Most people, when they're stuck in traffic, love to bitch about it. All those cars in front of them, moving too slowly! All those cars behind them, piling up and honking. But what about that car in the middle? No one ever says, "I am traffic, too."
That metaphor fits the St. Louis rock scene: People love to blame everyone else for its alleged faults. People blame other people for being too insular, for not "supporting the scene" or for just plain sucking (too often true). But, to paraphrase Michael Jackson, people should start looking at the man in the mirror.
If there is one fella in town who can receive no flak from the St. Louis rock scene or his mirror, it's Jerome Gaynor, host of the St. Louis Punk Page. In case you're one of those people who's heard of the Internet but haven't given it a spin yet, www.stlpunk.com is a mind-numbingly large listing of St. Louis bands, shows and fans. Space for pictures, MP3s and message boards is made available to any band that wants it, and hundreds of local groups, from Tomorrow's Caveman to Sullen down to every l'il west county high-school snot-rock band there is, have a page on the site. But I don't need to tell you about it: You voted STL Punk the best local Web site in the RFT a few months ago.
Gaynor spends countless hours designing, monitoring and updating the monolithic site, to the detriment of his family finances. Or, as Gaynor puts it on the site, "If I weren't doing the punk page, then I'd be working at a real job making enough money to save for my daughter's college." Said daughter, Violet, is four, and Gaynor has been trying to raise $1,000 for her future education, with a deadline of the end of the year. He's been stuck at $400 for quite a while.
Gaynor didn't ask me to write this; I have my own selfish motives. Like the Mr. Show sketch where an evil scientist holds a telethon to stop himself from blowing up the world, Gaynor has a doomsday device pointed at our heads: If he doesn't make his goal of $1,000, the STL Punk Page will begin featuring pop-up ads. Pop-up ads are, of course, the online equivalent of a plague of festering boils: No one wants to look at them and they make moving around difficult.
To mix all the metaphors so far: Don't just be traffic, give to the telethon and stop the mad scientist (whose mirror doesn't insult him) from covering his own Web site in boils. Talk is cheap, people. You took the time to scribble the site on your RFT ballot; you can certainly spare $10 from your beer budget for the man who runs it. It's just two fewer brews (if you tip -- you do tip, right?) you'll be drinking at the next show you go to because you learned about it from the site. And in about two decades, when Violet gets on that stage to pick up her diploma, you can congratulate yourself. If you're there. Which might be taking this whole thing too far.
Speaking of the St. Louis scene, how local is local? Normally, I draw a pretty definite ring around St. Louis and "the county" as my beat, which means that a lot of bands out in the hinterlands get the shaft. But recently, I've gotten some pretty good stuff from not-quite-local bands in the area. Emergency Umbrella, the upstart Columbia, MO label, just sent me two strange but good records. Billy Schuh and the Foundry...'s Fathers as Robots EP is pleasant laid-back pop with a slight country veneer; it's a quick, good listen. Even better is The Kingdom Flying Club's album Non-Fiction. A strange mix of rock guitar, pop vocals, occasional horn-sections and wry lyrics, the fun the band is having is as infectious as SARS. How can you not love a band that titles a song "Now We Watch the Luge (and Drink)"? The Club probably wouldn't like to admit how much of their sound evokes Weezer, but they aren't even close to being derivative. The best track on Non-Fiction is "Down by the Lake," which starts as a melodic ballad with gentle strings and stinging lyrics ("Trust is a word I don't trust") before exploding into an orchestral climax that promises an exciting future for the band.
Both bands play St. Louis often (Billy Schuh will be at the Creepy Crawl on November 19; the Kingdom Flying Club will be at Frederick's Music Lounge on December 6), so keep your eye out for them. They might be more than a stone's throw away, but you can hear them rocking from here.