If you're keeping track at home, the past few weeks have seen a handful of artists on winning streaks, and the winter-season box scores are getting very interesting indeed. A quick rundown of highlights:
Bonus points have been awarded to the Carousel Cowboys for their inspired cover a few weeks back at the Way Out Club of the overlooked Bob Dylan gem "One More Cup of Coffee" from Desire. As on many of their originals, the Cowboys made a glorious mess of the song, all mumbles and screams, and when they discovered the groove, they rode it with the sort of determination that creates legends. Their sound? Somewhere between classic twang-infused Nick Cave, the Replacements on Percodan and the Band gone distorted and cranked to 11. The best thing about them is said ability to wrap themselves around a double-guitar groove and milk it for all it's worth, resulting in songs that last seven minutes or more without getting winded.
Bonus points have also been awarded to Heidi Dean, whose stellar version of Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy" last week at Kennealy's Pub in Soulard was magical; she transformed the semi-upbeat gem into a perfect acoustic blues dirge, turning the lead couplet -- "All of my love, all of my kissin'/You don't know what you've been missin'" -- into a gut-wrenching sobber without a hint of irony. She appeared as part of a "Women in Rock" benefit held to raise money to send 10, er, women in rock to next month's South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. The "Women in Rock" collective has been penalized, though, for its moniker, after a referee correctly questioned the usefulness at this late stage of the game of women's carving their own subcategory in the rock pantheon -- it seemed kind of patronizing. Though none of the attending 10 (Robynn Ragland, Mary Alice Wood, Lynne Reif, Celia, Erin Fry, Stacey Cox, Barb Soetebier, Ripley Caine, Kate Schrock, Jenny Labow) has been selected to appear at the SXSW conference itself, applause is in order for the party-crashing spirit of the trip. For those headed to SXSW this year, the showcase takes place at the Ritz Music Lounge on March 17. It should be noted that the only St. Louis-ish band slated to appear at the official conference is Pocahontas, Ill.'s Grandpa's Ghost, a band with the longest winning streak of the year. A few years back, the city was sending three or four bands to the festival; it's now down to one that, arguably, doesn't even count as a St. Louis band because it's from 45 minutes east.
Upset of the week: Five Block Shot's stellar performance at the Hi-Pointe last Thursday -- funk, hip-hop and jazz so tightly welded as to be seamless. If they keep playing at this level, they could win the championship.
You couldn't spit without hitting a cop at the Superstars of Love's "Lovetronic" party last weekend in North County; so pervasive was their presence -- shining flashlights into roll piles, sneaking up on suspicious types, posing for photos with ravers -- that you would have thought there was a doughnut stand somewhere within or that the Trenchcoat Mafia was in the house. But no, just the usual hanky-panky, smell of spliff and plethora of losers sitting on their asses and clogging traffic. But a lot of people were dancing, too, which is good, and though the turnout was smaller than expected (compared with last year's blowout), the party was, by all counts, a success. As is usual with the Superstars, the programming was excellent and out there, relying heavily on drum & bass, electro and techno. Ming & FS's jungle and hip-hop set was surprisingly swell, as was DJ Assault's.
Of the local spinners who opened the evening: A shout-out to Hypo and Astrix, whose live techno PA, at least what we heard of it, was heavy-duty and reached fever pitch during the last cut, a brilliant deep-tech remix of Nelly's "St. Louie." They should bootleg that baby onto a 12-inch, ASAP. Pepe's jungle set followed and was beautiful and textured, at least what you could hear of it; it was hindered by way, way too much emceeing by B-Wise. As is usually the case with D&B emcees, he was mic-ed too high, became redundant after about five minutes and ended up overshadowing Pepe's excellent mix. A little restraint goes a long way.
The nonmusical highlight arrived in the form of two fliers being circulated by smart people. One, with a title that recalls a high-school prom ("Let's Make It Last Forever"), chides the thick-headed youth who blatantly showcase their altered states, "wear masks, blow Vicks in each other [sic] faces, do 'roll tricks' on each other, suck pacifiers"; it reminds them that the city's rave scene is thriving and that all the unwanted attention by the cops and media is the direct result of such blatant irresponsibility. The other, more effective flier, titled "Reclaim Your House Nation," has a similar theme: Be thoughtful and careful, and the scene can withstand the scrutiny of the authorities and us losers in the media. Despite the Hallmark sentiment of some of the writing, the checklist makes excellent suggestions on keeping the scene honest: "Do question the cover charge you pay and where that money goes." "Do question the intentions of a party larger than 500 people." "Do question your association with people who only seem to talk about money and/or drugs." "Do know your promoters and who they are involved with." Welcome words from a scene that very much needs to look itself in the mirror.