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LouFest brings revival to St. Louis music scene

TV On The Radio closes weekend of indie music celebration

On Aug. 27 and 28, the second annual LouFest Music Festival graced the Central Field at Forest Park.

As the city attempts to retain and enhance its spot on the arts map, big-name bands like TV On The Radio and The Roots were scheduled to hit the stage during the two-day event, which hoped to imitate major music festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

Crowds await a vibrant lineup at the second annual LouFest Music Festival in Forest Park on the weekend of Aug. 27. Carrie Scherr / Staff Photographer

The decreasing recognition of St. Louis as a cultural epicenter having the ability to popularize acts has struck a blow to music fans in the area, and it has the potential to hurt the economic environment of the city as a whole. LouFest steps up to the plate, hoping to be the saving grace that will allow the St. Louis music scene to stay afloat.

On Saturday afternoon, Dom, a littl- known five-man-band from Massachusetts, took the stage, streaming their bouncy music. While the band was obviously shooting for a punk/electronic vibe, its sound seeped into the pop world more comfortably than expected.

The eccentric lead singer spoke in a voice that could best be equated to a character from a 90’s animated television series, proving slightly concerning as to the sound quality that would follow. Somehow, this genre confusion and abnormal voice combined to create one of the best acts from the festival.

Surfer Blood was next in a lineup which was deliberately more diverse this year and, appropriately, was no exception to this change. The band, based in West Palm Beach, appropriately embodied sounds that could be associated with beach life, including an easygoing rhythm with somewhat slurred, nonchalant lyricism.

While not a totally pleasing sound, the band played to the audience as if they were seasoned veterans. Surfer Blood had a distinct fan base, a fact around which LouFest built much of this year’s festival.

Sadly, the Hold Steady, a band I had heard of and from whom I could even recognize a song or two, fell below my expectations.

When recorded, the Hold Steady sounds like a less intense, moodier version of the Foo Fighters.

Playing live, it sounded like a riot.

Instead of a subtle twang and eloquent lyrics, it was an assault of sounds that was unrecognizable from the recorded versions.

I had fully prepared for the peak of the concert to hit when The Roots took the stage.

I had not only watched immense amounts of Jimmy Fallon in preparation, but had also gone the distance and figured out that The Roots exist outside of the late night show and, in that outside world, they are extremely talented.

Hurricane Irene had different plans, stranding all but the band’s drummer on the East Coast.

The disappointment was palpable as one of the headlining acts cancelled, and the consolation prize of a 20-minute drum exposé didn’t make the cut.

Cat Power preceded TV On The Radio, the headliner for Sunday night.

Cat Power’s song, “Sea of Love,” from a pivotal scene in the cult-classic, “Juno,” was sadly absent from her set list.

Instead, Cat Power catered to the fans who had seemingly stuck with her through the bulk of her career, and not just in the one moment of mainstream fame.

Cat Power is not the type of artist who is either whiny or beautiful, and the crowd fully appreciated what they obviously considered beautiful.

For Power’s finale, any hope that I had for the “Juno” snapshot was cancelled by a five-minute digi-redux odyssey and, yes, it was as puzzling as it sounds.

Finally, TV On The Radio took the stage, an act that allowed LouFest to increase its publicity this year.

The band, which lost its bassist to cancer this past spring, was the highlight of the night for attendees.

All those who had been sitting for previous acts immediately rose to their feet and, even at the end of 24 hours of music, the crowd mustered more excitement than one might think they could have had.

TV On The Radio was as good live as recorded, a note-worthy feat in modern music.

LouFest is an asset to St. Louis both for economical reasons and for the future of the city. By placing music in the spotlight and attempting to compete with the big cities’ festivals, the future for the St. Louis music scene brightens.

Artists who have chosen to skip over the city recently will second-guess that choice on the next tour. Maybe the city of St. Louis will never see the same fame and popularity of the major festivals, but it is well on its way to rediscovering its place on the map. LouFest proves to bands that St. Louis is ready for a strong musical revival.

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