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Kentucky Knife Fight's music evokes images of smoky bars where wood paneling lines the walls, rooms and worlds covered in shadow and stained with liquor. The St. Louis five piece create songs about desperate people doing desperate things in places they shouldn't be. But the worlds they sing about aren't all dark. They have songs about living in the moment, teenage recklessness, that freedom you feel at the wheel and of course... sex. All of this built by a thick framework of riffs and rhythms that are rough and raw around the edges. There is a seductiveness to their music that draws you in while the driving bass and drums force you to move. If there is a jukebox at the end of the universe you will find Kentucky Knife Fight between The Stooges and Tom Waits.
As the Gateway to the West, the promise of leaving St. Louis was built into the prospect of arriving here; her arch functions as an ironic symbol of something to pass through, that which you don’t look at but look beyond. But for those who stay, like the five-piece punk-blues wrecking crew Kentucky Knife Fight, this unswept city itself finds a voice in their sound. Like the dark side of a postcard, unfamiliar unless you live there, their newest songs are inhabited by the city’s criminals and carrion – its lonely, displaced, and desperate. Their city is poised on the precarious edge between southern hospitality and northern cynicism, between bourbon in a pitcher and lukewarm beers that you have to open yourself.
Kentucky Knife Fight have grown along with the city, returning after relentless touring with an increasingly acute perspective of the hardships inherent in St. Louis life. Like the scene itself, they have seen their own youthful angst become introspection and insight; what were once accidental riffs have become anthems; and opening for national acts have yielded performances that were not only memorable, but mattered. Their music is world-weary but hopeful; grace is never enough to save the unsavory; and just because you love something doesn’t mean that it’s good for you.
Pulling St. Louis with them like an always-almost-broke-down trailer across the country, the band is but one of a growing armada of ambassadors in every medium, renewing the city’s vital voice in American art. As it has nurtured its native son Pokey LaFarge, who can be heard on Jack White’s newest record, the city’s community-based initiatives, collective spaces, and galleries are fostering progressive ways to imagine performance-based art. Newly influential again, St. Louis is listening to Kentucky Knife Fight tell its story; they were named “Best Rock Band” twice by the Riverfront Times, but that feels less like an award than an announcement. Because Kentucky Knife Fight are too hungry to be tired; too restless to rest; and too stubborn to stop.