ST. JOSEPH, MISSOURI
Four Bands That Matter
by Danny R. Phillips
When or if St. Joseph, Missouri (population: 76,780) crosses your mind, I would bet money that "musical epicenter" does not push to the forefront of your thoughts. It's not the epicenter of anything really. While music has breathed strong and deep in the city (it is the hometown of jazz saxophone legend Coleman Hawkins), St. Joe mostly has remained famous as the place where The Pony Express started and outlaw shootist Jesse James ended.
Through my two decades in the area I have seen the rise and fall of local heroes Appleseed Cast, The Rogers, The Ramey Memo, Serious Wilson, Grass Hopper Takeover, Armchair Martian, Pompous Pilot, Dsoedean and Full Power; many of which stormed the gates at our local place for rock, punk and anything but country, The Rendezvous on Felix Street; packed to the gills with like-minded alternative (whatever that means now) fans, soaking up cheap beer, imbibing the sounds blasting from a small stage in the far dark corner.
For awhile, I believed that the days of original acts playing their own music, outnumbering those regurgitating hits from the '70's, '80's or '90's were over; as soon as the bands that graced Felix Street saw the light of day, they seemed to all disappear. Minus a few plowing ahead, bands seemed lost, no progress, no new material.
That, my friends, is beginning to change.
Since moving Downtown to the city's center, I've seen signs of life these last few years. Something was and is changing, growing, longing to be heard. Four bands could turn this around; four bands on the rise, ready to put St. Joe on the map, all while kicking the world square in the jaw.
The Brothers Radke (Isaiah, Dee and Solomon) are the big boys of St. Joe's rising musical tide. Blending influences such as The Misfits, especially the Evil Elvis soaked vocal delivery of singer/guitarist Dee, the power trio punch of Nirvana, the low slung cool of Thin Lizzy, the ear splitting, in your face blast of Death and the aggressiveness of punk legends Black Flag, Radkey raises a racket that is solid, sometimes familiar yet fresh, filthy and tight with a looseness of punk rock abandon.
The trio, thanks to a diehard work ethic and singles like "Romance Dawn," "Dark Black Makeup" and the latest "Not Smart," has played SXSW, Riotfest, have appeared in a Mastercard commercial and played Later with Jools Holland while blasting their way from Kansas City to London. Radkey are one of the few bands attacking the charts with the bass/guitar/drums combo, again pushing rock back to the basics, showing that hard work, a knowledge of rock's past and natural ability is what you need to make a big splash.
If Dee Radke has cribbed Glenn Danzig's power and strut, The Creeps took the Misfits dark tone. While writing songs about horror movies is certainly not a new idea, what The Creeps bring to the table is the blistering Marc Bolan making out with Joan Jett guitar attack of Chris Mallory, the always spot-on ability of local scene veteran bassist Drew Ellis, the growl and aggression of vocalist Zachary Thomas and drummer Alex Long who, in my opinion, is St. Joe's best and most daring percussionist. The Creeps are a band of serious musicians not taking themselves too seriously. Whether playing "Bride of Frankenstein," "Suicide Party," "Undead Hotrod," "Bullshit" or the crowd favorite "Chad Sux," a song inspired by The Creeps superfan Chad Porter, the band has a good time and pen songs that get stuck in your head on an endless loop for days. Planning to have a record out this summer, The Creeps are certainly among the punks to watch.
photo by Andy Rivera
Where do I begin with Hurt Russell? Are they garage psychedelia? Indie rock? Shoegaze pop? Hurt Russell are all of these. The band (bassist Delaney Wilson, guitarist/vocalist Trevor Rowe, guitarist Zach Sauls and drummer Nick Fitzpatrick) blend influences like The Velvet Underground, The Breeders, The Vaccines, The Black Angels, Wavves and Broncho for a sound that can be familiar, fresh & new all at once. The Graveyard Grudge Split with KC area phenoms Mr. and the Mrs. is dreamy garage rock at its finest while the independently released single "Down/Cruisin for a Bruisin" is an explosion of jangly pop and a new wave of surf rock, smothered in reverb, dripping 13th Floor Elevators vibrations, kicking and biting to break out into the world of waiting, tripped out followers.
Scruffy and the Janitors
What started as a band of players that loved the Delta blues, The White Stripes, Cage the Elephant and The Killers, Scruffy and the Janitors have grown exponentially since their first release, the boombox recorded Pino five years ago. The rough edges of the band have since been smoothed to the tight unit that they are today; a tightness gained through playing shows, crafting their art, while recording the three years in the making Modeling is Hard.
The elements that made the lo-fi Pino and the ass-shaking Anglo such winners: aggression, melody, blistering guitar work courtesy of Teriq Newton, the thundering drums of Teriq's younger brother Trevin and the throaty 50 year old, two pack a day smoker trapped in the body of a twenty-something delivery of bassist/vocalist Steven Foster, pushing the band past their influences to a sound all their own; they have taken their strengths as a band and crafted one smokin' record.
The track "You Got Hit" is as catchy as an STD but a lot more fun. It's full steam ahead rock n roll; a song that is every bit a single, a track that, after a few spins was stuck in my head all day long. "Eraser" starts out Modeling like a blast to the teeth; melodic and furious, the Nirvana-esque crunch filled riff with a nod to the greatness of 1980's giants The Cars. In short, it would have fit perfectly at every college party that I attended in the ‘90's.
If you've followed Scruffy from the beginning, watched them change and grow as a band, as a unit, as they stomped through the land of garage rock and psychedelia, then Modeling is Hard is for you. If you haven't, if you weren't blessed with roots in the mighty Midwest, its time to cut the bullshit and get to know Scruffy and the Janitors.
Well, there they are kids. Four bands from the great city of St. Joseph, MO that a poised to become bigger than their city, ready to show the world that, if you sleep on the Midwest, you'll regret it.
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