Finally, the Riverfront Times Music Showcase is here! Time for bands to pop up like spring flowers up and down Delmar, time for the Loop to sizzle on a Sunday, time for the music editor to sigh with relief and cut back to a pack a day. Or not: The awards night is still to come. But the showcase is an end unto itself. While you can still vote for your favorites up until the end of the Sunday showcase, the real winners that night will be the music fans who attend (cue "We Are the Champions"). Please do vote, though: With one of the most varied group of contenders in years, the 2005 slate promises some surprises. Especially if you write me in for best hip-hop.
Elsewhere in this paper you can find a complete guide to the showcase, but here are some highlights among the highlights. The Showcase is a choose-your-own-adventure book waiting to happen, and everyone's trip won't be the same. But if you get lost, feel free to take some hints.
Some of my favorite things about the showcase are the fun little juxtapositions that take place at the outdoor stages. Where else but at the Market at Loop stage will you be able to see the mellow reggae of Dubtronix, the punky energy of the Pubes and the Choir, plus the big sounds of the Soulard Blues Band and Murder City Players -- in one sitting?
For one of the odd pairings on the Main Stage near Vintage Vinyl, I've written a short play:
(A man in a black suit and shades enters stage left, looking down at a bust of Aretha Franklin. A woman in an eighteenth-century serving-wench dress studying a cutlass enters stage right. They collide and fall in a heap. )
Woman: Hey, you got your R&B diva on my pirate rock!
Man: No, you got your pirate rock on my R&B diva!
Woman: [cocks her head] Who cares? This sounds great!
Which is the long way of saying that putting Kim Massie & the Solid Senders and the Whole Sick Crew on the same stage is a stroke of mini-genius. Not to mention the hip-hop to funk to jam band rainbow that makes up Lojic, Sac Lunch, CORE Project and Madahoochi. (Confidential to Kim Massie: Please, please do your cover of "Whole Lotta Love.")
As night falls and the music heads indoors, your choices multiply. Some acts to catch:
The Duck Room gets off to a booming start at 6:30 with the maniacal metal of Harkonin. At last year's showcase, their act featured a ten-year-old with a mohawk. Which is always nice. Femme Fatality is making its showcase debut at Cicero's at 7: The dance-punk meets electro meets irony sound needs to be heard to be believed. Of course, at 7 you also have the slow, layered indie rock of Berry at the Delmar Lounge and the hip-hop powerhouse of the All-Stars. Nobody said these choices would be easy.
But whether you hunger for the house beats of Kid Delicious and Mike Gow (at Pin-Up Bowl), blues riffs from Bennie Smith & the Urban Blues Express and the Bottoms Up Blues Gang (at 609) or the poppy tones of the Mega Hurts and Bunnygrunt (the Halo Bar), fight the urge to camp out. Treat yourself to something new: the (literal) crunk giant Ruka Puff (in the Elvis Room at 9), the gentle beats of the Urban Jazz Naturals (8 at Cicero's) or the sonic beatdown of Corbeta Corbata (11:30 at the Delmar Lounge). Make your own chocolate-and-peanut-butter match: perhaps from jammy Madahoochi (Cicero's at 9) to the crunchy Trip Daddys (the Duck Room at 11). Find some new tastes that taste great together.
But however you do it, show up. As someone who monitors many strands of the local scene, I see it as a spider web: many threads that seldom cross. Some people see that and think it means the scene is disconnected. But there are centers where the threads come together, and the showcase is one of them. Not to belabor the metaphor, but come be a fly, come get caught. And then the spider of local music love will come and painlessly drain your fluids of cynicism away and you'll die. OK, I took it too far. Come check out the showcase, okay? It'll only cost ya $5.
Besides, what were you planning to do Sunday night? Deadwood is over.