As we enter into a new decade, we should take one last look back at the previous year to see advances forward, backward and stalemates of the past year in St. Joseph’s entertainment scene. As usual, we’ll be using the Homer Simpsons metric of “That’s bad!” and “That’s good!”
New bands and artists are emerging: On Dec. 29, Cafe Acoustic Concert Hall hosted a night of new bands, including the pop duo Sunset Drive and rock bands Almost Enemies and The December. A few weeks prior, hip-hop artist 7evensofuego started his own all-day festival “Fuego Fest,” with a lineup full of fresh musical talent. While a few stragglers from the past decade are still at it, a majority of bands and artists have either broken up or stopped performing, which leads to statements like “The local music scene is dead.” Events like these are reminders that it still has a pulse. Verdict: That’s Good!
Crypticon is Crypti-gone: For three years, St. Joseph had the pleasure of hosting some top-tier talent from cult movies and television shows with the three-day “Crypticon Kansas City.” This year alone, it saw thousands come into town to meet celebrities like the late Sid Haig, Joe Bob Briggs, WWE’s “Road Warrior Animal” and Tobin Bell at the Civic Arena. With the closing of the Red Lion Hotel, which often played host to the celebrities and tourists, organizers officially announced the event would be returning to its namesake city for 2020. It was an expected move, as plans previously were announced to move back to Kansas City. But it’s sad nonetheless that we’re losing an event that brought in so many people from out of town. Verdict: That’s Bad!
Local organizations continue to engage through entertainment: It can’t be understated how much events like First Saturdays means when engaging people who may not shop at local businesses. During this past decade, we’ve seen the monthly event have huge success with its wine and art walks, holiday events and special concerts. Along with that, stores like Manic Snail have spearheaded events like Krampusnacht, while traditional activities like the Sounds of Summer and Imagine Eleven Concert Series, the Celtic Street Faire, “Something Else Cabaret,” the Sculpture Walk and Oktjoeberfest brought people out. Most of these didn’t exist a decade ago and it says a lot that they continue to bring crowds. That’s a great thing. Verdict: That’s good!
I ask again — What is going on with The Trail Theater?: I wrote about the lack of progress happening with the Trail Theater in August and not to harp on it more, but its current state, at least from the outside, continues to be disappointing. While the St. Joseph News-Press received a response from its current owners a week after my column ran, it appears like nothing has been done since that piece. Empty light fixtures still hang from the entrance, pieces of the once-beautiful exterior are littered around the property, a flyer for an event that happened in October was placed on one of its doors and remains there now. It’s depressing. Verdict: That’s Bad!
Arts organizations are evolving: In 2018, the Allied Arts Council announced it was putting the annual Trails West! festival on hiatus. It was the right call. The event was having trouble evolving with the times due to rising costs and funding. In other words, it had become stale. That has thankfully not been the case for most events we saw in 2019. Organizations like Robidoux Resident Theater have been experimenting with cinematic quote and sing alongs, the Big Muddy Maker Faire is focusing on technology and its innovations, The Metropolitan saw a big crowd for its first “Drunk Shakespeare” event, River Bluff Brewing is bringing national talent for its Summer Concert Series (which, for transparency, is sponsored by the St. Joseph News-Press) and the St. Joseph Performing Arts Association continues to bring in interesting national performers to the Missouri Theater. If organizers in the city want to have a vibrant, engaged audience for the arts, they have to evolve, and it’s good to see they recognize that. Verdict: That’s good!
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live