Local bands are competing for the right to call themselves the best in town at the second annual Amateur Jazz Competition, held at various St. Louis Bread Company restaurants. A dozen duos, trios and solo artists preselected by 106.5 FM are competing for $1,000 and the right to perform in the opening slot at the 2003 St. Louis Jazz Festival in June. Hear the first round of contestants get smooth from 7-9 p.m. at the St. Louis Bread Company store in the University City Loop (6630 Delmar Boulevard), hosted by radio personality David Myers. The competition continues during the next two Wednesdays at other BreadCo locations, with the finals on June 7 at the U. City location. All band members who make the finals will have to forego the Atkins diet, because they get free bread for a year from the BreadCo. Call 314-721-7995 or visit www.smooth1065.com for more on the free concert series.
Thursday, May 15
You'll marvel at the transformation that takes place inside the St. Louis County Library's Lewis and Clark Branch (9909 Lewis-Clark Boulevard) when the St. Louis Science Center reps fire up their portable planetarium. Kids of all ages will enjoy Space: The Final Frontier, a program that uses a projector that casts twinkling lights on the walls and ceiling of a darkened room to represent the night sky. Speakers will point out constellations and planets, so then you'll be ready to impress children, parents and dates with your ability to identify dippers and bears of all sizes. The free fun starts at 7 p.m. Call 314-868-0331 for more, and bring a glow-in-the-dark toy.
Friday, May 16
Remember King Kong Brody? Manny "Superstar in Rent-a-Cars" Fernandez? The brothers Von Erich? Wrestling at the Chase and its combatants are just memories now, but at least one burly fella from the show is still in the game. Handsome Harley Race's World League Wrestling comes to the Moolah Shrine Temple (12545 Fee Fee Road, 314-878-6501) for bouts, starting at 7 p.m. The title match pits World League titleholder Ron Powers against big-name WWE star D-Lo Brown. WCW wrestler Buff Bagwell joins Trevor Rhodes and "Wild" Wade Chism in a group brawl opposite Johnny Gold's Gold Exchange. Other contests feature Brandon Groom against Street Fighter, Ace Steel against Vic Capri and, in a ladies' championship, Miss Natural against Wonderful Wendy. Tickets are $10-$15. Show Harley your flying suplex.
Saturday, May 17
In the space of six years, BandTogether has grown from a ten-member gay/lesbian/bi/transgender-friendly band into an 80-member GLBT powerhouse. They have filled out their sound with winds, a battalion of brass and a harpist. Under the dual direction of Gary Reynolds and Jeff Girard, the members of BandTogether have learned to select material that exercises their strengths and stretches their capabilities so that they play almost, but not quite, oveal Pops Concert, which is always a good time. The group performs movie theme songs, Broadway show tunes and jazz favorites with authority and an infectious swing. Face it: You haven't really heard an Elton John song until you've heard it played by an 80-piece orchestra. The show starts at 8 p.m.; they're charging nothing to get in to the Community Music School of Webster University (560 Trinity Avenue), but it wouldn't kill you to donate some money. Call 314-968-5939 for more info.
Sunday, May 18
Not that we're knocking Maifest, but aren't you a little tired of brats, beer and oompah bands this late in the month? If so, point your party wagon south and head for Ste. Genevieve's French Heritage Festival. Our francophone neighbors are doin' it up right this Saturday and Sunday with Cajun sausage, glaces à la menthe, quiche, crêpes, wine gardens, music by the Poor People of Paris and Les Petits Chanteurs and historical re-enactors in French Colonial dress. How seriously do they take this party? They have "French immersion" sites where everybody speaks nothing but the many forms of French, including Quebeçois and something called "pig French." Nice. Admission to the festival is free, and the Ste. Genevieve Tourism office will answer all questions, probably in English, if you call 800-373-7007. Take Interstate-55 south to Highway O to U.S. Highway 61.
Monday, May 19
This is the perfect time of year for ghost-hunting. Sure, Halloween has the ambience and reputation for being the premiere night for poltergeists, but Halloween for ghost-hunters is like New Year's Eve for drunks: strictly amateur night. But now, halfway between last Halloween and the next, the ghosts have their guard down and no one else is looking for them, so your chance for success goes up dramatically. Well, some people are still looking. Betsy Belanger leads her Monday-night Calling All Ghost-Hunters Tour year-round, and with good reason: Her hunting ground, the Lemp Mansion (3322 DeMenil Place), has been voted "one of the top nine haunted places in America." You gotta like those odds. For $10 you get a tour of the mansion, some historical background on the Lemp family (so you can recognize their shades, no doubt) and instruction from the Spirit Search Team in both ghost-hunting technique and the enhancement of your latent psychic ability. Reservations can be made by calling 314-776-4667; hey, did you know that number before you read it? You're a natural, kid.
Tuesday, May 20
On the Web site promoting the new season of Big Shark bicycle races (bigshark.com), the racers are split into divisions A, B and C. "The 'C' does not stand for 'crash,' despite what you may have heard," according to the site. That should give you an idea of the excitement of the Big Shark Tuesday-Night World-Championship Criterium Training Series, a series of fast-paced bicycle races on the 0.7-mile pavement loop of Carondelet Park (near the intersection of Leona Avenue and Holly Hills Boulevard). Spectators get off on the brightly colored skintight outfits and bizarre helmets worn by the racers, and the athletes like nothing better than to be cheered on as they fly through the park on their road bikes. There are various categories for men and women in different age groups, and the racing lasts from 6-8 p.m. Call 314-862-1188 or visit the site for more; it's free to watch, with various fees to race.