"It started in '86," says Complex of the DMC in NYC. "The DJ who won was from the U.S., named DJ Cheese, and he changed the course of the battle from a mixing competition to more of a hip-hop-style battle because he started scratching. It was originally six minutes of mixing, and he introduced scratching (to the competition), and then the next year some scratch DJs came along and that's what took over -- more of the tricks and the hip-hop-style battling." That battling is now called turntablism, and you can check the technique all around St. Louis every week.
Last year, St. Louis contestants had to travel to Lawrence, Kan., to compete -- St. Louis' DJ Alejan won the region (and ended up placing a respectable fourth at the nationals) -- but this year the party stays here. The winner here, says Complex, "goes to California this year to battle it out for the U.S. title. And then this year, for the first time, they're having the world finals in New York -- it's usually in London, France or Italy. All the participating countries -- it's something like 30 countries -- will come to New York to battle it out." (RR)
MINE! FAREWELL: Next time you see Marla Griffin, thank her. Thank her for Guided by Voices at the Sheldon and the Blues Explosion at Cicero's Basement. Thank her for the Geraldine Fibbers and Mr. Quintron at the Side Door, for Yo La Tengo and David Kilgour at the Galaxy. Toss her a $20 for the William Hooker show she took a bath on. Basically, thank her and her company, Mine! Productions, for booking some of the great St. Louis rock shows of the '90s. Mine! closes its doors permanently on Wednesday, April 28, and Griffin is retiring from the booking business. Ouch.
Griffin says several factors led to her decision to close Mine! and get out of the business, the most important being the current state of the music industry. "About six or seven years ago," she says, "the major labels began indiscriminately picking up every band they could get their hands on, talented or not." As a result, she says, these bands, through their booking agencies, began demanding unrealistic sums of money for shows, even though they had no established audience. Companies like Mine!, independently owned and operated, suddenly found it next to impossible to take a chance on an unproven band.
The problem? Mine! always took chances, and it became increasingly difficult to do so in such an atmosphere. "What we've ended up with," Griffin says, "is a lot of crap being pushed on people to the point that no one has any faith that something they might take a chance on seeing will be any good -- understandably so. I have managed to maintain a high standard for quality despite all of this, and I think that most of the Mine! fans out there knew that if they went to one of my shows they were going to at least see something interesting. They may not have cared for it personally -- God knows I didn't like everything I booked -- but it's always been about the music being new and original and interesting for me. I always tried to make sure that whatever I booked mattered in some way to the continuation of creativity in music; I always felt that each of my shows was important in this way and that these musicians were making important music. The problem is that no one (in the industry) cares about this shit -- everyone thinks I'm nuts for thinking this way."
Griffin, who got her start in the business booking Cicero's Basement, says another important factor led to her decision: "One of the biggest contributing factors to my making the decision to quit booking shows was the realization that I'm really not needed anymore. I've just become an unnecessary middleman, in most cases. The clubs would book 90 percent of the shows I do anyway. The only thing I'm worried about is who will do the more experimental stuff, but I'm hopeful that someone will step up to the plate. There are so many clubs and so many people booking shows that I think very little will change."
You can thank Griffin in person two times in the next week: She's responsible for the Shannon Wright/Eric Bachmann show on Monday, April 26 (see Sound Checks, p. 37); and her final show/official farewell as a promoter takes place Wednesday, April 28, at the Side Door, when she brings into town the Figgs. Opening the show will be some of St. Louis' finest: Johnny Magnet, the Red Squares (featuring ex-Volatiles) and the See-Thru's (featuring ex-members of Bunnygrunt and current members of Darling Little Jackhammer). Hey, Marla: Thanks. (RR)
A LOTTA YA-YA: The top ticket price at last week's Rolling Stones concert at Kansas City's Kemper Arena was $250. You need to get a lot of ya-yas out per minute to make that plus the trip across the state worth your while, but undoubtedly some St. Louisans did, because the Stones decided to pass us up on this particular leg of their endless Bridges to Babylon/No Security tour.
Was it worth it? Well, for one thing, it was a leaner, meaner show than the Stones performed in December '97 at the Trans World Dome. With a smaller stage giving him less territory to have to cover, Mick Jagger could concentrate more on his singing, which was excellent, though he danced with boundless energy. Keith Richards had bits of his hair tied up and decorated with beads and bangles, making him look like the victim of some bizarre fishing accident, but he still managed to please, tossing off some of the most famous riffs in rock & roll history while offering dramatic kicks, twirls and poses. Ron Wood kept a low profile throughout the show, occasionally practicing his soccer moves on a hat or bit of trash thrown onstage. And Charlie Watts once again proved why he's the greatest rock & roll drummer, despite being dressed for a Sunday drive in the country or perhaps a nice game of croquet.
The set was pretty standard -- mostly Stones classics, such as "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Bitch," "Brown Sugar" and "Sympathy for the Devil," with a few new songs to provide bathroom and concession breaks for the audience. Those who opted for the beer line during "Out of Control," though, missed the evening's most passionate performance, and most magical, too, as Jagger popped out from beneath the stage `a la Michael Jackson. The group's three-song set from the B-stage, located in the center of the arena, was another highlight, as they ripped through "Route 66," "Get Off of My Cloud" and "Midnight Rambler," seemingly shrinking the 20,000-seat venue down to the size of a sweaty club.
Maybe folks are just more reserved in Kansas City, but the Stones weren't pelted with women's underwear during that portion of the show, as they were here in '97. Maybe that was a function of age, though: The audience at Kemper was considerably older than the Dome crowd in '97. That's probably what happens when you have to make the decision between a pair of Stones tickets and, say, a new set of tires, or maybe a year of cellular-phone service. The truth is, the Stones seldom disappoint. And if they can provide their audience a few hours' respite from worrying about an aching prostate or losing that middle-management job, that's a brand of satisfaction that's worth every penny. (DD)
Contributors: Daniel Durchholz, Randall Roberts