Our quest to clarify St. Louis City preservation laws – and assure that those laws apply to everyone – continues. As we move this legal argument to the Missouri Court of Appeals, our tenacious lawyers need to get paid. So we’re putting on a show to raise money.
And here are the wonderful folks joining us on this fundraising journey:
Off Broadway (thanks to Kit Kellison for supporting the effort and donating the club for the night) opens its doors at 7:30, and it all begins at 8 PM with Elle Adorabelle and Greta Garter performing before and after each band set.
It’s $10 at the door, and every cent collected that night goes to the Friends of the San Luis, LLC legal fund.
We would much rather you come and party in person, but if you can’t and still support the effort, we gratefully accept donations through Pay Pal.
Joe Thebeau was responsible for one of the very best albums of 2006, Escape Velocity. It is an engrossing and far-reaching concept album about being a 40-year old family man and corporate drone who can’t escape the feeling that there’s something else waiting for him just beyond the horizon; how do you get to that place and what happens once you do?
Among the 17 songs that tell the tale is a piece that addresses the Gateway Arch as a metaphor for high and/or dashed expectations, “Eero Saarinen”:
Westward over my city
Stainless and brilliant
Skyward into the universe
The kind of vision I can look up to
Into a future we couldn’t hope to
Live up to
For the sake of full disclosure, Joe Thebeau asked me to sing with him on the song, but trust that it has nothing to do with why I love it. It’s definitely a case of him inviting me because I loved the simple and emotional geometry of his sentiment. It made me look at the Arch – something most of us in this city tend to take for granted – in a whole new and personal way, which was also reflected in the CD cover shot and other photos of the Arch he sent me out to capture.
Atop that, the song just frickin’ rocks! It’s 1:32 minutes of rapid heart beat and laser point precision. Architecture has been described as frozen music, and I’d always “heard” the Arch as a wistful symphonic piece. Thanks to Thebeau’s artistic vision, I will forever “hear” the Arch as the Red Bull energy required to be the eternal Gateway to the West.
Finn’s Motel is playing at Off Broadway on Saturday, August 22, 2009. Do go check them out, and ask them to play this song.
I have been listening to The Blind Eyes debut record for 7 days straight, and the brilliance of it multiplies with repetition. During the first couple of listens – wherein I don’t pay attetion to lyrics, just overall sonics – I assumed from the chorus of “Brasil, 1957” (“We could only make it on the plane, on a plane”) that the song was about The Mile High Club.
On the third listen I finally heard:
Moving westward up the river
Steel and concrete to deliver
Out of nothing springs a city
Monument to modernity
Holy crap, these guys are singing about the building of Brasilia, and by association, architect Oscar Niemeyer! And – duh! – the T-shirt design (above) featuring Niemeyer’s National Congress building has way more significance than using it simply because Niemeyer is the coolest (and oldest) living architect. Oh, and double duh, this also references/inspired the title of the record.
I’m not normally this slow on the uptake, and in defense it should be pointed out: how often do we hear a song that concisely and poetically sums up the construction of a mid-century modern capitol? Previous to this, never!
The chorus of this ingenious song now takes on an extra layer of clever: is it “plain” or “plane”? Because both of them work. The city of Brasilia was purposely built far inland on an empty plain. Aerial views confirm that the city was purposely laid out in the shape of a plane.
What inspired them to tackle this as a song topic? Is one of them a fellow architecture geek? Until answers appear, I’m just impressed and thankful that it – and the entire record – exists. And I’m so proud that two St. Louis bands decided that songs about architecture should rock mightily.
Aside from these two towering St. Louis musical achievements, what other rock or pop songs are specifically about an architect or a building? The only other song that comes to mind is “Alec Eiffel” by The Pixies.
If you think of others, do let me know, and if enough of them exist, it could turn into the rare case of a second B.E.L.T. entry about architecture rock.
I’d like to introduce The Remodels, a musical project I worked on with Steve Staicoff. We recorded 6 songs by other people, remodeling them with the intent of pulling out something new and possibly undiscovered in each one.
The Remodels blog includes a video for each song and a brief explanation of why it was covered, along with a bit about everyone involved in the project.
There is also a Remodels MySpace page that streams the songs without the makeshift MTV business.
Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design & Culture at Midcentury
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
Washington University Campus until January 5, 2009
Birth of the Cool is an absolutely amazing exhibit about the heart of MCM. For fans and connoisseurs of the style, it is longings come to life, iconic images in books and magazines standing before you more breathtaking than imagined.
For the unknowing, it is a concise and compelling text book. For the unconvinced, it is casual persuasion of respect for the style. In keeping with the economy of shape and form that is MCM, the exhibit is not an overload of things but rather an economical gathering of precise items for maximum impact.
Within 6 galleries, music, design, art, culture, housing, furniture and politics mingle to create understanding of why the style evolved and why it endures as a romantic American ideal. I could gush on for paragraphs about the contents (like the above chair display, in the only photograph I took before being told to stop), but I’ll spare you the frenzied adjectives and cut right to the most extraordinary part.
Julius Shulman is a photographic god who still walks and shoots on this earth. Birth of the Cool has a heaping tablespoon of his black & white and color prints. The only reason this is not the personal highlight is because I have had the humble privilege of seeing most of these prints at exhibits in St. Louis and Palm Springs, California. But in the spirit of “it’s not what you got but how you use it”…
One gallery is all about Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22. In the middle of the room, encased in glass is a wooden architectural model of the home (gasp). Along the walls are Shulman’s omnipotent photos of such, images I’ve seen countless times. But when they are gathered in one place and put in context with a 3D replica, the effect is the most awe-inspiring feeling to have short of being invited into the actual house. The curator achieves maximum impact with a minimum of objects, exemplifying the aesthetic with two architectural artists who embodied it.
The ultimate moment of this exhibit will come on November 22nd, 2008 with a screening of the new documentary Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman. Watching the trailer gets me misty eyed, so I’ll save this topic for a date closer to the event. But do mark it on your calendar.
From an interest level of passing curiosity through to full blown fanatic, Birth of the Cool is a must-see. The gallery is easily accessible (location and time-wise), and it is free. There are no excuses, only priceless results.
The Arch has been a continually reoccurring theme in my life, lately. I was commissioned to photograph interior pieces of it for CD art work. That’s one of my photos on the cover, above. I even got to sing with Joe Thebeau on the track “Eero Saarinen,” which is about the metaphorical and philosophical meanings of The Arch.
Finn’s Motel Escape Velocity releases on September 19, on Scat Records. They play their first show on August 25th, at Off Broadway, and will continue to tour all parts of the country the rest of the year. I’ll refrain from raving about how absolutely brilliant this record is because you need only listen to tracks available on-line to hear that for yourself.
Then, the other night I went to the Fox Theater for the debut screening of The Gateway Arch: A Reflection of America, a new documentary from Civil Pictures. It’s a professional and lively trek through all the important historical points of Arch conception and execution. Of great interest were current interviews with a few of the men who helped build the structure. We see footage of them inches away from death high above the riverfront, and then watch them chat about this experience as if it’s no bigger deal than buying a Big Gulp. Their presence in this documentary makes it worth the price of admission.
For an hour, I’m thoroughly engrossed in the film; the final triangle piece is inserted, and The Arch is complete and then… the movie’s over! What? How can this be? There’s much more to this story: the controversial revision to Saarinen’s plans for the grounds surrounding the Arch, the development of the museum, and how they finally got around to lighting the sucker at night. Just these 3 topics alone would make for a worthy half hour.
But I realize that when making a documentary time is money, and sticking to an hour probably makes it easier for television stations across the globe to program it. The filmmakers never claimed to be offering up a definitive documentary on The Arch, just a compelling, updated one. This they do deliver. Good job, and the field is still wide open for someone to dig deeper for the entire story…
A few hours before the documentary, I saw this man moving furniture on Lindell Boulevard:
That’s the coolest tattoo ever! If he hadn’t been so busy, I’d have chatted him up for the, er, back-story. But at that moment, I was thrilled with what I figured would be the opening act for the Arch documentary. In retrospect, the documentary was the scholarly footnote to the impassioned, inked headliner.