Urban Blight Players
The UBP, as kids in the know are wont to call them, automatically get points in our book for best St. Louis-centric band name: add to that their sweet/funny songs and catchy melodies, and they can't lose. The Off Broadway show audience was stacked with regulars, which seemed to put the band at ease as they rocked their way through titles from their album "Big Small Town," including "My Worried Look," "Road Trip" and the crowd-pleasing sing-along, "Urban Blight." It's worth your time to read all the lyrics; drummer Benjy Portnoy took time to reassure fans of Bath and Body Works that shopping there was okay, even though in the song it gets the same dismissive treatment as the ubiquitous Walgreens. And you want timely?
"Now, St. Louis Mills
There's the mall to beat
Out where 270 and 370 meet
Shop 'til you drop at stores galore
'Cause St. Louis Centre ain't the shit no more"
The set was rounded out by a couple of well-executed covers (the UBP-channel-Barenaked-Ladies-channel-Talking-Heads version of "Psycho Killer" was a delight). (AED)
Rennie Harris Pure Movement: Asphalt Jungle
As someone who is accustomed to watching hip-hop dancing in the context of battles and open circles, "Asphalt Jungle" was something new for me. The performance consisted of a series of choreographed scenes, complete with theatrical lighting. Some of the scenes even had plotlines, including an epic that moved from a depiction of a black ops military operation to street gang warfare. Yet, even while dancing together in a group wearing identical costumes, the six dancers retained their individuality. With a bandana here and a pulled-up pant leg there, their different personalities shined through in their looks and their moves. That emphasis on originality is the basis of hip-hop.
Rather than sticking to one style of dance, they moved fluidly between house, bboying and popping, often within an eight count. It wasn't the most awe-inspiring dancing I've ever seen, but it was a solid set. It must have been especially hard for the dancers since they had to generate their own energy because the audience seated in the auditorium was relatively sedate. About half the audience was under 12, which must have caused some parental discomfort when they played Murphy Lee's "Luv Me Baby" as part of the show (sample lyrics: "I just like the fact ya tushy is big / Can I touch it, touch it? Maybe caress it and rub it?"). It was an odd choice for a performance that was part of COCA's Family Theatre Series and claimed to provide "a sincere view of the essence and spirit of hip-hop rather than the commercially exploited stereotypes." Then again, maybe I was wrong in the paragraph above, and love of big butts, not originality, is the essence of hip-hop. (BHM)
Soulard's Preservation Hall
No cotillion dresses or wrist corsages in evidence at this ball, a joint fundraiser thrown by Metropolis St. Louis and Landmarks Association to draw attention to the city's built environment, both extant and gone. A portion of the exhibit "Soulard Lost," photos drawn from the collection of Dr. William Swekosky that were originally collected in 2001, was on display in the loungey bar area, while in the main auditorium, a handful of popular St. Louis bands kept things moving for the 200-strong crowd. The bill ranged: the hillbilly mamas of Maid Rite (who sold some saucy t-shirts after their set!); to new scene-makers (and painfully earnest) Miles of Wire; to Magnolia Summer, fronted by the endearing-but-haunting (or endearing-because-haunting?) Chris Grabau; to a final, post-collegiate rock set by Wydown. Even the few folks who seemingly wandered in a week early for Mardi Gras celebrations seemed entertained. (AED)
Joe's Café at Christman Studio
For a long time, I'd been hearing about this place, which in my mind I'd dubbed "the Skinker-DeBaliviere Speakeasy." A little hole-in-the-wall, hidden inside the neighborhood, where Thursday nights would find neighbors and others gathered, all having brought their OB, for musical entertainment. Really, I imagined a slit in the door where I'd nervously say, "Uh, Johnny C sent me," and hope that was good enough. Finally getting our act together early in January, a group of friends set out through the profusion of one-way and dead-end streets that is Skinker-DeBaliviere and were amazed at what we found: Bill Christman, as you may know, is the Dr. Demento behind the Museum of Mirth, Mystery and Mayhem (at City Museum) and the décor of Maya Café, among others. Here, he's transformed a spacious-yet-intimate hall into a cozy gathering place for music ranging from flamenco guitar (on our first outing) to blues from Brian Curran and the Soulard Blues Band, traditional Irish music, Dixieland and more. Even on a bitter-cold night, folks flocked in, thermoses and wine bottles in hand, to sit, listen, chat and enjoy. A resident dog wanders the room, books and board games are there for the using and you won't find a more surreal, serendipitous scene in town. (AED)
Eat Me in St. Louis: Tales from The Dinner Club
3315 Watson Rd.
Leslee and I discovered Bastante a couple of years ago, stopping by for a drink and an appetizer. It was fairly late on a weeknight, and the 1 or 2 tables of diners were finishing up. We sat at the bar, enjoyed a glass of wine, a plate of Mediterranean olives and a mini-pizza. Among the drink specialties is a gin and tonic that includes a cucumber sliver yum. After the other guests left, the staff gathered at the bar and the bar manager began pouring glasses of various wines for them to taste. We were invited to join them, and we stayed for a couple of hours. Nothing helps a first impression better than free wine.
For the Dinner Club, this was the second time to Bastante, and the first time that we experienced a repeat. Both the restaurant and the Club are about the same age, and both have grown in popularity since the first visit. We numbered thirteen on this snowy January evening, which meant that we had to wait to be seated. Across the street from Bastante are two bars, Hatfield's and Biggie's, and since there was a McCoy among us, we decided to pop into the first one while we waited. Due to the thick smoke and minimal beer selection, we lasted less than a minute. The same thing was the case at the other bar. This review is not about either of those establishments.
Bastante's specialties include a variety of pasta and seafood dishes, as well as several varieties of meats. The butternut squash ravioli was good, but had tasted better during a previous visit. The person ordering the gnocchi noted at the end of their meal that it was "all gone," and the pappardelle with sun dried tomatoes received "two thumbs up." The bisotto tender sirloin was "pretty good, but the mashed potatoes were a little fluffy," the pork osso buco was "great" and the accompanying spinach "excellent." The scallops were described as "very good" and the lamb was "good" although the tomatoes on the side tasted "lamby." Finally, the grilled portabella was "good," but did not live up to the description of "twin mushrooms," since there was only one.
A little out of place was the guitarist, located next to our three tables. Described on the website as a romantic flamenco guitarist, his song list included the Violent Femmes and the theme from the Addams Family. He also repeated songs during the evening. However, given that we arrived in such a large group on a Friday night without reservations (with Dinner Club, you never know where you are going until that night), the staff was quite accommodating and friendly. While unavailable for us, a semi-private room seating about 10 has recently been added, and the staff noted that there are plans for more expansion in the works soon.
In Spanish, bastante means enough or plenty. With your visit to this restaurant on Watson, you will have plenty to choose from and enough to fill your appetite.