Review: Frederick's Music Lounge in St. Louis

I had a band in high school. Smegma. Two screaming MCs, a Hendrix-obsessed rhythm guitarist, a GNR-obsessed lead guitarist (myself), a super raw bass and harmonica player and a great drummer borrowed from the high school’s Pearl Jam and Metallica cover band. For 18 months of my teenage life, I had naïve dreams of musical success, which at that time meant playing anywhere other than basements.

I had a huge Fender Twin amp and factory-second C.C. Deville-looking guitar. I wrote the riffs, and the MCs cranked out the charismatically offensive lyrics. We touched multiple genres: punk, metal, rap, blues. Our sound: bad. It ruled.

We printed a limited-edition set of 12 Smegma t-shirts (of which the band bought nine). The fantasy even went so far as to plan our mythical first St. Louis tour. Barb’s Rendevous on Broadway in Lemay, the Arnold watertower, and Club 367 in North County. Frederick’s the "Music Lounge" didn’t exist then. If it had, Smegma’s tour would have opened there.

The anti-club…
One look at Frederick’s band-schedule flyer shows what drives this South City tavern — not flashy lights, not fancy frou-frou cocktails, not pretty people, not fashion, but all-American, sometimes ass-kicking, sometimes subtle, guitar-driven, dirty rock. Regional and local acts are scheduled on nearly every date on the flyer. Alt-country, alt-rock, jam-bands, surf, hardcore, emo, open mic nights, etc. Their wWeb site lists more than 500 bands who have taken the stage in the "recent months." Cover charges vary, but rarely exceed $7. Musicians start around 9 p.m, playing until 1 a.m.

A common patron: the 25- to -35- year-old, cigarette-smoking, cheap- beer-chugging, The- White- Stripes- listening, denim- and- plaid/plain- button-down- wearing, club-phobic, male city rehabber. You know, your cool-but-quiet neighbor across Morganford. Khakis or skirts need not fret, though. This place is unpretentious enough to welcome anyone who doesn’t act like a self-absorbed yuppie. Come with your friends, with a date, or alone. The regulars sit at the bar. As at most rock concerts, men nearly always outnumber the women at least 3 to-1.

Weekends are more happening than weekdays, but this can all change with a locally buzzing band. If sometimes short on high artistic merit, Thursday’s Noiseday Hootenany is at the very least damn entertaining.

Crowds are sparse before 9 p.m. While the bands play, people most people sip, drag, nod head, repeat, then loudly applaud when the song ends. Volume is kept within reason, allowing shouted conversations if need be. Mondays offer free movies. Dress is decidedly low key in that it doesn’t matter what you wear here. No one really cares. They’re here to drink and rock. Levis and a Rhinelander Beer t-shirt will suffice.

An unassuming South-side house...
Ignore all this crap you heard about hitting the door buzzer and having to say your name before you enter. Frederick’s has a normal entrance. Open the door, pay your cover, and step down the stairs. Yep, down. This is the first thing you notice. The bar is below ground level. Walk past the dead tree and see that Frederick’s is small, very small. With bar and stage taking up one third of open space, there isn’t much room to lounge.

A few round tables with chairs and a few more unpaired chairs lining the wall offer the few places to sit. The 10-by-x7-foot stage sits affront. A hand- painted island-and-sea wall mural half-encircles the floor. Stag and Pabst Blue Ribbon ads, bizarre paintings, a chalkboard drink menu, and a box of faux-dynamite hang from the walls. Bras and panties dangle from the spinning fans. Other than a few lamps, light comes from fluorescent beer signs, and spotlights on the stage and drink -menu.

In the rear, the bar is sheltered by a log-cabin roof. To its left is a little alcove with a Ms. Pac-Man and unmatched captain’s chair and bench seat from a van. A Deer Hunting USA upright videogame sits to the bar’s right. If the Motor City Madman himself Ted Nugent set foot in Frederick’s, not only would he play Deer Hunting USA, he’d have a helluva a time chillin’.

When not showcasing Monday’s film, two TVs usually play now-bizarre films or /videos from our country’s creepy-in-retrospect decade, –the ‘50s. Don’t be freaked out by the young girl feeding, clothing and sleeping with a 4-foot Howdy Doody-looking doll. FML ranks just behind The Way Out Club for kitsch-bombed décor. It’s a mess, but an interesting mess.

On sale...
As evidenced by the décor and owner Freddy Friction’s predilection for wearing a Stag t-shirt, cheap beer reigns and the accompanying high school memories follow. Old Style drafts are $1.50, Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles are $2.25, and the familiar sweet golden can of Stag is $2.25. Happy Hour, everyday 6:00 to 9 p.m. daily, slashes prices even further.

For the rich, Rolling Rock bottles sell for $3, bottles of Heineken $3.50 and cans of Guinness $4. Cocktails vary by alcohol type: $3.50, $4, and $4.50. White and /red wines areis $3 a glass.

Bags of salty snacks to drive your thirst sell for 50 cents.

The straight 411…
For guitar-rock of varying intensity, urbane denim-wearers, and cheap-as-hell beer, head to Frederick’s Music Lounge.