Jeremiah Johnson Band Brings the Blues to TEDxGatewayArch
TEDx events are known as platforms for modern-day innovators, free thinkers and visionaries to share their latest pursuits with a broader audience. But it’s not often that these events bring hard-rocking live music to the same stage—that is, except for the TEDxGatewayArch series. After all, it wouldn’t be a local take on TED without a little taste of St. Louis blues.
The Jeremiah Johnson Band, a local blues-rock institution now beginning to make waves overseas, is on the roster at TEDxGatewayArch event “Crash Course” on Sept. 12 at The Pageant in The Delmar Loop. And to hear frontman Jeremiah Johnson tell it, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about this juxtaposition of local thought leaders and music. “Anyone who gets up there and [gives a talk] is somehow a creative person—for coming up with innovative thoughts and ideas and discoveries—so I think it’s a perfect fit to have musicians playing alongside,” he says.
For Johnson, a musician with a long list of collaborators and influences, the concept of a “Crash Course” which centers on the idea of creative collisions hits close to home as well. “To me, ‘creative collision’ means that you bring people from different backgrounds together—and you never know whose idea might trigger a new avenue for you,” he explains.
St. Louis itself historically sits squarely at the crossroads of different regional music styles. “St. Louis has a long tradition of being a music center that dates back quite a while, because St. Louis was the Gateway to the West. It was the middle of the country, right on the Mississippi River, so you could go all the way up north or down south to New Orleans and such.”
While the region’s status as a central locus may have changed over time with the advent of air travel, the city’s talent continues to create a sort of musical network where all roads lead back to St. Louis. “I think that a lot of people tend to think of St. Louis as sort of a flyover city, but we’ve got a lot of great musicians here,” says Johnson. “And what’s funny is, although people don’t think of it as a music hub like they might think of Nashville or New Orleans or Austin, if you look around at the musicians in those bands, a lot of them are from St. Louis—they just migrated to other cities to join other bands and then they tour all over. So you might see bands that are ‘from other cities’, but guess what? The musicians are from here.”
What St. Louis continues to offer in terms of opportunity for “creative collision” is integral to Johnson’s musical path, as well as that of many others in the local scene. Johnson describes his music as a mix of Southern rock, country and blues—a cultural cross-pollination in and of itself, which he feels is “a true representation of where we live in St. Louis, being in the middle of the country.” And while he’s quick to acknowledge the toll that the pitfalls of city life can take, Johnson will always continue to call it home. “Culture doesn’t reside in safe places,” he says. “To have a real culture, it requires having all different types of people together with different backgrounds. You can’t go out to a gated community and feel like you’re getting a cultural experience.”
General admission and VIP tickets are available online for the TEDxGatewayArch “Crash Course,” which will feature five 18-minute talks as well as sets from musicians including the Jeremiah Johnson Band.
TEDx events are independently run, with a goal of sharing ideas within communities—and in St. Louis, all of those on stage must have local connections. Featured entertainers and speakers at The Pageant on Sept. 12 include Wally Siewert, director of civic engagement for FOCUS St. Louis; Yvonne Osei, a visual and performance artist and curator in residence at COCA; Jean Ponzi, green resources manager at the EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden; and an African youth drum-and-dance troupe with Geoffrey Soyiantet, founder, president and executive director of Vitendo4Africa.
Images courtesy of Norma Hinojosa.
This post is brought to you in part by the mentioned organization. Thank you for supporting the companies that keep ALIVE and Guided growing.