Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Sword with Big Business and O'Brother – Mr Smalls 3.3.14 – Concert Preview and Ticket Giveaway

Monday night concerts are brutal. You just finished catching up on all the work you put off last week, so you're already a day behind. You're tired, slave again to that tyrannical alarm clock, too tired to cook but too broke to order in. All you want to do is watch some House of Cards until it's not too early to pass out for the night.

Unless, that is, Mr. Smalls has a badass hard rock triple bill for less than $20.

Let's start with one of the openers, Big Business. They've recently added a guitarist, but the band is essentially a product of Jared Warren (bass) and Coady Willis (drummer), one half of The Melvins. Their new release, Battlefields Forever, came out last October on Gold Metal Records, a label they created for the sole purpose of releasing this album.

Big Business is probably the most metal of the three bands that will be performing, or at least the sludgiest. Jared Evans growls like Lemmy at the mic, and the way Coady Willis punishes his kit makes you wonder why The Melvins ever needed two drummers. They are another one of those bands that seem to whip up more sound than three men should be capable of producing. If the term "noise metal" wasn't an oxymoron I'd use it here. Here's the ass-pummeling track "Heavy Shoes" off of their new album:

The other opener, O'Brother, hail from Atlanta. The five-piece have toured with Manchester Orchestra and Junius, and comparisons to the latter wouldn't be unfair to either band. They come across as more "alt-metal" than their two touring companions – think Deftones rather than Danzig - and rely upon swells of sound and a quiet/loud dichotomy more so than the chugging riffs of the headliners, The Sword.

The Sword is made up of four dudes from Austin who crank out music that straddles the imaginary line between hard rock and heavy metal. Their most obvious influences are Black Sabbath (musically) and Led Zeppelin (philosophically). They perform songs about mountains, and witches, and women on horseback. There's a section of their website devoted to "lore," and they even do the whole "zoso" symbols for each member of the band.

But there's a lot more going on with The Sword than repackaged classic rock. The band's first couple albums were straight up stoner rock in the vein of Sleep and Kyuss. More recent albums find the tuning and the pace cranked up, as well as the production values. 2012's Apocryphon and the excellent Warp Riders from 2010 are both albums you keep in your car to play before a night of partying. (Odds are you won't be listening to The Sword while fighting Balrogs, but that doesn't mean that a soundtrack shouldn't be made to match Balrog-sized ambitions.) Here's the title track off of that Warp Riders album, complete with riffs and licks o'plenty:

Did we mention The Sword has their own beer?

We are pleased to announce that we have two tickets to giveaway to see this great trio of bands. To enter, email us at "pghmusicreport [at] gmail.com," and put "The Sword" in the subject line. We'll announce the winner Friday night, if we remember. Tickets are available at Ticketweb for $16. That's a bargain any day of the week.

– B. Conway

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Show Announcement - The Mountain Goats w/Donora - 2.28.14 - CMU Rangos Ballroom - Show Preview

CMU just announced a fantastic show at the Rangos Ballroom this Friday, 2.28 featuring no other than The Mountain Goats. It's quite a get for the student union since The Mountain Goats just played here in April at Carnegie Musical Hall in Homestead. They will be playing with local favorites Donora.

The Mountain Goats - Cry for Judas from Carlo Mirabella-Davis on Vimeo.

From their bio:

The Mountain Goats began life in a Norwalk employee-housing studio apartment that had awesome deco tiling on the bathroom floor but little more to recommend the place as a living space. Still, you take what you can get, and it was ridiculously cheap. In this room, equipped with a dual-cassette recorder, John D. started setting some of his poetry to music, using a guitar he'd gotten for a few bucks at a nearby strip mall music store. His idea at the time was that eventually his day job would be "poet." Young men have all kinds of crazy ideas about what they're going to end up doing for a living.

After a while the songs became more like songs than poems set to music, and John started playing them for his friend Rachel, who as it turned out, played bass. John and Rachel toured the eastern U.S. & Europe once, the midwest twice (if "Chicago, Columbus and Madison" count as "the midwest"), and played San Francisco a few times, and they recorded two albums and a couple of EPs. Then John graduated from college and moved to Chicago, and the Mountain Goats became Mainly Just John, except for a couple of European tours where John's friend Peter Hughes played bass. In 2001, though, 4AD called up and asked if the Mountain Goats wouldn't like to make records with them. John called Peter. They hit the studio.

As a duo, the two toured at a pace that can fairly be called "relentless" from 2002 until 2007. They made records: Tallahassee, We Shall All Be Healed, The Sunset Tree, Get Lonely. They took to recruiting drummers from their opening acts to play the last few songs with them. And then they met Jon Wurster, and the three took to the road in support of Get Lonely, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Hobart, Tasmania, and a few points even further south. They enjoyed playing together so much that when it came time to repair to the studio again, all three went in. In 2008, the three recorded Heretic Pride, and in early 2009, The Life of the World to Come.

Tickets are only $10 compared to $25 at Carnegie Hall. Or if you affiliated with CMU, free. More information here:


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Russian Circles at Altar Bar - Show Preview and Ticket Giveaway - 2.23.14

My two former roommates and I are huge fans of anything post-rock or post-metal. The last concert the three of us went to together was Isis's farewell tour, and we usually email each other whenever a new album comes out by any of the bands that populate this expansive genre: Tool, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, Pelican, and most recently, Russian Circles. Their newest album, Memorial, triggered this unfortunate exchange:

Me: Either of you listen to new russian circles? Review I read said it was best post-rock album since [Isis's 2004 album] Panopticon.
Roommate #1: i want to listen. i will get on that tomorrow!
Roommate #2: I haven't yet because I didn't realize the album was out, but dear God are they good. I have such a music boner for them. If you have a chance to see them live, do it.

Music boner (n): \myü-zik bō-nər\
It's like an affection erection.
On your heart.
But it's because of the music porn you're listening to.
And it effects your heart and your mind.
(Definition courtesy Urban Dictionary)

Granting leave for use of the term "music boner," it's pretty easy to see why my friend was so excited. They make Explosions in the Sky sound like Pachelbel's Canon. (And I love Explosions in the Sky!) Russian Circles are most often compared to Isis, but I think Mono should be mentioned as well, and not just because they are both instrumental bands. Their music, to use a most overused term in a completely appropriate fashion, is epic. It's hard to imagine just three men creating this much sound.

Memorial earned an 88/100 on Metacritic based on the average score of the reviews.  Listen why:

I had spoken with roommate #2 on the phone a few nights ago and told him that Russian Circles were playing in Pittsburgh. He hadn't realized they were on tour. Last night I got this text from him. Turns out they were in his city: "So good. So much music erection right now. You have to go."

You can't ask for more of an endorsement than that.

If you too would like to become musically affected, enter our giveaway to see Russian Circles. Send an email to pghmusicreport[at]gmail.com, and put "russian circles" in the subject line. Tickets can be purchased for $15 via Ticketweb. This all ages show starts at 8. Inter Arma and KEN mode open.

– B. Conway

Photos - San Fermin and Son Lux at the Warhol - 2.18.14

Nice double bill at the Warhol Tuesday. The male lead singer for San Fermin, Allen Tate, noted how quiet it was between songs. I don't know if I'd go quite so far as to say it was because the crowd was awestruck, but it is an impressive sight to see eight people splayed out across the stage, making beautiful music together. The band also treated the crowd to two new songs that have only been performed live a couple of times, "Parasite" and "Woman in Red."

If San Fermin is considered baroque for having a trumpet and violin, that must make the opener, Son Lux, avant-garde. Instead of a baritone sax there were quadruple tracked vocals, all sorts of frenetic keyboard samples, and an occasional guitar and/or drum freakout. I liked the songs a lot better live than how they sounded on the album.

Here's what you missed:

Son Lux:


San Fermin:

- B. Conway

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Show Preview - San Fermin - 2.18.14 - Warhol - Concert Preview

Sound Series: San Fermin, with special guests, Son Lux

The eight piece San Fermin will be appearing next Tuesday, 2.18 at the Warhol Museum on the North Shore. The group was started by Brooklyn based chamber pop project musician Ellis Ludwig- Leone. The band just released their debut LP this past year entitled The Sun Also Rises. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway's book "The Sun Also Rises", Ludwig-Leone crafted the record as if it were a dialogue between a man and a woman. The album is extremely introspective and personal. It is written with such emotion, that you realize the writer has opened himself in an extraordinary fashion. It's a larger, strong album when performed by the chamber pop group as proof of their past performance here at the Brillobox back in October. It's a live act that will transcend even better at the Warhol stage. Something not to miss. 

From their press:

A pastiche of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical composition, San Fermin is the work of Brooklyn composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. His self-titled debut album is strongly influenced by his unique background in classical music, which includes a job assisting composer/arranger Nico Muhly. After finishing his musical studies at Yale, Ludwig-Leone wrote the album in six weeks while holed up in a studio on the mountainous border between Alberta and British Columbia. He focused on lifeʼs top-shelf issues – youth, nostalgia, anxiety, unrequited love – and tied these vast themes to different characters through vocal contributions from longtime friend Allen Tate, as well as Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius.

San Fermin is not an album of singles but rather a sweeping, full-bodied listen with multiple distinct peaks and ambitious thematic connections. Ludwig-Leone composed all of the album’s arrangements and lyrics in full prior to collaborating and recording, noting that “writing for a large group of unknown musicians infused the writing process with a kind of operatic scope.” The first track released from the album, “Sonsick,” tackles many of these larger themes head-on. ”It’s like a panic attack disguised as a birthday party,” Ludwig-Leone says. ”I realized that the most intense moments are the ones in which conflicting emotional worlds exist inside you, equally, at once.”

Show begins at 8p with doors at 7:30p. Tickets are only $15 and can be found here

Monday, February 3, 2014

Photos - Lotus at Stage AE - 2-2-14

Even though Jesse Miller of Lotus told us that the band disavows the label, I'm going to go ahead and remember this show as my first ever jam concert. And while it's certainly normal for a band to feed off the energy of the crowd, by the end of this show the entire pit was dancing in communion with one another, their tempo rising and falling with the music like the bars on an equalizer.

Here's what you missed: 




-- B. Conway

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Photos - Phosphorescent w/ Caveman - Mr. Smalls 1-31-14

Cojelo suave, muchacho...

Good turnout at Mr. Smalls Friday night. Matthew Houck, AKA Phosphorescent, noted that the crowd was much more impressive than his last spin through Pittsburgh, which was a visit to the meager Club Cafe less than a year ago. Shows what an "Album of the Year" can do for your fanbase.  Here's what you missed:



-- B. Conway