Do the Whirlwind St. Louis
I spent the weekend in St. Louis, MO, which is a lovely city, if not rather far away from North Carolina.
Nonetheless it is worth the trip and was a great first foray for me into the untamed Midwest. My girlfriend and I visited a friend at Washington University, who generously let us stay at her place and showed us around town. It was a bit of a whirlwind few days, and since it took so long to get there we tried our best to squeeze a lot in.
We first checked out Wash U’s campus, which is slightly smaller than ours, but still beautiful and traditional, based around a central quad, and boasting shiny new facilities thanks to plenty of funding. Later on we got a chance to sit in and guest DJ her radio show at the College station KWUR. Loads of fun to be able to string songs together for 2 hrs and hear oodles of new music, including the new Calexico record Carried to Dust off Quarterstick/Touch & Go Records. It’s reminiscent of The Black Light in my opinion, which is a phenomenal record, but why not read a well written review here.
During the show, apart from comparing the Cosmic Cantinas in Durham and Chapel Hill, I got a chance to dedicate a song (“Rocky Raccoon” off the Beatles White Album) to my best friend back in NC and heard a lot of fantastic blues as well as the new Kings of Leon album called Only By the Night put out on RCA Records. Check out track three, a blistering shred entitled “Sex on Fire”.
St. Louis also has a great park right down the road from Wash U called Forest Park, which is full of free and fun attractions, minus the golf course (yeah it’s that big of a park). There’s a huge zoo where I saw for the first time Dwarf Mongooses (Mongeese?) and bunches of other creepy crawlies and critters, a free art museum complete with Jackson Pollock and Monet, and a free science museum.
But the absolute highlight of the weekend was on Saturday night, when I saw Broken Social Scene perform at an underground venue on campus called The Gargoyle, which sadly is scheduled to be torn down. Our friend somehow got us both in for free with her (its cool man, we’re on the list), and we were treated to a great opener, which is always an unexpected bonus.
They were Land of Talk, from Montreal, fronted by Elizabeth Powell, who got her start playing her own anti-rock anthems on the local scene of Guelph, Ontario, during her mid-teens. Along with Bucky Wheaton on guitar and Chris McCarron on bass, Land of Talk display influences as broad as PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr. on their eclectic compositions. Their most recent and second album called Some Are Lakes off Saddle Creek Records showcases their melodic, richly woven sound brilliantly and was produced by Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame).
Afterwards Broken Social Scene stormed the stage with an ensemble ranging from 8-12 (out of their full repertoire of 19) musicians playing a variety of percussions, guitars, brass and keyboards to create intricate and complex songs. This “superband” from Toronto formed in 1999 and has since included members of bands as diverse as Stars, Do Make Say Think, Metric, Feist, Raising the Fawns, and The Dears. They traded instruments constantly on stage and invited members of Land of Talk to come sing songs with them, creating an atmosphere of inclusion, everyone was a part of this set. Towards the end lead guitarist and trumpet player Charles Spearin announced that he was going to share some results of an experiment he had conducted on Audiology, specifically the sound and cadence of everyone’s voice. He claimed that we all “sing” when we speak and proceeded to play a short recorded speech by his neighbor who described what happiness was to her, accompanied by matching notes on a saxophone. BSS utilize layering and vocal harmonizing constantly to add a very sonorous quality to their music, and surprisingly it translates well live. I was very impressed by the impromptu mood of the show and yet its clean and polished feel. Certainly a treat to hear and see, by the way front man Kevin Drew has some pretty choice dance moves.
Boogie Woogie everybody, last thoughts: St. Louis has much more to offer than just an arch, underground venues with free BSS shows are great musical experiences, and there is a Gelato store employee somewhere in downtown St. Louis missing his sparkly pink lighter.
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