It’s so good to be back. The joy on Cory Castro’s face as the lyrics to Free Throw’s opening song, “Cloud Sick” drift through the dark, intimate basement venue of The Duck Room in St. Louis was mirrored by many fans, including myself, on Friday January 28. Back in St. Louis on their Piecing It Together Tour, Free Throw revisit the city after having to cancel their tour with The Wonder Years due to covid.
It has been 686 days since I have been to a concert. Six Hundred and Eighty SIX excruciating days. The last show I attended also included Free Throw. The Wonder Years were in St. Louis, on a bill with Free Throw, Spanish Love Songs and Pool Kids and it was the LAST concert date before everyone went into lockdown for two weeks to “flatten the curve.” I threw caution to the wind and braved the sticky floors of the Ready Room in the Grove (RIP venue). Cut to almost two years, three variants, a wedding and a baby later I hadn’t really had time or felt comfortable going to a concert even when I was vaccinated. Free Throw did a really superb job making the fans more safe at their latest 2022 PIT show, with proof of vaccination or negative covid test required for entry and a mask mandate, I felt better about attending, bringing my sister and my 17 year old nephew along for his very first concert and my return to live shows and concert photography felt fitting to have them along. The performance was incredible, I smiled, I danced, I took pictures, screamed the lyrics to “Randy I am the Liquor,” cried to “Cerulean City” and promised myself I would make more time for this because I missed it so immensely.
Bad Luck.’s 2021 album Summer of Pain has been described by Spinning Thoughts alum Elliott Spagat as, “Each song on the album really swings for the fences in terms of quality.” Bad Luck. is a band, not unlike Free Throw, who really commit onstage and pour their hearts into the music and the performance. Song after song in Bad Luck.’s set I grew more and more impressed by their execution and instrumental prowess paired with their passionate delivery.
Camp Trash graced us with a new song, “Lake Eerie Boys,” touting a classic rock vibe and played “Bobby,” “Sleepyhead” and pretty much all the songs off their EP Downtiming, since there were only four tracks. Camp Trash has had no shortage of support from the indie music outlets with their 2021 album Downtiming being heralded as “an exceptional listening experience” and “a near perfect debut EP,” the springy emo rock was the ultimate musical appetizer for Free Throw and Bad Luck.
Free Throw is celebrating their 10th anniversary, and like a well oiled machine this band delivers an incredible show every time I see them. Free Throw’s 2021 release, Piecing it Together, was prominent through the set and was a wonderful mix with PIT tracks “Worry Seed” and “Ocular Pat Down,” sprinkling in What’s Past is Prologue tracks like “You Don’t Say That” and Bear Your Mind fan-favorite “Randy, I am the Liquor,” to which Castro dedicated to the city of St. Louis after the last visit left him with a gnarly hangover and having to face the end of the tour. The crowd starts to ramp up to this one, trying to crowd surf but really letting loose with each opening chorus of “Drunk In My Room, Alone Again.” The sticky riffs and evocative lyrics of “You Don’t Say That” grip you by the ribs in the small venue, you can feel the drums echoing back at you from within your bones and just as a smirk appears on my face, Castro does a 360 spin on stage and I’m smiling like an idiot, just so happy to see people doing what they love again. Whether what they love is playing or seeing music, it’s all beautiful to be part of again.
Hearing a venue sing along to “Two Beers In” was exactly what I needed. The Piecing It Together Tour has concluded now but Free Throw, Camp Trash and Bad Luck will surely be back. Three extremely talented bands, I am confident will all continue to make moves and turn out incredible music in the future.
All photos credited to Jessi McKee