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Second Set: Matt Meyer gets a look back at STL 2000

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 22, 2012 - Matt Meyer (aka Matt Bug) was treated to an interesting surprise recently. We’ve written about Rob Wagoner’s attempts to digitize St. Louis music’s VHS history through his STL Music Video Preservation Project. The longest-form video he’s yet tackled was one of Meyer’s works, a 104-minute documentary called “STL 2000,” which captured the punk scene in St. Louis during that year.

Though edited by noted horror producer/director Eric Stanze, the film was largely the result of Meyer taking his newly purchased camera out for a full year, capturing shows, grabbing interviews in basements and graf-streaked rehearsal halls. During the process, he created exactly what he was after, “a snapshot of that moment in time. When I set out to make the movie, I wanted to keep it true to the documentary style, not just making it for the here-and-now. I wanted something that future generations could look back on to see that time period.”

With a dozen years passing since the film’s creation, enough time has gone by that some differences can be noted. None of the band members is fiddling with a cell phone during interviews. No one mentions getting their music out via Facebook, or Myspace, though several do mention having websites. Band business is conducted via telephones and voicemail. And the tattoo quotient is a lot lower than it’d be today.

The biggest changes, though, come with the clubs featured. The cooperative Centro Sociale, which is early in the film, has long since been turned into an insurance office. The Way Out Club moved from the Cherokee and Compton location. The Creepy Crawl moved, then shuttered. The Galaxy’s a memory from far, far away. The Hi-Pointe we’ve touched on this series, a room that went under before its audience was ready to let go.

As a historical document, it holds up.

But seeing it on YouTube?

Meyer says, “I knew Rob was doing various old videos, but I had no idea that was tackling the ‘STL 2000’ thing until it was posted on Facebook and my friend Meghan posted it to my page. It’s something that I’d wanted to do for a long time, but never had the tools to do. The master’s on some kind of fancy Beta SP tape and I no way to transfer it. But what Rob’s doing is awesome. Wow. I’d always wanted to do it.”

Meyer recently watched the film, start-to-finish, for the first time in a long time.

“I thought it was really cool,” he says. “I watched it again. After Eric and I had edited it together, it felt just like being in a band. You write a song, demo the song, then record the song. If you’re really involved, you produce and mix the song. By the time it’s on the record, you don’t want to hear it again. I had no interest in watching it again. I hadn’t seen it in years, at least eight years. It was really neat to go to back and look at that and see people and how they’ve grown.”

A man and a movie camera

“STL 2000” starts with the only bit of material that wasn’t directly culled from his work. Stanze cleverly added in John Mills’ (then of Channel 4) countdown to the New Year. He is downtown and clearly caught up in the same enthusiasm that many of us had at that moment. This wasn’t just any turning of the calendar page. This was the Year 2000!

From there we settle into a short round of interviews about the music scene; and Randall Roberts, then of the RFT, gives a good feeling for what the rest of the movie suggests.

“There are a lot of great performances in it,” Meyer says. “I wish that I could’ve recorded some of them better. The Trip Daddys are smoking at spots. The performances capture the energy of the music scene, and they echo Randy’s thoughts at the opening of the video, where he says that there’s a great band playing out every night in the world, but there’s no one in St. Louis to say, ‘Hey, I saw a great band tonight’.”

Meyer focuses on a young group first, the Wreckless Angels, who are so fresh they’re still talking about who selected the band and who decided not to join the earliest version. We see them rehearsing in a basement, trying to work out cuts, then on “stage,” which is to say, face-to-face with their audience at an underground club. They may not be the most-gifted group in the production, but they have a ton of spirit and three-quarter-female group set the tone for the film, energetically.

Another young group, 4sum 5sum from Troy, Mo., almost steals the show in a “Spinal Tap”-kinda sense. We catch them at home, where they proudly rehearse in front of a giant 105.7 Point poster. We see them in a yard, five teenagers piled up together for their interview, cracking wise and trying be unselfconscious (which doesn’t work). They mention performing at the Family Arena soon. It seems like a joke until, bang!, they we are. The group’s part of a Point-sponsored Battle of the Bands. Not much goes right at the show for 4sum 5sum, who play to a near-empty Arena, unable to get their equipment to work, cut off during their final song.

A variety of past-tense groups perform: The Honkeys, Red Squares, The Cripplers, Sexicolor. And the still-kicking Ultraman and Trip Daddys.

And a host of interviews are attached from folks like “Motion Sickness” publisher and Whoppers Taste Good frontman Gary Phillips; Vintage Vinyl’s Jim Utz; Lisa Turallo, then booking the late Side Door; Mike Leahy of the 7 Shot Screamers, well before his success as Clownvis Presley; and, yes, yours truly in a trio of takes at KDHX, a station also represented by former programmers Tony Renner and Jeff Kopp. Most interesting to me was seeing Dancin’ Bobbie and Larry Page, two scene stalwarts of that time who were then in middle age, but kept up a nightly show regimen that would’ve shamed people half their age.

(Seeing them onscreen now, a decade-and-change later, I’m truly curious what happened to them.)

“The segments I enjoy most are the historical ones that touch on things I wasn’t involved in,” Meyer says. “Like when Beatle Bob explains the music scene of the ‘60s. And Tim Jamison talks about the early hardcore and punk scene. That’s what intrigued me the most. I didn’t experience that so I found in pretty interesting. Being a musician in the scene, I wanted to find out how things were and thought those interviews provided a good foundation for the film.”

Generation Next

Meyer has maintained a foothold in the local music scene, through various means. Every so often, his long-running Ded Bugs crawl out of the woodwork. And he backs his good friend Joe Thebeau in Finn’s Motel when that group appears live. He’s an in-demand producer, working out of a studio in his native DeSoto. And he’s taken on a new role in recent years, as a mentor to some young, tween- and teenaged groups.

Million Hits features a drummer, age 10, the son of a long-time friend. To date, Meyer helped coach the band into an actual gigging unit. Just a while back, he had the group playing at Spinning Wheels, a Festus roller rink. He remembers setting up the group, watching soundcheck, then hustling back to St. Louis for a rare Ded Bugs show. On Dec. 15, the group’s going to be playing Cicero’s for the third time, this time with a group called Four Foot Skyscraper, also a teen group, and one Meyer recorded in DeSoto within the last month.

“I’ve been working with Million HIts, who are between 10 and 14, and I see a lot of talent in the band,” he says. “I’ve been working with them for about a year. Four Foot Skyscraper are all buddies now, too. They’re right around 16 years old. They recorded 14 originals at my place in DeSoto in three days. I’ve been substitute teaching since ‘93, just out of college. So I enjoy working with kids. And teaching them how to navigate their way through the web of rock’n’roll.”

With all this activity, you get the sense that “STL 2000” has achieved a real sense of closure for Meyer. He remembers last selling a VHS copy of it through his Ded Bugs page about a year ago. Now, that pace might even slacken.

“I would still get orders for it,” Meyer laughs. “It was really cool, don’t get me wrong. But getting requests for VHS today is a head-scratcher. I just love YouTube. I think it’s wonderful and I look things up there all the time, as everyone does. But you can go there to find these nuggets. Rob putting this up has been a huge service to me and the whole music community.”

(Hey, want the original tape, too? It’s yours for $10: www.dedbugs.com/stl2000/howtobuy.htm)

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