Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
PrideFest, Tower Grove Park
Saturday, June 24
The organizers of PrideFest made a strong move during this, the 22nd year of the event. In addition to booking a host of local groups, they went out of the usual circles to find a headlining act. Instead of the standard-issue dance-club divas and 80s one-hit wonders, Joan Jett was brought to town, filling the center of Tower Grove Park with an eclectic host of folks. Granted many of them would've been there, anyway, but there was something interesting about hearing KSHE-95 play a Jett tune, then plug her appearance during the weekend.
Back-loading her set to hammer home the hits and ironic-and-odd covers in the last three songs of the set and the lengthy encore, Jett played a crowd-pleasing set, with her band of hired hands doing all the little things right shirtless, three-chord veterans, to be sure. A huge greeting line after the set indicated that fans were willing to not only enjoy the set, but also stand and wait for a good hour to get the quick Polaroid and autograph.
Not an Earth-shaking experience, but enjoyable enough on a picture-perfect summer's day.
Washington Avenue Beat Festival
Sunday, May 27
Checking in just after the deadline for our June issue, the Washington Avenue Beat Festival grew by leaps and bounds in year three; the surest sign of that was the long lines for other venues on the block, looking to draw their own business on a night that's been cultivated by some of the block's brighter lights.
Packed rooms and heavy street traffic were part of the appeal, as well as the debut of a new room, Rue 13. The DJs were stellar throughout the evening, though the sparks were really flying in one of the oldest rooms on the strip, the Galaxy. There, a handful of DJs and live bands mixed sets, including a standout 45 minutes from Getaway Car, who showed flashes of what makes them one of the more exciting new groups in town.
Autoliner, "Be" (Parasol)
We can establish this group's St. Louis connections in just a couple easy steps. Guitarist/vocalist Brian Leach also plays in the Great Crusades, which contains former members of the Suede Chain, most of whom happened to grow up in Collinsville, IL. See? Not hard, at all. And guest cellist Jake Brookman also played in the Suede Chain and is currently a member of the ever-evolving Vitamen A, a local standard.
If this weren't a locally-based website, we'd just talk about the too-cool pop created by this Chicago three-piece Leach on guitars and keys and vocals; John Ross on bass and vocals and Tom Curless on drums and vocals. Featuring some crisp and clean harmonies, the group sings like angels, while crafting tunes that would be the gem of any contemporary power-pop compilation.
Though capable of slowing things down (the lovely "Lighthouse" features the requisite strings-and-keys arrangements), the majority of this disc is up-up-uptempo. Cuts like "Misunderstood" and "Supersonic Baby" carry on the great Midwestern tradition of pop tunes about loves and loves lost, with a production edge that adds shine, without schmaltz.
Roll down the windows and turn up the radio. Ten cuts of superb songcraft and delivery.
"Ska's The Limit" w/ DJ Paul Stark
Friday nights, 8-10 p.m., KDHX 88.1 FM
I've developed a term that suits my listening tastes pretty handily: "half-hour music." These are the kinds of sounds that work for me for just about exactly 30 minutes, before my attention span ebbs. For me, barbershop quartet would never reach the 30-minute mark; maybe not even 30 seconds. World music? Depends on the source, but probably not. Maybe 15 minutes. Blues? Now there's 30-minute music for me. Rockabilly, ditto. Reggae, mmm, maybe. Let's give reggae 20 minutes.
Ska? Now ska's a different animal, because the genre encompasses so many different feels and eras. The old stuff, the Jamaican tunes from the middle-part of the last century, that can please the ears for a while, the scratchy old recordings still containing a certain urgency and punch lacking in some of the newer material. That said, some of the current stuff's also vital and most of it's energetic.
More Fridays than not, I'll tune into Paul Stark's nearly-decade-old show on KDHX, "Ska's the Limit." Often, I'll listen for more than my natural inclination to listen for 30 minutes. Part of it's Stark's impressive ability to coax a show into a definitive shape. You've got a flow with the man that comes across the airwaves clearly, hours of work put into the two-hour set that he'll deliver week-to-week. Spanning the generations, Stark can balance a contemporary band from Japan or Italy and effortlessly segue into a track from the 80s via England or France, with scarcely a missed beat.
For those of you who like me don't have a religious attraction to the ska music, Stark provides a weekly crash course, offering you a sampler plate. The best of the old, the best of the new, boys, girls, domestic, import, live, bootlegged... it's all there, consistently and enthusiastically brought to life by a DJ committed to the sound and quality broadcast of the same.
FOOD & DRINK
Friday lunch buffet
3145 S. Grand; 664-8585
Very simple elements: salad, two flavored cold pastas, spaghetti with two sauce options, garlic bread. That's about it. And that's enough. Being hopelessly addicted to the food and the company that tends to congregate around the steam table... well, I'll just see you there and explain further the mysteries of the Friday lunch buffet. It's the best part of my week. Really.
Murray's Sno-Cone Shack
What with the heat and all, St. Louis is a snowcone kinda town. And they serve 'em up right at Murray's Sno-Cone Shack, in scenic St. Louis Hills, just across the way from the Sober Camel bookshop. Aside from the environmentally-aggressive Styrofoam cups, there's a lot to like here: from the homemade combo flavors, to the very-walkable area nearby, to the surly teens serving up your order. Yum in the tum.