News Column

St. Joseph News-Press, Mo., Shea Conner column

August 30, 2013


Aug. 30--More than a year has passed since David Hudnall of The Pitch wrote a feature about local rock band Radkey. More than a year has passed since he unknowingly dissed the St. Joseph music scene. More than a year has passed since Hudnall lit a fire underneath the music community at large.

The introduction of the June 2012 article painted an unfavorable portrait of St. Joseph, rambling on about the abandoned storefronts of the Downtown area, describing them as "Instagram-rich with poignant urban decay." Hudnall also brought up the vacant building that used to be called Room 107, which was a thriving entertainment venue for a brief period. His first three paragraphs described St. Joseph as a desolate wasteland where nothing was going on. Reading his words, it felt as if Radkey had to survive the perceived plight of Joetown to reach success, which couldn't be farther from the truth.

Needless to say, this didn't sit well with many local musicians, who considered the article both a turning point and a rallying point. It gave them the fuel to prove that Joetown had more to offer than the same old misguided stereotypes.

The question, of course, is what did they do with that motivation? Let's go to the scoreboard.

Radkey enjoyed a killer year. The band of brothers performed an official showcase at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, another set at the Download Festival in London and gigs at Riot Fest in Chicago and Buzz Beach Ball are up next. The trio has opened for the likes of Silversun Pickups (at a huge show at the Kansas City Power & Light District) and Local H. The band already has toured all over the world and they're poised for an explosion. The only problem: Radkey hasn't performed in St. Joe since November of last year. Of course, that will change when the band plays at The Rendezvous on Sept. 20. Even if Radkey never played here again, the brothers have brought St. Joe a great amount of attention that other bands could capitalize upon. (+1)

Radkey isn't the only St. Joseph band starting to break through in Kansas City. Eyelit and Dsoedean have since earned radio play on 96.5 The Buzz. Off the top of my head, those two bands, Scruffy and the Janitors, Missouri Homegrown, Jerkface, Whiskey for the Lady, Fires of Eden, Knot Afrayed and Kadanyne have all performed shows in Kansas City in the last year and were met with good responses. (+1)

For most of 2012, Tremors Nightclub was the only local bar bringing nationally known acts to St. Joseph, whether it was Smile Empty Soul and 12 Stones or "That Metal Show" host Don Jamieson or Riggs from Scum of the Earth. Bigger shows appeared to be on the horizon, but because of financial failures, Tremors shut its doors indefinitely in May. Hammerjacks hosted Smile Empty Soul this week (kudos, gentlemen), but the club hasn't quite picked up the national act slack yet. (-1)

Two local record labels have sprung up in the last year. This Tall Records has put together quality merchandise for Dsoedean, Sexwolph and The GasTown Lamps with items from Eyelit and Scruffy and the Janitors on the horizon. Meanwhile, Renick Street Records has become the home for The Burnstyles, If You See Kay and the very promising Missouri Homegrown. (+1)

Bret Yager left Tuning Fork and took his wonderfully filmed live music videos (in HD) with him. Although Tuning Fork launched the Center Stage series and a new magazine, the live footage from so many local gigs remain sorely, sorely missed by music fans. (-1)

I'll admit I'm biased here, but St. Joe Live launched its own concert series called "St. Joe Live Presents" in February and all of the videos from these concerts can be viewed at Local acts Aaron Blumer, The Souveneers, Eyelit, The Wood Pile, Deco Auto, Dsoedean, John Goolsby and Knot Afrayed already have performed as part of the series. I wish the crowds were bigger, but hey, we're exposing our readership to a wide variety of Joetown's acts and making high-quality recordings in the process. (+1)

The St. Joseph Music Foundation moved the all-local Joestock Music Festival from Phil Welch Stadium to Coleman Hawkins Park -- a natural fit for such an event -- and earned the sponsorship of the city. Additionally, the Music Foundation hopes to have an FM radio station spinning local tunes on the airwaves in the next year. (+1)

Local hip-hop and electronic artists took a big leap into the public consciousness thanks to killer shows at Amnesia Too, Bridge's Lounge and Hammerjacks. (+1)

The First Ward House opened last fall and has hosted a mix of local music acts and national music acts (like Tommy & The High Pilots and Atlanta Boogie) every weekend since. (+1)

Local tribute bands Blue Oyster Culture Club and Dolewite played a huge, well-attended show at Civic Arena as a fundraiser for the Performing Arts Association. (+1)

From what I've seen, live music attendance hasn't noticeably improved. It seems like B.O.C.C. and Dolewite are the only two acts in town that are guaranteed to draw a great crowd at every show. (-1)

Final score: +5

The St. Joseph music scene continued to make strides in the last year, but there's clearly still a lot of work to be done. I'm hoping for a higher score by next Labor Day weekend.

Shea Conner can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.


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