We've got good news and better news. The good news: You won't have Radar Station to kick around anymore. We've been "reassigned," kicked upstairs, so to speak, and the column's days are officially numbered. We'll bid an official farewell in the near future, burn a few more bridges, incite some cuss-outs and generally embarrass ourselves for a couple more weeks, but the death clock is ticking in the bunker (or is that a time bomb?), and the sweat is beginning to drench the tuxedos. That's the good news. The better news for everyone involved in St. Louis music is that a successor has been named: René Spencer Saller, longtime RFT freelance writer, lover of all music interesting and deep and smart, dismisser of Jewel and insipid lyrics. Saller brings with her an extensive knowledge of the history of St. Louis, and all other, music; a dry, smart wit; exquisite taste; and an overall passion for this city's potential. Saller will assume the role of music editor in the next few weeks.
Joy of joys, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, our heavenly Slammies Awards has arrived, just in time for the sprouting of the first magnolia blossoms, the return of the little birdies screaming their springtime songs and, best of all, the re-emergence of female bellybuttons.
As they were last year, this year's Slammies activities are threefold: There's the polling aspect; the Slammies Showcase, to occur on Sunday, May 6, at a handful of venues along the U. City Loop; and the Slammies Awards ceremony, which takes place Tuesday, May 16, at the Pageant. With all of this, of course, comes the Radar Station push -- not because we have to, or should, but because of all the miscellaneous crap we must deal with: the half-assed CDs that cross our desk, the nagging phone calls from desperate bands craving plugs, the glares and glances and thinly veiled suck-ups we're forced to endure every week -- the Slammies Awards is the most genuinely good thing with which we're associated. It unites a bunch of musicians -- and a very specific type of geek -- for the sake of the common good.
Or, at least, it did last year, and, building on that momentum, this year's fest is gonna be better. We say this with confidence because, after compiling the 50-odd nomination ballots from those dastardly "industry insiders" to create the ballot you see in this issue, we believe the end result illustrates the oft-overlooked truth that there's a boatload of St. Louis talent gigging these days, enough to fill a page that, once read, doesn't seem amateur or embarrassing. There's a goddamn wealth, it seems.
But, as expected, there are always questions. Always the glaring oversight, the handful of bands who deserve to be nominated but didn't get the nod, or, worse still, the bands that are nominated but, as a result of space limitations, cannot be invited to perform. That sucks, but it's a fact of life. It pains us to field these calls from bruised egos and pains us even more when we realize that, despite every attempt at creating an even-handed snapshot of St. Louis music 2001, there have been unfortunate omissions. We can't do anything about this, but we can suggest an easy solution: Play anyway.
Your ace band not recognized? It's a crime, for sure, but the Slammies showcase doesn't have to be the be-all and end-all. It's a free country, after all, and if your band wants to rent a flatbed (as the Conformists did last year) and travel down the Loop, performing anyway; or secure a couple of megaphones (as the Ruckus Crew did) and freestyle while you traipse along Delmar; or set up camp in front of a store, or in a parking lot, or skydive into the Loop from up above; or play in an "unofficial" venue; or otherwise do your damnedest to make a splash, who's to stop you? Not us. Go for it, Junior. (Of course, you may be breaking a law of some sort, but a critical mass often succeeds in circumventing the Man and his crazy "laws.")
The Mid-County Music Series continues on Friday, April 13 (at the St. Louis County Library's Mid-County Branch in Clayton, natch) with yet another excellent program curated by bassist/improviser Darin Gray, this one featuring Chicago string player Julie Pomerleau. She's worked with nearly all the heavy hitters of the thriving Chicago music scene, including Freakwater, Sam Prekop, Ken Vandermark, Roscoe Mitchell and Cheer-Accident, in addition to performing with Gray's project You Fantastic! She calls herself an "artist and personality player."
"What I mean by that," Pomerleau says, "is that I am not especially schooled in or tied down to any one style. My alter ego, Monica Boubou, the glamorous French film star and violinist for Bobby Conn, has traveled all over the world entertaining crowds of all sizes with our unpopular brand of pop music. One of the more satisfying lineups has been the Phenomenal String Quartet, made up of Fred Lonberg-Holm, Bob Marsh, myself and a rotating cast of Chicago string players. Currently I am working on my solo project, a series of 30-second string quartets."
Also on the agenda is an hourlong documentary on Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, who created some of the most sublime music of the 20th century, music that bridged Eastern and Western sensibilities and illustrates the ways in which control and restraint can be harnessed to create pure beauty. And, as always, Gray will perform.
The program begins promptly at 7 p.m. Highly recommended.