Returning to Forest Park, Loufest boasts promising lineup

Indie-rock band TV on the Radio

By Daniel Durchholz, Special to the Jewish Light

Last year’s Loufest in Forest Park struck a near-perfect chord in terms of idyllic location, audience amenities, and terrific music. I’d say it was the coolest thing to happen on the St. Louis concert scene in 2010, but the scorching heat and humidity for the two-day, open-air event were the only factors that made the debut edition of Loufest even the slightest bit unpleasant for concertgoers.

From the perspective of the organizers — founder Brian Cohen [profiled in this space last August] and his team made up primarily by Contemporary Productions, Ironman Sound, and Quench, Inc. — attendance was solid, but maybe not quite what they were hoping for. But only minutes after the last notes of the concert sounded, all were talking about doing it again.

And so they have. This year’s Loufest will be held August 27-28, once again in Forest Park’s Central Field. From the map provided on Loufest’s website, it looks like they’ve tweaked the location of the two stages and other areas of the festival grounds, but all to the good, and such features as the “Nosh Pit” – a food court with offerings from local eateries – and “Area K” – with activities and entertainment for kids – are still represented.

I didn’t hear many complaints about last year’s effort, but one of the things that did come up, mostly on Internet discussion boards, was that the ticket prices were too high. To which I have to respond: Are you kidding me?

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Tickets for a one-day pass to this year’s fest are $38. Two-day passes are $64 ($59 early bird and $49 pre-sale passes have sold out). That’s as much – or rather as little as – you would pay for only one headline act and an opener at, say, the Pageant or the Fox. And at Loufest, there are 18 bands, nine per day.

Granted, not all of them are household names. If you’re a fan of music at all, though, you surely know that the discovery of great new bands is part of the fun. And like last year, Loufest splits the difference nicely, offering a satisfying mix of well-known artists, relatively new national acts, and a selection of homegrown bands as well.

Just in case you’re drawing a blank over even the headliners’ names, though, let’s break it down a bit.

• The Roots: Thanks to a steady gig as the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” the Roots have become the hottest band in late-night TV (sorry, Paul Shaffer…). But even before that, the Philadelphia-bred band act was breaking down barriers and changing perceptions about hip-hop by using live instrumentation and a full-band approach. Last year, the band released not one, but two fantastic albums: “How I Got Over” and (partnering with John Legend) the triple-Grammy winning “Wake Up!”

• TV on the Radio: Nominally an indie-rock band, this Brooklyn-based outfit is hard to pin down, tossing everything from free jazz, soul, electronic and aggressive post-punk into its musical mix. The band hit a creative peak with 2008’s “Dear Science,” named by numerous polls as that year’s best album. Its latest is “Nine Types of Light,” released earlier this year.

• Cat Power: It’s been a while since the enigmatic Southern-born, New York-based singer/songwriter Chan Marshall has recorded, although she’s surfaced in various locales lately, performing on Eddie Vedder’s “Ukulele Songs” album and previewing some new material in live performances. Her songs, like her shows, can be raw and emotionally harrowing, though things seem to have leveled out for her both personally and professionally since her 2006 breakthrough, “The Greatest.” Her latest is 2008’s mostly covers album, “Jukebox.”

• Deerhunter: A bold choice for one of the headline acts, Deerhunter is an experimental noise/art-rock band from Atlanta, but don’t let that scare you away. The band is known to be pretty aggressive in concert, but some of its songs – including quite a few from last year’s “Halcyon Digest” are mellow-multilayered affairs that balance things out nicely.  

I don’t have the space to profile all of the Loufest bands, but suffice it to say that there should be plenty of musical highlights from both days. Among my other can’t-miss picks for the fest are: !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk), a dance-rock band led by charismatic frontman Nic Offer; full-tilt rockers the Hold Steady (don’t miss if you’re a Springsteen fan); The Low Anthem, an eclectic indie-folk outfit; and soul-funk revivalists Kings Go Forth. And get there early each day to sample some of the best bands on the St. Louis scene: Troubadour Dali and Jon Hardy & the Public on Saturday and Jumbling Towers and Old Lights on Sunday.

For more information, check Loufest’s website at