In lieu of a regular ol' weekend overview this week, I'm highlighting two weekend events that benefit good, and bookish, causes. Ready?
Tonight at Howlers is Literazzi, a benefit for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. The $5 cover nets you performances by an array of local spoken-word/performace types: Ashly Nagrant, Jenn Dallas, Nikki Allen, Jocelyn Hillen, Michael McGovern, Lance Cheuvront, Patti Emory. Plus there'll be a raffle and a Howlers favorite, live-band punk rock karaoke. It's all hosted by local writer Kristin Ross, whose birthday it is, so give her punches.
Then tomorrow (Saturday) night at Remedy is Bookstock II, the sequel to last September's benefit to raise money and awareness of the Carnegie Libraries' financial crisis. Performers include TypewriterGirls, JonBro, Dean Cercone, and the Fake Sinatras; additionally, there will be art auctions, library trading cards(?!) and some DJ's (Mary Mack, ja(m) (bo)x, and JoeyJ, friends of libraries all). It's a sliding-scale deal, $5-10, no one turned away for lack of funds.
That's TWO chances in one weekend to check out some quality local talent and support readerly causes. And you don't even have to do any reading yourself. What could be better?
In Pittsburgh, the Boulevard of the Allies isn't just a road running through Downtown that backs up every day at five o'clock. It's also the name of a local alternative band that sounds straight out of the '90s. Hopefully this week's MP3 Monday track, called "Man in the Photograph," will keep your rolling, even through rush hour.
"The Man in the Photograph" is a pretty upbeat tune with nice breezy guitar parts and a catchy refrain. It's the title track off Boulevard of the Allies' debut album, and you can hear why for yourself by clicking here!
Joel Lindsey, the band's singer, will be hosting Club Café's AcoustiCafe open mic tonight, starting at 7 p.m. And on Wed., July 28, the band will play Espresso Amano's new "Tip Jar" acoustic music series, with fellow performers Dream Job and Clinton Clegg. The event runs from 7-10:30 p.m., with an open mic segment beginning at 9:30 p.m. For more info, visit the Boulevard of the Allies website.
Sometimes you do an interview and it's kind of long, but good. And you only have 750 words of room in the paper, so you have to cut the interview down -- plus there's the matter of making the interview fit some kind of arc that will actually make sense in that space. But you know that the interview is a fun and interesting read in its entirety, or at least in a less abridged version.
So, you put it online, where there is an infinite amount of space.
That's what I'm doing with my interview this week with Josh Verbanets of Meeting of Important People. The edited version that ran in the paper is here, along with the release show(s) information. The mostly uncut version follows.
Tell me about the new record. How did you hook up with Authentik Artists?
I remember telling you specifically [at the time] – “I'm going to be really annoying and keep telling you about [the self-titled LP], and tell lots of people about it, not because it's that great but because we did it, it's done.” I contacted so many people about it – some people I'd met in previous bands, some people of actual “importance,” some just friends. They heard a couple tracks from the record and got in touch with this really cool distribution deal – meaning they have nothing to do with the physical record, but they control the digital domain. And it was a great deal. It was amazing. The head of the label, Scott Austin, was the head of Madonna's label, Maverick, in the mid-'90s, which went under. It's a small label and they've been incredibly supportive, and they've been into every idea we've had. They're not a really “cool” label of any prestige, but they've done quite a bit, but they've helped pay for us to make records.
It's hard to call them a label – they don't have ties to traditional media and they don't have anything to do with physical distribution. They're just really energetic former music executives who really like to hype music online. They have tie-ins with iTunes, they got us featured on iTunes.
Do you think that's a satisfactory route to go, at this juncture, with the business being what it is – is that the meat of what a band really needs?
I think it's great because we've been able to live several lives at once. On one hand we've been able to appear like a modern pop band, where they've hyped us on blogs, put glossy photographs of us up, made us look like a glossy modern Pitchfork band. That hasn't really worked for us, because the kind of music we have isn't really experimental enough to fit in with that. But it's been great because they've gotten some really great placements for us. As you know, one of the only places people find out about music these days is through song placements, and they've gotten some incredible song placements for us.
We've been able to live a dual life of doing that and also being a band that travels, we've played a good 30 to 40 shows out of town, and plays to people what appears to be kind of throwback garage rock. We played with The Cynics and people loved it. When we play with a modern indie band – when we open for an OK Go or David Bazan or whatever, people don't really care. It's when we play a garage rock bill where people want to talk about old Alice Cooper bootlegs that it really seems to work.
You've been doing the model of going out for a weekend, rather than touring.
Yeah. We've played regionally. And the reason that we've done that – it's not because we're lazy or anything like that. It's that the stuff we do doesn't seem to fit into any clear genre. It's really difficult – like, a pop-punk band, a pop-punk listener will immediately say, I recognize these inputs and this distortion and this way of singing and I'm into this. There's nothing about this that tells you to like it. Because it's just some goofy little songs. We've done the weekend trips because we love to play and we like to give our music away. But I'd say it hasn't done very much for us. We played Northampton, Brooklyn, Columbus, Cincinnati, all the way to Wisconsin, we played Madison, we played Chicago, Philadelphia, Morgantown. Those kinds of regional things. Nothing more than 5 to 8 hours away.
But you've got a pretty significant local following. You might not fit into a subgenre or “scene,” but you fit into a scene on a personal basis here.
Totally. My whole life, I rallied – when I was in my early 20s starting to play, I hated all of those bands that had their friends, just 200 of their friends would come out, I hated it, it made me so mad. “Just because you were on the soccer team in high school, now all your buddies come out --” know what I mean? Then I find myself – the Lohio thing was such a positive thing, it did turn into a little scene. It turned into that thing I always made fun of, when we started playing in Lohio; I don't know why, but it reached some little critical mass where WYEP was playing the song, so enough of the public knew about it, and friends would come and it was just a nice thing, to be in your mid-20s and to come out and see your friends. So I realized the thing I always thought was negative was actually really positive.
One thing I've been curious about is “The Jesus Song.” I know some of you are Christian, some of you maybe less so – what degree of sincerity of irony is involved, or does it matter, does it transcend that?
The only person in the band who's religion is [bass player Aaron Bubenheim]. We're not outing him in any way – he's always defined himself as a Christian. But that has nothing to do with our music, with our band, with our friendship. It's something he's embraced a lot more in the past few years, and it's a pretty significant part of his life. “The Jesus Song” was written by me, as a little bit of a reaction to Aaron – to me, the idea was to write a song that was really impassioned. I wanted to write a song that would lay out a straight gospel song lyrically. Of course there's something about doing drugs, there's something about “shooting up hymns” in there, but basically to me the idea was just, could I write a gospel song that could be taken either way? There's that thing where – the snide kids are going to say “This is awesome, they're making fun of religion,” and the religious kids are going to say “This is interesting, they're making a real call” -- for me as a songwriter, it has nothing to do with that. It's just a character singing an impassioned song. It was inspired, I'd say, just from what was on my mind from discussions with Aaron. And if you lay it out, it's really similar to what a “real” religious song would look like.
Is that what your approach to songwriting here was like – picking a character, a perspective, writing a song based on that?
This one, definitely more – the last album was songs kicking around and we got together and recorded them. You hear these words all the time, so I don't even want to say them, but: this is more of a band record. We did it together. I'll try to get off of that.
Two of these songs are really old. The two in the middle, “Leap the Dips” and “They Love Me In the City,” I wrote when I was probably 19, but they seemed to fit with this stuff. Each song has a specific voice, a specific character. There's less “silly” than the last record. Plus, to me it's less annoying. For example, the first song – it started because I wanted to write a song cycle about an amusement park. I love old amusement parks. I wanted to write a concept record, as silly as that is, where every song would be about a different aspect of the park over the day. So the first song was going to be “Training Song,” and it was the owner of the park telling the employees who not to let in that day: “Don't let anybody with a chain wallet,” know what I mean? It turned into a song that was basically like any employer telling you who not to let in. They're all kind of that. And little references – “Leap the Dips” is about a roller coaster in Altoona, stuff like that. It's pieces of an aborted concept record.
You could probably revisit that with some grant money from someone. The American Coaster Enthusiasts.
ACE! I was a member for a while. That's my big nerdy thing. Old roller coasters.
You picked a cover, “Come On Down To My Boat” (by Every Mother's Son). Why did you choose that, and are you going to get sued?
We're not going to push it nationally. That's not going to happen. I'm just being realistic – we're not in a place where we're going to go out and play seven million shows. If Authentik Artists places one of our songs in a Coke commercial and suddenly people love us and want us to come play, I'd love that, but for me – the idea of this record was just to make something that sounds more like our live band, it's short, and just give it away, to people who come out to see us around Pittsburgh. If something nice comes of it, that would be great. If not, no problem.
When it comes to “Come On Down to My Boat” – we only pressed 500 CD's. And our label isn't putting out this cover. The cover's only on the disc. The label's putting out four or five bonus songs, some demos that we did. They're putting that all on iTunes. We're just putting [the physical CD] out as our version of the record.
The song's great – it used to be on 3WS when we were kids. We recorded it because it's the creepiest – it uses the most violent imagery. He's talking about cutting her loose with his knife; it doesn't sound like a very nice way of asking a girl out. It sounds like he wants to abduct her into international waters.
Okay. If you're like me, your Monday's been killing you. So let's cut straight to the good stuff.
This week's MP3 comes to us from Marcus, aka MH the Verb, of The BNVz. The electro-pop-hip hop group came out of Pitt a few years back and has refined its sound since then -- and is now relocating to Philly to be closer to the music-industrial complex. Which is cool, I guess, as long as they keep repping the Pittsburgh scene like the promise too, and also keep repping the Steelers.
The MP3 they've supplied is "Burnin' Up," a party track that'll likely blow Peter's Pub up on Saturday (the 24th) when The BNVz play their last show as Pittsburgh residents.
Blog-people! Good to see you. I have a lot to tell you of. Let's get down to business.
It's Friday, which means weekend, which, most weeks, means I give you some ideas as to what shows you might go see.
Tonight is the Cultural Trust's Gallery Crawl, and unfortunately as of the writing of this, the Cultural Trust website isn't loading for me. Regardless, it starts at 5:30, runs officially until 9:00, and involves a bunch of music performances: Local faves Delicious Pastries lend levity to a pretty serious exhibition about gender-based violence, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at SPACE (812 Liberty). A band I know little about called The Wrong Airport is playing at the Crazy Mocha on Liberty across from Wood (trivia: that space was where Future Tenant used to be -- I played music there once!) Elsewhere, The FutuRisticz and Shinobi perform at the August Wilson Center, Mark Lucas Trio plays Little E's (where there's always jazz on Friday night), Chelsea Baratz sings at
Seventh Street & Ft. Duquesne Blvd. (I'm told there'll be a stage) 805 Liberty, and DJ's appear throughout, including at a block party at Penn & Ninth the Convention Center Underpass at 7:30, where Mike Canton of WYEP and DJ Nate da Phat Barber spin.
Elsewhere tonight, On Fillmore plays the Warhol, Brillobox hosts Shapiro, Chalk Dinosaur and Yours Truly (the band, not me), and Good for Cows split a bill with Audrey Chen at Garfield Artworks. A bill, I should add, that is presented by frequent CP contributor Manny Theiner.
Saturday and Sunday is the Free4All Music Festival in Polish Hill at the pool, coinciding with the Polish Hill Arts Festival: Organized by Project 53, a musician resource center, it features all manner of local and out-of-town bands, and is all free. Mike Tamburo, Gangwish, Secret Tombs, The Runaway Circus and more play on Saturday, and Midge Crickett, Buddy Nutt, Good Game, Evil Twin and others play Sunday.
Tomorrow (Saturday) night: the 31st Street Pub hosts the Battle of the Worst Bands in Pittsburgh, which basically sounds like a night dealing with what I deal with every day at work. At Brillobox, Justin Andrew Band headlines a bill with Paul Luc on it. Texas mates Dignan populate Garfield Artworks along with Sainthood Reps, The Felix Culpa, and The King and the Thief. Elsewhere, Bear Cub, Harrison Wargo and The Wreckids play an all-locals bill at the Rex.
Sunday night, Joan Armatrading plays the New Hazlett, The Old 97s bring their always-popular show to Mr. Smalls, and Ola Podrida, whom you know because I both Short Listed them (him) this week and played them (him) on my spot on WYEP a couple weeks ago, plays Garfield Artworks.
Whew! Is that enough for you?
Throughout the four days of All Good Music Festival last weekend, many of the 20,000 hippies, hipsters, bros, flower children, aging vacationers, ravers and college folks were seeing things. They just weren't sure if it was the psychedelics or the heat. Aside from a late afternoon shower on Friday, the festival, held on wildly remote Marvin's Mountaintop near Masontown, W.Va., was a dry, hot affair. But music fans persevered, sweat and heatstroke be damned.
Dark Star Orchestra played the first killer set of the fest Thursday night as most attendees were still filtering into the campground; with mostly dirt roads leading to the site, traffic was backed up for hours. By Friday morning, though, All Good was exactly what its name states: The Bridge blazed through bluesy guitar rock in an early afternoon set, paving the way for the jerky afro-beat of Femi Kuti and laidback bluegrass of Old Crow Medicine Show. But the afternoon belonged to Pimps of Joytime, a largely unknown funk act that owned its only-30-minutes set, treating the crowd to Prince-gone-jammin' music. Look out for this band rising on the festival horizon soon.
By Friday night, All Good's music was unstoppable. Furthur, the band featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, noodled through a 3-hour set that got the crowd spinning, leading into a late night set from big bass electro producer Bassnectar to knock 'em down. His set was nothing short of explosive -- loud, corrosive beats that pushed the crowd to a dance-mosh frenzy. How no one was completely crushed is beyond me. Throw in a few thousand glow sticks flying through the air, and the whole thing turned into a spectacle from any vantage point. Electronic jammers Lotus closed out the night (finishing up by 4 a.m.) with propulsive grooves and a laser show ensuring that anyone not already on a trip would soon leave earth.
Saturday saw All Good's only taste of indie rock when Dr. Dog attempted to convert the throngs of jam fans with its Beatles-y pop. Mission (at least sort of) accomplished. My mostly-hippie friends, none of whom had ever heard of Dr. Dog, bobbed along approvingly. Like Friday, though, the afternoon belonged to one act: the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band tore through classic rock-leaning jams and confirmed to any doubters that Trucks is the pre-eminent guitarist of his generation.
Saturday night headliner Widespread Panic proved slightly divisive, though -- beloved by older, Allman-loving jam heads, the band is somewhat foreign to younger fans. Still, the band's marathon set kept the fest dancing.
Jamband lifer Keller Williams kicked off Sunday morning to a mostly sleepy crowd with his "Moonshine Breakfast" set of bluegrass covers (dude made "Sex and Candy" sound less old!), waking them up by actually passing around jars of moonshine. Tasty.
Promoters said this year's All Good was the biggest ever. Might've been the best, too.
A few weeks back, a fellow named Jim emailed me about the new music blog he was launching. As we (still) don't have a blogroll here (yet), I figure I should pass that information along to you in a post!
The blog is called Draw Us Lines. Like so many local music blogs, it cuts a broad swath: a little local coverage, some write-ups of national-level bands, and a feature they call The New Classics, which focuses on records from the past 10 years or so that have settled quickly into the canon. While I'm generally ambivalent toward writing at length on the records that have already sealed their place in the pantheon (unless it's a serious reconsideration of some sort), the writing here is good, and makes these worthwhile reads. Immature boy that I am, I laughed out loud as out-of-town contributor described In the Aeroplane Over the Sea for what we all really like it for: its many gratuitous references to semen.
Thus far, the blog's been well-kept-up, and for that I applaud these fellers. Also, we've been eerily on the same wavelength of late ("Hey, I was just jammin' that Secret Cities LP!" "You like that Ola Podrida album too?!" "Samantha Crain, I was just thinking of revisiting that record!"). This all makes Draw Us Lines worth adding to the ol' RSS reader.
This week's MP3 Monday comes right from local alt-pop rockers Yours Truly. The track, "The Crown," starts out with some Strokes-like rhythmic guitars before throwing in some horns and transitioning into a more Jason Mraz-sounding track.
You can check out music editor Aaron Jentzen's review of the band's EP in this week's City Paper. Aaron writes, "Yours Truly's groovy modern rock should find an appreciative audience among musicians and non-musicians alike."
If you dig it, you can see them play this Fri., July 16, at Lawrenceville's Brillobox.
And if you really, really dig it, you can buy a ticket to see them on Aug. 6 at Diesel and get your ticket to Brillobox fo' free. And if you're an absolute fanatic, the ticket can also get 50 percent off Yours Truly merchandise as well. For more info, visit the band's MySpace page.
Maybe it's fitting that a city associated mainly with a huge tragedy would manage to put forth one of the world's more famous death metal bands? Incantation is a long-lasting legend of metal that hails from Johnstown, a town not so far from here that's known mainly for a killer flood caused by rich people. The band, over 20 years old now, has seen plenty of lineup changes, but frontman John McEntee has been the constant.
They play Saturday (July 10) at Belvedere's in what's a pretty massive metal bill: Ibex Moon Records Fest features six bands associated with the label. Also hailing from Johnstown is Funerus; Pittsburgh's Abysme (who contributed an MP3 Monday once) represents Pittsburgh.
It's $10 and over-21 only, sorry. Show starts right at 8 because, y'know, that's a lot of metal for one night!
Bad news: as happened a little over a year ago, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists had to postpone a show at Diesel this week. The show, which was to be this Friday, was called because, as the prolific tweeter explained Sunday, there was a death in Leo's family and he has to attend to that business.
The good news: First, the show's already been rescheduled for Thursday, September 23. That's really close to my birthday, if you want to take me. Also, it's scheduled while Leo is en route to the Pygmalion Festival in Urbana, which promises to be a good time, if you want to take me there instead. And last: this Friday is Devo at the Trib Totalitarian Mediocrity Amphitheatre at Station Square, so now you don't have to decide which show to attend -- go see the weirdos from Ohio!