Tuesday, April 29, 2014

M.I.A. and A$AP Ferg - Concert Photos - Stage AE - April 28, 2014

Were you at Stage AE for M.I.A.? We were! And we brought our camera, too!



-- B. Conway

Wye Oak and Braids - May 2, 2014 - Mr. Smalls - Ticket Giveaway and Concert Preview

Baltimore duo Wye Oak visit Pittsburgh this Friday, May 2, at Mr. Smalls, in support of their new album, Shriek. Their previous release, Civilian, cemented their status as a can't-miss band. The Onion's AV Club named it their album of the year for 2011, ahead of albums by Bon Iver, St. Vincent, and other indie rock essentials.

Wye Oak's new album is, in some ways, a simplification. Gone are the fuzzed out guitar parts. In fact, the guitar is gone completely, swapped out for synth and bass. In an interview with the City Paper, drummer/vocalist/ Andy Stack explained that the change was out of necessity:

"I think when we started recording [Shriek], it was imperative that we make a different-sounding record," says Stack, "and that we use different instrumentation, different stylistic touch-points. And if we weren't going to do that, if all we could do is be a guitar band doing neo-folk or whatever people want to call it, I don't think we'd still be a band. I think we would've just called it a day."

It's probably too much to ask for Shriek to become Wye Oak's Kid A – a radically different yet brilliant follow-up to an acclaimed third album - but the reviews so far seem to validate this evolution in Wye Oak's sound. British music site MusicOMH called Shriek "a powerful reminder of how refreshing and affecting bands can be if they have the confidence, self-awareness and ambition to look beyond their usual horizons." (They gave the album 4.5/5 stars.) Judge for yourself: here's the lead single from Shriek, "The Tower."

Tickets for this all-ages performance cost $18 and are available via Ticketweb. Or, if you prefer, enter our contest to win two tickets to the show. Simply email us your name to pghmusicreport [at] gmail.com, and put Wye Oak in the subject line. We'll announce a winner Wednesday night.

Don't miss the opener for this one. Braids, an experimental indie rock band from Montreal, blend shoegaze and dream pop to great success. Their 2011 release, Native Speaker, was shortlisted for Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize (Arcade Fire won that year, for The Suburbs). They've earned comparisons to Grimes, The XX and early Animal Collective, but none seem to fit beyond a song or two. Get out to Millvale early and see what bands you can come up with.

-- B. Conway

Monday, April 28, 2014

Band of Skulls - Interview and Ticket Giveaway - May 1, 2014 - Mr. Smalls

photo credit: Debbie Scanlan

British garage rock trio Band of Skulls play Mr. Smalls Thursday, May 1, in support of the their new album, Himalayan, the band's third to date. NME scored the album 8/10, calling it "In turns more glam-indebted and more duskily evocative than anything they’ve previously offered up."

BoS play a rugged blend of blues and rock that's familiar, yet far from derivative. Emma Richardson and Russell Marsden trade off on vocals, both within the album and between verses. It's a formula that has led them to open for some of the biggest names in rock. Now they're out on their own.

Here's the excellent first single off of the album, "Asleep at the Wheel:"

We were fortunate enough to speak with the band's guitarist/vocalist, Russell Marsden, prior to their appearance in Pittsburgh: 

Pittsburgh Music Report: You've toured with some of the biggest names in rock: QOTSA, Muse, Black Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers... is there anything you learned from being with these bands night in and night out, either musically or about life in a band? You've gotta have at least one good Josh Homme story...
Russell Marsden: I guess you learn without noticing. It becomes a normal day and you play your show. We see it as a challenge, playing to another band's audience. It can be daunting, but there's a certain thrill to it. We spent some good times with Josh, but I'm not telling you a thing.

PMR: Besides playing longer sets, what's it like switching from a support role to main act? Do you have to approach it with a different mindset?
RM: Not particularly. It's just a lot more exciting to have your audience with you from the off. Rather than having to win them over. Saying that, there's more pressure to get it right as they know all the words.

PMR: I read an interview where you said that with your second album, Sweet Sour, you didn't want to get pinned down as a band that exists within a single genre. Did you take the same approach with your new release, Himalayan? I feel like there's a lot of diversity on that album, especially when you compare between side A and side B.
RM: Yeah. We kept opening doors. Yet this album has lots of elements in common to the older records. We like to exist in a no rules environment when it comes to writing songs. And now we have a diverse signature sound because of that.

PMR: Talk a bit about your songwriting. Is it a collaborative process? How do you decide who takes lead vocals on a particular song?
RM: We collaborate a lot, but sometimes prefer to work alone. Sometimes a song just comes to you. It's like tuning into a radio. Bam! There it is.

PMR: You played Pittsburgh – and Mr. Smalls – in summer 2012, a solo gig when you were on tour w/ Jane's Addiction. Anything you remember about the venue or the city? Or is that asking too much from a band that travels the world?
RM: Yeah it's a great venue, we supported Metric there before that so it's great to come back. The perfume of the Heinz factory, or did I make that up?

PMR: Got any specific plans for when you're in town this time?
RM: Just to play our best show to date. And say hi.

Tickets for the show cost $20 and are available via Ticketweb. This all ages show starts at 8, with NYC-via-Cali rockers SACCO opening.

We have two tickets to giveaway for the show. Email us at pghmusicreport [at] gmail.com with "Band of Skulls" in the subject line to enter. We'll announce a winner Tuesday night. 

-- B. Conway

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

M.I.A. w/ A$AP Ferg - Concert Preview - Stage AE - April 28, 2014


M.I.A. visits Pittsburgh Monday, April 28, at Stage AE. In the past decade she's grown from making underground dancehall hits to become one of the biggest names in hip-hop worldwide. She is touring in support of her new album, Matangi, that was released at the end of 2013. Here's the first single off that album, "Bad Girls."

In 1976, when she was only six months old, Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam's parents moved their family away from London and back to Jaffna, the Tamil center of Sri Lanka. Her father took the name Arular (which M.I.A. took to title her first album) and joined the growing Tamil independence movement. Maya and her siblings and mother led a semi-itinerant life during that time, fleeing the sporadic fighting. She lived in India for a short time before moving back to England, in 1986.

Maya studied art at university. Her works centered on media, contemporary consumer culture, and her childhood memories of war and the struggle for Tamil independence, something visible in many of her early album covers. Her work was held in high regard by many in the underground arts scene at the time, which led to her entrance into the fashion, music, and arts circles that she's at the helm of today.

In 2005, "Galang," only the second song M.I.A. had ever written, became an anthem in dance clubs all over the world. It featured an addictive chorus, glitchy beats, and a frenetic tempo. In no time she was on the radar of most major music publication on both sides of the Atlantic. And this was still a few years before "Paper Planes" would become an international sensation.

As mentioned before, M.I.A. is on tour to support her new album, Matangi. It's less off-kilter than her previous works, a more cohesive album that is still singularly Maya, a cross-cultural odyssey for the global underground. The Independent (UK) gave the release a perfect 5/5, while NME used the opportunity to call her "a hyper-intuitive artist with a mongrel sensibility who bows to no one."

Opening for M.I.A. is A$AP Ferg, BET's "Rookie of the Year" for 2013. The Harlem-born rapper is part of the A$AP crew, which includes, among many others, A$AP Rocky. (A$AP Crew is supposed to release their first album sometime this year, but they said the same thing in 2013.) Here's the remix of Ferg's hit "Work," featuring French Montana, Schoolboy Q, Trinidad James, and A$AP Rocky.

Tickets for the show cost $38, fees included, and are available via Ticketmaster. Doors open at 8.

– B. Conway

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Giveaway - Those Manic Seas - The Smiling Moose - April 26, 2014

We have a t-shirt and 7" single from Those Manic Seas to give away prior to their show at The Smiling Moose this Saturday. They are a post-rock band hailing from Richmond, Virginia. Their lead singer is a mannequin.

Wait, what?

From their website:

 The band consists of drummer Daniel Medley, guitarist Chris Westfall, bassist
Todd Baker and a not so typical singer. “Our ‘lead singer’ is not a real
person, which makes an interesting show,” says member Daniel Medley.
“And if the singer doesn’t make sense, coming to our show will clear it all up.
We really are a live band.”

 Here's the video for "Headache/Heartache," which may explain things a little better:

To enter, retweet our post from twitter announcing the giveaway. (Hint: it's here.) That's it! We'll let you know if you won. 

Tickets for the show cost $7.  Masters of The Universe, The Me Toos, and Ferdinand The Bull also perform. 

-- B. Conway

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Photos and Concert Review - Ghost at Stage AE - April 18, 2014

If you didn't see Ghost at Stage AE Friday make sure you go the next time they're in town. This is a performance that's as much about the spectacle as it is the music, which by itself is pretty good. The ghouls can let loose and rock out when they need to, but not so much that it gives rise to a single crowd surfer, let alone mosh pit. And whichever Nameless Ghoul came up with the idea to cover The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" deserves a medal. Like the rest of the performance it was perfectly calculated, tongue-in-cheek, and expertly executed.

Funny moment during the opener, King Dude. Right before Dude hits the opening chords some drunk guy hollars out "You don't have a bass player!" Dude maintained his stoic visage but it seemed to deflate most of his self-induced severity: they performed in front of a faded, tattered American flag, which ranks about a 9.2 on the "cliched disobedient gesture" scale. If Dude sold his soul to his beloved Lucifer for musical aptitude, he should ask for a refund.

Here's what happened:


Incense before the performance



Shout out to the dude wearing the old Miroslav Satan Penguins jersey. Well played, my friend. 

-- B. Conway

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ghost at Stage AE - Friday, April 18, 2014 - Concert Preview and Ticket Giveaway

Swedish metal band Ghost play Stage AE Friday, April 18, and let's get one thing out of the way: they are self-proclaimed satanists. Or at least that's the story. The truth? Ghost is all spectacle and theatrics, Ozzy's version of Kiss. You either get it or you watch too much Nancy Grace. ("Socialist devil-worshippers preach their satanic sermon," the headline screams!) And besides, satanists are a lot less interesting than we might imagine

That's not to say Ghost (known as Ghost B.C. in the States because of a trademark dispute) don't do a convincing job of portraying evil incarnate. All but one of the band members go by "Nameless Ghoul" and perform onstage in black robes and black masks. The one who doesn't is the lead singer, Papa Emeritus. He comes out wearing all-black papal vestments, mitre included, his face painted like a skeleton. (Dave Grohl, a big fan of Ghost, is rumored to have performed anonymously with them in the past.)

But Ghost isn't just a gimmick band. Their second album, Infestissumam, won the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy in 2014 for Hard Rock / Metal album of the year. Their sound isn't nearly as heavy as you'd expect, even though the Ghouls cut their teeth in the flourishing Swedish black metal scene. Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult seem like obvious influences, while others have pointed out a connection with Mercyful Fate and their facepaint-wearing lead singer, King Diamond. Judge for yourself: here's Ghost performing the track "Year Zero" live:

We have two tickets to give away for this performance. Email us at "pghmusicreport [at] gmail.com" with Ghost in the subject line. We'll announce the winner Wednesday evening. Not feeling lucky? Tickets cost $23 and are available via Promowest.

King Dude opens for Ghost. He's a devil-worshipping folk singer. Or at least that's what he'd have you believe.

– B. Conway

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Danny Brown at Altar Bar - April 15, 2014 - Ticket Giveaway and Preview

Danny Brown will be in Pittsburgh Tuesday, April 15, at Altar Bar. Danny is one of the bigger names in rap today. Hailing from Detroit, he's acquired the unfortunate designation of "hipster rapper," mostly because he wears skinny jeans and has been championed by publications like Spin and Pitchfork, the former of which named his album XXX rap album of the year in 2011.

But what about the music? Here's his bio from Rap Genius: "an unconventional hip-hop artist employing multiple flows and cadences thus the moniker of 'The Hybrid.' His style varies from low pitched gravely tones to a manic, high pitched, squawk." There's a streak of tracks in the middle of Old, his most recent album, from 2013, with dusty old beats that sound like they belong on a Madvillian album. This is no surprise considering the (possibly apocryphal) tale that Danny's brother used to send him Doom lyrics to read while Danny was doing time for selling weed. (Danny also appears on Madlib's new album, Pinata.)

Here's "Dip," the club-banging first single off of Old.

On the second track off Old Danny takes aim at the whole "hipster rap" sleight:

The return of the gangster fuck a hipster squeeze a trigger
You got me fucked up, I'm a hood-ass nigga

But this track is followed by one that features electro-pop duo Purity Ring, who, let's face it, are a hipster band. And then there's this great quote from an interview with Pitchfork where he talks about Radiohead's Kid A being an inspiration:

I made XXX with the aim of getting great reviews. And when I started making Old, I was trying to think of artists that came back from getting great reviews and made an album that was just as good-- or better! The only group I could really come up with was Radiohead. So if XXX was my OK Computer, then I'd have to make my Kid A next. So I studied Kid A, and I took away that it's not so much about the lyrics as it is about the way the beats feel, so what drives this album is the production.

But let's get down to what matters: who cares about the hipster thing. Danny Brown raps about what he likes and what he knows: is there anything more hip-hop than keeping it 100? Let's not forget that most of today's best musicians are the ones breaking barriers between genres. 

We have two tickets to giveaway for this performance. Email us at pghmusicreport [at] gmail.com with "danny brown" in the subject line to enter. Bodega Bamz opens. This all-ages show starts at 8, doors at 7, and tickets run $18 in advance.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Great Caesar at Pittsburgh Winery, with Gregory Dutton - Photos - April 5, 2014

Here are some photos from Great Caesar's performance at the Pittsburgh Winery Saturday. The band came charging down the stairs like a mariachi band possessed. The Winery is a beautiful place - this was my first show there - but with the amount of energy and skill on display by Great Caesar I'm sure they'll have to find a bigger venue for their next stop through town.

Greg Dutton, formerly of Lohio, opened, and performed a brief duet with his fiancee, Liz, also of Lohio, that went out to Hugh Twyman. We're still waiting for that follow on Twitter, Hugh!



-- B. Conway