On the heels of the big KDHX-FM shindig last weekend, another free music festival approaches: The Lot, organized by members of the grassroots nonprofit Metropolis St. Louis, takes place Saturday, Aug. 25, on the parking lot of the St. Louis Brewery & Tap Room. Downsized somewhat, this Lot promises a good time concentrated in a single evening. Assuming the event makes a profit (entirely through beer sales -- drink up, people!), proceeds will go toward various revitalization projects in the city of St. Louis. Because previous Lots haven't broken even, the Tap Room graciously stepped up to host the event this year and cover any losses. We implore St. Louis music fans to show up in thirsty droves so the Tap Room won't have to make good on their generous offer.
Besides, if a first-rate lineup is any indication of success, The Lot v. 2001 should kick ass. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., five bands will provide a full evening of music -- from the bibulous country-rock of Rodeo Soul to the anthemic pop-punk of Children's Audio, the slinky live house of the Urban Jazz Naturals, the rock-infused drum & bass of Getaway Car and the eclectic noodlings of Vitamen A. According to Renée Duenow -- who, with fellow volunteers Nikki Tompkins, Carrie Zukowski and Ran Mano, organizes the event -- this year's Lot is an experiment in scaling back without sacrificing quality: "We're hoping the smaller venue of the Tap Room parking lot will make the festival feel more intimate and welcoming. It takes a ton of people to make the lot at 16th and Locust [the Lot's previous home] feel full. We're hoping all these elements will work in our favor for a successful event -- and, in my definition, 'successful' means people show up and enjoy the music." Amen.
Another nonprofit, Women in Rock, presents a monthly showcase at Off Broadway on the last Wednesday of each month, under the nauseating banner "Girls' Night Out." According to its mission statement, WIR is "committed to supporting new and emerging female performing artists in a creative environment through live concert showcases." We feel a little hypocritical about it, after hyping Chicago's Ladyfest last week, but something about WIR creeps us out. Although founder/chief executive officer Jeff Harlan maintains that the showcases are a positive way to focus attention on female talent because "women haven't been a dominant presence in the industry as have men," we remain skeptical. Consider this: Maybe being a woman in rock these days is indeed a disadvantage -- not because people ignore you but because they pay attention to you for all the wrong reasons. They think you look cute clutching a guitar. They think you have nice tits and a sexy hairdo. They definitely think the song is about them. We're not saying that Harlan or any of the other people involved with WIR has these motivations, but when the prevailing logic for a bill seems to be chromosomal, you've got to wonder whether people are interested in the contents or the package. One woman in rock who definitely won't appear in a WIR showcase is Sexicolor's Spitzie Q. West, who objects to the concept on ethical grounds: "Any event, involving both stage and audience, which stipulates as its only prerequisite that its performers possess vaginas merely perpetuates the paradigm of pornography in entertainment, which has disenfranchised, dehumanized and ghettoized women since we began crawling out of the primordial soup. It's pussy-booking, to paraphrase expat chanteuse Kristeen Young, which is just a nice word for 'pimping.' Also, to quibble: Some of the singer/songwriters [WIR] books have decent acts, but let's face it -- they're not exactly dangerous, so they don't exactly rock. Claiming rock as their genre dilutes the integrity of rock & roll as bloodsport."
Strong words from Spitzie, but we see her point. Are women really served by such efforts, however well-intentioned, or are we being patronized? Harlan responds to such charges with equanimity: "I've gotten a lot of feedback that I didn't see coming. I don't mind, because I believe in what I'm doing." Decide for yourself on Wednesday, Aug. 29, when Swedish singer/songwriter Theresa Andersson headlines the next WIR showcase. The bill also features the Dawn Weber Jazz Trio (Weber, a trumpeter and vocalist, also plays with Vargas Swing and the Urban Jazz Naturals), G. Lee (who sings backup for Robynn Ragland) and host/emcee Celia.
A few months back, we referred to the Pageant's sound as "atrocious." It pained us to say so, but it was true. It now gives us great pleasure to report that their efforts toward acoustic improvement have paid off. Last month, Lucinda Williams sounded great -- there were still some glitches, and we overheard a few complaints, but overall the sound was exponentially better than it had been on previous visits. All our reservations disappeared a couple weeks ago, at the Emmylou Harris concert. Apparently the stinky purple stuff Pat Hagin and crew sprayed around the balcony did the trick, because Harris and Spyboy sounded about as good as any band not playing in the Sheldon could possibly sound. We'll spare you the technical details (not that Radar Station is capable of discussing them anyway); what's important is that Pageant patrons can now concentrate on the performance without thinking about the mix -- and that's exactly as it should be.