Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shpongle - Mr Smalls - 3.31.14 - Concert Preview and Ticket Giveaway

Photo credit:
This Sunday, March 31, Shpongle brings Shpongletron 3.0 to Mr Smalls. Shpongle is a duo made up of Simon Posford and Raja Ram. Ram is in his 70s, so the younger Posford is on his own for this run, performing what will essentially be a DJ set.

So what the hell is a Shpongle? Was their first album really called Are You Shpongled? And what in shpongle's name is the Shpongletron 3.0?

Besides being fun to say (Shpongle. Shpongle! Shpongggggglllle...), Shpongle is, well, if you have to ask, you're probably missing the point, or are at least a couple cosmic planes lower than these guys. Posford, when he's spinning on his own outside of Shpongle, goes by the name "Hallucinogen." That pretty much say it all. They've attracted the label "psybient," a portmanteau of "psychedelic" and "ambient." Your best bet is to take a listen of your own. Here's the track "Brain in a Fish Tank," off of their latest album, 2013's Museum of Consciousness:

The other part of the Shpongle experience is the light show. Shpongle employs a VJ for each of their shows to direct the lights and animation with the music to create a full-on multimedia experience. Zebbler is the visual artist that designed Shpongletron 3.0. (You may not know the name, but he achieved national notoriety for designing the Aqua Teen Hunger Force LEDs that people in Boston mistook for bombs in 2007.) This may be the most awesome DJ booth ever assembled. Here's Zebbler's own video of what it looks like in action.

We have two tickets to give away for the show. To enter, email us at pghmusicreport [at], and put "shpongle" in the subject line. Desert Dwellers open. Tickets cost $22 and are available through Ticketweb.

– B. Conway

Dex Romweber Duo - Ticket Giveaway and Show Preview - Friday, March 28 at the Rex Theater

This Friday, the Dex Romweber Duo hit the Rex Theater, alongside The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. Dexter plays with his sister, Sara, who is actually his sister, unlike Jack and Meg White. But speaking of Jack White, he's one of Dex's biggest fans. White called Dex "one of the best kept secrets of the rock n roll underground," and in 2010 he helped produce a live album for the Duo on his Third Man Records label.

I don't know if it's fair to label Dex as underground. Yes he performs raw, unbridled rockabilly, but he's been around since the late 80s. That was when he was known as half of the Flat Duo Jets, the Athens, GA-based band who first gained national exposure touring with The Cramps in 1990. That same year they performed a frenetic set on Letterman, which you can watch part of below. The footage comes from Two Headed Cow, a documentary about Dex and the Flat Duo Jets that took nearly ten year to make.

Currently, the Dex Romweber Duo is touring in support of their new album, Images 13. It's got all the rollicking guitar you expect, and Dex's voice still alternates between Johnny Cash croon and Iggy Pop snarl. Here's "Roll Out," the lead single from the new album: 

Dex is opening for The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. They play down-home, country blues from a bygone era. There's three of them: the Reverend Peyton plays rusty old National guitars from the 1930s, Breezy Peyton plays the washboard, and "Bird Dog" Bussell counts a five-gallon bucket as part of his drum kit. 
Tickets for the show, which is 21+, cost $15 in advance, $17 at the door. Lucky for you we have two to giveaway. Email us at pghmusicreport (at) with "Dex Romweber" in the subject line for a chance to win.

B. Conway

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The War on Drugs and White Laces - Altar Bar - March 22, 2014 - Photos

Excellent show by The War on Drugs show at Altar Bar last night. Both Scott Mervis of the Post-Gazette and Scott Tady of the Beaver County Times were in attendance, so we'll leave it to them to write a proper review. Until then, check out some photos:

The War on Drugs:

White Laces: 

- B. Conway

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ticket Giveaway and Interview - Desert Noises at Club Cafe - March 25, 2014

Desert Noises play Pittsburgh this Tuesday alongside The Wheeler Brother at Club Cafe, in the South Side. The band calls Utah home, and they are touring in support of their new album, 27 Ways, which is currently streaming via Paste

I'm a fan of the whole Southern psychedelic rock vibe - My Morning Jacket, White Denim - and these guys definitely seem to be approaching that. I know that Utah isn't "Southern," so perhaps Western Psych (?!) is the appropriate term? Whatever the label - Americana, roots-rock, indie-folk - I like what they have to offer. Here's a new track from the album, "Out of My Head."

Tuesday, the day of the show, also happens to be the release day of the band's new album. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Kyle Henderson, frontman for Desert Noises, before the start of their tour: 

PMR: First of all, your new album, 27 Ways, comes out the day of your show here in Pittsburgh, March 25. Does this mean we get the official "Album Release Show?" Do you have anything special planned for the occasion?

KH: Since we are on the road it's hard to do anything to special but we definitely will be celebrating.
PMR: Speaking of 27 Ways, I'm a big fan of it. I never really understood the "psychedelic rock" label after listening to your last album, if I'm being honest. But there are some songs on here, like "Shiver" and "Elephant's Bed," that are pretty far out.  Was there a conscious decision to make a switch in that direction for the new album, or did you guys listen to the playback and say damn, we have been listening to a lot of Tame Impala? 
KH: Hah, there wasn't a conscious decision we just did what the song called for and tried to be as honest in our hearts as possible.

PMR: How was SXSW? It seems like most bands have a great time, but others seem put off by it, like they're part of some huge dog and pony show.
KH: I can definitely understand why some feel that way. It's so much running from here to there and playing over and over again. It's an exhausting experience but it's a blast looking back. Lots of great people and too much great music.
PMR: You guys played like a dozen gigs over a one week span. Were you able to make time to check out some of the other bands? Any good stories you want to share?

KH: Not really. We were so busy it was just here to there all of the time. We did get to play with Diane Coffee and they were really great and a bunch of nice guys.

PMR: Your tour with the Wheeler Brothers starts in DC Saturday. What's your relationship like with these guys? Did they take you around Austin at all?

KH: We've never really hung out...It's going to a blast to get to know them.

PMR: As far as I can tell this is your first time playing Pittsburgh. Is there anything you plan to do while in town? 

KH: Nothing that I know of.. I'm just waiting to hear what's good and needs to be done.
We have a pair of tickets to give away for this show. Email us at pghmusicreport (@) for your chance to enter. Simply put "Desert Noises" in the subject line. A winner will be announced Monday.

- B. Conway

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The War on Drugs - Show Preview and Ticket Giveaway - Altar Bar 3.22.14

Adam Granduciel
The War on Drugs play Altar Bar this Saturday. The Philly band was founded in 2003 after a chance meeting at a party between Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile, who bonded over their love of Bob Dylan. Vile left the group in 2008, after the release of their first album, Wagonwheel Blues.

Granduciel still fronts the band, and can't you read anything about him or the group without hearing comparisons to A) Bob Dylan and/or B) Bruce Springsteen. And it only takes a single listen to recognize why. There's that distinctive, Dylanesque elocution in how he exaggerates his long vowels. And the lyrics? Under the Radar magazine broke down the Philly band's total Bossness in their review of 2011's Slave Ambient (which they gave an 8/10):
Boss-isms range from the subtle nod to the full-on lunge, the latter illustrated on "Baby Missiles," which boasts the complete package: big-ass organs, copious snare drum, chorused guitar, and that familiar up-tempo vamp. Hell, even the trademark "hoooooo!" makes a few appearances, and the lyrics are littered with Boss populism ("I'm at the freeway/down by the harbor").
Pittsburgh Music Report caught the band in 2011 when they played Club Cafe. At the time we said the show, with Caveman (who were just in town opening for Phosphorescent), was a top candidate for Pittsburgh concert of the year. Here they are performing the excellent "Your Love is Calling My Name" from that show, with enough sonic distortion to satisfy Nowhere-era Ride fans. (You can read our full review of that show and watch some more videos of their performance here.)

The band's new album, Lost in the Dream, takes a step back from early-90s shoegaze and plants both feet squarely in the soundscapes of the 1980s. Rolling Stone's feature Lost in the Dream compare it to Tom Petty, Dire Straits, and Roxy Music. There are moody synths, plucky keyboards, and enough drum machine that the drummer's union should boycott the album. 

The album has received near-universal praise from reviewers. All Music Guide dubbed it a "near flawless collection of dreamy vibes, shifting moods, and movement," while Spin called it "an out-and-out star-maker that should rank among the year's best albums." Here's the video for the album's first single, Red Eyes:

We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the show. To enter, email us at pghmusicreport [at] with "war on drugs" in the subject line. We'll announce the winner Friday.

Opening are White Laces, from Virginia. They should satisfy War on Drugs fans worried over the band's sudden abandonment of shoegaze.

- B. Conway

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Show Preview - Dead Rider - 3.26 - Brillobox - Concert Preview

Drag City label artist Dead Rider will be making an appearance next Wednesday, 3.26 at the Brillobox. The Chicago quartet are releasing their new LP Chills on Glass this month. The third album shows the band at their best playing their heavy driven sound. The album was self recorded and produced by the band creating their own unique LP. Trying to define the music is difficult as they run the gambit of electro, jazz and rock and roll.

From their press:

The record, which arrives March 18, brings guitarist/vocalist Todd Rittman back to the Drag City stable, having previously issued LPs on the label with fabled post-rock trailblazers U.S. Maple. As for Dead Rider, the group's self-produced follow-up to 2011's The Raw Dents has the act "reconfiguring sonic relationships," according to a press release.Elements of improvisation are said to pepper the set, which finds the quartet using trombones, trumpets, guitars, bass, drums and more to offer up 10 new tracks that play out "metallically, hip-hoptically, free and jazzy, operatic [and] electronic."

Show begins at 9:30p with doors at 9p. More information can be found here.

Punch Brothers at Mr. Smalls 3.17.14 - Ticket Giveaway and Concert Preview

The Punch Brothers visit Pittsburgh Monday, March 17 to play Mr. Smalls. I first saw these guys perform on Austin City Limits; they split the hour-long slot with The Civil Wars. I don't usually listen to bluegrass, but I was hooked from the first plucks of the mandolin. There was something refreshing about seeing the band's five members huddled closely together, not a drum kit or amp in sight. Here's the opening song from that set, "Movement and Location," which is also the opening track off of Who's Feeling Young Now?, their most recent album, from 2012.

The first thing that stands out about the group is their musical proficiency. Bandleader Chris Thile, formerly of the accomplished bluegrass trio Nickel Creek, contributes vocals and plays the mandolin. The Onion's AV Club calls Thile "inarguably one of the most accomplished mandolin players in the world," and in 2012 his talent earned him a MacArthur "Genius Grant." 

In addition to mandolin the quintet includes a banjo, guitar, upright bass, and violin/fiddle. For a better description than I could ever write of the Punch Brothers' musical prowess, here is former Daily Show corespondent and longtime banjo player Ed Helms's take on the band, from a piece that appeared in Paste in 2010, in which he accuses them of being aliens bent on world domination:

Mere human beings could never achieve the Punch Brothers’ musicianship and technical proficiency. Frontman Chris Thile’s mandolin playing defies the laws of physics. It is my belief that he has an additional six fingers on his left hand which are invisible. He also embodies the statistically impossible combination of mandolin virtuosity, charm and frosted tips. Banjo player Noam Pikelny demonstrates a level of skill that directly contradicts the societal value of his instrument: The aliens made a cultural miscalculation, since no human would ever want to be that good at banjo. It also doesn’t take long to realize guitarist Chris Eldridge was cultivated in a petri dish by fusing the DNA of Tony Rice and Clarence White (and, sadly, the fashion sense of Bj√∂rk). Gabe Witcher plays his fiddle so fast that he needs a synthetic beard to insulate his tender alien skin from the heat. And Paul Kowert thumps what looks like a bass but is actually a low frequency transmitter sending coded signals to the mothership. That explains his totally unique bass lines and perfect timing.

The band, and Thile in particular, were the focus of a 2011 documentary called How to Grow a Band, (which is available for streaming on Netflix). In it there's a scene where Thile is on the phone kvetching about how the band is being represented in promotional material. "If they feel the need to put 'bluegrass,'" he says, "they need to put 'progressive' or 'contemporary' bluegrass." Their first album, Punch, from 2008, was centered around a 40 minute suite of music for string quintet. While, thankfully, they no longer perform it from start-to-finish at concerts, theirs is still a unique fusion of chamber music and bluegrass, a virtuosic one at that.

We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the performance, which is being presented by the good folks at WYEP. To enter, send us an email at pghmusicreport [at], and put "punch brothers" in the subject line. Tickets are available via Ticketweb. The music starts at 8. Aoife O'Donovan opens. She previously performed with The Infamous Stringdusters, who once counted current Punch Brothers guitarist Chris Eldridge as a member.

-- B. Conway

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mike Gordon at Stage AE - Photos - March 7, 2014

Enthusiastic yet meager crowd to see Phish's Mike Gordon at Stage AE last night. Less than half capacity, on a Friday night no less. Compare that to Lotus, who played the same venue one month ago on a Saturday and nearly sold the place out. Many that were there traveled far to make it, including the crew from Columbus, Ohio who got there early just to be able to play the giant keyboard sprawled across the front of the stage. Highlight for me was hearing them cover The Flaming Lips' "Are you a Hypnotist??," off of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, one of my all-time favorite albums. And did I mention light-up guitars? Though that could have just been afterglow from one of Scott Murawski's scorching guitar solos.

You can view the setlist via Here are some photos:

LED keyboard

Kyle w/ Alf. Or, Alf w/ Kyle

- B. Conway