Friday, November 22, 2013

Ticket Giveaway - Concert Preview - Tuareg guitar master Bombino - Thunderbird Cafe - 11-27-13

"I do not see my guitar as a gun but rather as a hammer with which to help build the house of the Tuareg people"
- Omara "Bombino" Moctar, 7/25/2013, Interview w/ Artistxite.

One day, they will make a movie about the life of Omara Moctar.  And while he has already been featured in a few documentaries, that is just a footnote in the 33 year old's improbable life story. 

Moctar was born in 1980, in a small Tuareg encampment in the north of the West African nation of Niger.  The Tuareg are a culturally distinct, historically nomadic people, split mostly between Niger, Algeria, and Mali.  When Moctar was young, backlash from a Tuareg rebellion forced him and his family to flee to a refugee camp across the border in Algeria.  It was there that he began to learn guitar.

During his years in exile, Moctar began to play with other Tuareg musicians. Despite his young age, he quickly distinguished himself.  (His nickname, Bombino, given to him by the older musicians, comes from the Italian word for "little child.")  Eventually, after an armistice was signed, Moctar returned to Niger and quickly became a favored musician in the northern town of Agadez, where his band, Group Bombino, could be frequently heard on local radio. 

In 2006, Bombino toured the United States with Tuareg band Tidawt.  Then, in 2007, Sublime Frequencies released an album by Group Bombino as part of their "Guitars from Agadez" series. Around that time, with civil strife flaring up again in Niger, Moctar fled, this time to neighboring Burkina Faso.  It was there that filmmaker Ron Wyman tracked the guitarist down, featured him in a documentary he was working on, and flew Bombino out to Massachusetts to record what eventually became the Agadez album, released in 2011.  International acclaim followed quickly.  

Today, Bombino is on tour in support of Nomad, produced in Nashville by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.  Here is the song "Azamane Tiliade"  from that album: 

Historically, Tuareg music, as befitting their geopolitical plight, is protest music.  (Check out Tinariwen, a Tuareg band from Mali, made up of former rebel fighters.) So while we're going to guess most of our audience doesn't speak Tamashek, there is an undeniable fervency that courses Bombino's music.  Bombino's particular style of Tuareg music is called Ishumar, but it has been blended with the blues and rock musicians he idolized growing up.  (He is particularly fond of Jimi Hendrix.) Let's just call it psychedelic desert rock.  Or better yet, transcendent. 

Bombino will play at the Thunderbird, in Lawrenceville, the night before Thanksgiving, November 27.  Tickets cost $12 in advance, $15 day of show.  If you're feeling lucky, we have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the show.  Simply email your name to "," and put "Bombino" in the subject line.
Pittsburgh is quite fortunate to have an internationally-renowned guitarist play such an intimate venue.  About a week after visiting Pittsburgh, Bombino plays Carnegie Hall. 

-- B. Conway

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Interview and Ticket Giveaway - Ali Spagnola's Power Hour: The Freedom Victory Tour - Club Cafe - 11-27-13

Ali Spagnola is a modern-day Renaissance Woman.  In 2006, while a student at Carnegie Mellon, Ali began an art project called Free Paintings.  Since then, she has mailed out, for free, 12"x12"paintings to whoever asks for one.  She paints one a day, whatever the person asks for.  Ali has also designed 2D and 3D video games, illustrated a children's book, created the scoreboard design for Disney World's Toy Story Midway Mania ride, and designed the complete suite of sounds that come prepackaged with the Galaxy Nexus smartphone.
      It's enough to make you look at your own resume with disdain and self-loathing.
      I haven't even mentioned the reason Ali will be in Pittsburgh the night before Thanksgiving (besides the fact she lives here).  You see, Ali is a musician, too, and her Freedom Victory Tour wraps up with a show at Club Cafe.  She put out a couple albums in the mid-2000s, then, in 2008, she began performing a collection of sixty original one-minute songs, which were eventually released as the Power Hour Drinking Game DVD.  Soon after, she was sued by a man who claimed trademark over the term "power hour."  She fought, won, and this tour is to celebrate. Why don't you listen to Ali explain her saga:

Ali was kind enough to answer some of our questions prior to her Pittsburgh homecoming: 

PMR: First of all, I can't be the only person to notice the irony in a CMU grad creating the quintessential party album.  A power hour album seems more likely to come from the Cathedral side of Panther Hollow.
Ali: Are you saying us CMUers can’t party? Hah! Clearly you missed out by only drinking with Pitt students.

PMR: Usually, when you're on the road, you perform by yourself. But for your show Nov. 27, at Club Cafe, you're performing with local alt-rockers Verity's Lie.  How do you approach a band and tell them they'll need to learn 60 songs, ranging from rock to reggae to gospel to honky tonk?
Ali: Verity’s Lie is actually just opening for me. So they’re off the hook for learning my 60 jams. Though the drummer from their band is actually my drummer when I’m home in Pittsburgh. And yeah, he’s super talented so he picked up my songs really quickly and can handle any covers I throw at him, too. I’m definitely lucky to have him because I’ve worked with some people in the past that can’t keep up with the pace of all my short songs and genre changes.
PMR: You put out a few albums before The Power Hour Album, but you've been successful in a wide variety of creative endeavors.  Do you consider yourself a musician first and foremost, or is music just one facet of your artistic expression?
Ali: I consider myself an artist. Music is a part of my art. So is painting. And drinking. And answering interview questions.
PMR: Your lawsuit garnered a lot of press. Vice, in particular, did a big feature on your ordeal.  But, even before that, you received a big outpouring of support from fans all over the world.  You were able to raise over $40,000 to launch the tour and help recoup your legal bills!  Do you think people saw this as a David vs. Goliath type of battle? How do you explain all the love?
Ali: It was so awesome to get such amazing support. I think people wanted to help because they understood the whole situation really was completely unfair. David would have had an army if Goliath was a jerk trying to stop the world from partying.
PMR: Are you worried at all about condoning, if not outright encouraging, binge drinking?   A "proper" power hour is 7 1/2 beers in one hour!  Granted, the idea of "power hour" has been around for a very long time; this was pretty much the crux of your lawsuit.  But for better or for worse, your album has become a popular means through which people, namely young adults, engage in what is essentially a very dangerous activity.

Ali: My album and live show is about creating an interactive party where everyone gets involved and plays along. I never encourage harming yourself. There’s even a song called “Everybody Wins” where I sing about how everybody wins the game no matter how little they drink. If you ever come experience my concert live, you’ll see that people are too busy dancing and having a good time with everyone to feel pressured to drink.
PMR: What's next for you?  You've said before that the power hour idea was a way distinguish yourself, to get people listening who might not otherwise want to hear some random girl on a guitar. Do you think you might put out another "straight" album?

Ali: I’m definitely putting out another non-alcoholic album. It’s already in the works!

PMR: How long is the waiting list currently for your Free Paintings project?  Is there any way to jump ahead in line, maybe through, say, transparent flattery? You talented, charming person...
Ali: The wait list is around 1,500 right now. And, yes! You can jump in line via flattery. Though, everyone on the list has also flattered me. So you’re in line at 1,500.
PMR: You told reddit that your favorite place to perform a live power hour is Peter's Pub in Oakland.  Any other local institutions you want to name check?

Ali: My favorite place to fist pump is Diesel. My favorite place to get tan and smashed at the same time is the Double Wide Grill. My favorite place to make my parents pay is The Grande Concourse. My favorite place for carbs is Joseph Tambellini Restaurant. My favorite place to make my sight (and face look) awesome is Norman Child Eyewear. My favorite place for comedy that comes into existence exactly at the moment you experience it is a toss up between Arcade Theater and Steel City Improv. My favorite place to use a time machine to have steak is Pittsburgh Rare. My favorite place to have trouble deciding between mussels and waffles is Pointe Brugge Café. My favorite place to feel I should grow a mustache is Over The Bar Bicycle Café. My favorite place to tequila is Mad Mex. My favorite place to regret my volume of tortilla chip intake is also Mad Mex. My favorite place to dance like Jesus (on water) is the Gateway Clipper. I could go on but I’ll cut myself off there. I’ve been in Pittsburgh a while.

     We are giving away two tickets to catch Ali live, at Club Cafe, on Wednesday, Nov. 27, at 9PM.  To enter, simply email your name to, and put "power hour" in the subject line.  Ali's shows are always a party, so we can only imagine what it will be like on one of the biggest party nights of the year. And while you're there, consider purchasing Ali's Power Hour Drinking Album.  It comes preloaded on USB stick that's built into a shot glass.  It's an original creation that Ali designed and patented.  Just another day's work for Pittsburgh's Renaissance Woman.

-- B. Conway

Photos - Slayer, Gojira, and 4ARM - Stage AE - 11-20-13

Last night at Stage AE was about as metal as it gets.  In case you missed it:




-- B. Conway

Monday, November 18, 2013

Interview - Mario Duplantier of Gojira - Wednesday, November 20 - Stage AE, with Slayer.

Image source: TAMA Drums

Mario Duplantier is one of the best drummers on the planet.  He and brother Joe make up one half of Gojira, who will be at Stage AE Wednesday, November 20, along with metal legends Slayer.
Gojira hail from Bayonne, France, in the Southwest of the country, near the Spanish border.  They formed in the late 90s, with international acclaim coming in the mid-2000s, after the release of From Mars to Sirius and subsequent toursTheir most recent album, 2012's L'enfant Sauvage, earned near-unanimous praise.  The Guardian (UK) gave it a perfect 5/5 stars, while the BBC, in their review, called Gojira "one of the finest bands of our generation."  Stateside, The Onion's AV Club gave the album an A-.  Pitchfork graded 8.1, calling it both "awesome" and "excellent."  Here's the lead track from L'enfant Sauvage, "Explosia:"

The men of Gojira are as outstanding as the songs they create.  They care deeply for the environment, something self-evident in their lyrics.  They are unabashed supporters of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, of Whale Wars fame.  If that doesn't fit your conception of what's metal, consider that Mario paints while he is on tour (and he's quite good at it, too).  They are the resident gentlemen of death metal.

We were quite fortunate to spend some time talking with Mario Duplantier, prior to Gojira's second appearance in Pittsburgh this year.  Last year Mario was chosen as #2 best drummer in modern metal by the editors at  A few weeks later, when it came time for the fans to vote, he came in at #1.  It's easy to see why:

Here's the entire text of our interview with Mario:

PMR: You've been on the road for about a month now, tell us, how has the tour been so far, and what's it been like touring with Slayer?

MD: Yes, the tour is doing very, very well.  You know, we had a blast on this tour.  We feel very comfortable.  The conditions are great.  All the Slayer crew is amazing, very nice with us.  All the members, also: Slayer have a lot of respect for us.  So, as the main support band, it's going very well, and, the response of the crowd is also very good, you know. We were surprised because we know how the Slayer fans can be tough sometimes.  But on this run it was very well.  And, we have this anger playing before Slayer.  We have to, uh, you know, to find a certain energy, you know, playing before Slayer.  You have to be more, uh, playing with more anger, you know (laughs).  So it's a big challenge for us, but the tour is going well.

PMR:  You know, it's funny you mention the word anger, because, I was reading a lot of the reviews for your latest album, L'enfant Sauvage, and one of the words that kept coming up was "beauty." And usually, you know, when you think of death metal, "beauty" is not a term that comes up.  But, I kept seeing it in the reviews.  Do you think the word "beauty" is an appropriate term to use when talking about Gojira's music?

MD: I don't want to sound pretentious, but I love this term, "beauty." It's something that works, definitely, for us.  We feel very concerned about beauty in general, and we try to do something very poetic, but we also have this anger, you know, inside of us.  We don't know why we play metal, actually.  We didn't decide to play this music, we just play it, you know.  But we have a part of us with a lot of anger, and another part with a lot of hope, and a lot of... we love life at the same time.  And beauty of life is very important for us, so yeah, it works.

PMR: Speaking of L'enfant Sauvage, it came out last summer, and it was widely hailed as your best album yet.  Do you think this is true? Do you think Gojira is better than ever right now?

MD: I think Gojira is very mature today, you know.  We've never been so mature as today. And, so, we feel very strong right now, on the musical point of view, but also all the decisions we have to take, you know.  But I'm sure we didn't give yet our best album, so, probably the next one, I don't know (laughs). But we are very perfectionist and always looking in the future. 

PMR: Now, you have a very distinct style of drumming.  When the band goes about creating new songs, do you come up with your part first, and then the rest of the parts are fit around it?

MD: We don't have any rules, you know, but it's true that a lot of time I bring drum patterns, and, for example, I play my drum patterns and I ask my brother, other guitarists, to play on the drum patterns. So, it's true that a lot of songs in Gojira were born with this.  We have a song in the second album called "The Remembrance," and at the end you have this whole very percussive part, and it came from the drums.  We have a song called "The Art of Dying," also, the drums were first.  And on the last album, L'enfant Sauvage, for example, "Liquid Fire," I start with a drum pattern also. "Explosia," also.  So yeah, you're right, most of the time, the drums first are coming.  But it's not like our rule, you know, we change our rule all the time, so the next album probably it will be the guitar first.  So it depends.

PMR: You had mentioned your brother Joe, who plays guitar and is the lead singer.  Describe what it means to you to be in a band with your brother, to be able to create music with him night in and night out. 

MD: It's funny because, we started 11, or, 13... 18 years ago now! (laughs).  And, so, I grew up with my brother, all the time, and now I'm doing business, I'm doing music, I do everything with him.  So, it's not easy every day, for sure, because we are from the same family, and I'm five years younger than him.  But, I can tell right now it's a force.  He is one of my best friends in life, he is a person who understands me so well.  Perfectly, you know.  So we have this kind of connection, both [of us].  And I think it's so precious and so good.  And playing music with him is incredible because I don't have to talk - we don't have to say any words, we just play, and it comes naturally.  And we have this very close way to think, him and I, and so we are exactly on the same page.  It's a real force for me. 

PMR: Most of your fans already know that you paint while you're on tour, and you even have your own art gallery.  What's the connection between your music and your art - is there even a connection between the two?

MD: I don't know, you know, I don't have any reflection on it.  But since I was a child, I'm always creating something, even if my drawings look like, a child's drawings, you know? I don't have any technique (laughs).  But just as the way I express things, it comes very naturally.  And sometimes, when I'm behind drums, I can feel this same spontaneity.  I play spontaneously and I paint spontaneously, so there is my... here is the.... sorry for my English man! (laughs)

PMR: Oh, no! (laughs).  You, uh, Gojira, are well known supporters of the environmental activist group Sea Shepherd.  There was some talk that Gojira and some other metal bands would contribute to an EP whose proceeds would go to benefit Sea Shepherd.  Is this still happening?

MD: Uh, you know what, we have the song but we would like to work on it, to be perfect. So we have to remix, we have to ask a couple of [singers]... So we know it took a long time, and it's actually in our hard drives.  Even on the road, on this tour, we listen to it, we analyze it, and I think it's... maybe we did too much talk about this, and we should probably finish the song before talking about it.  But it was a long process, and not so easy because everybody was working for free. And when people are working for free it's always slower, you know.  But the songs are here and we have to, uh, work on it to make sure it's perfect before [we] release it (laughs). But I know it's been a long time.

PMR: Now, Gojira just played Pittsburgh in February.  It was a sold out show, with Atlas Moth and Devin Townsend Project. And you've been here before that, too. In 2007 when you were here with Behemoth, and you were here again in 2009.  Are there any memories that stick out in your mind from your brief time in Pittsburgh?  Or is that asking too much for a band that tours all over the world?

MD: No, no, I have a great memory of this show, it was in an old church, like, very specific venue, very weird... is this that show? In a church?

PMR: Yes, in an old church, Mr. Small's Funhouse.

MD: Yeah, i love this venue, you know.  Each time we play over there, and I love the neighborhood.  Coming from France, and arriving in this kind of city, it's very, very interesting, you know, because we... France is so different, you know?  The architecture, people, the color, the sky, everything is different.  So when we come in it's kind of new, this kind of a street and city.  I keep a very precise memory of this kind of atmosphere, you know.  So, and I love the crowd over there, there's something very intelligent and smart from the people over there.  So yeah, I have a very, very good memory. 

PMR: OK, I have one last question for you.  Your current tour finishes up the end of this month.  Has there been any talk about, um, trying again to tour with Lamb of God and Dethklok?

MD: You know what, we feel very close with Lamb of God. We did a lot of show with them in August, in Europe.  So we are like a friend, and one day I am sure we will go back on tour with them, but not... there is no plan principally to play with Dethklok and Lamb of God for the moment, you know?  And I know every band has such a busy schedule, you know, so it's not easy.  But, we are going to try to focus on a new album, early this year, in 2014.  We'll tour again maybe in the US, a small tour. We will tour in Europe again, but maybe by our home.  

PMR: Wonderful.  Well that's too bad about Dethklok; I was hoping to see you in an episode of Metalocalypse. (laughs)

MD: (laughs) I love this. Yeah, I love this cartoon, it's amazing. 

PMR: Well, again, Mario, thank you so much for your time, and I can't wait for the show on Wednesday.

MD: Thank you very much.  See you on Wednesday.

Tickets for the show cost $48.35, fees included.  Also performing are 4ARM, an Australian thrash metal band.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ticket Giveaway - Band Interview - Hands - Altar Bar - 11.14.13

We were fortunate enough to catch up with the guys from Hands prior to their appearance at Altar Bar Thursday. They are currently on tour with British alt-rockers A Silent Film, of “Harbour Lights” fame. (Local indie rockers The Show will open.)

Hands hails from LA, though Geoff (vocals) and Ryan (guitar) are originally from Philly. The band is touring in support of Synesthesia, their debut album. Popmatters said the first half of the album was “brilliant,” and the band has “a boatload of potential.” Filter, in their review, say, "Hands play the instruments that induce you to dance and hear those sounds that make you want to feel it all."

Here is what lead singer Geoff had to say:

PMR: First off, how is the tour going so far?  It seems like you guys are on the road all the time. You stopped by Pittsburgh in June, and since then you've gone on at least two more tours, one with On and On, and then the most recent swing through the Southwest, with Electric Guest.

Hands: It's definitely been a busy year. Tour is going so excellently so far though! It's been a real treat being able to play all-ages shows with A Silent Film and we are just enjoying bringing our music to a new audience every night since most of our previous tours have been 21+

PMR: How is the dynamic with the other bands you tour with?  Does the quote-unquote "headliner" give the other guys the Bob Dylan treatment and completely ignore them, or do you fast become friends?

Hands: We've actually been extremely lucky and toured with bands that are super nice so far. It's great getting to know new people out on the road playing with them night after night. It's like a traveling summer camp of sorts.

PMR: The title of your new album, Synesthesia, is a term for the sensory experience of when one sense bleeds into the other.  Is there any reference here to your musical style?  You've been labeled indie-rock, synth-pop, and probably a dozen other terms, but none of them seem to peg you.

Hands: We definitely wanted the album name to speak as a metaphor for our music so I'm glad you caught that! We don't really want to be pegged but I welcome any and every label people want to give as long as they are listening to the music. Music sounds wildly different to different people so it's always interesting to hear what folks find in a sound.

PMR: Speaking of titles, a band called Hands is difficult to search for online.  I type "hands" into Youtube and I get that song by Jewel, a couple Honda ads, and an astronaut explaining proper hygiene while in space. What inspired Hands to be Hands? Was there ever any talk from the label of switching to something more distinctive?

Hands: It's a long story but suffice it to say, I was in a situation where I had limited mobility and my hands became everything to me creatively. Before that I had mostly drummed and that flew out of the picture. After that it kind of stuck when we formed the band and became a challenge of sorts. "Let's get to the top of Google with this band name."

PMR: Your live performances are quickly gaining a reputation for being high-energy affairs.  What can Pittsburgh do to help you bring the party?

Hands: Just dance and make sure there is plenty of water on hand. We don't want any dehydrated folks in sight.

PMR: What's next for the band?  More touring? Another album?  Hopefully for your sake there's time for a break somewhere.

Hands: We are always writing and definitely have album #2 in the works for this coming year (how is it November already!?) There is definitely talk of another tour for early next year but you'll have to stay tuned on that.

PMR: Lastly, your twitter feed, @handsmusic, is a joy to read.  One of my recent favorites: "I've been seeing a lot of squirrels lately and it's been great every time."  There are a lot of squirrels in Pittsburgh, so you've got that to look forward to.  

Hands: Thanks!! I love squirrels and I was born on the east coast so they feel like a creature from my distant childhood adventures. 

Tickets to the show cost $12.50 in advance, $15 at the door. To enter to for a chance to win a pair of tickets, simply email your name to, and put “hands” in the subject line.

– B. Conway

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Photos - Flux Pavilion / SKisM / ROKSONIX at Stage AE 11/8

Stage AE went full-on Electric Daisy last night when Flux Pavilion's Freeway Tour rolled into town.  In case you missed it:

-- B. Conway