Working as I do in a clearinghouse for local music- and arts-related information, there's not a whole lot that blows my mind -- most acts you throw at me are things I've seen before. But sometimes an artist manages to defy convention to the point where I'm slightly confused, in a good way. Case in point: local musician Ali Spagnola.
She came to my attention when I was passed her new electro/dance CD, The Ego, which was released a couple weeks ago. The formal release show is this Saturday (March 27) at Alto Lounge in Shadyside. Digging back into her catalog, I realized that dance music wasn't always her gig; a few years ago, Spagnola released a pop album. More recently, she put out a record called Power Hour; this abum doubles as a drinking game. Shape-shifting? Beer drinking? Count me in.
The show Saturday at Alto has two parts: the earlier part, inexplicably, is the Power Hour drinking game concert. If you make it through that on your feet, the dance music part of the night begins at 11. The hooks on The Ego are pretty decent and the production is professional -- plus the lyrics are pretty sharp, if often nearly incomprehensible due to the digital effects added to the vocals. ("Bigger and better/ Too much is not enough/ I know I'm winning but I don't want the mercy rule," goes the bridge of the first cut, "I Want More.")
The first track is available as a download on Spagnola's site.
Hey, heads-up! When you look in tomorrow's CP you'll see that April Smith and the Great Picture Show are playing Club Cafe on Thursday. That will be a lie. Last night, April Smith was forced to cancel a few dates because apparently her tour bus is in sad shape. According to Opus One, the agency that booked the show, refunds will be available at point of purchase; if you already ordered tickets online or by phone, your money will be refunded automatically to your card.
Sorry we lied to you. Papers take a day or two to print!
Hello and happy Friday! Just dropping a quick post to let you punks, er, blog-readers that tomorrow (Saturday, the 20th) is a big day for BRICKS Pittsburgh, the cancer support/resource organization that my friend Charissa Hamilton-Gribenas founded last year after her husband, Rick, passed away from Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Tomorrow at AIR on the North Side, BRICKS releases its young adults cancer awareness/resource guide. It's been a year in the making, and a lot of local bands are coming out to celebrate: Coal Miner, Code Orange Kids, The Frantic Heart of It, Onodrim, Devil Deer and Shambolish are all playing the show.
It's an important organization and an important cause, and commemorates the life of an important guy (in addition to many others). I'll be there; come out if you can! It starts at 3 p.m. and runs until 10.
Pittsburgh bands have just two more days to enter the recording contest sponsored by University of Pittsburgh radio station WPTS 92.1 FM, Machine Age Studios and Pittsburgh underground heroes Modey Lemon. The deadline is 5 p.m. Fri., March 19.
The contest is geared toward "all those great Pittsburgh bands that haven't had a chance to record at a professional studio," and the grand prize is two days of recording time at Machine Age. Three finalists will also get to open for an all-ages Modey Lemon show on Fri., April 2.
Complete rules and guidelines are here. You don't need to be a Pitt student to enter, but bands must not have "recorded at a professional recording studio, defined as an established business used for recording." That strikes me as a tough distinction to make in this era of ubiquitous, inexpensive home studio software and gear. This is not to say that someone with GarageBand and a cheap condenser mic is no different from a professional studio with an experienced engineer -- there's no comparison -- just that it must be nearly impossible to draw that line.
Darling party people: it is Monday and that means a new MP3 courtesy generous local bands and the occasionally hard-working CP music section. This week brings us a track from Big Hurry, a poppy rock band that released its first EP last year.
Their next show is Friday, March 26 at Brillobox with another poppy local that's won me over for sure, Satin Gum. Gordy G., of Vipers/Title Town fame, spins.
Without further ado, download and enjoy "Paper Trails!"
Once you've caught a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the circus, you never see it quite the same way again. And once you know someone in the circus, you see it a lot more often.
Prior to writing CP's Nov. 2008 cover story, "The Greatest Job on Earth? Pittsburgh Musicians Jeremy Papay and Steve Palko Join the Circus," I'd seen the Ringling circus just once in my adult life. But after covering the "Gold Tour" show in Erie, Pa., I later caught the big three-ring production at Mellon Arena; last week, I took a roadtrip to Knoxville, Tenn., and saw the Gold Tour again -- the same touring company I'd initially written about, still featuring its Pittsburgh-native rhythm section of Papay (drums) and Palko (bass).
Every two years, the shows are overhauled, with new acts (some from the other Ringling touring companies) and a new theme or story -- the new Gold Tour show is called Illuscination, and features magic tricks and illusions. The show also has a new musical score. While the last show had some more lyrical moments, this one is pretty hard-driving throughout, and thus a good showcase for technical skills of Papay and Palko.
Visit the Ringling Bros. Web site for more information, including upcoming show dates.
A little more than a year after its Pittsburgh show, experimental orchestra HiTEC -- short for "The Histrionic Thought Experiment Cooperative" -- will perform again, and likely for the last time. Just don't expect a reprise of what you experienced before: the event is described as an "uncert" or "uncertainty concert." The project is the brainchild of Pittsburgh-based artist tENTATIVELY, a CONVENIENCE.
Just exactly what it is and how it works takes a bit of explaining -- fortunately, Manny Theiner did just that in a feature story about HiTEC's 2009 performance. Footage from that show, at The New Hazlett Theater, can be seen here.
The performance will take place at 8 p.m., Sat., March 13 at Carnegie Mellon University's Kresge Hall. The suggested donation is $6 (CMU students free).
Just a quick note to inform you that Rusted Root's show tonight and The Clarks' show tomorrow on the Gateway Clipper have both been postponed because of imminent flooding. Rusted Root's show is being made up on April 10; The Clarks are playing on the big boat next Friday, the 19th. Also, ten bucks to whoever can get Rusted Root to cover "I'm On a Boat."
In case you missed the band's CD release show last Friday, we're offering you another chance to hear Nik Westman & the Central Plains, featured in the current issue of City Paper. "Elements of country, folk and indie rock weave in and out, resulting in a blend of songs that sounds impressively familiar but, in the final analysis, original," writes contributor Mike Shanley (read full article).
Today's free mp3 download is "First Breath," a twangy, loping track from the group's new self-titled CD.
You know the drill: it's time for everyone's favorite file extension-day of the week combination, MP3 MONDAY!
This week, we bring you a track by the folky, complex Pairdown. The band -- mainly David Leicht and Raymond Morin, with some help from friends -- provided us with the title track from their LP, Holyklye. It's got simple, comforting vocals laid over guitar work reminiscent of John Fahey or Leo Kottke.
They're opening up the Saturday portion of the Fantastic Voyagers Festival this coming weekend at Morning Glory Coffeehouse in Morningside; that begins at 4 p.m. sharp.
Without further ado, download the track and enjoy, dammit!