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Lo-Fi Cherokee turns 5 as bands play unexpected venues

Fans and camera crews surround the band Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear's performance
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Fans and camera crews surround the band Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear's performance

It’s 9:30 on Saturday morning and there’s a garage rock band playing in a flower shop and plant nursery on Cherokee Street. Half an hour later another group performs in front of a group of kids in a chemical safety office.  By mid-afternoon bands have played in bike shops, feminist sex stores, micro-breweries and clothing stores along Cherokee Street. It’s all part of Lo-Fi Cherokee. 

“It’s like a marathon of shooting music videos,” said Lo-Fi attendee Adam Ballard.

Five years ago the event known as Lo-Fi Cherokee was developed by filmmaker Bill Streeter and musician Jason Hutto. It started small with a couple of bands and a couple of stores willing to interrupt their usual Saturday business to be part of the fun. Over half a decade the event’s grown into a full-day event where 18 bands play short sets in local businesses while fans watch.  Each band is filmed and recorded and almost immediately Streeter goes to work editing and posting the videos online. Hutto no longer lives in town but Streeter’s kept the tradition going. 

“People expect it to happen now, so like if I wanted to quit doing it, I don’t think people would let me,” said Streeter, laughing.

It was a sentiment echoed by both bands and attendees throughout the day. Streeter intends to show videos for all 18 performances at Lo-Fi’s premier party on May 12th and will release two videos a week online in the following months.

A portrait of Lo-Fi Cherokee scene as experienced by different participants:

A Founder: “We had no intention of making it a public event, but we tried it and people started following us around, so we were like okay, I guess this is an event now,” Streeter said, laughing, as he walked from one venue to the next.  For five years Streeter has run Lo-Fi Cherokee. In that time his crew has grown from a handful of volunteers to 20 members.  The event has become a full day affair that includes 18 bands playing in 18 different venues.  Different crew members leap-frog from venue to venue setting up shots and recording equipment.  According to Streeter, the most difficult part of the event is the logistics leading up to the day of filming.

A Past Performer: “Bill dug himself a grave. He has to keep doing this. And then he has to train his children to keep it going,” said Syrhea Conway, who performs as Syna So Pro.  Conway played a show in Scarlett Garnet for last year’s Lo-Fi Cherokee event.  She was at the first performance of 2016 and many more throughout the day. She characterized the day as “necessary” for the St. Louis music scene, saying it united many different groups under a common event. 

A Cameraman: “It’s my most fun day of the year,” said Laurent Torno, a photographer by trade and one of the event’s cameramen. Torno’s worked the event for four years. He’s as equally impressed by the audio crew as he is by the film work.  Each performance is filmed in one take and the various cameras and recordings are synchronized during the editing process. Torno says it brings together the film, music, and business communities.

A Fan: “It’s like a marathon of shooting music videos,” said Adam Ballard who came to the first performance of the day and stayed to the last. Ballard said the event was a good opportunity to discover to new bands in a situation unlike any other concert.  He said that as an attendee you really get a sense of how the project works. People that come to the event have a first-hand experience watching the crews trouble-shoot various issues throughout the day while attempting to remain on schedule.

A Current Performer: “I’ve always wanted to do it, because I’ve just been an observer of Lo-Fi for years, and I’d just be standing around like ‘d***, I wish that they’d call me!”, said musician Thelonius Kryptonite who performed with a supporting band made of the St. Louis band The Brothers Lazaroff.  The group performed at t-shirt shop and printer STL Style. Although the musician recently relocated from St. Louis to New Orleans, he was happy to return for the performance.  The musician debuted new music from an upcoming album he’s currently working on.  After the group performed for Lo-Fi Cherokee the band stuck around and played a couple songs just for fun.

The full Lo-Fi Cherokee 2016 line-up and venues:

Baby Baby Dance With Me - Flowers and Weeds

We Party Portugal - Bluefield Process Safety

EYEZ Out Hrr - Cranky Yellow

Thelonius Kryptonite - STL-Style               

Le' Ponds - Chaparritos Mexican Restaurant

Letter To Memphis - The Blue Pearl

Shitstorm - San loo

TOK - Earthbound Beer

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear - The Corner Gates

American Wrestlers - Yaquis

Adult Fur - Spoked Bikes & Stuff

Suzie Cue - The TOCO Shop

Thee Fine Lines - Box    

Dubb Nubb - Bespoke

Hylidae - The Fortune Teller

Hardbody - Elaine's

Rip Rap - Foam

Tortuga  - Byrd & Barrel

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