by Joseph Hess
The Firebird celebrates its 6th anniversary as a venue with a stellar pair of shows -- Friday night sports pop-infused indie rock while Saturday brings the best in local metal (including a rare appearance by So Many Dynamos offshoot Thor Axe). The week kicks off strong with two hip-hop shows at the Demo while singer-songwriters like Christopher the Conquered and Robyn Hitchcock dominate the latter part of the week. Fans of shoegaze and punk rock will find a lot to love in Military Police, the new project from St. Louis ex-pat Mark Plant (formerly of Times Beach).
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16
The Palmer Squares Monday, February 16 The Demo 8:30 p.m. | $10 By Tara Mahadevan From the RFT Music archives: Sometimes white boys can't rap, but the Palmer Squares deliver, with satirical raps and a silly demeanor reminiscent of the Beastie Boys or Macklemore. Acumental and Terminal Knowledge's lively, spirited delivery will be sure to get your head bobbing as they tell you that your mixtape sucks and about how they yakked on a Rosario Dawson look-alike's shoes.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17
Ciej w/ Lst Mbrs, PhiLL Love, Bentley Hendrixx, DJ SayWord Tuesday, February 17 The Demo 9 p.m. | $5 By Tara Mahadevan This year has already been deemed a success for Ciej and his MME crew, though 2014 was pretty great for them too. Ciej and his cohort Rell hosted the second installation of Vibes at the Grand Arts Center, a night full of art and music where MME performed, as well as a slew of other rappers including Chicago's Alex Wiley. As a soloist, Ciej has released a fair amount of fire music, including the stellar "12 Women," which was included in our list of the 10 best St. Louis music videos of 2014.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18
Christopher the Conquered w/ Googolplexia, Patrick Eagan Wednesday, February 18 Foam Coffee & Beer 8 p.m. | free By Jaime Lees As Christopher the Conquered, Chris Ford has a remarkable ability to silence any room as soon as he sings the first word. Ford's breathy and passionate vocal delivery make comparisons to Jeff Buckley unavoidable but not entirely accurate. Sure, Ford is young and handsome and sings hauntingly beautiful piano songs, but he eschews all of Buckley's wispy tragic-poet-posing and replaces it with strong, soulful confidence. Even in his lyrics, Ford's personal despair usually cycles into tentative, but sturdy, optimism. Christopher the Conquered will shoot you right in the heart, and then you'll pull yourself up off of the floor and thank him for his good aim.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19
Robyn Hitchcock w/ Emma Swift Thursday, February 19 Blueberry Hill 9 p.m. | $20/$22.50 By Roy Kasten On his latest studio release, The Man Upstairs, Robyn Hitchcock -- that artful old surrealist dodger -- shows he's still got it: "True love is wasted on you/Skeletons lounge in the zoo/Look at you, your lips have come apart/You need somebody to break your heart." Nothing makes sense and everything makes sense, especially affairs of the heart. For all his deliciously inscrutable wit, mercurial approach to acoustic arrangements (his punk days in the influential band the Soft Boys are long behind him) and weird covers, it's emotional mystery that Hitchcock is really after. Opener Emma Swift is an Australian ex-pat songwriter, singer and former radio host based in Nashville, where she's been digging deeper into the roots of the music she's long championed.
Follow through for more shows this weekend. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Martin Sexton Friday, February 20 Old Rock House 8 p.m. | $25/$28 By Roy Kasten From the RFT Music archives: Sugarcoated, Martin Sexton's seventh studio album, marks the Boston-based singer's transformation from blue-eyed-soul-searching troubadour to full-blown star of the smooth R&B croon and groove scene. John Mayer says he's a fan; John Mayer also knows a threat to the adult contemporary throne when he hears one. Sexton has come by success slowly, principally on the power of his voice, one of the most remarkable instruments in American popular music. Fulsome as Van Morrison, sexy as Prince and as swinging as Billy Eckstine, Sexton doesn't need great material -- and Sugarcoated offers none. But with such vocal chops and some subtle guitar flash to boot, Sexton could sing the ingredients to a box of Milk Duds and make Simon Cowell cream.
Search Parties w/ The Sun and the Sea, Hidden Lakes, The Feed Day 1 of the Firebird's Six-Year Anniversary Friday, February 20 The Firebird 9 p.m. | $8 By Blair Stiles Elliott Pearson and Alex Petrone first landed on the scene in 2010 with their band Great Outdoors. That Best New Band nominee shed its leaves and left Pearson and Petrone to rake up the mess, bagging up what they could salvage to form Search Parties. Pearson rendered his wilted emotions unto Search Parties, and the music was weighed out on a grander scale. Search Parties' aural heft belies its indie-rock tag line. Pearson calls out with an arid vocal tone which can turn perceptively humid in the blink of a verse. Dylan Dougherty inputs staccato key arrangements that strike through the veil of Pearson's elastic vocal range. Danny Newgent's guitar tones manifest heady textures and coat the band in a drowsy haze of reverb. Petrone once again takes to a drumkit to coordinate fastidious rhythmic arrangements that keep pace with Chris Garner's bass and the band's live violinist, Gina Euygenhuysen. The final product is familiar and fresh at once, foreshadowing good things for the young group.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21
New Music Circle presents: Okkyung Lee w/ Lotte Anker Saturday, February 21 Joe's Cafe 7:30 p.m. | $10-$20 Okkyung Lee screams schizophrenic sound through strings, skin and bow. Her approach to cello comes informed by modern noise, but also by traditional techniques she learned growing up Korea. The style resonates through a naked minimalism that, for all her use of space, feels dense and multi-layered. Currently a native of New York, Lee received a Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant in 2010 and a composer commission from New York State Council on the Arts in 2007. Renowned Danish saxophonist Lotte Anker joins Lee on this night for both solo and collaborative works.
Thor Axe w/ The Gorge, Hell Night, Valley Day 2 of the Firebird's Six-Year Anniversary Saturday, February 21 The Firebird 9 p.m. | $8 By Christian Schaeffer Six years ago, as midtown club the Bluebird was re-christening itself as the Firebird, an instru-metal side project known as Thor Axe helped break in the new-ish venue. The band, comprised in part by founding So Many Dynamos members Ryan Wasoba, Norm Kunstel and Aaron Stovall, did with riff-tastic guitars what SMD did with Casiotones. The group had been long dormant until a show this past fall, so this week's appearance in celebration of the Firebird's sixth birthday party hopefully hints at more regular appearances. This iteration of Thor Axe features Ryan Thompson and Phil Ring, who will also be performing in the similarly styled prog-metal quartet the Gorge. Andy White (Blind Eyes, Shame Club, Tilts) will also perform with his latest act of guitar domination, Hell Night.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Military Police w/ Trauma Harness, Human Traffic, Black James Sunday, February 22 Melt 9 p.m. | $7 By Jimmy Eberle Raw Pop is coming back to our fair city and it couldn't be a moment too soon. STL native/Chicago traitor Mark Plant is bringing his own genre back to the place of its birth. As prone as one might be to turn a cold shoulder to another Cubs worshiper, don't -- Military Police is the perfect thing to rise out of the ashes of the short-lived kings of Raw Pop, Times Beach. Anyone who's got a tinging rhythm in their spine should come out on a cold, unforgiving Sunday night to dance awkwardly with a room full of old pals yelling badly timed one-liners at one another. Who knows, you could become one of those old pals. Plus, Trauma Harness will have just gotten back from its first of two tours this year. They deserve your merch money.
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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