The Bottle Rockets
"Songs of Sahm" (Bloodshot)
Strange it is, to hear a record that's 100% made up of covers, one artist paying tribute to another. But here we have just such an item: the Bottle Rockets, longtime warhorses in the local rock'n'roll game, tackling 13 songs by Doug Sahm. A cult artist of some renown among the alt-country set, Sahm's work is remarkably sympathetic when played by the Bottle Rockets, still joined here by founding guitarist Tom Parr, who left the group this spring. With Brian Henneman's trademark whiskey vocals and Robert Kearns' sweeter pipes atop the group's bar-band-extraordinaire chops, the record sounds just like a BR-penned album, with a work that veers off the country-rock highway into touches of psych and twinges of rockabilly and zydeco. And hats off to the cover, too: that's one wild, bold design, both trippy and fun. (TC)
"Street Talk" by Wm. Stage, "Commentary" by Ray Hartmann, "Dining" by Joe Bonwich
The Riverfront Times
A few months back, the RFT switched things around with Wm. Stage's venerable Street Talk. For one week, that meant adding some significant text, while cutting back on the photos. The next week, the majority of the photos returned, but there was still an added setup to each answer. Well, folks didn't much care for the changes. The letters page was clogged with complaints during the tinkering stage. The old format, after a few false starts, was brought back to life, with a note that basically said, "stop complaining." From politics to food, St. Louisans like what they like and don't like it when what they liked is changed. If ever that was proven, this was it. Test Case A for St. Louis 101: don't mess with success.
On May 22, Ray Hartmann penned his last commentary for the RFT, ending what had basically been a 25-year run in the lead columnist slot. Some people still loved Ray straight up, taking his accounts as lefty civic gospel. Others... well, they didn't love him, at all. Probably a lot of folks fell in the middle, taking the columns with a grain of salt, but enjoying Hartmann's acerbic take on the issues. No doubt the RFT will continue to bring in new readers every incoming class of college freshmen from out-of-town gets hooked, for starters but the paper's "feel" is radically altered. Granted, over time there was a clear ability on the reader's part to gauge exactly where he'd wind up on an issue. Still, his column provided that one, single connection to the old days, when the paper was located in a ramshackle building in the just-emerging Lafayette Square. It's over now, that era, officially and unequivocally.
Joe Bonwich, too, had deep roots with the paper, over a couple of stints. His restaurant reviews particularly those dealing with City establishments were must-reads; his ability to tie into the neighboring area, its history and personality, was unparalleled. Admittedly, Joe's now writing more than once every two weeks for the Post. But his freewheeling, fun and factual accounts will be missed by RFT readers. Even if you eat at the same five places, Joe kept you informed of what was new and worthy. He's got a new food forum going up on STLtoday.com. No more informed and gracious host could be found for such an endeavor. His national rep is earned. (TC)
"The Richard Nickel Story"
Margie Newman and Jay Shefsky (WTTW, Chicago)
City Museum, May 18
Margie Newman's 28-minute video on the late Saint of Chicago Architecture, Richard Nickel, was delayed for half an hour. After all, the big windows of the City Museum were steeped in bright light at the appointed hour. But few would've wanted to slip out before seeing this remarkable work, which chronicles in fairly tight form the life of Nickel, who died in 1972 while harvesting pieces of the half-demolished Chicago Stock Exchange. Blending present-day interviews with Nickel's incredible photos of Louis Sullivan's myriad Chicago buildings, the piece gave a nice primer to Nickel's life's work. All it did was make you want to dig deeper. Partially, that desire was granted, by showing a 1972 short film, which gave an 11-minute, you-are-there feel to the man, featuring interviews with Nickel and associate John Vinci. Stunning stuff and a great, last-minute addition to the night. Local videographer Alan Brunettin's "It's Just One Building" provided a nice opener, with a then-and-now look at our Downtown's ravages from the wrecking ball a fitting start to this Landmarks "Preservation Week" offering. Look for some of this work to reappear during the St. Louis International Film Festival's "Local Showcase" in July. In fact, don't miss it. This is essential stuff for anyone interested in midwestern politics, civics and preservation. (TC)
Local photographer Gena Brady tipped to us by her friend Bob Reuter has assembled a nice site here, consisting of original, black-and-white photography, with a real ethereal feel to much of the work. The fact that there's little biographical information only makes the whole thing more curious and appealing. Nice stuff. Visit soon and often. (TC)
For a few days in late May, Soulard's Mad Art Gallery was transformed into a workspace for students from around the city, as a handful of Japanese and American artists worked with the kids to create neat pieces of fiber-based art. One of the visiting folks even worked with bamboo, cut from a Soulard garden. The pieces were then set out during the last couple days of "The Missouri Project." Photos from that exhibit, along with background on this cross-continental group, the Fiber Zero Association, can be found at this site. Here's hoping the event occurs again, with even a higher degree of public participation. (TC)
"St. Louis Politics: The Triumph of Tradition"
By Lana Stein
Published by the Missouri Historical Society Press
Local poli-sci prof and UMSL department head Lana Stein has made quite a name for herself on the St. Louis politics scene, particularly with the publication of her last two books, this one and a co-authored volume called "City Schools and City Politics." This time around, she tackles the long, sometimes-sordid history of politics and politicos in St. Louis city, from "the divorce" of 1876 through the election of current mayor Francis Slay. Her source material included the archival papers of several mayors, as well as the vast resources of the Missouri History Museum and reams of old city publications on microfilm. It can't hurt, too, that Stein lives near and/or is chummy with several former mayors; makes you wish you could be a fly on the wall during some of those dinner party conversations! Stein related recently that she shares the fascinating tales of St. Louis' political history with her UMSL students, but often only the graduate-level folks find it terribly interesting. Give her latest tome a read, and odds are you'll be hooked, not to mention wondering where your Christmas basket from your alderman and ward organization are come holiday time. (AED)
"Etiquette of Violence"
Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, 2-4 a.m.
KDHX, 88.1 FM
It's possible that Cricket O'Neill takes in every show that plays on a local stage, though that might just be our impression of the host. It sure seems like she's at every show. And that wide range in tastes comes through in the rockist "Etiquette of Violence." One recent playlist finds her jumping from Motley Crue to Motorhead to Madonna in nine cuts. The same show was peppered by classic rock (Van Halen, the Crue), local rock (ResistAll, the Phonocaptors) and today's buzziest rock (the Bellrays, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). KSHE claims to be a rock station and if they still had the open airwaves of the 1960s, this kind of heady mix is exactly what they'd be playing. This is the kind of stuff that sounds best after midnight, which is exactly when Crickett spins it. (TC)