While Nelly held a press conference at the Delmar Streetside last week (a mere two hours behind schedule!), the real drama was unfolding outside, where rival hip-hop stations 100.3 The Beat and Q95.5 waged a war of decibels over the sweaty pink and brown bodies of hundreds of hapless teenage Nelly fans. The patient little darlings had been waiting for hours; one girl at the front of the line told Radar Station she'd been holding her place since 9 a.m. -- even though Nelly wasn't even scheduled to start signing autographs until three in the afternoon -- and the unfortunate slugabeds who'd waited till eleven o'clock to stake their claims were all the way toward the back of the Streetside parking lot.
That Q95.5 and The Beat are at war -- head-to-head combatants in the same insanely competitive urban market -- is well known. For the most part, this fierce feud has been nothing but good news for listeners; the jocks and programmers may have ulcers, but the result for each station is a much better, more creative product, one that inspired an RFT "Best of St. Louis" blurb last year ["Best Glimmer in the Darkness: The Beat and Q95.5 Duke It Out," September 26, 2001]. Unlike all the other commercial stations in the area, where the lack of competition has fostered bland, common-denominator crap, The Beat and Q95.5 have to be unpredictable, idiosyncratic, personality-driven -- otherwise, their listeners are just gonna turn the dial. Their formats are so similar that the two stations can't afford to crank out the same by-the-numbers, cost-conscious, corporate-minded programming that makes the nation's airwaves so stultifying.
This particular battle, however, didn't have such pleasant consequences -- not for the multitudes of ardent cuddle-thugsters forced to endure the deafening jibes and boasts of the rival jocks and street teams. They were a captive audience, poor dears, and it's a testament to their self-control that the marathon screamfest didn't provoke a riot. Amid piercing squeals of feedback, reps from each station taunted one another: "We're the official Nellyville station," the Q soldiers chanted incessantly. "We were here first," The Beat forces blared back. Area businesses complained that all the din was running off their customers, hundreds of delicate young eardrums were tortured in the sacred name of Arbitron, and for what? Hollering at children isn't a good way to gain their loyalty.
Two benefits this week, both on the East Side, promise excellent entertainment value for very good causes.
On July 14, at least nine acts -- including Glory for Champions, the Trip Daddys and the Rosco Villa Band -- will perform at the Stagger Inn ... Again, in Edwardsville, Illinois. All proceeds benefit Caleb Fulford, the infant son of Stephanie Fulford, who was murdered last month. The doors open at noon, and the music begins at 3 p.m. For more information on this event -- and on how to make a donation if you can't attend -- e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
On July 13, the third annual Mascoutah Music Festival takes place from noon-8 p.m. at the Scheve Park depot in Mascoutah, Illinois. Eight bands are scheduled to perform, from the free-jazz ass-kicking cerebrations of the Dave Stone Trio to the shiny/happy pop-punk of Children's Audio, from the noisy laptop antics of Brain Transplant to the cacophonous-but-catchy metallic sludge of Sullen. The organizers ask for a donation of $5 or five CDs; all proceeds go toward the purchase of a music collection for the Mascoutah Public Library. For more information, visit mascoutahfest.deviant.org.
Too many St. Louis bands bitch about how lame the scene is, how hard it is to get the support they so richly deserve -- but is it any wonder they're stuck in local-band limbo when they play the same handful of venues over and over? By performing at home too often, all they're doing is competing against each other and against themselves. Ultimately their fans begin to take them for granted, and fewer people show up for their gigs.
That's why we've got to salute Not Waving but Drowning, a hard-rocking, hardworking quartet of guys who bust their asses the right way and have the fanbase to prove it. They're smart enough not to play their hometown every weekend, which makes each local gig seem like an occasion. Having kicked off their full U.S. tour with a well-attended show at the Hi-Pointe last weekend, the ferocious foursome is on the road again, with plans to hit some 40 cities in as many days.