Dave Anderson’s small basement workshop in south St. Louis is a way station for instruments used by some of the city's best guitarists. Over years, he’s developed the trust of dozens of top-notch players, tuning and rebuilding their instruments. Some play clubs around the city, some tour and some are relatively unknown, content to just do their thing.
That's given Anderson the unique chance to watch players develop, hit stylistic roadblocks, and often to bypass each other. Growing aware of how disconnected musicians can be, Anderson was inspired to launch a performance series aimed at challenging the city's players — and helping spark a collective creativity.
Anderson recently launched “The LAB,” a performance series at the Gaslight Lounge in The Hill neighborhood, featuring unexpected and unusual improvisations. Its recorded shows aim at challenging local musicians to step outside their comfort zones, meet new collaborators, and take risks in front of an audience.
The idea occurred to Anderson after Gaslight owner JB Anderson invited the guitar gear entrepreneur to develop a regular performance at the recording studio and bar. The program will include a rotating cast of musicians from various backgrounds and styles in St. Louis. Many have never played music together.
Dave Anderson says the goal of the series is to strengthen the inventiveness of the region's musicians and keep performers from falling into a rut. He hopes the project will cross pollinate various genres throughout the area.
“When you think of the jazz scene, you start seeing the same people over and over again,” Anderson said. “And when you think of the other musicians in town, you have a tendency to see them and their friends’ bands, but you don’t really get to see them open up creatively — something that isn’t rehearsed.”
The LAB’s first edition was a heavy rock jam featuring Anderson on guitar, precision drumming by Vijay Rao, and a serious groove by bassist Andrea Morse. The next show, on June 8, will showcase The Maness Brothers, plus Anderson on guitar and Kit Hamon on drums — making it a performance of two drummers and two guitarists. The third event, to be scheduled later, may focus on synthesizers and homemade electronics.
Each performance will be recorded live. Dave Anderson and Gaslight owner JB Anderson (who are not related to each other) are considering different methods of releasing show recordings. Snippets of the first show were released for free via Dropbox on Anderson’s Facebook page. But given the experimental nature of the event, they’re unsure how that will play out.
“I’m really stoked for the fact that people that never see the recording process or understand how it really works," JB Anderson said. "They’re able to watch it literally happen and see these phenomenal musicians create new art in real time. That’s the fun part about it.”
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