A rainy day in Chicago makes the busy city streets nearly unnavigable, but inclement weather didn't stop DJs Gary Mac (né Gary McCormack) and Steve-O from attempting to witness the special street dedication ceremony happening on August 25, 2004. This wasn't a run-of-the-mill dedication -- the city and Mayor Daley were naming a day and a stretch of Jefferson Street after Frankie Knuckles, the DJ veteran and the "godfather of house" (obviously, no small achievement and one quite deserving of such an honor).
Unfortunately, Steve and Gary never found that dedication ceremony in Chicago, and what's even more unfortunate is that when native St. Louisan Gary Mac celebrated his 30-year DJ anniversary last November (a pretty amazing accomplishment, too), this feat went completely unnoticed by the City of St. Louis and mostly unnoticed by St. Louis at large. That's a shame, because Gary's been spinning for so long, he remembers when the Vault was Jimmy's Cabaret and when west and south counties had a bunch of clubs (imagine that). Gary's been playing at the Oz since back before the club had that glass cage around the DJ booth, back when 1227 Washington used to be Evolution (and not the defunct Galaxy). In his sets through the years, he's played everything from Top 40 radio and rock music (including Aerosmith!) to "deep house right now, the jazzy, funky, soulful, sexy [music is] what's touching me," Gary says.
So sure, there was a celebratory shindig at the Oz back in December, but the RFT didn't think that was nearly enough congratulations for such a storied musical career. So instead of changing Big Mac's stretch of I-70 to "Gary Mac Highway," the RFT is hosting a mini-commemoration for the celebrated DJ in our pages.
Relatively recent Chicagoan and DJ Marc Buxton -- who's also a former St. Louisan and self-described "record whore" -- has known Gary for more than two decades. Despite self-censoring any "incriminating" stories, Buxton says that Gary worked hard on his hair in the '80s -- so hard, in fact, that he had to hang upside down to achieve his multicolored, gravity-defying hairstyles. But hair sculpture aside, Buxton says, "Gary's most amazing attributes are his perseverance and his positive energy."
Now on to local spinstress and winner of the RFT's own DJ-to-WMC competition: Amy Unland (better known as Kid Delicious). She's a newbie on the scene compared to Gary and Buxton, so she really looks up to the "G-Macaroni," as she calls him. She gushes, "He, to me, is more than just a DJ, because he's an entertainer and he always has really good crowd interaction" (which sometimes includes holding his slip mats up as Mickey Mouse ears. Awesome!).
And last but not least, Steve-O has stories aplenty about his longtime friend Gary, a couple of which involve multiple injuries -- even still, Steve can't tell those stories without laughing hysterically. But in all seriousness Steve says that Gary is irreplaceable and that sadly, a lot of cities and DJ communities don't have someone like him around: "We're fortunate to have that sort of education and knowledge and background."
And it's not just Gary Mac's friends who think he's a great guy and DJ: He's in the top 600 of more than 50,000 DJs on www.thedjlist.com, an obviously enormous directory of DJs that allows fans to vote for their favorites. But would you expect any less from someone who's played at 35 local clubs in his tenure? From Gualdoni's (his very first club) to Miso on Meramec, Gary says it's been a wonderful career, and he feels lucky to be able to do something he loves so much. He says, "So I can still hear, and I still like it, so I'm going to still do it." Good enough.
Hear Gary Mac -- the man, the legend, avid hand-sanitizer and Heat Miser look-alike (at least according to DJ Scott McMurray) -- every week at Miso on Meramec on Thursday, Rue 13 early on Friday, the Oz VIP room later on Friday (and also on Saturday and Sunday), and almost everywhere else, too. Lucky for him, he's used to staying up late now. He says, "I get a second wind, you know, and the music keeps you going." And it'll probably keep Gary Mac going for many more years to come. -- Alison Sieloff
Music of the Spheres
Lest our minds be completely ruled by college basketball this weekend, we turn our attention to more important matters: Huey, Kelly and Nelly.
Show me the man whose life was not changed by Huey Lewis' "The Power of Love," and I'll show you someone with an underdeveloped appreciation for the Back to the Future soundtrack. Bob Costas snagged Lewis & Co. to headline his annual charity benefit this Sunday at the Fox Theatre. Thanks to this booking coup, we have the pleasure of reflecting on a decade of Huey hits, beginning with the chorus from "If This Is It":
"If this is it, please let me know/If this ain't love, you'd better let me know/If this is it, I want to know/If this ain't love baby, just say so."
Rhyming "know" with "know" is risky, but it just works doesn't it? Plus, there's the added "oooo-ah" background vocals after every "if this is it." Obviously Huey Lewis would have been nothing without the News. Oooo-ah.
We do know that Huey Lewis and the News are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Trends come and go, but Huey remains.
Speaking of trends, Kelly Clarkson headlines Dasani Fest (co-sponsored by the RFT) at Gateway One Plaza on Sunday, along with Joss Stone and Gavin DeGraw. They will be joined in smaller font by Better Than Ezra and Michael Tolcher. For those cave-dwellers among us, Clarkson is the original American Idol. If you haven't heard her latest single, "Breakaway," just turn on the radio and wait two minutes. The chorus goes a little something like this:
"I'll spread my wings/And I'll learn how to fly/I'll do what it takes/Till I touch the sky/And I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change/And break away."
We think the part about touching the sky is a metaphor. But you never can tell with those American Idols because of all the idolatry they inspire. Listening to Kelly Clarkson really is like touching the sky. Or fondling the wispy tendrils of pop culture paganism. Either way, we love you, Kelly. Kelly forever! Careful though. That young British soul singer Joss Stone may not have finished high school, but she has some mighty powerful pipes.
Michael Tolcher rounds out the fest thanks to his unbelievably annoying hit single, "Mission Responsible." If you hear this song once, it will be stuck in your head for three days. You've been warned. He has a set of rabid fans who call themselves the Tolchettes. You've been warned twice.
"Mission Responsible" flows along the Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson vein of songwriting, which means it has lots of lyrics and repetitive chord changes. The chorus goes a little something like this:
"Well, there's people out there/But it's people we are/We're just faces from different places/Drinkin' juice from Mason jars/I'm on a mission responsible/Say your goodbyes."
Every time the chorus repeats, two of the lines change. By the end of the song, we've moved from juice and Mason jars to smoking dope and rocking out on guitars.
Quite a leap, but Michael probably knows what he's doing. If he's unsure, he can always skip over to the Savvis Center, where Nelly and the St. Lunatics will be making a hometown appearance. Since you have all of Nelly's lyrics memorized, we'll leave you with these parting thoughts courtesy of "Country Grammar":
"Mmmmm, you can find me in St. Louis rollin' on dubs/Smokin' on dubs in clubs, blowin' up like Cocoa Puffs."
Sounds like Nelly and Michael Tolcher have more in common than they thought. Now if only they could hook up Huey and Kelly -- then we could really talk about the power of love. -- Jess Minnen