Music is the reason to vacation in St. Louis, Missouri in September. Especially music wrapping around people having so much fun all afternoon and long into the weekend evenings.
Art of all styles is always abundant in this city by the river, but for this special weekend, music fills four stages.
Music at the Intersection is the name of this two-day festival, and 2024 will be the fourth year to blend national acts and local headliners.
The intersection of art and life is a declaration on flower-filled planters throughout the festival footprint.
St. Louis Musical Footprint
Festival planners take that seriously. National and international excellence grounds their lineup and so does emerging St. Louis talent.
“This is community, not corporate” Chris Hansen, executive director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, says. “Music at the Intersection reaches backwards into legacy music and forward with new talent – everything tied to St. Louis.”
SheBuysTravel Tip: Looking to make the most of your travel budget while maximizing the fun? With a wide range of deals on local activities, dining, and experiences, Groupon helps you stretch your budget by offering discounted options near you.
Kranzberg Arts Foundation is a key sponsor, along with the Steward Family Foundation.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Fun still overflows every stage whether you know those performers or not. Groupies who follow certain bands and singers are obvious but others like me were having every bit as good a time. Don’t skip an unknown band or singer.
I went to hear the blues and jazz. Bonus to find plenty of soul and R&B. Seems St. Louis had lots to do with the birth of the American songbook and Music at the Intersection likes making connections to sister cities along the Mississippi River.
Why called intersection? Kranzberg’s Chris Hanson knows multiple reasons.
An Intersection With Many Meanings
“Missouri was the gateway to the west, the intersection of community and exploration, and the stages are actually in an intersection.”
Rock and roll rings out all weekend, so does hip-hop, and the festival footprint shows how one music form influences another. . . and how St. Louis born-or-raised musicians intersect with others.
Like headliner Herbie Hancock – famous for his role with the Miles Davis Quintet, and Miles was a St. Louis guy.
Did you know Chuck Berry and Tina Turner claim St. Louis, Missouri starts too?
Fun and Family
Just having a good time is intention enough. The history lessons of St. Louis musical heritage happen organically. Sometimes an introduction tells a back story. Lots of times DJs talking in front of huge film screens make those connections.
Speech of Arrested Development did so himself. On a Saturday afternoon show with hundreds spilling from the lawns into the street to dance, Speech called his mother up to the stage! Cousins too.
“They’re my inspiration,” he made clear. “Home is my foundation, and my people live nearby.”
Fitting that Arrested Development should draw crowds since 2023 is the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. It was 1991 when their debut album won two Grammys: Best New Artist and Best Rap Single.
Hip-hop and R&B artist Angela Winbush headlined a Saturday stage too, and she’s St. Louis born, with a long string of producing, songwriting, singing credentials, plus #1 hits and Howard University bona fides in music education, architecture and city planning.
St. Louis Art Museum
SLAM – the St. Louis Art Museum in the expansive Forest Park – delved into hip-hop and contemporary art for a special Comprehensive exhibition called “The Culture: Hip-Hop and Contemporary Art.”
The language of hip-hop in words and visuals, symbols and adornment, tributes and suggestions are stunning. It’s possible to breeze through, admiring color and design.
But triggering the QR codes to hear the music, and reading the succinct signage tells oh-so-much more.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Hip-hop is way more insightful than I allowed myself to see, before this exhibit. Experiencing the art museum’s perspective opened many ways to pay attention to the festival performances.
Audience is a Place to Dance
So many songs exploded into dancing and smiling energy—-familiar tunes or new ones.
“Everyday People” launched with Sly and the Family Stone, right? But oh the joy dancing at Music at the Intersection to every familiar note.
Different dancing styles worked at different stages too. Stand in place because it’s crowded, and wave your arms. Or really join a line dance with new-found friends.
What to Bring With You
Instructive what savvy music festival-goers brought with them. Empty, insulated bottle to refill at free water stations for starters.
- Umbrellas for shade
- Heavy-duty noise protectors for baby and toddler ears.
- Pop-open chairs in easy-tote bags
Things To Do Nearby
Because Music at the Intersection happens in the Grand Center Arts District, lots of other things to do beckon. Since it felt impossible to see all 50 acts in two days, I slipped away a few times.
The Pulitzer Arts Foundation is a two-block walk from Music at the Intersection on Washington Avenue. Sounds like a non-profit office but it’s a distinctive two-tower architectural inspiration.
This building with its long flowing water feature between those towers is the inspiration of Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
Three permanent installations are the only things to see on a repeat visit; exhibitions always change. . . and are influenced by some aspect of the permanent works.
Expect Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra and Scott Burton.
And they never have title cards! Just think your thoughts—-or look around for a not-so-obvious card with some artist info. Feels like noticing fine art in a friend’s home.
The Contemporary Art Museum is right next door to the Pulitzer! Talk about easy access to art that’s free to see! Free and accessible are St. Louis culture distinctions.
These galleries turn over three times a year, always exhibiting new works. Nothing is permanent here.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Just gaze at whatever’s displayed but also consider this CAM philosophy as you do: How can art function as a vehicle for reconsidering one’s relationship with the world?
Another way to load up on contemporary art is booking your overnights at the Angad Arts Hotel right next to the festival footprint or the 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis a bit further away near the City Museum and CITYPARK Stadium.
Dinner at Idol Wolf is another path to art because it’s inside the 10-story 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis, once a YMCA. An orange penguin sculpture is likely to perch at your table, and paintings by Cuban artist Carlos Gamez de Francisco overlook the dining tables.
Almonds seasoned with cayenne, paprika and thyme, then roasted in olive oil, paired with a bottle of something bubbly sets the tone to sharing tapas.
One small plate ought to include the distinctive endive with whipped goat cheese and oranges.
One street of the festival continues the art in big ways all year long.
The Walls Off Washington are bold, colorful, storytelling murals. Just like the Intersection festival music, this art can simply be seen, or the back stories of what the artists had in mind is accessible in an illustrated booklet inside Sophie’s Artist Lounge.
The big faces painted by Chicago-born Nina Chanel Abney, for instance, suggest – she says – our fast-paced, frenetic world needs a new type of history painting, grounded in the barrage of everyday events.
Inside Sophie’s is a very red mural by Katherine Bernhardt. Kind of fun to know she paints with her canvas on the floor, using spray paint and puddles of acrylic.
The Walls Off Washington are another project of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation.
Food Trucks at the Intersection
Food trucks are the way to eat before and after shows in the Big Top, really a circus stage that features Circus Flora a different time of year. It’s red, and inviting.
Choose food trucks for treats and meals to take to every stage seating area.
Seems these aren’t just any food trucks, but the ones curated by Sauce Magazine, a St. Louis resource of all things culinary.
Long lines formed in front of Cajun Seduction, Craft Cocktails and Where Bourbon Street Meets St. Louis. Families seemed drawn more to Food Truk (right, no letter c), Noodle Truck, Wok Roll and the three sweets food trucks.
The trucks were all gathered like an event of their own near the Washington Avenue murals, at the back door of Sophie’s Artists Lounge so that made muising about the murals a likely experience.
The Gateway Arch
Just as the musicians at the intersection festival are icons, and hip-hop is a whopping 50 years old, the St. Louis Arch is too spectacular not to see up close, and historic also. 1963-65 are its construction years.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Too hard to leave a festival performance option, so arrive a day early or stay later to get to this gateway in a different intersection. Learn a lot at the National Park museum at ground level (or consider emerging lessons about American history) but for sure: notice the white-light displays on the walls as you wait for your five-person tram to the top. Brilliant info about the construction you are about to trust.
Here’s what to expect: Accessibility is not simple, so check ahead. Book a ticket and a time ($17 adult). Go up one side and down the same side. Peer out of narrow windows on top for 10 minutes: one side the river, the other the old courthouse where the Dred Scott decision was made.
Five people in a tram to the top, knee to knee.