Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Nile at the Altar Bar

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Nile is not, as I assumed for a time, from Egypt. They’re from Greenville, South Carolina. Karl Sanders, who founded the band in 1993, infused his songwriting, and pretty much every other aspect of the band, with his interest in Egyptology and the ancient Middle East. Six records of self-described “Ithyphallic metal” later, the theme remains as a framework and mood – with occasional obvious Egyptian references – more than a goofy shtick. Some find the whole incessant Egypt thing tiresome, but it’s hard to deny the skill behind it, and the fact that Nile has spent the past two decades helping to influence a younger generation of technical death metal. That said, the number of shaggy teens in Job for a Cowboy and Black Dahlia Murder shirts who were losing their shit at Nile’s Altar Bar show last Thursday wasn’t surprising.

I missed the first two bands on the five-band bill – Moths and Beneath The Remains— arriving just in time for locals Kamikabe. They played all new material, hinted winkingly at some big news they couldn’t disclose, and despite their lack of bass player, managed to keep it real f-in’ heavy.

It’s always sort of tempting to make the ol’ comparison of metal shows to Christian religious services (especially when the venue is a repurposed church). The two often share an element of mysticism and a ‘join us’ mentality, plus there’s that whole raising of hands thing. It’s even more tempting to make the comparison when one of the bands is called Hour of Penance, is from Rome, and clearly finds Catholicism really, really annoying. Seriously, they can’t shut up about it. One of their t-shirts features a Zombie Pope, and a photo on their website shows the band surrounding a rather leggy, scantily clad version of Jesus’ mom in repose.

Hour of Penance’s recordings are ultra technical and bludgeoningly, frighteningly fast. Live … well, maybe I was on the ‘off’ side of the venue – I heard better reviews from the other side of the room — but much of the precision that makes Hour of Penance interesting was jumbled and muddied. And even more disappointingly, I couldn’t really make out any of the probably blasphemous things singer Paolo Pieri was yelling into the mic between songs.

Nile, like any 20-year-old band worth their salt, was a class act, and brought out some welcome personality and fun. Opening with crowd pleaser, “Those Whom the Gods Detest,” guitarist Dallas Toler Wade lorded over the crowd, head shorn like Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments, and Sanders, ankh pendant around his neck, grooved along like the guitarist in some kind of psychedelic blues band. These guys don’t seem to care about being tough or scary or particularly evil and, unlike some of their ilk, don’t get bogged down in pure speed and muscle.

Nile’s combination of complexity and technical prowess makes their recordings razor sharp, and though I was in a better part of the venue for their performance, some of that was turned to sludgy noise. But Nile ruled both in spite of and because of that. People got wild: even tucked safely between two rows of stationary spectators, I got a palm shoved in my face and a finger in my eye. A couple of the aforementioned teens were ejected for pointlessly jumping a venue splitting barrier – the bouncers hauled them out like it was the moment they’d been waiting for all night. (“A bunch of us were supposed to do it,” I heard one say outside. “but only two of us had the balls.” )
Nile closed with “Black Seeds of Vengeance,” their set short of an hour. Most seemed to leave with grins on their faces, and many of us woke up the next morning with bangovers and incantations still ringing in our ears.

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New track: Good Night, States — "Everybody Is Sound"

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 12:47 PM

I know we usually do the free-MP3 thing on Mondays, but this is a special one — next week, Good Night, States releases its third album, Country/Static. I'll be writing a bit about the album's creation and where the band's at right now in next week's paper, but in the meantime, we're giving you a free track from the record!

The song we're offering today is called "Everybody Is Sound," and it serves, I think, as something of a centerpiece for the album. It comes right in the middle of the record, and deals with ideas about life and music in a reflexive way.

The band is having a Grand Release Gala next Thursday, April 4, at the New Hazlett Theater.

So, without further ado: Stream or download "Everybody Is Sound," below!

To download, right-click here and choose "save link as"

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Haiku review

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 10:37 AM

For a while there, I used to write a haiku every morning for CP's Twitter. Then I realized that I was wasting a lot of time on that, so I stopped. But I still like to engage the form sometimes — thus, some quick reviews of artists I've seen recently:

Shotgun Jimmie, Club Cafe, March 16
Samson's guitarist
was like a stand-up comic
with some decent tunes

John K. Samson, Club Cafe, March 16
Existential angst
and songs of growing-up, plus
talk about hockey

Kid Brother, Club Cafe, March 24
Heartfelt solo tunes
from Ben from Ursa Major;
talk of dental work

Jeffrey Lewis, Club Cafe, March 24
Genius songwriter
sang the illustrated tale
of Pocahontas

Doldrums, Andy Warhol Museum, March 28
Samples and synth sounds,
more Canadian banter,
charming and naive

Bear In Heaven, Andy Warhol Museum, March 28
After the show ends,
many in a daze talk of
Joe's whirlwind drumming

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick review: Night Beats (playing Brillobox this Friday)

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 10:29 AM

While we weren't able to fit anything about this Friday's Night Beats show at Brillobox into this week's paper, freelancer Ian Thomas walks us through the band's latest record here:

Adventurous listeners interested in exploring the surf/psychedelic revival that has been picking up steam recently, thanks to bands like The Black Lips and Thee Oh-Sees, would do well to give Seattle, Washington's Night Beats a try. Taking cues from psychedelic legends like The 13th Floor Elevators, Night Beats play straightforward guitar-plus-bass-plus drums rock 'n' roll, relying on raw emotion rather than production to shape their sound. On each of the album's twelve tracks, blues-laced guitar threatens constantly to ignite a fuzzed-out conflagration. The roadhouse riffing is only barely kept in check by the powerful backbeat and the fits and starts of vocalist Lee Blackwell's hellish howl. Though the band's full length debut isn't yet a year old, it sounds like it could have been released in the mid-sixties alongside the progenitors of the genre. Their approach is not one of retro artifice, though. Rather, it is a successful channeling of the same darkness and ecstasy that fueled the Psych movement the first time around. As long as there has been hardship, there have been angry young men to scream in sweaty desperation at it. Night Beats just happen to do their screaming in the vein of Roky Erickson. When Night Beats do their screaming, the result is Psychedelia that, in 2012, is as authentic as pulsing paisley.

Night Beats with The Van Allen Belt, Carousel. 9:30 p.m. Fri., March 30.Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Lucky Street Tour comes to Altar Bar

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Go Radio
  • Go Radio

The Altar Bar was filled with pop rock enthusiasts Saturday night as the Lucky Street Tour barreled into town with Go Radio, This Providence, Tyler Carter, Lookout Loretta and The Sleeper Pick bearing an arsenal of driving guitar riffs, synthesized melodies and boisterous choruses.

Due to transportation complications, I was unable to witness Look Out Loretta's opening performance, but heard good reviews from my fellow attendees.

The Sleeper Pick gave an energetic performance, concentrating on playing to the front of the crowd. Vocalist Jesse Gruber sounded a little flat on a few songs but still delivered an exciting performance. The work of drummer Donnie Dell was pretty impressive, and his frequent use of the bass drum gave each song a little more grit.

Jesse Gruber - The Sleeper Pick
  • Jesse Gruber - The Sleeper Pick

Tyler Carter took the stage next, performing hip hop songs with a bubblegum pop twist. He and his band performed well for it only being their sixth show on their first tour. Their music was very electronic-based, with a MacBook Pro sitting atop one of their speakers facing the crowd as though it was a fifth band member.

Tyler Carter
  • Tyler Carter

Clad in a wide-brim hat, Daniel Young trotted on stage after Tyler Carter with the rest of This Providence to serenade the crowd with a series of their new material mixed with a few older favorites such as "My Beautiful Rescue," which the crowd reacted to by chanting nearly every lyric. This Providence's technique was incredibly tight, and the set list was well-constructed, as the variations in tempos from song to song came off as pleasing instead of fatiguing to the ears. Their use of unexpected instruments like the tambourine and harmonica accented the rest of their instruments well. There were few moments of silence between songs, consistently keeping the energy high. Perhaps the most inspiring part of the performance was when they played "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," from their 2006 self-titled album. The way Young belted the choruses invoked goosebumps.

Daniel Young - This Providence
  • Daniel Young - This Providence

After This Providence, the crowd anxiously awaited wordsmith Jason Lancaster and the rest of the Go Radio crew to perform. As the room went dark, a red police siren flashed with its tone deafening the audience. Enter Go Radio. Cue frenzied crowd.

The band used the whole stage during their set, running back and forth and on top of two podiums placed at the edge of the stage to reach as many screeching fans as possible. Bassist Matt "Burns" Poulos gave a charismatic, almost theatrical performance, pounding his chest to the beat of the bass drum in several songs. Lancaster did an excellent job of projecting his voice over the many attendees screaming along with songs like "Any Other Heart," "Kill the Beast" and "Hold On." He also took to a keyboard for several songs, making the atmosphere seem a little more intimate.

A cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" really got the crowd going with Go Radio's angrier, heavier take on the Top 40 hit. The band worked hard throughout their set, with Lancaster's black button-down shirt appearing soaked with sweat not even halfway through the performance. Go Radio seemed genuinely appreciative of the large crowd in front of them, with Lancaster saying at one point, "We never really figured we would be this far away from home and all of you would be here." The boys closed the performance with the beautiful "Goodnight Moon," a melodic rock ballad that references the children's book of the same title. Overall, Go Radio's performance gave the evening quite the climactic conclusion.

Go Radio
  • Go Radio

Jason Lancaster - Go Radio
  • Jason Lancaster - Go Radio

I caught up with Go Radio guitarist Alex Reed in between bands for a brief Q&A.

Alex Reed - Go Radio
  • Alex Reed - Go Radio

NC: What do you love about coming to Pittsburgh?
AR: The hospitality. The people we encounter every time seem great. We're from the South, so that southern hospitality resonates with us.

NC: What do you love about touring?
AR: Everything. The spontaniety...when you decide you want to be a touring musician, it's what you sign up for. The friendships you make are priceless.

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MP3 Monday: Call to Attraction

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Hey there!

Call to Attraction
  • Call to Attraction

This week's MP3 comes from Pittsburgh pop rock band Call to Attraction. Members Ryan Wood, Josh Perrone, Dylan Wood and Joe Mahoney released their 4-track EP What Comes Next in February, working with producers Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount to perfect their sound. Download "Katie" below, and check out more of their tunes on their website. Happy listening!

Sorry, download expired!

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Macadelic and the state of Mac Miller

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 2:12 PM

How time flies. It was five years ago that Point Breeze native Mac Miller first performed onstage at East Liberty's Shadow Lounge. The smaller audiences that often showed up there — mostly fellow hip-hop artists — seem distant from the audiences seen at Mac's shows today.

In December 2011, now with a number-one album to his name, Miller concluded his sold-out Blue Slide Park tour with two shows at Stage AE. The packed-in crowd of mostly teenagers was different from the early years, when the 15-year-old Miller was almost guaranteed to be younger than his audience.

As Mac prepared for the release of his new mixtape, Macadelic, made available digitally on March 23, he surprised fans by announcing an advance listening session via Twitter. With less than 24 hours' notice, many of his hardcore followers had to find their way to the place of Mac's more humble beginnings: Shadow Lounge.

Shadow Lounge owner Justin Strong recalls those early days. "I remember yelling at him for having a bottle of Hennessey in the green room," he says with a laugh.

"It's the fruition of the vision of the Shadow Lounge when we opened it 12 years ago, to see what
happens when you have a viable infrastructure that supports the scene," Strong continues. "And although it's mostly 21 and over, we've given the younger cats a chance to get on stage and build a fan base and polish their craft. We're proud to have played a role."

At 16, Mac was competing at Shadow Lounge in the Rhyme Calisthenics MC Competition, the event that requires MCs to spin a large game show wheel and perform written and freestyle challenges. As the youngest competitor, Mac’s performances in several Rhyme Cal events earned him praise from many of his local hip-hop elders.

“His charisma has always been at a high level,” says Rhyme Cal host Thelonious Stretch. “That's why we picked him for our all-star competition: because he was already a superstar before the world knew it. You can see it in the clip when he did Mirror Match; Chen Lo was judging and saw he had the best swag of the night.”

“He’s comfortable with performing and freestyling, and you can hear that in his songs and see it in his videos. He’s having a good time, without a chip on his shoulder. Life ain’t tough,” Stretch adds with a laugh. “He just kept on having a good time, rap ain’t so serious.”

As Mac returned to the venue that helped catapult his early development, Jenesis Magazine's Thomas Agnew acknowledged the impact this could have on the city and its music scene.

"Them coming back to the Shadow Lounge... Like, Pittsburgh has never really had a listening party. I was hype that they did a free listening party there and allowed everybody to come in and check it out. Nobody in Pittsburgh's done that before."

Founded in Pittsburgh, Jenesis was the first of what is now many magazines to feature Mac on the front cover.

"We featured Mac on the cover in 2009. It was like a Pittsburgh version of XXL's freshmen list; we called it the Leaders of the New School,” he explains. "From 2009 to 2010, which was another issue we had him in, he was like a whole different person. He went from being part of the pack to coming back from a tour in New York where he had just done Tony Touch's radio show Toca Tuesdays, and he was working with Statik Selektah I think. When he had came back his fan base had, like, tripled. It wasn't just Pittsburgh anymore, there were a whole lot of kids outside of the city that knew of him. His whole camp worked really hard on all the things that most people don't work on, such as marketing and his image ... the music was always good. And that's kind of the backbone of what we have today, this young kid kickin' everybody's asses."

Although Mac's current success may not have been foreseeable, many of his predecessors could see a unique sparkle in the teenager's work. One of Mac's first studio engineers, Soy Sos, explains.

"I definitely remember all the earlier sessions, I think he was 15. He was good right off the bat, and very much concerned that it was authentic and that the quality was there.” He continues, talking of seeing Mac's live performances, "From the first shows that I saw of Mac's at the Shadow Lounge... I mean, my wife and I came and we were looking at Mac and said, 'this guys got a ton of swag,' he really has something special."

But as one of the first distributor's of Mac's music, Time Bomb clothing store owner Brian Brick reflects on the adversity.

“I remember people coming in and telling me, 'Yo, they need to take themselves off the cover,'” he says, referring to Mac's first releases alongside Beedie as a member of the rap duo the Ill Spoken. “'They're nice, but if they didn't have themselves on the cover they'd probably sell a lot more because kids wouldn't know that they're white.'”

Mac never shied away from a cover. And a short time after, at the release of his K.I.D.S. mixtape, Brick's Time Bomb store hosted a signing that gave many of Mac's new fans their first opportunity to meet the artist.

"It was insane. His whole family was here," Brick explains. "People might not understand why he's so famous. He's famous because he was doing hip-hop. And that's when a lot of people get fucked up, when they forget about hip-hop.

"He's working with all these legends. Like, how can't it be a good song with Raekwon and Posdnous from De La Soul, or DJ Premier,” Brick explains. “If you listen to Pos's verse on Mac's “Of the Soul (Remix)”, it's like he's preaching to Mac."

Told Mac Mill', you're 'bout to mac millions/
Millions of tweeters follow ya/
A million skeezers wanna swallow ya whole/
Just watch the game and make sure it doesn't swallow ya soul

“De La's got more than 20 years in the game. It's dope that Mac Miller comes in and revives something
that he's still inspired by. And then other kids can get inspired by it."

He adds, “I'm just happy for the kid.”

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sounding Board [Local Music Series] Photos

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 1:09 PM

In case you missed it, here are some photos from last night's Sounding Board event at Peter's Pub, which featured Host Skull, SolSis and Dazzletine.

Host Skull
  • Host Skull

Host Skull
  • Host Skull

SolSis
  • SolSis

Dazzletine
  • Dazzletine

Dazzletine
  • Dazzletine

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Monday, March 19, 2012

MP3 Monday: Invader

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Invader
  • Invader

Greetings!

Busy day here at FFW>>; let's top if off with an MP3, eh? This one comes from Invader, whose debut release came out on Innervenus not so long ago. (If you're interested and missed it, check out the piece I did on Innervenus's first Iron Atrocity compilation last year here.) Below, stream and/or download "Never Wanted to Kill You More."

Sorry, download expired!

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New Jasiri X track: Trayvon

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Just a quick heads-up: As is his wont, Pittsburgh-based rapper Jasiri X has returned with another topical tune, this time with regard to the death of Trayvon Martin. Listen below, and visit Jasiri's Bandcamp page for more of his music.

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