— by Allison Durham
There’s an undeniable Midwestern spirit. It is modest, unassuming, and devoid of pretension. Whatever music scenes exist in the cities of the nation’s heartland are homegrown- made by deep-rooted communities of musicians and artists who’ve planted themselves in the location or perhaps never left in the first place. These are not the cities people flock to because they are recognized as “cool”. Compared to the coasts, there is little national attention on Midwestern culture, and it seems its inhabitants are content this way; when national attention is garnered, it’s appreciated, but still becomes the subject of jokes. At least this seems to be true for the DIY music scene of St. Louis, Missouri. A place with a blend of Midwestern charm all its own and situated just west of the muddy Mississippi River, St. Louis is a brick city where baseball and beer reign supreme. But when the game’s turned off, fans of a different sort come together. In the bowels of South City there lies a proud community of musicians, punks, and other freaks who together make up an invaluable piece of the city’s creative heart. Whether people care or not, the South St. Louis DIY scene is alive and kicking, with longtime residents continuing to contribute to their scene while fostering the growth of new bands and new blood.
As a St. Louisan, I like to think that the music that comes out of the city reflects its underdog reputation, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To get a sense of the town is to get a sense of the music that, if out for a walk on the streets of South City, might just be heard seeping through the brick walls of buildings passed. The list provided below exhibits just 10 of the many St. Louis acts helping to keep the scene strong.
Trauma Harness – Trauma Harness’s music emits sincerity while evoking a sense of twisted reality- think 80’s B-horror films or your favorite episode of Goosebumps. Trauma Harness is the soundtrack to such stories, representative of both their most triumphant and suspenseful moments.
Swear Beam – Debuting this summer, Swear Beam made an instant impression, filling an undeniable void in the city’s musical landscape with carefully crafted walls of melodic fuzz. Beam me up!
Black James – Experimental electronic rich with both minimalist sonic arrangements as well as complex structures sprinkled with hints of dissonance. Get down to it, freaked by it, or both.
Little Big Bangs – Bringing a blend of punk and garage, Little Big Bangs stay accessible while keeping listeners on the edge of explosive moments, performing noisy instrumental breaks and moving straight into irresistibly catchy melodies.
Veil – The dark imagery associated with Veil is representative of their distinctively grave sound; they are a warning of approaching danger, yet also a walk through a dimly lit neighborhood late at night.
Skin Tags – Driving guitar lines accompany a thrashing rhythm section and ferocious vocals. Skin Tags is awesomely abrasive while still maintaining a controlled delivery.
Q – Pounding drums propel crunchy hardcore riffs as unforgiving vocals tear through the foreground. Includes bass breakdowns best for slow-mo stomping and slinkin’ around.
The Brainstems – Indisputably timeless garage rock with ripping solos and attitude, The Brainstems are a St. Louis rock n’ roll mainstay.
Rüz – Agitated vocals, piercing drums and splitting guitar placed between shrouds of feedback tell the audience something is very wrong, but listening feels very right.
Hylidae – Hylidae is ambient electronic with direction, transporting the listener to another place where layers of aural peculiarities fill the air.