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Rock 'n' roll and ride the rail

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 22, 2010 - A fun-loving circle of friends introduced St. Louisans to the concept of a social event that both celebrates and happens aboard mass transit. The MetroLink Prom brought throngs of riders together last fall for a progressive party that encouraged nostalgia and goofiness.

Don’t expect to find tiaras and tuxedos at a new event intended to draw attention to MetroLink and the neighborhoods it serves. There won’t be singing on the tracks or a boom box blasting pop music on the train, but music and mass transit are central parts of the party known as City Sound Tracks.

Set for March 27, this daylong event features at least 20 musical acts playing within earshot of MetroLink stops. Stages won’t be closed off to people who don’t arrive by MetroLink, but the idea is to encourage people to buy the train fare and ride from station to station throughout the day to hear the bands.

Ryan Albritton, a co-organizer of City Sound Tracks, said the event is meant to celebrate local public transit and show support for the April vote on Proposition A, a proposed sales tax increase in St. Louis County that would benefit Metro.

“Public transit is essential for any region, and we can’t afford to abandon it,” Albritton said. “We’re at a tipping point and if we start to make the right decision we can put ourselves on the map.”

Albritton and friend RJ Koscielniak are organizing the event through Whats Up Magazine, a nonprofit publication that’s distributed by the homeless (Albritton writes for the magazine), and Tracking Progress.org, a group Albritton started to advocate for transit support, among other issues.

City Sounds Tracks isn’t part of an official campaign in favor of Prop A; and while Metro officials are aware of the event, they have no hand in its development. The music festival is free (other than train fare) and the organizations involved aren't generating revenue from it.

Albritton said he wants to attract people who otherwise don’t ride MetroLink. “We’re trying to make it a fun experience for the people who don’t know you can access so many things so close to train stations.”

The musicians -– representing genres such as jazz, rock, folk and reggae -– are for now donating their time to the cause. They will be stationed in the Loop, Central West End and downtown (likely at Citygarden). There’s no official word yet on times, but Albritton said he expects the music to run from 1-11 p.m.