Saturday, June 12, 2010

Recent classical new releases at KWUR

With the pending (and thoroughly unwarranted and corrupt) demise of KFUO, 99.1 FM next month, that will leave one station left in St. Louis that will have any locally hosted classical music radio programming (both terrestial radio and internet[#]), namely this one. Classical music radio from KWUR has been a somewhat under-the-radar situation for quite a while, but with this turn of events, it is perhaps time to emerge a little bit more from under the radar. If anyone wishes to listen in, the classical show is normally on Saturdays from 11 AM to 2 PM, hosted by myself, barring pre-emption by sports or other circumstances. This is no substitute for 99.1 FM, of course, and I certainly can never fully fill the shoes of 99.1 FM. But I would like people to know that one local low-power student station is keeping the flame of locally based classical radio alive in St. Louis.

Some of the recent releases that KWUR has received include these recordings:

* Beethoven: Piano Trios, with the Gryphon Trio (Analekta AN 2 9858)
* Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 4 & 5, with Till Fellner, Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony (ECM New Series 2114)
* Marco Dall'Aquila: "Pieces for Lute" (harmonia mundi HMU 907548)
* Ernst Krenek: "Six Motets After Texts of Franz Kafka" and other choral works (harmonia mundi HMC 902049)
* André Mathieu, Felix Mendelssoh, Dmitri Shostakovich: Concertos and Concertino, with pianist Alain Lefèvre (Analekta AN 2 9283)
* Frank Martin: Golgotha (harmonia mundi HMC 902056)
* Astor Piazzola & Luis Bacalov: "The Soul of Tango" (Delos DE 3345)
* "Telemann and the Baroque Gypsies", with the Ensemble Caprice (Analekta AN 2 9919)
* Matthias Weckmann: "Sacred Motets" (harmonia mundi HMC 902034)
* Oswald von Wolkenstein: "Songs of Myself" (harmonia mundi HMC 902051)

I'll continue to post lists of new classical recordings at KWUR as often as warranted. Feel free to comment or drop a line to Thanks for reading.

[#] Edit on 7/12/10: there is still internet classical music radio broadcasting from, as of this date.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Primavera Sound Review - Saturday


The sun was really shining Saturday and I made my way to the forum by way of bike along the Barceloneta beach. I arrived to Real Estate's set that took me back to another kind of hometown of Ridgewood, NJ. Real Estate has the beachy summer sounds that made a perfect pair to the sunny saturday in Barcelona. The afternoon crowd responded to the good feel jams and lyrics "Budweiser, Sprite, Do you feel alright?" while the band was purely giddy to be at Primavera Sound bassist Alex Bleeker announcing "this whole thing is awesome". I caught a brief set by Atlas Sound who did a nice acoustic rendition of his songs off Logos - even bringing "Walkabout" to life despite the absence of the song's addictive backing sample.

Next I layed out on a viewing tower behind the field of the San Miguel stage to take in the set from Florence + The Machine. Not familiar with much of their material before the festival, the set was a welcome surprise. More fun pop the anything else, the young brit Florence Welch, lifted her catchy hits off debut album Lungs with her commanding voice rising across the field and bringing in the barcelona sunset.

I last saw Grizzly Bear three years ago at the Pitchfork festival in Chicago, and despite exquisitely sharp songs from the band's debut Yellow House I left dissapointed. Their sound just didn't seem to produce on a festival stage like it did on album. As they took the the Ray-Ban stage, it was clear that their ability to captivate a festival crowd has significantly improved, Further their deeper arsenal of hits like Two Weeks and Southern Point satiated the crowd relaxing across the amphitheater.

Built to Spill delivered a tight set at the ATP stage filled with their driven slacker indie jams spanning across albums. BTS a band that influenced my affinity for "indie", closed out Primavera Sound for me on a high note and reminded me to keep supporting emerging independent artists this year - many of whom will take the stage for Primavera Sound 2011

Primavera Sound Review - Friday


On Friday the venue swelled with many more people flocking to the Forum to see The Pixies headling show. I started the afternoon at Spoon's set on San Miguel. It was the first time I saw Spoon and while their was mixed reaction in the crowd, the funky grooves that Britt Daniel and the gang deployed made Spoon was the perfect catalyst to get me revved up again after a late Thursday night. After catching a bit of raucus provided by Spanish rock outfit Mujeres, I caught most of Coco Rosie's set. Coco Rosie music seems to fall somewhere along the lines of opera and hip hop...opera-hop maybe a suitable classification. The dramatic droning female vocals from Bianca and Sierra Cassidy, layered with a harp, all backed by a French beat boxer made for one of the most interesting sets of the weekend - accompanied by their quite avante-garde video show.

Next up Wilco gave the crowd a long set of polished classics exhibiting their years of experience and ability to lead some drawn out jam sessions. Wilco comes off as one of the most versatile bands that can adjust their size, sound, to meet the needs of a small theater in Chicago to a huge stage out in Barcelona.

The Pixies followed on the main stage to what was the largest crowd of the weekend and one of the best sets. Kim Deal looked incredibly happy while strumming the spinal cord to many of the Pixies songs while Frank Black belted out well dusted hits from Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. The packed crowd wailed back, danced in the space between shoulders, and I think the fair amount of beer being tossed was another sign of pure excitement from the Spanish fans.

Closing out Friday I saw the tail end of Major Lazer's late night set - which is pure joy and hilarity. Finally, I caught Yeasayer's 2:30am set filled with their psychadelic-middle eastern-pop gems like "Ambling Alm", "One" and "2080". The perfect nightcap for Friday that gave the electric charge for another full day of shows on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

RFT Music Showcase

Every summer the River Front Times hosts a local music showcase. It's a big one day festival featuring 2 big outdoor stages during the day and 12 smaller indoor venues in the evening. There were 50 bands for $5. I consider that a challenge to see as many new bands as possible. At first I was disappointed that the showcase was not on the Delmar Loop this year, but it turned out that the Washington Avenue location was perfect for jumping between different bars. I don't normally frequent the night club scene, but this event served as an nice introduction to the surreal experience that is Wash Ave on a Saturday night. It seems that the booze flows freely on city streets there; girls are always dressed to go to prom; strangers give sushi and vodka-sprites to strangers; driving with all your car doors open is acceptable; the purpose is to drive as slowly as possible as many times as possible down the street; Clubbers hardly even notice that there is a rock n roll festival going on all around them...

I started at 6pm on a patio watching Pretty Little Empire play some really solid indie rock songs. They rotated instruments and singers often which gave the intense and emotive songs a nice informal feel.

Soon I moved on to see Beth Bombara and the Robotic Foundation. Beth is the center of the show here with loud guitar and intimate vocals. However, the drummer really caught my eye. He had my ideal drumming style, simple but effective, and the carefree manner of a man confident in his expertise.

Next I headed to the Dubliner for the Dock Ellis Band which was one of the very high points of the night. The Dock Ellis Band is fucking hilarious. Singer Jesse Irwin has the perfect country rock persona. He's a beer drinkin', whisky shootin', howlin', cheatin', dirty man. He is backed by a really solid band that started the set by ordering 10 beers. Don't miss out on a chance to see this band!

I cooled things down with Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, where the Lonely Pine is really just Beth Bombara again. Cassie played very intimate, mellow songs that would be perfect in another setting but did not seem quite at home in a bowling alley(Flamingo Bowl). Beth assisted with toy piano, wine glass, and even the bowed xylophone, which was a first for me.

I jumped up the block to see Jumbling Towers at Hair of the Dog. Allow me to describe the venue: 15 feet wide, 300 feet long. Jumbling Towers played an admirable set of jaunty pop songs, and their cadre of buzz band fans were there in force video taping the whole thing. The show was diminished by the inability to see the band and the fact that you basically had to walk through the stage to enter the venue.

I headed down to see Theodore perform to a capacity crowd. If you vaguely like americana or country music I implore you to go see this band. They do it all from raucous stompin' ragers to quiet lullabies. The instrumentation is always changing to include horns, accordion, and even a weird Casio electronic guitar. Don't miss these guys.

New band Flaming Death Trap played a phenomenal set at Rue 13. Their heavy songs always have a hook to hold on to, and it pulls you into singing along. Rue 13 seems more appropriate for go go dancers than rock bands, but the space really worked. The crazy strobe lights and enormous disco ball gave the set a rather surreal, yet exciting, feel. FDT played into this vibe and did their best rock star act. Look out for this band in the future.

I closed out my night seeing Fattback with a bunch of drunkards in the back room of the Dubliner, where I watched empty beer bottles slide off a wobbly table one after another. By this point the band was much more energetic than I was, but they acted as a pick-me-up. A mixture of good rockers with a couple silly songs was a pitch perfect ending for the night. This is a band that does not take itself too seriously, as reflected in their educational song about dinosaurs.

At 2am I was exhausted, but Washington Avenue showed no sign of slowing down. Cars filled with beer drinkers and bass blasters cruised the street as I headed home. The showcase had been a great success and shown some highlights from a vibrant music scene happening right beneath our noses. If I may co-opt the Fattback singer's words: You'd be a stupid idiot if you missed it.

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Album Review: The Hooten Hallers, "The Epic Battle of Good and Evil"

Bluesy duo the Hooten Hallers hail from Columbia, MO. With just drums and guitar they play a mixture of blues, honky tonk, and rockabilly. Their debut album "The Epic Battle of Good and Evil" hits a lot of different styles ranging from rocking Black Keys-esque blues to weird distorted country that might come from Hank Williams on acid. They even have a great little song about driving down Hwy 55 smoking reefer and drinking 40's. Don't miss them live because they give a great live show with gritty guitar licks from John Randall and plenty of ridiculous falsetto harmonies from drummer Andy Rehm.

See them live June 10 at the Firebird or July 10 at Off Broadway for the 2nd Annual Great Crawfish Boil.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Primavera Sound 2010 Review

The Primavera Sound Festival set along the Mediterranean Sea in an urban park in Barcelona, Spain marks the triumphant evolution from summer touring festivals to summer destination festivals. Primavera Sound in its 10th year has perfected its current formula of hosting promising indie musicians alongside pioneering artists, all in a multicultural European city located along the Med and guarded by the Collserola mountain range.

As for the venue itself – the Parc Del Forum is exactly the type of urban park that pulls off an incredible music festival. I must point out that the venue is quit dynamic, as it was hosted an Andalucían Fair a month ago which largely consisted of Sevillana Dancers and Seafood restaurants. For Primavera, the park fit 10 stages across the entire grounds, which all had a unique format and size, and provided comfortable space to get close to the stage, sit within an amphitheater, or just lay out on the grass.

The thousands of attendees from all over the world echoed the diverse lineup of artists hailing from across the globe. However, without a doubt the Spanish vibe was undeniably present from the Sounds from Spain mini-festival held at one of the stages to the delightful gazpacho and jamon iberico tasting.

Across the three day festival – I was lucky to see great sets from many bands, some whom I have seen before and other I plan to see may more times and hopefully next year again at Primavera Sound.

Day 1 – Thursday.

I could clearly hear Patrick Stickles’ of Titus Andronicus voice pouring out of the Pitchfork Stage all the way to the entry gates as I geared for the first set of the weekend. Titus Andronicus brought their album “The Monitor” to life on stage with their anthemic songs and the crowd responded with sing-a-long and a constant flow of fist pumps. I would be remiss in not mentioning the last time I heard Patrick sing was at a community center in Glen Rock, NJ over 9 years ago while still in high school – he’s been rocking for a while. . Later at the same stage the Smith Westerns brought their groovy garage-rock feel to the stage – reminding everyone once again to rock and have a good time.

At the Ray-Ban Stage The XX lulled me

lodic songs came out as clean and precise as they do on record, but I think their sound would exude an even greater “cool” in the small club format or perhaps a church basement in North London. Next up, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene implored the crowd to have a good time and drink lots of water, and while the crowd hesitated to swap in H20 for San Miguel beer, they responded to the furious guitars, drums and vocals of BSS. I think at one point there were 10 people on stage all clearly maestros of their own instruments and somehow managing to produce cohesive songs filled with crescendos. “It’s All gonna break” and the new instrumental sensation “Meet me in the Basement” showcased their loud building sound across guitars, strings (provided by Owen Pallet), horns, and drums and skill to sooth

e and rock a festival.

By the time BSS finished their set, almost all fans migrated towards the San Miguel stage for one of the weekend’s headliners Pavement. Opening with their semi-commercial hit “Cut Your hair” the audience lit up to Stephen Malkmus’ shredding guitar and echoed back their own “ooh-ooh-oohs”. Pavement supplied a giddy crowd a run through of classics from Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. During “In the Mouth a Desert” the audience couldn’t cease jumping, dancing, and mirroring the huge grins strewn across the members of Pavement.

Pavement’ set could have been the perfect nightcap if Delorean didn’t have a 2:30 set scheduled back on the Pitchfork stage. I took in one more set from these Balearic-dance rockers hailing from the Basque region of Spain. Their songs like “Seasun” and “Endless Sunset” reminded us all that we were in Barcelona, Spain, steps away from the Me

diterranean Sea, and embarking on a great summer.

More to Come on Friday and Saturday from the Primavera Sound Festival.

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