It often seems that people who attend tribute shows for their favorite groups are skeptics at best and masochists at worst. They expect to scoff at the band and mutter "Blasphemy!" under their breath. And sometimes that's justified. Any yahoo can get onstage, grossly elongate vowel sounds and call himself a Dylan tribute singer, but that doesn't make it so.
But at a past Steely Dan tribute night, watching the audience watching tribute band Groovethang onstage was the biggest testament to the legitimacy of the group's performance. Sure, people got up to dance (especially during songs like "My Old School" and "Reeling in the Years," which still enjoy regular airtime on classic-rock stations). But it's when Groovethang plays songs like "Kid Charlemagne" -- a hit in its own right but not one you're likely to hear on the radio -- that the diehards in the audience share the collective smile that comes from owning The Royal Scam, the 1976 album on which "Kid" first appeared. And from knowing the band onstage has just completely nailed it. The skeptics become believers: These guys are good.
Groovethang has been playing St. Louis since 1997. As the band's playlist of rock, soul, R&B, funk and dance grew, it eventually included enough Steely Dan songs to warrant an entire show. In 2001 the group played its first all-Steely night at Blueberry Hill. The performance was well received, Groovethang continued to add more songs to its Steely repertoire, and the shows have retained their popularity years later. Groovethang plays varying amounts of tribute nights throughout the year, but the band's regular inventory is diverse enough to encompass everything from Average White Band to Janet Jackson. Most recently, the group opened for Sheryl Crow at the Savvis Center when she played the Anheuser-Busch Christmas party.
At Saturday's concert, Groovethang's usual five-piece band (with lead vocals by Justin Stewart) will expand first to eight pieces for the ninety-minute Steely Dan act and again to eleven pieces for the ninety-minute Earth, Wind & Fire tribute. The combination of the two groups seemed natural to Stewart, who says that there's a compatibility in the two bands' style -- so devotees of one group should appreciate the music of the other. He says the groups have a mutual bond that you don't find so much of in today's music -- both have the ability to tell a story, to inspire and to raise spirits.
The show is co-sponsored by KIHT (96.3 FM) and KMJM (104.9 FM) and benefits research for the Leukemia Foundation. This organization is especially important to guitarist Mark Crowell, whose son Corey overcame the disease as a child and occasionally sits in on drums for the band. Groovethang's Stewart replicates the voices of Donald Fagen, Maurice White and Phillip Bailey as the band provides beat-for-beat background that mercifully restores the "tribute" to the tribute show. It's an exercise in small miracles. -- Kristie McClanahan
Can We Get a Witness?
Naugacide, Bryan Dematteis' documentary about the Tempora, Illinois, sect of Kuu worshippers known locally as the band Skarekrau Radio, shall do for Kuu what H.P. Lovecraft's work did for the Cthulhu. Not so much an exposé of the band as it is a long, unblinking stare into the watery eye of absolute obsession, Naugacide begins as a straightforward examination of just what it is Skarekrau Radio is doing when the members perform a show (known in cult-speak as a "Warning Orb"). Initially approaching the subjects of Skarekrau and their "god" Kuu with an admirable objectivity, Dematteis quickly loses a handle on his rational approach. But faced with the assault of his onscreen talent by the band, the shifting loyalties of his cameraman and the obviously forced confessions of Tempora's police chief (a man who knows too much to be as innocent as he maintains), Dematteis is clearly out of his league -- the power of Kuu absorbs all who stand before It.
And then the true depravity and evil of Dematteis' "documentary" becomes apparent. He's not filming real events as they happen; he's creating a Kuu ritual on film, an artfully constructed piece of propaganda designed to sway young minds and souls over to Kuu. Naugacide is as pernicious an attack on Judeo-Christian Americans as one can imagine. It is a nightmare vision, a lurid enticement of the primal forces at work in young men's loins. How could a young person view the rampant male nudity, the dismemberment, the weeping phalluses, the constant debasement of human flesh juxtaposed with the total fulfillment of carnal and spiritual desires and not immediately afterwards declare themselves a throbbing member of Kuu's ranks? There won't be a dry crotch in the house by the end of Naugacide, nor will there be anyone but converts stroking those crotches. All hail Kuu, who replaces shame with pain and pain with stains. -- Paul Friswold
The Old School
Lethal Dos (The Old School is a nostalgia trip through local music trends, courtesy of the RFT publicity-photo archives. This week's photo of Lethal Dos has all the stamps of early-'90s rap: The carved-up high-top fade, the ripped jeans, the big-ass cell phone and what appears to be a Chrysler LeBaron convertible all scream "New Jack." Their song, "My Pangadang," either refers to some forgotten piece of slang or is an ode to the Indonesian city.)