core of drummer Jason Potter and guitarist/songwriter Morgan Nusbaum. On Swears, Bruiser Queen's debut full-length album, Nusbaum applies her trademark wail to her best-crafted batch of songs to date: They are brooding and intricate like her solo material, yet with enough amped-up dramatic hooks to recall Sleater-Kinney or the Muffs at their respective primes. Live, Nusbaum and Potter conjure a full, dense sound that's as powerful as it is memorable. --Mike Appelstein
The Feed For the bulk of the Feed's career, the three-piece rock band made its name performing hard, driving, melodic rock & roll without rock's signature instrument Ñ the electric guitar. As if to not-so-subtly underline this omission, the band has regularly covered such guitar-heavy acts as the Clash, Sonic Youth and Jimi Hendrix (it helps that pianist Dave Grelle can made his keyboard rig sound like damn near anything). But when guitarist Jordan Heimberger filled the void left by bassist/saxophonist Ben Reece, the instrument became a natural part of the band's arsenal. Grelle still holds court with bottom-heavy electric piano and the occasional organ riff, and his jazz chops place his style somewhere between Billy Preston and Oscar Peterson, and drummer Kevin Bowers remains one of the most intuitive and restless beat-keepers in town. Fans are still holding their collective breath for a long promised new album, but the band's lead-off track on the just-released Tower Groove Records compilation finds the trio in fine, bluesy form. --Christian Schaeffer
Kentucky Knife Fight As the primary engine to the local steam punk scene, Kentucky Knife Fight rips through vintage blues and primordial twang with an obsessive compulsion to play each show louder, harder and darker than the night before. Led by acidic vocalist Jason Holler, the band's music is as serious as a homicide or a hanging, and yet it's also wickedly fun, an overdriven blast of electric guitars and a floorboard breaking rhythm section. The band is ambitious: Its recent music video for "Love the Lonely" melds the lo-fi and brooding spirit of the music with all the well-choreographed, surrealist-noir aesthetic that a decent Kickstarter budget can buy. With recent successful regional tours and plans to release its third studio album this summer, Kentucky Knife Fight's furious rock & roll seems unstoppable. --Roy Kasten
Union Electric Since late 2009, the Union Electric has released three seven-inches, each showing a gradual development in the band's songwriting, musicianship and overall production. But make no mistake: This isn't a budding band that started out lost or inexperienced. It's by local history enthusiast and Mayday Orchestra's primary songwriter Tim Rakel, who uses this project as an outlet to explore exactly how noisy folk music can be before it's actually distortion-drenched rock. On its newest Tunnels/An Irish Orphan seven-inch, the band gets help from jack-of-all-trades Beth Bombara and Kit Hamon (Old Lights) and turns in its most cohesive and sonically ripe output to date. --Michael Dauphin
Warm Jets USA For more than a decade now, Jason Hutto has been one of St. Louis' premier ambassadors for overdriven, loud rock. Prior bands, such as Sexicolor and the Phonocaptors, pummeled our town with righteous riffage and raucous shows, so it's no small feat that Warm Jets USA might be Hutto's most aggressive act yet. In Chris Keith and Evan Bequette, Warm Jets has a rhythm section that can match Hutto's guitar heroics decibel for ear-splitting decibel. The power trio mines late-'80s and early '90s indie rock for its punishing sound (Dinosaur Jr. is a notable touchstone). But underneath the layers of glorious fuzz and bludgeoning drums are smartly written rock anthems that hit at a gut level. As proven by ballads like "Down on the Record," Warm Jets doesn't need all the sonic carnage to create affecting rock. Still, the power of its hellacious assault is impossible to deny. --Bob McMahon