Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Album - Generationals - Actor-Caster

Just was checking out Pitchfork and came upon this review of the new album for the Generationals. I hadn't realized they even produced another album. I was in love with this album back in 2009. It was in my player for quite sometime. I was a little disappointed seeing them live this past year in Morgantown, but that happens. Pitchfork had this to say about it:

Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer court their catchy tunes in uncomplicated ways, creating minor, genre-spanning songs that oddly locate the same sort of similar kind of grinning, crowd-pleasing affability. The dusty guitar boogie of "Ten-Twenty-Ten", which could pass for an early Phoenix track, is a great guidepost, showcasing the band's proclivity for lively rhythmics and frill-less, friendly hooks.

Generationals - Greenleaf by Pacoco

Hopefully it's as good as the last.

Friday, March 25, 2011

SXSW - Review - 2011

My first SXSW. Four days of cramming in as many bands as possible, eating Texas barbeque and street tacos, people watching, which often focused on the many garish hipsters (“hipster Mardi Gras” as a friend said), and punctuated attempts to stay hydrated in the sun and boozed in the dark. The SXSW festival includes an “interactive” conference aimed at tech, film, and music industry insiders, but most people come for the music showcases which begin Wednesday afternoon and run until the wee hours of Saturday night. A badge or wristband (costing $650 and up and $150 respectively) allow you free access to showcases at the more than 50 participating clubs and venues at night. But there is no need to pay the price tag. Numerous stages are free during the daytime hours, and nightly covers at clubs are only $10-$15. I left Austin having shelled out a total of $35 getting into venues. With more than 2,000 bands playing, I saw saw a tiny fraction of it all, but managed to see all of the acts I had on my wish list going in.

The best act I saw, hands down, but somewhat surprisingly, was Oberhofer on Thursday night at the Bat Bar. I interviewed Brad Oberhofer a few months back and saw him play at Brillobox. It was the first time he had gone on an extended tour and really worked out material with his live band. The guys have really tightened up their live show—changing a number of the song’s live structures to be louder and more punk influenced, while still showcasing the quirks of sound and acrobatics of Brad’s vocals that make Oberhofer distinctive. Really stunning show. Two friends with me who had never heard of him (and weren’t already fans like I was) agreed that he was the best thing we saw.

Two of my other wish list groups did not disappoint: Braids and Baths. Braids I saw on Saturday afternoon at the Swan Bar, where their live sound blew me away. I love their album Native Speaker, but the vocals at the live show were so much more powerful and visceral, while maintaining every bit of the shifty atmospheric pop that drives the album. Baths on Thursday evening was a one man glitch electronic show that I expected would be a great sound, but not much of a show. I was wrong. Will Weisenfeld was over-the-top; jumping, throwing his head back, cavorting with the crowd while twisting knobs, looping vocals, banging out bass, and singing with a surprisingly good live voice.

Other highlights included Wye Oak’s set on the outdoor stage at Waterloo Records. I still can’t get over how cool it is to see Andy Stackhouse play drums with one hand and keyboard with another, while Jenn Wasner alternately sings in her soothingly husky voice and shreds into her guitar. James Blake, a must-see of the festival, played a flawless set to packed and sweaty tent at the French Legation Museum on Friday. The downside was that you couldn’t see Blake or his band mates (they were sitting down on a low stage). But this didn’t matter as much as the profound sounds of his wounded vocals over minimal music (for which the crowd kept silent in admiration) alongside the thunderous bass and sharp tacks of dubstep. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, whose hometown is Austin, attracted a huge crowd on Thursday afternoon and absolutely killed it with their blues and soul rock, particularly when hosting the bright-blue-suited singers the Relatives onstage. Tune Yards played a seriously enjoyable set influenced by African and reggae beats. I also threw fists in the air during sets by the Joy Formidable, JEFF the Brotherhood, Mount Kimbie, and Maps and Atlases. Das Racist capped of one of our evenings with a sweaty, thumping, and often hilarious hip-hop set. These guys are awesome (and completely high) live.

Some misses included the overhyped Toro y Moi. His music sounds introverted and under-confident live, failing to make a lasting impression. Although I love them, the Trail of the Dead played a set marred by weak vocals, even for a band known to have bad live vocals. Prince Rama is a gimmick, playing Indian-inspired music, complete with a dancer and a total lack of substance. Both Cults and Nite Jewel have gotten some buzz, but neither are the real deal. Cults actually look like a cult—they all have the exact same late-90s long haircut, but their sugary pop is boring. I came home exhausted on Sunday afternoon after having not slept on Saturday night. That still left me in better condition than the Australian band that boarded the plane and sat across the aisle from me on the flight to Dallas. One of the guys spent the early part of the flight vomiting up last night’s drinks while his friend patted his back and the poor girl boxed in to the window seat cringed and pretended to sleep. Despite a few clunkers (and even some of them were fun to see) SXSW was a blast and one of the best places to catch and discover new and upcoming acts. Some of these bands are now on tour and will be coming through Pittsburgh and nearby cities, so keep your eyes open.

Daniel Hammer

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Show Preview - Kurt Vile and The Violators - Andy Warhol Museum - 3/29/11 - Concert Preview

Kurt Vile and The Violators will be appearing at the Warhol Museum Tuesday 3/29 at 8p. Vile just released his fourth lp, Smoke Ring For My Halo on Matador Records. They will be performing at the Andy Warhol Museum, next Tuesday, 3/29.

From his press:

Kurt Vile has a way of tying time in knots. You can hear it on his new album Smoke Ring For My Halo from the get-go – the pinwheeling guitars and reaching atmospheres of ‘Baby’s Arms’ are as strange as they are familiar: a demonstration of how Kurt can put worn methods and sounds through himself and end up with something that isn’t emotionally or sonically obvious. Instead we’re left with a record that contains traces of the past but doesn’t waste precious time in the now being reverent.

Once compared to Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty, Psychic TV, and Animal Collective in the same review (for 2009’s Childish Prodigy), Kurt can bring to mind anything from Suicide to Leo Kottke to My Bloody Valentine, Bob Seger, Nick Drake, and Eastern ragas. Still, he pieces together these disparate elements so seamlessly and unpretentiously that such reference points are rendered pointless by the singularity of his sound. Kurt Vile might belong to a long lineage of classic American songwriters, but he’s the only one who’s alive and in his prime today.

This is the fourth time Kurt Vile has put an album’s worth of songs together and stuck a name on it, but in a sense Smoke Ring For My Halo is his first real album – every flinching guitar arpeggio and vocal wander was made to be here, made with this record in mind, to sit alongside another in situ and in sequence. It seems weird saying this given the amount of ground he’s covered already, but Smoke Ring For My Halo is the perfect way into the music Kurt Vile makes. It’s tender and evocative, elusive but companionable, tough in the gut and the arm but swollen in the chest and giddy in the head. It’s a record that is perfect for any given day during whatever season, to satisfy all moods in every possible scenario – be that first thing in the morning or last thing at night; today, tomorrow or five years from now.

The show is schedule to begin at 8p with doors open at 7:30p. You can still purchase tickets here:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wise Blood Live Videos Youtube

If you didn't know Wise Blood will be playing his first show in Pittsburgh on 3/24 at Stage AE. We obviously have hyped him up quite a bit over the last couple of years with good reason.

He is on his first national tour. Some of his set is being posted on youtube. Looks pretty damn good.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ticket Giveaway - Bobby Long - Rex Theater - 3/23/11 - Show Preview - Pittsburgh

We are pleased to be giving away a pair of tickets to see Bobby Long at the Rex Theater Wednesday, 3/23. The 24 year old songwriter is touring on his debut lp, A Winter Tale, released on ATO Records. A transplant from London, Bobby currently resides in New York City. You can find more information at

To enter for the giveaway simply email us at with your name. Entries must be received by 3/22.

From his bio:

"British singer-songwriter-guitarist Bobby Long's anticipated debut studio album 'A WINTER TALE', produced by Liam Watson (White Stripes) will be released February 1st, 2011 on ATO Records. Currently residing in New York City, the 24-year old Long has been writing finely-crafted songs since taking up the guitar at age 17; from then on he's been creating memorable songs inhabited by hauntingly poetic lyrics. After relocating to London from the countryside of South West England, he became a fixture at London's open-mic nights while attending London Metropolitan University where he studied Music in Film and wrote his thesis on The Social Impact of American Folk Music. He quickly established himself on the local open mic circuit, finding his voice and beginning to develop songs characterized by catchy melodies paired with elusive, imaginative lyrics.

A WINTER TALE merges band power with acoustic rawness, featuring Nona Hendryx (LaBelle) on backing vocals on "Penance Fire Blues," B. J. Cole (Elton John, Sting) on pedal steel, Icelandic singer Lay Low on several tracks, and other top-drawer musicians. And by way of continued extensive touring, he will be bringing A WINTER TALE and what has been called his "tapestry of tales" to the ever-growing audiences seduced by his compelling voice, musicianship and charm."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Local Spotlight - Brooke Annibale - March 2011 - Pittsburgh - Interview - Album Release

Brooke Annibale is our local spotlight for the month of March 2011. She is a Pittsburgh native and is already creating her third album at the age of 23. Silence Worth Breaking is the new album and will be released on March 15th. You can find several tracks throughout the below interview. There will also be a cd release show at Cefalo's Restaurant & Nightclub in Carnegie, PA on March 26th at 8p. You can find more information about Brooke on the following site:

How did you get your start creating music? 
I've been writing lyrics and putting them to melody for as along as I can remember. I might have started that when I was 10 or so. I started learning guitar at 15 and started writing songs as soon as I knew enough chords to piece a few together.

Silence Worth Breaking - "First Listen" by brookeannibale

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

Acoustic pop-folk.

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

Born and raised in Pittsburgh and mostly all of my family is here as well.

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

I do create music full time, although half of the job is the managing, booking, promoting, social networking, publicity etc, which I do as well.

Silence Worth Breaking - "First Listen" by brookeannibale

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

My process starts one of two ways: I either have an idea for a song topic / a line or two I want to build a song from OR I have a guitar part or progression and a melody and I write a song to that. It really has to process after the could go in a 100 different directions from there. I could be done with the whole song in 30 minutes or it could take a few months to find the right words, etc. I usually track the song on GarageBand throughout the writing process.

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

My goals right now are to successfully release this record and grow my fan base. I hope these songs really connect with listeners. As far as the business side of things, I'd really like to get a booking or management deal. Having someone to book my shows for me would be incredible!

What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?

Play out a lot. Focus on your songwriting and make sure you love the music you make. I spent a long time on this new batch of songs and I've never been more excited about a few songs, which makes me really excited to play, promote and sell them. If you don't love the songs you're doing (which happens), you won't have the enthusiasm to perform and promote them over and over and over and over again.

Silence Worth Breaking - "First Listen" by brookeannibale

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

I've mostly toured regionally (eastern PA, Ohio, DC, Baltimore) but I've gotten pretty far too, (Vermont, Massachusetts, NYC, Nashville, Kentucky, Greensboro).

Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?

Pgh has it's advantages if you're a musician. The scene is not as saturated as some cities, like where I went to college, in Nashville. So in that way their is more room for you to find a fan base, but in the same sense there probably isn't as much interest in music as there is in Nashville or New York or bigger cities. But you know, Pittsburgh really does has a great arts scene and I can tell it's growing the more time I have to observe and participate in it.

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

It's always an obstacle to get people out to shows, but I think that happens everywhere. I went to school in Nashville and when you're there you meet people in the industry all the time. That doesn't really happen in Pittsburgh so that's kind of an obstacle.

Silence Worth Breaking - "First Listen" by brookeannibale

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?

Like I said before, it's a lot less saturated with musicians and the music being created is really diverse. That can make it a bit easier to attempt making a career out of it.

Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?

I always like to play at Club Cafe. It's a cozy space and a lot of my favorite national artists play there. And I got my start in coffee shops so anytime I have the opportunity to play in a place like that I'm excited about it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Show Review - Gifts from Enola, In the Wake of Giants, Lehnen – 3/7/11 - Garfield Artworks - Concert Review

I was treated to two fantastic shows in two days, with Alex Winston and then Gifts from Enola and others. Granted, very different styles of music. I arrived late at Garfield artworks to find out that If These Tree Could Talk had been forced to cancel, so I am not sure who replaced them. I had been excited for the one-two punch of Trees and Gifts from Enola, but it turned out to be excellent nonetheless. The lineup was a post-rock dream. Each band combines elements of ambiance, beautiful melodies, thrashing, and exploding emotion into long, building songs. Enola closed out the show with an over the top set of schizophrenic rock that rarely rested in one spot for long before collapsing into new melodies or outbursts of guitars.

A big surprise of the night for me was In the Wake of Giants. A Pittsburgh band—they were phenomenal. Their music relied on more driving rhythms than Enola, producing a simultaneously muscular and manic sound which held their grooves a bit longer and built up to some tremendous pay offs. Spring is here. Bands are touring again. I can’t wait for more.

--Daniel Hammer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Show Review - Alex Winston - 3/6/11 - Brillobox - Concert Review - Live Review

I have the feeling that Sunday was the last chance we will have to see Alex Winston in a club the size of Brillobox. She’s just too good. She has it all. Captivating stage presence. Enthusiasm. Self-written songs with hooks and emotion in her songs. Backup singers (her “sister wives”) who, once seen in a live setting, add oomph to her songs and do proud to their Detroit-hometown tradition of Motown stage singers. Most importantly, Winston has a tremendous voice.

She and her band played a relatively short set, as she has yet to release a full-length album. Winston has released a handful of cover songs, and ended the night Sunday with an excellent Rod Stewart cover. Who doesn’t love Rod Stewart? In late February she released her first collection of original songs on the Sister Wife album, and this is her first short tour since its release. Winston played all the instruments on her recordings, but live she devotes herself to moving about the stage, into the crowd, and shaking her tambourine. She did pick up the acoustic guitar and play “Don’t care about anything,” a slow folk ballad, alone on stage. The sister wives really add to the show. As Winton mentioned in her interview here, they are all close friends and it shows in their onstage chemistry.

The takeaway point from Sunday night is just how good she is live, which I both expected and was still surprised by. Her original songs “Choice Notes,” “Locomotive,” and “Sister Wife” are great songs, but every one of them sounds better live than on the recording. This is a testament to her song writing and her natural voice. It is also an indictment of the production of her Sister Wife album, by New York producers The Knocks. Looking over live reviews of Winston in the past month, nearly 5 in 10 will make a specific point of how much better she sounds live. Her live sessions on the internet are better. The Knocks, whose name is tossed around with the likes of Big Boi, Rihanna and Ellie Goulding, seem to have gone about business as usual with Winston’s record and (shudder) “overproduced” the sound. I am sold on Winston as a talent. She just signed to Island Records in the UK. I’ll keep listening to Sister Wife because I the songs are so catchy, but I demand a more natural and authentic sound out of her next record. That being the case, we’ll see her blow up big in the next year.
--Daniel Hammer

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good Old Record Shops

Last week I had to travel to Rochester and was thinking "great". However, I happened upon a record store, the kind that used to be around 15 years ago. The store is called Record Archive and is probably one of the best shops I have been into years.

They have wall to wall discs and vinyl, including a spectacular used section (where everything is $5). But the nice thing is they have diversified their business to include clothing and memorabilia...something that surely helps these days.

If you happen to be in Rochester make sure to check it out.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pitchfork - Opus One Productions

I was perusing Pitchfork the other day and noticed a banner advertising Pgh upcoming shows. I clicked through and it took me to Opus One site. I believe this is the first time I have seen a regional advertisement for shows targeted on a well known blog. Curious if this strategy works for them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Show Preview - Alex Winston - Interview - 3/6/11 - Brillobox - Concert Preview

Alex Winston brings a trail of buzz and accolades to Brillobox on Sunday night, touring before a stateside audience that is just beginning to take notice of her captivating sound. A Detroit-born multi-instrumentalist, Winston attracted attention last year with her Basement Covers EP, in which she covered songs from Mumford and Sons, the Rolling Stones and others—literally recorded in her basement. Just a few weeks back, she released the six-song Sister Wife album, with an alluring collection of original songs centered around her powerful, idiosyncratic voice. Her sound, blending pop, folk, and soulfulness, has drawn comparisons to Joanna Newsome mixed with Best Coast. Numerous critics, particularly in Europe, have tagged her as an artist to watch in 2011. Her album is great, and her live vocals are mesmerizing—watch the video below. Come be one of the first to see this emerging artist on Sunday.

We had a chance to talk with Winston on Thursday morning about beginning her U.S. tour.

For everyone who doesn’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you draw inspiration from? What motivates you, whether it's music or something else?

It's only music. I've had absolutely no other hobbies or anything like that. I love music. I wish I were talented at other things, but I'm just not. I grew up in Detroit, so a lot of the music from there inspires me, I grew up on a lot of Motown. The Supremes and Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and all that great stuff. But also Iggy Pop and the Stooges. I'm a big fan of the Stones, and early rock and roll like Chuck Berry and that sort of thing.

You still draw inspiration from that today?

Yeah. I mean, I don't think my music sounds anything like that, but that’s what's behind it. The simplicity of the songs, the quality of the melodies—those are the sort of things that I listen to. I also like PJ Harvey and Kate Bush, Mumford and Sons, Villagers, and Young, I'm kind of scattered all over the place.

Your new “mini-album” is called Sister Wife (released on Feb. 22nd). Why sister wife as a theme? And why are some of your band members your “sister wives”?

This is...I call the girls the sister wives because they're my best friends. Some of them grew up with me in Detroit. I feel that the closest relationship you can have without being a blood relative is having a sister wife. And those girls constantly, always have my back. They're my best friends and I love touring with them. I bring them everywhere with me when I travel and write. They're really an inspiration and that's the meaning behind sister wives.

The song is more about having to deal with having sister wives…just in a general sense, the term sister wife, for people to actually live that lifestyle, having to share something that you love, and having to compromise for other people. …and how I'm stubborn, and I don't like to do that!

I like that. Now, there is a story that you once played in Pittsburgh, opening for Ted Nugent…

At the Pepsi Roadhouse! Is it still there?

Yeah, but I don’t go there. Apparently you went to great lengths to try to get people to stop paying attention to their barbeque dinners and actually listen to the music.

I just meant that it was hard, because I've never played in a setting like that.

Well now you've been playing for years, and that's just one of many stories I’m sure. What kept you going then and what keeps you going now?

It was such a great experience. Granted, I wasn't really making music that I loved. I didn't write any of the music. And I love Ted as a person, but I didn't feel like that was "me" at all. There was nothing me about that. But it was such a great experience being on the road. I loved seeing things. It kind of was a lesson. I felt like I had to go through all that stuff to be where I am now. To understand how things work. How to manage your own crew. Now I have a manager, but I'm still involved in everything because I did it for so long, being my own manager straight out of high school. Touring on no money and trying to make things work; it really benefitted me. I look back on that and I'm really thankful for that experience. Even though I was playing weird shows like...Pepsi Roadhouse.

In the past 6 months to a year, you have really captured a good deal of interest and buzz. What do you make of it?

In one sense it's weird. I mean, I appreciate it and I'm really excited and happy to be playing more. You know, all I want to do is be on the road again. Coming to see you guys, playing shows around here, in the U.S., is always on my mind right now. It's...I don't know, it's a weird feeling. On stage I might be kind of crazy, doing my thing, but in real life I'm somewhat of a personal person, and pretty reserved. To put that part of me out there, a body of work that I've been working on for the past year, to put that out there and have it generally be accepted pretty well is a really great feeling. And it's also a terrifying feeling to, because you're exposing yourself. But I'm really excited to keep going.

Audiences in the UK seem to have really taken a shine to you. Your song “Choice Notes” was featured in a Hyundai commercial in the UK. You headlined the NME awards in London. The Guardian has argued that you are poised for success this year. Congratulations!

Thank you.

Is your head spinning? What do you plan to focus on now?

Actually, I want to be over here for a bit. To be honest with you, I really want to ignore all this press shit—no offense. I mean [this interview] is for a cause, I’m coming to play for you, and I'm thrilled about it. But the press can get to your head in ways where you start thinking...I don't know, it can just be a mental mind-fuckery. I don't want to take into consideration what other people say, because I don’t want it to change what I'm doing. You know, I don't want to read all this stuff, whether it's a good review or a bad review, and start second-guessing myself. I'm trying to ignore that and do what I feel is right for me, which is: I want to be over here, I want to play over here. And I'm working on an album right now, so those two things are where my energy is going to be in the next three months.

A new album, that’s great!

It's supposed to be done in July for a September release, so we'll see if that can work.

And you signed with a label now?

Yeah. I actually just got back last night, I was in Paris, and Germany, and London for a few weeks. And I ended up signing with Island Records in the UK. I'm really happy to be working with them, they're a great label. I'm thrilled!

Thanks, Alex!

Thank you! I'm excited to see you all.