LouFest 2014: An Interview with Big Brother Thunder and the MasterBlasters


Last week, the IWTAS team attended a happy hour to celebrate LouFest organizers and local bands billed to play the festival. We’ve covered and even let Pretty Little Empire play at IWTAS HQ - so y’all should know them by now! But we were anxious to learn about another STL act on the bill, Big Brother Thunder and the MasterBlasters. The band’s guitarist, Matt Vianello, was kind enough to answer a few questions about BBTatMB and how they got to the LouFest stage.

Many of our readers are new to your band; how long have you been together?
The band started up in the summer of 2011. It was the brain child of our bassist, Drew Franklin, and drummer, Gabe Bonfili. They wanted to start a band that mixed their favorite types of music: Funk, Soul, Latin, and Afro-Cuban. It’s safe to say that the result of Drew and Gabe’s influence is a band unlike any other in St. Louis. The other members of the band are:

Sheri Facchin - lead vocals
Drew Franklin – bass
Gabe Bonfili – drums
Jeff Burns – percussion
Dave Muser – trumpet
Andy Stephen – keys
Jacob Johnson – tenor, alto, and baritone sax
Matt Vianello – guitar

We’ve had the pleasure of inviting many other great St. Louis musicians to play with us over the years and we wouldn’t be where we are without them. Some have been official members, some have been subs, all have been very important. I can’t mention the band members without mentioning them: Ben Moore, Chris Stevenson, Pete Lombardo, Jahi Eskridge, Jesse Gannon, Jason Torrey, Mario Pascal and Dan Mahfood, to name a few. These guys, and the band members, are part of the heart and soul of the St. Louis music scene and have been a great help to the band. There are others, but it’s hard to mention everyone.

How many albums/EPs/songs have you released? Where can fans access them?
We have released two EPs. They can be found at reverbnation.com/bbtandthembs. We also released a new song in celebration of our LouFest set that’s available for digital download via our Facebook page right now.

In your bio, you list African, Caribbean, and Brazilian styles as sound influences. Specifically, which bands have helped shape your style?
There are a ton, but some bands that have really shaped who we are include Willie Bobo, Ernest Ranglin, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Ronda and the Soul Kingdom, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix (probably applies to everyone in the band, but as a guitarist, I’m a huge Hendrix fan so he always gets a mention). There are so many more bands that have influenced us in one way or another that this becomes a somewhat impossible question to answer.

You recently played the Whittaker Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens – tell us how it went and if any moments were especially memorable. 
Whittaker was amazing. Everyone who works at the Botanical Gardens was great and the over 7,500 people there made it unforgettable. We played July 9. I’m pretty sure there would have been another 10,000-15,000 people but Motley Crue was also performing in St. Louis that night. The entire pit area was full of people dancing. I’m really proud of that because it says something about our music that it makes people want to get up and move. Also, we were told by the Whittaker folks that it was the most people dancing in front of the stage they had ever seen.

Tell us how the band has felt since you were asked to play LouFest. 
It has been amazing. We weren’t allowed to announce our performance until LouFest announced the lineup. It was extremely difficult to not say anything. After the announcement, it seems like non-stop emails congratulating us or asking us to play various shows. That’s directly related to LouFest. We do a pretty good job getting our name out there, but having our name on the bill of a national music festival exposes us to an audience that we wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. We are also one of only three local bands that get to play this year and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share this experience with our friends in Pretty Little Empire and Old Salt Union. It’s been nice because we get a special mention from the local papers when they talk about LouFest.

Plus, the announcement was right after RFT named us St. Louis’ best Funk/Soul band. The combination of these two events has made for a pretty awesome summer.

What should fans expect from your performance?
We’ll make you want to get up and move your feet. Whether you can dance or not (Personally, I’m in the “not” category), you’ll be on your feet, dancing because is unavoidable. We’ll also be performing a brand new original for the first time so for those who know our repertoire, expect to hear something you haven’t before.

What are some other bands you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s LouFest?
There are many great bands performing this year; it’s hard to narrow it down! It will be great seeing Outkast, and I’m a big Arctic Monkeys fan. Cake also puts on a great show. We are really excited for Trombone Shorty and Lettuce, and Old Salt Union and Pretty Little Empire, of course. From top to bottom, the lineup is great this year.

What’s a final thought you’d like to contribute about the St. Louis music community? 
For those who don’t know and those who do, St. Louis has an amazing, growing, and thriving local music scene. Whatever type of music you like, there is a St. Louis band making it and we at Big Brother Thunder and the MasterBlasters are just happy to be a part of it.

Big Brother Thunder and the MasterBlasters play Saturday from 12:15 to 1:00 PM at the Shade Stage.

04. September 2014 by Annie McCance
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[EXCLUSIVE] Letter to Memphis Debuts “Stay for the Season”

Letter to Memphis releases their debut album, Phases, tomorrow at the beautiful Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center. To celebrate, the band has released to IWTAS readers a track from the forthcoming record.

“We’re releasing the song ‘Stay for the Season’ to IWTAS for a couple reasons,” says lead singer of LTM Devon Cahill. “This one is one of our older songs, and it feels good to finally have a great recording of it. We also wanted something out there that was in contrast with our single ‘Rest Your Head’ we released earlier this year. This song showcases the darker side of Letter to Memphis.”

“Thematically, ‘Stay for the Season’ kind of set the tone for the rest of the songwriting on Phases,” explains Gene Starks, LTM’s multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter. “The track explores the phases within a relationship, and focuses on the cycle of failures one goes through and the struggle to hang on through them. Early on, it’s easier to convince your partner that you’ll change, but as the relationship gets into the autumn of its life, it becomes obvious that the only things that actually change are the seasons.”

Tickets are still available to tomorrow’s album release show at The Sheldon, where LTM will play with their talented friends in Arthur and the Librarian.

25. August 2014 by Jess
Categories: IWTAS Exclusives, Local Features | Tags: , , , , | 2 comments

[PHOTOS] Chain and the Gang w/ Sleep Kitty at The Luminary

Last Tuesday, DC’s Chain and the Gang tore up Luminary Center for the Arts on a breezy, tension-filled evening in St. Louis. Sleepy Kitty started things off right. Here are the photos we brought back:

16. August 2014 by Jess
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[PREVIEW]: Sleepy Kitty Talks SXSW, Drone Brunches, and Tonight’s Show at the Luminary

Tonight, Sleepy Kitty holds court at the Luminary Center for the Arts in the heart of the Cherokee arts and business district. They’ll support DC’s clever “crime rockers” Chain and the Gang, lead by East Coast post-punk pioneer Ian Svenonius. Paige Brubeck of SK answered a few questions as the indie rock duo prepared for the show:

Shervin Lainez

Shervin Lainez

Last time IWTAS caught up with Sleepy Kitty was August of 2013, prior to the release of your second LP, Projection Room. Talk to us about taking P.R. on the road. Where have you been lately and what are some highlights from your travels? 

It’s been really fun touring for the last year and getting to see new places and familiar favorite ones. One thing that was great that we got to do was go to Austin for SXSW. We had 6 shows in 3 days. It was pretty crazy! We also had Dave Grelle from The Feed on keys and our friend Gabe Doiron on guitar on a few songs for those shows. It was great to play some of the bigger, more complicated arrangements from the record with those guys. Some of those things can be hard to pull of as a two piece.

In July we had a great time in Detroit at a place called PJ’s Lager House. Detroit is a real cool place and kind of reminds me of St. Louis in a way. We also really liked Dayton, OH where we played with two excellent bands, Bummers and Sleep Fleet. And just last weekend, we played a house show festival in DC. All of the bands were fantastic and all completely different. We played at a thing called the Drone Brunch at this festival, which took place during the afternoon. Basically it went from drone musicians to live bands, all with plenty of omelettes.

You’re playing a St. Louis show on the 12th with DC rockers Chain and the Gang at the Luminary. How’d you end up on that bill? And being enthusiastic denizens of Cherokee Street, talk about what you think the Luminary’s move means to the neighborhood.

Luminary reached out to us about playing the show. It was definitely one we wanted to be at either way. We saw Chain and the Gang at Pig Slop last time they were in town, and we’ve been fans ever since. As for the Luminary on Cherokee Street, I think it’s great to see an art/music establishment setting up in a long term way. Five or six years ago Cherokee was vacant, and west of Jefferson…if it had any reputation, it wasn’t a good one. Now there’s been great buzz around the street and for the last few years property values have gone up and whatnot.

I’m happy to see the development of nightlife on Cherokee, but I was really sad to see places like Pig Slop, and Cranky Yellow, and Globe Drug disappear. The art/weird/diverse places are what made this street attractive to so many people and it would be a shame if all the arts community got replaced by whatever happens next to a neighborhood. You see it happen all over the place, and right now we’re still in that grey zone. It’s a really important time for the identity of the street. Luminary buying on Cherokee seems like a commitment to keeping art in the neighborhood.

What’s new or in the works for you two? What factors make up your decision to go into the studio and the type of product you create (i.e. EP, LP, single, art, etc.)? 

Right now, we’ve got quite a few music videos in the works, including one with hand screenprinted animations that we’ve been working on for too long to say. I’m really excited about that one, though. Besides that, whenever we’re in town, we’ve been working on new material. It’s hard to find time to write on the road but it’s easy to find things to write about! New places, people, and stories. Then when we get home, it’s like a waterfall of information that we somehow have to contain.

For more information on the show this evening, head this way. Doors 8p, $12.  

12. August 2014 by Jess
Categories: Interviews, Show Preview | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

#STLSOTD: Tuesday, August 5th – Grace Basement’s “Water Flowing Over a Mountain”

#STLSOTD is an I Went to a Show.com Monday-Friday feature that introduces followers to St. Louis music by spotlighting one track by one artist or band from IWTAS’ Bandcamp Directory of St. Louis Music.  As always, we welcome your suggestions. If we pick the song you share with us on TwitterFacebook, or in the comments section of this post, we’ll make sure to give you a shout out.

Kevin Buckley performs tomorrow night at The Stage at KDHX. Photo by Nate Burrell.

Grace Basement‘s album, Wheel Within a Wheel, was a hit in St. Louis among critics, musicians, and fans alike when it was released back in April 2013. “Instead of the Irish jigs and reels, though, the record shows a thoroughly American form of songcraft — gentle, bucolic, effortlessly tuneful, but made up of many moving parts,” wrote Christian Schaeffer of the Riverfront Times in his review

GB’s captain, Kevin Buckley, will play The Stage at KDHX tomorrow in support of recent Newport Folk and Pickathon alums (and Yep Roc Records artists) Mandolin OrangeTo celebrate, we’re revisiting Wheel Within a Wheel this morning and have chosen Buckley’s lovely, meditative “Water Flowing Over a Mountain” as our St. Louis Song of the Day. Enjoy:

05. August 2014 by Jess
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#STLSOTD: Thursday, July 31st – Bo and the Locomotive’s “Give Me Something”

#STLSOTD is an I Went to a Show.com Monday-Friday feature that introduces followers to St. Louis music by spotlighting one track by one artist or band from IWTAS’ Bandcamp Directory of St. Louis Music.  As always, we welcome your suggestions. If we pick the song you share with us on TwitterFacebook, or in the comments section of this post, we’ll make sure to give you a shout out.

From good bedroom pop project to great, proper rock band, Bo Bulawsky and his bandmates are on their way. Since the 2011 release of their debut full-length, Bo and the Locomotive has racked up positive press from the likes of Paste Magazine and Daytrotter in addition to much love from the usual STL suspects.

A purposeful group of dudes, BatL took measures to make sure that this new, 2-years-in-the-making record, It’s All Downhill From Here, was designed and produced in a way that aptly represents how the band approaches their craft. Local whiz David Beeman produced It’s All Downhill… in his Cherokee street Native Sound studio. And Daniel Murphy, of Secretly Canadian notoriety, worked up the album art (pictured above).

Now, to get the record on the shelves and in our hands, the guys are employing a technique increasingly popular with independents – crowd funding – though they aren’t using a standard online appeal site like Kickstarter or PledgeMusic. Instead, BatL booked a hopping new St. Louis venue (The Luminary) for a listening party/set of artist talks on August 14th.

Twenty-five bucks gets you in and pre-orders the vinyl or CD version of It’s All Downhill… (forty earns you a limited edition vinyl and props in the liner notes). At the Luminary event, the band, Beeman, and Murphy will discuss their roles in the making of the album, and attending patrons will be the first to hear it. As Bulawsky told the RFT, it’s a way to get Bo and the Locomotive fans together and acknowledge their contributions to the band’s success, live and in-person.

SO, for today’s #STLSOTD, we’re featuring a throwback (it’s Thursday, after all) BatL vintage jam. Dig on concert set favorite “Give Me Something”, and on 8/14, throw a little something the guys’ way if you’re able:

Bo and the Locomotive is Bo Bulawsky, Steven Colbert, Andrew Arato, Jordan Howe, and James Kane.

31. July 2014 by Jess
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[PHOTOS] Saintseneca at The Firebird: Tuesday, July 15th

Columbus, Ohio’s Saintseneca introduced itself to St. Louis in fine fashion at The Firebird on July 15th, stomping and singing through its first ever STL show. The crowd was committed and impressed, though we didn’t have to work hard; this group of young musicians is serious, and they’re seriously entrancing live.

Zac Little’s sharp lyrical work, which anchors both Dark Arc (2014) and Saintseneca’s full length debut, Last (2011),was brought to life on stage thanks to the honesty and precision of Maryn Jones, Matt O’Conke, Jon Meador, and Steve Ciolek’s performance alongside him.

Photo proof:

All photos by Jess Luther (jess@iwenttoashow.com). A full set of photos can be viewed here.

28. July 2014 by Jess
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[GUEST FEATURE] Kyle Kapper on Jack White at The Fabulous Fox Theatre, 7/20/14

The following post has been written in full by one of our new guest contributors, Kyle Kapper. Among other places, Kyle’s work has been featured on KDHX and in Eleven magazine. We think you’ll enjoy the fresh perspective and distinct passion for live music that Kyle will bring to IWTAS. Welcome to the team, Kapper!

Jack White at The Fox.

Jack White at The Fox.

The room had grown restless. The strange and beautiful among us pressed against the ugly and the mundane. Scents of incense and cupcakes wafted between towering crimson pillars, but still the host was unseen, the hall brooding over his absence.

“You are early,” Count Jackula seemed to say through a striking blue curtain at the front. Severe lights glared from its crown, interrogating us from above.

Three long quarters of an hour had passed since the doorman’s departing words, spoken with a voice which rustled like cornhusks in the fall. Through arcing tales of grunge and grit, the man named Benjamin Booker had held our interest for a duration appropriate of such a butler. Yet he’d borrowed more time than deserved and doomed all the goodwill he’d won. Our impatience was even shared by the woman who’d errantly offered him her love, comically mistaking a black man for White at the top of the evening’s program. In the end, we cheered more for Booker’s leaving than for his limitless hospitality.

A second man appeared, a small and dapper compère who warned us to keep our pocket machines pocketed. The manner of the manor would be conveyed to us forthwith, he promised, asking that we convey the same to others – to you – by way of memories instead of thumbly gadgets. The emcee disappeared, again leaving us with nothing to do but wait.

Then, the room changed.

Jack was nimble – Jack was quick – Jack was ferocious, precocious, and slick.

He lashed out at us like a startled beast, his white winged boots trampling over the Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. His silver trousers shined like a tribute to spacewalkers of yore, and he flogged his pale complexion with the long black veil of his mane.

We rose as he approached and recited rhymes of the Stijl-ish dialect. The Count recognized his own stripes, and the prayer pleased him. A cease-fire was reached on neutral Temporary Ground. The skirmish faded, and the harsh glare along with it. Fire-laced ivory globes appeared in a lavish lavender sky, and the host finally welcomed us to his ultimate ball of balls.

Soon enough, he was charmed with fiddles and disarming with riddles: “Shouldn’t your river be named something different when it gets past Mississippi?” He massaged his flock’s pride with some snide on the side: “Your arch was too shiny as I was trying to sleep this morning. Buff that shit up.” Only once did he slip and betray his otherworldly nature: “This is a song I co-wrote with Hank Williams from the grave.”

Often he spoke of his native land, comparing his beloved city of motors to the metropolis where his flock now gathered. He’d even brought some indigenous magic with him, adding Motown to MO-city with a dash of panache.

Once the affair was as warm as a campfire, though, the Count plucked fear into his aural tapestry, infusing chords of discord. A mossy monster of malice rose from the depths, lumbering at the steady pace of an executioner’s tromp.

The festivities turned on themselves thusly, over and once more, just as the horde had hoped. Hostility frolicked with levity, and war waltzed with peace. When an encore of rancor unfolded, the nature of the host truly crystallized, revealing a man ruthless yet sensitive, gentle yet mad. Likewise, like any good Master, Count Jackula left his throng quenched yet voraciously thirsty.

You could say he left us restless, as if he had never arrived at all.


24. July 2014 by Jess
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#STLSOTD: Wednesday, July 16th – Spectator’s “House of White”

#STLSOTD is an I Went to a Show.com Monday-Friday feature that introduces followers to St. Louis music by spotlighting one track by one artist or band from IWTAS’ Bandcamp Directory of St. Louis Music.  As always, we welcome your suggestions. If we pick the song you share with us on TwitterFacebook, or in the comments section of this post, we’ll make sure to give you a shout out.

Delectable dream pop outfit Spectator plays this Saturday at Off Broadway with Maryland’s Cotton Jones. The band’s leading lady, Megan Rooney, checked in with IWTAS to talk about “House of White”, and earned Spectator today’s #STLSOTD:

“‘House of White’ is the first single from our new record, which we’ve been working hard on this summer and which will be out sometime in the next few months. There’s sort of a story to this record and H.o.W. plays a big part. It’s actually one of the first songs Jeff and I wrote together, long before there even was a Spectator. We’ve been wrestling with it for several years and feel like, finally, it has a home with these other tracks.”

Saturday will be your only chance to catch Spectator ahead of their record release, so get yourselves out to O.B.


16. July 2014 by Jess
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#STLSOTD: Thursday, July 10th – Travis Bursik’s “Slow Milk”

#STLSOTD is an I Went to a Show.com Monday-Friday feature that introduces followers to St. Louis music by spotlighting one track by one artist or band from IWTAS’ Bandcamp Directory of St. Louis Music.  As always, we welcome your suggestions. If we pick the song you share with us on TwitterFacebook, or in the comments section of this post, we’ll make sure to give you a shout out.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Photo courtesy of the artist.


There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long…


Drawn in by a handsome bit of album art (below) and a friendly affection for Travis Bursik as a human, I spent some time with the innovative experimental artist’s most recent bit of solo work and settled on “Slow Milk” for today’s STLSOTD. The corresponding three-track EP will be out in a few months thanks to Already Dead Tapes & Records.

I don’t know what “Slow Milk” is going to sound like to you. Lacking a nimble critical vocabulary when it comes to music, I’m telling you that the instrumental track is warm and compelling. It moves over six and a half minutes with quiet urgency. I can’t quite reach it, but I’ve been reaching out to it over the last week, and have been so glad I did each time.

When I asked Bursik if IWTAS might feature his solo work, he was more anxious to talk about Ou Où, his minimalist/drone duo with Patrick Weston, which just received an RFT Music Award in the Electronic/Eclectic category. On August 29th, Ou Où will release their fourth album, Ou Ng, when they support Fielded and Mind’s Skull at The Luminary. Until then, check out the band’s prior releases here.  

10. July 2014 by Jess
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