Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lola talked me into seeing the new big show

I seized a rare night out recently to reconnect with some buddies from the burlesque scene. My friends Lola and Kyla, and their friends who became my friends, skyrocketed not long after we started hanging out and now there is just no keeping up with them (especially if you're a parent with a day job).

Hanging out with them on Cherokee Stree the other night, Lola gave an eloquent pitch for why my road dog John Parker and I needed to see the elevation of their act in the Naughti Gras 6 show, where they have been allowed to completely reconceive the Koken space for their sexy (and hilarious) theatrics.

I'll admit I'm the guy who was there in the early days but then didn't keep up as the showmanship developed and then exploded, and Lola was giving me the business about this, going so far as to jab me in the chest as she made her points and to address me by my first and my last names.

I was kind of being put on notice. I was expected to see the new big show!

Then she added a personal persuasive note by pointing out a key role in the new production for Dewy de Cimalle. "I know she's your favorite," Lola said.

So that was that. Talked me into it. Put aside some time. We're going to go see the new big show!

Speaking of Dewy de Cimalle, the above image of Dewy is by Carrie Meyer of Insomniac Studio. A beautiful canvas print of this naughty librarian portrait is available at St. Louis Curio Shoppe.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tower Groove opens singles club with Old Lights / Demonlover

On Friday night I went to the inaugural release party for the new Tower Groove Records singles club. By paying up front for a year of once-monthly releases, you get twelve new vinyl 7" records, each a split single between two local bands, for a bargain basement $5 per record.
I'm taking the trouble to post this hoping I can drum up some subscriptions for these guys. You can do that over on the Tower Groove website. I operate my hobbies on a cash economy basis, so I had lunch at Mangia and handed Jason Hutto $60 in cold cash for my subscription. Tower Groove printed up some carbons, so I even walked with a receipt which I have kept as a sort of badge or ersatz membership card.
At the record release party on Friday at Off Broadway, they had my name at the table, sure enough, so I collected on my first Tower Groove 7". This one pairs Old Lights, a personal local favorite, with Demonlover, a feisty, unpredictable trio.
The Old Lights song, "Blocking out the Sun," was written by bassist and co-frontman Kit Hamon, who sings like a power pop angel. It's hook-laden rock & roll in the legacy of Revolver, with that tuneful two-electric-guitar sound that never gets old. Beth Bombara's keyboards add an additional melody line and tasteful punctuation. The song itself is of that enviable sort where every part of it would work as a hook ... and it has four or five parts, four or five legitimate hooks, with dynamic, surging changes between them. The closest equivalent from my era of the St. Louis scene (the late '80s, early '90s) would be The Lettuceheads led by Carl Pandolfi.
Demonlover's song, "MC5 U in My Dreams," reminds me of my favorite Butthole Surfers records, like Locust Abortion Technician or Cream Corn. It opens with this abrasive but catchy punk song that turns into a meandering noise improvisation. I don't mean noise like hideous loud, I mean noise like Sad Lewis or Eric Hall, where the character of the sounds is what is being played. I liked these guys enough to look them up and read on the KDHX blog where they fretted that the instruments they are writing on will be audible at a live gig. I can see why, listening to the noise part of this song -- chimes, keys, sousaphone, glockenspiel, and vocals sung as from a warbling victrola.
The live show on Friday was full of surprises. I had never seen Old Lights, though I have one LP, Every Night Begins the Same, and their contribution to the Tower Groove double record, "We Laid Down." I was interested to see that both of their Tower Groove songs thus far are written and fronted by Kit Hamon, because the other front man, David Beeman, has such absorbing frontman charisma. He was dressed like a grunge rocker, flannel and jeans, but had his jeans cuffed like a rockabilly dude and wore the indoors ski cap of the 21st century hipster. Then an instrumental break hits, and suddenly he's is pogoing and swishing his guitar around the stage like a Mod -- or like a man who is very secure in his masculinity. This guy is a true new hybrid of the rock band frontman. Best of all, he is unpretentious and likeable in doing so. "Come in," he said to the people standing half-way back on the dance floor. "Come in." And we came in closer to the stage.
Demonlover also has a peculiar and fascinating frontman in Andy, as he is credited on the 7", though I gather from Dana Smith his last name is Lashier. When Andy isn't plunking around and making noise, he is a left-handed bass player who sings in two mics, one of them wildly inflected and distorted. He is one of those guys who has a very personal relationship with his instrument and the process of performing -- he's so possessed, it's hard to take your eyes off him. He is also flat-out goofy. He sort of jogs in place in these battered black workboots when he is stuck there in front of one of his mics for any stretch of time. I only regret to report that Andy seemed to have forgotten his belt or prefers not to be thus restrained, and as the gig wore on he took on a new southside rocker variant of saggin', which is not the sort of unique frontmen hybrid we want to promote here at Confluence City. Andy is backed by Rage, as per the 7", who seemed to be the short-haired incarnation of JJ Hamon, who can do no wrong on any instrument, ever.
Image is of my new Old Lights / Demon lover 7" on the portable record player my buddy Jocko gave me. No excuses for not listening to vinyl when you can still buy these guys for $20, though Tower Groove records also come up digital download codes.