Story: Madisyn Siebert and Sharon Stone
Photos: Cory Weaver and Sean Rider
St. Louis is still trying to fill the void that LouFest left many moons ago: indie, rock and other genres filling beautiful Forest Park while festival goers ate and drank at great local vendors in the heart of the city. Music at the Intersection is a different beast, and while the festival had some problems from the get-go, one thing it did not lack was great musical talent.
Set in the midst of the Arts District in Midtown over the weekend of September 10-11, the festival had its inaugural year in 2021, and was stepping up its game to try to compete for more attention, love from locals, and even out of towners. With headliners like Erykah Badu, Gary Clark Jr., Kamasi Washington and more, the festival definitely amped up their artist game compared to the year before. One thing that did not seem to change, though, was some noticeable missteps.
With four stages operating in a tight space, it wasn’t hard to see why problems arose. The biggest issue was with the Washington Avenue Stage—the main stage for the festival. On Saturday, the stage was running hours behind schedule, due to sound equipment issues and workers bursting a gas line a few days earlier while setting up.
At least two bands were canceled. Foxing, a band that in my view should have been close to headlining the event, had to perform over two hours later than planned. You could tell the frustration in vocalist Connor Murphy’s voice as he sound-checked, eventually saying, “Fuck it, it’s good enough. Let’s just go.”
Four stages in the span of four city blocks sounded like fun until we realized that we could hear each band’s set clear as day from another stage. It took away from the ambiance and was very off-putting to the artists, who were no doubt having to focus harder on their own music while hearing what was happening less than a 5-minute walk away at the next stage.
One thing the festival did seem to have plenty of were spots at the DJ tent. The tent was constantly overlooked, maybe due to its location or it being a DJ tent, but we found it an awesome place to relax, grab a drink and enjoy local DJs taking their own spin on classics, literally. MS
(Above, L-R): STL’s Foxing rolled with delay after delay and kicked a hole in the sky; while Kamasi Washington may have had one of the best sets of the festival; (Below, L-R): A.J. Haynes of the Seratones always has a great time on stage; and Naomi Saalfield of Hiatus Kaiyote does what she wants.
Choosing which stage to visit was like choosing which one of my children to spend time with. The festival’s artist line-up was incredible and each of the three stages offered its own tempting musical experience. The legendary Buddy Guy caught my attention first on Saturday at the Washington Stage. He promised to bang out some blues “so funky you can smell it” and delivered with powerful performances of fan favorites such as “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Rock Me Baby.” He credited hip hop music for opening the door to verbal expression (i.e., cuss words), and he generously verbalized his thoughts. Buddy Guy offered “words of wisdom for living” in “Skin Deep,” which was inspired by his mother.
Seviin Li followed shortly after Buddy Guy. Her set was a must-see for any Tina Turner fan. She performed “Nutbush City Limits,” “Come Together” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” While rolling out the introduction to “Proud Mary,” clouds, lightning and thunderstorms rolled in too, and the festival organizers put the musical performances on pause for everyone’s safety.
J.J. Grey & Mofro, the soulful rock blues band from Jacksonville, Florida, arrived on the Field Stage right as sunset descended. The stage glowed, the festival staff powered up the bubble machines and the crowd grew denser from the stage to the street and backed up to the wall of the building framing the stage area.
J.J. Grey lit the stage on fire with a harmonica solo and words of appreciation to KDHX, the first St. Louis area radio station to play his music, and to Vintage Vinyl for being legendary in the St. Louis music scene. The band opened with “99 Shades of Crazy”—Grey said this song was inspired by his time working in a lumber yard with crazy co-workers and basically “wrote itself.” Grey also complimented the mixture of people in the crowd and said that he hasn’t seen this much diversity since being in traffic court on a Monday morning. He continued his storytelling through his powerful vocals, harmonica solos, and runs on the keyboard and guitar. He dedicated “Blackwater” to deep journeys into the swamp, “Write a Letter” to his daughter who inspired the song, and “She’s on Fire” to the hypnotic power of females.
He mused a bit on the joys of temptation and offered “Everything Bad is Good” for whatever happens in St. Louis stays in St. Louis. Grey and his band rounded out their (way too short!) set with an electrifying cover of “House of the Rising Sun” and finished with “Lochloosa,” their signature deep-hitting song dedicated to the power of home. SS
(Above): Erykah Badu in the rain closed out the festival. (Below): The legendary Blues keyboardist, Booker T. on the "Field Stage."
Unfortunately, some problems that arose were out of the festival’s control. Lightning delayed some sets, and after hours of waiting for Erykah Badu to take the stage, a strong downpour hit the intersection. The crowd prevailed though, and—man—was it easily worth it just to hear her voice.
My favorite stage of the weekend was the stage set up at the Big Top. There were so many things to enjoy about this stage, from the aesthetics of being in Circus Flora’s tent, to the amount of pure talent that performed there, not to mention they were one of the only places that had chairs and bleachers set up to rest your feet. Some of my favorite performances we were able to catch were Dylan Triplett, a soulful St. Louis-raised vocalist with a powerhouse of a voice; Kamasi Washington—an obvious answer; and Celise, a soul and funk woman who effortlessly demanded everyone’s attention.
Speaking of great music, we also need to highlight numerous other artists, such as Hiatus Kaiyote, who came all the way from Melbourne, Australia to grace us with their music. Their perfect twist of jazz and funk helped us forget about the fact they were behind schedule. Another artist that crafted the weekend’s experience was legendary blues guitarist and singer, Buddy Guy. To say Buddy Guy has still got it would be a gross understatement. Even at the age of 86, he continues to enthrall crowds with his voice, guitar and—most surprisingly to us—his stories. Buddy shared more than a few wise words throughout his set. Many were words of wisdom gathered through the years, and almost all of them had the crowd laughing.
On the Field Stage,the Seratones brought “black girl magic” into the city. Lead vocalist A.J. Haynes’ powerful singing voice contrasted her cheerful and giddy talking voice and left me not only wanting to hear more songs but wanting to just go talk with her in a normal setting about everything from life, fashion and more.
Later that evening at the same stage, St. Louis staple, The Urge, led by Steve Ewing, got the crowd amped and on their feet. It was the most energetic crowd of the weekend, with Ewing and his band getting everyone to jump, sing and yell, just like the band was doing nonstop on stage.
The festival crowd may have been smaller than expected over the weekend, but they were enthusiastic and really showed off the love that St. Louisans carry for music. Plus, with the area of the festival being so small, it was probably a good thing they did not reach close to capacity because there were times when it already felt like there were too many people on the grounds.
The festival tried to highlight St. Louis favorites with food trucks and a marketplace where local St. Louis business owners got to set up tents for the weekends and sell their goods. The most missed opportunity, in our opinion, was the fact that the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, the main sponsor of the festival, flew in a muralist to help paint buildings and honor St. Louis. The murals were gorgeous, but until a member of our team was able to speak with the muralist we had no clue they were painted recently, let alone for the festival itself.
While this is a festival that needs a lot of TLC, it is not sparse in talent. Though I am still looking to fill the LouFest-sized hole in my heart, Music at the Intersection has the potential to do just that, and I hope that 2022 was a year that taught them a lot as they plan to return in 2023. MS