St. Louis is a music town. Luminaries like Chuck Berry and Tina Turner honed their craft here before hitting international stages. For music to thrive it needs a home, it needs live venues. This month, local venue the Gramophone announced it was closing as a concert space and reopening this spring as a bar. Although they’ll still occasionally have live acts, the venue’s shift is away from high-energy music and toward a relaxed food and drink emphasis.
Two leaders in the St. Louis music community released Ferguson-related songs this month. Tef Poe’s War Cry levels harsh criticism at political leaders while Brian Owens' Love, Love addresses the hope for community understanding.
Tef Poe’s War Cry: Ferguson is Barack Obama’s Katrina.
Brian Owens' Love, Love: We need love love love - let's talk about it - love is all we need.
Ask someone younger than 10 if he's ever heard a cassette and you may be met with a blank stare. Before CDs or the ubiquitous MP3, tapes were the go-to method for album releases. Major record labels stopped releasing cassettes years ago, but St. Louis is home to a dedicated tape community. Musicians turn to tape for artistic, creative and practical reasons.
In the last six months thieves targeting touring musicians have hit St. Louis. At least eight bands' touring vans have been robbed since May 2014. Some musicians like rapper Spose have vowed to avoid the city because of the thefts. Police Captain Daniel Howard, of the Fourth District, where many of the thefts took place, said authorities are making progress and some equipment has been recovered.
“There’s a ringleader of a group of thieves that we have our eyes on, and we are working with a prosecutor to make charges,” Howard said.
Early this month Tiffany Minx announced on Facebook the closing of her independent music shop Apop Records. The store will close this Monday. Although Minx has stressed a desire to look to the future, some fans are mourning the loss of an integral part of the St. Louis music scene.
“It’s just a major loss,” said Matthew Stuttler, who runs a cassette tape music label distributed online and at Apop.
Bruiser Queen is a pair of St. Louis residents that play catchy, scuzzy, rock music that lands somewhere between 1960s girl groups and 1990s riot grrrl punk. Morgan Nusbaum fronts the band, commanding both microphone and guitar.
She’s backed by Jason Potter on the drums. The duo practices in an old doctor’s office off Cherokee street. The walls are a faded bubble-gum pink and plastic bins for charts are still screwed to the wall near every exam room. The duo rehearsed for Friday’s record release show promoting their newest album Sweet Static.
Wynton Marsalis has been to St. Louis many times, but before Thursday night he had not played at Jazz at the Bistro.
“I’ve been coming here for many, many years. This is one of my favorite cities to come and play, in many contexts,” said Marsalis, a trumpeter, composer and educator. “I’d been to the Bistro, just sitting in and hanging with musicians … and it’s a famous place to play amongst the musicians. From a national standpoint, when you talk about St. Louis, you’re always talking about the Bistro.”