In observance of this most celebratory holiday week, we at FFW>> are proud to bring you one of our favorite Steelers-related songs. It was our MP3 Monday a couple years ago -- actually, right around the time the Penguins won their last Stanley Cup. We're bringing it back because, well, this is the perfect time for it.
It comes to us from the Dirty Faces, and it's about a dude with a lot of guts. It's called "Rocky Bleier." Download it, add it to your Super Bowl mix, and enjoy. And watch out for a story in the paper this week on some other Steelers songs recorded by local bands.
You may remember Justin Andrew from my column about him last year -- in which we discussed his job as a sound tech at Brillobox. I mentioned in it that he plays music himself, and that's what brings us back to him today. Justin -- who used to be in the band Camera -- now performs solo and with an assemblage of musicians he calls the Justin Andrew Band. This week's MP3 Monday is a brand new, as-yet unreleased track from the band's forthcoming album, due sometime in the spring, if that ever comes.
It's a sweet little mid-paced alt-country ditty called "Early Bird," and it was recorded by Justin and mastered by Derek White, of New Shouts. If this is how the rest of the album is going to turn out, sign me up.
Download it here! If you enjoy, check him out at Lava Lounge on Feb. 3, Club Cafe Feb. 23, or the Smiling Moose March 8.
Like many of you -- but not TOO many of you, sadly, as the venue was woefully underfilled -- I went to see Dean & Britta perform the songs of Galaxie 500 last weekend at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in a concert put on by the Warhol. It's been bandied about by the local music blogosphere a bit already -- Hugh took some great photos (plus more of Meeting of Important People's opening set), and Draw Us Lines' Brendan Sullivan presented his take as well. In the interest of furthering the conversation, here's my two cents.
Galaxie 500 is one of my favorite bands. And I really like Dean & Britta -- as a band, and as super congenial folks who gave me a great interview a couple years back. As a big Galaxie fan, I got a lot out of this show: I heard a lot of songs that I never thought I'd see performed live, at least with Dean singing. That rush of adrenaline that comes when a song you're used to hearing in the flat tone of your MP3 player headphones comes to life in a room with a bunch of other people is electrifying, and it definitely took hold when the band kicked into, say, "Strange."
But my question -- quite sincerely, I'm not being snarky here -- is: Is Dean Wareham having fun playing these songs?
The performance was pretty much spot-on as far as recreating the records goes, and Dean's falsetto has held up better than I'd have expected. It was exciting in that respect. But something -- and maybe it was the environment (I hate seeing rock shows in seated auditoriums, beautiful as the Lecture Hall is) -- seemed to flatten the performance. Even the raucous feedback sections seemed planned, played but not necessarily "felt."
Galaxie 500's body of work was the product of a few young people writing acid-tinged songs of simplicity and naivete; 20-odd years later, it's surely hard to conjure the mindset that originally produced them. And to be fair, the relationship that most of us in the audience have with those songs at this point is probably much closer and more intimate than Dean Wareham's is despite the fact that he wrote them. He's moved on, and probably doesn't listen to his own songs from the '80s while he's waiting for the bus, or driving to the store, or entering data at work, like we do.
The songs are wide-eyed and sometimes absurd and conjure a walk amidst swirling snowflakes or towering trees. The performance, though, was, more often than not, like a rehearsal: more about hitting notes than creating atmosphere. If I weren't already a fan of these songs, I fear I wouldn't have enjoyed this show -- and that shouldn't be the case, even with a reunion/redux type show.
I felt like the most passionate connections he made with the music occurred when the band played cover songs: The Joy Division song "Ceremony," Jonathan Richman's "Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste," even the Bob Dylan-via-Nico song "I'll Keep It With Mine," which Dean & Britta resurrected in gorgeous fashion for the 13 Most Beautiful project. And it's understandable -- he chose those songs to cover on his albums for a reason. They speak to him. And Galaxie originals speak to us -- through him.
I don't have 20 years between me and anything I've produced (except some kindergarten drawings or whatever), but on a much smaller scale, I'd imagine playing the songs my previous band -- which existed from 2004-2006 -- wrote would feel weird. I've revisited those songs from time to time, and still like them, but don't feel them the way I once did, or the way some others might, if anyone remembers us and listens to those records at this point.
I saw the '80s pre-industrial band Savage Republic a few years back, and blogged about them seeming bored, then soon got a comment from one of the members assuring me they had fun. But I tend to wonder how fun it really is -- or how deeply it is fun, if that makes sense -- to play your songs from decades ago on tour. It's a point of tension in the musician-music-audience relationship, I suppose, that's nothing new (think about Steely Dan fans screaming out for "Reelin' In the Years" and Fagan getting angry because he only wants to be playing "Cousin Dupree" or whatever).
In summation: I was satisfied by the show, I was pleased by the show, and I'll go see Dean & Britta again next time they're in town (which, fortunately for us, has been pretty often in recent years). But I didn't feel this show deeply. I'm not sure that I should or could have expected otherwise, or if I did. I'd go see it again, but it might not make my year-end top ten list, and if not, now you know why.
Hi! Hey! Welcome to the third week of January, 2011! I hope you're having an introspective Martin Luther King Day. Here to add some levity to the day is our MP3 Monday, courtesy of the band Spontaneo.
Spontaneo released its first full-length on Modern Short Stories last year; today's MP3 comes from that record.
Before I let you download it, I'm going to give you some links to some videos they've made. Are you ready for that? Here goes.
1. Here's the video for "Bad Weather," the song you'll be able to download later on in this post. It's about a weatherman.
NOW. Here's the MP3: Bad Weather
Snap it up and enjoy!
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Pittsburgh Year again, and a couple of local bands -- one quite seasoned, the other more of an up-and-comer in the game -- have brought out Steelers fight songs to get you stoked for Saturday's game against Those Damn Ravens.
KardaZ -- about whom I wrote a couple years ago, when the Penguins were headed for a Cup win -- is back with another Steelers fight song, based on the Ghostbusters theme, called "Go Steelers." I mean, yes, it's basically just a list of the names of the people on the team -- and poor Matt Spaeth barely makes the fadeout -- but COME ON, it's a Steelers song. Download it here.
The second entry is from Gene the Werewolf, the local Punchline-etc.-related outfit that Aaron wrote about last spring. It's ... well, it's an update of the Steelers Polka! It doesn't really sound like Gene the Werewolf. Except it is! Here: Download it!
Enjoy the game, and maybe check out one of these local shows that come recommended:
Friday, January 14
Horse or Cycle, Nik & the Central Plains, Susan Sarandon, Ash Dinosaur at Howlers.
Toxic Holocaust, Gomorrahizer, Oh Shit They're Going to Kill Us, Wrathcobra at Kopec's.
Saturday, January 15
Ursa Major, Arlo & the Otter, Horse or Cycle (again!) at Brillobox.
Ben Valasek, Chuck Beatty, Stanley J at Club Cafe.
The Silver Thread and The Ceiling Stares at Gooski's.
The one-year anniversary of Projekt 50/50, in which 50 artists decorate one skateboard deck each. It's not a concert, but there IS a DJ, and it's cool. It's at Firehouse Lounge.
It's snowy. I get it. You probably don't want to venture far tonight, for fear of getting stuck on one of the roads that Pittsburgh Public Works forgot existed. Well, if you're in or close to the Bloomfield area, go get a drink and check out a rock band from Italy. Eh?
Betty Poison is the band fronted by Lucia Rehab (not her real name). (The band used to be called Betty Ford Center, but you know how these things go.) They are, truth be told, kind of ridiculous -- in that over-the-top, rock 'n' roll sort of way. That doesn't mean they're not good, though. They opened for Hole last year in Milan, and that says pretty much what you need to know: angry lady singer, hard rock.
They're from Italy. You're not up to anything better. Beer tastes good. River Rat Jenkins, Ladybeast and Icon Gallery all open. Why not just do it? Start around about 8 p.m. Howlers is located at 4509 Liberty. They got a new facade recently; don't let it fool you.
It's not often that you find bands named for contemporary cultural theorists. (I mean, I guess it's not that often that you find bands named for dead ones -- The Benjamin Brigade? Susan Sontag's Army?)
But this weekend you can check out The Cornel West Theory, a hip hop-rock-soul-politics fusion ensemble from D.C. -- which is not only named after the progressive theorist and African-American Studies professor, but has collaborated with him.
The band samples widely, not just riffs and beats, but spoken-word sound bytes, contextualizing the members' rapping with what amounts to found poetry (most of it political). Fans of socially aware hip hop in the vein of Sage Francis (or even the harder, less hippie side of Michael Franti) should take note, as should anyone into good slam poetry.
They play AVA Lounge Saturday night at 8 p.m.; it's a $3 show.