SE Live talked to some local arts and entertainment insiders about eight big events from the past year. Agree or disagree? Post your comments below.
Mike Renick: Frontman for the Mike Renick Band and on-air personality for 93.9 Kiss FM.
Rochelle Steffen: Artist and KFVS12 videographer/photojournalist
Joel Rhodes: Historian, author and professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
Chris Harris: Editor of SE Live and resident whiskey juggler.
The 2008 Storytelling festival drew around 1,100 people to the riverfront for three days of professional storytelling by characters form all over the country, selling out the evening olios. This was the first in what organizers hope to make an annual event. There was also a Halloween-themed storytelling event in October.
Benjamin Burnley, lead singer and guitarist for the popular rock group Breaking Benjamin performs for crowds at the Show Me Center on Thursday, February 21, 2008.
Chris Harris: Oh man, people loved this thing. The paper played it up, but good Lord, afterward all you heard was "I loved it. I loved it. I loved it." It was warranted. People were laughing and crying and begging for more.
Mike Renick: I didn't make this but heard about it, and I was surprised at the excitement over it. I guess cause I didn't have much of a grasp for what the whole thing was.
Matt Sanders: I didn't attend the festival, but I heard many good things from people about town. Let's face it, Cape Girardeau is a very conservative, family values type of town, and this is the kind of event that fits that ethic perfectly. I'd say there's a future in it.
Rochelle Steffen: The Cape area needs a storytelling event since there are a lot of long winded people around here. The idea is great and if we have something that will draw people here, it will do us some good.
NEAL E. BOYD
Sikeston native Neal E. Boyd auditioned, appeared in several episodes of and ended up winning "America's Got Talent." The opera singer went to school at Southeast Missouri State University to earn his degree in speech communication, and also studied at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Rochelle Steffen: I was actually at his families house when he won. Who knew an opera singer would take home the moola? What!? This is the wave of hip-hop not opera! I was expecting to interview his really mad second-place family. I didn't watch any of the episodes, so I was a "talent virgin" and was amazed how nervous I got each time they eliminated a contestant. When it was down to the two I realized I was biting my fingernails. It was a good thing I had not watched from the beginning; I would have had an ulcer by the end.
Joel Rhodes: Didn't watch a minute of his competition (I think it conflicted with "Celebrity Rehab" on VH1), but it gives me a glimmer of optimism for American popular culture that an opera singer who apparently really does have talent actually won a reality-talent contest.
Matt Sanders: Neal really won over the hearts of the whole country, and he never forgot where he came from while doing it. This couldn't have happened to a better guy. It won't put Southeast Missouri on the map, so to speak, but Neal's victory is a real source of pride for a lot of people.
Mike Renick: It was very odd watching someone you know on actual TV competing in something like that. In my mind this is the coolest thing of the year, and Neal is a great vocalist.
Once a popular place for independent musical acts, the Camp (aka Main Street Bar) closes after a fight and shooting outside in late summer. The Enchanted Forest, hugely popular among teens and those who appreciated clear air and the underground music scene, closes due to "Ice Storm 08," but owners plan to open up a Mississippi Mud Coffee House that will also feature music.
Joel Rhodes: It's never good to hear about any business closing in this economic climate. Now if someone talks about the deck at the Bel Air closing, those are fightin' words.
Mike Renick: It's a shame that any place has to close, especially ones that were an avenue for a variety of musical types.
Matt Sanders: The two places were really the only "counterculture" sort of places you could find in Southeast Missouri, where alternative music fans and outcasts ruled, other than tattoo parlors. It's a shame to see them go.
Rochelle Steffen: Cape should be ashamed of itself. I hope things change, or the young will leave. We are pretty close to St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn. Don't we want to keep the money here? I work in news and was coincidently there (at Main Street Bar) minutes after the shooting. It was utter pandemonium! Why was there not a bunch of security there through the night and as the patrons dispersed? The fight that led up to the shooting could have been diffused had there been more security at this event that drew hundreds. It doesn't matter if they are black, white, gay, straight, country or city — when you put hundreds of people in one bar there is the potential for problems.
Chris Harris: I was really disappointed when I heard the Enchanted Forest was not going to open back up. It was the only non-smoking place to see a show and a great gathering place for teens and the under-21 crowd. The talent booking team is still intact, though, so bring on the mud!
Rock legends play the closing night of the SEMO District Fair.
Mike Renick: I'm not sure how they feel playing a fair after they've played huge venues in the past. I'm sure they find some satisfaction from it, after all they're getting paid to do what they love.
Joel Rhodes: Of course it's a step down from their glorious arena days of the late 1970s and '80s, but who cares? When Styx or REO [Speedwagon] play in your backyard, you can't fight that feeling anymore. Like we said in junior high, if a Styx song is playing at the rink and you can't get a girl to couple skate with you, it's not Dennis DeYoung or Tommy Shaw's fault.
Matt Sanders: This kind of "classic" rock is what sells here, and it's good any time the fair can score a big ticket sale, because some music is better than none at all.
Rochelle Steffen: The SEMO District Fair was exactly as it has been in the past five years I have lived in this area — BORING. I would go if they pulled in someone other than a group that should have retired years ago.
Chris Harris: A lot of people went to this show just to say they went to this show. It's Styx for pete's sake; you don't know how much longer they'll be going around. Not going is like passing on the opportunity to, well, see Styx.
THE "SISTER MARY" SCANDAL
The Rust Flexible Theatre on the River Campus hosts the play "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You," a religious satire, which upsets some unprepared audience members — including the theater's namesake. The stir prompts the university to implement a policy offering refunds to season ticket holders for the play and another on the season ticket package that they may feel is too offensive.
Chris Harris: Art is subjective. It can be beautiful, offensive, moving and disturbing. It's sole purpose is to evoke emotion. Unfortunately, this particular production evoked extremely negative emotions.
Matt Sanders: I'd have to say, I'll never go to a show without at least knowing the subject matter first. I won't waste my time with something I know I won't like. I didn't see the play, so I can't comment on how offensive it was. I can understand some people saying shows like this shouldn't be in the season ticket package, but I never want to see controversial plays kept out of the university environment. Exposure to different ideas is crucial to learning.
Rochelle Steffen: The river campus is supposed to BROADEN your artistic experiences.
Joel Rhodes: Where is George Carlin when we need him most?
Mike Renick: I recall something about someone getting mad about something but I don't know the details of what went on. I guess if material is questionable, they should be able to inform people in some way before they buy tickets or the the season ticket holders should look into it before they buy the tickets.
The Show Me Center sells out for the Three Days Grace/Breaking Benjamin/Seether/Hurt concert in February. Despite terrible weather (that was the "Ice Storm 08" period) 6,597 people showed up to watch the show. This was the first rock show to hit the Show Me Center since Tool in 2007, which drew much fewer people.
Rochelle Steffen: I would have LOVED to have gone to the concert with the rest of Cape but I had to work. The attendance proves the young (young at heart) are screaming for some representation instead of bands like Styx. Maybe if there were more entertainment choices for younger generations, Cape could put its name on the map.
Mike Renick: I was there, and it was packed. It really didn't surprise me, though, cause I know all those bands are pretty popular and get a lot of air play, at least on Real Rock 99.3. I actually caught bits and pieces of the whole thing. From what I saw the crowd was pretty pumped. I spent a lot of time in the bar area ... and people were really pumped in there.
Matt's response: It's been so long since we had a sellout, I was amazed to see this happen. I think it was in large part because so many bands were on the ticket, so there was something for everyone (except me, because I didn't go). Now if only we could get Radiohead or Queens of the Stone Age.
Joel Rhodes: In this neck of the woods, we've got to take all the live rock 'n' roll we can get (booking Bruce Springsteen would be really sweet, by the way).
Chris Harris: I remember reading the coverage the next day and seeing that this show was a sellout and thinking "Whaaaaaaat? Really?"
Country cutie Carrie Underwood and Jason Michael Carroll sell out the Show Me Center on June 8 — a little easier with a country act.
Matt Sanders: County sells out easily here, so no surprise.
Chris Harris: I saw this coming a mile away. The girls could drool over Jason Michael Carroll's deep-reaching baritone voice and then scream along to the angry, that'll-teach-him, karaoke favorite, "Before He Cheats." A little sum-sum for everyone.
Rochelle Steffen: We are a small-town, country community and will never have that big city appeal, BUT Carrie Underwood is in the same category as the other sellout groups — young! We could get more of these young country/rock/hip-hop stars if we tried.
Mike Renick: I think country is popular because of one thing — It's simple. People can easily understand the message of the music and I think as a whole people like that. I've come to realize that there is a complexity in simplicity and obviously not everyone is successful with that. Music doesn't have to be complex, overly difficult or deep. You begin to lose people when it is. I respect how country music can communicate a message that resonates in so many people.
Joel Rhodes: Although I like both kinds of music — country and western — I can't figure this one out.
RIVER CITY MUSIC FESTIVAL
The 2008 music festival went off with two outside stages and two inside. Seemingly painless and uneventful, but a staple on the music scene. The only talked-about incident was when organizers ran out of beer at one point.
Mike Renick: The beer thing is a bummer. I know my dad was mad about that. Seriously though, that is a little thing that people will remember and make folks have a bad attitude about the event. I wish there was a way to get back to all the clubs being involved and your purchase of a festival ticket getting you into all the clubs that have live music. I had a good time!
Rochelle Steffen: As a resident of Cape but not born in Cape, I would love to see this keep going and continue. I am sure this generated a bunch of money our downtown desperately needs. Next year get more beer. Not cool to run out of beer, especially when the entry fee was so high.
Matt Sanders: I took part in this festival both as a musician performing and as a patron. I covered the festival the previous three years or so, and I thought this year was a lot better than those years. As far as our gigs went, they went off great, and I had a pretty good time watching some other bands. However, I heard about the whole running out of beer thing that almost caused a riot. I'd say that was poor planning, but nobody's perfect.
Chris Harris: This was my first music festival here. It was OK. There were a lot of meetings, and then it just seemed to get finalized and thrown together at the end. It worked, though. I was there when they ran out of beer. The ticket people were still selling beer tickets, but the beer people had no mo beer. People went nuts. You don't mess with the alcohol, dude.
Joel Rhodes: The music festival was traditionally one of those weekends when, for better or worse, Cape Girardeau really felt like a college town, but unfortunately it really seems to be diminishing. Running out of beer you say? Now you're just trying to scare me. Talk about scary — we saw an Emaciation show at the festival. It kind of freaked me out a little. And I've seen Gwar at the legendary Outhouse in Lawrence, Kas. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but I prefer my devil music to be old school. Give me Ronnie James Dio any day, sister.