Video Field Work: Soccer @ Cherokee Park

All of us getting emotional, but with vastly different triggers. You might let go of a stray tear when attending a weepie movie, I might be overtaken when attending a soccer match. Like, you know, we’re different.

For me, though, heading to Cherokee Park over the weekend brought back a variety of fun memories, as I coached many, many, many losses (er, games) at that exact spot. But that’s history. Now, every Saturday and Sunday, at both noon and 1:30, kids from City middle schools are playing soccer, in a league that’s geared towards teams that would fall outside of the long-running CYC. Playing under the auspices of the soccer-in-the-city group known as New Dimensions, this league was formed by a parent, DJ Wilson; though he might deflect credit elsewhere. But he called the schools, found the refs, got things moving.

Now, in the shadow of The Brewery, kids are running around on a Saturday, both boys and girls kicking a ball with a bit of competition on the line. The games might be a bit rough, owing to many of the players being relatively new to the game, but there’s definitely some talent on the field, too. More than a couple of these kids will wind up fleshing out high school teams in the next year, or two, and the experience they’re gaining at Cherokee will be a big part of that.

More importantly, of course, they’re simply getting exercise, having fun with friends, learning teamwork.

On Saturday, with two girls teams squaring off at noon, this semester’s videographer, Andy Alton, captured some the scene. In a few weeks, we’ll share the results. Which, for me, might require a nearby hankie.

Profile/Interview with Tony Esterly, Shock City Studios

As noted last week, I’ll toss some South Side-related stories onto the site, written by students in my classes at Webster University. This pair of pieces on Tony Esterly of Shock City Studios includes a profile and interview (turned in second and first, respectively). Thanks to the writer for the reprint option and the subject for the same.

A Master of the Music Biz

By Nathan Golomski

Walking into Shock City Studios can be an intimidating thing for a young aspiring audio engineer. This $3-million facility can quickly blow anyone’s mind with its huge recording space, countless pieces of gear, and a 48 channel audio board, but for Shock City’s head engineer, Tony Esterly, these things are as easy to operate as a television set. Over the years, Esterly has recorded blue grass, rap, rock, country, and every music in between. Watching him work is like watching a master painter, but instead of different colored paint, he has knobs- hundreds and hundreds of knobs- each one allowing him to bend sound to his will. Though the studio control room may seem like his natural habitat, he was not always behind the board.

Esterly was always attracted to music, even as a young child. He first started playing music by learning the piano but eventually moved on to have his main instrument be guitar. His skill and love for music grew throughout high school and he decided to study jazz guitar and studio recording at Greenville College. His stay at the college was short lived. After only a year of college, his band, The LP Outsiders, began picking up more and more work. They started touring and even got signed for a recording deal. Esterly got his first taste of the real recording business, recording with his band in New York and Nashville. But even this eventually came to an end. “[We] kind of were going to make it,” Esterly reflected. “We ended up getting really close, but it didn’t happen.”

The band eventually made its way down to St. Louis.  Each member getting settled into the city their own way and the group eventually separated. Esterly quickly found his niche in the city playing guitar in various bands and for recording sessions. He eventually met Doug Firley and Christ Loesch, the owners of Shock City Studios. Esterly would play guitar and bass on recordings for Firley and Loesch and even started helping with producing albums. When Firley and Loesch decided to build their current facility three years ago, it was an easy decision for them to keep Esterly around.

Although Esterly has a well established St. Louis presence as a head engineer and guitar player for several popular bands, he admits that St. Louis still may not be his final destinationHe’sconsidered moving to cities where the recording industry is larger, such as LA, Nashville, or New York. “Really, I don’t know why I haven’t,” Esterly pondered. “I think if opportunities arose, I’d take them. You’d be stupid not to take opportunities and try to make something happen.” -30-

Five Questions for Tony Esterly

By Nathan Golomski

Chicago native Tony Esterly, 33,  might look like the stereotypical crazy rocker, wailing on guitar and tattoos all down his arms, but when you talk to him you can see that is a humble yet well accomplished musician and recording engineer. I went down to Shock City Studios, where Tony is head engineer, and sat down in front of the massive SSL 6060 audio board in Control Room A to chat with him.

How’d you get into music recording?
I was always attracted to music as a kid, it was first with piano and then guitar and then a band I played in, we recorded a lot in Nashville, sometimes in New York and other places. And I always liked the producing and engineering side of it and decided I wanted to learn how to do that, pursue that as a career.

Did you go to college for recording and music?
I did for a year in 1997. I went to Greenville College to study studio recording and jazz guitar. The band I was in got signed, we got a publishing deal and a manager picked us up from Nashville. We toured around for a couple years, did the NACA circuit (National Association for Campus Activities). Kind of were going to make it. We ended up getting really close but it didn’t happen. The band was called LP Outsiders. It was basically the Black Eyed Peas, but ten years ago.

Do you have any career goals?
Yes! Grammy record. I want to produce a number one single. That goal is kind of general and broad sweeping, but it encompasses a lot of stuff. I could say I want to do it in this genre or that genre, but I really think in any genre that it happens, it’s going to be alright.

How did you end up in St. Louis and engineering at Shock City Studios?
The band I was playing in, they had all moved here together after college and I stayed in St. Louis for a while and started working here: playing sessions, playing in bands, doing everything I could to stick with music in St. Louis. I met Doug and Chris (the studio owners) through some mutual friends and I did a couple of sessions on guitar and bass and just kept doing work for them when they would produce albums. I met them about six years ago and then started working and playing for them about four years ago.

What is your favorite music to record?
It changes every year. Sometimes I like country music. Right now I like dance and electronica. Sometimes it’s just regular rock’n’roll. It’s constantly changing. That’s the good thing about music.

Bonus Tracks 

Do you plan to stay in St. Louis?
I think if opportunities arose, I would take them. You’d be stupid not to take opportunities and try to make something happen. I’ve thought about moving to Nashville, New York, or LA. Really, I don’t know why I haven’t. I know guys who work in each of those studios and it’s not much different than here except there’s more people, more studios, more BS involved too. It’s the same thing just on a bigger scale.

Do you have hobbies outside of recording and playing music?
I like running. Bike riding is good. I like to hang out and drink beers. The weird thing about loving music and making it your job is that it kind of turns itself around on you. Sometimes it starts as a hobby, then turns into a career and the love you have for it changes over time. It kind of plays tricks on you too sometimes, where you got to stay ahead of what you really want to do, what you really love, and remember that you need to take a break from the stuff you love too. Because if you don’t do that, you’re going to drive yourself nuts.

A great sandwich place, Blues City Deli, is just around the corner from here. What’s your favorite sandwich from there?
Number 2. That’s a  Sicilian Po Boy. But I can’t eat that all the time. I usually just have to get the turkey. I used to weigh 300 and something pounds. I used to work in a music shop, fix guitars, and give lesson. I just didn’t care. I’d just go there everyday and eat pizza all day. -30-



Audio Field Work: The Heavy Anchor

It wasn’t so long that ago that I’d already turned a jaded eye towards The Heavy Anchor. No reason for doing so, just being a jerk. But we’ve all done it: you hear about a place, then you hear about it some more, then there’s that next wave of attention. And some of this is nothing more than anecdotes, people saying that they’d been there; it’s not like they were battering anyone with a never-ending parade of ads and marketing. Gosh, isn’t buzz supposed to be a good thing?

But upon finally going there, I couldn’t help but like the place. It’s scrappy. It’s comfortable. It’s run by young folks who care. And did I mention the great beer selection? Really, there’s not a set reason to dislike the joint. So, when I decided to bust out a story about bars on Gravois, it was easy to not only feature them, but to laud their many charms.

Last week, Jamie Thomason, this fall’s audio interpreter for this site, dropped by with me and we chatted with owners Jodi Whitworth and Johsua Timbrook. About their current state, about their plans, about their neighborhood. The piece, hopefully, will hint at two people who wanted to open a bar, but wound signing on for all sorts of extra duty. They’ve mastered the art of collecting licenses from the City and state. They’ve become goodwill ambassadors for the Gravois corridor. And they’ve learned to mix drinks, no doubt about it. To date, everything’s gone relatively smoothly, but with tons of effort behind every move forward.

We wish them well and I, myself, look forward to hearing the podcast dedicated to their efforts.

For Pete Stein

There’ll be a few benefits and fundraisers in coming days, weeks and months for a young man from the Tower Grove East neighborhood. But he was living in the Pacific Northwest when a life-altering injury beset him there earlier this week. Pete Stein comes from one of the real, rock-solid families on the South Side and between the whole lot of them, plenty of folks around here either know Pete, personally, or someone very closely related to him.

Right now, MoKaBe’s is accepting cash donations to help with Pete’s hospital costs, as well as allowing his family some travel money for visits to Portland. This great, linchpin, neighborhood-based business will also be donating a large share of proceeds from their popular weekly brunch on Sunday, September 18, for the same cause. Other area restaurants will be making similar arrangements in September, with at least one event coming up at The Royale in the next two weeks.

My understanding is that even early-on in his recovery, he’s maintained his general spirit and that’s good to hear. Which is to say, a free-spirited guy, with a wisecrack for every occasion. Maybe we’ll get a sense to sample his personality first-hand, soon. Even if not, here’s to sending goodwill his way, with an extra inducement to this effect: if you can, drop a few dollars in the bucket at MoKaBe’s. May the generosity come back to you, in myriad ways.

(There’s also a South Grand’s Pete Stein Fund, set up by MoKaBe’s folks at Facebook. It’s right here.)

Cross-Posting: UE

We’ve returned from a mental holiday to throw out a link to a story from the heart of the South Side, an urban exploration trip to the Stone Center, on Brannon, near Fyler. Despite finding access points to dozens of quirky, abandoned and unloved places around the region, this spot never got any visitation until this past week.

If you mus read it, please enjoy.

Full Stephanie Skaggs Interview

When our video subject Stephanie Skaggs passed, I asked Tyler about the possibility of our clipping together the full interview with her, which covered her job at Frank’s First Alarm and as a tuckpointer. Upon returning to school this fall, he was able to get at the files and upload the total conversation with her from our afternoon at Frank’s. Maybe a beer, or two, was had after the discussion, which included talk inside and outside the bar, ending with a brief clip of her mentioning a turtle, which had turned up outside the bar just that morning. She’d planned on giving it to her daughter as a pet later that day.

Kinda felt that the full interview might be appreciated by friends and family, so here ’tis.

“My Name is Haji Haji”

Last week, the St. Louis Fimmakers Showcase played the documentary short “My Name is Haji Haji,” which I worked on with Brian Spath. I had another short on the same bill, but in picking up Tyler DePerro, the DP/editor of “The South Side of Luck: Frank’s First Alarm,” he and I showed up late enough to miss both works. At some point in time, that’ll become an amusing anecdote, brought on by just a classic run of bad luck and weird circumstance. So goes life. For now, I’ll just remain miffed.

If things had broken a bit different, young Haji would’ve been in St. Louis to see his mini-doc on the screen of the Tivoli, too, but he wound up visiting Saint Louis during the wrong month this summer, missing the the showing by a couple weeks. Luckily, there’s the web, and the short “My Name is Haji Haji” can live there for a good, long while.

At the time of the shooting of the video, the fall of 2009, Haji was already living in North City. But he was a South Sider for about four years prior to that, part of a large, growing population of Somalis that’ve taken root in our city. He’s a real corker, with a curious, hyper-talkative way of expressing himself and watching him in new situations immediately got me to thinking of ways to feature the kid in his own video series, which we envisioned as “I Am Haji Haji.” But as soon as Brian and I started the project, his family first moved North, to an immigrant-centric housing complex on the City/Wellston border, followed by a more dramatic move to Lewiston, Maine.

We initially envisioned a variety of fun scenarios for Haji to get into, from cooking goat (a Somali specialty) to visiting new places and working/visiting with the crew, like at the City Museum or at Zoo. Who knows what it could’ve turned into? This summer, I tried to get back to the concept, but things didn’t click again. A new camera proved trickier than I thought, Haji got his job back at the flea market, then poof! he was gone again.

He’s a wacky kid, though, with an interesting, curious way of looking at the world. I’m happy that Brian dusted off the old tape and put together this short, shot over four sessions with him, most of them after his move to Maine was announced. Enjoy.

(Cross-posted with And thanks to DJ Wilson should’ve been in the credits, but we’ll add them here.)

A Historical What-Not

For what it’s worth, the official meeting place for South Side of Luck confabs, O’Connell’s Pub, had a brief historical note come into play today. It was 39 years ago that O’Connell’s shuttered in Gaslight Square. So, on August 15, 1972, the last surviving vestige of the Square closed up shop, and the South Side gained an institution. So, in a couple weeks, another anniversary, as the first day of operation in the new space hits a 39th birthday.

Just found that interesting. That’s all.

The Painted Ad: A Wm. Stage Joint

No matter where Wm. Stage lays his head these days, he’s a South Sider in my book.

Recently, he worked on a book of postcards with his teenaged daughter. The result is simply titled “The Painted Ad.”

A couple months back, I emailed Wm. some questions. I got back a batch recently, with the caveat that more answers were coming. They have not, yet. Oh, well, it’s cool. I’ll print up what I got. While noting that Chad Garrison of the RFT got a bit more, if you’re inclined to read more on the topic.

When did you start noticing/photographing these signs?
The first wall signs to attract my interest were in the mid-70s up in the NW. I was living in Olympia, WA and it was on a trip Bellingham that I saw old wall signs for Nesbitt’s Orange Soda and for an old confectionery “H. Hansen Cigars – Candy.”  When I got to St. Louis in 1978 I was in “the field” every day as part of my job with the Health Dept and I began seeing all sorts of great old signs tucked away in the old n’hoods, both north and south, and I began carrying my camera with me. There is an old Royal Patent Flour wall on Itaska at Mt. Pleasant, as I recall, and of course the high profile Admiral The New Cigarette wall stood at No Grand Circle for years until they razed the bldg about 10 years ago. That was a really interesting one because it’s billed at the new cigarette when no one living today had ever heard of it. Also the slogan read “Not Made By A Trust” likely dating it to the presidency of T. Roosevelt 1904 – 08 who was known for trust busting.

Many, many people affiliate you with a picture, prominently using “Brains” in the image. Is that your most famous?
In my mind the “Brains” photo aka Harvey’s Sandwich System and Lane’s Truck Stop Diner is just another wall sign photo in my extensive collection EXCEPT for the distinction that is has made me a lot of money via sales of postcards and posters.

How did this book of cards come together?
The Painted Ad is a book of postcard images put together by my daughter Margaret and me last summer. It came out in March and we have had 10 book signings with one more to go:  The Kirkwood Public Library 9-10-11 Local Author Book Fair 10 am to 3 pm. The original wall signs book, Ghost Signs, came out 1989 and sold out around 2005, yet there was still interest in the subject. I got the idea of a postcard book from seeing a similar book about Iowa barns, Still Standing, by Michael Harker. Margaret’s role was to help me pick the images and lay them out, giving special thought as to juxtaposition. We are now adding content to a web site,, pictures and text, and she is absolutely essential to this task as her father is helpless when it comes to  downloading, uploading, creating links and all the things that go into successful desktop publishing — a subject in which she just earned an A during summer school at WG high school. We are a good team. We are receiving tutorials on desktop from Michael Kilfoy, Studio X, in Maplewood. The website should be up and running next month.

(Photo attached by Wm. Stage.)

Death, Taxes, Scrappers

Just a quick bit of background.

I live in a house. On the South Side. It has a garage. This is a unique garage; from my understanding, it’s a metal shed made available via catalog during the early part of the last century. The only other place I’ve seen this model is on the back of a property abutting St. Marcus Park on Gravois. So when the City cited me for some (admittedly overdue) changes to the rusting composition of said garage, I definitely wanted to save the structure. It’s served the property for a good, long while and deserves another few years.

Yesterday, after a work crew from Moore Construction got done with the tear-off of the shed’s roof, a new topping was added. It might not have quite the character of the old one, but also has zero-percent of the rust, a definite gain, on the whole. The old metal was left in the alley.

This was determined later, aurally. At dusk, I began hearing the distinct sound of metal being banged about. It happened for a minute, or two, then another couple. At that point, I had a mild panic that an enterprising local businessman had begun disassembling the new, maybe unsecured roof. My worries were unfounded. Instead, I crept out of my yard, only to see a small car, absolutely loaded down with metal, making its way down the narrow alleyway. Getting nearer to dumpsters, it actually had to veer left and right, since the old roof, now broken down into six, maybe seven panels, was both horizontally and vertically sticking out of the tiny vehicle. By which I mean: out of the trunk, out of the back windows, and, improbably, balancing against the roof of the car. The most interesting piece of the old roof was the ornate ridgeline, which ran the length of the garage. Eventually, the ridgeline was attacked by (and attached to) thick vines, which died and built a sort of natural headdress on the front of the structure.

Yesterday, with the sun setting, I looked down the alley and there went that headdress, along with the rest of the roof, not having been torn away for six-hours. There was something profound that moment, and not a camera was in-hand. Oh, well.

In the City you count on certain things. I’ll take the trio of death, taxes and scrappers as lasting examples.