St. Louis can be a provincial place, prone to tunnel vision, aesthetic bigotry and blind devotion to the like-minded. Most who dig jazz wouldn't be caught dead at a hip-hop show; those who are down with the blues have no use for punk rock; people into insurgent country have no interest in house music. That's the way that it is, and the main result of such inbreeding is often bland, born-with-a-tail ignorance; many musical outfits in these here parts suffer artistically for lack of interest in expansion.
Then there are the chosen few who seek to bridge the gaps between the various musics, who realize that nothing has more potential than causing a ruckus, stirring shit up, tossing a bunch of disparate elements onto a stage just because. These are the people who deserve the golden cookie, because they set the stage for innovation and education among musicians and their respective aesthetics.
In the last two years, no one has done more to encourage musical cross-pollination than the Third Lip Cabaret, a production company consisting of Michael Marwit and Eric Hall, whose specialty is throwing "happenings" at clubs around town (they kicked things off at Cicero's, then moved to their current home, the Galaxy). In the past, they've juggled noise music and no wave, drum & bass and spoken-word, soft electronica and Tory Z. Starbuck (who has created his own genre), curious and lighthearted performance pieces and eardrum-melting static. No, they've yet to go whole-hog and couple Henry Townsend with DJ Cougar Shuttle, but with any luck that's in the cards.
They're hitting a grand slam this Saturday night, July 22, at the Galaxy: On one stage over the course of the evening will be the transcendent sitar/bazantar player Mark Deutsch, saxophonist Dave Stone, poet Shirley LeFlore, electronic composer/Third Lip co-captain Eric Hall, jungle king DJ Ses, performance artist/other Third Lip co-captain Michael Marwit and the suburban turntable gymnastics of the Tear-the-Country-Club-Up-Thug-DJs, featuring Clarence Van Landinghamm III and Chester C. Whittaker, Esq.
But this sort of variety is worthless without inspiration and talent, and this Third Lip installment has such potential because this lineup represents some St. Louis ringers, the cream of the crop, and the idea that they'll be performing on the same stage -- individually, at first, as they showcase their own music, then in the form of a collected improvisation as the finale -- is pretty damn exciting.
Deutsch is a classically trained double-bass player and sitar aficionado, but many know him as the inventor of the curiously beautiful bazantar (RFT, Nov. 17, 1999), a combination double bass and sitar that, when bowed, yields a ghostly, ominous drone of overtones. Deutsch seldom breaks out the bazantar in a club setting, because the sound is so difficult to mix, but he'll be doing so for this performance. LeFlore, who will be performing with Deutsch, is a highly respected poet who got her start as part of the revolutionary St. Louis free-jazz collective the Black Artists Group (which also featured jazz luminaries Hamiet Bluiett, Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, Floyd LeFlore and J.D. Parran, among others). Stone is one of the most inspired and talented sax players in the city. He can seamlessly jump from beautiful post-bop to bird-chirp sounds, and his sense of wide-eyed adventure leads him in wonderfully unpredictable directions. For this performance, Stone will be funneling his saxophone through an amplifier and, apparently, some effects pedals.
DJ Ses has been with the Third Lip since its early gatherings and is part of the wonderful 84 Glyde crew that spins at the Upstairs Lounge on alternating Saturdays. Hall makes noises with Dubtronics, one of the city's preeminent reggae and dub collectives; the music he creates on his own is gentle, textured electronic music.
Tear-the-Country-Club-Up-Thug-DJs is a tag-team DJ duo of curious origins. According to their biography, Clarence Van Landinghamm III and Chester C. Whittaker, Esq., were late-'40s tennis stars, popular with the ladies. After a particularly swank cocktail party, they hooked up with a beautiful gypsy fortuneteller for a little ménage-à-trois action, and she fell in love with them. Needless to say, they broke her heart. Upset and angry, she concocted a spell that trapped them inside the wrought-iron skins of lawn jockeys for 50 years. Recently, local DJs Mike 2600 and Device, while scouring thrift stores for records, accidently bumped into the statuettes, knocking them over and releasing the spirits of Whittaker III and Landinghamm, who jumped into the DJs' skins and possessed them. (As of press time, we at "Radar Station" were unable to confirm the truth of this story.)
Finally, Marwit will perform his piece titled "I'm Having Your Cake and Eating It Too." He'll also be planting the seeds of a new movement, titled "Say 'Hi.'"
The Third Lip deserves a wildly enthusiastic round of applause for this lineup, and we encourage all to support this sort of cross-pollination because it opens so many doors between camps and philosophies. That's Saturday, July 22, at the Galaxy.