This week, catch the return of Thor Axe along with Bit Brigade at the Luminary, or check out some other great shows in town. Choose from options including Stanley Clarke at the Pageant, Jon Mueller at Foam, Ryan Adams at Peabody Opera House and more. Read on for this week's recommendations, and stay tuned until Friday for more picks for the weekend.
Bit Brigade Monday, October 13 w/ Thor Axe @ The Luminary 8 p.m. | $10 By Joseph Hess From "The Best St. Louis Noise/Experimental Concerts: October 2014": OK, so Bit Brigade isn't ostensibly "experimental," but the concept is niche: One man sits in the center of the stage, speed-running retro games on a projector screen while a live band performs the music - all perfectly in sync. Before the advent of geek culture, gaming wasn't a hobby to wax poetic about, but Bit Brigade celebrates the music of classic Nintendo titles like Megaman and Zelda, and does so with distinct precision. Played with live drums, guitars and keyboard, Bit Brigade provides new arrangements for songs originally programmed on the Nintendo Entertainment System's sound chip.
Stanley Clarke Tuesday, October 14 w/ Bach to the Future @ The Pageant 7:30 p.m. | $25-$27 By Ryan Wasoba From this 2012 show preview: Like Charles Mingus and Scott LaFaro before him, Stanley Clarke helped bring bass to the forefront of jazz ensembles instead of hiding the instrument in the shadow of the drum kit. He is perhaps best known through his collaborations with keyboardist Chick Corea, beginning as members of fusion ensemble Return to Forever and continuing with the pair's Grammy-winning 2011 album Forever with drummer Lenny White. Clarke's big breaks came from seasoned musicians like Corea and Pharoah Sanders.
Sharon Van Etten Wednesday, October 15 w/ Tiny Ruins @ The Luminary 9 p.m. | $15/$17 By Mike Appelstein Listening to Are We There, Sharon Van Etten's fourth album, it's obvious that her songs come from a place of cold, hard experience. Indeed, it's not so surprising that the New Jersey native had to battle her own demons - in particular, her lack of self-confidence and an unsupportive ex-boyfriend - before she set upon her steady, gradual path. Building on 2012's Tramp, Are We There is full of intimate, clear-eyed songs about traumatic memories and trapped circumstances, presented to the accompaniment of hushed, near-orchestral backing. This makes for difficult listening at times, but Are We There retains an icy, translucent sheen, with moments of levity and an ultimate sense of triumph. Get there early enough to see New Zealand trio Tiny Ruins, whose spacious songs have been compared to Nick Drake and Cat Power. We hear a little Bridget St. John influence, too.
Jason Mraz Thursday, October 16 @ Peabody Opera House 8 p.m. | $22-$72 By Christian Schaeffer From this archived show review: Mraz's continued climb to the top is accompanied by a healthy dose of maturity. His songs are always upbeat, but there's a communal consciousness and a holistic spirituality just beneath the good-time vibes. Mraz made his intentions known with his first song, a slightly downtempo version of his hit, "The Remedy." His vocals carried a more soulful payload than the radio version, and the tension crescendoed with the appearance of a horn trio, which gave the song a Latin tinge to go along with the reggae-light upstrokes.
Jon Mueller Friday, October 17 w/ Okoiucho, Jeremy Kannapell @ Foam 9 p.m. | $5 By Joseph Hess You might remember Jon Mueller from Death Blues, his percussive power trio that performed in town only back in July. This time around, Mueller will play solo, which typically entails amplified drums amid layers of bellowing vocals. He tends to keep a constant pulse by improvising around a discernible beat, and that reliance on rhythm sets Mueller apart from his peers in free-form music. The result is a sound that feels accessible on a primal, human level, but expansive in the scope of texture and tone. Local duo Okoiucho is worth the price of admission alone. Brain Transplant's Chris Smentowski will join legendary bassist Darin Gray to open the show with a rare performance of strings and electronics. Jeremy Kannapell aka Ghost Ice will display his own experimental 8mm films as well.
The Jayhawks Friday, October 17 @ The Ready Room 8 p.m. | $25/$28 By Roy Kasten Twenty years ago the Jayhawks should have been celebrating its tenth anniversary as a band that, as much as any you could name, created alternative country. Instead, co-founder Mark Olson checked out, handing the reins (and his blessing) to Gary Louris, his songwriting partner and blood-brother in harmony. The Olson-less Jayhawks somehow cut three records that still measure up to its classic work and in some ways exceeded it as Louris released his power-pop talents. Olson eventually rejoined the band only to bow again for this year's reunion tour. But given how rare Jayhawks sightings have been in St. Louis, this show belongs on any Americana fan's must-see list. For this tour, the band is highlighting material from its three post-Olson albums: Sound of Lies, Smile and Rainy Day Music.
Shonen Knife Saturday, October 18 w/ DinoFight! @ The Firebird 8 p.m. | $12-$15 By Niles Baranowski From this archived write-up: Since 1981, Shonen Knife has been providing the aural equivalent of a Hello Kitty lunch box to hipster stereos everywhere. Yes, you read that year correctly. The Knife has been dishing out its brand of half-broken-English, food-obsessed power pop longer than some listeners have been alive. The all-girl Japanese power trio has been "cute" for longer than Madonna's been "sexy," outlasted their best-known patron (Kurt Cobain, who took them on the road before Nevermind broke) and probably opened the door for Japanese rock in the United States. It's hard not to imagine more adventurous artists (Cornelius, Cibo Matto) or cuter ones (Puffy AmiYumi, who seem almost like "Shonen Knife Juniors") thanking Shonen Knife for the privilege of considering themselves "big in America."
Mark Dew Saturday, October 18 @ Hideaway Restaurant & Lounge 8 p.m. | free By RFT Staff From RFT's best of St. Louis 2011: To walk into the Hideaway is to enter a place that seems frozen in time, where the dozen or so seats around the piano are packed with your grandparents' friends, decked out in chunky jewelry and tilted fedora hats. Ostensibly, they're here to listen to Mark Dew play -- he's here Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights -- but you're just as likely to hear one of those old-timers sitting around the piano trill Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl." And when Dew finally has his turn at the mic, he'll say something humble, like, "I apologize; it should have been in the key of F." No matter. Dew is the conductor of this time-traveling train, and everyone's on board. Dew, who is blind, has been the piano man here for nearly a quarter-century and jokes that the best part about working here is, well, getting paid. He marvels at the younger set trickling in and its knowledge of the Cash and Sinatra songbooks: "The more the crowd gets into it, the more I play," Dew says. And that's enough to keep him around. "I'm not quite ready to be out to pasture," he says. "Yet."
Ryan Adams Sunday, October 19 @ Peabody Opera House 8 p.m. | $35-$45 By Christian Schaeffer The lead-up to Ryan Adams' latest, self-titled release was longer than expected, especially for a guy known to push out two or three albums a year. Since 2011's Ashes & Fire, Adams recorded (and eventually scrapped) an LP with legendary producer Glyn Johns, began playing with a backing band once more, and dug in his heels as producer and studio owner at his PAX AM facility in LA. Working with Heartbreaker Benmont Tench, power-pop lifer Mike Viola and fellow LA denizen Jenny Lewis, Adams burrowed out from his acoustic enclave of the past few years and tapped once again into rangy rock & roll. Adams continues to use his PAX-AM singles series to release his more outré jams, including this month's four-song Vampires.
Note: Though we wish we could, we can't feature every great show happening in town in just one post. Look for plenty more recommendations this Friday in our weekend shows post, peruse the St. Louis concert calendar for more ideas and let everyone know what else you're looking forward to seeing this week in the comments below. To be considered for coverage in RFT Music, submit show info online or drop us a line anytime.
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