Washington University's Graham Chapel
Ayo, a visual and performance artist who has gained notoriety for her website and subsequent book "How to Rent a Negro," brought her Powerpoint presentation to the campus of Wash U as part of the university's Assembly Series. Ayo is an engaging speaker, fully aware of her own presence, and yet at times I found her talk a bit scattershot, as she zipped through slides of past work, including her project panhandling for slavery reparations on the streets and working on a skin-tone-paint-chip installation. She approaches her commentary on the current state of race relations from the standpoint that, though the topics are serious, a lot of truly funny situations and exchanges exist, too, and it's okay to laugh about the funny ones. She's not afraid to stop the show for a "HUNH?" moment, as she did when someone from the audience, in response to her call for "famous white people from history," called out, "Jesus!" "Um, just so you know, Jesus wasn't white," she said, bemusedly, before rolling on to her line of "race card" greeting cards. (AD)
"Johnnie Taylor Is Gone," by Gregory S. Carr
Mildred Bastian Theatre at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park
If you've spent any time in one of the innumerable neighborhood bars of north St. Louis, you may know that many of them are little worlds of drama, friendship and soap-opera worthy characters all unto themselves. Carr, a St. Louis playwright, presented the world premiere of his tale of generational clash and change in a black neighborhood bar, and it made for a captivating show on stage. His setting, the Golden Zodiac Lounge, stood in (why the half-attempt at obscurity? We're not sure) for the Zodiac Lounge, an actual joint you can actually visit on North Grand. Inside, the same patrons and owner who have been getting by just fine for years with their Johnnie Taylor on the jukebox and dartboard on the wall are coming to grips with the fact that business isn't what it used to be, and that the next generation ("young thundercats" in the dialogue) seeks out a more hip-hop-soaked, denim-sporting vibe. Nothing revolutionary about the storyline, but it's a lot of fun to see things you recognize from your own hometown brought to life on stage, from Bud's job as a career-minded AB deliveryman to a female character's domestic dispute written up in purple prose in the Evening Whirl. (AD)
Undertow Records Showcase: Waterloo, The Love Experts, Magnolia Summer
Blueberry Hill Duck Room
Fresh off the heels of their by-all-accounts (here's one) triumphant storming of SXSW, the boys of Undertow Records (and yep, they were all boys tonight, save for the lovely mistress of ceremonies and PR gal Rene Spencer Saller, who even had opportunity to use that high-school French in one of her introductions) brought the rock to the hometown crowd in the friendly confines of the Duck Room. Honestly, the RQ (rock quotient) was noticeable, particularly from Waterloo, who opened it up a bit and seemed loose and happy. ("Loose and happy" could've applied to just about the whole crowd, too.) In fact, the only marked exception to that descriptor perhaps more "tight and jittery, but in a good way"? was Love Experts frontman Steve Carosello, whose David-Byrne-meets-Will-Farrell presence gives him an air of having a constant, morbid inside joke with himself. But in a good way! Their set was well received, even the Norwegian folk song interlude. By the time Chris Grabau and Magnolia Summer took the stage, playing a good amount from their new album, "From Driveways Lost View," a small knot of hipsters centered around Fred Friction and Jesse Irwin had commanded the concrete front-and-center, sprawled in the beer-soaked floor and singing along. That's a pretty good St. Louis night out, in my opinion. (AD)
Eat Me in St. Louis: Tales from the Dinner Club
Colossus Restaurant, 3208 Ivanhoe Ave., 314-644-5599, www.colossusrestaurant.com
St. Louisans seem to love Greek food. At least my friends do. I don't mind it, but it is not something I particularly seek out with great frequency. Lucky for my friends, the Dinner Club is not all about me.
This evening brought us to the place that boasts, in RFT ads and on t-shirts you've seen around town, the best gyros in town. Colossus Restaurant has a small dining room, of which our group of a dozen took up half, and a similarly sized heated, outdoor patio that also contains the bar. The atmosphere is closely confined, but not exactly crowded or intimate.
For entrées, several folks went for two different versions of the gyro, the regular and the Colossus. The latter adds lettuce and feta to the lamb, beef, tomato, onion and tzatziki of the former. The regular fared "good, but nothing special", "very good and very onion-y", and "good as always" (the last comment from perhaps the only veteran of this restaurant). The Colossus gyro was considered both "made with love" and "too big to hold." One eater noted a previous skepticism of the "Best of St. Louis" claim, but was persuaded to believe it.
Beyond the gyros, the hummus was "intense, robust" and "very garlicky." The sample platter of dips was "all pleasant" and "refreshing." The pastitsio (beef, noodles, and béchamel sauce) "tasted like there was egg on top." The stuffed pepper and tomato was "all right," but also swimming in olive oil. The tourlou tourlou (mixed Mediterranean vegetables) arrived late, apparently forgotten by the kitchen, and was strangely both hot and cold. The waitress was extremely apologetic about the kitchen mix-up, and about anything else that was less-than-perfect. Overall, the service was very good friendly, quick and personal.
As you can see from the website, the owner gets very excited about serving the fried cheese appetizer. Most of us kept our eyebrows. Colossus maintains a decent list of bottled beers, including Mythos, their only Greek beer. Domestica is a Greek red wine that is smooth and pleasant, worthy of a second glass. Following dinner, the atmosphere in the restaurant became much more lively and fun. The kitchen staff turned up the radio and both diners and staff enjoyed singing along to the cheesy tunes that came forth. It was quite like a party.
By the way, it really only seems like we're partial to Ivanhoe. We've actually been to several other places since the last Dinner Club, but yes, this restaurant is just up the street from the last entry. Time just operates differently in cyberspace. (Editor's note: Boy, don't we know it! Thus, quarterly issues from here on out.)
Eat City. (JG)