It’s no secret that St. Louis has a rich history in the world of music. With big names like Scott Joplin, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, and of course Nelly, you may think the music scene hit its peak long ago. On the contrary, there is still musical talent thriving in the land of craft brews and Provel cheese. The Lou is cluttered with good music at various levels of notoriety, ranging from world-famous warblers to locally loved lyricists.
One important name to recently branch out from our big-small town is Pokey LaFarge. His uniquely crafted, jazzy, twangy tunes have been praised across the world, winning over sold-out audiences at Red Rocks Amphitheater and Radio City Music Hall. The midwesterner is currently on tour in Europe, crooning in the old world about St. Louis summers and the Mississippi River.
LaFarge is best known for his connection to Nashville-based Jack White (formerly one half of the White Stripes). He signed with White’s record label (Third Man Records), and LaFarge also recorded on White’s most recent album Blunderbuss. He was an opening act on the tour of the same name. At only 30 years old, this town hero has won prestigious awards including Best Americana Album from the Independent Music Awards.
If banjo-laced ragtime isn’t for you, there are plenty of other genres around the city. Rapper Tef Poe has long been a St. Louis artist to watch, and now he’s recording with Universal Music Group. The upcoming full-length debut album will follow his previous independent projects “War Machine 2” and “Hero Killer.”
Having opened for stars like Lupe Fiasco and Big Boi, he has plenty of big-time connections in the hiphop sphere. Passionate and motivated, Tef Poe focuses his creative energy on more than music. You can find him advocating for human rights as an official performer for Amnesty International, or keeping it local as a writer for the Riverfront Times.
Speaking of keeping it local, Aaron Kamm and the One Drops are a regional favorite. You can hear the group jam in St. Louis almost every week. Frequenting such venues as Broadway Oyster Bar and 2720 Cherokee, they have a significant following in the area. The One Drops are made up of vocalist/guitarist Aaron Kamm, bassist Andy Dorris and drummer Sean Raila. The trio throws down an interesting mix of blues and reggae with occasional improvisations; audiences can’t help but dance the night away.
Another local favorite is the manymembered and long-named Big Brother Thunder and the Master Blasters. BBT and the MBs show off their African-, Caribbean-, Brazilian-styled funk and soul tunes by comprising the talents of several skilled performers. With all of the instruments, the musicians barely fit on the stage but not one of them is expendable. Listen for drums, saxophone, bass, guitar, horns and keyboards, and the powerful and spirited vocals of Sheri Faccin.
To take a break from all the jiving and swinging, you’ll find easy-listening in the tunes played by singer-songwriter Allie Vogler. The songstress mixes her smooth, jazzy melodies with fun, folky accompaniment on the guitar, ukelele or banjo. Her sometimes cryptic lyrics tell stories that pull in audiences, leaving them hanging onto every word.
Aside from these international, national and regional acts, you can listen to local live musicians play in St. Louis any night of the week, sometimes even for free! Open mic nights show off amateur talent at places like Foam Coffee & Beer on Cherokee Street and the Shanti in Soulard.
You can also catch a show at venues like Mangia Italiano, the Blank Space, The Heavy Anchor, or even just across the street from campus at Plush.
Hold your tongue the next time you’re tempted to say that St. Louis has nothing to offer. Take a step outside your comfort zone and you might just find the next big thing in music.