Thursday, August 28, 2014

Music SPACE showcases innovative local musicians downtown.

This Friday, a pair of local singer-songwriters, Jasmine Tate and Michael Cali, perform at SPACE Gallery downtown, as part of an ongoing music series entitled Music SPACE.

The idea for the series, which aims to showcase "some of the best and most interesting musical talent in the Pittsburgh area," came about when Amy Staggs, curatorial assistant at Wood Street Galleries, and Murray Horne, head curator, decided to expand their infrequent concerts at SPACE into a regular happening.

Amy, who previously booked shows at Club Cafe, reached out to the City Paper's music editor, Andy Mulkerin, for guidance on which local bands might best fit the gallery's aesthetic.

"We saw an opportunity to grow the mission of SPACE ('to realize a working example of an integrated and open art ecosystem in Pittsburgh') by planting a local music seed in the soil of the gallery," says Staggs. "We have several gallery attendants who play in bands and attend a lot of shows, and their energy around integrating live local music in SPACE has been contagious and eye-opening."

The first installment, in May, featured local indie rockers Wreck Loose alongside electronica artist Troxum. "It was two very different bands," says Mulkerin, "but that's sort of what makes it interesting and makes it work."

The second installment of the series, in July, saw ambient dream pop trio Sleep Experiments paired with experimental "melting pop" group The Van Allen Belt.

"We're trying to put together a couple acts that are different enough that they're bringing in different people, but we want it to make sense," says Mulkerin.

While attendees might expect something similar to VIA, Pittsburgh's annual art and music mash-up festival, both Staggs and Mulkerin deny a direct influence. 

"What Lauren, Quinn, and crew have done is fantastic," says Staggs. "While I can’t say that VIA was a specific influence in starting Music SPACE, we both have the mission of engaging and advocating for local music acts."

"It's not like when you have a band at an art opening, and the band is sort of a secondary thing," says Mulkerin. "This is a music event first and foremost."

Mulkerin also points out the novelty of having local bands perform downtown, "where there isn't a whole lot of live music besides jazz that happens."

"It's a chill thing. It's inexpensive. It's not some huge show that's gonna take 4 hours. It's a nice thing at an in-between time on a Friday night, maybe after you've gotten dinner and a drink downtown."

You can listen to a track by Tate on the City Paper's website. They describe her as having a "R&B/Soul vibe...with some acoustic material mixed in."

Upcoming performances include YXU and Ennui, on September 26, and Brooke Annibale with special guest on October 24. Admission costs just $5. SPACE is located at 812 Liberty Ave, downtown. Doors at 8, Music at 8:30.

-- B. Conway

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bleachers at Mr. Smalls - August 30, 2014 - Preview and Ticket Giveaway

Jack Antonoff of Bleachers
The band called fun. has yet to follow up their 2012 breakthrough, Some Nights, and how can you blame them? Topping such an unprecedented level of commercial success must be a daunting task for any band, especially when it came so unexpectedly. Nevertheless, they’ve kept busy in the interim, with Nate Ruess popping up in many high-profile features, and guitarist Jack Antonoff even started a new band. On Saturday, he’s bringing that project to Mr. Smalls.

Bleachers released their debut LP Strange Desire back in July, and it’s mostly as bubblegummy and accessible as Some Nights. Hell, lead single “I Wanna Get Better” reads like a close cousin to “It Gets Better” from fun.’s latest record. Despite the similarities between these related pop-alternative projects, Antonoff has stressed in interviews that Strange Desire was constructed in a far different fashion, since he was alone for a majority of the songwriting process.

Pittsburgh Music Report is hosting a giveaway for their Mr. Smalls show. To enter for a chance to win, simply email your name to with “Bleachers” in the subject line. A winner will be announced Friday morning. 

Tickets for the show are available via Ticketweb. $25. 

-- Shawn Cooke

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chancellor Warhol at the Andy Warhol Museum - Concert Review and Photos - August 23, 2014

Chancellor Warhol at the Andy Warhol Museum, 8/23/14. All photos (c) PMR.
Chancellor Warhol, Nashville MC and namesake of Andy Warhol, performed at the artist's museum Saturday with some artistry of his own.

It was a short, rapid fire set, barely 40 minutes long. Chance performed without a hype man but rather a drummer/keyboardist. He opened with "Collapse," the lead track from his new album, Paris is Burning. "Otherside," a song Chance wrote the day after he opened for Kendrick Lamar, was spit out nearly twice as fast as on the album.

Maybe it's best there was no hype man, because Chance would have left him in his wake. Running up and down the aisles, Chance, outfitted in torn jeans, stylish t-shirt, and leather ball cap, sang directly to the fans, slowing down only to thank everyone for coming out.

"Where my dreamers at? This one goes out to all the artists, all the creatives."

Like Andy, Chance stocks his repertoire from the heady stream of pop culture. His songs namecheck the likes of Marlon Brando and Jackie O – both the subject of famous Warhol portraits – as well designer labels, artists, and musicians of all stripes: The Black Keys, van Gogh, Dior, Jay-Z. Musically, he rapped over M83 and quoted Rick Ross in the span of a few minutes.

One rapper I didn't hear mentioned, but seems an obvious parallel, is Kanye West. Yeezy is the (self-proclaimed) standard bearer for that certain haute couture, rapper-as-artist persona. Both artists have a smooth delivery and a tendency to draw out the vowels on certain words. Kanye had "Niggaz in Paris," Chance's new album is called Paris is Burning.

Thankfully, Chance can do Kanye without all the Kanye. There's a genuineness to Chance. He appreciates art and high fashion – he went to school for design, after all - so his lyrics aren't just price-tag braggadocio. Like Andy before him, Chancellor Warhol takes pop culture minutia and elevates it into something profound.

He ended his set "The Kennedy's," a memorable track that ends with Chance shouting the proclamation "keep a black girl in that White House" again and again. Before the track he urged those in the crowd to look him up on Twitter. "I invite you to follow my journey if you find it fits yours."

Here are a few photos from the performance: 

-- B. Conway

Monday, August 18, 2014

United Nations at the Smiling Moose - Concert Review - August 14, 2014

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do."


As Geoff Rickly grows up with his fanbase, his Warped Tour fatigue becomes more and more apparent. In many ways, United Nations is a reactionary project to his prolific run with Thursday. He’s described it as an outlet to release aggression, but in many ways, it’s a more relaxed project than we’re used to. Powered by Rickly’s bracing screamo-black metal vocals and propulsive blast beats, United Nations sounds as urgent and dead-serious as Deafheaven (Rickly refers to the band as his “little brothers”, since Kerry McCoy has cited him as a formative influence), but from a lyrical standpoint, his tongue is planted firmly in cheek.

On Thursday night at The Smiling Moose, Rickly displayed that fatigue right from the start, asking fans to “come closer, squeeze on up here. There won’t be any moshing or stage dives tonight.” The band’s second LP, The Next Four Years, would suggest a frenzy of a live environment, but Rickly wanted to keep things a little more tame – much like Michael Gira did in Pittsburgh a month earlier.

The band mostly stuck to The Next Four Years, but seemed just as committed to their “banned” self-titled debut. Although “Serious Business” is anything but, Rickly also provided amusing contexts to the older songs like “Model UN” and “Resolution 9,” which he gave a hilarious farcical backstory about the evils of The Beatles and their “British Invasion”. It not only matched up nicely with the “Yellow Submarine” refrain at the end of “Revolution 9”, but also the Fab Four-inspired tees on sale at the merch table.

Much like Rickly’s “little brothers”, United Nations blend genres in a refreshing enough way to make for an engaging live show. Their brand of not-quite hardcore, not-quite screamo, not-quite punk wholeheartedly favors intensity over conforming to any one category. Rickly noted that the addition of David Haik and Zac Sewell of Pianos Become the Teeth to the touring lineup has been a big one, and he couldn’t be more accurate. Haik keeps frantic time on the drums, and the rest of the band follows in lockstep.

But at its core, United Nations is Rickly’s showcase as a frontman. He wields the mic with a similar earnestness and controlled energy as Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves. On “Meanwhile on Main Street”, Rickly suddenly shifted back and forth between a spoken, through-the-megaphone cadence and his wall-shaking screams. Though a United Nations song might feature more overtly political and humorous lyrics than a Perfect Pussy song, both bandleaders exert the sensation of total commitment in a live setting.

-- Shawn Cooke

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Machine at the Rex Theater - Interview and Ticket Giveaway - August 22, 2014

The Machine
Pink Floyd tribute act The Machine play the Rex Theater Friday, August 22, at 8pm.

I've seen The Machine twice now. The first time was at Mr. Smalls. I had bought tickets for a buddy of mine's birthday. We were both into Floyd - what 20-something suburbanite male isn't? - and barring the next Live Eight taking place in Pittsburgh, I figured this was as close as we'd get to seeing them live. What I didn't realize was just how close it would be. We were both blown away by their musicianship and how much they sounded like the Floyd.

A few months later, we saw them again, at Heinz Hall. The Machine was performing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This being the pre-Lyft days, we took a Classy Cab down, so that we could effectively psych ourselves up to hear "On the Run" with full orchestral backing.

It's a testament to the effort they put into their craft that an esteemed organization like the PSO would share billing with a tribute band. Little did I know that this sort of thing is the norm for The Machine. They've performed with the Atlanta Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, and the Detroit Symphony. They've toured all over the Americas and Europe. And did we mention how The Machine sounds exactly like Pink Floyd? That's literally what Spin said: “The Machine sounds exactly like Pink Floyd.”

2014 marks 25 years for The Machine. We had a chance to talk with Tahrah Cohen, the band's drummer, in anticipation of their upcoming show in Pittsburgh:

Pittsburgh Music Report: First of all, congratulations on 25 years. Have you been doing anything special on this tour to mark the anniversary?

Tahrah Cohen: Thank you very much. we've been making sure to keep a very varied performance, making sure to represent many of the albums. 

PMR: At what age did you realize that Pink Floyd was more than just another rock band?

TC: I've always been connected to their complete presentation. Visually, they have always been ahead of their time. Their sound palette has always been unique and the content of the music is universal. Life, death, struggle: it's not something you find in many bands.

PMR: Are you able to listen to the band on a recreational basis anymore? Or do you hear "Money" on the radio on your day off and instantly change the station?

TC: Everytime I hear their music I am still blown away. I don't seek them out, but I never avoid it when I do hear it. It always brings me pleasure. 

PMR: Talk a bit about the difficulties you face playing in a tribute band. Do you feel at all like you have to sacrifice your own creativity to stay true to their vision?

TC: Some have to sacrifice their egos. That has never been an issue for me. When you are a mature player you understand and appreciate what you are supposed to do and what you aren't. I have never sacrificed my own creativity. On the contrary, being in this band allows me to be a full time musician. I do many many projects in NYC. I have toured the world with The Machine and other bands. I have played with Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, and Boy George. I've played a sold out show at Carnegie Hall. Hardly a sacrifice. 

PMR: You guys get pretty deep into Floyd's back catalog. Are there any of their songs you just won't attempt on onstage, or maybe one you tried once and said "never again?"

TC: There is some material that just does not translate to a live audience. There is some material that doesn't stand the test of being played hundreds, even thousands(!) of times. It's pretty evident when a song makes that list. 

PMR: What do you make of the other Floyd cover bands out there? Is there a friendly rivalry that exists between you all?

TC: I don't pay attention to the other ones very much. From what I've seen online, the other bands are more of a "show," where the individuals don't matter as much. That's fine, it's just not appealing to me. Those shows have a very rigid feel since they are timed specifically to the production. The Machine is a very organic band. Our set lists change every night; we are flexible and raw. That is one of the reasons we have been around for 25 years.

PMR: Lastly, how excited are you for this new Pink Floyd album that's supposedly coming out in a few months?

TC: It's going to stir up lots of excitement for Pink Floyd fans and radio stations. That will put Pink Floyd front and center for a bit. It will make a lot of people happy.

We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for this performance. To enter, simply email your name to, and put "The Machine" in the subject line. We'll announce a winner on Twitter early next week.

Tickets are available via Ticketweb for $20, $25 day of show. 21+. 

-- B. Conway