Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Show Preview - Girl Talk - Stage American Eagle - 12/3 & 12/4 - Pittsburgh

We have a new venue in Pittsburgh right in between both PNC Park and Heinz Field called Stage AE (American Eagle). This is something Pittsburgh has been missing to attract those mid-size shows of 1-1.5k concertgoers. Hopefully this will turn the tide. It also appears we have a new promotion company along with the stage called PromoWest http://www.promowestlive.com/pittsburgh/.

The first 2 shows will be played by Pittsburgh's own Girl Talk. If you haven't ever seen a GT show you are missing out. Last year the show at the Amphitheater at Saton Square made our second best concert (see review here). GT is one of the most electric performers today. I don't know anyone who didn't have a good time at last year's show and these two should be no different. He also just release his new cd entitled All Day which you can download for free at various locations across the internet. Videos are from the last show.

Be sure to check out a historic weekend Friday or Saturday or both.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Show Preview - Freelance Whales - 12/4/10 - Brillobox - Pittsburgh

Freelance Whales will be playing at the Brillobox on Saturday, 12/4. They are an indie pop outfit from Brooklyn, NY. They are compared to the Postal Service in most reviews for better or worse. But they really don't fall into that category. They have only been performing live since for the past two years but have received a heap of blog buzz in that time. It recently landed them a spot at this year's Lollapalooza festival where I happened to catch their set. They put on a darn good show.

They are touring behind their debut lp Weathervanes which was released this past year on Frenchkiss Records (Les Savy Fav, Dodos). From their press:

To call them multi-instrumentalists might be a little overdone. The kids in Freelance Whales are really just collectors, at heart. They don’t really fancy buffalo nickels or Victorian furniture, but over the past two years, they’ve been collecting instruments, ghost stories, and dream-logs. Somehow, from this strange compost heap of little sounds and quiet thoughts, songs started to rise up like steam from the ground.

Weathervanes, the groups debut LP, finished tracking just a few nights earlier. Swirling with organic and synthetic textures, interlocking rhythmic patterns, and light harmonic vocals, the record works to tell a simple, pre-adolescent love story: a young male falls in love with the spectral young femme who haunts his childhood home. He chases her in his dreams but finds her to be mostly elusive. He imagines her alive, and wonders if someday he’ll take on her responsibilities of ghosting, or if maybe he’ll join her, elsewhere.

The doors open at 9:30 with the show beginning at 10p. The Minature Tigers and Mia Riddle are scheduled as the openers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Show Preview - Gay Blades - Garfield Artworks - 11/29/10 - Pittsburgh

The Gay Blades will be appearing at Garfield Artworks this Monday, 11/29. They have an interesting marketing campaign, they are creating a song for each town they visit on this tour. From the band:

As a thanks to the towns who are having us on this tour, we are writing each city a our own personal anthem. I thought I would share this tune with the PGH music community. Pittsburgh is a town I've always felt comfortable touring through. Growing up pretty poor gives you a quality that you can't shake off, and sometimes you can feel totally out of place. Pittsburgh never made me feel anything but ready to drink and play a great show.

"I'll Leave My Heart Here In Pittsburgh"

From their press:

Over the past three years, The Gay Blades have built an international following on their side-stepping demeanor, their unpredictable live shows and, of course, their unhinged manic sound. But while their fan base is still marveling at how the larger-than-life duo can fill aural spaces so completely as a two-piece, the band is ready to unveil their sophomore album, Savages, which promises to astonish both their current devotees and future fans alike.

The Gay Blades into an eclectic mix of songs, which cannot be defined by any one genre, but does pay homage to artists such as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Adam Ant, Spoon, Wilco and Weezer. “Rock N' Roll (Part I),” the album’s emblematic opener, kicks off with scathing guitars and commanding drums, writhing in true Gay Blades fashion. The horn arrangements make their most prominent appearance on “Try To Understand,” a song about “the patience we need to love those who test our love the most,” Wells explains, adding, “it’s a monster of a song, and it might be my favorite on the record.”

O Shot - The Gay Blades

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Show Review - Tim Kasher - Thunderbird Cafe - 11/22/10 - Pittsburgh - Concert Review

This past Monday Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life) graced the stage at the Thunderbird Cafe. If you are a Kasher fan and didn't go simply because you don't know his solo work, you made a mistake. Kasher brought the goods this evening entertaining the crowd with both his wit and musicianship. He is touring behind his new solo album The Game of Monogamy with a full band to flesh out the sound.

I was wondering how this album would translate in a live setting with it's dark, often depressing content. Thankfully the band was up to the challenge backing TK with a great deal of energy and sound. Of course TK was the main attraction soaking the audience in with his charismatic delivery. He was in good spirits the entire night sharing stories, taking a request and chatting with the crowd. While the main focus was on songs from The Game of Monogamy, the band also performed Good Life tunes including "You're No Fool" and "After O’Rourke’s, 2:10 A.M". They also branched out and added a cover of David Bowie's "Soul Love".

At one point Kasher stopped the show and stated he was going to buy the entire crowd a shot. He only had two requests, it had to be Jameson and you had to wait until the band did it. I thought it might be a joke but sure enough TK whipped out a credit card and handed it to a patron in the front row. Soon enough everyone had a shot of Jameson and knocked one back with the band. Towards the end TK began taking requests. He asked the audience what they wanted to hear...someone from the second floor suggested "Album of the Year" and with that he launched into a solo rendition.

Sometimes you go to shows and hear good music and say afterwards, "they were good" with nothing else. This performance I said that as well, but also "I had a lot of fun". More videos here: http://www.youtube.com/pghmusicreport

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Show Preview - Delta Spirit - Interview - Brillobox - 11/30/10 - Pittsburgh - Concert Preview

Southern California’s hard-working, hard-rocking Delta Spirit will play at Brillobox on Tuesday, November 30th. Relentless touring behind a great live show along with the critical success of their sophomore album, History from Below, have ensured Delta Spirit a growing and appreciative fan-base. On the heels of their full-length release in June, the boys have put together an EP, The Waits Room, specifically for this tour—it is only available at the show on vinyl or on iTunes. Much cooler to come to the show and get yours on wax!

Delta Spirit’s music is a soulful rock, steeped in the roots of Americana. They are known for putting on a great live show. We talked with singer/guitarist Matt Vasquez last week about the band’s live show, touring, and the connection between their new EP and Tom Waits.

What has changed for the band since your first album came out in 2008?

Well, we were a four piece and now we are a five piece again. And we’ve been on tour a lot since then. We toured our first record for 3 years. We did a lot of work and got to tour with bands like Cold War Kids, Dr. Dog, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

We had only been a band for like 6 months when our first record came out. We had a lot more time to write this last record.

As far as what kind of band we are, our schtick is no schtick. Our band is not selling t-shirts at Urban Outfitters. We love writing songs. We're influenced by our friends’ bands. That's what we do. That "our" thing.

Bushwick Blues by Delta Spirit

Your album History from Below has been getting great reviews.

Yeah, it's going great! For us, in the US, it's not like we have to create some gimmick. Our fans have usually seen us live and they like the songs. So instead of some single that they heard on the radio, it's because they like the whole record and the whole sound. We're all very proud of that. It just takes longer than your average Pitchfork-exploding band scenario.

As far as getting more attention now than with our first album, I feel like the difference from any recognition we have is from all the road work. Just touring so much and getting new fans that way.

With this record, we tried to make the record as good as we could and to sound like what we sound like live. Which is also a tricky thing, because what we sound like live is always changing. Sounds continue to be honed in and recreated. I think our real strength is playing in front on folks.

You just finished a tour in Europe with Ben Kweller. How was the tour? Were there cities and audiences that you felt you really connected with?

Yeah. Glasgow, Berlin. London...they're just so informed. They know what's going on a lot better than your average college town. Playing out there it's like playing in certain areas of the mid-west where you only have the internet to tell you what's cool and certain media and press is so important. And for us, press has never been a real big deal....or maybe we've just never done it right. You know what I mean? How do you sell a band that's just friends who just write music?

Your sound evokes the roots of American rock. How does your sound and your lyrics translate to a European audience, who may not have the same cultural context as your American fans?

People get the lyrics a lot more I figure in the U.S. But it's not rocket science to figure out what we're saying in our lyrics—we're pretty direct. And it's even more obvious in a live situation where you can see the sincerity in the musicians. That comes across. We didn't worry too much about playing slow songs where people had to focus on the lyrics, though—we were busy trying to play loud and have fun and get people to have a good time. We have shorter sets out there, and because of that we just try to kick ass as much as possible. Leave a good impression.

With the US shows, we have room to do the songs which are centered more on the lyrics, and it's nice. Depending on the fans and the mood of the night, we'll play a lot of slow songs. Sometimes if a crowd is just too talkative, you don't want to stretch people too far and you just play rock. You want to make sure everybody has fun. You know, the way these tickets are these days with surcharges of $15 bucks sometimes, and even if you paid $10 bucks—y ou paid for a night of fun with a band that you like and you like the songs. You want to play as many of those songs that people want to hear. Even if people want to hear the slow songs, sometimes it's maybe better that they don't hear it. But when the mood is right, it's awesome.

White Table by Delta Spirit

It sounds like your basic philosophy for a live show is to make sure everyone has a good time.

Yeah! Well, we want to read everybody. We're always trying to read out situation and go from there.

What’s the idea behind this upcoming tour?

We'll be on tour for about a month, and we're starting in Lawrence, Kansas and working our way up to Pittsburgh. Doing New York, Boston, Chicago, and hitting the cities that we didn't do last tour. We missed Pittsburgh, and Nashville, and a bunch of places we would have liked to. So we thought...well, we'll put out this EP and...

Yes! Talk about the EP.

The EP is a funny situation. Our record label, in their infinite wisdom, paid us to go back up to the studio in northern California and lip-sync a few songs after we had already finished the album. They wanted video of us tracking the record. So we did that and it ended up on a few blogs. It’s funny, because every record label makes the bands do these kind of silly things. And they had the opportunity to do it while we were recording the record, they just didn't think of it. We had, but nobody listened to us.

So we went back to the studio, even though the record was already done, and videotaped ourselves lipsyncing with the record. It took all of two hours to do. But we had a whole weekend with the film crew, the studio, and the engineer who did our record. So we thought...well, let's do this EP. We had this crazy idea of doing different versions of songs. Like the song “Bushwick Blues,” which sounds like a really driving rock song. On the EP we did everything live, and it sounds kind of like Harvest Moon. There's a library of congress song called “John Henry” that we turned into a kind of Nick Cave-punk-soul song. And a few other songs that were unrecorded of ours.It's only on vinyl on the tour and on iTunes. There are only 300 copies of the vinyl, and you gotta get to the show to get you hands on it. And it sounds great.

Golden State by Delta Spirit

Where does the name The Waits Room come from?

We tracked the EP in this room at the studio that we barely fit in, with a 10 x 10 floor and about a 15 foot tall ceiling. It's a concrete-floored barn room—just this excess room the studio used for storage space. But it turns out that Tom Waits had done every sound of his record Mule Variations in this one room, and it got dubbed the "Waits Room." And it's a cool room, and that's what we did. So the EP is called The Waits Room.

Well, I hope you have still have some of those 300 copies by the time you guys get into Pittsburgh on November 30th.

Definitely! Come out and get a one.

Thanks, Matt. I’ll see you at the show.

--Daniel Hammer

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Local Spotlight - Commissioner Jams Gordon - November 2010 - Pittsburgh

Commissioner Jams Gordon is our local spotlight for the month of November. Matthew Ciaramella and Joseph Kameen are the original members with several other musicians contributing. Below is an interview we conducted with CJG along with several tracks off their cd The Six Year Bus to the Sun. You can find more information about the band on their site http://www.commissionerjamsgordon.com/ along with a free download of the album.

How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school?

If you go all the way back to the beginning, the idea of forming a band came from Matt's guitar instructor. We were friends in school, and both interested in music, so it just happened, though other friends have come and left since then.

Mighty Mouse by Commissioner Jams Gordon

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

It sounds like you gave four dudes $150 and a MacBook and told them to record an album. And one of them plays ukulele. And one of them is very full of mediocre mexican food.

As far as the music is concerned it sounds like The National meets Beirut meets Yo la Tengo, if such a thing is even conceivable.

Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well?

Yes, we all grew up here, although now one of us lives in Boston and another in New York for school.

Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?

We are all currently enrolled in school, so being a full time band is not really an option at this point.

This Spot by Commissioner Jams Gordon

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?

Usually Matt comes up with a melody and lyrics, and over time each person adds their own bits and pieces over multiple practices. Eventually, after successive meetings and recording sessions, the song get's finalized into something more concrete, though minor changes keep getting made up to the final moment.

What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?

Getting signed to a label would be great, but honestly, the big dream is to start our own.

Western by Commissioner Jams Gordon

Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?

We've done mainly open mics around towns and small shows for friends and friends of friends. Eventually, we plan to start playing shows in Boston and New York.

What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?

There isn't a huge scene for indie rock, or at least there isn't a very apparent one. It works ok for us though, since we tend to work more on the recording side of the equation.

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?

I like trees, so there's a lot of those. Also, recording in my basement is free, so that's nice. Also, Rey Aztecas is cheap, delicious, and near by.

But in all honesty we really do love the area and being home. Its almost like the shire or something to us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tim Kasher - Interview - Show Preview - Thunderbird Cafe - 11/22/10

As previously mentioned, Tim Kasher will be playing at the Thunderbird Cafe this coming Monday, 11/22. We previously had spoken to TK in March when Cursive  was opening for the Alkaline Trio at Club Zoo. He was kind enough to answer a few questions ranging from his screenplay to his love of Pittsburgh.

The last time we spoke you were ready to shoot your screenplay in March. Did that get completed? And how did the project go? Will we see a release anytime soon?

No, did not get a chance to get it shot - still working on getting that made, as well as a couple other scripts!

Your new album Monogamy came out in October. How is this a progression from other Cursive records?

Well, better to ask how it's a progression from Good Life records, as it stems from that style of writing. I tend to write "rock", for lack of a better word, for Cursive, and more traditional music for Good Life/this project. This record differs in the sense that I'm not writing with/for a band, so I was afforded more flexibility for arranging with different instrumentation.

Is there a theme behind your new album? Or are these songs that shouldn’t be grouped together?

There is an overall theme of a monogamous relationship, the challenges this couple faces.

Where do you see your career going from this point? You created a screenplay, albums, etc. Is there anything else you would like to try? What goals do you have now?

Not really anything else I'm up for at the time, pretty busy with music and what I would currently call a "hobby" of writing screenplays. I don't expect much, career wise, I just keep writing and releasing albums, and am fortunate enough to keep doing so!

You now reside in Montana compared to LA or a metro area. Have you been able to spend time there? Has this had any influence on your writing, etc? Do you enjoy it more than the city?

Whitefish is a great town, whether it has any influence on writing, I can't be sure. I love living in both small towns and big cities, for different reasons. I may prefer the small town, only because there is more solitude, more time for writing.

Has the current state of the economy affected any plans you had for your band from travel or recording? To marketing?

Fortunately, not yet, though I never have made too big of plans for travel or recording!

Are you traveling with a full band on this tour?

Yes, we have a full band: Dylan Ryan on drums, Patrick Newbery on keys and trumpet, and Lewis Patzner on cello and bass.

Is there a show or album that made you want to dedicate your life to music?

Perhaps seeing Fugazi at an earlier age - their approach to writing and to the industry is inspiring.

Anything you would like to say to Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh is amongst the most underrated beautiful towns in the country!! But I think i've said that from stage a few times.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Show Preview - Tim Kasher - Thunderbird Cafe - 11/22/10 - Pittsburgh

Tim Kasher (lead man of Cursive, The Good Life) will be performing at the Thunderbird Cafe Monday, 11/22. Kasher just released his first solo album in his name this past October titled The Game of Monogamy. If you are a reader of the blog you know we are huge fans of TK. Just this past year we did a sit down interview with TK  which you can find here. He is one of the pioneering musicians of the 'Omaha scene' which includes Conor Oberst. He doesn't get as much attention as the latter, but he truly should.

Cold Love by Tim Kasher

The Game of Monogamy is a bit of a departure for what Cursive fans might expect. The teen angst is replaced by a more mature sound bordering on orchestral pop. TK wrote, produced and recorded the entire album that was released by his normal label, Saddle Creek. You can hear the multiple arrangements including strings, horns and wood instruments. The lyrical content is definitely depressing, speaking of a relationship that has gone stale: We both stopped servicing/Oh we're definitely missionary/Our official position. On the titled track 'Monogamy' So we're stuck in a few ruts/my independence is all but shriveled up/I guess that's the price we pay for monogamy We both have regrets; Those roads we never drove/But it's pointless to dwell in the what if's/I mean what if we had never met.

A Grown Man by Tim Kasher

From his press release: The album’s classical opening and its closing begin with an uneasy refrain of plucked notes on a harp, setting the tone for The Game Of Monogamy.  The theatrical arrangements and lush instrumentation of the album’s moody orchestral pop evoke a 1950s, pre-sexual revolution atmosphere, and set the stage for a dilemma that remains thoroughly modern.  The protagonist’s arc in The Game of Monogamy spans the wide range of distinctly human emotions tangled up around relationships in a starched shirt society.  Call it the score for our collective sexual plight: expression routinely becomes repression in the name of romance.  Kasher’s vision is as keen as ever, unapologetically honest, unflinching, and self-reflective.

There Must Be Something I've Lost by Tim Kasher

In concert Tim Kasher brings the goods and intensity that the audience pays for. Cursive played here back last May and put on one of our top 10 shows of the year. I am sure he will not disappoint in the smaller venue.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Girl Talk - All Day - Free Download

Resident musician Girl Talk just released his latest album All Day via Illegal Art. There is a free download that you can get here: http://illegal-art.net/allday.

Celebrating 10-plus years of sample-obsessed production and relentless touring, Gregg Gillis returns with All Day, his fifth album as Girl Talk, and his most epic, densely layered, and meticulously composed musical statement to date. Continuing the saga from the previously acclaimed albums, Night Ripper and Feed The Animals, Gillis lays down a more diverse range of samples to unfold a larger dynamic between slower transitions and extreme cut-ups. With the grand intent of creating the most insane and complex pop collage album ever heard, large catalogs of both blatantly appropriated melodies and blasts of unrecognizable fragments were assembled for the ultimate Girl Talk record (clocking in at 71 minutes and 373 samples).

Earlier this year, Girl Talk finally took a break from touring, festival dates, and college shows, in order to create this album that is now being released immediately after its completion. While posting the album as a free download on the Illegal Art label's site allows All Day to reach his fan-base quickly and with minimal cost, Gillis spent more time on this album than any previous release and considers it the most fully realized and evolved manifestation of the Girl Talk aesthetic.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trip Back to School - Vinyl Fever

I am headed back to my alma mater to catch a game this weekend. Back in the day the best music store in the world was Vinyl Fever. It had a huge used selection, special items and vinyl that was matched by no other store I had been to at the time.

I was looking forward to going this time as well, but I just found out that the store closed. Turns out they had to shut down due to the piracy, singles, etc. that many independent stores are competing with in today's market. Truly sad. I remember getting Sufjan's album for $1, Pavement vinyl for $3 and an Arcade Fire single for $2.

It's disappointing to see these stores you grew up with no longer existing. But I guess this is the nature of the business. The internet has changed everything for good or bad.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Show Review - Gogol Bordello - 11/5/10 - Mr Smalls - Pittsburgh

Thursday night at Mr. Smalls, the party known as Gogol Bordello visited our kind city. Gogol Bordello is one of the more celebrated live acts touring today—and with good reason. Tonight, they whipped the sold-out crowd into a frenzy with infectious, gypsy music-inspired punk, folk, and funk. Gogol Bordello’s show starts and stops with front man Eugene Hütz, whose onstage persona is bursting at the seams with wild-eyed charisma and tireless energy, delivered with a wink and a bit of a snarl. After openers Forro in the Dark had left the stage and the excitement began to build, many of us in the 21+ back section of the club began our migration to the front—not willing to merely witness the spectacle, but wanting to be a part of it as well. Once Gogol finally took the stage, the musical party began, arms went into the air, and the floor bounced with under our feet. Hütz led the charge with his music and his dancing. The gypsy musical sound is set by his acoustic strumming and the sometimes lulling, sometimes manic, accordion. As Hütz belts out his mad peasant croon, Gogol Bordello’s music is given strong groove and rock by heavy doses of bass, drums, violin, and Pedro Erazo’s rapping.

Highlights of the night for me were songs “Imigraniada” and “Break the Spell,” both off the most recent album Trans-continental Hustle. “Break the Spell” is one of those live songs that just keeps giving—the band was able to rock out an extended version which kept the crowd jumping and enthused. They even returned to this refrain during the encore. Erazo demonstrated a novel method of crowd surfing at one point, passing his marching-band style bass drum into the audience and then standing on top of the drum itself, from which he soon jumped into the arms of people below. My own (un-regretted) souvenir from the evening came in the form of a stain on my shirt from Hütz’s bottle of wine when he splashed it onto the crowd. Some talented Pittsburgher’s gave Gogol Bordello souvenirs as well. After the encore, the band came back to the stage and accepted two gorgeous oil paintings (one of Hütz and one of violinist Sergey Ryabtsev) that were being held above the crowd as the show started. Hütz seemed genuinely moved by the gesture, and rewarded us with one last song before the night ended. As the band bowed and left the stage, Hütz said, “Thank you, Pittsburgh. We are your friends, Gogol Bordello.” I think that many people tonight couldn’t help but agree with him.

--Daniel Hammer

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ticket Giveaway - April Smith and the Great Picture Show - Club Cafe - 11/8/10 - Show Preview

April Smith and the Great Picture Show will be playing Club Cafe Monday, 11/8. The doors will be open at 7p. We are giving away a pair of tickets to the show. All you have to do is email us at pghmusicreport@gmail.com with your name.

April Smith and the Great Picture Show play sassy pop music informed by the 30s and 40s, juke joints and cabaret, the Andrews Sisters and Tom Waits. Smith -- born and raised in Toms River, New Jersey, and now based in Brooklyn -- covers a wide range as a singer and songwriter, from the heartbroken ballad "Beloved" to the cheeky tell-off "Stop Wondering" and the sexy swagger of "Wow and Flutter". Her voice swoons and seduces, and then escalates to breathtaking peaks, backed by piano, upright bass, drums, guitar, horns, ukulele, accordion and even, when the occasion warrants, a suitcase used as a bass drum.

April Smith supported a national tour by singer and Eagles/Linda Ronstadt songwriter J.D. Souther in 2008 and played Lollapalooza 2009, in addition to appearing on an episode of the syndicated TV show Fearless Music and recording sessions for New York radio stations WRXP-FM and WFUV-FM -- all as an unsigned artist with no current album. In the summer of 2009, Smith sought to raise $10,000 to record and release Songs For A Sinking Ship from her fans via Kickstarter.com, a fundraising site for artists and creators. In the two months allotted for the campaign, Smith exceeded her goal, eventually earning more than $13,000 in pledges as fans eagerly anticipated the new album. Smiths song Terrible Things is currently featured in a promo spot for the Showtime TV series Californication.