By Alexei Shaun
There’s no place quite like The Lou. The art culture is diverse and the music scene is brilliantly-evolving. We can travel hundreds and thousands of miles all over this world for work or leisure, yet nothing usually feels as warming or lovely as being home for most people. I completely adore the music culture in my hometown so much.
I’ve noticed a huge shift taking place, bringing some solid new waves into motion, and heavy cultivation within the music scene. You all may hear of folks speaking on this shift quite a bit around the city. I know I definitely have. On Friday, June 16th and Saturday, June 17th, one of Riverfront Times best and biggest showcases took place in the heart of The Grove this year. ShowcaseSTL featured more than 100 acts making this one of the largest events in STL history.
Super dope right ?
I live for moments like these!
Kicking your weekend off at ShowcaseSTL was the place to be and move to make for most people. Everyone was legit beaming with genuine joy, which is always nice to see. My luck must have been in the green zone by the way. I only had a few slight delays with working flights and I finally was able to make it home to catch some of the evening performances at The Bootleg.
As usual I was driving down Manchester Ave. to find a place to park and literally every parking spot was taken (just non-existent lol), so I drove a few blocks over and found a spot by an off street. I looked around as I quickly got out of my car and noticed others were in the same predicament. But still smiling, laughing, goofing around, and excited nonetheless to see these amazing performers on the ShowcaseSTL line-up.
"I could feel this pure energy
rippling off of people all around
the moment I stepped outside of my car.
There was nothing that could stop
STL vibes at ShowcaseSTL.
Yowie, an experimental rock, instrumental rock, and noise rock band was just wrapping up their set as I entered The Bootleg for the very 1st time. Amazingly, I could still feel the same energy I noticed when I got out of my car several minutes beforehand surging around the venue. The Bootleg is a fairly medium sized space, not super big and not super small. I often refer to music spaces like this as an intimate setting. Intimate settings like these are pretty neat in the aspect that an artist or musician can truly be up-close with fans and vice-versa.
As I wandered around The Bootleg I could faintly hear some very familiar music being played. I followed this sound which lead me to Atomic Cowboy’s Pavilion where I found Anthony Lucius & The Band giving an A1 performance. The 1st song I ever heard by the East Saint Louis native (a while back), Anthony Lucius was ‘Six Feet Under’ which is a really well-crafted song and has some smooth piano elements throughout the track. He always gives great delivery with his lyrical skills, so I had a good sense of what I was in store for during his performance. When the whole crowd is digging what you’re playing then you know you’re giving one amazing show. It’s always nice seeing what artists and musicians bring to the table with their music.
Next up to perform at The Bootleg was the Saint Louisan, Emcee Nato Caliph. He certainly had the crowd rocking and jamming out with his charismatic stage presence. Not only does he have great stage presence, he has a thought-provoking style towards his lyrics. Out of all the songs he performed, “Noble” is the one I absolutely enjoyed the most. “Noble” has this knock to it that makes you want to do some hardcore head nodding and it also features the alternative hip-hop duo, The Domino Effect also hailing from STL (they for sure added a saucy feel when performing “Noble” alongside Nato).
Now of course this day was heavily centered around music, yet I noticed a lot of people were chilling outside chatting it up or grabbing a bite to eat of some barbeque from a food stand. So I thought to myself why not, I’ll take a little break from The Bootleg and check out what else is going on around The Grove. I went over to Siam for several minutes or so, and personally for me it was a completely different feel than what I’m used to from when it was formerly known as Novak’s (which was a long running gay dance club/bar). Ironically, it seems I had caught one band right at the end of their performance again and another band setting-up for their set. Everyone else was simply sitting back with friends socializing, having drinks, or waiting on the next performers. I decided to head back over to The Bootleg, so I wouldn’t miss The Domino Effect set and since things had slightly slowed down at Siam.
Let’s get into a little bit more on The Domino Effect. They're a duo consisting of Cue ColdBlooded and Steve N. Clair. YO like this duo has the juice no doubt! Their performance skills will certainly get you vibing out as they rap over some of the illest beats. Real talk...If you haven’t heard of them for some reason then you should totally check out their music. On top of having phenomenal music, their energy is never lacking from the moment they grab a mic.
When they brought up Lyrique and E. Clair to perform “Frequencies” I instantly zoned out and felt high off life and music. The way Lyrique and E. Clair sings these catchy lyrics (will get anyone in a chill mood), “Let me take you high. High, high, high. Straight up to the sky. High, high, high. Way above the clouds. We ain’t coming down. Down, down, down.” I straight up had these lyrics stuck in my head for a while (I was actually humming them as I typed this article). Also, Indiana Rome was brought out to perform “314-Life” with The Domino Effect and the three of them created the most litty feels. Needless to say it was fun and inspiring to watch everyone perform during The Domino Effect’s set.
Before I turned in for the night I made sure to stay and catch Eric Donté hit the stage. Eric Donté unapologetically gives you these honest and often straight to the point lyrics in the most catchiest/”Ghetto Trance” ways. It’s just so refreshing to see people stand up for what they believe in and he does this so well. He’s also established a strong repertoire of songs such as “World War E”, “Levels”, “Litty Kitty”, and “Afternoon” that will make you feel like dancing, majorly rocking out, and simply chilling all at the same time. Over the last year he’s leveled up with even more of a tenacious work ethic (performing many times every month and sometimes even multiple times within one day), helping him reach new incredible heights like performing at this year’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and making RFT’s STL-77 alongside a couple of other artists mentioned above.
When it comes to Fadda Vampire, he can grab and hold a crowd’s attention right off the back. The way he captivates a room full of people packed from wall to wall seems to happen so effortlessly. I mean, it has to be one helluva feeling to have a huge crowd chanting your name on cue and happily ready to do so. Fans were literally trailing him from venue to venue last Saturday to see him perform highly energized sets. I think it’s safe to say Eric Donté has a unique sound that is here to stay. Certainly looking forward to what else he has in store for us.
STL artists, bands, and musicians are for sure whipping up some next level sounds. I was finally able to see a lot more performers doing what they do best and love most. Being able to witness the growth and togetherness around the city is really damn beautiful. It was nothing but love. Which also makes me think about how some people don’t share these sentiments, they’ve mentioned that people in the city/music scene can be unsupportive. Maybe this was so at one point in time, but for me I feel quite the opposite. Everytime I look up there’s folks collaborating, networking, and reaching out to one another to truly succeed.
ShowcaseSTL greatly displayed how supportive people actually are in the city/music scene towards each other. The support, resources, and avenues are at an all time high. However, we all receive the same 24 hours in a day, what we choose to do or not do with our time is solely on us (no one else).
"It's all about starting your day
with a mindset of believing
and keeping faith that all
you desire can be reached.
All you've ever dreamed of
can become a reality.
It's all often right around the corner;
waiting for you to break ties
with your fears, surrender to your
higher self, and truly take action.
Even when you hit a roadblock is that going to stop you ? Even if no one is willing to steer you in a better direction are you going to let that hold you back ? I dearly pray it doesn’t stop you and that you don’t allow anything to hold you back. You have to create another way and always keep what you’re passionate about alive. A new favorite quote I came across says it best, “Stop waiting. Learn how to do things yourself. Do what you can, where you’re at, with what you got.” All else will surely fall into place, just keep grinding.
STL is definitely hustling, shining, and showing how our music scene can contend with some of the best music around the world. As each day passes by, it’s artists within STL who are truly inspiring people all around. This particular weekend was like receiving a special deal to see a melting pot of wavy performances. I’m extremely in awe of how RFT opened up the showcase to such a massive amount of artists, bands, and musicians. ShowcaseSTL is all about the culture, as well as many other music events that are held around the city. We are making the necessary key strides and our time is definitely here lovelies. Let’s embrace each moment and let's get it!
Jake Choi is a breath of fresh air. The Queens New York native has quite the story; from playing professional basketball, to taking acting classes, to becoming a distinguished professional in his craft. As a Korean American actor, he has plenty to say about the state and portrayal of Asians on the big screen. Jake shares his story, and talks about respect (give it, or you'll get checked).
Peep his latest project titled Front Cover next time you're surfing through Netflix.
Only problem? He hasn't been to St. Louis yet! Let's see if we can change that by the end of 2017 ;).
Q: Tell us a little background about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live, and how did you get into acting?
A: Hey! I’m born and raised in Elmhurst, Queens, NYC. Elmhurst has to be one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world. I currently live in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Not nearly as diverse hah. I actually was playing semi pro basketball in South Korea and then quit after losing passion for the sport. Then my friend suggested I should take some acting classes. So I took some acting classes in Korea and loved it. Then I came back home to NYC and signed up for classes at the Lee Strasberg Institute.
Q: What’s the best part about your city?
A: The best part about NYC has to be the hustle and bustle energy and the edge. Doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, how much money you have, you have to respect yourself and others or you’ll get checked.
Q: Have you ever been to St. Louis?
A: No I have not but would love to one day. Go Cardinals? Lol
Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far in your career?
A: Getting all the positive feedback from people watching “Front Cover.” It’s not unusual for people to message or email me saying that they were so touched by the film, and that they finally got to see themselves on the screen. It’s so important for us to see ourselves represented in the right way because that affects our self perception, which affects how we navigate through this world.
Q: Through time, what have you observed about diversity in tv and film? More specifically, with the representation of Asians on screen.
A: I have observed more talk than walk if you know what I mean. A lot of these studios and networks talk about inclusivity/diversity but don’t act on it as much as they talk about it. I have seen progress don’t get me wrong, but it’s been super slow. In regards to representation of Asians on screen, it seems TV has been more progressive than film. I’ll admit, growing up, I didn’t see Asian faces on tv, which made me feel invisible and question my identity. I felt ugly, and insignificant. Nowadays, we do see more Asian actors on TV but rarely are we playing leads or three dimensional characters with emotional arcs and complexity. Asian men are still stereotyped as awkward nerds, asexual, or comedic reliefs. Asian women are still stereotyped as submissive, or hypersexual, fetishized. Also, Asians play about 1% of the lead roles on film/tv but we make up more than 6% of the population in the country. So that’s a problem there. And then there’s whitewashing in all these films, the newest one is “Death Note.” These studios/companies really think Asians are passive and they can shit on us without any backlash. Imagine, Death Note with Asian and Black leads. How incredible would that have been? It’s also a remake of a Japanese manga. Why didn’t they hire any Japanese Americans to play the lead role of Light? It’s frustrating. But it’s good to see that there are Asian shows out there like “Fresh off the Boat.” That’s big.
Q: What's been your experience as an Asian actor? What are one or two key defining moments for you, in this regard?
A: A big positive moment was playing the role of Ryan Fu in “Front Cover.” To be able to play such a fleshed out, humanized character and the lead of the film, that was incredible. Sad to say, Asian actors don’t get to play these types of characters as often as white actors. It’s something that I took for granted while shooting the film, but in hindsight, it was a privilege.
Q: What would you like to see happen for the portrayal of Asians on screen?
A: To not only see more of us, but in a humanized way. That’s all I ask. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. Write us as the complex human beings we are.
Q: What new projects are in the works for you?
A: I just wrapped a gamer comedy pilot in NY, it’s really well written and the whole cast is hilarious. I play Beau Chang, the cool, successful ladies man of the group of friends. And I just got cast as a co-lead for an indie feature film that explores the world of polyamory. Excited to start shooting it next week in NY!
Q: What’s your dream role?
A: Any major superhero but as the lead of the movie or tv series. Or to play Sessue Hayakawa.
Q: In closing, what advice would you give young, budding Asian actors who may be following in your footsteps?
A: I would highly advise that you get good training, somewhere you feel safe but challenged. And really pursue this career because you love acting, telling stories, not for the fame and fortune.