By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

June 9, 2005

What a difference a year makes.

Exactly one year ago, Neko Case was performing at Off Broadway while, across town, the first night of Twangfest 8 was unfolding at the Tap Room.

On Saturday night, Case will headline the final night of Twangfest 9 at the Pageant, the event's first night at such a large venue.

The booking of Case and the Pageant illustrates both the career growth of the Virginia-born singer and the continued growth of St. Louis' festival of country, roots rock and pop music.

A year ago, Case was still touring behind her third full-length CD, "Blacklisted," a collection that signaled not so much a change in direction but a widening of scope for a woman who began as a drummer in a punk-rock band before moving to country on her first album.

"Blacklisted" showed that Case was equally at home singing smoky ballads and torchy numbers that veered toward jazz, without losing that twangy vibe.

Later in 2004, Case released her most recent album, "The Tigers Have Spoken," a live album recorded at several dates in Toronto with a backing band that includes the Sadies and Kelly Hogan, among others. It proved to be her breakthrough.

"Tigers" also showed Case's looser side after the dark "Blacklisted," with several covers ranging from Loretta Lynn's "Rated X" to the Shangri-La's "Train to Kansas City." A new rocker, "Hex," is also a standout.

Preceding Case on the Twangfest stage will be St. Louis' Bottle Rockets, who will be unveiling a new bass player replacing Robert Kearns, who has joined the band of country singer Chris Cagle. Joining singer-guitarist Brian Henneman, drummer Mark Ortmann and guitarist John Horton is Keith Voegele, a St. Louisan who most recently played with the Phonocaptors.

Also on the bill for the finale will be singer-songwriter Brent Best of Denton, Texas, leader of the late, lamented, Uncle Tupelo-influenced Slobberbone, and roots rockers the Townsmen of Columbus, Ohio.

Blueberry Hill's Duck Room is home to Twangfest tonight and Friday.

Tonight, the Supersuckers will perform a double set closing out the bill. The Seattle-based band will offer its Big Show, a double set of rock and country. Opening are Richmond Fontaine, a critically praised alt-country band from Portland, Ore., led by songwriter-guitarist Willy Vlautin; and Rough Shop, a St. Louis band that mixes country, rock and pop, formed partly from the ashes of One Fell Swoop (guitarist-singers Andy Ploof and John Wedland) and Nadine (singer-guitarist Anne Tkach).

On Friday, Rockabilly Hall of Fame members Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, from Los Angeles, will headline. This veteran outfit reflects the influences at work in Southern California with a repertoire that includes Western swing, bluegrass and Tex-Mex.

In addition, Moot Davis and the Cool Deal featuring Pete Anderson, also from Los Angeles, make their third visit to St. Louis in the past year. Davis, a native of Trenton, N.J., plays hard-core honky-tonk that boasts literate, heartfelt lyrics. He is abetted by his lead guitarist and producer, Anderson, who performed the same jobs and helped shape the sound of country star Dwight Yoakam.

The bill also includes Nora O'Connor of Chicago, whose bio on her Web site pretty much captures her charm: "She is also a legendary bartender, a midwife's assistant (doula) and an ordained reverend. Whether you need to be serenaded, soused, birthed, or hitched -- O'Connor has the goods, and how." O'Connor is also responsible for the wonderful country lament "Looks Like I'm Up (Expletive) Creek Again" on the Bloodshot Records compilation "Down to the Promised Land."

Finally, Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear of Iowa City, Iowa, promise a set of impolite, anti-establishment rock. Grimm was formerly with the roots rocking Hangdogs.

Twangfest 9

All nights: Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8

Duck Room

At Blueberry Hill, 6504 Delmar Boulevard; $18 each night; advance tickets at Blueberry Hill (no service charge) or through MetroTix (, 1-800-293-5949)


8 p.m.: Rough Shop (St. Louis)

9 p.m.: Richmond Fontaine (Portland, Ore.)

10 p.m.: Supersuckers Big Show (Seattle)


8 p.m.: Matthew Grimm (Iowa City, Iowa)

9 p.m.: Nora O'Connor (Chicago)

10 p.m.: Moot Davis and the Real Deal featuring Pete Anderson (Los Angeles)

11:30 p.m.: Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys (Los Angeles)

The Pageant

6161 Delmar Boulevard; $20, discounted if purchased at the Pageant box office with cash only. Tickets are also available online at or 314-241-1888.


8 p.m.: Townsmen (Columbus, Ohio)

9 p.m.: Brent Best of Slobberbone (Denton, Texas)

10 p.m.: Bottle Rockets (St. Louis)

11:30 p.m.: Neko Case (Tacoma, Wash.)


1-5 p.m. Friday at Saratoga Lanes, 2725 Sutton Avenue, Maplewood; 314-645-5308; $5. Music by the Twangfest pickup band the Bowling Stones.

Twangclips 3

1-4 p.m. Saturday inside at Schlafly Bottleworks, 7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; free; 314-241-2337

Twangfest BBQ

Noon-5 p.m. Saturday outside at Schlafly Bottleworks; free; music featuring Glossary, Waterloo, Adam Reichmann of Nadine; Diesel Island, featuring members of the Bottle Rockets and Rockhouse Ramblers; and Steve Dawson of Dolly Varden.