Behind the Scene
Behind the Scene: Those Building St. Louis’ Indie Music Community
“St. Louis is a town bands love to skip.”
This is a statement those familiar with the St. Louis music scene have heard, and possibly expressed themselves, over, and over, and over again. However, recently that statement has become less and less true. With the rise of new bands, venues and several music festivals namely LouFest, St. Louis locals can no longer legitimately complain that no good bands play in the gateway city. In the video below, I interview several individuals who work hard behind-the-scenes promoting local music through concert promotion, blogging and writing for local publications and a few who play within the scene they’re cultivating. Within we discuss why St. Louis wasn’t a hot spot for touring bands, how the scene is changing and what it still lacks.
Luc Michalski is a fixture in the do-it-yourself (DIY) hardcore punk scene in St. Louis. Michalski started booking bands nearly ten years ago when he found it difficult to get gigs for his own band. He’s played in Sack Lunch, Godfodder, nrml ppl and currently plays in Violations. On top of being known for his musical output, Michalski puts together a quasi-quarterly punk zine entitled Gateway Drug. Three editions of the zine have been published so far, with a fourth expected this summer. Each zine comes with a compilation tape of music produced, as Michalski puts it, “only by active St. Louis bands that are really trying hard.” As a companion to the zine, Michalski also updates a blog of the same name with upcoming shows, photos from previous shows, and news about the St. Louis punk and hardcore scene.
On top of being a subject of the video, Michalski was interviewed for the first ever Macriphone podcast. Download the interview here (right click, save as).
Michael Tomko never wanted to be a concert promoter. He got his start booking shows much in the same way Luc Michalski did: by finding places for his band to play. But Tomko finds the typical three band, $5 show boring: he likes booking events. Despite not being in a band or working for a club anymore, Tomko still books An Under Cover Weekend. Tomko talked to me about AUCW on this site before, which can be read here. Tomko thinks consistency is the key for the scene to become something worthwhile.
Listen to an extended interview with Michael Tomko:
If you’ve been to an experimental or noise show, or any concert involving modular synthesis, there’s a good chance Josh Levi was involved. Levi has been booking experimental shows for many years and publishes concert listings on his blog Flood Yr Face. Levi agrees with Tomko in that the scene needs consistency but he’s also a huge proponent of diversity. Levi tends to book bands with limited draw and aesthetic appeal for however he hopes through his and others promotion of different kinds of musical acts, people will be more open to new experiences. Levi had talked to me previously about what it means to be successful in the DYI scene.
APOP records is located right on the blossoming Cherokee St., home to many in the art community in St. Louis as well as the site of many punk shows. Tiffany Minx, along with her co-owner Dustin Newman, operates the record shop as a means to “do crazy things” with art and music. Home to many of the punk, hardcore and experimental bands in the city, Minx and APOP provide a much needed space for touring and local bands alike.
Eleven Magazine is a free, monthly music magazine produced in St. Louis that covers local and national bands on the same plane. Tara Pham was the editor of the magazine (up until earlier this month), as well as an undercover cheerleader and an amateur detective. Pham feels that most St. Louisians have an unfair bias against their local bands and attempts, through putting together special events like last year’s Roller Disco, and by pairing up the cities bands next to their national counterparts, she can change some biases and turn an ear or two.
Tara Pham sat down for an interview where she talked about how Eleven works, searching for local bands and avoiding negativity in the magazine’s pages:
Joseph Hess is one half of a few things. He is one-half of the band Spelling Bee, one-half of the KDHX radio show Wrong Division and the Wrong Division blog with Mabel Suen. For years, Hess and Suen have kept a running calendar of DIY shows on Wrong Division and post write-ups of their recommended shows of that week. On top of promoting what’s happening, he wants their to be more diversity. Hess wants things like a harsh noise act in the middle of a few other hardcore punk bands to become the norm.
The sentiment echoed most consistently by each of the individuals interviewed is how easy it is to get involved mostly by going to a show. Listings can be found via the Riverfront Times, Gateway Drug blog, Wrong Division, Flood Yr Face, Eleven Magazine’s blog, Pollstar, and also on venue’s websites. Those venues and their websites are all listed on this nifty Google map. This map is meant to grow, so if there’s a site missing, leave it in the comments.