Bloggers Night with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra

November 18, 2008 at 2:10 am | Posted in Chris Maue, comics, Concert | 10 Comments
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Last night was Blogger’s Night at Powell Hall, and I found myself among the esteemed guests. I asked my friend, and music review blogger, Patrick Vacek, to come with, which lead to interesting results. As one that doesn’t particularly frequent the symphony, I was worried that Patrick and I (emphasis on the I) would stick out like the unwashed hipster bums that we are.

So when Pat and I showed up, under dressed, and just as excited about the prospect of free drinks as seeing the performance, we hadn’t considered exactly who the regular attendees of the symphony are – old eccentrics & academic bums. One of my favorite moments was when an older woman sitting next to me turned and cheerfully asked if Pat and I were college professors, and why we were taking notes. After explaining to her that we wrote for a blog, and having her ask me “what is ablog? ” Patrick and I felt like some sort of undercover agents from the culture wars, in the den of high class, until later that night when a crazy old man jokingly berated us about how scandalous the performance that night had been. Afterward, we went out for drinks down the street with other bloggers, and it hit us that we actually had a niche, and a culture we fit into – that people on the other side of the screen actually exist, and blogging isn’t all just shouting into the aether. I’ve posted a comic about it here. All in all, it was a pretty awesome night.

— Concert review —

When I initially heard about bloggers night at Powell Hall, it was in connection with the SLSO Guitar Festival, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – unwashed nerds lining up for something like Metallica’s S&M? Well dressed journalists coming out to see an orchestra composed entirely of Fender Telecasters, Gibson hollow bodies, and Flying V’s? A pit full of violinists wailing on power chords? I mean, what is a symphony guitar festival? Dare I hope, a rock opera? It turns out the answer wasn’t anything that cool.

The first song – Mark-Anthony Turnage’s A Prayer Out of Stillness – was the guitar – related piece of the evening.

The song had four movements, and featured a cello Bass/electric bass soloist, in front of the string section – the wind instruments, and some percussion (including piano) were conspicuously absent.  The song began with the strings playing tense chords, while the soloist quietly plinked around by himself, seemingly playing a different song, unaware of the orchestra behind him, and not caring if anyone heard.  This went on for a while, until something unexpected happened.

Everything went dead quiet, and the orchestra paused while an electric bass was brought out, and exchanged for the cello Bass.

The question I kept asking myself after that point was, if every other rock band ever can handle  a roadie walking up and trading guitars with a performer, often mid-song, why does the symphony have to stop everything while someone hands them a bass?   If that wasn’t enough to take my attention out of the performance, they repeated this ritual 3 more times, between every movement – a habit which really sealed shut what was a strangely arranged, and uninteresting piece.

If the constant stop – and – switches weren’t enough, the second movement made the bass part seem even less connected to what the rest of the orchestra was playing, culminating in the third movement, where both cello bass and electric bass soloed while the rest of the orchestra just took a break.

The fourth movement tied everything back together, but not in a tension – and – relief sort of way… it seemed more like the composer hadn’t figured out what they wanted to do until the fourth movement.  Not in a coherent way, anyhow.

The second song – Steven Mackey’s Beautiful Passing –   was much more interesting, with a violin soloist front and center for the entire piece, making things very interesting.  Not only was the soloist incredibly talented, but the wild way that she jerked around, like a woman possessed, as she played, made violin seem dangerous and sexy.

The third song – Stravinsky’s The Right of Spring – was amazing.  The song was epic in a way that one expects an intense orchestral piece to be, full of polyphonic tension and resolution, highs and lows that make your mind wander so scenes of beauty and violence.  The music was accompanied occasionally by words projected behind the orchestra, describing youths frolicking in a field, until holy men come and sacrifice a young woman to the god of spring.

The thing that struck me the most about this last piece, was that my mind kept wandering to things like Loony Tunes, and Star Wars.  Maybe I’m just a pop culture junkie raised on cartoons and fantasy, but when I hear classical music, these are the things that come to mind.

All in all, the concert was pretty awesome, and although the first song left me thinking dreading the next two, and thinking that the composers had a screw loose and didn’t know what they were doing, the second two performances were awesome and well worth the price of an actual ticket.

Although according to SLSO’s resident blogger, Eddie Silva, the symphony offers 50 free tickets for every performance, all you have to do is show up early and ask for ’em.    I guess I’ll be going back sooner than later.


As noted by user bassplayerKat, John Patitucci was playing a BASS. not a CELLO.  As one with limited knowledge of orchestral instruments, I didn’t really know the difference.  Corrections have been made.


3 things (we wanted to write about)

May 2, 2008 at 2:43 pm | Posted in comics, Environment, Events, Matthew Hurst, Spring, Webster University | 2 Comments
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May 3rd could be the busiest day on your social calendar…if it weren’t also finals season. So here are at least 3 ongoings around St. Louis we meant to write about (and one more we already have) but haven’t gotten around to during finals.

  • Webster University will be hosting a Global Ecology Conference, which looks a lot more interesting than that sounds. Starting at 10am learned people will be giving lecture until 5pm, including visiting professor Kumar who has organized the conference. Or you can skip class and show up for vegetarian dinner with local eats, cocktail, and famous vegan and Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich. The whole day is only $15 for students (free for Webster Students) or $25 for the general public.
  • Some enterprising business folk have organized a fiesta on Cherokee Street so that we can celebrate Cinco de Mayo (on the 3rd of May). And a couple other spots around town will be hanging up pinatas and serving cervesa this Saturday.
  • Free Comic Book Day is on Saturday. Check the site for the closest participating store near you, but we would suggest running but Star Clipper in the Delmar Loop, who will host live appearances by a pair of superheros. And while you’re there, be sure to check out the display from the 3rd annual Munny Show and pick up your free comic book.
  • Kinematifest, Webster University’s first animation and interactive media festival.  Films will be screened almost immediately following that Ecology Conference Dinner

Keep up with local events, even when we don’t have time to write about them – subscribe the events calendar.

Kim Jong Ill vs. Mickey Mouse

November 2, 2007 at 10:12 am | Posted in Art Show, comics, Etcetra, Gabe Bullard | 1 Comment

So it’s really nothing like that, but the Wash U’s Kemper Art Museum (Skinker and Forsyth) is hosting a showcase of Korean comics. From their description:

Korean Comics: A Society through Small Frames features works by twenty-one of North and South Korea’s most talented cartoonists, drawn from the 1950s to the 1990s. On display in the Museum’s Teaching Gallery, this collection of comics provides a decade-by-decade glimpse at the evolving social realities in contemporary Korea, ranging from popular children’s entertainment to aggressive forms of political commentary.   

  The exhibit is open until December 17th, so take your time. If you want company, I’m planning on going fairly soon. 

‘That’ Kind of Art Show

September 6, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Art Show, comics, exhibition, Gabe Bullard | 4 Comments

This Saturday, Star Clipper will host an evening with three legendary (legendary if you’re in to that sort of thing) cartoonists: Peter Bagge, Jim Blanchard and Johnny Ryan. The three are the creators of Hate, Trucker Fags in Denial and Angry Youth Comix, respectively.

If those titles don’t sound appealing or familiar, it’ll help to know that Bagge is most famous for his character Buddy Bradley (pictured above) who appeared in Hate. Bagge has also drawn comics for MAD and the Weekly World News.

Bagge is legendary, but Blanchard and Ryan both deserve serious credit for their outstanding work. The cartoons the three produce are often cynical, abrasive, sarcastic and grotesque. They’re also hilarious. (But, obviously not for everyone)

The evening starts at seven and will be a gallery reception of sorts, with the cartoonists showing off drawings, paintings, books and toys.

Star Clipper is located in the Delmar Loop, just west of Rag-O-Rama.

News Flash: Hot sale @ Star Clipper

August 14, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Posted in comics, Matthew Hurst, shopping, summer | 1 Comment

Although you wouldn’t have learned about it reading their blog, we just got notice that Star Clipper is having a one-day 20% sale today, August 14th.  Why?  They seem to think it’s because it’s too damn hot to get us customers in there doors; according to their message –

Come in to Star Clipper today, August 14th, and get 20% off books, comics and magazines! Finally, global warming is paying off!!
There’s no better way to keep cool than with great savings. Just be sure to mention this message! Sorry, not combinable with any other offer.

Could be a good way beat the heat as their site suggests, but those less interested in comics, graphic art, manga, etc available at this UCity mainstay might still try our previous tips out instead.  But for those of you brave enough to fight off a heat index over 100 degrees, we suggest you keep your cool this afternoon inside the store as long as possible.

STL Comic-Con (sort of…)

July 27, 2007 at 4:30 pm | Posted in blogs, comics, exhibition, Matthew Hurst | Comments Off on STL Comic-Con (sort of…)

image of a previous comic show, provided c/o stlcomics.comJust because you couldn’t get a date to Nerd Prom this weekend doesn’t mean you have to get stood up.  St. Louis is having it’s own comic convention of sorts, albeit a little more comic centric. 

The Spector Club Comic Show, now in its 30th year of operation, has it’s next show this Sunday, July 29th from 10:00am-2:30pm at the American Legion Post #111 in Shrewsberry.  There you’ll find sci-fi collectible, toys, and of course a large selection of collectible comic books to buy/sell/trade.  To say nothing of all the new friends you’re sure to make who won’t look at you funny when you’re making a joke about the Tick.

And while it may have slipped under our radar in the past, this ongoing show series has more dates coming up, which can be found on the blog .  More info on the event can be found on the Upcoming event page for the show as well as in the Highway 61 Upcoming group.

Song of the Week

July 5, 2007 at 3:01 pm | Posted in comics, Gabe Bullard, Song of the Week | 2 Comments

Call it flattery, call it plagiarism, but I’m pulling a Hurst and starting my own weekly feature.

Every week I will scour music blogs (who scour the net) to find the best in free aural goodness. I will then post a link here on Thursday.

This week’s Song of the Week (or SOTW as the cool kids will no doubt be calling it) comes from cartoon mastermind James Kochalka and his band James Kochalka Superstar. This mp3 is posted on his homepage, which also features a semi-regulary podcast and a daily comic strip. (If you haven’t heard of Kochalka and his diary strips, visit the site)

So, without further adieu, I present Hwy61’s first ever SOTW, James Kochalka Superstar’s “When Frampton Comes Alive.”.

Educate Yourself

July 4, 2007 at 9:08 am | Posted in comics, Gabe Bullard | 1 Comment

I’m a firm believer that graphic literature has a bum rap in society. Sure, Time Magazine did put Watchmen on one of their ‘best novels ever’ type of lists, but that seemed more like stuffy editors saying “Look how cool we are!” than serious critics giving an art form the respect it deserves.

If you agree and are looking for some more like-minded individuals, head over to on July 13th to see Scott McCloud. McCloud is touring to promote his third book, the wondeful, Making Comics but will answer whatever questions you throw at him from 4-7pm.

McCloud has written some of the best comic analysis ever, so come to learn and bring your favorite stuffy editor along with you.

Ware’s the Originality?

June 6, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Posted in comics, Gabe Bullard | 3 Comments

This isn’t really a St. Louis story, but there are a lot of BPs around here, and there are a lot of comics readers, too.

This morning, I turned on the TV and saw this ad for BP:

Cute? Yes. But it looked familiar.

Continue Reading Ware’s the Originality?…

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