Even before the start of the Old Accusers CD release show on May 25, the performance area of 222 Ormsby felt like a sauna. Once the venue was packed by the attendees and bands, it became impossible for anyone in the room to stay dry. However, that didn’t stop everyone in the room from having a good time.
Up-and-coming local hardcore band Breach opened up the show. While the crowd was still, possibly due to the heat, there were a few people singing along to songs from the band’s three-song demo. Following Breach was West Virginia-based technical hardcore band Ancient Shores. The band blasted through its set, playing some old songs and some from its debut EP for Baltimore’s A389 Records, Step To The Edge. Colony followed Ancient Shores; a heavy and sludgy band from New York. The band played three new songs during their set, but failed to mention when and how they will be released.
Pittsburgh hardcore’s pride and joy, Code Orange Kids, played next. Opening with the first song on its demo, “Coasts”, the crowd flew into a frenzy for the Kids, moshing and singing along. The rest of the set featured songs from most of the band’s releases (“Roots” from the demo; “Cycles” and “Give” from the Cycles EP, and “My Body Is A Well” from the band’s split with Full Of Hell) including a new song that will be on its Deathwish debut later this year. The band definitely set the bar high as far as energy and crowd participation went.
Following the Code Orange Kids, Old Accusers finally took to the floor for its set celebrating the release of the band’s new album, All Is Shrouded But There Is A Voice Still Howling. The band opened with an interlude from the album, “(But There Is A Voice Still Howling)”; a track that is uncharacteristically chilled out for Old Accusers. At the conclusion of the song, the band jumped into the meat and potatoes of the album, playing “Plight”, “The Arrows”, “Rapture Reflections” and “A Name, A Face” with little stopping. At the conclusion of the new material, vocalist Neal Dudash announced the band had one more song left: the crowd favorite “Skipping Stones”, which would be played for the final time. The crowd took advantage of being more familiar with the song, swamping Dudash towards the end of the song in what turned into a 30-person pile-on for the track’s finale.
By the end of the night, everyone left the venue sweaty and satisfied with the show, including the bands. Old Accusers’ new album All Is Shrouded But There Is A Voice Still Howling is available through It’s A Trap! Records.
Welcome to another installment of MP3 Monday!
After a lengthy battle with a name change, Pittsburgh's folk-punk trio Lilith have released their debut 7" EP, Return, via Get Better Records and Out Of This Records. Return follows up the band's self-released cassette Holding Stone from 2011. Check out "Sleepless" below.
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May 22nd was an overcast day in Pittsburgh, with rain forecast for most of the day. Luckily for the audience of the outdoor Primus show at Stage AE, the rain didn’t make an appearance, enabling the dry crowd of around 800 to enjoy the bands.
As the Pirates were gearing up for their inevitable loss to the Mets right across the parking lot, experimental funk band The Dead Kenny G’s took the stage. For those not familiar, they are a three-piece band consisting of a saxophone player, bassist, and drummer. Clad in all-white leisure suits that made the band look like they just came from Don Johnson’s yard sale, saxophone player Skerik greeted the crowd simply by stating “We’re the Dead Kenny G’s!” and kicked right into the first song. The band’s repertoire consisted of nine songs in the half-hour set, rotating between funk, jazz, and heavy metal influences. Drummer Mike Dillon amazed the crowd with his ability to play drums and marimba, mostly at the same time, as well as contributing lead vocals to about half of the set. About halfway through, the band broke into an interesting cover of “Kill The Poor” by their partial namesake, The Dead Kennedys, drawing sing-alongs and fist-pumps from about five people in the crowd. Dillon also made the announcement that the Dead Kenny G’s will be playing at the Thunderbird Café on May 30.
About 25 minutes after the completion of the Dead Kenny G’s, New York gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello took the stage, wasting no time turning up the excitement level and playing off of the crowd’s fervor. With an LED screen looming behind the band donning their logo, the band’s lead singer, Eugene Hutz, stormed the stage. Holding his acoustic guitar and a bottle of wine, Hutz held the audience in the palm of his hand. The band’s set had all the makings of a traditional punk band: barely any breaks in between songs, even the fast ones. Percussionist Pedro Erazo and backup singer Elizabeth Sun were just as animated as Hutz, with all three jumping on the stage monitors and calling out to the crowd to get involved. There was no objection from the crowd, as the energy levels went through the roof during Gogol Bordello. The band’s set included fan favorites "My Companjera," "Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)," "Break The Spell" and "Start Wearing Purple."
As Gogol Bordello’s set was ending, so was the daylight. This created a perfect environment for the ambience set for Primus: red and purple lighting without any spotlights on the three members of the band. With two giant inflatable spacemen on each side of the LED screen that would be implemented for each song, the band took the stage to what sounded like a pre-recorded Tim Burton song. Primus launched right into its set, jamming out at length on each song, showing the technical prowess of bassist/vocalist Les Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde. The LED screen projected images that were just as quirky and weird as the band itself. Among the images were clips from the Thunderbirds TV show, home movies that looked to be from the 1960s, and a mentally unstable cartoon character. The band blasted through its first four songs ("Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers," "Moron T.V.," "American Life," and "Over The Falls") before addressing the crowd, with LaLonde ultimately professing his love for Pittsburgh. The band played through the newer track "Lee Van Cleef" before launching into fan favorite "Mr. Krinkle," which saw Claypool switching to an electric upright bass with no body, as well as donning a pig mask for the duration of the song. The rest of the 13-song set was peppered with the band’s most well-known singles: "Winona’s Big Brown Beaver," "My Name Is Mud," and closing track "Jerry Was A Racecar Driver." After returning to the stage, Claypool confessed there was only time for one more song, and slyly said, "I find Pittsburgh enjoyable and comforting. Every now and then I look up and see that giant banner telling me about colon health," in reference to the Bayer electronic billboard that could be seen from the venue. Following a survey from the crowd, the band kicked into "Too Many Puppies," sending fans into a frenzy to end the night.
Today's edition of MP3 Monday comes from local indie-folk duo Broken Fences. The group will be releasing its self-titled debut album on June 1st, accompanied by a release show at Club Cafe on the same day. The show also features Judith Avers, Mark Dignam, and Paul Luc. Our May 30 issue will feature a story on the duo; in the meantime, stream or download the band's song "Fairy Tale" below.
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Jacques Greene plays tonight (May 17) at the Lawrenceville Moose with Edgar Um and the Humanaut DJs; here's a longer version of our interview with him from this week's paper.
You have a unique way of blending R&B with house beats and tempos. I guess that’s not necessarily a new combo of sounds but your music does take it to unique places and I’m curious mostly in what you grew up listening to. What contributed to your sound most?
It was kind of a sweet spot of being right in the middle, in my early teens of my favorite albums being from Boards of Canada and stuff but also, the biggest track of my high school, as I remember it, is definitely “Pony” by Genuwine.
I think in my teens for a while, like everyone, I tried to kinda resist it. Ya know, where you go through this thing and you’re like, nooo, I hate pop music. I hate mainstream. But then a guy like Timbaland at that point, was doing stuff with drums that is just as interesting as a Warp record that was coming out back then. So you’re actually like, oh wait, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on around here. When you start listening, it’s great.
How did you get into making club music?
It took me a really long time, actually. I always made music and I’ve always been kind of a hardware guy. What’s funny is that it was actually from buying a drum machine. I bought this one machine; I found it at this recycling center in the suburbs of where I lived. The guy thought it was a VCR or something so he let me have it for $60. It’s a great drum machine. It’s called the Roland TR-707 and if you’ve ever listened to an old house record, you’ve heard it. And it never really even occurred to me to make dance music until I got this machine. It was kinda weird, I turned it on and I was like, oh yeah, this feels right. Yeah, it’s weird, I guess it came from that.
Do you still work with that same piece of equipment?
I do, I do. It’s kinda stupid how, it’s quite a limited drum machine. Like, It’s not top-of-the-line. I mean, it’s a classic but it’s kind of a piece of junk at the same time. So whenever you hear the cowbell or the rimshot in any record you can spot it immediately. Which is a good and a bad thing, I guess.
I’ve got the 303, I’ve got the 808. They’re all a part of the studio but I mean, I think the 707 was more of a wake-up call to me than the others. It’s kind of a dangerous thing because you don’t want your music to be defined by a brand. Like, I look around my studio and I have an embarrassing amount of 80’s Roland equipment around me and I guess that’s a caveat. It’s definitely something you try to go for the warm feel of that kinda special air of synthesizers and drum machines and all that stuff. But at the same time I can’t let myself be defined by a company’s products. That’s kind of a downer to think about.
I think your music reaches such wide audiences at this point that there are people who don’t know what a Roland anything is. So, they hear your music and they hear YOUR music. They don’t hear, oh that sounds like…
…There’s the Roland 303 comin’ through here. Yeah.
That’s for the nerds.
If there’s anything I don’t do, I don’t make music for the nerds. I am one myself but I have no interest in making chin-scratching music, ever.
In a piece on XLR8R that touched on the philosophy of your record label you mentioned that part of what Vase strives for is music that is timeless. I know it’s kind of difficult to verbalize such a visceral thing, but what qualities make a song timeless?
I think its honesty. Beyond anything, you could make a track with the most of-the-time sounds and the production may age. There’s a lot of 80’s pop music that hasn’t aged that well because they were going big with the later drums. I find most Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel songs don’t sound very good nowadays. But the actual songwriting is still there.
I think there’s a certain quality in some music from all times that transcends time and space. That really transcends the limitations you have at your studio at that time. The sound of your record is something you don’t really control. I only have two drum machines so obviously my record is going to have these two. It’s partly going to be limited by that, that’s a good and a bad thing. But beyond that, I think what makes a track great as opposed to good, is the honesty behind it and obviously that’s such a hard thing to define. It’s even a hard thing to check up on. But I think it’s something you feel. You can kinda feel when someone’s being insincere and just doing pastiche.
I’m curious about that Azealia Banks video for 212. You seem to be a little bit elusive what with there being no trace of your real name on the internet and that eponymous image attached to the “Another Girl” track of your face being blurred out, did you not think that video would blow up like did?
That was really weird. She’s a friend and she asked me to come thru the video. I think the original was to do that kind of thing where there’s like, 50 cameos. More the idea of a bunch of people hangin’ out and not really about the specifics and I guess they only ended up shooting Lunice and I. I wasn’t really aware of it until I saw it pop up on the Internet later.
You once said in an interview – “I don’t want to become the Brick Squad Monopoly or Lil B of electronic music – I do think there is such a thing as too much output,”…“You’ve got to make people want something or at least I need to feel like I need to say something or put something out.”
I don’t wanna flood anything. Those guys seem to just release, release, release and I could do that but what’s the point?
How do you keep that outlook in a music world that is increasingly speed and quantity driven? The immediacy of blogs and the constant churn of output given away by artists must make it difficult to sit back and take your time on things.
Not really, ‘cause to me it’s almost the opposite. The faster everyone’s going, I feel like I should slow down more and more. There are a few artists, when you look at, say Joy Orbison, he hasn’t actually released that many records over the last 4 years. But whenever he does, you listen. If he released one a month, at some point you’re like, oh yeah whatever I missed October and June but whatever.
I put a lot of care and thought into what I do and what you do is, you put it out and you keep your fingers crossed and hope that at least a few people return that amount of respect and listen to it front-to-back at some point. I guess it’s the more things you put out the less you can expect people to really listen to your thing with care. Just care about it in general.
It’s the same with a fashion line. If there’s a designer like Raf Simmons who’s more concentrated and does a more concise line that you can actually look at and then there’s the big machine like Gucci who just releases 5,000 items every season five of them are good. It just becomes noise. I think you just get lost in the mix like jumping into the game of releasing a new DJ mix every two months and a free track on XLR8R every six weeks and doing remixes ten times a year. I dunno, maybe it’s because I don’t have enough different concepts like if I did that much I would repeat myself.
You just connected fashion and music. I’m actually really interested in the convergence between the two.
Me too, and it goes back to what we were saying about things being timeless. Fashion is arguably the least timeless thing in the universe. But there are certain lines through time that have transcended that. Look at mid '90s Raf Simons or Margiela. Look at late 80’s Comme des Garcons and that stuff will be groundbreaking and incredible forever.
Music has dictated fashion so much in the past and fashion is so much reliant on music for it’s presentation. There’s a really cool osmosis, this really cool kinship between the two worlds. I like that they’re both, ya know, you strive for timelessness but at the end of the day, you are making something that is throwaway. I buy a sweater but I only wear it for six months. And club tracks are the same way. Most of them, you get and you play it for a few months and then it’s on to the next one.
Have you ever thought about playing your music for a runway show?
Yes. All the time. That’s all I wanna do.
Is that something that hasn’t quite happened yet?
It almost did. For this season, it’s not one of the big, big, big guys. But it didn’t end up working out because of schedules. But hopefully by next season that’ll happen more.
I think it’ll work, and with this specific project we were even talking about making exclusive material for it. I love the idea of soundtracking stuff as well, but I can’t think of anything better to soundtrack than a runway show.
What is the weirdest place that you’ve played a live show?
This is crazy and I’ll remember it forever. I played in Bucharest in Romania last year and it was supposed to be in the Museum of Fine Arts I guess, which was already weird enough. That venue fell thru and so we get there and these two Romanian kids are like (in Eastern Euro accent), "I hope you don’t mind, you are playing old Soviet prison."
We go for dinner and drive up to the spot and it’s still got the huge walls outside of it and this huge gate slides open. We go in and it’s got this massive entrance, like this hall. And then we finally go to the jail sector of this thing and the jail cells were still there. The jail cells near the dance floor had different colored strobe lights inside them and a girl passed out in one of them. It was wild. And then basically they put a soundsystem in where, I believe, the cafeteria used to be. And at least 400 people, and I was the only guest and it was full and I played for over 2 hours. It was totally bizarre. I didn’t even know that I had a single person that listened to my music in Romania let alopne a full prison.
That is the first time I played in Eastern Europe and it was everything I hoped and dreamed Eastern Europe would be like.
Wow, that is so weird. Weird is awesome though.
Weird is the best party vibe possible.
Welcome to MP3 Monday!
This week we're bringing you a track from Motorpsychos, the long-standing punk-metal band that's releasing its latest, Sheppard's File, with a show this Saturday, May 19 at the 31st Street Pub. (Rogue Signals and Solarburn open the night.) Get a sneak preview of the album by streaming or downloading "Victim" below!
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I'm a little late, but let's just go ahead with it. Today's MP3 Monday comes courtesy of Andre Costello and the Cool Minors. I wrote a column on Andre a couple of months back, but this is his inaugural MP3 Monday, so, um, give him a warm MP3 Monday welcome. The song, which you can stream or download below, is called "Equestrian Dreams."
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Hey! Just wanted to give you this new video to watch — it debuted this week, from local MC Beedie, who's also one half of Varsity Squad. It's a tight jam and the video features cameos from a bunch of local hip-hop notables, from Mac Miller and BZE to the Time Bomb crew. Enjoy!
A couple of weeks ago, music-critic-whom-I-respect Ann Powers tweeted:
I'd been aware of and interested in Van Etten since she was playing the galleries, before last year's Epic broke, and interviewed her before last year's show at the Carnegie in Homestead, but I somehow couldn't pull off seeing her live until this weekend. Given the high praise from a serious critic, I was excited on Saturday night to check out the show and see if it lived up to the hype.
In short: yes and no.
At its highest points, Sharon Van Etten's show was the most powerful I've seen this year. But it took a little while to get going. The apex of the night came with the last couple of songs, louder, more epic rockers (including "Serpents," a Neil Young-and-Crazy-Horse style jam that's the strongest track on this year's Tramp). After that, we had no choice but to demand an encore; we'd just experienced ten minutes of next-level performance in which Van Etten's band proved themselves. (Though, to be fair, they were tight throughout the night, and Heather Woods Broderick's backing vocals were essential.) After those songs, the band could do no wrong — they had the effect of a palpable confidence boost for both band and audience. Which makes one wonder: Why didn't they come earlier in the set, to set the tone?
Early on, things were kind of restrained — due in part, definitely, to a tripped-out dancing girl up front who was a bit distracting, and a few loud but not particularly helpful audience members throughout. But even taking those issues into account, there were too many awkward silences between songs, not enough smooth transitions. When you're a solo musician, those are part of the package. When you've got a full band, there are ways to cut down on them, or cut them out completely ... one person can tune while the others are playing! More than one person can chat between songs! When you're a rock band, minute-long silences between songs let the air out of the room.
Last year's Epic , while it was the album that broke her for a more mainstream audience, felt like a transitional album, away from Van Etten's slightly more esoteric earlier songs toward a tighter, more cohesive sound. Tramp feels like an arrival. Her live show feels like it's just about to catch up: like she's still figuring out the difference between performing as a solo artist (with all the challenges that entails) and leading a band (which requires a different sort of energy). At moments, she and her band have it, and are the best thing going right now. At times, it feels just out of reach. But it always feels imminent.
Opener Flock of Dimes was the live-band incarnation of the solo work of Jenn Wasner, of Wye Oak. As those of you who pay attention (hey, mom!) may recall, Wye Oak released one of my favorite albums, and definitely my favorite song, of 2011. Flock of Dimes is a bit of a mishmash: some tunes that sound close to the Wye Oak catalog, some that sound like Jenn Wasner trying her best to be a pop star but being a bit too naturally broody and wonderfully weird to know exactly how to do that. It was a bunch of good stuff, and showcased one of the most beautiful voices in contemporary music, but wasn't exactly cohesive. But hey — what more can we ask of a band that didn't really exist just a few months ago?
Sharon Van Etten review forthcoming, I promise. In the meantime, I just wanted to send you in the direction of some new tunes released today by Legs Like Tree Trunks, whom I reviewed favorably last summer. The band is working on a full-length to release later this year, but in the meantime, they threw together what they're calling Odds & Ends to Keep You Sweet. Live tracks and remixes and the such — worth a listen!