Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reuter Rules

My friend and contemporary Thomas Crone has republished my interview with Bob Reuter over at his new Web venture, Creative St. Louis.

Thomas is a very prolific writer and has a wealth of knowledge on the happenings and places and people of STL, and the new site he's editing is pretty cool. I'm honored to have my material published there, and I totally recommend adding it to your weekly- if not daily- reading.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hey, I still do this on occasion....

Due to an erratic home life, going to school full-time, moving and now working at one of the more popular diners in South City, I haven't had much time to update this pathetic little blog. But for my legion of readers out there (ok, for my three readers out there...), stay tuned. I'll be adding to this soon. In the meantime, here are some random pics. (Editor's note: Blogspot likes to cut off the landscape oriented pics for some reason, so please click on the images to view the entire frame)

Naturally man made:
Meramec Caverns - August 18, 2009 (87)
Something very reminiscent of MST3000 here...

Cahokia Mounds - November 3, 2009 (12)
Cahokia Mounds, ironically, is not actually located in Cahokia, but in Collinsville, IL

Acting Like a Fool:
Bingo Machine Rehearsal - April 10, 2008 (92)
Kevin Kline Award winner Kirsten Wylder rehearses for the NonProphet Theater Company's Militant Propaganda Bingo Machine

Bingo Machine Rehearsal - April 10, 2008 (43)
Aaron Orion Baker rests on his duff during rehearsal

Bingo Machine Rehearsal - April 10, 2008 (49)
Nicole Angeli dares you to come closer

Bingo Machine Rehearsal - April 10, 2008 (78)
Paula Stoff-Dean, Kirsten Wylder and Nicole Angeli give Aaron Orion Baker the ol' One-Two

Bingo Machine Rehearsal - April 10, 2008 (73)
Ben Ritchie shows off the baby he found in his back yard while Bob Mitchell tried not to make eye contact

Bingo Machine Rehearsal - April 10, 2008 (69)
Yours truly. I obviosuly didn't take this picture- which is why its blurry... thanks a lot Paula- but my camera did

And finally,
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Behold: The Arch!

Smell ya later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grovefest 2009

A few pics from this year's Grovefest at Atomic Cowboy:

Lola van Ella and the Seven Shot Screamer's Deano and Mikey

Craig Daddy of Trip Daddys

Red Light Runners

Seven Shot Screamers

TJ Morrissey of Trip Daddys

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'll be DJing at The Royale on 8/23

I'll be spinning a lovely little set of soul, punk, rock, pop and country tomorrow night (Sunday, August 23, 2009) at The Royale from 9pm until midnight under my stage name, DJ Bacon Shadow.

There's no cover, the dining room is now smoke-free and the kitchen is open until 10pm.

The Royale is located at 3132 South Kingshighway in South St. Louis.

Amidst all the stuff I'll be playing, local bands will have their moment in the sun, too. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Band Scramble!

The Chippewa Chapel Traveling Guitar Circle and Musicians Network is gearing up for the next Band Scramble, to be held Saturday, August 29, 2009 at Off Broadway in South St. Louis. The Band Scramble was an event started at Frederick’s Music Lounge. As in previous scrambles, musicians are invited to sign up for random assignment into a brand new band. Each band will have 5 members: guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and the catch-all category “other”. Signups have concluded and the bands are dilligently rehearsing. The bands will have just over three weeks to compose and learn three original songs. The showdown will happen at Off Broadway on August 29th. Tickets are $10, $13 if you're under 21. Show time is at 9pm with doors opening at 7:30.

In an effort to ensure that St. Louis’s local music scene will never fade away, the hosts of the Chippewa Chapel want to use the proceeds from the Band Scramble to send kids to rock band camp. The last Band Scramble raised enough money to provide scholarships to four young musicians. They hope to beat that record this time.

I'll be participating this year, playing drums and percussion for Band #5 (we don't have a name yet). This is going to be a lot of fun. Who knows? There could be some cool bands that come out of this. Hope to see you there.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Laura Hamlett: Musing On Music

Laura Hamlett doesn’t know precisely where her love of music originated, but she has definitely parlayed her passion into ventures that have allowed that love to grow and blossom.

Hamlett has racked up some pretty impressive credentials. Once a fledgling writer for the defunct NoisyPaper magazine, she co-founded PLAYBACK:stl (then called Playback St. Louis) with her husband Jim Dunn and enlisted the help of a few other music journalists from the former zine.

“We had been working on NoisyPaper when it suddenly folded. We then felt we/St. Louis needed an outlet. We thought, ‘We can do that,’ not realizing that, well, to do it right, it was a hell of a lot more work/expense than NoisyPaper ever was. It's probably good we didn't know that going in or we never would have started PLAYBACK:stl,” says Hamlett.

But start it they did, and from the start, PLAYBACK:stl has provided St. Louis with the necessary, in-the-know info that our creative arts scene needs. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, your trusty blogger worked for PLAYBACK:stl from 2004 to 2007 as a music and theater reviewer and eventually as the Theater Editor. The magazine and I parted ways amicably.

When the magazine first started publication, its pulpy, black and white pages focused almost exclusively on local music. The magazine covered national acts, too, but its St. Louis roots were at the forefront.

“We were fairly St. Louis-centric, that's true, but if you'll remember, our very first cover story was They Might Be Giants. From the outset, we thought of ourselves as St. Louis-based but not just about St. Louis. Shortly after the magazine's creation, we began mailing it out to venues across the country.”

As the months and years wore on and the staff of writers and editors became more accustomed to running their own publication, the magazine then expanded its scope and included art and theater reviews and, eventually, comic book reviews. In 2005, PLAYBACK:stl adopted a more professional, glossy look, and the quality of the printing was eye catching. Getting the magazine into more and more venues across the country was getting easier, but wrangling consistent advertisers proved to be challenging. Eventually, the battle to keep the magazine afloat took a painful turn. By September of 2006, the magazine ceased print publication altogether, citing a shortage of ad sales. Not to mention the mental stress of running the magazine was beginning to take its toll on Hamlett and Dunn who exhausted themselves month after month to get the magazine to the public.

But the saving grace came in the form of the publication’s Web site. Always on the cutting edge with a sharp design and easy navigation, Jim Dunn’s digital creation became the backbone of the magazine, and when print publication ceased, their efforts on the site were stepped up a notch. No longer having to meet grueling deadlines for print, more and more reviews and features became easier to manage, and now PLAYBACK:stl is able to cover just about every cultural event taking place in St. Louis and beyond.

Now that she has a little more free time, Hamlett has taken on booking duties for Cicero’s in the University City Loop and occasionally does promotions for musical artists. But why does she do it? I talked to Hamlett recently to find out.

PTSTL: Where do you think your love of music originated?
LH: Honestly, I'm not sure. I don't play music, but have always been into it. Neither of my parents played either, though I do remember my mom playing records: George Benson, Lou Rawls, Leon Redbone, Stevie Wonder, Bread. I suppose I got it from her, though way more intensely.

What was the first record you ever bought of your choosing?
Oh, this is embarrassing. Probably either Donny & Marie or Shaun Cassidy.

Do you play an instrument? Were you ever in a band?
See #1 for the first question. As for the second, I was in a band in high school. It was a joke, mostly an excuse for five of us to get together and goof off. I played keyboards (funny because, well, see #1...though I did do OK at it. I probably could have done well with piano lessons had I taken any). We had a few practices, nothing much. Had the greatest name ever, though: Half Apology.

Who is your favorite artist?
I have four, each from different countries: Matthew Good (Canada), Bluebottle Kiss (Australia), a-ha (Norway...and yes, they are still around. Just released something like their 9th studio album), Morrissey (England). Were I hard-pressed I would go with Matthew Good as my favorite.

Do you think that digital media has overall been a good thing for fledgling bands? Or has it led to music overload and oversaturation? Do you ever have any trouble keeping up with new music?
Honestly, I am in the latter camp: overload and oversaturation. Keeping up with it all is overwhelming, to be sure. I mean, it's leveled the playing field, so to speak, in that anyone can produce a quality recording and sell it for themselves. But there is just so much out there; it's kind of overwhelming. It's as if there is no longer anyone manning the gate of what's actually good music and what's not. And believe me, there's a lot that's not.

When did you start booking for Cicero’s?
I started booking Tuesday nights in December 2005, I believe. Did that for a couple years, then the booking agent left and I was hired to take his place. Been doing it full time for just over a year.

I’m guessing that the contacts you make with PLAYBACK:stl help out when booking. Have you ever had any difficulty getting that one act that you just really had to have?
It all feeds into itself, all the things I do. (I also do PR for musicians, but only the ones I really love.) I'm still in the process of getting Cicero's name out there, of convincing people that its days as jam-band central are no more. Variety is the name of the game! Due to our size (we're a 225-capacity venue), we can't possibly book all my dream bands. I try not to set my sights on out-of-reach acts; it doesn't do either of us any good. Besides, what I'm bringing in is rather good.

What was the biggest show you had the pleasure of booking?
Hmm...maybe a Margot & the Nuclear So and So's. Semi Precious Weapons is always good; I totally broke those guys in St. Louis.

You get sent a lot of demo CDs and sample discs as part of both jobs. Is there one in particular that stands out as being the worst?
I would have to go with the worst MySpace bio I have ever read; I couldn't even attempt to listen to the music after reading it. I won't name names, but here it is verbatim: "I'm a 25 year old male. I've got 4 piercings, 20 some odd tattoos. Currently going through a divorce. I have a son who'll be 6 this year with 1 ex. A daughter who'll be 2 this year with my soon to be ex-wife, and 1 daughter I don't believe to be mine with my ex-wife. Jesus I almost sound like a country song. If u wanna get to know more about me I guess write back." #1, this isn't about his music AT ALL, and #2, wtf???

You get to cover a lot of special concerts and festivals for the magazine. Do you have a favorite?
South by Southwest, hands down. It's springtime in Austin, the entire city is overrun with music folk; it's like summer camp for music people. It's given us a chance to see a lot of bands we otherwise never would.

If you could open up the perfect music club, what would it be like?
Like Cicero's but twice the size. I'm definitely on the "introducing new bands to you" side of the fence; would like to be able to book a little more up-and-coming artists for a larger audience. In the small-sized venue, though, I absolutely love everything about Cicero's. Well, maybe except for the jazzy artwork on the walls of my rock club.

Where do you see your love of music taking you?
If you'd have asked me this a year ago, I would have gone with the artist management side of things. Now, I'm not so sure. I want to do more writing about music, especially the ways it has influenced me/affected my life. I want to continue working with artists on the PR side of things, and also helping to advance their careers through licensing, publishing, touring opportunities. My heart is really into helping bands I love; unfortunately, it takes a lot out of you, especially when things don't work out. For now, I'm enjoying learning more about booking every day and booking shows; ultimately, I'm making things happen. Which is a pretty cool way to be.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

No Wading

Tour 2008 (317)

No Wading - Riverfront, Hannibal, MO - April 2008

Friday, July 17, 2009

BAC Cinema

Now this, my friends, is a sign! I was browsing through pics on Flickr not too long ago and came across this beauty in plasticfootball's photostream. The sign was for what was then the BAC Quad Cinema in Belleville, IL. At night, it would light up with brilliant red, orange and yellow neon lights. Prior to a Belleville ordinance that banned motion in large signage (an ordinance that has since been repealed as far as I know), the flames would shoot out of the torches. This sign was pretty cool. Unfortunately, sometime in 1997, 30 years after it's debut, the sign was taken down.

This photo makes me feel nostalgic. First off, Belleville is my home town (well, Swansea, actually, but it might as well be Belleville). Secondly, I used to work at this theater. It was my second job when I was 16 back in 1993. And finally, I saw the best movies of my childhood here: the entire Star Wars Trilogy, all the Indiana Jones movies, E.T., Star Trek II, Fantasia and several others. This photo brings back a lot of memories.

The cinema opened in 1966 as a single screen movie house with an impressively huge auditorium. Seating capacity was 800, and it boasted what was then the largest movie screen East of the Mississippi. The huge, curved screen was adorned with gold curtains, and when the movie started, they would open to reveal movie heaven. The seats were plush and comfy and they reclined a bit.

The lobby had this awesome concession stand. It was tight to work in and was kind of obsolete by the 90s, but it certainly had style.

In 1985, to compete with Wehrenberg's St. Clair 10 Cine that was getting ready to open in Fairview Heights, BAC added a new lobby and three additional screens on the West side of the original building. It then became the BAC Quad Cine. The new lobby was more spacious, and the concession counter was more accommodating to the workers who schlepped behind there. Additionally, the box office was moved from the old side to the new side. By the time I was working there, the old concession was no longer used on a regular basis, but we did open it once or twice for big openings, and on one particularly big film, we even reopened the old box office.

The theater was leased to Kerasotes Theaters in the mid 1990s. But unfortunately the annex was having some structural issues, and by 2000, the entire building was shut down for good. The sign was dismantled and scrapped in 1997.

Its sad to see this theater sitting empty. I would actually support the demolition of the newer structure, but the main house still has plenty of life left in it. I really hope someone comes along and buys it and returns it to its former glory.

Oh, and one small bit of my personal history with this place: when I was a kid, I remembered seeing a giant mural hanging on the wall in the main theater when Return of the Jedi came out. The mural was from a local painter, and depicted a collage of Star Wars characters and scenes. It was really amazing. When I worked there, the guy training me took me behind the screen in the big auditorium and showed me the painting. There it was... just sitting there collecting dust. It had been back there for literally ten years! In 1999, when Phantom Menace came out, I went here to see it at midnight. Much to my surprise, they had cleaned it off and re-hung it on the lobby wall. Where it is now, I'd like to know

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All-Star Week!

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The All-Star game was last night, and even though the NL choked AGAIN, the people of St. Louis had a grand old time.

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I didn't get to go to the game, but yesterday afternoon me and my fiance's four year old son went downtown to revel in baseball heaven. We watched the All Star parade, he got to bat some balls, and we even caught a glimpse of a few legendary Cardinals players. After that, we went to the top of the Arch, his first time. Needless to say, the kid was enthralled all day long.

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I also got to experience City Garden for the first time, and I have to say that I really dig the little park. Its an ambitious project, and I hope that it succeeds.

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Even though it was somewhat fleeting, I really think that the All-Star Game brought St. Louis together. For a few days, we were the spotlight of a national audience, and for the most part, we put our best foot forward.

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The excitement in the air was electrifying. I'm not really even a huge baseball fan, but even I caught the spirit once we stepped off the Metrolink at Stadium Station. And even though he's pretty young and doesn't really even know what baseball is, the little dude had a great time. I figured that this might be a once in a lifetime event, and that he might dig on it when he's older.

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It was great to see so many people downtown. City Garden was being enjoyed by children and adults alike. The beautiful sculptures and landscaping are quite impressive and the various fountains are pretty cool, too.

All Star Week Downtown 2009 (1)

When we went to the Arch, the little one was highly impressed with himself for getting to look out of the tiny little windows at the top. He seemed to be awestruck the whole time we were there.

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I really don't get to be a tourist in my own city very often, but when I do, it reminds me of just how much STL has to offer. And it just keeps getting better.