If Dudes Weekend was any indication, St. Louis is the epicenter for pop punk in the Midwest. Better Days hopes to keep the scene at fever pitch this Friday with launch of its latest album Nope, released by Encapsulated Records. The homegrown Slumfest Hip-Hop Awards show goes down Saturday night at 2720 Cherokee with live performances by local acts throughout the ceremony. After a successful program in 2014, Nathan Cook's Bruxism series returns to showcase experimental artists alongside the release of handmade zines and cassette tapes. For those looking for more low-key affairs, check out the Stone Sugar Shakedown's Monday night jam or DJ Mahf on the 1s and 2s at Pin-Up Bowl.
MONDAY, JANUARY 26
The Stone Sugar Shakedown Monday, January 26 Cicero's 8:30 p.m. | $6 From Best Jam Band St. Louis 2012: When the average citizen thinks of jam bands, names like Phish and Widespread Panic come to mind. But Led Zeppelin jammed too, and Stone Sugar Shakedown's blues-steeped explorations tend to resemble the latter. The band sounds and looks transplanted from the 1970s, with hints of the Blues Brothers and Funkadelic, and it doesn't hurt that singer Tracy Gladden can alternately channel Grace Slick and Roberta Flack. It is no surprise that Stone Sugar Shakedown is incredibly active with appearances at clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest. The band is a crowd pleaser; it is sometimes funky, sometimes psychedelic, but it always infuses its tunes with an energy that only true believers in the power of rock can embody.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 27
DJ Mahf Tuesday, January 29 Pin-Up Bowl 10 p.m. | free By Blair Stiles From the 2013 RFT Music awards: DJ Mahf works from some place in his brain that pumps out enough enthusiasm to make his work look easy. Performing with a chilled zeal, the Indyground DJ interplays dense minutes of thumping samples with crackling movie clips and fine-tuned, one-and-two-handed scratches. He has already banged around Kansas City's spirited Middle of the Map Festival with labelmate Brett Gretzky, crossed the northern American border and cut and pasted for Red Bull's Thre3style competition this year. Whether live or replayed through Indyground's streaming footage, Mahf exudes the enjoyment he feels: In tempo he bobs at the waist, moving faster in the moments when he is inundated with the floor's energy, always looking pleased. It is Mahf's obvious enjoyment of his craft that puts his sets so squarely in the spotlight.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28
The 442's Wednesday, January 28 World Chess Hall of Fame 7 p.m. | $10 By Joseph Hess This mostly string quartet blends the sharp textural approach of modern classical music with the upbeat swing of jazz. The 442's were formed in 2012 by multi-instrumentalist Adam Maness who, when not on guitar, takes to the glockenspiel, accordion and melodica. In keeping with its penchant for playing varied places like Powell Symphony Hall and the Tavern of Fine Arts alike, Maness and company return to the World Chess Hall of Fame for an extended set of original compositions.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 29
Cold War Kids w/ Elliott Moss Thursday, January 29 The Ready Room 8 p.m. | $22 By Christian Schaeffer After Spoon made its case for adventurous, soulful rock music produced with the piano mixed as loud as the guitars, a few bands took that particular ball and ran with it. The Missourians in White Rabbits haven't been heard from in some time, but Cold War Kids has been busy of late, releasing Hold My Home last fall and touring behind the new set of songs. The lineup has shifted slightly, with Modest Mouse and Shins drummer Joe Plummer taking over the drum stool, but the band's sound is still focused on Nathan Willett's heat-seeking vocals. Electronic musician Elliott Moss will open the show with synthscapes from his debut Highspeeds.
Read on for more shows happening in and around St. Louis this weekend. FRIDAY, JANUARY 30
Better Days Release Show w/ The Humanoids, Chaos Order, Freak Out Friday, January 30 Melt 8 p.m. | $5 From Best Punk Band St. Louis 2012: You were just about to give up on the hardcore-punk scene in St. Louis. You had grown tired of the perceived elitism, the tough-guy posturing, the cramped basement venues and dive bars. As far as you were concerned, the diamonds had finally been overtaken by the rough, and you were ready to move on. Then you heard Better Days, and in an instant you were swept back to a simpler time, as if the name itself had transportive properties, as if that name was prophetically speaking directly to you, reminding you of all the reasons you fell in love with punk rock in the first place. You dusted off your old Gorilla Biscuits and Kid Dynamite records and got reacquainted and reawakened. Now all you can think about is faded stickers on skateboards, epic stage dives from speaker stacks and nights spent out raising hell with your friends. You should probably thank Better Days at its next show, where you will be standing front and center, grinning ear-to-ear and singing along to every word.
Bruxism 7 w/ Mister Ben, Travis Bursik, Ajay Khanna Friday, January 30 Foam Coffee & Beer 9 p.m. | $5 By Joseph Hess In 2014, Nathan Cook's concert series Bruxism brought bi-monthly oddities with free gifts at the door including handmade zines and special cassette releases. A collaboration of the now-defunct Apop Records and Cook's label Close/Far, these events emphasize a subtle approach to subversive sound -- quiet noise, if you will. Bruxism 7 brings Travis Bursik, who crafts slow-burning songs for the patient ear. Fans of his former band Ou Où should be familiar with Bursik's approach to meditative drone, but expect a darker, synth-driven ambiance. For contrast, Mister Ben brings a frenetic guitar mess through the careful clawing of his fretboard. As one-half of long-time noise act Brain Transplant, Ajay Khanna crafts sound by live playing his own audio programs, but on this night he delivers a focused solo act.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 31
2015 Slumfest Hip-Hop Awards Show Saturday, January 31 2720 Cherokee Performing Arts Center 8 p.m. | $10 By Tara Mahadevan St. Louis' annual hip-hop awards is back with its latest round of artists, DJs, Bboys. Bgirls and producers from the past year. As per usual, the show will also feature live performances from local musicians and artists between award nominations. Last year's show was at Plush (R.I.P.) -- but this year's Slumfest is being held at the incomparable 2720 Cherokee.
DinoFight! w/ Pat Sajak Assassins, Dibiase Saturday, January 31 Schlafly Tap Room 9 p.m. | free By Melinda Cooper Seeing Cory Perkins pull off Claypool-esque bass licks while holding down perfectly punk lead vocals is reason enough to add DinoFight! to your St. Louis "bands-to-watch" list. With her brother Cody on drums, this band has a rhythm section locked down so tight you'd be hard-pressed to find a worthy rival. Lindsey Cranmer's overdriven tube tone combines with wicked lead chops to round the band out nicely, creating a cartoon-zombie-math-punk sound. DinoFight! will make you want to bounce around like an idiot and kick stuff, but in a good way. Pat Sajak Assassins' gore-comic circus sounds and Dibiase's Jurassic thunder-rock complete the night and appropriately kill this bill.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1
The Sal Show w/ The Good Earth, Tit for Tat, Ish Sunday, February 1 CBGB 9 p.m. | free By Joseph Hess As part of Chicago's Animal City, Sal bounced from drums to guitar slinging visceral pop tunes. By going solo, he maintains the same jangly tone and does so with the help of live video. Sal interacts with an on-screen clone of himself in such a casual way that it tricks the brain into accepting his warped reality. At the heart of his stage antics sit catchy little melodies -- the kind that get annoying stuck in your head. The songs pass by before wearing out their welcome and, if not for Sal's awesome stage banter, you might ask for more.
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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