Energetic pop rock was in abundance at Altar Bar this past Sunday as Cassadee Pope's solo tour came to town. Pope, the lead singer of Hey Monday, shared the stage with Pittsburgh's own Call To Attraction, the female-led quartet Darling Parade and the incredibly charismatic Stephen Jerzak. The evening had an intimate setting as all of the bands interacted with the audience frequently while also delivering animated performances.
Call To Attraction kicked off the show with a set of hard-hitting pop jams, relying heavily on catchy guitar rhythms and the impressive vocal range of lead singer Ryan Wood to create a party-like atmosphere. "Caught Me Dreaming" showcased Wood's upper range and drummer Dylan Wood's consistency, as the tempo changed multiple times. The four-piece act livened up the dark and hazy Altar Bar to prepare the audience for more even contagious pop cadences.
As Darling Parade prepared to take the stage, a soft techno beat echoed throughout the room. The light sound silenced the room just as the band broke into a heavy guitar and bass line. The abrupt change in music made for a striking contrast that enraptured the crowd. Lead singer Kristin Kearns entered the stage shouting, "Let's go people," and immediately the band's camaraderie could be noticed, as bassist Nate McCoy and guitarist Adam Hatfield smiled at Kearns between choruses.
Darling Parade gave off a gritty vibe, which was a nice transition from Call To Attraction's cleaner sound. Their songs had a more mysterious, entrancing vibe, such as "Remember," which the band created with Anberlin frontman Stephen Christian. The band, who had not played in Pittsburgh before, commanded the stage with a few unexpected synthesized beats and Kearns' infallible belting, making it clear that they know how a good pop rock song is to be structured. McCoy ripped into his guitar solos like he had a personal vendetta against his strings, and drummer Casey Conrad assailed his cymbals like he was attempting to break down the Wall of Jericho. At the end of the alt-rock frenzy, Kearns called out to the audience, "Take our music home with you!"
As Darling Parade packed up their gear, a throng of girls lining the front of the stage screamed out of joy repeatedly as they watched Stephen Jerzak ready himself for his acoustic set. The crooner enjoyed the attention yelling, "Pittsburgh, let me hear you," as he postitioned his hands on his guitar.
Jerzak's quirky personality made songs like "King" and "Party Girl" entertaining while his excellent picking skills made them flawless. He exhibited his versatility by covering Jason Derulo's "It Girl," which he dedicated to his girlfriend. His vocals' shining moment came during "Small Town Celebrity," a fast-paced tune that allowed Jerzak to show off his stamina due to its long-winded lines of lyrics. He performed with an aggressive approach and charming nature.
After Jerzak's performance, Cassadee Pope quickly took the stage with a guitarist, violinist and a bongo player accompanying her. Pope, who played guitar for most of her set, performed a variety of Hey Monday songs, her own songs and a cover of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn." The songstress conversed with audience members between songs, discussing her connection to Pittsburgh, the story behind the success of Hey Monday's first single "Homecoming," and the inspiration behind a few songs, like "I Don't Wanna Dance," which she wrote simply because she was tired of hearing so many popular songs about dancing.
Pope connected with her audience the most at the end of her set when she asked for requests. She admitted that she might not remember all of the chords or lyrics for a few songs, like "Fall Into Me," during which she corrected herself several times, but the crowd did not seem to care about the minor mistakes. They applauded loudly afterwards, to which Pope replied, "You guys are too nice. That was horrible."
While belting the choruses of songs like "Candles," Pope captured the audience's attention with her range and vocal strength. She proved herself as a solo artist by sharing her new material while also listening to the requests of the many Hey Monday fans in attendance.
Info on a few of the Warhol's spring Sound Series shows has been trickling out for the past few weeks, but a pretty comprehensive schedule is now available. Things I'm most stoked on: the return of Bear In Heaven, Damien Jurado, my chance to finally see Sharon Van Etten despite having liked her stuff for years, and Jenn Wasner's new solo project, Flock of Dimes, opening for Sharon. What are YOU stoked on?
The schedule (all shows at the Warhol unless otherwise noted):
Feb. 25 — JACK Quartet
March 22 — Kimya Dawson with Your Heart Breaks
March 28 — Bear In Heaven
April 6 — The Psychedelic Furs (at Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland)
April 28 — Sharon Van Etten with Flock of Dimes (at Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland)
May 1 — Oberhofer
May 17 — Damien Jurado with JBM
More info at the Warhol's website.
Just wanted to give you something to set your eyes and ears upon for a few minutes this morning — a week or two ago, I got hipped to this video montage from the first Silencio show, at Brillobox. As you may recall, I wrote a Local Beat column about Silencio before the show; it's the David Lynch-inspired project headed up by Mandrake Project's Kirk Salopek. Local photographer/video-maker Ted Weigand put together this montage set to one of the band's songs. Good stuff!
The first jam-packed weekend of hip-hop events in 2012 is one that will be difficult to match:
Hip-hop duo Varsity Squad invites Pittsburgh to join them for the celebration of their debut album release this Friday, Feb. 10, at Shadow Lounge. The album, New School Boom Bap, was released Tuesday and is a product of two years of collaborative work by MCs Beedie and Jon Quest. Production from DJ Vex and Shade Cobain, among others, laces the album with the vintage boom bap sound, while Beedie and Jon embody the new-school MC with a mix of bravado and consciousness. Also performing Friday will be fellow-Pittsburgh hip-hop artists The Come Up, B. White and Hubbs, with DJ Drastik on the turntables.
Varsity Squad's New School Boom Bap is available for purchase on iTunes and for free download at DatPiff.com. Hard copies will be available for purchase at Friday's show.
Wu-Tang Clan affiliates and Hazelwood natives WuLords will be joined by Wu-Tang general Raekwon this Saturday, Feb. 11, at VIP Nightclub in Washington, PA. Celebrating the release of their new album, The Art of War: Chapter 1, WuLords MCs Z1 Nation, Lord Elite, and D.I.G.I. look to bring out the cult followers that the Wu-Tang brand has built for two decades. The WuLords sound is reminiscent of the classic Wu-Tang Clan records, and the teenage MCs embrace the rough and rugged sound to express their individual realities.
WuLords' The Art of War: Chapter 1 is available for purchase on iTunes. Hard copies will be available for purchase at Saturday's show.
Everyone's been talking about middle fingers the past few days — but none more than Nick Pratt. It's serendipitous that the Fort Worth rapper, a Pitt grad who lived here for five years, dropped his latest mixtape, Middle Finger Music, the day after MIA's infamous(?) national-TV gesture. (I, for one, was more offended by the overwrought drama of the Clint Eastwood Dodge commercial, but I guess I'm different.)
There's a smattering of Pittsburgh talent on the mixtape: Nice Rec produces a track (the funny, then again thoughtful and introspective "All My Love") and Mac Miller guests on another ("Mac & Me," which starts out pretty hard, and eventually finds Mac rapping about Twinkies, ding dong ditch and Hennessy.) It's filled with smart lyricism and toes the line between informed, "conscious MC" hip hop and straight-up swagger. It's available to stream or download now at DJBooth.com: go here and check it out now. That's an order.
It's Monday, and that means I bring you an MP3 or die tryin', and I almost died tryin' this week. But I got it. And it's HOT OFF THE PRESSES. The track is courtesy of The Williams Band, which released its debut album just this past Friday. The tune is "Places I Pass Through"; stream and download it below!
Sorry, download link expired!
It's been a few years since we really discussed Ball of Flame Shoot Fire; that's because the local guys aren't so local anymore, as they live in Brooklyn. BUT, they're still pretty great, and the piano dude still wears a "Don't Bury Jerry" t-shirt, so when I got this video from BreakThru Radio sent along to me, I figured I'd pass it on to you! It's really good stuff! The band performs and is interviewed by Serious Business Records' Travis Harrison. And talk about Steely Dan and Yes and stuff.
I've waxed ineloquent before on the topic of Jenny Parrott's songwriting; she was, up until this past fall, lead lady in the Austin-based Western swing band Shotgun Party. Here's the deal: Jenny Parrott is back, having teamed up with Vaughn Walters to form a duo, Loves It!
And here's the deal: Loves It! plays TONIGHT at Thunderbird Cafe. Tonight as in Thursday night, February 2, Groundhog Night, when all the groundhogs play practical jokes on unsuspecting bunnies and deers. So, my advice is, click the above link and check out Loves It!, and if you likes it, make it to T-bird. Worth it!
Just wanted to give you the heads-up on this new video from locals New Shouts. Our Patrick Bowman wrote these guys up a few months back when they issued their Sing New Shouts EP; this vid was shot by local wunderkind Adam Steinsdorfer. Enjoy!
Last week, I mentioned that Meeting of Important People had a Kickstarter campaign going to fund their next album. That one came together nicely, as did this one from the Beagle Brothers. One that's currently on the docket: Gypsy and His Band of Ghosts.
Gypsy is Giuseppe Capolupo (formerly of Once Nothing and Haste the Day). His folk-pop band of Ghosts includes, among others, Diego from Spontaneo. They're looking to record their first album, but are out of money. That's where you come in. They're currently at $240 of their $1500 goal; the deadline to reach the goal is the end of February. If you haven't seen them before, my advice: Check 'em out on Soundcloud, and if you like it, chip in a few bucks!