Ah, spring, when the whole world's atwitter, Gaea is getting gussied up and tipping us a saucy wink and a young music writer's fancy turns to the South by Southwest music festival. The Austin-based fest, for those not in the know, is one of the world's largest music-industry festivals, with more than 1,000 acts playing for drunken PR reps, media folks and big-hatted Texans. It's quite the party, starting today and stretching into the wee hours of Saturday night. Unless you're like me and have perfected cloning yourself Michael-Keaton-in-Multiplicity-style, SXSW is all about tough choices: Do I go see the American Analog Set or the Wrens? David Cross or the Fiery Furnaces? The Decemberists or Dizzee Rascal or the Delgados?
Cry me a river, right?
But, as if the choices weren't hard enough, several bands representing the Lou will be down at SXSW. Just in case you picked up the RFT on the way to the airport, here's a roundup of St. Louis acts popping up at the festival. (Even if you aren't on the way to Austin, you might still want to know who's going. But if the very thought of other St. Louisans getting to be there while you slowly die here makes acid boil in your stomach, skip to the next section, where I talk nice about some local events.)
Right off the bat, you can catch the sweet, melodic alt-country of Magnolia Summer (whose members run the local label Undertow) at Club de Ville on Wednesday. They'll be opening for Austin's legendary Grand Champeen.
Thursday, do what you like. May I suggest ex-Cannibal Ox MC Vast Aire, Chicago post-rockers Mahjongg and gentle British popsters Clearlake?
Friday night another St. Louis Undertow band, South San Gabriel, will bring its smoldering, country-tinged rock to Bigsbys, opening for a reunited American Music Club.
So far, so good. But Saturday you're going to have to learn to run fast, practice astral projection or make some choices. Nadine frontman Adam Reichmann will be supporting his Trampoline labelmates Minnie Driver (yeah, that Minnie Driver) and Pete Yorn at the Blender Bar at the Ritz. Local rapper Sylk Smoov (whose self-titled album came out in '91, making him positively old-school in the St. Louis scene) is opening for the aforementioned British man-of-the-moment, Dizzee Rascal, at Aussies. Grand Ulena will be bringing the noise, if not the funk, to Room 710. The slow acoustic laments of the Lyndsay Diaries will resonate in the Copper Tank. And the Bottle Rockets are going to rock down the house at Opal Divine's Freehouse, where they're the headliner. Choices, choices, choices. Check in next week, and I'll tell you how it all went down.
Put down the razor blade. Just because you're not going to SXSW doesn't mean you can't see some great music. In fact, this may be the best week of music coming through St. Louis in recent memory. Aside from all the great acts highlighted on the following pages, a few other touring groups coming through merit mention.
You might think that Weimar-era cabaret, goth and singer-songwriter are three genres that should never, ever be mixed. I know I did before I heard Boston's Dresden Dolls. Brothers and sisters, I am a convert. Their self-titled LP is one of the best records I've heard this year, a sexy, pounding beast of a CD that moves from sensuous dirges to thrilling, almost punk barnburners. The key ingredient is the piano playing and voice of Amanda Palmer, who puts together the passion of PJ Harvey with lyrical flourishes and clever rhymes that could almost have been written by the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt (especially on "Coin-Operated Boy," where Palmer pleads for an automatic lover). Drummer Brian Viglione is probably used to getting slighted in stories (that'll happen when your frontwoman comes on as strong as Palmer does), but hey, if he wanted to be in the spotlight, he shouldn't have studied the drums. Viglione's rhythms are invaluable, underlining the cabaret atmosphere and giving some bones to Palmer's fleshy sound. Their live shows are legendary in Beantown, so the show next Tuesday at Frederick's Music Lounge ought to be out of this world.
And if that's not your thing, if you'd rather hear some rock that bubbles bass riffs like smoke through a bong, spend your Tuesday at the Way Out Club, where former Kyuss guitarist Brant Bjork will be holding court. Kyuss pretty much created the genre of stoner rock, that growling, downtuned sound perfected and brought to the mainstream by Queens of the Stone Age. Speaking of Queens of the Stone Age, their former bassist, Nick Oliveri (who was also in Kyuss), will be opening up. I once saw Oliveri play an entire set wearing nothing but his bass. Who needs Austin when St. Louis has that?