The RFT Music Awards showcase went down two Sundays ago, before the votes had been tallied and the winners fêted. We're pleased to report that this installment was a glorious success: record attendance, career-making performances and perfect June weather. We've said it before, and we'll say it again, although it sounds hopelessly cornball and could seriously damage the elitist-bitch rep we've cultivated so painstakingly over the past two years: We're proud of the RFT Music Awards, and we love having a part in making it happen. Once a year, thanks to the inestimable Lisa Andris, who books all the bands, Delmar is crowded with music fans of all persuasions; disparate scenes intermingle and converge; talented locals get the chance to play for people who might never hear them otherwise. What do you know? Celebrating local talent is even more fun than making band-moms cry, mocking grandiose rappers, slighting cover bands and flinging crappy CD-Rs from our third-floor window.
By now the showcase seems a distant blur. Somehow, in eleven hours, we caught portions of 20 different acts among the 51 that were scheduled. Herewith, we reconstruct our haphazard itinerary, faithfully transcribed from the Schlafly-stained-napkin original.
2 to 7 p.m.: Arrived at the Tanqueray Outdoor Stage a few minutes into the Misses' set. Founding members Misses Mmm, Misses Sikki Nixx and Misses Robinskin are joined by two brand-new guitarists -- in fact, the lineup is playing in public for the first time, after only a couple of weeks of practice. If they're nervous (an understandable reaction under the circumstances), it's impossible to tell. After some not-exactly-PG-13 stage banter, the band roars through such insta-classics as "Mullet Man," a homage both to Heart and to Sikki Nixx's Jefferson County hoosier-newlywed neighbor, and hops off the stage to thunderous applause. Next door, at Vintage Vinyl, DJ Needles is revving up a growing throng of hip-hop fans and random customers, juggling beats, scratching wax and splicing old-school rap with everything from Blondie prototechno to Martin Denny-style exotica.
Back at the outdoor stage, In Media Res lived up to RFT contributor Matt Harnish's hype and spontaneously generated dozens of underage fans, who, flying in the face of decades of punk-rock dogma, shook their adorable little asses just like it was 1982 all over again. We hesitate to rave about In Media Res too enthusiastically -- at least where punk rock is concerned, the more Radar Station loves it, the less the general public seems to care -- but it's a cruel world indeed if these guys languish in obscurity while dumbsock Blink-182 clones multiply unchecked. With its prickly Caucasoid funk, wiry riffs and jangular hookage, the young quartet resurrects such art-punk greats as Gang of Four and Fugazi without slavishly imitating them; the result is a pure endorphin rush. DJ Alexis, who'd stepped up to the turntables at Vintage, knows a thing or two about happy hormones, too: Her sinuous mix of deep house, punctuated by the occasional fillip of finger-cymbal, had people dancing in the aisles. Meanwhile, fresh (or, more likely, not so fresh) from a Twangfest gig the previous night, Nadine showed why they're going to be St. Louis' next hotshot indie breakout band. As the crowd cheered and pumped their fists in the air, lead singer and guitarist Adam Reichmann finally announced what scenesters have been whispering about for months: Nadine just signed to the prestigious national indie Trampoline, which is releasing the quintet's long-delayed Strange Seasons in September. (By the way, the entire Radar Station staff would like to thank Reichmann for spilling the beans first -- inveterate blabbermouths all, we weren't sure if we could keep our traps shut much longer.)
Post-Nadine, we caught the end of Flex Boogie's set back at Vintage Vinyl -- we missed most of it, alas, but vowed to get another fix of his torrid two-step and techno very soon at the Atomic Cowboy, where he's a resident DJ. Next, Agile-1 lived up to her name, deftly cutting and scratching neo-soul, classic rap and underground hip-hop tracks with precision and passion. We lingered for a few minutes while DJ Charlie Chan Soprano displayed his prodigious party-starting skills, but we managed to tear ourselves away in time to catch most of Nite Owl's set down the street. Backed by his band, Level Ground, Nite Owl endured a few technical problems but handled these setbacks with humor and aplomb, egging the crowd on to new heights of silliness. In a scene that's often too self-important for its own good, Nite Owl's brazen desire to entertain seems positively inspired.
Next week we conclude our showcase coverage.