Written by Louis Quatorze
bio: As a videographer, Louis Quatorze aims to capture the creativity of Saint Louisans and challenge conventional notions of traditional hip-hop culture.
Back in late 2013, two minds came together with an idea: create an event to showcase the talent of artists in the Saint Louis area, from music to video to canvas. The concept focused on providing a physical venue for attendees to experience art on a personal level and avoid the nausea that the Internet evokes through social media. Co-founders Rell, a skilled sketcher, and Ciej, MME’s gifted MC, tapped blank space, and through a series of well-designed posters and groundwork, threw two of the most successful local hip-hop events of the last year. People flocked to Cherokee Street to stroll between artist displays, engage in meaningful conversations, network with undiscovered peers, and vibe to damn good music. Word quickly got around, and the latest iteration was set for January 2nd of the new year.
Packt Like Sardines
One of the original draws of Vibes was the location. Cherokee Street is the definition of Saint Louis culture, and blank space has been a leading venue in attracting unique and unforgettable shows. Three floors and the surrounding neighborhood streets offered plenty of wiggle-room for people to rub shoulders and interact. To boot, blank space is accustomed to pop-up shops and concerts, which allowed for a thoughtful setup for artists to display their work. This year, Vibes uprooted from South City and moved downtown to 333 N. Beaumont, a venue trying to attract forward-thinking people and shows. Unfortunately, it’s in the middle of no where, neighbors to such esteemed businesses as Ed Roehr Safety Products Company and Lawler & Balthasar Auto Repair. A rear entrance in an alleyway adjacent to a electrical substation made things less convenient and set the mood for the evening. An hour into the event, and it became immediately clear that the venue was simply too small. Capacity was reached within 90 minutes of the doors opening, leaving a line of hundreds soaking wet outside from a winter rain shower. For those lucky enough to get in, even walking around was an issue; the night was a constant struggle of pushing through a crowd to get to where you wanted to be, or having people push you to get to their final resting place. Artists were directed to setup along the perimeter and hang their works on wooden walls, but because everyone was so tightly crammed together, it was nearly impossible to view the art, yet alone communicate to its creator. Furthermore, amenities were atrocious: two bartenders and one bathroom for over 300 attendees, which I suppose is a fair ratio since the need to urinate was nil due to spending half an hour wrestling in line for a Hennessy and Coke.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Music plays a major component in the appeal of Vibes: put up a line-up of killer artists and soak listeners in the new wave of Saint Louis sound. In short, 333 N. Beaumont is not a music venue. There is no consideration for acoustics, there is little space for a proper stage or pit. Therefore, it’s not surprising that none of the performing acts could be heard more than 10 people deep away from the stage. The “concert” was if the Peanuts cartoon’s parents decided to rap karaoke. Ambient noise from the crowd drowned out most sets, making Vibes completely fumble to provide any real aural experience, which is a shame. MME battled through sound problems in their entire set, even taking a significant break to sort out the problem, causing them valuable performance time. DJ JTR3Y did little to keep the crowd moving aside from sprinkling in a few bangers, and the show lost total control when he put up several of his friends to rap verses of tracks he was promoting, making Vibes seem more like amateur night at an open mic than a Grand Arts Event. The scene missed on a major chance to connect with Chicago as well, as I felt embarrassed for Alex Wiley who was practically ignored for his 40 minutes (through no fault of his own).
Icey Hot Stuntaz
The mission of Vibes is earnest, captivating, and necessary for the Saint Louis scene to develop. January 2nd was a mockery of that mission. Instead of arts being the real draw and the forefront of the display, the event has devolved into the “omg what am i gonna wear” / “cant wait to look fresh af” / “where the bitches at” fronting that plagues Instagram. When art becomes an after-thought, Vibes has failed. It cannot become a front-fest of wannabe rappers, photographers, and models. Rell and Ciej face a significant uphill battle to re-gain control of the highly promising experience they have birthed. Barely a year removed from its founding, there is still hope that art will reign supreme, but only with its creators’ strict dedication to a culture still in its infancy. In the words of the great Mvstermind, Rell and Ciej must “cultivate the culture.”