Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ticket Giveaway and Show Preview - ODESZA - Rex Theater 2-5-13

Odesza will visit the Rex Wednesday, February 5, alongside Emancipator and Real Magic. Consider this a warm-up for the duo, who the swing out west to headline a tour of their own March and April.

Odesza is Harrison Mills (aka Catacombkid) and Clayton Knight (BeachesBeaches), two beatmakers who combined forces after graduating from Western Washington University a few years back. Their mix of downtempo and trip-hop with ambient noise and clatter brings to mind RJD2, especially their track "How Did I Get Here," which samples Lily Allen's "22." But then you hear a track like "iPlayYouListen," a brighter piece with synths and piano, and you realize the guys are just beginning to sculpt their own sound.

Here's the video for "My Friends Never Die," which is off the EP of the same name. (The EP is available as a free download off the band's website,

The duo have played some of the bigger summer festivals, including Sasquatch, in their home state of Washington, and California's Lightning In A Bottle. Not bad for a partnership still in its infancy.

It should be an fun night of music and dancing. Emancipator will perform with a four-piece live band that he's calling Emancipator Ensemble.

We have two tickets to giveaway for the show. To enter, email your name to pghmusicreport [at], and put "odesza" in the subject line. We'll let you know if you won.

– B. Conway

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Interview and Ticket Giveaway - Jesse Miller of LOTUS - Stage AE

Lotus are set to play Pittsburgh February 1, at Stage AE. They churn out an instrumental stew of rock, electronica, hip-hop, and about a dozen other styles of music. Their energetic live shows have earned them legions of fans, and they are a regular at jam festivals all over the country and the world. Their light show, meanwhile, is approaching mythic status.

We spoke with bassist Jesse Miller prior to their visit. Jesse plays bass and sampler, and he is twin brother to Luke, Lotus's guitarist. The two of them started the band over a dozen years ago, and they show no signs of letting up despite a touring schedule that sees them play well over a hundred shows a year. Jesse also has a new side project, Beard o Bees, which owes more the EDM than rock.

Pittsburgh Music Report: Let me start with a question from my cousin, Emily, who is a big fan of yours. (Her favorite track: "Umbilical Moonrise.") She wants to know if Lotus has a goal or intention in mind when stepping on stage to perform.

Jesse Miller: For me, it is to build an energy in the room.  If you can establish a connection with the crowd and we are playing well, a feedback loop starts to build where the crowd energy feeds us and that pushes us which in turn pushes the crowd higher.  When that is working we go from really quiet, delicate music to huge rockers and never lose the crowd. 

PMR: Lotus released two new albums last year, Build and Monks. When you record a studio album do you try to capture the energy of your live show, or is it a completely different process?

JM: I think it is a completely different energy.  We record and release almost every live show we play via  So, there is no shortage of high quality live recording.  With a studio recording so many things are different than a live performance - the dynamic range, the listening environment.  It opens up certain areas of detail but closes others in terms of range, power and time.  We try to exploit the advantages, so we do things like improvising only in a live setting and recording to tape and mixing through an analog console for our studio recordings. 

PMR: To say Lotus plays a lot of gigs is like saying The Grateful Dead had a pretty big following. Do you have any favorite venues or festivals? What about crowd size? Is there an ideal number of people to play to?

JM: We actually play a lot less shows than many bands, but we rarely take more than 4 weeks completely off.  I definitely have some favorites - Theaters: 9:30 Club DC, Georgia Theatre Athens, Fillmore Denver, Riviera Chicago.  Festivals: Electric Forest, Bonnnaroo. 

PMR: Can you remember the longest set Lotus has ever played?

JM: Years and years ago we played a show in Baltimore.  I think there was no opener so we started early, but then there was a time change and the bar ended up staying open an hour later, so we just kept playing.  It probably ended up being 4 hours of music.  By the end, we were losing it from exhaustion.  

PMR: Tell me what your relationship is like with bands like STS9 or Papadosio, groups that you've played a ton of festivals with and even jammed with at times. Is there a special fraternity between jam bands?

JM: We've played with both of those bands before, but I've only briefly met a few of the band members.  I would say there is a rapport among touring bands, especially bands that play a lot of the same festivals.  Over the summer we run into a lot of the same groups backstage at festivals and that is usually a good time to hang out for more than a couple minutes.  The touring lifestyle is difficult to explain to people who have never done it, but other touring bands will understand. It is always fun to trade stories with other people who are also out on the road and in the music business, and I think that is where the main connection exists.

PMR: Do you mind when people call Lotus a jam band? Is that a label you try to avoid?

JM: I try to avoid it just because I think there are more negative connotations than positive ones.  We change our set lists nightly, perform group improvisations and don't fit easily in a genre.  But, when a lot of people hear "jamband" they think mindless guitar noodling, terrible studio albums and Phish fans - I don't want to be pegged to those descriptions.

PMR: I don't want to perpetuate any stereotypes about your fan base with this last question, but here goes: After you play Pittsburgh, Lotus has a week off before heading back to Denver to play two nights at the Fillmore. This will be your first gig in Colorado since marijuana became legal. Do you have anything special planned? Maybe you can do another one of your themed shows, but with all Phish and Peter Tosh covers.

JM: Nothing planned at the moment.  If we played "Legalize It" every time CO made a political step forward on marijuana, we'd be covering Peter Tosh every time we came to the state.

We have two tickets to giveaway for this performance. To enter, email your name to "pghmusicreport [at]," and put "lotus" in the subject heading. We'll take care of the rest. 

Opening is Buku, a local DJ. He has a song called "Booty Clapasaurus." You can read more about him in this City Paper feature.

- B. Conway

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ticket Giveaway and Show Preview - Phosphorescent at Mr. Smalls, 1.31.13

Phosphorescent is the Matthew McConaughey of indie rock. Not only is he a rakishly handsome Southerner, but for years he created laid back, whiskey-soaked ballads that fell on the country side of country-rock. He made an album full of Willie Nelson covers and an album titled "Here's To Taking It Easy," which could easily serve as McConaughey's epitaph. But gradually critics could no longer ignore the fact that they were witnessing a major creative force. In 2013, Phosphorescent created the beautiful Muchacho, which won Paste Magazine's Album of the Year award.

Call it his Dallas Buyer's Club.

To put it another way, Phosphorescent is to Matthew Houck as Bon Iver is to Justin Vernon. And as Paste pointed out, there is a legend that surrounds the creation of Muchacho similar to that of Justin Vernon fleshing out the Bon Iver album deep in the winter woods of Wisconsin.

In this version of artist-as-wayfarer, Matthew Houck, in the midst of personal agony, traveled to Mexico, found salvation, and came back with a heartrendingly beautiful album. "See the cage, it called. I said, come on in/I will not open myself up this way again" he sings on the cathartic "Song for Zula," the first single off the album. Odds are you heard that one on WYEP at some point – they present the show – and here it is again, performed live:

It's usually bittersweet to watch a favored musician hit the big time, but Muchacho should please fans old and new alike. Houck's singing still rides along the mournful ups and downs of the slide guitar, which tends to makes everything sound more heartfelt. His voice, fragile and honest, reminds me a bit of Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, had Wayne traded in the DMT for Wild Turkey.

We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the Phosphorescent's visit to Pittsburgh, which occurs January 31 at Mr. Smalls. Email us at pghmusicreport[at] with "Phosphorescent" in the subject line, include your name, and we'll let you know if you won.

Caveman open for Phosphorescent. We previewed them once before, in 2011, when they played with The War on Drugs. You can read our take on them here.

-- B. Conway

Interview - Zack Keim of The Nox Boys, plus autographed LP giveaway

"We want the young kids in the front, the joy they feel, gyrating, dancing and discovering it for the first time. Kids still do want to rock."

- Gregg Kostelich, interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 5, 2013.

 Zack Keim and the Nox Boys

After weeks of hype and features in the Post-Gazette, the Pitt News, and the City Paper, the debut album from Pittsburgh's Nox Boys has finally been released. The self-titled LP is available on CD and vinyl through the band's label, Get Hip Records, and can be purchased through their website.

Here's a brief recap of the garage rockers' quick, unlikely ascension to the top of Pittsburgh's local music scene:
  • April 5, 2013: Zack Keim approaches Gregg Kostelich, President of Get Hip Records, after a performance by Mr. Kostelich and his band, The Cynics, at Mr. Smalls. Zack hands Gregg a raw demo copy of his band, The Nox Boys, who are made up of himself, two of his classmates from Fox Chapel High School, Zach and Sam, and Bob Powers, a veteran slide guitar player with whom Zack jammed at open mic nights at Moondog's, in Blawnox, the group's hometown. (Before long they are signed to the label.)
  • July 16, 2013: The Nox Boys play Garfield Artworks. 
  • August 8, 2013: Scott Mervis of the Post-Gazette names The Nox Boys a Band to Watch.
  • August 24, 2013: Three of the four Nox Boys perform and interview live on the John Mcintire Show on KDKA 1020 AM. (They visit the show again December 14.)
  • Labor Day Weekend, 2013: The band records their debut LP in Detroit with longtime producer Jim Diamond, who previously helped produce albums by the White Stripes and The Dirtbombs.
  • October 20, 2013: The Nox Boys play the Mr. Roboto Project.
  • January 18, 2014: The band sells out their album release show at The Warhol Museum.

Here's their video for "Susie Lee," off the self-titled album:

We spoke with Zack just prior to the record release, to get his thoughts on the band and it's future:

Pittsburgh Music Report: Besides heading out to Moondog's and starting a band, what does a teenager do for fun in Blawnox?
Zack Keim: Well, the people I hang with are mostly musicians... So they all hang out at Pianos N Stuff.

PMR: Are you surprised by how well everything has gone for the band so far? You sold out your album release show, the local press can't stop talking about you, and you're signed to a label started by one of your idols.
ZK: Yeah, everything has just been happening so fast, man. It's been basically [over] the course of a year [that] we have been signed, recorded a full length LP, and shook the local press. I was shocked when we sold out the Warhol. It was night before the Warhol at Get Hip when I received the text from Josh Verbanets from Meeting Of Important People, who was also playing the release show, and I was like "Damn, we just sold out The Warhol to 300 people?" It was hard to believe but it happened. 

PMR: Tell us what was going through your head that night of The Cynics show at Mr. Smalls when you handed them a copy of your demo tape.
ZK: Lots and lots of fuzz. But, really... I kind of went to the show planning on handing over a demo to The Cynics. I heard about the label and was like, "We live a couple miles from this prestigious garage punk label, why don't we try to do something about it?" I went to Mr. Smalls with a CD stuck in my jean jacket. I remember after the show Michael Kastelic [lead singer of The Cynics] was walking out out into the theater. Most of the guys were {intimidated] to hand over the CD. But I went over and introduced myself to Michael and the first thing he did was literally grab me. Kind of the touchy-feely guy... But Bob [Nox Boys slide guitarist] kind of nodded me to Gregg Kostelich [Get Hip President and guitarist of The Cynics] when he came out. I went over introduced myself and handed him the demo. I remember him saying "Hey man, just cause you're handing me this thing, I'm not gonna sign you. I'll check it out though..." After about a month or two we got signed onto Get Hip.

PMR: Obviously you're pleased with how the album turned out, otherwise you wouldn't have released it. But are there any songs that came out differently than you originally envisioned?
ZK: Not really. We went into the studio and knew what we were doing.

PMR: What have you been listening to lately? I know you're a big fan of "modern" garage rock, like The Black Lips and Ty Segall. 
ZK: I been listening to The Orwells a lot lately, these garage punk kids from Chicago about the same age as myself and some of the other band members. Sam and I saw them when they came to Smiling Moose in Pittsburgh and kind of befriended them. They took a bunch of our Nox Boys stickers and we talked to them for a while. Gonna try to catch them in Columbus, Ohio in February; they are touring with the Arctic Monkeys.

PMR: What's the dynamic like with Bob? Not only is he twice the age of the rest of the band, but he's also Sam's Uncle. You've got to call him Uncle Bob, right?
ZK: Bob adds the fuzziness, distortion, echo, and badass leads to the Nox Boys. I don't call him Uncle Bob. I've known Bob for about almost two years now and he has become a really good friend of mine.

PMR: Are any of you still in touch with David, your former bassist [and inspiration for the song "Military School"]? What does he think of the band's success?
ZK: I am. David's been a close friend of mine since middle school. I have been in and out of bands with him since I started playing guitar. He appreciates our success I think... It's hard to tell with the kid. But the kid has loads of talent and I really think he has the potential to have a great musical career more in the Passion Pit / MGMT/ synth pop scene. 

PMR: Nox Boys play a local music showcase February 7 at Mr. Smalls. What's next? I can't be the only one who wants to see The Nox Boys on tour with The Cynics!
ZK: New York City? San Francisco? Europe? Spain? Tour I hope. The only problem is that we are still in high school. Maybe some weekend tour dates until summer...

PMR: Have you guys sat down and had that big talk about the future yet?  Zach and Sam graduate this summer, but you still have another year to go. 
ZK: Not really. It's kind of tough to focus on school when all this stuff is happening. I'm the youngest in the band so I'm sure next year it's gonna be tough when I'm still in school and the other guys [are] graduated. 

PMR: Last question: There's a video up on Youtube of you guys busking in the park. How much did you end up making that day?
ZK: Hahaha! Funny you found that. Yeah, I think about $50.

We are giving away a copy of the Nox Boys debut LP signed by members of the band . To enter, simply send your name to "," and put "Nox Boys" in the subject line. All entries should be submitted by January 30, and we'll announce the winner the next day. Can't wait to find out if you won or not? The album is available for sale on CD and vinyl at the Get Hip website.

- B. Conway

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ticket Giveaway and Show Preview: Detroit Cobras at Club Cafe - 1-22-14

It's only fitting that a band from Detroit would play the music of a bygone era. Part retro, part rock, and all soul, the Detroit Cobras are in Pittsburgh Wednesday at Club Cafe.

The Cobras have been around since the mid-90s, part of the same generation of Detroit garage rock revival as the Dirtbombs, Electric Six and the White Stripes. Vocalist Rachel Nagy leads the party, alongside longtime guitarist Mary Ramirez. The band's website describes the two as "the bad girls by the exit doors at the school dance, all leather and heels, sneaking smokes and passing the flask." (The rest of the band is in constant flux; they've gone bandmates like ex-boyfriends.)

Their blend of rockabilly, soul, and Motown spans the 50s and 60s; the Cobras could have scored the entire Pulp Fiction soundtrack themselves. They have but one original song, the cheeky "Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)." Everything else is R&B standards by the likes of The Shirelles, Otis Redding, and the Staple Singers, reinterpreted through an injection of Cobra venom. Just don't call them a cover band.
(Cobra venom about to be inserted)

Here's the band performing "Cha Cha Twist." (You may recognize it from The Jackass Movie, the part where Steve-O feeds a whale shark by putting shrimp inside his thong.) 

We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for this engagement. Simply email your name to pghmusicreport [at] and put "Detroit Cobras" in the subject line for a chance to enter. The Cobras have a reputation as a great live band, and the fact they're still touring despite not having a new album to their name since 2007 is proof of that. Pittsburgh's The Devilz In The Detailz open. Show starts at 8. Tickets are $15.

– B. Conway