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Troubadour Dali takes up residency at Off Broadway

This articl first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 1, 2012 - An old proverb states: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Like most proverbs, there seems to be a hard kernel of truth behind the familiar words.

But at a time when the cell phone you buy is overtaken by a newer model every two months, the truth within that saying may seem to be shrinking as fast as download times for songs on iTunes.

Yet, there are some interesting examples of a deja vu effect in this modern world. One of them involves the St. Louis band, Troubadour Dali, and its upcoming residency at Off Broadway every Sunday evening this January.

Yes, you read that correctly. The band and Off Broadway are calling the four-Sunday stand at the club a residency. We're not talking about a continuing regular weekly performance such as the long running Monday night jam session at the Broadway Oyster bar hosted by the Soulard Blues Band.

This is a limited one-month schedule, and it's a concept that evolved from the jazz club scene in the 1950s - as well as the rock scene in LA in the '60s. Jazz musicians would set up shop at a club for an extended period then move on. Legendary LA-based bands such as the Doors, Love and others, worked as house bands or appeared regularly at such clubs as the Troubadour, Whiskey A-Go-Go, London Fog and Ciro's.

Now the residency is back in a big way on the LA music scene - especially on off nights such as Mondays. Bands play once a week for a month or so for free or minimal cover charges to build an audience.

The residency concept is actually something Troubadour Dali tried before at Off Broadway, according to band member Ben Hinn.

"We did a residency there back in January 2010," recalls Hinn during a recent phone conversation. "It really worked out perfectly for us as a band as well as for the venue. January is not a great month in terms of weather to be trying to tour - especially in the Midwest. And it gives us a chance to huddle up and work on some new material. Since we're in the studio now, that's especially nice."

The band is working on a couple of new songs that are planned for release late spring, according to Hinn. And in a marketing touch that definitely underscores the "what goes around" concept, the band plans to release the single as a flexi-disc.

For those too young to remember flexi-discs - or those whose memories may be a bit shaky - flexi-discs were popular in the 1960s and '70s to promote music inexpensively through a range of marketing outlets that included magazines and even cereal boxes. As the name implies, these discs were made of thin vinyl and could be played on a regular turntable - sometimes with the added weight of a coin to make sure they turned at the proper speed.

The most famous flexi-discs were the annual Beatles Fan Club holiday season releases from 1963 through 1969. With the revival of the vinyl LP in popularity, it seems that the flexi-disc concept has come back as well, even though sound quality can be dicey.

"It's just a fun thing to do," Hinn says. "And we're also going to have a way for anyone who picks up the flexi-disc to also get the songs as digital downloads."

Hinn is also looking forward to the four-week residency because Troubadour Dali will get to share the Off Broadway stage with several of their favorite up-and-coming bands each Sunday night. On Jan. 8, Ocean Rivals will be featured, and other bands such as Warm Jets USA, Tenement Ruth, Frances with Wolves, Electric Garden, Magic City and Red Mouth will also play on the January dates.

"We're very excited about the lineups for each evening," concludes Hinn. "Ocean Rivals are great friends, and we've never had the chance to play with Magic City and they're awesome. There should be plenty of unexpected surprises as well. Plus, it's free. You just have to be 21 or over."

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer who has long covered the St. Louis music scene. 

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has written for the St. Louis Beacon since 2009. Terry's other writing credits in St. Louis include: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis magazine. Nationally, Terry writes for DownBeat magazine, OxfordAmerican.org and RollingStone.com, among others.