Saturday, December 7, 2013

Concert Review - Goblin, with Zombi - Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead - 12-6-13

For a band that never toured this country before, Goblin had quite the cheering section. Hundreds of fans turned out to see the Italian band play the fear-inducing rock that influenced a generation of horror film scores. Goblin delivered that and more, treating fans to a full-on prog rock extravaganza.

Even though the band doesn't embrace the “progressive rock” label – keyboardist Maurizio told us the term is “restrictive” for Goblin's sound – it's hard to know what else to call a band with two keyboardists, no vocals, and enough synth for ELP and ELO combined. 

Goblin came out and played songs mostly from their standalone albums, specifically 1976's Roller. “Dr. Frankenstein” started out like a funky “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” while “Aquaman” gave guitarist Massimo Morante space to lay out some frenetic lines on his 1974 Gibson SG. 
Morante certainly looked the part of rock guitarist with his leather vest, aviator shades, and Slash-ian mop of black curls. He had a tendency to wave both hands impatiently when he was unhappy with the tempo, and would hold his pick out wide like a conductor's wand before unleashing one of his fiery licks. Keyboardist Aidan referred to him as “maestro” when introducing the band. (One has to wonder if any of this behavior has bearing on the history of line-up changes in the band, although it is quite possible we're just not used to witnessing high-context cultures in action.)
--> There were more than a few Dario Argento fans in the audience, judging from the number of Suspira and Zombi shirts, and more than half of the show was given to works from his movies. “Non Ho Sonno,” the title track from Argento's 2001 film of the same name, lead into “Death Farm,” from the same album. They also performed the themes from Suspira – complete with mandolin – Profondo Rosso, and Tenebre, the latter of which may have sounded familiar to non-Argento fans, as it was sampled by Justice for their 2007 dance hit “Phantom.”

The highlight of the night, at least for Pittsburgh loyalists, came when Goblin performed “Zombi,” from Dawn of the Dead, in front of a screen displaying scenes from Romero's 1978 zombie classic. A woman who had been dancing onstage periodically throughout the night came out in zombie makeup for the song and lurched menancingly around the band. It was, in some small way, a historic moment.
Openers Zombi, from Pittsburgh, had planned to take Goblin on a tour of Monroeville Mall earlier in the day, but Goblin decided they'd rather have a leisurely afternoon with proper showers after so much time on the tour bus. The rest served both bands well. Zombi makes more noise than is possible for just two men, and it is possible their drummer may be moonlighting for Mastodon, he was that good.

-- B. Conway

Goblin's setlist for their show Dec. 6, 2013, at the Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead:  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Interview and Ticket Giveaway - GOBLIN - Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead - 12-6-13

Image Courtesy XPN

Any self-respecting Pittsburgher has seen George Romero's zombie horror classic Dawn of the Dead.  Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll learn that part of the sountrack was performed by an Italian progressive rock band called Goblin, who finally, decades later, are receiving their proper acclaim.

After moving to England in the early 70s and finding their attempt to land a record deal come to naught, Goblin settled back in Italy, where in 1975 they composed nearly the entire soundtrack for Dario Argento's Profondo Rosso (Deep Red).  The music fit the film perfectly, and marked the start of a long-term relationship between the filmmaker and Goblin.

In 1978, Argento was asked to oversee the international release of Romero's Dawn of the Dead.  He again turned to Goblin, who composed the soundtrack for what became Zombi. (For reasons that are unclear [at least to us], the US release mixes Goblin with stock music.)  Their sinister sound - clanging bells, discordant synths, demonic whispers  -  influenced a generation of horror film scores; it is literally the stuff of nightmares.

The 80s saw continued lineup changes for the band, as well as the release of a few non-soundtrack albums.  It wasn't until 2013 that Goblin finally embarked on their first tour of the United States.  Such was the turnout and interest that a second leg of dates was added, including Friday's show in Pittsburgh. Moreover, the original rhythm section of Fabio Pignatelli (bass) and Agostino Marangolo (drums) has just re-joined Massimo Morante (guitar) and Maurizio Guarini (keyboards) for this second leg, thus meaning 4/5 of the original 1975 lineup is intact.

Opening for Goblin are Pittsburgh's "state-of-the art synth/prog/post-rock band" Zombi.  These guys played VIA in 2011, but it has been years since they went on a proper tour. 

We were fortunate enough to have Goblin's keyboardist Maurizio answer some questions for us prior to their show at the Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead Friday. 

PMR: Its been well over 30 years since the creation of some of your most iconic work - namely the soundtracks for the Dario Argento films Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) and Suspiria, and, of course, Zombi (Dawn of the Dead) -  yet, arguably, your popularity is at an all-time high.  Can you point to any single factor to explain the renewed interest in Goblin?
Goblin: I think internet and social media played an important role in the past 10 years or so. Younger generations had the possibility to check what happened in the seventies regarding the music, and our popularity increased quickly. Even people of our age started listening again to our music, maybe affer a decade, and they must have liked it, looking at how popular we are becoming year after year.

PMR: Your tour, which started back in October, had such high turnout that it quickly expanded to include more than a dozen new dates.  Is it surreal to experience such popularity in a country you've never toured before?

Goblin: We were expecting to be popular in US and in North America, but not as much, frankly. Surprising the age span, we have enthusiastic fans from 20 year old to sixties, and most of them during our concerts where singing our themes from the seventies, even for less known album like
Roller, that we recorded in 1976. Just incredible.

PMR:  Most people who have heard of Goblin are familiar with your work for film, but the band has put out more than a few studio albums as well. Do you embrace the "progressive rock" label that's usually affixed to your music?  What bands were major influences when you were first starting up?

Goblin: Progressive rock is a term invented recently - in the seventies wasn't existing at all. I think that even if our of music can be defined as "progressive", due to some characteristics like odd time signatures, frequent tempo changes or influences from classical music, there is something that makes our sound unique. you can ask somebody to improvise something with a "goblin: style, and if they know us, they will. Progressive is a restrictive way to define our music. Our influences were different, one by one. I personally in that particular period was influenced by English Jazz Rock bands like Soft Machine and by bands like Gentle Giant, Genesis, ELP. This has changed later, of course.
PMR: What does it mean to have Fabio and Agostino back with the band?

Goblin: Well, the original rhythm section means our "real" sound. Very important. Key. Even if our shows in October made lots of fans happy, with a rhythm section more rock-oriented, people that will come to our December shows will have the opportunity to hear the "real" sound of Goblin, the dark one, the "Goblin" one.

PMR: Zombi, who are from Pittsburgh, will accompany you on tour.  They also cite you as a defining influence.  What does it say about your music that it was able to inspire a band half the world away?

Goblin: We for sure didn't plan to become such an inspiration for bands and musicians all over the world. We were just playing our music, our sound. Being a sort of reference point is something so important, that we still fill the responsibility of being who we are. This is scary, in a way. But we are glad and thankful.

PMR: What we can expect from Goblin after the tour wraps up?  Is there a new album in the works? More touring?

Goblin: Couple of weeks of relaxing after a very busy and intense period, then immediately start a new album. With this new old line up is top priority, and we will start in the beginning of 2014. [Perhaps] more touring? Of course, this is just the beginning!!

PMR: Lastly, I know you have a packed touring schedule, but please tell us you are going to make time while in Pittsburgh for a pilgrimage to Monroeville Mall, to see where Dawn of the Dead was filmed!
Goblin: We already planned this, of course!!

Tickets for the concert, which starts at 8pm, cost $28, or $65 for VIP seating. (VIP includes access to the last 30 minutes of soundcheck, a pre-show meet and greet with the band, and a commemorative poster.)  And because we love you, our readers, we have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the show.  Simply email your name to, and put "goblin" in the subject line.  Good luck!

-- B. Conway

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ticket Giveaway - Mellowhigh at Mr. Smalls 12-4-13

Because it's easier than writing cohesive paragraphs (like we could ever do that anyway), here are 10 reasons you should see Mellowhigh at Mr. Smalls Wednesday: 

#1: Mellowhigh is Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis, and Left Brain.  The three are members of LA-based hip-hop collective Odd Future, easily one of the biggest, most important names in hip-hop today.  Also known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, or just OFWGKTA.

#2: Some of the music's biggest names in music have broke out from Odd Future.  Frank Ocean? He was Wolf Gang long before his Album of the Year nomination. Tyler, the Creator? The group's leader can be heard on tracks with Mac Miller, Pusha T, and Lil Wayne.  Any of the three might be next to break through. 

#3: This is the single, "Yu," from their self-titled album. Warning, it may cause your THC levels to spike.

#4: Now with 50% more Odd Future!  Hodgy Beats and Left Brain put out three albums as Mellowhype.  Now with Domo Genesis on board, the trio go by Mellowhigh.  

#5: Wiz Khalifa fans can't go wrong with something called Mellowhigh, right?  Well, the history is a bit more complicated.  Domo put out a mixtape, in the summer of 2010, called Rolling Papers.  Wiz named his album the same, in 2011.  Tyler, the Creator took exception, and tweeted out "Everyone On My Friends List, Tell That Nigga WIZ KHALIFA To Give @damiergenesis His Fucking Album Title Back. WOLF GANG" 

#6: It's ok, they're cool now! Domo and Wiz have since worked together, on this track, "Ground Up."  Here's hoping that the two weed rappers collaborate on a mixtape in the future, like Wiz did with Curren$y.  (Wiz is cool with Tyler now, too.  Or they're at least instagram buddies.)

#7: The concert is presented by Timebomb Shop, Pittsburgh's original and best streetwear store.  Here's a video of owner Brick Diggler talking with MTV about the Pittsburgh hip-hop scene.   

#8: Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt was just here, and judging Mr Smalls instagram feed, the show was wild.  You don't want to miss out on two in a row.

#9: Four local rappers open:  Tairey, Norman Dean, Palermo Stone, and Crystal Seth. Come out to support your hometown:

#10: We are giving away a pair of tickets to the show.  Email your name to, and put "mellowhigh" in the subject line. Winners will be announced sometime Tuesday night.  

-- B. Conway

Concert Review - Grand Buffet Album Release Show, Night One - Brillobox - 11-29-13

Shortly before he took the stage at Brillobox Friday, Jarrod Weeks, better known as Lord Grunge, walked through the crowd, to shake hands and hug well-wishers.  There was little distinction between fan and friend among the adoring audience. Grand Buffet has been performing sometimes-absurd, always entertaining rap for well over fifteen years now, and this, the first of two sold-out album release shows, had the feel of a victory lap for the duo.
     Grunge was waiting for his long-time musical partner to reappear.  Jackson O'Connell-Barlow, who goes by Mrs. Paintbrush these days, had just opened for Buffet; and yes, he noted the strangeness of essentially opening for himself.  He performed songs off his new solo album, Duke 2.  (We didn't make it to the second night of this album release doubleheader, but can only assume that Grunge opened for the two Saturday, performing songs from his new solo album.)
     Jackson's solo stuff won't disappoint Grand Buffet fans.  "Zydechost" is about death, hitchhikers, and Billy Joel.  Tamar Kamin of The Van Allen Belt joined in on a "soft-ass" Iron Maiden cover (because, Jackson said, he's "tryin' to get the WYEP money").  Later, Jackson said he "injected the penis blood of the bass player from REO Speedwagon into [his] thigh" prior to the show.  The crowd loved every bit of it.
     When Jackson finally did join Grunge onstage, the two didn't waste a moment performing fan favorites, like "Benjamin Franklin Music" and "Cream Cheese Money." The tempo was ecstatic, and the crowd sang along with every chorus, and laughed at pair's well-honed stage banter between songs. At one point, after he asked Grunge about his recent ureteroscopy, Jackson turned to the crowd and asked if anyone had heard of the procedure.  Dismayed that no one did, he yelled out something to the effect of "we've been around for how long, and none of you are surgeons yet?" It was not only a nod to the duo's longevity, but also an acknowledgement of the fans who have supported them all that time.
     I couldn't escape the feeling that show might be one of the last remaining gigs for Grand Buffet.  Even though Grunge told WYEP that there is a new Grand Buffet album in the works for next year, band member solo albums are frequently an indicator that the end is near (see Outkast, like 100 Wu-Tang spinoffs, and, uh, The Beatles).  Moreover, how long can Grand Buffet survive? The guys are going on forty, and Jackson has a son. They've developed their cult following through relentless touring. Surely this unlikely outfit can't go on rapping about haunted fucking gazebos forever.
      Whatever the future holds, Friday night was a fine reminder that there are plenty of fans, especially in Pittsburgh, who don't want to see this wonderful, unlikely ride end just yet.  They sold out shows on consecutive with little to no publicity. Grand Buffet are still beloved, still outrageous, and still hilarious.
     Fans looking to purchase the new albums can find them at Sound Cat Records in Bloomfield.  

-- B. Conway