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RFT Music Awards Nominees: St. Louis' Best and Brightest


Greetings, people of St. Louis: In your hands you are holding roughly 10,000 words penned by the RFT's ink-stained (er, keyboard-strained?) music scribes, covering our 2008 Music Awards nominees. It's also a handy-dandy, comprehensive cribsheet to what we feel are the very best bands and artists playing around town right now. The blurbs are meant to educate and inform as you cast your votes – using the ballot included here or one found online here for the city's best bands.

Due to space and time constraints, not every nominee in every category is able to play this year's Music Showcase, which takes place this Sunday, June 1, from 1 p.m. until after 1 a.m. in the Delmar Loop. (The acts that are playing have times and venues listed underneath their write-ups.) The two outdoor stages are free (and all-ages!), but a mere $5 buys you a wristband that'll give you admittance to eight indoor venues during the day and night.

The winners of the awards will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday, June 10, at the Pageant. This shindig takes place from 7 until 10 p.m., and the top three vote-getting artists will play live! You must RSVP to attend by Monday, June 9, at 5 p.m. by email or phone (314-754-5921).

Most important, come on out to the Loop on Sunday and enjoy the (hopefully sunny) weather and celebration of the city's music scene. Take in a band you might not have heard before or see an old favorite through new eyes; you just never know where you'll find the next piece of music that'll change your life. — Annie Zaleski

Best Americana/Folk

With a slow, lonesome strum and slight baritone rasp reminiscent of Beck's work on the breakup masterpiece Sea Change, Caleb Travers brings perspective to heartbreak and paints spot-on images of a relationship's forlorn demise. But the stories told on 2007's Blue Weathered Dreams aren't the foggy, beer-soaked laments of an idealized, wayward wanderer. Instead Travers' songs capture the emotion of everyday life without melodrama or pretense — whether it be through vivid descriptions of family dealings, romantic entanglements or personal struggles. – Shae Moseley

If the Linemen sound like a traditional country band, that's just the instrumental and vocal mastery talking. Kevin Butterfield's rich, smooth high tenor, with its echoes of Don Williams and Gene Watson, modulates through a world of hurt. No jokes, no novelties and no gimmicks — just pure feeling. Around him, Scott Swartz swirls pedal steel and Telecaster sparkles, and the veteran rhythm section of John Baldus and Greg Lamb take aim, straight and true, on the shuffles and waltzes, but then veer into rock and pop terrain, with the songs their only compass. Together, the Linemen are open to all the music that's influenced country over the years — soul, rock and folk — and they fuse it all in a way that ultimately defies tradition. – Roy Kasten

For the three core members of Rough Shop, the term "folk" takes on an all-encompassing definition. John Wendland, Andy Ploof and Anne Tkach add varying elements of blues, jazz, bluegrass and early rock & roll to the pot, showcasing the depth of their musical roots and the limitless possibility of acoustic music. The trio released Here Today earlier this year, and the album highlights each member's talents while maintaining the tightness and bonhomie of a band. – Christian Schaeffer

It's nearly disturbing to witness the little white boys in the Rum Drum Ramblers do the blues so well. Harmonica, upright bass, one drum and a loose-strung guitar are all this trio need to throw down a toe-tapping set. DIY improvisation and authenticity are the main elements of the Ramblers' appeal, though. No instrument is safe from being used as percussion — it feels as though every object in sight is unmercifully slapped with the beat – and the group is just as likely to be seen busking on a street corner as it is playing a proper show.– Jaime Lees
Market in the Loop, 2 p.m.

Theodore plays ragged, unhinged songs that pierce you right in your junk-store heart. Traditional rock & roll instruments alongside a few oddball addendums like accordions and trombones brighten the corners on its first full-length, Songs for the Weary. Singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster writes loaded, potent songs that highlight his expressive voice, which can go from hush to howl at the pluck of a banjo. His bandmates help actualize his story-songs with deft gentleness and barely-contained fervor, while the band's live outings are a tempest-tossed mix of roots music and experimental rock & roll. (CS)
Vintage Vinyl, 9 p.m.

Best Untraditional Americana/Folk

The Bottle Rockets should have exploded ages ago. In the mid '90s, the band had a single, "Radar Gun," which found commercial airplay, while the majorest of major labels, Atlantic, backed one of the greatest rock albums to come out of St. Louis, 24 Hours a Day. But that momentum fizzled, and the BoRox was left with the only things that mattered: its songs and its talent. Pushing into its second decade together, it keeps building on that foundation. Steady bassist and harmony singer Keith Voegele, guitar wizard John Horton, and founders Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann continue to explore just how much soul can be drawn from the rock and country well. The band is living proof that the well really is bottomless. (RK)

Earlier this year, filmmaker Zlatko Cosic premiered Bad Folk Story, a documentary he shot about the venerable macabre-twang outfit. But you won't find a group less likely to be movie stars than Bad Folk – even if Story's stark, black-and-white images accurately captured the band's gritty tunes. Unassuming and understated, the group lets mournful banjo, whinging pedal steel – and as of late in concert, mincing violin from Rats and People's Brien Seyle – help its tales about the desolate open road, unsavory characters and late-night country heartbreak come alive in vibrant shades of greyscale. — Annie Zaleski
Pi, 10 p.m.

Magnolia Summer live shows now happen with the scarcity of a comet streaking through the sky — but that just makes them more of a must-see event, especially since you never know how many people will join vocalist/guitarist Chris Grabau onstage. (Past collaborators include the Bottle Rockets' John Horton and Grace Basement's Kevin Buckley.) Upcoming recordings showcase Buckley's always-lively fiddle, a majestic touch that matches Magnolia Summer's ruminations on life's weightier matters. (AZ)
Pi, 8 p.m.

Wickedly comic and seriously demented, the Monads' take on bluegrass punk combines the sweetest harmonies with the wackest lyrics, whether spelling out every letter in "Mississippi Wine" or discovering common humanity in the universal corpse swinging from a gallows. None of this would get the quartet very far if it didn't have a very hot fiddler in Matt Shivelbine or Jason Matthews' land-speed-record-breaking banjo. How much the Monads love old-time string-band music is evident from how much fun it has playing it. The band may be irreverent punks, but its celebratory spirit is country gold. (RK)
Market in the Loop, 5 p.m.

Rats and People is an unorthodox band founded by former members of the Whole Sick Crew and the Baysayboos. This unlikely ensemble plays post-punk folk songs on a wide variety of instruments – so many that it resembles a small orchestra: trumpet, violin and accordion all get time here. Even with all of these interesting elements, Rats and People's focus is on storytelling. Each song weaves a separate tale, its stories told from a different point of view. (JL)

Best Blues Artist

If you haven't come across the Bottoms Up Blues Gang yet, you must be either dead or in jail. The trio plays out nearly every night at venues ranging from the classy and cool (Brandt's) to the funky and unrefined (the Shanti). No matter the venue, the style of acoustic blues seems to fit right in. Kari Liston and Jeremy Segel-Moss may be this town's best male-female harmonizers, and Adam Andrews' harmonica honks and hollers are propelled by Segel-Moss' forceful acoustic guitar strokes. (CS)

From his colorful wardrobe to his authoritative singing and spare, no-nonsense blues harp, Big George Brock is a difficult man to ignore. Still going strong in his mid-seventies, Brock compels attention both as a master showman and as one of the last local bluesmen of his generation still performing and recording on a regular basis. His raucous, electric sound is rooted deep in his Mississippi origins, gaining additional urgency from a hard-driving backup band that follows the leader through every possible twist and turn that can be wrung from twelve bars of blues. — Dean C. Minderman

Over three decades of making music in St. Louis, Tom Hall has perched on every stool in every corner of every bar in Soulard and beyond — or maybe it just feels that way sometimes. He's the preeminent fingerstyle, country blues guitarist in town because he's never given up, even when his priceless 1930s National Steel guitar was stolen last year (a benefit somehow managed to replace it). He plays with wit and soul, drawing on masters like Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson, but also tuned to the intricacies of jazz and the avant-garde. And his deep croak of a voice is as authoritative as his guitar work. (RK)
Delmar Lounge, 8 p.m.

Still not out of his teens, guitarist, pianist, harmonica player and singer Marquise Knox has been called "the future of the blues" by some observers. Knox may indeed have a bright future in music, but let's not forget that he's already making some powerful sounds that have helped make him a popular attraction at local blues clubs, festivals and other events. Having benefited from the tutelage of esteemed veteran musicians like the late Henry Townsend and Big George Brock, Knox seems poised to be a standard-bearer for the St. Louis blues tradition for many years to come. (DM)

Best DJ

The vibrant and unassumingly adorable DJ Karizma (real name: Angela Villinger) spins upbeat electric beats that shimmer and buzz. Karizma – the winner of this year's RFT DJ Spin-off — is more of a performance artist than other local DJs (probably due to her childhood experience as a songstress), while nearly seven years of experience mixing dance music translates to skilled production at the turntables. Karizma intends to use more of her own vocals in upcoming mixes, so keep an eye on this local for original productions performed live. — Kristy Wendt
Pin-Up Bowl, 8 p.m.

RFT DJ Spin-off contestant Rob Gray demonstrates such slick transitioning between beats that the listener often has no sense of track sets, but an impression of a singular dynamic and evolving sound. Rob culminated the Spin-off's night by selecting deep house beats that kept everyone dancing. His beats and collaborations with Don Tinsley can be accessed through a music label he runs called Left Hand Man. (KW)
Pin-Up Bowl, midnight

I love to dance, and I like to play music that people can dance to," says Flex Boogie, after spinning a soulful set for a small midweek crowd lingering into the night at Moxy. Flex's urban sound is soulfully funky and frequently incorporates the necessary vocal-heavy hip-hop and pop tracks required to initiate Midwestern booty shaking. He sandwiches these hits with older or lesser-known tracks, exposing the crowd to new music while never missing a beat for those happily dancing. (KW)
Pin-Up Bowl, 9 p.m.

Co-founder of production company X-1, electro/progressive DJ Rob Lemon has over a decade of experience playing both local and national venues, where his specialty is electro dance grooves. He's packed HOME nightclub with crisply polished electronic beats and well-produced trance-flavored sounds, earning him a national nod: X-1's release of "Hypnosis" on Curvve Recordings last February promptly became a Beatport Progressive Chart top ten hit, where it stayed for twelve consecutive weeks. (KW)

Talk to anyone at length in the electronic music scene in St. Louis, or anyone at Upstairs Lounge, and Scotty Mac's name will come up. Scotty's (more than) fifteen years of experience translate to an uncanny ability to bait his dance floor with orchestral, fluid tracks — before sprinkling in more esoteric music, where any number of his broad influences may be found. He incorporates Latin, jazz, soul, disco, acid, funk and rock into assimilations intended to introduce what he calls "non-disposable" music: music that breathes, warm and alive, in the listener's mind. (KW)

Best Eclectic/Uncategorizable

Like the slightly shifting monotony of a ship at sea on choppy waters, the Conformists writes music that is ever-morphing yet manages to create a trance-like effect. The band holds audiences hostage, until it sees fit to drop an assault of jagged dissonance and strange tempo shifts that are perfectly "wrong." Mike Benker's voice can shift from psychotic whispering chants to full-bodied baritone shouts that are reminiscent of Glenn Danzig – but it always finds its place among the confounding instrumental menagerie that resembles the angular experiments of bands like Slint and the Jesus Lizard. (SM)

In recent years, home recording software has put the ability to make quality recordings in the palm of nearly every musician's hand. Naturally, this has spawned a new generation of bedroom recording savants who base their compositions on careful layering and overdubbing of multiple motifs (and the occasional charming background noise of a television set or roommate shuffling around in the next room). But .e manages to bring her one-woman creations to life in the live setting as well. A tasteful array of looping devices, effects pedals and a dreamy whisper of a voice adds up to the ethereal sway of her noise-pop experiments. (SM)
Vintage Vinyl, 8 p.m.

As a musician who manipulates, shapes, and otherwise corrals noise into manageable forms, Eric Hall has performed as part of experimental groups like Grandpa's Ghost and Peanuts. But when he is on his own, Hall's compositions float, formulate and dissipate in an ongoing exercise in entropy as chaos and order feed into one another. His work tends to turn from dreamy and ambient to disruptive and distorted, and his on-the-fly method of performance ensures that you never hear the same song twice. (CS)

Quief Quota – a.k.a. five-sixths of the venerable experimental outfit Skarekrau Radio, which itself turns twenty years old this fall – excels at creating rickety indie weirdness. The conversations the band has on its debut Chattin' With Quief Quota resemble across between Miranda July's twisted daydreams and subversive Sesame Street. Hints of Pavement's askew indie, Beck's lo-fi-folk weirdness and plenty of perverted twang and freak-jazz make songs such as "Love Triangle" and "Pop's Rocks" feel like deliciously inappropriate nursery rhymes. (AZ)
Delmar Lounge, 11 p.m.

When distributing Web of Light to reviewers, Joseph Raglani included a cryptic press release that touts the new album as the soundtrack to "a film lost in space." Listeners must conjure their own accompanying imagery, and Raglani's instrumentals suggest fantastical happenings, with synthesizers surging like laser-gun fights and fizzing through ambient space like coasting spacecrafts. Raglani unleashes occasional feedback screeches and buzzing-hive noise swarms, but he's not interested in sonic confrontation. Laced with fractal psychedelic guitar and field-recorded nature noises, Raglani's songs feel like futuristic shoegaze, created by artificial intelligence in the post-human wilderness. – Andrew Miller

Best Funk/Soul/R&B

What can we say about the Dogtown Allstars that one of their countless riffs couldn't say better? The four-piece remains a shining star of feel-good dance music, bringing together noodle-dancing hippie chicks and goatee-stroking jazzbos under the sway of the almighty groove. Fueled by Nathan Hershey's organ and electric piano, the Allstars fuse the kinetic energy of high-powered jam-band funk with the syncopated strut of New Orleans R&B (the Meters are an obvious influence). The mostly instrumental jams allow room to highlight the instrumental prowess of the quartet, but the band remains committed to airtight grooves and switchblade riffs. (CS)
Delmar Lounge, 1 a.m.

As producer, arranger and over-all jazz deconstructionist, Lamar Harris roams across an urban musical landscape like a graffiti artist obsessed with smudging and smearing boundaries. Over crisp, dense beats and squiggling keys, Harris sprays horn and bass lines that have the expressiveness of jazz and the grooves of hip-hop. Though he's honed his sound in the studio, his most recent release, Live at the Bistro, recorded at the St. Louis jazz club in January 2008, captures how vivid and visceral his funk can be. (RK)
Brandt's, 9 p.m.

The Upright Animals have the blessing of St. Louis rock royalty, having opened for Chuck Berry on a number of occasions. Just don't expect to see them duck-walking across the stage anytime soon. The quintet leans heavily on expansive rock & roll, using arena-sized riffs and larger-than-life drums to fill up the room. Jamie Irwin's big-hearted vocals are tailor-made for modern rock radio, and his bandmates push him toward the stratosphere with spacey, amorphous sheets of sound. (CS)

Kim Massie is one of this city's treasures. She has been entertaining lucky locals for decades with her soulful voice and playfully sassy attitude. In addition to crooning her original songs, Massie has the power to make covers sound like they were written just for her. While most entertainers her age retired long ago, Massie is still working her thick, enviable pipes in venues that range from the elegant Fox Theatre to dark corner bars and even under the Arch, where she dueted with Cyndi Lauper last July. (JL)

Nite Owl's victory at the Koch Records-sponsored Koch Madness contest (which netted him $1000 and a single deal with the label) is the latest result of the hip-hop vet's tireless hustle. This year alone, he's played numerous gigs at the Old Rock House and Duck Room, released a double album (Spoiled Rotten, whose Outkast/Kanye influences rang true) and will perform at the Hot 104.1 Summer Jam alongside T.I. and Keyshia Cole. (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 10 p.m.

Best Garage Band

Sometimes it seems like all East Side rock bands are art-damaged wankers who consider getting on your nerves a valid artistic aim. Then along comes somebody like Left Arm. It can get just as loud as any of its fellow Illinoisans, but the band uses its powers in the service of vulgar old rock & roll. Dissatisoul, its latest disc, has won the ears of discerning garage creeps on both sides of the Big Muddy. Left Arm isn't out to alter any paradigms or confound any expectations – except maybe the expectation that East Side bands can't play rock & roll. – Jason Toon
Halo Bar, 10 p.m.

Local garage denizens the Gentleman Callers always had a soft spot for scruffy '60s pop, so it's no surprise that after they went on hiatus, drummer Matt Picker, guitarist Seth Porter and bassist Kevin Schneider formed the mod-rockin' Blind Eyes. Garage more in spirit than in practice, this new band nevertheless channels the angry-young-man smarts of Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello and Squeeze's cool-for-cats power-pop. (AZ)
>Halo Bar, 9 p.m.

Once inside a rock club dreary, while I sat stupefied and beery, before many a dull and tedious song by some forgotten bore. While I nodded, nearly snoring, suddenly there came a roaring, tremendous chords that set me soaring, so I asked the guy working the door: "Who are these garage-rocking giants that compel me to get out on the floor?" Quoth the door guy: "The Nevermores." (JT)

Whether you call it punk-infused rockabilly, rock-infused country or swing-tinged blues, the Trip Daddys channel everything that is pure and nostalgic about rock & roll. The trio has survived several lineup changes and other hardships over its nearly thirteen-year history but has always remained an ambassador of the classic style of hillbilly blues championed by St. Louis' own Chuck Berry in the '50s. A Daddys live show is always a spectacle; singer/guitarist Craig Straubinger manages to pull off big guitar solos and over-the-top, high-energy theatrics without pandering to the audience or coming off as some sort of novelty act. (SM)
Halo Bar, 11 p.m.

The term "garage rock" can be either a meaningless catch-all or a restrictive genre tag, but the two guys and one gal in the Vultures stretch the borders of garage rock with each two-minute song-burst. While the band's debt to rockabilly and scuzz rock is apparent, the Vultures drop in little nuggets of early-'80s punk rock, girl-group innocence and gritty soul as well. The band has already released an EP and a seven-inch, and a full-length should be issued later this year. We'll see just how many genres they can shoehorn onto one CD. (CS)

Best Hard Rock/Metal

In the liner notes to Slayer's 1996 cover album Undisputed Attitude, the group explains that while bands such as Minor Threat and D.R.I. weren't all that fast, they appreciated their intensity. Well, maybe those early hardcore outfits, which Cross Examination resembles, weren't speedy by metal's standards, judged by double-bass beats-per-minute and total solo-notes shredded, but they sounded as if they were about to combust. It's the difference between an airplane, cruising overhead at some unfathomable velocity and an overtaxed car doing 150 on the highway. Other acts might be technically quicker than Cross Examination, but they'll never sound more reckless, dangerous and, well, fun. (AM)

Last summer, Harkonin signed a multi-album deal with Battlegod Productions, a label run by Gorgoroth. (Not the Gorgoroth, black-metal fans, but an Australian dude who performs under that name; still, his band Baltak sounds pretty brutal.) In March, Battlegod, which boasts a distribution deal with metal empire Century Media, reissued Harkonin's stellar 2006 disc Ghanima. Harkonin recently leaked "Chaos Anthem," a rough demo from its in-progress 2009 release, and the new tune hints at a few changes in the group's sound: Most notably, singer Jason Barron sounds decidedly less snakelike. (AM)

Not many bands in town go around representing for "thrash." To the general public, the idea of thrash metal might seem outdated or at least uncool — that is, until it's seen Head On Collision. With HOC there is no tounge-in-cheek posing, just good, solid, home-grown metal. The drums are heavy, the singing is best described as gutteral screeching, and the guitar licks are straight-up evil, God love 'em. There aren't many bands like that around here, and Beer City Records is doing all it can to steal it away from us: signing the band, throwing money behind the release of its new album, Ritual Sacrifice, and sending it out on the road for most of the summer. Come back soon, HOC, you'll be missed. (JL)

Dude, I saw the most bitching band last night: Shame Club. The quartet's loud as fuck – you shoulda seen its stacks of Marshall amps — grooves like Zeppelin and plays as fast as fuckin' Motörhead. Motörhead! And bro, the sweet riffs Andy White and vocalist Jon Lumley play – man, I think I got whiplash from headbanging too hard. Plus, its new album, Come On? So righteous and full of dude-jams that Detroit's Small Stone Records made a bro-verture and re-released it earlier this year. Sweet." (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 3 p.m.

The members of Heroes of the Kingdom have lived up to their mighty name since storming onto the scene last year. The quartet's live gigs continue to pulverize the eardrums, while its long-awaited album features a brawny distillation of He-Man riffs, rust-colored Midwest post-rock and KSHE jams – without sacrificing melody or nuance. (AZ)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 2 p.m.

Best Hip-Hop DJ

Every Thursday night at new Grove venue the Gramophone, DJ Crucial and DJ Needles unleash Sound Clash, a free, tag-team celebration of hip-hop, soul and R&B. This plum gig is the latest feather in the cap for the F5 Records president, whose musical reputation both in and out of town continues to grow by leaps and bounds – thanks in no small part to live DJ gigs with Nato Caliph and a well-received collaboration with Hi-Fidel (In the Company of Wolves). (AZ)
Pin-Up Bowl, 10 p.m.

This year, you've probably heard this Soul Tyde vet spinning at the Gramophone or backing hometown hero Black Spade on the turntables. His most stellar work, however, was a mash-up: American Gangstarr combined the lyrics of Jay-Z's American Gangster album with the beats of Gang Starr's DJ Premier. If you thought Lil' Wayne sounded hot on the original hook to "Hello Brooklyn," check it as Needles envisions it, with a sick horn break that combines the best of the Jay's high-powered production with the soulful sound of NYC's jazz rap extraordinaires. – Keegan Hamilton
Pin-Up Bowl, 7 p.m.

Dan Mahfood is best known as the DJ for the Earthworms, mixing old-school soul samples and propulsive beats for the hip-hop collective. His scratching technique is classy and masterful, and his scratches always serve the song and amplify the groove. When he's not holding down the ones and twos for the Earthworms, DJ Mahf can be found spinning weekly sets at places like the Atomic Cowboy and the Upstairs Lounge, setting the mood with '80s pop and arena rock alongside modern hip-hop and R&B. (CS)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 10:40 p.m.

Gabe Moskoff (a.k.a. DJ Trackstar) hasn't let the cessation of his long-running Friday night Halo Bar spin slow him down. His weekly local hip-hop e-newsletter continues to be a must-read collection of news, free mixes and shows listings, while his artfully curated Boogie Bang mixtapes continue to arrive fast and furious (he's up to volume thirteen). Even better, people outside of the Lou are starting to take note: Earlier this spring Trackstar hosted a mix by underground luminary NYOil. (AZ)
Pin-Up Bowl, 11 p.m.

Whether it's in the friendly confines of the Delmar Lounge, the frenzied dance floor of the club, or on the airwaves of 104.1 FM, "The Don of St. Louis," as Chan bills himself, is always in control when he steps behind the wheels of steel. Perhaps it's the mafia monikers that help Chan command the power he wields over crowds, but whether he's spinning old school, underground or radio rap, the people respect the Lou veteran and get their freak on. (KH)

One look at K-Nine's hands and it's obvious he was born to DJ. His fingers are impossibly long and thin and bend back as if he were double-jointed. Whether he's performing solo or backing up his boy Nite Owl on the cutz, it's with these hands that he effortlessly scratches out breaks, almost tickling the vinyl. If you don't think the turntables are an instrument that requires as much hand dexterity as a guitar or piano, watch K-Nine, the man with the magic hands, go to work. (KH)

Best Indie Band

Since releasing 2006's No Thrills Target Market has gone through quite the metamorphosis in terms of lineup and musical direction. Recent live performances have found the band leaving behind most of its spastic post-rock in favor of a more hook-driven indie-pop sound that draws more from the simple genius of Lou Reed than complex Midwest mathiness. But danceable grooves, deceptively complex drum patterns and inventive melodies still serve the band well and should fuel its upcoming album, which is expected later this year. (SM)
Cicero's, 7 p.m.

By day, Matt Harnish slings records behind the counter at Vintage Vinyl. But by night, he and his merry cast of 'Grunt workers (long-time foils Karen Ried and Eric Von Damage and – sometimes, if we're lucky — scene staples Jason Hutto and Mario Viele) unleash foaming-at-the-mouth twee-punk that will tickle your pop fancy – while inducing more awkward dance moves this side of a junior high mixer. (AZ)
Delmar Lounge, midnight

With an eye on classic pop forms and an ear for of-the-moment trends, the Hibernauts craft melodic, instantly catchy rock & roll that is both familiar and innovative. The band's debut EP Periodic Fable offers a satisfying sample of the quartet's abilities; its mix of space rock, Britpop and post-punk reveals a band that enjoys testing the limits of the three-minute pop song. Jack Stevens and Tom McArthur let their guitars play off of one another, and the tension-and-release dynamic often leads to a euphoric lift-off. (CS)
Cicero's, 10 p.m.

Sniff. Oh, these wee indie bands grow up so fast! After recording its debut album with So Many Dynamos guitarist Ryan Wasoba, the Say Panther kids started exuding very-adult musical confidence onstage. Thankfully, even as this self-assurance made the collective's trumpet-peppered tunes feel mature – think New Order, Architecture in Helsinki and De Novo Dahl – the collective lost none of its charming innocence. (AZ)
Cicero's, 6 p.m.

The members of So Many Dynamos are showing no signs of scaling back their tireless work ethic. After touring all over the country (again) last year, the quartet recorded most of its third full-length album at John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco with Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla at the controls. With record labels already showing interest in the results, it seems the band is poised to make its biggest waves yet this year — which isn't surprising to anyone who's seen the band's brain-bending, super-energetic live show. When the taste-making hype machine does finally come knocking for the Dynamos, we here in St. Louis will simply say, "What took you so long?" (SM)
Main Stage, 4 p.m.

Last year's self-titled debut introduced the Jumbling Towers as a band with a focused sound and an audible intensity. Joe DeBoer's vocals owe an equal debt to Syd Barrett and Destroyer's Dan Bejar, and his command of the Fender Rhodes electric piano gives a soulful heft to the squall-like guitar parts and boundary-setting bass. A new EP is due any day now, although the quartet will have to work hard to match the energy and vision of its first outing. (CS)
Cicero's, 8 p.m.

Best Jazz Artist

The saxophone is an iconic instrument in jazz, and no one in St. Louis wields the tenor and soprano saxophones with more skill than Willie Akins. Akins has been a mainstay on the local jazz scene for five decades, and his weekly sessions at Spruill's have become a pilgrimage for young musicians looking to learn from a master and out-of-town visitors paying homage to a local legend. With just one recording in print as a leader, Akins has earned his reputation though live performances, and knowledgeable listeners who hear him play will instantly recognize a talent deserving of much wider recognition. (DM)

The best always make it look easy — and much like Tiger Woods swinging a golf club or Albert Pujols clubbing a game-winning homer, Hamiet Bluiett's performances on the baritone saxophone reveal only a hint of the difficulty of the feat. A member of the original Black Artists Group and co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet, Bluiett has been a game-changer for the role of the baritone sax in modern jazz, pushing the big horn to do things heretofore thought impossible. His home base may be in the St. Louis area, but Bluiett's reputation as an artist and innovator is worldwide. (DM)

Whether you call her sound jazz, folk, pop or indie, there's no doubt that singer Erin Bode has struck a chord with listeners in St. Louis and all over the nation. The silvery-voiced chanteuse seems to win new fans with every live show or media appearance and has expanded her touring schedule from coast to coast over the past couple of years. With a new CD – the first in two years centered on her work with her own band – due out in a few weeks, Bode seems ready to consolidate those gains and move into the spotlight as a national and international artist. (DM)

Much like free-jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, local saxophonist Dave Stone seems equally enamored with the melodic and textural possibilities of his instrument. He seems as comfortable emitting syrupy melodies from his horn as he does producing shards of abrasive sounds from his reeds and keys. As a respected part of both the local jazz and noise communities, Stone has made his reputation by being well versed, but constantly uncompromising. Stone can often be seen around town collaborating with countless musicians, but his talent shines the brightest when performing his weekly gigs with the trio that bears his name. – Ryan Wasoba
Brandt's, 11 p.m.

If Illinois' recent smoking ban creeps past the Mississippi River into Missouri, Commoners – formerly known as the Brian Sullivan Quartet — may suffer harder than most local groups. This isn't to say the outfit is a bunch of nicotine addicts or future lung cancer sufferers, but its straight-ahead, bebop-influenced jazz conjures up images of smoky Manhattan nightclubs in the early '60s. The quartet's swinging blend of standards and originals is ideal dinner music for a night on the Delmar Loop, but it is more than mere background music. When drummer and band leader Brian Sullivan channels Tony Williams or Elvin Jones while playing an open solo or trading fours with his bandmates, you may feel like you need a cigarette afterward. (RW)
Brandt's, 8 p.m.

Best Live Act

The cheesy rock-crit slang term "power trio" seems tailor-made to describe Victoria. Like the feral spawn of Kings of Leon, Jon Spencer and the Doors – long-haired vocalist/guitarist David Moore even resembles Jim Morrison emerging from a roaring hurricane onstage – the three-piece worships at the altar of rumbling riffs and baby-makin' boogie. Bassist Chad Rogers' tush-wiggling and crowd flirtations prevent Victoria from being too serious, while drummer Steve Andrews' steady beat-keeping further keeps the fulcrum balanced. (AZ)
Main Stage, 6 p.m.

For a skinny white dude, Jon Hardy sure packs a lot of soul into his performances with the Public. The songs from last year's Working in Love drip with emotion and conviction, and Hardy channels his passion directly into his microphone. The band plays a mish-mash of Americana-influenced rock & roll and Motown-indebted pub-rock, and the members of the Public bring the same intensity to their parts. If you happen to catch a show when the Public is augmented by a horn section, get ready for an evening of E Street–worthy rave-ups. (CS)
Main Stage, 2 p.m.

It's not a stretch to call Dave Grelle the hardest working keyboardist in town. When he's not conducting the live incarnation of the Earthworms or sitting in with the Incurables, he leads the piano-centric trio the Feed. By running his electric piano through a barrage of effects, Grelle has erased the need for a guitar in high-energy, soul-powered rock & roll. His co-conspirators Ben Reece (saxophone and bass) and Kevin Bowers (drums) contribute crack musicianship, harmony vocals, and no small measure of style and verve to the band's live performances. (CS)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 4 p.m.

7 Shot Screamers is such a good – nay, make that consistently good – live band, that it's almost too easy to take the quartet for granted. Whether we're talking about its many jaunts out of town (including its upcoming appearance at North Carolina's Heavy Rebel Weekender fest) or its intimate gigs at the Way Out, the Screamers' electric mind-meld of rockabilly, gutter-twang and punk always bleeds with unrestrained aggression, energy and (with apologies to Iggy) raw power. (AZ)
Halo Bar, midnight

Neither sound demons nor indifferent crowds deter So Many Dynamos from tearing up stages from coast to coast. In fact, the more the spazzy dervishes tour out of town, the more polished their live show becomes. Old-school math-rock convulsions "Progress" and "We Vibrate, We Do" mesh perfectly with new, synth-saturated songs such as "New Bones" and "Ghosts." Plus, it's a small miracle that guitarist/vocalist Ryan Wasoba hasn't yet slipped a disc from so violently throwing his body around onstage. (AZ)
Main Stage, 4 p.m.

It's more than just the V in his name that brings vaudeville to mind at Vandalyzm's shows. The man does it all: He sings, he dances, and, perhaps most important, he makes you laugh. Usually flanked by his hard-hitting hype man Gotta Be Karim, Vandalyzm always has a few songs that get the crowd dancing, a few more that leave them nodding their heads in awe at his lyrical prowess — and one, "Old Girl," his ode to MILFs, that has audience singing along and laughing. (KH)
Main Stage, 5 p.m.

Best Local Release {on a label}

Melodic, infectious pop music is given several iterations on the ten tracks that comprise New Sense, the debut from Grace Basement. Though now playing out as a full-fledged band, leader Kevin Buckley composed, performed and recorded the entire album by himself. His sharp songwriting and musical prowess have given way to a varied platter of indie rock. The country-folk gem "Santa Fe" would have been a top ten single in 1973, and the burbling, playful "Caught" injects a little bit of pop-psychedelia into the mix. (CS)
Pi, 9 p.m.

An apt exhortation to fans and detractors alike, Shame Club's Come On honors classic rock heroes without resorting to musty dinosaur gestures. Guitars scream like bottle rockets or twist lazily like a kite – mimicking Led Zeppelin and Motörhead as much as Sly and the Family Stone or Queens of the Stone Age — while golden-throated vocalist Jon Lumley howls and moans with the effortless agility of the greats. Unheralded drummer Ken McCray's monstrous playing anchors On's melodic rhythm section; his drumsticks look like mere toothpicks as he obliterates grooves with ease. (AZ)

With a few notable exceptions, local bands have never had much luck with the major-label machine. But with the release of You're Awful, I Love You, count Ludo among those who dodged the cut-out-bin bullet. The hard-working quintet recorded Awful with Matt Wallace at Sound City Studios (Weezer, Nirvana); the result is a solid, cohesive disc of catchy tunes that span the rainbow-spectrum of pop – from ska ("Lake Pontchartain") and rock ("Please") to power ("Such As It Ends") and quirk ("Love Me Dead"). (AZ)

Peat Sounds, the fabulous punk-rock album by the Pubes, is a frenzied, high-energy blast of raucous infectiousness. Most songs hover around 90 seconds long, although the band doesn't hum along at one speed the entire time. Distinctive style shifts in songs such as the bouncy "Tree Named Fukyew" and the evil old-school metal trudge "The Skull Island Pop" — coupled with an abundance of catchy hooks and plenty of sharp-witted sarcasm — make this album stand out. (SM)

Much like the Van Halen album to which it (sorta) pays homage (that'd be 1984), Riddle of Steel's 1985 features the strongest songwriting of its career. Jimmy Vavak's hollowed-out basslines writhe around Andrew Elstner's silver-plated riffs and drummer Rob Smith's propeller-fast beats. Standouts include the pogo-friendly rocker "Quiet Now" – which bounces along with the sensation of bare feet pricking needles — the stoner-rock slow-burn "Who's the Fella Owns This Shithole?" and yes, the Van Halen-esque "It's Called a Turbo." (AZ)

Had Gogol Bordello had roots in the wilds of Missouri instead of soaking up Eastern Europe influences, the band might have produced an album like the Monads' Ornery. Buoyed by nimble electric fiddle and barnstormin' banjo – along with thumping upright bass and sterling harmonies – the quartet's old-time saloon-rock and gypsy-twang is a hootin' and hollerin' good time. (AZ)

As hip-hop becomes increasingly faceless and homogeneous, the effervescent, personality-laden Earthworms are a breath of fresh air. Cartoonish and playful (but not reliant on shtick) Bourbon boasts Technicolor beats, breezy soul-jazz and sizzling vinyl scratches. A cameo from the Urge's Steve Ewing helps the horn-funk jam "Get Up" kill — although the title track, with its smooth lyrical flow and sinister beats, steals the show. (AZ)

Best Local Release {self-released}

Fans of the Basement Tapes-esque Americana of Jon Hardy's early work were right to be surprised and stunned by Working In Love. The record isn't the work of a Midwestern alt-country band; it's the sound of blue-eyed soul in love with pop music, from the resonant chime of guitars to the unflagging rhythm section to the horn section that blares hook after undeniable hook. It's a break-up album, for sure, but it's never mopey or self-indulgent. Hardy keeps the lyrics simple and straight from the heart, letting the pure pop-craft of his melodies and arrangements tell the story. (RK)

It's always great to see a band realize its potential and find its identity through the process of making a record. That's just what the Hibernauts seemed to accomplish with last year's tightly wound EP Periodic Fable. The seven songs on Fable pack a punch, their jangly guitars and perfectly textured vocal harmony arrangements sett the disc apart from average indie-pop fair. "Into the Storm/Out to the Sea" is an epic tune that dances along on a perpetual hi-hat bounce, thick harmonies and vintage synthesizer accents — before a sweetly romantic breakdown section that conjures Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips sets up a driving, hopeful ending. (SM)

Dark-wave synths and post-punk guitars meet, shake hands and slow-dance to Bauhaus records on the Bureau's first full-length record. Bassist and singer Mike Cracchiolo writes tight, kinetic songs that suit his rich tenor voice, and We Make Plans in Secret captures the mix of punk and electronic rock & roll. The band's love of '80s pop bubbles up from time to time, from the Human League-esque synth chords of "White Girls" to the syncopated guitar strokes on "Cabin Pressure." Where a lesser band would labor under endless doom and gloom, the Bureau operates off of a still-beating heart, however black it may be. (CS)
Cicero's, 9 p.m.

When was the last time you listened to an album (let alone a hip-hop one) and didn't skip a single track? If you downloaded a copy of Northside Phenomenon (it wasn't released in stores), that was probably it. Knuckles establishes a blistering pace on the album's title track opener and never looks back. His imposing baritone voice, flawless flow and thought-provoking lyrics, combined with the guitar-heavy production of local legend Kenautis Smith, make for the rare album where you can simply press play and walk away. (KH)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 8 p.m.

Nick Acquisto hosts "The Space Parlour" on KDHX (88.1 FM), a program that specializes in slightly off-center rock & roll from at home and abroad. Last year Acquisto asked some of his favorite St. Louis bands to drop in and record live, in-studio sessions, and the best tracks came to be collected on the first Live in St. Louis disc. By compiling songs from artists specializing in folk (Casey Reid), punk (Ded Bugs) and rock (That's My Daughter), Acquisto's comp serves as a document of St. Louis talent — as well as a tip sheet for many of this city's best bands. (CS)

The City of Passersby's stories unfold song by song. Each track functions as its own unique chapter, meaning that the album's tales are told from different points of view through the eyes of individual narrators. And like pieces of a puzzle, they all fit together to form some kind of bigger picture. Using a combination of old instruments and a new folk-punk presentation, the talented members of Rats and People express the converging feelings in the album, with loss, confusion and hope taking center stage. (JL)

Best New Artist

Buoyed by Scott Lasser's surf-rock-influenced drumming and sweet-and-sour vocal harmonies from Laurel Mydock and Morgan Nusbaum, the 75s channel the punkish early days of the Go-Go's. Extra Fancy, the trio's debut LP, is a quick-and-dirty affair highlighted by cutting bass lines and Mydock's Liz Phair-esque vocal affectations. Thankfully, she doesn't channel Phair's flat boredom too; the 75s' smoking live cover of the Buzzcocks' "Orgasm Addict" keeps the original's angst. (AZ)
Market in the Loop, 3 p.m.

Although most noted for its unprecedented stage setup, the Livers isn't just a band with a clever presentation. The duo plays in front of a pre-recorded video of the two members as the rhythm section, freeing up the real-life Livers to sing and play guitar during the live shows. Word of mouth has done the band well, with uninitiated audience members attending the shows with the intention of watching the spectacle transpire — and instead finding themselves staying for the friendly vibe, funny between-song videos and riffed-out singable tunes. (JL)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 1 p.m.

At the Grammy Awards, bands nominated in the Best New Artist category don't make it through to the next awards cycle. But we suspect that Wooden Kites is in it for the long haul. Built with seasoned local musicians who all seem to excel at their own instruments, the band combines scream-along choruses and joyously clashing verses – think Bright Eyes or the Replacements — to create a most audience-friendly experience. Look for the upcoming release The Orchard and an album release show at Vintage Vinyl on June 6. (JL)

Like many "new" bands in town, the Blind Eyes should be familiar to regular show-goers, especially since its lineup is the Gentleman Callers minus guitarist Mike Virag. This respectable pedigree likely explains the fully formed nature of the trio's first songs and recordings. "High Life" and "Find the Time" both conjure late-'70s pub-rock by Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe — while the band's energetic concerts channel the ghosts of another legendary mod-punk trio, the Jam. (AZ)

Fronted by singer and guitarist James Weber Jr., the Museum Mutters is a rock trio that plays by instinct, not by design. Sometimes its passions lead the band to droning Pavement art-noise, sometimes into Replacementsy guitar brawls and sometimes into druggy Big Star power-pop. The band recently released, via free download, what appears to be an eleven-song, lo-fi rock album, but which may actually be a topographical map noting the secret locations of pissed off and wild-at-heart rock nuggets. (RK)
Delmar Lounge, 10 p.m.

Best Pop Band

Perhaps the pesky (and incorrect) Arcade Fire comparisons that have dogged Gentleman Auction House will finally disappear when the septet releases Alphabet Graveyard next month. Recorded at Silver Sonya Studios in Washington, D.C., Graveyard's wintry pop songs incorporate reggae beats, new-wave sass, Rick James funk, bubblegum-soul and Bright Eyes-like folk. The band's formidable live show has become one of the city's best – thanks mainly to its ultra-danceable grooves and such playful touches as a cover of Rihanna's hip-pop "Breakin' Dishes." (AZ)
Main Stage, 3 p.m.

Like any good pop band, Jon Hardy & the Public doesn't find the genre's traditional verse-chorus-verse structure limiting. The group's fantastic 2007 release Working in Love often bettered the warm-toned soul and barbed hooks of Spoon while channeling the tortured souls of '70s power-pop royalty and hints of Springsteen's working-class sorrow. (AZ)

Denizens of the city's Irish (and Irish-friendly) pubs know Kevin Buckley for his prowess on the fiddle. But in rock clubs, he's known as the man behind the pure pop outfit Grace Basement. Last year's New Sense was full of compact, meaningful gems, such as the Superchunk-esque "Orphan Annie and the Dump Truck" and the twangy-folk standout "Santa Fe." Buckley's not one content to settle on one genre for long, though; the new podcast "Nestor Part I" on his MySpace demonstrates a prominent psych-folk influence (think Beta Band or My Morning Jacket). (AZ)

As a pop band that hits on punk and classic '70s rock & roll, the music of the Sex Robots is best experienced when its shambolic two-and-a-half-minute burners are witnessed live; its concerts are effortless in the way that only experienced musicians can present. Mostly, the members of the Sex Robots just make it all look so damn easy. Its pop elements are enhanced with bass grooves, thumping drums and virtuoso guitar shredding, and its lyrics contain depth and small stories. But like any good pop band, the presentation takes over any deep message. (JL)
Delmar Lounge, 9 p.m.

The list of piano-led rock groups that don't totally suck is a short one, but the piano-bass-drums trio the Feed makes a case for the keyboard's supremacy. Using a battery of vintage keyboards that would make Rick Wakeman proud, Dave Grelle infuses no small measure of soul into his band's rock-centric sound, both in his playing and singing. In their quest to be completely guitar-free, the band members treat their instruments like a six-string, running organs and saxophones through stomp boxes to create elastic, crunchy tones that rub up against Ben Reece's liquid bass lines and Kevin Bowers' intuitive drumming. (CS)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 4 p.m.

Best Punk/Hardcore

It is not shocking that half of Nerve Parade's backbone comes from the defunct Corbeta Corbata, since Eric Von Damage's caveman drumming and Don Beasley's downstrokes-only riffs are a core element in the band's fist-pumping mid-tempo punk rock. With help from the Pubes member Peat Henry's anthematic yelps and Pat Sajak Assassins four-stringer Brian Fleschute's gritty, Dazzling Killmen-esque basslines, Nerve Parade could be considered a St. Louis weirdo supergroup. It's not trying to break down any boundaries or reinvent any wheels: Nerve Parade just wants to make the perfect soundtrack to a DIY show in an unfinished South City basement, complete with a bass amp PA and a few cases of Stag. (RW)
Vintage Vinyl, 6 p.m.

The boys in the Humanoids put their hearts into every live performance, creating an electric, sweaty scene in venues all around town. The band's sound is open, blazing straightforward punk, without any unnecessary additions or other confusing elements. The lyrics stream by fast, the guitars ring loudly, and the drumming is hard and quick. With the aid of several high-profile opening slots (including for the Misfits at the Roberts Orpheum Theater) and constant gigs, the band has swiftly built up a following here and around the country, with both young kids and punk veterans singing along and furiously pumping their fists in the front row of nearly every show. (JL)
Halo Bar, 8 p.m.

Lye By Mistake will not rest until your brain is melted and your jaw has congealed with the spilt beer on the venue floor. Led by the virtuosic shredding of guitarist Josh Bauman and the guttural, often affected vocals of Tony Saputo, the band crafts intense tech-metal that isn't afraid to push the boundaries of human ability or the preconceived notions of its genre; for Lye By Mistake, "breakdown" means a jazz-fusion guitar solo over a salsa beat. The easiest comparisons are to Dillinger Escape Plan or Mike Patton's many projects, but Lye By Mistake is almost peerless. It has not only transcended its influences, it is making them look like chumps. (RW)

In the thirty years since punk was born, the style of music has gone from adorably naïve to politically righteous to blisteringly ferocious. The four lads in the Pubes celebrate a return to punk's charming naiveté while using the wit and fury of their mohawked forebears. Playing two-minute pop songs about dancing, drinking beer and girlfriends, the Pubes bring an innocence and joie de vivre that make punk rock fun again; in fact, the sunshiny sounds on last year's Peat Sounds burst at the seams with amped-up bubblegum pop. (CS)

The Ramones may have loaded into that big dive club in the sky, but local stalwarts the Ded Bugs keep the 1-2-3-4 flag flying. They're juvenile enough to call for "Xanax for Everyone" and ask "How Come You Don't Barf with Me Anymore?" but old enough to remember when pop-punk wasn't a dirty word. Cheap, trashy, immature, simple-minded, unfashionable, hyperactive; if you consider those compliments, let the Ded Bugs devour your brain. (JT)
Vintage Vinyl, 7 p.m.

Two seven-inch EPs, five record labels, a U.S. tour and sweaty basement shows all over the country: Who would have guessed this is the resume of a hardcore punk band from St. Louis? You would if you've been lucky enough to see Cardiac Arrest. The attitude and sounds of early '80s Boston hardcore — think the F.U.'s with Choke from Slapshot on vocals — soak through Cardiac Arrest's songs. An LP is upcoming, but make it to a show to shout "What's up?" to St. Louis' longest running hardcore band. – Nick Lucchesi

Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

Earthworms has long been a leading light among the city's hip-hop scene, and the collective's recent work represents a pinnacle of sorts. This year's Bottle Full of Bourbon builds off the funk-heavy, catch-all vibe of the group's debut; Mathias, Kama and Black Patrick trade verses, while DJ Mahf cooks up a stew of smooth old-school soul and hard-edged beats. The Earthworms' live performances infuse a new energy into these tracks, as funky keyboards, skronking horns and a crack rhythm section back these rappers. (CS)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 11 p.m.

The gravelly vocals of identical twin brothers Q.B. and R.E.P. of Family Affair lend menace to aggressive, fast-paced rhymes and set a gritty tone for their laid-back grooves. The frenetic, synchronous pacing of the siblings during live shows can double the energy of a venue – while their mixtape, Daily Situations, offers both hip-hop accessibility and laid-back street talk, exhibiting surprising versatility for such a young duo. (KW)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 7 p.m.

It's no small feat to make rap-metal cool again, but the two emcees and three instrumentalists in the Midwest Avengers do their best to revive the sub-genre. Brothers BC and So'n'So trade verses and rhymes over live guitar, bass and drums instead of relying on the DJ to provide the backdrop, and the group's versatility allows elements of rock and funk to smooth out the rough edges. Last year's Evil Superheroes proved that live hip-hop need not rely purely on soft-touch soul music to be successful. (CS)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 6 p.m.

Despite an under-promoted, online-only album release and a dearth of live performances, the reclusive Knuckles still managed to make waves in the local scene simply because he's so damn good. On his debut solo album Northside Phenomenon, Rockwell describes his style: "I remember when I found my flow, it was soulful yet oh so rock and roll, with a touch of folk singing." Add a whole lot of Tupac, a hint of the Beatles and lyrics that are as introspective and clever as they are gritty, and you get Rockwell Knuckles. (KH)

These days every emcee that owns a laptop and a pirated copy of ProTools thinks he's a "rapper/producer." For most people it's a recipe for disaster. Luckily for us, Vandalyzm isn't most people. The University City native is St. Louis' answer to Kanye West: He's as adept at crafting dope beats as he is at writing rhymes. Van shows off his double-threat skills on his debut album, Megatron Majorz, which features a slew of guest appearances by members of his critically acclaimed clique, the Justus League. (KH)

In life, we go through a lot of individual struggles that build character; that's the sort of thing that defines my music," says emcee Gotta Be Karim, encapsulating both the street credibility and widespread appeal of his raps. In "Swagger Back" his voice crackles, whines and flows over hustling lyrics; like Biggie, the softened consonants and syllables of GBK's loose, smoothly effusive rhymes restrain his frenzied stage presence and generate addictive tension. (KW)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 9 p.m.

Best Reggae Band

In his review of Dub Kitchen's recent set at KDHX's Midwest Mayhem, the RFT's Christian Schaeffer succinctly defined the appeal of the dub-reggae stalwarts. "The seven-person incarnation of the band played soothing, danceable reggae that mixed good cheer with political awareness. The real revelation was Charlie Halleron's trombone playing, which gave a brassy resonance to the syncopated guitar strokes and bottomless bass lines." (AZ)
Brandt's, 10 p.m.

Russ Rankin (as DJ Ranx) soothes bar-weary ears late Friday night/early Saturday morning on KDHX (88.1 FM) with two hours of dub reggae. Naturally, his laid-back band Dubtronix – whose bread-and-butter is playing genial covers sets — was a natural fit to play one of this year's first Harvest Sessions at the Tower Grove Farmer's Market, where Ranx filled out Dubtronix's, er, ranks with a solid bass-guitar-drum backing lineup. (AZ)

Attribute Murder City Players' longevity – the band turned an impressive 25 years old this year – to its chameleonic nature. The ten-piece switches between ska, dancehall and straightforward reggae (and any and all variations in between) with ease and fluidity, driven by co-vocalists Mark Condellire and "Prince Phillip" McKenzie and a vibrant horn section. (AZ)

The diverse backgrounds of Yard Squad's core members no doubt inspire the group's soulful, peaceful roots reggae. Along with a rotating cast of vocalists, the scene stalwarts feature Caribbean native Art Richards on bass, Jamaica-born keyboardist Dane Cole and drummer Thomas Fowler, who happens to be legally blind after complications from surgery. Yard Squad's nearly fifteen-year career got a recent boost with the news that it landed an upcoming tour with Peter Tosh's son, a jaunt billed as Tosh 1 and The Stepping Razor Crew. (AZ)

Best Rock Band

Solely based on appearances, Victoria is one of the unlikeliest trios in the city. Spark plug drummer Steve Andrews sports tattoos up and down his arms, while lanky bassist Chad Rogers favors thrift-store finery and singer/guitarist David Moore looks like an archetypal rock star in the vein of Robert Plant. But by referencing Aerosmith, Pearl Jam and Led Zeppelin (along with modern cats Kings of Leon), the trio's musical chemistry makes any surface differences disappear — from the first incendiary riff to the last sweaty groove. (AZ)

The Incurables' live show is always a good reminder of why it helps when a band's musicians have a more than rudimentary knowledge of their instruments and know how to complement each other as a group. Featuring the songs, guitar and voice of St. Louis music scene veteran Jimmy Griffin —and a supporting cast that is more or less a who's who of the local rock scene over the past fifteen years — the group brings a straightforward, no-nonsense rock show filled with catchy choruses and spot-on harmonies. Comparisons include Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but Griffin and Co. have the range to bring plenty of heaviness to the table — and it's this attention to dynamics that really captures the audience. (SM)
Pi, 11 p.m.

Riddle of Steel's rhythm section — bassist Jimmy Vavak and drummer Rob Smith — is forever locked in like a heated game of Tetris, while vocalist Andrew Elstner has one of the most unique voices in town; his nonchalant vocals are as silvery-metallic as Failure's Ken Andrews in places and as menacing as QOTSA's Josh Homme in others. Throw in this year's classic rock-leaning 1985 (an album that manages to avoid sounding stale or derivative) and it's always time to throw your devil horns up – way up – in celebration of this trio. (AZ)

The 7 Shot Screamers made the jump from good to great in the past few years by broadening the scope of rockabilly to include more than hollow-body guitar licks and walking bass lines. There's a wide swatch of hook-heavy bubblegum-inspired pop on the band's most recent full-length In Wonderland. Of course, the four-piece can still rip it up on stage: Magnetic frontman Mike Leahy croons sweetly and swaggers with confidence, and watching bassist Chris Powers Jr. alternately romance and punish his upright bass is worth the price of admission alone. (CS)

Its name evokes Charles Dickens' London, all urban desperation and devolution, and its sound suggests the heavier, meaner side of various British invasions, from Them to the Animals to Led Zeppelin. But the Scrubs are a classic American rock band, with singer and keyboardist Larissa Dalle moaning with country-blues soul and guitarist and singer Jason Rook peeling off psychedelic guitar solos. Though the band hasn't fully broken through to local (let alone national) audiences, it's toured successfully in Europe and the UK. It's time their homies caught up with them. (RK)
Pi, 7 p.m.

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