If you know the name Phil Browne, it's probably from his work with local punk-pop band Celery, with whom he sang and strummed the electric guitar. But that stint's no more, and these days Browne can be seen in his new band, Resist All. More on that later. Charity, in addition to beginning at home, belongs at the top of any "Radar Station" column, and Browne's work with MUFFY deserves a round of applause.
Usually the only kind of charity with which you're likely to witness a rock guitarist involved has something to do with the last beer in the cooler, but Browne has created Musicians United for Furthering Youth, which has set itself up in the Hyde Park neighborhood. St. Phil takes over: "I teach music lessons to at-risk kids up in North St. Louis for free. We work out of two places -- Clay Elementary, which is where we do most of our work, and we work out of a community center called Friedens Haus, and that's where we get our students. It's pretty much up to the kids; we let them show up whenever they want to -- well, it's like a lesson thing. They come every week at a specific time, but we don't pressure them. If they want to do it, we let them do it.
"We've got about 50 kids enrolled in drums and about one kid enrolled in piano. The drums are the big one; there's a drum corps at the school, and all of them want to be in it, but none of them are good enough yet. It's like a supplemental tutoring program, too, because there's no music program at Clay except for the drum corps, and the drum corps is student-run. The kids show up and beat on the drums, and there's a guy who mediates -- 'Let's all do a beat' -- and they do it."
Or maybe it's just a ploy for Browne to snag the ever-elusive St. Louis drummer, that rare subspecies who remembers when gigs are, doesn't cram a song's every empty space with a snare roll and cymbal crash and doesn't have bongwater dribble on the front of his shirt. Either way, we all win: Browne and MUFFY are serving a valuable role in the city's education system, a system whose music departments have been gutted over the past decade, destroying nearly every opportunity for the budding musician to discover and learn how to play an instrument.
Continues Browne: "We went to the poorest neighborhood in St. Louis, and we found a school that had no music program, and we said, 'OK, let's do something.' I got funding through the Regional Arts Commission, through donations from McMurray Music, St. Louis Music. The organization is an offshoot of this band I started last July called Resist All, and what we do is, all the proceeds from our CD sales and from our ticket sales go toward the organization. Two of the guys from the band actually teach for the organization."
Browne deserves a medal. And not just for MUFFY; he's also responsible for one of the smarter instrument additions to the area rock landscape. "The music we play is real aggressive rock," he excitedly says of Resist All, "but the catch is, we have a bagpipe player in the band." After a roar of approval from the staff of "Radar Station," Browne continues: "Dude, it is amazing. McMurray is where we actually debuted with the bagpipes. We played for 40 minutes without them, and people were like, 'Yeah, whatever.' They were kind of clapping -- most of them were my friends. But the minute we got the bagpipes onstage, people went nuts. People were just like, 'Holy crap!'"
Those wishing to learn more about the role of bagpipes in rock music are directed to the Galaxy this Thursday night, when Resist All performs with Chiaroscuro and Photo by Husband. Those wishing to donate cash, instruments or time to MUFFY are urged to do so by e-mailing Browne at MUFFYStLouis@Yahoo.com or by phoning him at 314-781-0844.
FIRST DIMENSIONS: You'll hear more about the inaugural Dimensions 2000 on the back end, after we've witnessed the breakdance competition, the turntable antics and the emceeing, but because most folks have no idea of the huge weekend congregation of hip-hop activity slated for the Galaxy, the Side Door and Kearbey's, here are the details, according to festival coordinator Glynnis Brewster: "I thought it was time for St. Louis to do something different that has never been done here before but has been done in other cities. I wanted to go outside of (annual St. Louis competition) Paint Louis, because that's a graffiti event, and focus on the other elements -- the music, the breaking and the DJ-ing aspects of hip-hop. I wanted to enlighten St. Louis on things that need to be here in order to make it more exciting. There's going to be breakers from Chicago, Milwaukee, California. I've got 20 shows booked right now over the three days, artists coming from everywhere."
We're most anticipating Out for Fame, the national B-boy competition. During the festival, Dimensions 2000 will host one of the Midwest regional heats that will eventually lead to the crowning of a national breakdancing-crew champion. The event takes place at Kearbey's on Saturday night. It should be a blast, and we highly recommend the party. There are only a few really great breakers in the city, and any opportunity to catch a gaggle of them together dancing and impressing is well worth the effort.
Send local tapes, tips, discs and detritus to "Radar Station," c/o The Riverfront Times, 6358 Delmar Blvd., Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130; or RadarStation @RiverfrontTimes.com.