A year or two ago, I wrote a Short List entry on a band from Detroit called Lac La Belle. The band is fronted by Jennie Knaggs (it was once known as Jennie and the Sureshots), who is backed up by a couple of heavy-hitting Fantastic Voyagers, Nick Shillace and Joel Peterson. The band plays sweet old-timey counjtry and Western swing with a bent for authenticity and sweet vocals.
Lac La Belle returns to town tomorrow (Thursday) night at Morning Glory Coffeehouse in Morningside -- the show starts at 7:30 and the Beagle Brothers and Istvan Medgyesi open. No cover per se; donations politely requested.
Also, while I've got your ear, and while we're talking about Voyagers, I might send you in the direction of Stereogum, where the kind folks there have secured a track from the forthcoming Daniel Higgs album. As you may have heard, I am kind of into Higgs. Holy Bible time, people.
On one of guitarist Adrian Belew's more recent visits to Pittsburgh, City Paper contributor Chris Parker interviewed Belew and wrote a career-spanning profile on him. Belew's work -- both on his own in numerous guises and with the likes of David Bowie, Talking Heads and King Crimson -- has long blended pop and experimental elements. "But more and more I give up on pop music because it seems like a losing battle and there's just no place anymore for interesting pop music," Belew told Parker.
Belew plays an early show at Club Café this Friday, in a one-man electric show described as "painting with guitar." He kind of explains what this means on his blog -- I'm still a bit mystified -- but if anyone's latest venture deserves a vote of confidence, it's this innovative, good-natured guitar whiz. For more details and tickets, visit the Club Café Web site.
"Your neighborhood piano teacher was never this fabulous. Raised in Squirrel Hill, Margie Balter made her way to Hollywood, and over the past decade, her work has been featured in many a blockbuster -- not that you can see it. Which is kind of the point: Balter helps actors look like they know how to play the piano on film, coaching numerous stars including Holly Hunter (in The Piano) and Scarlett Johansson (in The Man Who Wasn't There)."
I wrote the blurb above in August 2007, when Balter visited Pittsburgh to promote her solo piano album, Music From My Heart, and it works well enough now, too. (Balter still uses it in her online press kit, although it apparently didn't survive City Paper's transition to a new Web archive.) More recently, she's coached Greg Kinnear (The Last Song), and one of her compositions turns up in the new Date Night film starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell.
Now, on Fri., April 23, Balter is back in town at the University of Pittsburgh, her alma mater, for a conversation, Q&A and signing. The talk, entitled "Pitt in Hollywood Presents a Conversation with 'Piano Teacher to the Stars' Margie Balter," is 3 p.m. in the Cathedral of Learning G24. The event is free and open to the public -- check it out, and maybe learn a thing or two about pursuing your artistic goals, both behind the scenes and in them.
A last-minute plug for post-rockers Unwed Sailor, playing tonight at Brillobox. I reviewed the band's 2007 album The White Ox for City Paper some time ago; since then, they've released Little Wars, also on Burnt Toast Vinyl. Also on the bill tonight are locals Dawn Cannon (who recently put out a USB/digital release) and Common Loon.
The show starts at 9:30 p.m. at 4104 Penn Ave., in Bloomfield, and costs $8. For more info, visit Opus One Productions' Web site.
It's Monday, and it's mid-April, and the Penguins are in the playoffs. This can only mean one thing: time for a free download of local band KardaZ's "The Mighty Guins" song!
Each year the, er, Guins make the playoffs, the band redoes the vocal tracks to fit the roster of the team that season. It started in 1993 and carries on still -- though, sadly, there's no mention of Ponikarovsky this year (it's usually fun to see how they rhyme names like that).
Last year I did an interview with Bob Kardasz, one of the brothers in the band; that should get you up to speed on the whole phenomenon. Once you've got that, go and download that jawn!
(By the by, Kardasz denies that the unusual nickname for the team was derived from Sophie Masloff's semi-infamous "GUINS WIN!" screech of 1991, but we all know she was the mother of all things "Guins.")
"Jesus, I dare you to come back," sang Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Peter Hayes, as the strobes flickered and the clouds of fog lit up with ominous red light. As I looked around Mr. Small's last week -- packed to the walls with swaying bodies -- I thought about how long BRMC has been coming back to this venue, and in some ways, doing much the same thing.
On the surface, little has really changed: A bassist and a guitarist stand almost motionless at the front of the stage, in clouds of fog, and sing and play for hours, while the drummer pounds along in the background. I first remember seeing this in 2006, and a few tours later, this skeletal show is still basically what happens. There's some lights, but not really a "light show" -- little to distract you from song after song. And audiences love it.
Of course, this particular tour is quite a departure from previous outings in one very notable respect: Longtime drummer Nick Jago has been replaced with powerhouse Leah Shapiro. Before the set, I went backstage and found her sprawled out on a couch in her biker boots, cracking wise. She seemed relaxed, mischievous and baffled by the lack of coffee options in the metropolis of Millvale -- not quite what I expected from someone about to energetically punish a drum kit for two and a half hours, plus chiming in on gang vocals. I mean, I was exhausted and left after two hours -- and I was just watching.
Two nights earlier, I caught buzz band Girls, also at Mr. Small's, with openers The Dum Dum Girls. I didn't realize this until a friend reminded me later, but I'd seen Girls in 2009 at SXSW, before their debut record came out, playing a showcase in Austin's Central Presbyterian Church. I was really just killing time and saving my seat for Grizzly Bear, on right after, but Girls were a pleasant surprise, their '60s-infused shoegazey pop filling the church.
I talked with singer Christopher Owens outside, after the SXSW set -- he seemed like a really sweet, humble dude, so it's great to see the band taking off in such a massive way. Wonder if he had any idea what was coming … yeah, I bet he did.
Hey beautiful blog-readers!: Last-minute plugs for a couple shows worth noting tomorrow (Saturday) night:
At Brillobox, El Ten Eleven returns (I gave them the Short List treatment once; Gramsci Melodic, whom I wrote about a while back, opens, along with Whisper Signal. This is where I will likely be. Starts at 9, costs you 7.
One that slipped through the cracks and didn't make it into the listings this week: Classic Material, the monthly hip hop dance party at Shadow Lounge. In addition to resident DJ SMI, this month's Classic Material features DJ Ai-va (from Latvia(?!)) and DJ Rudd (from the UK). Starts at 10, costs you 5.
In other words: no excuse not to rock tomorrow night. Your reward on Monday will be me posting the new version of the "Mighty Guins" song as our MP3 Monday. Get stoked!
Area promoters are starting to announce their warm-weather shows, and we'll have all the info for you in City Paper's annual Summer Guide, coming out in just a few weeks. This week, Drusky Entertainment announced its upcoming shows at the Amphitheatre at Station Square -- a mixed bag of local performers, nostalgia acts and a couple of oddball surprises.
The most interesting show, hands down, is Busta Rhymes and Lil' Kim, coming Fri., May 28. Having seen both rappers command audiences at much larger outdoor events -- and in broad daylight, no less -- I'm sure the Amphitheatre is nothing they can't dominate. Lil' Kim, in particular, puts on a fun, filthy show.
Most of the performers fall under the nostalgia-act umbrella: the "Heroes of Woodstock" tour (June 13); The Scorpions' final bow (July 5); B.B. King (July 13); and Heart (Aug. 6).
Somewhat more contemporary -- somewhat, mind you -- are Insane Clown Posse (May 23) with Kottonmouth Kings, Coolio and more, 311 with Pepper (June 22) and "The Bamboozle Roadshow" (June 23) featuring Good Charlotte, Third Eye Blind and many more.
Local events include the May 31 "Fallen Not Forgotten 2" memorial concert, featuring scads of regional bands, past and present; proceeds will benefit Penn Hills policeman Michael Crawshaw and state trooper Paul Richey. On June 19, The Clarks and Good Brother Earl play, and then in late August there's the "Ribs on the River" fest, featuring Donnie Iris and the Cruisers.
For more information on these and other shows, visit www.ampstationsquare.com.
In case you haven't been paying attention, Wiz Khalifa, despite (or perhaps because of) his parting of ways with Warner Bros., has been making some waves lately: the Allderdice grad was in last month's XXL ("most charismatic" amongst that mag's "Freshman Class" for the year) and his latest mixtape dropped today. As of the writing of this post (2:50 p.m. on Wednesday), his name is trending on Twitter's worldwide "trending topics" panel, just as earlier in the morning, the name of the mixtape, Kush & Orange Juice, was trending as the number one topic -- on all of Twitter. Same goes for Google's Hot Trends: "Kush & Orange Juice" was number one on that chart for a time, as of this writing it's at number three.
The download for Kush & Orange Juice is, of course, accessible through Wiz's Twitter account.
While you're at it, check out our video of Wiz performing "Say Yeah" at last year's CP Remixed concert curated by Girl Talk.
Novelist Vladimir Nabokov reportedly said, "Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one's sputum." He may have overlooked another category: the blithely un-self-conscious, which is the general vibe I get from local power-pop band Chalk Dinosaur.
Most Mondays, we offer readers one song by a local band or musician. Today, we're upping the ante significantly: 105 demos by Chalk Dinosaur's John O'Hallaron. When I reviewed the band's official self-titled debut, in late November, the Carnegie Mellon student's Web site only had 91 songs up -- he's been busy. Before you ask, "Do I really want to listen to someone's demos?" O'Hallaron's are more fully realized than you might expect, and the looseness suits the material.
Apart from having all of your rough drafts online, Chalk Dinosaur also has a family-affair aspect, having started out as two pairs of brothers. (A more recent addition to the band is Harrison Wargo, formerly of The Morning Light and Transition, the subject of my 2006 cover story "In Between: Local rockers Transition straddle commercialism and conviction.")
But there's arguably no stronger proof that you're utterly comfortable with who you are and where you came from than having your dad onstage with your rock band. That's exactly what happened when I finally got to see Chalk Dinosaur live a couple of weeks ago, opening for Mandrake Project at the Rex Theater. Sitting in with the band on a few songs was a somewhat older gentleman, holding down the acoustic guitar on songs like "John Wayne," who later turned out to be Mr. O'Hallaron, senior. Opening with a surfy guitar instrumental, Chalk Dinosaur turned in a strong performance, ending with the sprawling "Across the Moon," also the closing track on the band's CD.