Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Last Call for Return of the Byrne

Just a quick post to thank everyone who came out on Thursday night in St. Louis. Music fans in Mound City had a wide variety of choices -- including Willie Nelson -- but we managed to attract a pretty nice crowd that plunked down $10 to help Taffety Punk Theatre Company and hear some amazing new music by Leadville and Magic City and astonishingly rare reunions by Stillwater and Free Dirt. And oh yeah... Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann showed up with the Diesel Island posse to play some songs -- and the evening kicked off with a set by a Chris King-led Three Fried Chamber Players.

I'll update this post if some of the music and photos become available. But I want to express my immense gratitude to the folks who played and the folks who came to listen. I caught up with a lot of folks over the five hours (It was terrific to see former RFT colleague Mike DeFillippo, longtime St. Louis music scenesters Rick Wood and Jarrett Tindall, Adam Reichmann from Nadine and Robert Griffin from Prisonshake), and made a couple new pals as well. (I should also thank old friend Fred Friction for hosting on his KDHX show, "Fishin' With Dynamite.")

And a big shout out to Kevin Belford -- who designed our marvelous poster. Have you checked out his book, Devil at the Confluence? You should.

Won't do reviews or anything, but some quick impressions, in roughly the order of appearance:

Three Fried Chamber Players: I really hope that Chris King and the rest of this gang -- Tim McAvin on drums, Josh Weinstein on bass, Adam Long on cello, Dave Melson on lead guitar and mandolin and Heidi Dean (who did not appear due to family bereavement) -- keep on doing this. The subtle energy of this acoustic lineup truly flatters Chris' songs.

Stillwater: Man, they rocked. It was also a reminder of how much of the energy and melody of Chris Grabau's present work as the ringleader of Magnolia Summer was present at the beginning of his songwriting career. Throw in a stinging version of the early classic "Handlebar" and a Guided by Voices cover and you had Grabau and John "Obie" O'Brien and Mike Rose provide one amazing 30 minutes.

Free Dirt: Standing on the stage as I was about to introduce them, it was like 1998 or something. Tom Buescher and Greg Vernon cracking wise. (Vernon played with a cast on his left arm, by the way!) Dave Harris exuding a sheer infectious delight in getting ready to play music. Dan Niewohner absent from the stage 'til just before they were ready to begin. The start of the set was a little like a prize fight -- the four players feeling each other out a bit. But about two songs in, the band just locked in with that fierce and frictive intensity that always made them one of my favorite bands. Just wonderful.

Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann: They came -- with fellow Diesel Island members John Horton and Kip Loui. They saw. They conquered with a couple sharp Neil Young covers and a smashmouth version of the Premiers' "Farmer John." The squall of guitars was staggering.

Magic City: They were everything that their Facebook tunes promised -- and more. The combination of theatrics, power and dark soulfulness in the sinews of every song portends really big things from this band. The version of "Animal Spirits" had me transfixed. See them.

Leadville: Another band whose promise on MP3 was fulfilled and underscored live, where the clean lines of many of the recorded versions is roughed up considerably. Tom Buescher is one amazing songwriter!

Last note: Door prizes are a key to any successful event! Again, immense thanks to everyone!

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