Monday, October 20, 2014

J Mascis at Club Cafe, with Luluc - October 15, 2014 - Concert Photos and Review

So many times I've seen a guitarist at a show and come away thinking, man, that guy/gal is incredible - it can't get any better than that. Then I see someone like J Mascis, a man who is regularly ranked among the top guitar players of all time, and I'm reminded what a truly incredible guitar performance sounds like.

I was worried about seeing the Dinosaur Jr. frontman at what was I assumed was a solo acoustic gig. Why would I want to see the renowned fuzz-slinger strumming away like James Taylor? I guess it works for Neil Young. Thankfully it was largely a moot point: Mascis brought his fuzzbox with him. And his Marshall. A quick tap of the foot pedals and you'd think he was wielding his Squier again.

Mascis's setlist was primarily made up of songs from his new solo album, Tied to a Star, plus some Dinosaur Jr. covers, including "Out There," the standout lead track from 1993's Where You Been. There was a beautiful version of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" thrown in toward the end that served to highlight Mascis's distinctive, fragile vocals.

At the end of the set Mascis, like so many performers at Club Cafe before him, realized it's next to impossible to walk backstage and then back out again for an encore. So he just walked to the end of the stage, made a quip about playing more because there was nowhere for him to go, and asked if there were any requests. (Some joker yelled out for Sebadoh.) He ended up closing on a cover of the The Cure's "Just Like Heaven:" 


Those in the sold-out crowd, who had dropped $50 a pop for the chance to see the indie rock legend in such an intimate venue, left talking like it was worth every cent.

Here are some photos:



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Minus the Bear at Club Cafe, with O'brother - Concert Review and photos - October 14, 2014

Minus the Bear kick off their Lost Loves & Beer Commercials tour at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh. All photos (c) PMR.
Only a few hours before the start of their new tour, Minus the Bear announced via Twitter that their longtime drummer, Erin Tate, wouldn't be joining them on the road. He'll be back, they say, but in the meantime his drum tech, Kiefer Matthias, will fill in. It could be seen as a bit dishonest to drop this on fans moments before the tour begins, well after most people already purchased tickets to see what was presumably the full lineup. Nevertheless, Kiefer, who looks about half the age of the rest of the band, acquitted himself well. If you aren't a longtime Minus the Bear fan who can recognize and name each of the members, you probably wouldn't have noticed a difference.

The only mention of the lineup change came after the second song, “Let's Play Clowns,” when lead singer Jake Snider, after saying how nice it was to be back in Pittsburgh, said simply, “this is Kiefer.” The rest of the set had all the energy and enthusiasm you'd want from a band's first night back playing together, but without any of the sloppiness you might expect. After more than a decade together its no surprise that the veteran band wouldn't waste any time getting back to form.

The sold-out crowd, who all paid $35 for the privilege of standing inches from one of their favorite bands, was ecstatic. The first six songs followed the track listing from the Beer Commercials EP exactly, before launching into a career-spanning set that ended with a pair from Highly Refined Pirates. I think everyone there would say it was worth the extra dough to see a band of Minus the Bear's stature in an intimate (150 person capacity) venue. I'm just glad they didn't kill the energy with an acoustic set in the middle, like they did last time they visited, with INVSN.

O'brother, from Atlanta, opened. Man those dudes are loud. I caught part of their set once before, when they opened for The Sword back in March at Mr. Smalls. Droning guitars and vocals are their hallmark. There's not much variety in the songs, but after a while the performance, which the crowd responded well to, becomes almost hypnotic. 

Here are some photos from the performance: 



-- B. Conway

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

JEFF the Brotherhood at Club Cafe, with Diarrhea Planet and Shaky Shrines - October 19, 2014 - Ticket Giveaway and Concert Preview

The Brothers Orrall, aka JEFF the Brotherhood. Photo credit: Jo McCaughey
It's going to get loud.

JEFF the Brotherhood headline a superb trio of rock bands at Club Cafe Sunday, two from Nashville and one from right here. 

First up is Pittsburgh's own Shaky Shrines. Is you've been to any of the city's better rock concerts in recent memory, you've probably seen them perform: they opened for both Reignwolf and Cloud Nothings over the past few months. According to their website, they play “bad trip cemetery psychedelic garage rock.” The Pitt News gave their debut LP, Mausoleum, a B+, and they do a pretty good job of breaking down exactly why Shaky Shrines is one of the better local bands around.

Up next is the unfortunately named Diarrhea Planet. I already had to promise my girlfriend I wouldn't buy myself a shirt with their name on it, but the jokes on her: I didn't say anything about buying her a Diarrhea Planet shirt.

The band hails from Nashville, and they perform with not one not two not three but FOUR guitarists. I've heard of the three axe attack, but this is just ridiculous. It'd be easy to dismiss them as a joke, especially with songs like “Ghost with a Boner,” but if there is a joke to be made they're the ones that came up with it. In an interview with Noisey they said their original goal was to be “the worst band ever.” Ironically, as their popularity increases and they treat the music as seriously as any other band out there, all the media wants to talk about is their name. Their PR describes them as “The Ramones holding Van Halen hostage with an arsenal of fireworks and explosives.” Here they are performing a set on KEXP:

JEFF the Brotherhood headline. The Nashville duo played Pittsburgh last May, at Brillobox. The two members, Jamin (drums) and Jake (guitar) are actual brothers, unlike those liars in the Kopecky Family Band. They started to play together in high school. It didn't hurt that their father, Robert Ellis Orrall, is a successful singer and producer in his own right.

The brothers put out a string of loud, scuzzy albums and finally made a name for themselves in 2009, with the release of Heavy Days, their fifth LP to date. Soon after they put out a live album through Jack White's Third Man label, and its been an upward ascent ever since. Here's the song “Sixpack” off of Hypnotic Nights, their acclaimed 2012 album produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys:

Right now JEFF the Brotherhood is on tour in support of a new six-song covers EP, featuring renditions of songs by The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, and more. Tickets cost $15 and are available through Ticketweb.

We have a pair of tickets to give away for this performance. To enter, simply email us at and put “JEFF the brotherhood” in the subject line. We'll announce a winner Friday afternoon.

B. Conway

Monday, October 13, 2014

Unboxing 100 free records from Jerry's Records

The stuff of dreams: an unopened box of records.

I snagged a free box of records at Jerry's once before, over Record Store Day weekend. Out of the 100 or so albums I came home with just one made it into my record collection: disc one of Neil Young and Crazy Horse's Live Rust double LP.

Was I disappointed with a paltry 1% success rate? Of course not. I love Neil Young! Sure the album didn't cost me anything, but what I really love is the search. This was like the home version of a lazy afternoon spent digging the crates at Jerry's. 

I never really thought much about why I collect records. Purists tell you that vinyl records sound better, or “warmer,” but I really can't tell that much of a difference. The closest I can come to an answer as to why I collect vinyl is that records are tangible. I can hold it in my hand, admire the artwork in the gatefold and read the liner notes while the album plays. This physical connection adds to my overall appreciation of the album.

When I heard Jerry was giving away more free records, I had to stop by. After an hour in the “Bargain Basement” - where I purchased, among other things, a nice copy of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? for an unspeakably low $1 – and another hour upstairs, where I scored a beautiful, near mint condition copy of The Allman Brothers Eat a Peach, I grabbed my box of records and headed home. 

Giddy with anticipation, I opened the box. Maybe, I thought, a man who spent 40 years buying, selling, and trading records would accidentally give away Exile on Main Street, or that Velvet Underground album with the peel-off banana sticker.

It didn't take me long to realize I was being a little more than naive. 

yes, wonderful things
Short of hosting a cliched Italian dinner night, I don't know when I'll ever listen to the Love Theme from The Godfather. For a second I thought I may have stumbled upon a cache of movie scores, and I had my fingers crossed for the Easy Rider soundtrack. That theory lasted only until the next record

Frankie Valle's Closeup was next, followed by a Patti Austin that had this on the back side: 

The Commodores' Midnight Magic was underneath Patti Austin, and then it was this party anthem from 1964: 

Choral Speaking: restraining the bold since 1964

Up next: four straight albums by the man who was obviously the inspiration for Don Draper, Eddy Arnold: 

Next came WAR and Kool and the Gang, then these three:

For a while I hit upon a streak of decent rock albums from the 70s and 80s: 

I thought I might have hit it rich with this next one, but a quick search on eBay put that to rest. Apparently no wants to spend more than a couple bucks on a compilation of The King's gospel covers.

I'll keep this one for myself: 

Side Two: "Buck, Buck" (9:05)
This one too:

These, however, are free to anyone who wants them: 

This neat number was near the bottom. It's a record of Hawaiian music together with a color booklet filled with photos and tourism information. According to a website I found, Dusty Grooves, this was originally a giveaway to attendees of the 1969 American Bankers Association conference, in Honolulu. 

Aside from a couple Village People albums, there wasn't much else worth noting. The last two albums I pulled out were an Engelbert Humperdinck and one by The Four Populaires, who I can find next to nothing about online but were apparently the house band at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.

Even though the vast majority of these are nothing I would listen to on day-to-day basis, I enjoyed looking through these relics from a bygone era. Each album is a time capsule, and I just can't bring myself to throw them in the trash.

Maybe Jerry will want them back. 

-- B. Conway