I like St. Louis. Probably more than you do. I wasn't born here, so I don't carry around that half-embarrassed baggage that most Lou lifers strap to their backs. I love the hidden nooks of fantastic architecture, the high-fat food (I even like Provel), the sports love, the lack of pretension (I moved here from Boulder, Pretension Central), the way people struggle to create their pockets of cool here in flyover country. Most of the time, I think St. Louis is a perfectly sized city smack-dab in the middle of the best country in the history of the world.
But some days St. Louis just sucks.
Maybe it's that the schizophrenic weather's whipped up a bronchial froth in my chest. Maybe it's that my car got stolen last week. Or maybe it's that we're entering winter, the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, when it seems that most national acts band together to pledge not to play here for the next three months. It's the winter doldrums, when musicians polish their gold and enter rehab (now that Rush Limbaugh has opened up a bed for them). Sure, there are some great bands coming to town, and we'll cover them when they get here. But glancing through pollstar.com and our listings reveals little to lift my seasonal malaise.
Pop's knows how to fill the gap: tribute bands. While the best tribute bands are works of postmodern beauty, something tells me this doesn't apply to St. Louis's own Thunderhead, a tribute to Rush. And shouldn't a band have a little age on them before the tribute bands start coming together? I guess Pearl Jam is getting a little long in the tooth (check out Eddie Vedder's nostalgic look back at grunge in Spin this month), but does it really need the tribute band Even Flow? And the Dave Matthews Band's relentless touring seems to cancel out the need for Crash. But I guess those thousands of fans who know Matthews by the Cher-like "Dave" (don't they have any real friends named Dave?) need more. And why doesn't anyone ever dedicate themselves to bands I'd like to see, like My Bloody Valentine or the Smiths? Where is Radio Free Europe, the R.E.M. tribute band, hiding?
Here's a fun piece of tribute-band trivia: You can guess how many other tribute bands came before a certain band by the relevance of the band's name. So you know that Crash is probably one of the first DMB tributes (it had better be), while British Export is probably the 9,000th Beatles tribute band. But since the earlier Fab Four impersonators like 1964 don't resemble a '60s Paul McCartney so much as a '00s John Lennon these days, maybe it is time for a changing of the guard.
You're no doubt saying, So what? Pop's always has a lot of tribute bands. True, but the Pageant does not. Not normally, anyway, but this winter be on the lookout for Wish You Were Here, who will get up on stage and dutifully play Pink Floyd's hits. Seeing how Pink Floyd is almost a Pink Floyd tribute band at this point, this seems really pointless.
Now you're rebutting: It isn't St. Louis' fault that big names don't tour much in the winter. Oh, yeah? Then riddle me this: You really don't see any correlation between a dearth of quality shows and the fact that the world's worst band, Limp Bizkit, sold out the Pageant in about the time it takes sunlight to reach the Earth? Surely there's a mathematical formula that can prove an inverse relationship between the speed that Limp Bizkit tickets sell at a club and the odds of the Magnetic Fields ever playing said venue. And if a sold-out Fred Durst/Korn double bill doesn't strike you with mortal dread, guess who else has sold out our illustrious Pageant? That's right, the Barenaked Ladies and Hootie and the Blowfish. I guess in these chillier nights, when spectacular crap-magnet the UMB Pavilion is closed, horrible bands have to lower their standards a little.
I can take crime. I can take bad weather. But sometimes I look at upcoming concerts, and I weep for us.
What's a music lover to do? Oh, yeah. Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, again and again, like clockwork from the best rock & roll clock on Earth. Maybe we don't need national acts. And maybe I do love St. Louis after all (but I would really like my car back).