Monday, January 12, 2015

Lotus at Stage AE - January 23, 2015 - Concert Preview and Ticket Giveaway

Jesse Miller of Lotus performs at Stage AE in 2014. All photos (c) PMR.
Lotus is back at Stage AE next Friday, January 23, touring in support of their new album, Gilded Age. It's a more conventional rock album from the group, whose previous releases have been heavy on the synths. Tracks like “Out of Focus” trade between post-rock swells and downtempo drumbeats, while earlier numbers are the danceable, guitar-driven variety you've come to expect from Lotus. (The band says the mood of Gilded Age is one of “reflective happiness.”)

The band visited Stage AE last February, and it was one of the first shows we took photos of in 2014. At the time we were struck by how much the band and the crowd fed off of each other's energy: “while it's certainly normal for a band to feed off the energy of the crowd,” we wrote, “by the end of this show the entire pit was dancing in communion with one another, their tempo rising and falling with the music like the bars on an equalizer.”

Lotus at Stage AE, February 1, 2014.

It's rare that a band can fuse rock and electronica in a way that doesn't leave you wishing that they'd just focus on just one or the other. So while Lotus are generally referred to as an “electronic jam band,” you'll have to see them for yourself to be able to make a true assessment. (As a matter of fact, when we interviewed the band's bass player, Jesse Miller, he disavowed the “jam” label and all the baggage that comes with it.)

We have a pair of tickets to give away for the show. To enter, email your name to, and put “Lotus” in the subject line. We'll announce a winner Tuesday, January 20th.

Opening is semi-local jamrock band The Werks. They recently released a new live album recorded at Mr. Smalls, which you can download for free on their Bandcamp page.

– B. Conway

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pittsburgh Music Report's 2014 Year-End Wrap-Up: Concerts and Albums of the Year

PMR's 2014 Concert of the Year

In my first full year of running Pittsburgh Music Report, I made it out to about 65 or 70 shows at about a dozen different venues across the city. As I prepare to spend New Year's Eve at Stage AE with two of Pittsburgh's brightest artists, Girl Talk and The Gotobeds, here are some of my favorite concerts, albums, photos, moments and more, from 2014.

Thank you to all the incredible, talented people I've met over the year and who have helped me along the way. Special mention to Shawn Cooke and Julia Cook for their contributions to PMR, especially our most popular post of the year, an exploration of fifteen bands that are overdue to play in Pittsburgh (two of which have since visited town). Thanks as well to photographers Jack Fordyce, Sarah Wilson, Rich Frollini, Hugh Twyman, and Alan Welding for their patience in the pit as I solicited them for advice on shooting shows.

Thank you to Todd, who founded the site back in 2008 and entrusted it to me late last year.

Thank you to the artists, especially the local bands, who do what they do simply for the love of music.

Most of all, thank you to the readers of this humble website. Leave your comments down below with your favorite/least favorite albums/concerts of the year.


Reignwolf @ Brillobox, 7/30/14

Reignwolf, at Brillobox, July 30, 2014. (Openers: Shaky Shrines)

From the original review:

Cook was a force of nature on stage, shredding from the moment he took the stage at a quarter to eleven. Within 90 seconds, he was standing atop his kick drum, head nearly touching the the ceiling, playing with a reckless disregard for his safety and that of his guitar strings.

Runners-up (in no particular order):
Arcade Fire, at Consol Energy Center, March 12, 2014.
- This one was just plain fun. I didn't care that I was well on the other side of the arena. My girlfriend and I danced the entire night.
Gary Clark Jr., at Mr. Smalls, March 2.
- Arguably the best guitar performance of the year.
Jack White, w/ Benjamin Booker, at Stage AE, July 27.
- Also arguably the best guitar performance of the year.
JEFF the Brotherhood, w/ Diarrhea Planet, at Club Cafe, October 19. (Openers: Shaky Shrines)
- Diarrhea Planet stole the show. Forget the stupid band name - these guys are incredible live. And this was with just 3 of their 4 guitarists present.

Diarrhea Planet @ Club Cafe 10/19/14
- Deafheaven didn't hit the stage until well after midnight, which was entirely apropos. Purists balk at Deafheaven's metal-shoegaze fusion, but this was easily the most intense, visceral performance I saw all year
Deafheaven @ Rex Theater, 10/2/14
Portugal. The Man, at Thrival Festival, September 13.
- I can't figure out this band's secret. They have a half-dozen or so studio albums and I can't get into any of them. But live, they're unbeatable. (And so is their light show.)

Portugal. The Man @ Thrival Festival 9/13/14

Mastodon, w/ Kvelertak and Gojira, at Stage AE, May 9.

Runners-up (in no particular order):
The Orwells, at Altar Bar, September 11 (same night as Spoon).
A Sunny Day in Glasgow, at Club Cafe, July 7 (same night as Paul McCartney).
St. Vincent, at Stage AE, April 11.
Deltron 3030, at Altar Bar, July 15.
Protomartyr, at Howler's, April 9, and at Roboto, September 24.
Nothing, at the Smiling Moose, May 11.
Any/all of The Gotobeds shows at Gooski's. 

Ty Segall - Manipulator

Ty Segall typically releases 3 or 4 albums a year, under a variety of side-projects and monikers. Manipulator, his longest album to date, took a year to put together and is easily his best work yet. Segall cited Electric Ladyland and The White Album as influences for Manipulator, and he somehow manages to hybridize Hendrix's acid guitar licks with The Beatles' pop accessibility. Listen to the guitar solo on "Feel," where Segall's guitar absolutely roars, followed by the toe-tapping follow-up, "The Faker."

Runners-up (in no particular order):
Saint Vincent* - Saint Vincent
Spoon* - They Want My Soul
Interpol - El Pintor
A Sunny Day in Glasgow* - Sea When Absent
Real Estate* - Atlas
Warpaint - Warpaint
(*: A band that played Pittsburgh in 2014.)

(TIE) Camera Obscura, at Mr. Smalls, July 23, AND, Chvrches, at Stage AE, June 11.

I left performances from both of these female-fronted Scottish bands early. Camera Obscura had no energy onstage and simply seemed to be going through the motions. In their defense, two of the band members had just became parents shortly before the tour, including lead singer Tracyanne Campbell. The tour had actually been postponed for this very reason. I just don't think their heart was in it, or maybe it was just at home

Chvrches was the bigger disappointment. The pre-show buzz simply didn't translate onstage for me. The performance was slickly produced, but bloodless.

CHVRCHES @ Stage AE 6/11/14


Runners-up (in no particular order):
Too many to mention.

-- Brian Conway

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Royal Blood at Altar Bar - December 3, 2014 - Concert Photos and Review

Royal Blood at Altar Bar 12.3.14. All photos (c) PMR.

When Jimmy Page praises a band, you take notice.

After seeing Royal Blood in May, Page said this about the Brighton drum and bass duo:

"I went to hear them in New York. They were fantastic. Absolutely riveting. They're such fine musicians. However long the set was, I could have heard twice as much. Their album has taken the genre up a serious few notches. It's so refreshing to hear, because they play with the spirit of the things that have preceded them, but you can hear they're going to take rock into a new realm – if they're not already doing that. It's music of tremendous quality."

Pittsburgh got a taste on Wednesday, but that was it, only a taste.

Royal Blood took the stage shortly after 9, drummer Ben Thatcher wearing a Pirates hat and bassist Mike Kerr wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. They wasted no time launching into songs from their self-titled album, mostly because that's all they have, one album.

I don't know much about pedalboards, but Kerr keeps his top secret. All I know is that his bass sounds like a bass sometimes, and like a guitar others. The set was eleven songs long, including all ten from the album and one B-side, “You Want Me.” Despite the brevity, Kerr used 5 different bass throughout the set, which helped to vary the band's sound beyond what you'd expect from a simple drum and bass combo.

The first few songs sounded like a heavier Black Keys. (The Stones reinvented blues so there's precedent for another British band to do the same, right?) Then came “Little Monster,” a #1 hit in the UK that saw Kerr crooning like Josh Homme and playing to the stacks of Fenders behind him. Toward the end it was more metal than rock, a shade below JEFF the Brotherhood.

For the last song, Thatcher jumped up on top of the amps and Kerr hopped the barricade to perform in the crowd. The set – which Page hinted at – wasn't more than 45 minutes long. Which is a shame, because the crowd was really starting to get into it; I expected people to start to crowd surf at any moment. But what a performance it was. I hate to say it, but I don't expect to see them back in Pittsburgh again for a long, long time. If at all.

One other thing: Everyone knows that Brits sound American when they sing, but when it came time for crowd banter I couldn't understand a word of what was said. I'm pretty sure Kerr asked if everyone was having a good time, and said that he was glad to be in Pittsburgh. In fact, I think he said he had never even heard of Pittsburgh before they arrived. But take that all with a heavy grain of salt. The fact that Kerr drank at least half a bottle of Jack during the set probably didn't help.

Here are some photos of the performance: 

-- B. Conway

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Apache Relay at Club Cafe - Concert Photos and Review - November 23, 2014

Michael Ford Jr. of The Apache Relay, 11/23/14, Club Cafe. All photos (c) PMR.

Very good performance by The Apache Relay at a nearly sold out Club Cafe last night. Yet I still can't figure out what type of music they played. Rock for sure. Indie rock? Nah. Southern rock? Not really. Folk Rock? Kind of...

The band is made up of bass, guitar, drums, two keyboardists, and the lead singer, Michael Ford Jr., who trades off between electric and acoustic as the night progresses. On some songs one of the two keyboardists would play the fiddle, while the other contributes the occasional guitar. This varied instrumentation is used to create intricate, multi-layered harmonies that define an otherwise difficult to classify texture of sound. (Lead single “Katie Queen of Tennessee,” with its soaring violin, is as much Camera Obscura as it is Avett Brothers.)

Apache Relay has opened up for bands like Mumford and Sons, and it's no surprise why. Ford is a handsome bloke with a commanding stage presence – he has a great voice with a surprisingly dynamic range and is confident enough to carry a room.

So what is it? Pastoral Americana? Indie roots-pop?

Whatever it is, it's working. The band was originally slated to play Mr. Smalls but the show was moved to Club Cafe when ticket sales lagged. Don't be surprised if they sell out Smalls in the near future.

Here are some photos from the evening: 


Don’t Leave Me Now
Sets Me Free
American Nomad
Power Hungry Animals
Good as Gold
Can’t Wake Up
Tongue Tied
White Light
Katie Queen of Tennessee
Growing Pains
Terrible Feeling
Lost Kid
Further North
State Trooper
Valley of the Fevers

Watering Hole (acoustic)

-- B. Conway

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's Renegades of Rhythm Tour - Photos and Concert Review - Mr Smalls - November 14, 2014

DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at Mr. Smalls 11/14/14. All photos (C) PMR.
A sold out crowd got schooled to the old school by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at Mr. Smalls Friday night.

The two took the stage a little past 10pm, and Shadow took the mic to explain that this wasn't a normal tour, that they would spinning nothing but Afrika Bambaataa's records, that this was a tremendous privilege...

“No one fucking cares!” yelled out some drunk dude near the front.

Shadow called the guy out on it, and boos rained down on the dude from the rest of the crowd. This was easily the drunkest crowd I saw all year – maybe the late start had something to do with it – and within two minutes of the set start I saw a woman slap a guy right across his face.

Drunk people aside, Cut and Shadow each had three decks and a box full of wax apiece. A projector behind the duo set the mood with cel-shaded animation of 1970s Manhattan at dusk. The background changed as the evening and music progressed, ranging from subway cars bombed-out with graffiti to the actual album covers themselves, with “Property of Afrika Bambaataa” written in indelible marker on the front.

The entire set, which was broken up into two fifty-minute halves, was heavy on the deep cuts but not to the point of obscurity. There were plenty of moments when a certain breakbeat or lyrical refrain would come in, and knowing glances and nudges would spread through the crowd. A couple times the two DJs would show off their skills by scratching together, but mostly they let the music take the lead.

Shadow and Cut each took turns schooling the crowd on the origins of hip-hop as the set progressed, the music being played in chronological order. At one point Shadow praised Bambaataa for never swinging toward the mainstream as his popularity expanded. This, he said, is the biggest reason he admires Bambaataa.

With about thirty minutes to go in the set, after Cut Chemist encouraged the b-boys and b-girls to form a circle in the crowd, a drunk woman squeezed next to me near the stage and immediately took 3 or 4 snapchat videos in a row. “Were you here the last time [DJ Shadow] was here?” she asked me. “He played nothing but trap beats the whoooooole time. This is different.”

It was around this time that the original drunk guy made friends with another drunk guy, and they both started to chant “Entroducing” during the quiet moments. Cut turned to Shadow around that point and said something like “this guy's going to see you on tour in two years and start chanting for Renegades of Rhythm."

“This is something you'll tell your grandkids about,” said Shadow, toward the end of the nearly two hour set. A few came out to hear J5 and "The Number Song," but they ended up missing out on a master class given by two of the best to do have ever done it

Here are some photos from the evening: 

-- B. Conway