BAGPIPE ALERT! Not too long ago, a dozen or so kids "decided that St. Louis was in need of some crazy art activity," and, coming as they did from the punk scene, they didn't want to wait around for somebody else to make it possible. The result is the new Centro Sociale (2700 Macklind, at Magnolia) on the Hill. They've been having punk shows there for a few months now, and a series of benefit picnics in Tower Grove Park has raised enough cash for them to proceed with their dreams, which include a fully operational darkroom and exhibit space, a zine library, a film series and, of course, more bands playing.
This kind of artistic utopianism can open the door for innovative and talented work or for half-assed, underconceived nonsense. You can judge for yourselves how much of each is in attendance during the Centro Sociale's grand opening on Thursday, July 15.
It all gets under way at 4 p.m. and will go late into the night. There will be music: fast, heavy hardcore from local heroes Johnny Angel, acoustic anger from Blueberry, a dub-reggae set by Stationed, electronica from Jason Dejong and the girl-band rock & roll of Star Death. There will be poetry readings by local notables, including Elena Shepard and Josh Kryah. There will be photographs, paintings, films and drawings on display, by too many artists to list here. There will be much food and drink, as well as a bagpipe ensemble and belly dancers. And you're gonna sit at home and watch TV?
The bacchanal is free and open to the public. (JT)
MUSICAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: Last week's "Free e" party, held at the Palace roller rink, off New Halls Ferry Road, was a mind-blowing hard-electronic-music celebration, From 11 p.m.-6 a.m., DJs cranked hard mantras as l; an out-of-the-blue guess l; 800 souls collided, some sniffing Vicks VapoRub and others twirling glow sticks, twiddling their brains while diddling their fingers. Freak show? Yeah. Blast? You know it. You walked into this white fog of (sure, drug-induced) positivity, and choices were everywhere: Dance? Step into the Moonwalk? Head for the second room, where drum & bass was cranking? Sit and stare at the walls? Play video games? Watch the monstrous projection screen? Guzzle orange juice? Choices galore, none of which ultimately mattered in the scheme of things. Pure aural ecstacy. (RR)
OZZFEST SNAPSHOTS: Haircut award goes to: The guy with the perfect mullet (short on top, long in back l; a.k.a. the shlong). He was tall, the proper height for a choice mullet, and his brown hair was beautifully spiky on top l; but with bangs in front l; carefully carved around his ears, with a long, long cascade down his back. Words don't do the glory of the 'do justice. Most eye-pokable person: The dude with his face painted with a rebel flag. Lawn-activity award: This year's Ozzfest boasted the biggest mosh pit ever seen in St. Louis, bar none. There was a huge oval of people in the middle l; Riverport was sold out l; and hundreds inside the pit jumped about in a homoerotic frenzy. Around the edges, awe-inspiring crowd-surfing was going on: The Riverport lawn, of course, is on a slope; brave souls would start at the top of the hill and leap up into a sea of hands. When they landed, they were halfway down the hill. Unbelievable. More like crowd-sledding. The frightening aspect l; surprise, surprise l; was that any lady who dared to surf found about 100 dudes' hands groping her boobies and butt as they tried to tear off her shirt. Spinal Tap moment: To narrow it to one is a task, but it had to have been the Brit-metal roadie who, between songs, screamed this to the crowd: "Give us a shout if you're drinking beer!" He was rewarded with a small roar (lots of underagers here). "Give us a shout if you're smoking pot!" Huge din. "Yeeeaaahh! I know you're smoking pot, 'cause I got stoned just walking around out there! Give us a shout if you're fucked up!" Chaos bellowed. But they were telling the truth: They were fucked up. No doubt. (RR)
POINT BLANK II: Last week in this very space we discussed the relative merits of the music on the first disc of Pointessential Vol. 6. Good times. We took a peek inside the heads of the budding rock, ska and electronic artists coming out of St. Louis, at least those who had the gumption to request inclusion on the Pointessential series. (Note: As result of a punctuation flub (misplaced ellipses), the Rabies were unintentionally described as a "jam band." Apologies to them; we wouldn't wish the tag on our worst enemies. The Rabies are punk, not hippie.)
Tracks 20-39 are appraised below by, admittedly, someone weary of whiny rock stars and perpetually pissed-off poseurs chasing the carrot of fame at the expense of adventure and musical curiosity. Disc 2, track by track:
We've never really forgiven Celery bassist Steve Marshall for wearing a dinosaur costume onstage, but come to think of it, it's probably better than not wearing one. "Sunflower" is a brick of goddamned energy l; hard, fast punk rawk that stumbles only when they get all pansy on us and mumble, "Have you ever been someone you're not proud of?" Short answer: No. Long answer: Well, maybe. Once. Oh, and the dangling preposition? Annoying, but dangling prepositions are what rock & roll was built on.... With a tone somewhere in between Geddy Lee (oof!) and Perry Farrell (gak!), Soul Kiss' P.J. Sharamitaro has a strong voice that's somewhat grating and is backed by a band that's equally strong and equally influenced by all things alt-rock, which quickly becomes tiresome. This isn't their fault, of course; it's just their tastes. But you're supposed to use influences as a trampoline into a world of imagination, not derivation.... Trade the Fender Rhodes in for a Moog, the bumpy bass for a standup, the acoustic guitar for a chainsaw and add some distorto-action to the electric guitar, and maybe Drift would discover an edge somewhere. As mentioned before, vocalist Brandy Johnson can keep her vocal cords (you're welcome), but what Drift really need are some teeth, unless they (gasp) actually want to sound like Natalie Merchant l; in which case we'll nod blankly and move on....
Anyone seen the Simpsons episode in which Sideshow Bob is trying to get out of prison but the parole board is suspicious of his tattoo, which reads "Die Bart, Die"? His explanation: "It's actually German for "The Bart, The.'" Of course the parole board buys it, Sideshow Bob gets out of jail and proceeds to try to kill Bart. The following is not German: Die Symphony, Die. Bland, energy-sucking industrial rock.... When Helmet released their first few singles, they were a dense, furrow-browed punk band, yet they appealed to the metal kids, too. Playground King knows Helmet l; at least the musicians do, but the vocalist, who yelps, roars and, frighteningly, does a lame-metal vibrato thing with his voice, ruins everything.... Yet another brick of energy from Pave the Rocket, one of the most powerful, revelatory live rock bands in St. Louis. "Superfly" races from start to finish with layers of guitars, dynamics and pure inspiration.
Two-thirds of the Boro City Rollers' "Doug's Song" is D.O.A., but then, mysteriously, the ska, the horns l; you know, the boring template l; disappear and the song grows legs and runs on its own merits. That isn't to say the song is a revolution l; it's 10th-wave ska, for chrissakes, so it can't actually be inspired. But a third of it works. The horns are flat, though.... Starnineteen do the minor-chord wimp-out with some lovin', touchin', squeezin' mediocrity about the frustrations of a long-distance relationship: "So many words we have left to say, so much time to spend, so many days." Boo-hoo-hoo. Note to band: Long-distance relationships never work. Just break up with her; she's probably seeing someone else on the sly anyway.... Fuse 12 are punk, punk. "Blinder" is a punk song. The hook here makes the song, and it's a beast of one.... If the Mims would bury the vocals a bit, "Anyway" would sound fresh, but when one of the Tims l; which one is a mystery in the liner notes l; starts singing, it's all you can hear. Basic Point rock here, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Johnny Magnet have never captured the energy of their live show on tape; Jill Smith's Les Paul sounds, er, different here. But the song, "Feminist Rhetoric Falling on Deaf Ears," is built on a foundation that withstands the iffy production, and that itsy-bitsy hook in the middle is pure genius.... Vallium spell their name wrong, rendering moot any critical appraisal of their art. What does the extra letter accomplish? Please help.... Dan Potthast of MU330 gets clever on us with a song about an oil change, attempting to transform the banal into the profound. It works, though l; relatively speaking, of course. Not bad.
Neither is Purge's "Weight," if you ignore the insipid lyrics. Actually, if most of the bands on Pointessential Vol. 6 were instrumental, this would be a fantastic collection. These people have nothing of interest to say, it seems, sacrificing insight for the cheap, predictable rhyme. Kill the lyricists (and most of the singers), not the songs.... Clear Glass Religion listen to way too much Rollins Band. "Pop" plops. Had it been recorded with more heat, more chutzpah, it could live, maybe, but its quality of life would be quite low.... The Ded Bugs' "Hangin' Out with Danzig" is one of the highlights of the collection, also featured on their recent Sugar Coated Snot Pops CD. It's kinda dumb, but intentionally so; clever without being pandering; and sporting a melody to die for.... Robby Yount has a pretty voice, and this touchin', sensitive-guy ditty is quite the chick magnet l; you're really rootin' for the guy, but the insipid-lyrics tirade most definitely applies here.... You're always rootin' for Rick Recht, who's been gigging around St. Louis forever; alas, his hippified jam-rock is the most grating material on either CD. Of course, my distaste for all things jam-based blinds me to any potential merits within. Pretty much, though, any band named after its principal player l; be it the Dave Matthews Band or the Charlie Daniels Band l; has some inherent problems. Recht earns one bonus point for the yodel, though.
Wait. The most grating song on this collection is, in fact, bar none l; except maybe the Mesh song, or the Die Symphony song, or maybe the Soul Kiss or the Mayflower Jones track l; Top Dead Center's "I Am You Are." Think hard chalkboard scrape amplified, then add an overwrought, melodramatic Ozzy-wannabe lead singer. Oof! Right in the gut!... Do trumpet and rock mix? No, they do not. "I'm blowing senseless bubbles everywhere," My Blue Life sing quite capably. But the melody, or what there is of one, pops immediately, never to be remembered again, except maybe with some soapy residue.
Although a few of St. Louis' finest rock bands are represented on Pointessential Vol. 6, if this is the best the Point has to offer, it's no wonder the station's ratings have plummeted in the last year. (RR)