Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Album Review - Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen - (Show May 5th - Diesel) Pittsburgh

As mentioned before Cursive is coming to Diesel next week, May 5th. Man Man from Philly will be opening. I am a big Cursive fan. Below is a review of their latest album. They are really a energetic and fun band to see in concert. I will be posting some video that I took (back in the day) later on this week of one of their shows.

“Mama, I’m Swollen” is Cursive’s latest LP and one that shows the band striving for maturity both lyrically and musically. Anyone familiar with Cursive’s previous output knows it’s a driven fast and furious band with fist pumping hooks and lyrics. Front man Tim Kasher appears to be taking a cue from his ‘softer’ side project, “The Good Life”. A majority of the songs are on a different pace from Cursive’s previous outputs, although a few tunes do follow that same frenzied tempo. It definitely took me a few listens before I began to really appreciate the change and direction…it will take the normal Cursive fan a few listens before as well.

The album starts off how the “Ugly Organ” (Cursive’s previous album) left off with an anthem of sorts that makes you want to pump your fist and yell along. “In the Now” has the pounding drums and frantic guitar chops that start the album off with considerable buzz. However, this proves to be a bit of a misnomer of what is to come as the album delves into a slower, down trot.

Beginning with “From the Hips”, the maturity begins to shine through. This song begins slowly before catching fire at the 3 minute mark. The lyrics are dark and depressing: “We’re at our worst when it’s from our lips. Our words caused this rift and it’s as if the whole world has fallen in.” Then a follow up track “Donkeys” shows Tim K. beginning to question his own life, “But isn’t it time you act your age? You got a mortgage on your shoulders on a baby on the way.” Lyrically the album is dark and mysterious while showing a sense of mortality.

Mama, I’m Swollen is very different from what hardcore fans might be expecting. Devotees looking for a repeat of “Domestica” or “Ugly Organ” will be disappointed. Cursive’s latest offering is a bit more laid back and established, moving on and growing up. Tim K. and company deserve a lot of credit for producing an album that is commercially viable and showing their fans a new side that they should grow to like.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Live Show Review- Coachella Saturday, Cont.

After seeing AP, we headed out to the Outdoor Theatre to see a bit of Calexico before TV On The Radio started. I am not too familiar with Calexico, but it was nice enough in the background to chill on the lawn and absorb the Coachella experience.

I was surprised that people on the message boards think that TVOTR are bad performers. I've seen them at least 3 times and they are always full of energy. They have never disappointed, and nor did they here. Any act that plays during the day have the disadvantage of playing to hot people waiting for the scorching sun to go down, TVOTR managed to keep the crowd going though. Their new songs sounded great and they played with their usual intensity. I personally thought the bass and drums were turned up a little loud, with the vocals kind of muffled, but it sounded good enough. I really wanted to see their cover of 'Heroes', which i did not get.... but seeing 'Staring At The Sun' live is always the highlight for me. They played it as their last song, ironically as the sun had just descended.

Next we decided to check out Fleet Foxes. I have heard some of their stuff and it doesnt really do it for me. No one else that we wanted to see was playing at the same time, so again we wandered over to rest in the immaculate grass of the polo fields and enjoy the nightfall. Like I said, not really into their stuff but I think they were probably doing a good job up there. I taped a couple of songs for my friend who is really into them, so I guess I will let her decide.

I was excited for the end of FF, because Band of Horses, one of my more anticipated acts was to follow. BOH played one of my top 10 shows of Pittsburgh, so I was really looking forward to seeing them again. They really delivered. Its great to see a band who can capture a small club venue as well as a large Outdoor Theatre packed with 10,000 festival goers. The sound was great, the set was great. You could even clearly hear Ben's boot stomping the stage to keep time.

The first nightfall of Coachella is always a dazzling experience. The heat gives way to perfect nighttime weather. The palm trees are illuminated against the mountains and are always amazing to look at. It really feels like fake scenery. The amazing art of the festival really comes to light as well. This year had an addition called the Serpent's Mother. It was a large metal serpent with a mobile head and the ability of shooting flames along its entire spine at the interactive pushing of buttons. The Do Lab, I believe its second year in attendance, is the worst. It is located between the main stage and the outdoor theatre and pumps out loud beats all day and night. It really interferes with the music if you are on the outskirts of either stage. But, it looks amazing at night with crimson flowers aglow in the night sky.

As The Killers were the headliners of this night (dont get me started there), we ended our night after BOH set to catch the last 15 minutes of M.I.A. A late addition to replace trainwreck Amy Winehouse who was unable to get a visa because she beat up a fan or something, M.I.A. sure has seen a rise in popularity recently. Shes been at Coachella 3 times now, I caught part of her set in the Gobi tent back in 2005 only to be cast away by a freak swarm of bees. Her recent rise to popularity since then has catapulted her to a prime mainstage slot. I'm not really a big rap/hip-hop fan, but who doesnt like 'Galang' and 'Paper Planes'? After a supposedly horrible showing last year (I never go near the Sahara tent, especially after dark), she definitely brought the party this year. She invited fans to 'be athletic' and jump the huge barrier to join her onstage, quite a few made it. She was glowing in the dark with her neon shades, sneaks and jeans. 'Paper Planes' is really all we wanted to see and in the midst of ridiculous gunshots echoing all over the desert, I have to say it was a fantastic way to end the night.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Live Show Review- Coachella Saturday

After a mixed night in Las Vegas, I was excited to make my way to the Coachella Valley for my 8th Coachella Festival. The first act that I really wanted to see was Amanda Palmer. I was first introduced to the Dresden Dolls when they opened for Nine Inch Nails in 2005. I have seen them 3 times and am always impressed with their performances. They are the type of band that I am not sure I would have been a fan of had I not seen them live before listening to them on disc. Lately I have really gotten into Amanda's solo album (cleverly named after one of my all time favorite TV shows) and it is a brilliant disc. What was I thinking missing out on her Mr. Smalls performance?! Amanda played the smallest tent, the Gobi, accompanied by cello on some songs by Zoe Keating of the band Rasputina. Right before Amanda took stage, she was preceeded by several shirtless fans painted to spell 'Amanda Fucking Palmer'. Her set definitely did not disappoint, she played many of her solo songs as well as Dresden favorites 'Coin Operated Boy' and 'Girl Anachronism'. She also played an interesting cover of Muse's 'Time is Running Out' before her superhero crowd surfing antics all the way thru the crowd to the back of the tent to play a ukulele infused cover of Radiohead's 'Creep'. I've seen so many small bands play Coachella throughout the years and I couldn't help thinking, this is how you freaking kill your set. Way to stand out and deliver. Amanda is a hot mess and the crowd loved every second of it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Live Show Review-- The Cure in Las Vegas

This past weekend I headed out to California for my 8th annual Coachella Festival. Given that The Cure are my favorite band in the world, I was pretty happy when they were announced as headliners. Then I was really bummed when I found out they were playing a show on the Friday of Coachella in Vegas at the Palms Casino Pearl Theatre which only holds about 2500 people. I made the incredibly hard decision to skip an awesome Coachella Friday to make the pilgrimage to see what I thought would be the best Cure concert in recent years. It had all the makings of greatness: small venue, fan friends converging from all over the world to sin city, close proximity of Robs 50th bday, hopes of the ever elusive 'dark set' to counter the likely hits set for a festival......

It started out all wrong. The casino was allowing line ups for the show beginning at 6:30, anyone loitering before then was supposedly going to be escorted off the premises. Of course we were all there at 4 anyways, just hanging around. The line up never happened. Eventually they just ushered us all in to this sort of holding area, everyone pushing to get in. There was no semblance of a line whatsoever. Then they decided to try and check tickets to give out wristbands for the GA floor. It worked out for me, but those first in were last to get their bands. Thankfully, I had researched the venue beforehand and had a plan. I knew there were about 5 flights of stairs that had to be descended to get to the floor, when they opened the corral I was running down and was able to procure 3 front rail spots for me and my girls right in front of Simon (my next preferred spot besides Rob). The show was scheduled to start at 8, but they did not come out until 8:45, another sign that it would be a weird night.

The show finally began with the new song 'Underneath the Stars', great new tune. The waves crash in and you think you are listening to a early 90's Cure song. I was thrilled to hear this one open the show as I had seen them 4 times on the 4:13 Dream Tour and somehow never managed to hear it.The set list was great. Aside from back to back songs off of the lackluster self titled release (why don’t they ever play anything from Bloodflowers anymore?), everything was awesome. Highlights for me were 'To Wish Impossible Things', 'Want', 'From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea', 'Prayers For Rain', 'One Hundred Years', and my all time favorite 'Disintegration'. The band was tight, as usual. Porl was tearing up the guitar making us all thankful that he is back in the band. Simon was downing Coronas throughout the show like it was his job, kind of unusual.

Then comes time for the encores, if you have ever seen the Cure live you know they do about 3-4 encores. I have seen them perform over 15 times so I knew what to expect. As they came out for the first encore, we all sang Robert happy birthday and donned party hats. It was really awesome, I'm not really sure if he knew what was going on but he managed to mumble something about his birthday and looked pretty happy. We threw all the hats on stage then.

The first encore was a 'Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me' encore. At the end of 'The Kiss', Simon threw his bass down on the ground and just walked off. We all thought that was strange, he never does that. After they all came back for the second encore, they tore through some 'Seventeen Seconds' stuff. They played 'A Forest' which is always a show highlight. After Rob runs through the end with his psychedelic guitar part, Simon usually kills it on bass to end the song....... not tonight. Simon just ended when the guitar was over and they all walked off.The techs came out and tuned up for the next encore. It’s usually all old school stuff like 'Killing an Arab' and 'Boys Don't Cry'. We were all hoping for 'Faith' as well, the much coveted and rarely played closer. All of a sudden cue in the stage music and house lights. Everyone looked around in amazement, like it was a bad joke being played on us all. Robert didn’t even say goodnight and thank you like he always does.

In all my years of seeing them live, I have never seen them end a show this way.I was able to get a set list and sure enough, there were about 7 songs, including ‘Faith’ that never got played. We all speculated that maybe Simon was in a bad mood; maybe it was Porl, what the heck happened? The potential for greatness gave way to disappointment. I started to think I should have gone to day one of Coachella after all. But then I heard that Robert hurt his hand during 'The Kiss' and now I feel bad for doubting them at all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Summer Shows - Hartwood Acres (Old 97's) & 3 Rivers Arts Festival

A pretty diverse lineup for the Rivers Arts Festival which is the best in a couple of years. The only band that I will probably checkout are the Black Keys. But I have to say its good to see such diverse shows. Glad to see its coming back to the Point as well.

June 5, 7:30 p.m.: The Black Keys, garage rock; Jessica Lea Mayfield (6:30 p.m.).

June 6, 7:30 p.m.: Medeski, Martin & Wood, jazz; Zee Avi (5 p.m.) and The Wood Brothers (6:30 pm).

June 7, 6 p.m.: Trombone Shorty, New Orleans jazz.June 8, 8:15 p.m.: Formula 412, hip-hop; Boogie Hustlers, funk (7 p.m.)

June 9, 8:15 p.m.: Donora, local rock; Meeting of Important People (6 p.m.) and Apostle of Hustle (7 p.m.)

June 10, 7:30 p.m.: Toubab Krewe, fusion of rock and West African music.

June 11, 8 p.m.: Booker T., Memphis soul; Hayes Carll (7 p.m.)

June 12, 7:30 p.m.: Robert Randolph and the Family Band, gospel-blues-tinged jam rock.

June 13, 7:30 p.m.: Shemekia Copeland, Chicago blues

June 14, 6 p.m.: The Wailers, reggae.

The Old 97's are set to play Hartwood Acres on 6/28. Los Lobos will be there on 7/26. Not bad free shows for Pgh.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Live Show Review - Calvin Johnson, Ted Leo & New Pornographers, Headlights

I went to a few shows this past week and am just going to cover each with a little blurb.

Thurs 4/16 - Went to the Nerve Art Center for the first time with about 30 other patrons. Its a warehouse space in a very sketchy area of Bloomfield. Reminded me of the all ages shows I used to go to back in the day. City Center was the first act up which is lead by Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good to Me. It’s a lot more of an experimental venture than the usual pop flavor of his previous outings which I have enjoyed. It was interesting, different. No guitars or drums; more loops and samples. Next was Calvin’s new venture the Hive Dwellers. It was a good performance but just didn't strike me on first listen as some of his other albums.

Friday 4/17 - Decided to take it easy on Friday night since I had to work all day Saturday. Ended up going to the CMU show with a friend who isn't into music (besides some Brittany). It was a really nice night and Ted Leo put on an outstanding show playing most of his hits from previous albums trying to win over the crowd (which he didn't do the last time I saw him). Its funny, my friend who I thought would be more into the New Pornographers turned out to really like Ted Leo a lot better. NP was solid but they don't do a lot for me on stage. They played most of their latest album which I found a bit boring. We ended up leaving early as NP just wasn't doing it for my friend.

Sunday 4/19 - Interesting night at the Brillo. The Love Language from Chapel Hill opened. They were a 7 member group when they only needed 4. They had 2 keyboards, 3 guitars that just became a little redundant with someone always banging on a tambourine. Evidently they had been traveling with Headlights for over 2 weeks and had become good friends as both bands were feeling no pain (pretty buzzing) that evening joining each other on stage. LL were ok, but weren't my speed. Headlights, who I enjoy, play mostly sappy indie pop although their latest album stretched their bounds. This was a bit of a sloppy night as most of their set was mired by some fun debauchery. It was good show, but more in the fun loving drunken mode. About 40 people were there to see it (more in the beginning when I arrived at 10:30p) and the show ended around 12:30a. Decent night for a good band.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coachella Festival - 2009

For the past 5 years I have been taking an annual pilgrimage to the Coachella Music Festival located in Indio, CA (or the hottest place on earth). Usually I would fly out tomorrow, attend the (now) 3 day fest, then visit one of the local spots (LA, SF, etc) for an extended stay. This year I will be unable to attend due to limited vacation time. My better half, however, will be attending and has agreed to provide ample details on the highs and lows this year (although she will be not attend Friday).

I will definitely miss the In-n-Out burgers (best fast food hamburger ever) along with the 24 hour Mexican truck stop diner next to the illustrious Motel 6. But sacrifices do have to be made. For anyone who as ever been knows its not a sticky dry heat like Florida, but when tempatures get over 100 its not the most desirable place either.

Record Store Day - Post-Gazette

Very good article today in the post-gazette by Scott Mervis on the state of local record stores and how they are dealing with sales. Saturday is 'record store day' so many are having promotional giveaways plus in-store appearances.

Viva vinyl!

Paul, owner of Paul cd's gave this insight:

"We had to make some decisions last fall, like not paying cash for used CDs, just doing trade. And we're not ordering lots of quantities on stuff. We're keeping it close. Instead of 20 copies, we're ordering 10. So we're cutting it closer to the bone, but I don't anticipate going anywhere unless the economy totally tanks."

Just speaking of which, I went out to purchase the new Metric cd (released yesterday) at Paul's and Edie's but neither had it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Calvin Johnson Show Pgh Information 4/16/09

Anyone who is interested (since I have never been to the Nerve) to see Calvin Johnson and an K Records bands:

K Records All-Star Showcase for All-Ages:




$7 admission 7pm to 11pm
will start at 8p byob

The Nerve: Art and Performance Venue:

500 Dargan St. (on the corner of Dargan St. and Minerva St., next to the Bloomfield Bridge)Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Live Show Review Margot and the Nuclear So & So's + Cloud Cult - 4/12/09 Mr Smalls

We showed up at Mr Smalls right as Margot was taking the stage. There was about 200-250 in attendance; not a bad crowd considering it was Easter Sunday. I have gushed about Margot in concert before so I won't do too much of that here. The set was mainly based off their new double album Animal and Not Animal. They did throw in some old stuff as well such as 'Skeleton Key'. The lead singer sounded a bit inebriated as he spoke to the crowd several times throughout their set. He was asking everyone to produce a little energy to carry them through. I imagine most were there to see Cloud Cult as you could hear conversations when Margot was playing their lighter songs. I think it perturbed the lead a bit and he made a few comments although the other 7 members of the band didn't seem to have any issues. Margot ended up playing for 45 minutes where I was hoping they would go an hour. It wasn't my favorite show of theirs (I have seen them 4 times now), but it was solid. I feel they do better in a more intimate setting.

Next up was Cloud Cult which started about 15 minutes after Margot's set. They are from Minneapolis and have a bit of a 'cult' following from what I understand. The lead stated that they were happy to be there as this was the second time in Pgh. I really couldn't get into what I heard on disc from this band, but their live show really brought it home for me. They have both a cellist and violinist that blend their sultry songs. I have to say they were putting on an even better performance than Margot did. The lead was wearing some funky eye mask on his head (not sure what that was all about see pic). The only downside for me was a guy who was creating a painting on stage. There was definitely an outline already on the canvas before, so it was more of paint by numbers thing. They told the audience they would be auctioning it off after the show (which they evidently do for each performance). I am curious how much they actually got for it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Margot and the Nuclear - Cloud Cult - Co-Headline Mr Smalls -4.12.09

I wasn't blogging about this show because I thought Cloud Cult was the headliner (which they kind of are) and Margot was just an opener. But I recently found out that this is a co-bill with Margot and Cloud Cult (CC is going on last). They are going to do equal time of about an hour each.

I posted earlier that Margot at Brillobox was one of the best shows I saw in 2008. They truly put on a commanding performance with eight players and instruments. They are definitely worth the price. I have listened to Cloud Cult before and they just aren't for me. But with Margot doing a normal set this will definitely be a great show. They are playing at Mr Smalls for $12...they should hit the stage about 9p (just found out its 8:45p). Early show.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Show Announcement - Maps & Atlases - Carnegie Mellon Rangos Ballroom- 4.6.09

Just found out about this show. It is at CMU at the Rangos Ballroom (Frightened Rabbit played) this coming Monday plus its FREE. These guys are from Chicago and supposed to be pretty good. NME describes them as:

"Vampire Weekend+ TV On The Radio+ Prince+ woodblocks = one of the most interesting bands around" -NME

CMU's activitiesboard.org site isn't working, but here is a link to their facebook page regarding the show: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=63277161865

Just been listening to the first 2 songs on myspace, not sure about the TV on the Radio reference, but definitely hear the Vampire Weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blind Pilot - 4/1/09 - Club Cafe - Show Review

I was a bit tired from Say Hi the night before but had been really looking forward to Blind Pilot since they were announced (plus I loved that it was an early show). First up was The Incline from Pgh. They were a brother duo with a drummer playing light pop lovesick melodies. Not too bad but nothing to grab you.

Next was The Slant, another local band from Pgh. Let me just say I have never really seen a local act where I was just blown away. But these guys did just that. I don't know if anyone ever saw the tv series 'Freaks and Geeks' but these guys looked like the peeps from the show but all grown up. Seriously, these guys brought it and were really, really good. They were a bit psychedelic with the classic rock vibe and just owned the stage. Every song was had its own crazy coda where the band members would launch into an ending that enthused the crowd. I cannot say enough of these guys...never heard of them nor seen them at any other show but I am definitely going to seek them out.

9:30p (awesome) up came Blind Pilot from Portland. By this time Club Cafe was packed to the point where it was standing room only. Great atmosphere in an intimate setting. Blind Pilot had a stand up bassist, lead guitar, full xylophone, drummer, horns and keyboardist and ukulele. The members were all warm and pleasant mixing banter with their material. They even made the comment (paraphrasing) 'We heard Pittsburgh wasn't that nice' which brought on some jeers, but we took it with a grain of salt. They played their folk, indie pop melodies with much gusto and were quite enjoyable. The only downside is that they were really soft and some of the patrons could be heard over the vocals (which brought wicked stares and 'shhhhs' to no avail). The band finished with a cover of my favorite Talking Heads song 'Road to Nowhere' which just put a big smile on my face.

A very, very good show with the inclusion of The Slant (please listen to them at this link slant).

Say Hi - Show Review - Garfield Artworks - 3/31/09

I showed up to Garfields at 9:30p hoping to catch Telekinesis (based on my stupendous research of set times), Say Hi's tour mates. Unfortunately, Spindrift had yet to begin their set, so we were officially behind almost 30 minutes. At the time there were approximately 35 people in attendance.

Spindrift was billed as former members of Brian Jonestown Massacre which had just played the previous night at the Rex. I made a point to miss them because I really wasn't into what I was hearing on their myspace page...they played with an old swashbuckling movie in the background. I guess the movie was supposed to go with their sound which it probably did had the movie been shot underwater. I just could never get into it although the movie did meander into undersea expeditions.

Telekinis was next from Seattle. Band consisted of 4 members; the lead was also the drummer who sang while keeping the pace. They were ok...but I noticed I kept looking at watch wondering what time I was going to be able to get to bed.

Finally Say Hi began their set around 11p. My mood was a bit tempered and I was thinking of bailing but I stuck it out. The crowd must have had the same thoughts as me because about 15 people were leftover. I would think Say Hi would want to go on a little earlier while the crowd was thick in the hopes people would buy their merch afterwards. But what do I know.

The lead made the announcement that they were going to play their entire new cd before launching into a few old favorites. Sounded good. But as their set wore on it just didn't sound like what I heard on disc. Their sound was decent but the execution just didn't work. They didn't have all the synth sound you hear on record and I just could never get into it. They did have good stage presence as the lead was totally thanking the crowd for coming out on a 'school night' and the other 2 members appeared to be enjoying themselves. The evening finally ended around 11:45p and I quickly left wishing I had gone to BJM the night before.