Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Shows and Albums of 2011

And we continue down our 'best of' list with Shannon Smith. I don't get the appeal of Bon Iver by the way. Overrated. But whatever.

Top 2011 Albums

1. Bon Iver - 'Bon Iver, Bon Iver'
2. M83 - 'Hurry Up We're Dreaming'
3. Zola Jesus - 'Conatus'

Top 2011 Shows

1. Future Islands - Mr Smalls - 10.26.11
2. Mogwai - Mr Smalls - 4.27.11
3. Cold Cave - Brillobox - 5.22.11

--Shannon Smith

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top Shows and Albums of 2011

There is something inexplicable about this time of year that always gives me goosebumps. I don't know if it's the power of Christmas, change of season or seeing family and friends with an annual visit. I was feeling this nostalgia until I drove home today and proceeded to get in an accident, which will cost me dearly, tacking onto my over budgeted xmas travels and spending. Of course my fault.....But another year. We begin our countdown of the top albums and shows of 2011 by writer. First up is Jonathon Puff who saw more out of area shows this year while racking up plenty of skymiles. Here are his list:

Top 2011 Albums

1. Metronomy - The English Rivieria
3. Death Grips - Ex-Military
4. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
5. Panda Bear - Tomboy
6. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
7. Modeselektor - Monkeytown
8. The Antlers - Burst Apart
9. My Morning Jacket - Circuital
10. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Top 2011 Shows (Yes, I saw more shows outside of PGH this year)

1. My Morning Jacket - Bonnaroo Manchester, TN
2. LCD Soundsystem - Last Show - MSG - NYC, NY
3. Queens of the Stone Age - HOB, Cleveland, OH
4. The Avett Brothers - Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
5. James Blake - The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
6. Eminem - Bonnaroo Manchester, TN
7. Band of Skulls - Bonnaroo Manchester, TN
8. Portishead - The Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA
9. Arcade Fire - Bonnaroo Manchester, TN
10. Mogwai - Mr. Smalls, Pittsburgh, PA

--Jonathon Puff

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Show Review - Beirut - 12.10.11 - Altar Bar - Pittsburgh - Concert Review - Live Review

Two surprising sold out evenings with Beirut, two stellar shows. The location of the venue seemed suited for Beirut themselves. Housed at the Altar Bar, a refurbished Basilica Church, the band mixes Eastern European folk with indie and Mexican funeral. The opener for the evening was Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas, whose bedroom music I have enjoyed for the past few months. Featured on Matador Records, PM is releasing a new album in February, but his performance this evening was overshadowed by a boisterous crowd. Not once could I discern his music, much less is lyrics. The capacity Pittsburgh audience didn’t let him have a chance (checkout the video). He would be better featured in a venue such as Club Café or Club Stage AE (not Brillo).

The audience was more respectful when Beirut made their appearance, cheering upon their entry before bringing it down to a hush tone for the first song ‘Scenic World’. Lead man Zach Condon led the six piece band which included among other instruments trumpet, tuba, trombone and accordion making a mix of their soviet mariachi sound. Their live performance transcends their albums bringing a mesh of warm and heavy sound without much improvisation from the band or banter between songs. The group was tight creating the passion and zeal for the sold out onlookers who hung on every note.

The 23 year old Zach Condon came out by himself for the encore beginning with ‘The Penalty’ on the ukulele. For such a young man he appears to have grown over the past several years understanding how to entertain, compared to other reviews at the early stages of his career. After the solo, the band arrived again and finished the set with ‘My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille’ and ‘The Gulag Orkestar’. The crowd showed their approval at every tune, replying with clear satisfaction until the set ended.

I didn’t realize how popular Beirut was until the surprising two sold out shows here in Pittsburgh. I could see them growing even larger and soon selling out a place like Heinz Hall where an older audience could appreciate them. Nothing but up for these youngsters. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gone Fishing - Vacation December

We are going fishing for most of December. We will post when we are able. But check out a few videos from recent shows including

Last night. Beirut.

Karkwa. One of the best shows this year in pgh. Too bad there were not more to enjoy. They won the Canadian Grammy.

Waters opening for CYHSY

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Show Preview - Beirut - 12.10 & 12.11 - Altar Bar - Concert Preview

The show of the month is without a doubt Beirut performing at the Altar Bar for two straight evenings sponsored by 91.3 WYEP. Just so happens that both nights are already sold out, so good luck in finding at ticket (or you can try winning a pair from Mr Hugh Shows). The band is touring behind their new album Rip Tide released this past June. 

Beirut is Zach Codon. Spending time both in Newport News and Santa Fe, Codon dropped out of HS when he was 16. He began working in an international cinema coming into influences of Balkan and Sicilian Brass. His music is often synonymous with the exotic mysteries of world travel. Since Beirut's last album, 2007's The Flying Club Cup, sang a love letter to France (with a 2009 stop-off in Mexico for the March of the Zapotec EP) many have asked where his songs would voyage next. Lots of guesses, but few predicted the inward journey Condon has achieved on The Rip Tide, an album with the most introspective and memorable songs of his young career.

From his press regarding the label:

The album is on Pompeii Records, a label started and wholly owned by Condon. Pompeii is a fully independent, artist run, label and it is releasing The Rip Tide internationally. This extreme level of creative control is what the band has always preferred. Shows often sell-out because they choose to play smaller, more intimate venues. This connection directly to fans extends to The Rip Tide release itself, the desire to be able to 100% decide what their music will sound, look, and feel like, not to mention how it can be obtained.

Shows begin at 8p with Perfume Genius opening. Find more information here:

Show Preview - Delicious Pastries - Record Release Show - 12.9.11 - Thunderbird Cafe

We featured Delicious Pastries back in May of last year. Well come to find out they are holding their first album release show this Friday, 12.9. The performance will be at the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawerenceville and will also include locals Good Night, States. Their new album is entitled Pretty Please and features their 60's retro pop sound. Below is the track to their first single and "Safe & Sound":

Show begins at 10p with tickets only $7. Everyone who attends will receive a digital download code for the entire album free. You can find more information about the album and show at these below links:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ticket Giveaway - Karkwa - 12.7.11 - Brillobox - Pittsburgh - Show Preview

As previously mentioned Karkwa will be playing at Brillobox tomorrow night. We have a pair of tickets to giveaway! Just email us with your name to:

Winner will be chosen tomorrow. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Interview - Waters - 12.6.11 - Mr Smalls - Pittsburgh - Show Preview - Concert Preview

As previously mentioned, Waters will be opening for Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah tomorrow night at Mr Smalls. We were finally able to get an interview with frontman Van Pierszalowski before the show. We spoke about his time in Oslo, working with a new band and how the weather had an impact on the album. Be sure to checkout his site. Without further ado:

What made you go to Oslo once your previous band broke up? Why Oslo? What did you discover there that made you want to continue music?

Well, I first went to Oslo because I met a girl on tour there with my previous band.  After the band broke up, I didn't have a place of my own, and I knew I wanted to recharge and restart, and Oslo turned out the perfect place to do that.  

From your bio you continued to write while spending time in Alaska, Cali and eventually Brooklyn. How do these songs differ from your previous venture, Port O Brien?

The songs on this record were worked on a lot more than the songs in Port O'Brien.  That band took ideas and chunks of melodies and threw them together in a pretty loose way.  I wanted WATERS to be more focused on the songwriting.  I wanted to spend the time to develop the songs more before we got into the studio.  

You went back to Oslo to flesh these songs out with other musicians. Why Oslo? And then record in Dallas?

I knew I had some amazing musicians to work with in Oslo that could really help bring this project to life.  Nikolai (my guitarist) had done a tour with Port O'Brien, and I knew I worked with him well.  And two of his best friends happened to be an amazing drummer, and an amazing bassist, so it really just fell into place.

Was there a theme you were attempting to project on the album? Or do these songs all stand on their own?

I never try to write songs along a certain theme.  That being said, I think there are some pretty obvious lyrical threads that run through the record.  

You are touring behind your album Out In The Light. The musicians that assisted you from Oslo, will they be touring with you as well?

My guitarist Nikolai is playing in the band.  I have a new California based rhythm section of Nicholas Wolch on drums and Alex Margitich on bass.  This band is the best band I've ever had.  I really have never had this much fun in the live setting.

You are more rocking (electric) than on your past venture. What made you decide to go into this direction?

I think the songs really made that decision.  I've always desired to make the songs be whatever they want to be.  All of the records I've made have some more rocking songs, and some more gentle songs.  This one just turned out to be pretty aggressive, and I wanted the production to match that.

How was working with producer John Congleton? What made you choose him? What did he bring to the table that you weren’t expecting?  

He was amazing to work with.  He kept things raw and focused.  He distrusted any effort to tidy things up or make things pretty sounding.  He made me proud of the imperfections of my voice, and really pushed me in ways that helped make the record be honest.

Was there something in Oslo that inspired you or any of these other areas you spent time in?

All of the places that I spent time in, from Oslo to Alaska to New York, were very inspiring.  I would say that I'm always inspired more by whats going on in my personal relationships than in my relationships to the places I'm in, but the context of moving around a lot, of all these diverse environments, definitely left its mark on the record.

In the bio it mentions that this is the first time you experienced seasons and this had something to do with your writing process. Is this accurate?

Yes.  Growing up in the central coast of California, its pretty much always "hoodie" weather.  I never even thought about buying a coat or a jacket throughout my whole life.  To be all of a sudden immersed in Oslo and New York, with their very noticeable seasonal differences definitely makes it easier to mark the passage of time, and you grow to appreciate the warmer weather much more.  The seasons made me feel further away from home, and distanced myself from the cozy California scene that made me better able to reflect on what I was leaving behind.

You have some interesting videos. Did you take an active part in the creation of them? Or were these a skeleton that you had and someone took over with the rest?

Well, the video for "For the One" was definitely the vision of the director, Allen Cordell.  I can't take much credit for that at all.  I do try to be as involved as possible in all aspects of the project, but I realize I'm not a film maker in any way, so I love picking people that I really want to work with and letting them go wild.

 Was there any theme to the new album?

I would say the theme is waking up, and starting over, and not caring about what you're leaving behind.

What made you want to dedicate your life to music? Was there a show or album?

There wasn't anything specific, really.  I just knew its the only thing I really ever wanted to do.  Still, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life.  Working in Alaska on my dad's boat is the only other thing I can think of that would really make me happy.

How do you go about creating your music? Do you all contribute to the lyrics and music?

Almost all of the songs on the WATERS record were totally completed being written before I brought them into the band.  A few songs got tinkered with during the rehearsal process, or by our producer John Congleton, but by and large, they were obsessed over before they were ever really played through.  The band has an enormous amount of impact on how the songs end up sounding.  But for this record, I spent over a year by myself obsessing over the style and content of these songs on my own.

What would you like to accomplish with this project? Are there any goals you have?

I really want to be able to keep touring, making records, and to be able to make a living off of it.  I realize that's getting harder and harder these days, but that's definitely the goal.

Anything you would like to say to Pittsburgh?

I really can't wait to play in the area again.  I've only done it once, but I had such a great time, and I hope I can explore the area a little more this time around. *

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Show Preview - Waters w/Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah - 12.6.11 - Mr Smalls - Pittsburgh - Concert Preview

Waters will be appearing at Mr Smalls this Tuesday, 12.6 opening for Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah. Van Pierszalowski is the lead and major contributor to WATERS having previously spent his time as a member of Port O' Brien. At the time POB broke up, Van became a roaming soul settling in such areas as Oslo, Norway, Alaska and Brooklyn. The band just recently released his first LP Out in the Light this past September to positive reviews. Von has put a great deal of time and years into this project which you can hear below.

From their bio:

Spring 2010 saw the demise of Port O’Brien, and founding member/front man Van Pierszalowski needed a break from the hectic, wonderful mess that is touring. He stumbled into respite in Oslo, Norway, and spent some time away from making music. Van explored the new city, swam in the Norwegian fjords, enjoyed the weather and the experience of seasons changing. He found his bearings and fell in love again.

Inspiration arrived and as he wrote, Van was compelled to fuel the process further by changing his environment once more. He spent most of the next year traveling: to Alaska, where he’d spent summers working on his father’s commercial salmon fishing boat; to California, where he’d grown up in a seaside town off Highway 1; and eventually to New York, where in Brooklyn he endured relentless blizzards and a cold nearly reminiscent of Oslo.

Van gave his new project a name: WATERS. These new songs he wrote veered away from the frequently loose, punchy anthems of Port O’Brien, and as he intensively pieced each one together, he sought a bigger sound – something louder than he could play on his own. So Van returned to Oslo, where his new journey had begun. He put together a band of fine Norwegian gentlemen and spent every day of the next two months rehearsing in a small practice space outside of the city.

The show begins at 8p with doors opening at 7p. Tickets are 17 and can be found here

Friday, December 2, 2011

Show Preview - Karkwa - 12.7.11 - Brillobox - Pittsburgh - Concert Preview

Many times bands come through our third tier market that you don't recognize nor take a listen. Do yourself a favor and check Karkwa now. The band hails from Montreal, Canada and just released their fourth LP, Les Chemins de Verre (The Glass Pathways). The highly acclaimed album just happened to win the the Polaris Music Prize (Canada's equivalent of the Grammy). They are recently coming off a tour opening for local legends Arcade Fire (Polaris winners as well) that included playing to over 100k at the 10th Anniversary of Pop Montreal.

The one rub that some might feel is their lyrics are all in French. Well, if you like Sigur Ros, etc. then take a moment and listen, this will blow you away. The band is also known for their powerful live shows, often selling out in Europe and of course their home country. They are only playing three US dates, and somehow Pittsburgh has made the cut. The other two, Chicago and New York.

From their press:

Karkwa is singer/guitarist Louis-Jean Cormier, drummer Stéphane Bergeron, keyboardist François Lafontaine, bassist Martin Lamontagne and percussionist/singer Julien Sagot. Their music is described as "restlessly inventive" and has earned the band a groundswell of popular and critical praise.

Les Chemins De Verre was recorded in part at La Frette studios in Paris. (Feist's The Reminder was also recorded here as well as legends like Serge Gainsbourg.) An inspirational venue dating from the 19th century, the building became the sixth member of the band as they returned there time and again during their French tour. A lively collection based on spontaneous impulses of creativity, this album was put together without pre-production for a more organic and impressionistic sound.

Doors are at 9p while show begins at 9:30p. Tickets can be found here