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Aug 2003 / sights and sounds :: email this story to a friend

The Lou in June: The Greatest Show on Earth!
By Thomas Crone and Amanda E. Doyle


Phonocaptors, The Bamboo Kids, Sons of Hercules, Feast
Way Out Club
Thursday, July 10

At a mid-week show with punch, St. Louis' sharpest rock fans were on hand to witness this blending of four very different bands, hailing from all across the country. It'd be hard to argue, though, that the best of the lot wasn't the Phonocaptors, a veteran local group that, for some reason, really turned on the talent for this gig. Singer-guitarist Jason Hutto was particularly inspired, his ascot continually threatening to fall off during impassioned solos. Ascots and rock'n'roll! The Bamboo Kids also impressed during their set, with the Brooklyn band showcasing material from their new 45 on St. Louis label, Pro-Vel Records. (TC)

Cirque du Soleil Media Preview
City Hall Rotunda
Tuesday, July 15

Cirque du Soleil Yes, the super-bendy/ultra-inventive live show that's redefined "circus" for audiences the world over has finally added the Lou to its extensive itinerary, and reps for Cirque du Soleil were welcomed to town in a ceremony at City Hall. (In case you're wondering: yep, mayors do still give out oversized, novelty keys to the City.) Following a giant-screen projection of snippets from Cirque's various traveling shows, Mayor Slay made some pronouncements, did a passable job pronouncing his delight at the choice of the old Arena site for the show's "Grand Chapiteau" (that's "big hat," to all you Freedom Festival celebratin' Philistines), and then turned the podium over to a couple of charming Canadian filles who ad-libbed, en anglais, admirably. But all that was forgotten when a young Chinese acrobat floated down the grand staircase and took her place atop a small pedestal, to perform an amazing routine while supporting herself on just one hand. The "media" there for the preview (the crowd included lots of politicos, Grand Center staffers, random kids and Circus Flora folk) sipped free Clearly Canadian and seemed appropriately impressed. The whole morning, though, was capped off by the best moment of all: Mayor Francis Slay, upon being presented with a red clown nose and asked to join the whole assemblage in donning it to welcome Cirque to town, refused. At first jokingly, but then, uh, for real. Fear of political rivals with phone/cameras in the crowd? (AED)

"Make Mine Morlam"
Gallery Urbis Orbis
Friday, July 18

One crafty observer made a good point about this show: there's no particular audience for rural Thai pop songs in St. Louis. You have to create that kind of audience from scratch. Well, for a first time out, there were a few dozen curious spectators, brought to Gallery Urbis Orbis by collector Geoff Alexander's handpicked DVDs featuring a very different kind of Country Grammar. Morlam music is a particular, dialect-heavy type of pop found in rural Thailand. The videos for these songs feature young pop stars riding mopeds, falling in and out of love in especially obvious ways, with video backdrops that wouldn't look out of place in an MTV retrospective from 1983. The material is thin, in a sense, but so infused with energy that it's hard to look away; colorful, bright and infectiously rhythmic, these tracks worked on a curious level. For full effect, words crawled (in Thai) across the bottom of the page, giving you a chance (well, not really) to sing along in karaoke style. Absurd fun on a Friday night. (TC)


The Saint Louis Magazine
January, 1966

We've sung the praises of the local section at Dunaway Books on a couple of recent occasions, but the treats you can find in those stacks are undeniable. Recently, a big group of vintage St. Louis Magazines (then called the classy "The Saint Louis Magazine") turned up. In the 1/66 issue, all kinds of fun pieces, including: columns from St. Louis Mayor Al Cervantes and County Executive Laurence Roos; a feature on a young Arthur Ashe, fresh off a win in the Australian Open; and a feature named "Downtown's Comeback... they love it!" Wrote the Magazine, glowingly: "In this age of the decaying core city, the rebirth of downtown Saint Louis has become an international news story. Saint Louis has won the awe, respect, and praise of the full range of critics — from the culture-conscious San Franciscans to the jaded New Yorkers. Projects of daring and grandeur such as the Gateway Arch, the Sports Stadium, the Mansion House Center, and, most recently, the Spanish Pavilion have commanded world-wide admiration." Well, the Arch worked out okay, but the Spanish Pavilion... All the same, these mags offer some really fascinating, from-the-time perspectives, available at Dunaway for $2.50 a pop. (TC)


"The Browning Element"
The Brown Company
The Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars,

A fun excursion in fast, hooky pop, the Brown Company's debut is full of 11 songs on 12-inch vinyl, with, funnily enough, all the tracks loaded on one side of the record. Featuring musicians with a wide list of back credits (and continuing, other projects), the Brown Company includes guitarist/vocalist Chris Trull, bassist Matt Harnish and drummer Karen Reid. Together, they create an extremely likable mix of cuts, with influences that seem to come from the last three-four decades of Anglo-American pop and rock. While it seems that St. Louis has been filled with rock bands that enjoy a bit of gimmickry or slavishly ape another group or genre, the Brown Company maintain a sharp sense of individuality, while writing songs that will resonate with fans of the joys of simple, direct pop songs. If you've not heard them live, this will be a surprisingly cool find. (TC)

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