Many a time in the recent past, the RFT has touted the greatness that is Riddle of Steel. C'mon, this band is great. And yet, despite its inherent greatness, there have been no Riddle of Steel MTV Cribs episodes, no Riddle of Steel Kit-Kat commercials, no chest-baring Riddle of Steel shockers on live TV. Why? Could it be because the magic that is Riddle of Steel is more about musical force than marketing ploy? Mull that over, and then head to the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (3301 Lemp Avenue, 314-771-1096) for the dazzling proof. Them Riddle boys are playing with a couple of other bands starting at 8 p.m., and once the sinewy intelligence of their music crushes your ribs, you will know the answer to the riddle of Riddle of Steel. (Here's a clue: absolute, lung-compressing power delivered in melodic outbursts that are catchy without being cloying.) Admission is $5.
Thursday, February 12
Everybody knows that the impending Mardi Gras blowout has something to do with a religious holiday; Fat Tuesday is, of course, St. Atkins Day, and everyone is supposed to stop eating hoagies or something. But did you know that the ancient Wiccan tradition Imbolc also happens this time of year? The Sisters of Wee Moon tell us that Imbolc is the time when the "Divine Feminine renews herself after giving birth to the Divine Masculine. Also, the Crone of Winter makes way for the Maiden of Spring." Hmmm. Not sure about that Crone thing, but the Maiden part sounds good. If you're feeling the pull of that Old Tyme Religion, get over to the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Religious Center by 7:30 p.m. (I-270 and Route 157, Edwardsville, Illinois) for the university's educational observance of this solar holiday. There's no charge and no obligation to join. Call 618-650-2461 for more information.
Friday, February 13
If you're down with the idea of Mardi Gras (drunken debauchery) but not the traditional music (Cajun and zydeco), then the Schlafly Beer Krewe of Brew Tent is good for what ails you. Located in the thick of the action at Soulard Market Park (Soulard Street and Lafayette Avenue), this heated tent offers many varieties of Schlafly's libations (you know 'em as "barley pops") and a full slate of local, raucous rawk. Beginning at 6 p.m. and continuing until midnight, the tent will shudder and shake to the earthy power chords of the Dead Celebrities, the Electric, the Phonocaptors, LoFreq and the Seven Shot Screamers. If you're feeling frisky, come back at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 14, for another stellar lineup and more beer. Or just stay all weekend; we're easy. There's a $5 cover charge both days.
Saturday, February 14
If you're the type of person who cringes at the mere thought of a black-tie affair, then consider attending the Banana Bike Brigade's 5th Annual Banana Ball. In addition to sporting a mellifluous and fun-to-say name, the Banana Ball is sure to attract the dandiest of the dandies. Immediately recognizable by their fantastically decorated bicycles and gloriously over-the-top costumes, the Banana Bikers are a St. Louis Mardi Gras tradition. Once again, they invite all kindred spirits to the South Broadway Athletic Club (2301 South Seventh Street, www.mardigrasinc.com) for an evening of mirth and sartorial splendor. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20, but the 8:30 p.m. costume contest alone should be worth the price of admission. Add in the cash bar and music by the Garbanzos and Swing Set, and you have a most excellent first date.
Sunday, February 15
Bicycles become sleeker, lighter and more durable with every technological innovation demanded by the competitive racer. Which is all well and good for the dude who shaves his legs (snicker), but for some people, bikes reached their stylistic apogee in the '70s. The Stingray, an unwieldy, heavy, fat-wheeled wonder, was the whip of choice for the suburban nogoodnik, and the sight of a chopped Stingray (chain guard removed, handlebars cocked low and a G.I. Joe head impaled on the front reflector spur) has been known to send twentysomething slackers into paroxysms of delight. For those who still yearn for the feel of a Stingray between their knees, the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation's Bike Swap Meet offers the chance to view (and perhaps purchase) a number of the vaunted beauties, as well as many other styles of bicycle. $3 gets you into the old Deer Creek Kmart (3200 Laclede Station Road, call 314-707-5001 for info) between noon and 3:30 p.m., and $10 gets you in at 11 a.m. so that you can have first crack at the prime specimens (which will probably cost much more than $10).
Monday, February 16
It may be hard to fathom in this age of mega-record labels and their myriad offshoot, boutique and subdivision labels, but once upon a time, you could very accurately predict the quality of the music on a new record solely by the label that put out the album. In those hazy, happy days, the name Blue Note was synonymous with "superior-caliber jazz." From the stark beauty of its clean, clean cover art, to its state-of-the-art recording quality, to the music embedded in its luscious grooves, Blue Note maintained a standard of excellence that surpassed all other labels. The Webster University Big Band pays tribute to Blue Note's legacy with Best of the Blue Note Concert, Edition II; band members will perform the diverse jazz classics of Blue Note artists from the label's extended '40s, '50s and '60s heyday. Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" and Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" are just a sampling of the seminal cuts to be performed. Tickets for the show (7 p.m. at Winifred Moore Auditorium, 470 East Lockwood Avenue) are $3, or $2 for students. Call 314-968-7128 for more info.
Tuesday, February 17
Poi Dog Pondering, the band most likely to be tagged "eclectic" by music critics everywhere, has continued its forward progress since returning from its mid-'90s hiatus. Main man Frank Orral has ventured into a more dance-oriented direction with recent albums, but if he wants to please the fans at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room (6504 Delmar Boulevard, 314-727-0880), he'll lean heavily on the back catalog. 1989's Wishing Like the Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea, for instance, should get a lot of play. The tensile blend of folk, rock and something else (reggae? calypso? No one really ever did nail down the Dog's mystery element) on Wishing is what got the band noticed in the first place, and the album remains its best-loved work. C'mon, admit it: The Valentine's mixtape you made for your high school boy- or girlfriend had "Spending the Day in the Shirt You Wore" on it; now take the current flame to see Poi Dog do that number live. Tickets are $15, and the show starts around 9 p.m.