GIRLIE ACTION: Unless you're a rebel or an idiot and you just don't care about Johnny Law, you gotta jump through a lot of hoops at City Hall to throw a legit warehouse party in St. Louis. You gotta visit a number of civil servants, write a few checks, walk the walk, talk the talk. On top of that, you must consult a real-estate agent to find a nice space, design the requisite trippy flyer, hire a sound-system expert, book the talent, decorate the space.
"It's really hard, actually," says Alexis Tucci, whose That Girl Productions is throwing its fourth annual party, "Horizons," on Saturday, April 3. "I go down to City Hall. You have to apply for occupancy permits. And you get a dance-hall permit, which costs a hundred-or-so bucks -- that's so people can dance in there. I did get caught once at a party; they said I had my occupancy permit but I didn't have a dance-hall permit. So everybody could be in there, but they weren't allowed to dance. That was really interesting. But we pulled it off; the party went until 6 in the morning. As much as they wanted to shut us down, they couldn't. They all sat on the floor. It was Richie Hawton (a.k.a. Plastikman) from Detroit. He's pretty amazing; he had a huge following, so nobody complained that they had to sit down to listen to him play. And I have a business license for That Girl Productions, so I don't apply for that anymore. Then I get an itinerant-merchant's permit, which is a one-night $25 license to vend -- to sell my water and stuff. Nine times out of 10 they never ask for that stuff, but I'll be damned if I get caught without it."
In the early '90s, St. Louis was one of the most active cities in the country for raves or whatever you wanna call 'em, with a number of production companies throwing parties, both legit and guerrilla-style unlicensed gigs, nearly every weekend, with big-name DJs behind the turntables. "It was unbelievable," Tucci says. "It was so underground. You didn't need permits; you didn't need licenses or insurance. You just took a warehouse and set up a party, and it went all night long. That was before rave gear existed. They were huge; people traveled from all over the country to come to St. Louis for parties. It was much more of a free spirit -- a little less hype, less drama. But then it started to drop off. I guess drugs tainted the scene, but also there were a few promoters who got their parties shut down because they weren't using permits. And the more parties that got shut down, the less people wanted to spend that kind of money to travel to St. Louis for fear of the party getting shut down."
Tucci says that you can still get a huge crowd if you spend a lot of money for talent -- she crammed 3,000 people into a space for New Year's Eve a couple of years back, and on Halloween two years ago, she threw a party in a four-story warehouse on South Seventh Street. "I used the first two floors of a warehouse and the basement of a connecting bar -- the top floor was drum & bass with lasers. The bottom floor was techno and you went through the basement, and that was a hip-hop cave. Then you crawled through the hip-hop room and you were up into the bar area, and it was a total disco-ball house party with all the real sexy Chicago house music. It was nice."
"Horizons" features three Chicago DJs -- Jevon Jackson and Brian G. work four turntables, and Lady D goes solo -- and loads of local talent: Jeff Feller, Phil Decker and Ramon will spin techno, house, uh, electronica and all-around booty music, and a hip-hop lounge will operate under the supervision of Charlie Chan, B-Money, Dave Morrison, Dave Rokita and Needles. That Girl expects between 800 and 1,000 people for this party, and at press time Tucci was still working on securing the perfect space. For more information, call the That Girl Hotline at 995-9518.
TEETH TOUR: Wilco has been tapped to open for R.E.M. this summer during the latter band's extensive tour of amphitheaters, including Riverport on Aug. 19. Wilco will be touring in support of the recently released Summer Teeth (a review of the record, as well as an interview with Jeff Tweedy, is slated to appear in these pages next week) and is riding on a wave of successes going back to the critical acclaim of the band's previous studio album, Being There, and collaboration with Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue. They haven't headlined in St. Louis (they performed a brief opening set for Sheryl Crow at her 1997 Fox concert) since their two-night stint at Mississippi Nights three years back in support of their debut, A.M., and though a gig at Riverport may not really even count as a gig at all, the rumor is they'll be returning to St. Louis when they go out on their own in the fall.
LIZARD LEAGUE: Saturday, April 3, at the Side Door, Give Her a Lizard will reunite for their first show in four years, the result of a magical alignment of stars and planets (and the simple truth that all the band members are in town at the same time for the first time since they quit making music together in 1995). Those (honestly, like myself) who never heard or saw GHAL while they were active but know that the group spawned such local luminaries as Bunnygrunt and Mr. Pink Jeans, and also know that a couple of members went on to perform in the final incarnation of the sorely missed Lydia's Trumpet, will wonder, who were they? "Pre-Nirvana college rock," answers guitarist Matt Harnish, "harking back to the era of, say, the Connells; late '80s, early '90s -- one could say 'jangly.' We used to pack them in at the Wabash. It was a weird crowd that you wouldn't have seen anywhere else." That weird crowd, judging from the sound of their second CD, Scoots Bacon -- Here Come the Franpakens! appreciated that jangle and those hooks, and though the sound is somewhat dated in the same way that post-Nirvana college rock is, the songs are strong. "It's sort of like Love Tractor, where I liked it at the time. If I listened to it now, I'd say, 'Hmm, I sure liked that at the time. I think as a band we were getting better after we put our CDs out. We sort of broke up as we were getting better, because people moved out of town and stuff."
-- Randall Roberts