It's during the fall concert season traditionally the busiest time of the gigging year that St. Louis' status as a forgotten city becomes most apparent. To many in the music business, we're a town good enough only for a quick wave hello on the way west to Kansas City or north to Chicago.
Too often it seems like the city itself internalizes this neglect in a negative (read: low expectations or self-esteem) way. But in other ways, St. Louis finds the silver lining in its diamond-in-the-rough reputation. In all the traveling A to Z has under her belt, she's rarely found a city with so many hidden gems as St. Louis. Between restaurants and coffeehouses tucked away on quaint residential corners and funky retail stores in unlikely neighborhoods, it's easy to discover a new nook or cranny of the town that you didn't even know existed.
But staying hidden or unknown is death in the concert-promotion business; if people don't know about shows, they won't show up and that's not good for either venues or bands just looking to survive on the road.
To be honest, part of A to Z's mission with the RFT Music Awards this year besides demonstrating that St. Louis can compete with bigger cities is to draw people out of the shadows. It starts with our national headlining bands (the Minus 5, Grant-Lee Phillips and Glenn Kotche of Wilco) and trickles on down to the locals playing the showcase on September 10 (lineups announced soon!). Heck, the winning band in each category will earn recording time at Phat Buddha Productions (see Julie Seabaugh's "Hip-Hop Hippies" in the April 6 issue of the RFT), for a compilation CD that'll be distributed via riverfronttimes.com and elsewhere.
But we're also starting the online balloting to choose the music award winners effective now, to draw maximum attention to the celebration. This year's ballot is now online -- click here to cast your vote! There's also a link on the Music Awards' MySpace page: www.myspace.com/rftmusicawards2006. (Be our friend! Tell all your friends!)
A word to the wise: Don't stuff the ballot box. Seriously. We can tell when you do this, even if you enlist friends at different IP addresses and e-mail handles, or use one of those fancy software programs. Rest assured any ill-gotten votes will be thrown out. The week's roundup of overflow gigs starts with the tongue-twisting Ahleuchatistas, a North Carolina band fond of crazy noise-jazz cloudbursts. Catch 'em Saturday, August 12, at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (3301 Lemp Avenue; 314-771-1096) whose Web site, www.lemp-arts.org, is fully functional again, hurrah! Louisville hip-hop-funk-rockers the Vilebillies hit town that same night at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue; 314-773-3363). It's a late show starts at 11 p.m. but tickets are only $7. And haunting singer-songwriter Caleb Engstrom (an RFT nominee for Best National Act) plays the Way Out Club (2525 South Jefferson Avenue; 314-664-7638) on Thursday, August 10.
Oh, and be sure to hit the Don Caballero show (see B-Sides) early to catch Riddle of Steel on Saturday, August 12 and then head to the inaugural bi-monthly Upstairs Lounge (3131 South Grand Boulevard; 314-773-3388) night London Calling, an evening filled with the coolest punk and indie rock tunes in town. Annie Zaleski