As soon as I heard the music booming out of the open door of the 31st Street Pub and into the empty street last Monday, i regretted arriving late — only a song or two late, it turned out — and wondered if I’d regret forgetting my ear plugs. Though Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Conny Ochs were supporting their new acoustic effort, Heavy Kingdom, and performing with just a couple acoustic guitars and a kick drum, things still managed to get a little loud or, at least, loud in spirit.
An elder statesman of doom metal, most recognizable for his gruffly direct vocals and long, sea-shell colored mane, Wino’s been party to a ridiculous number of influential bands, including Saint Vitus, the Obsessed, Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan, and stoner-metal super group Shrinebuilder. I’d seen him once before, also at the Pub, when Hidden Hand was touring with Weedeater and Kylesa about 7 years ago. That was quite a different affair than Monday’s appearance, which — with an entourage of just Wino, Ochs and their tour manager, Al (who apparently drove the van while the other two wrote songs in the back) felt like an impromptu living room show.
As metal dudes go, Wino’s never been particularly known for his darkness or preoccupation with evil, and the songs off of the Heavy Kingdom record -while certainly bleak— are more Woody Guthrie than Electric Wizard. Though I’d hoped for a wilder presence from the younger Ochs, the two shared an unmistakable chemistry, as if they’d been touring together for a decade. The opportunity to focus on Wino’s guitar playing , and to hear his always clean voice fully unfettered by the normal muddy vibrations really was a treat, though few were there to witnessing it on this particular night. I’d wager most Wino fans are probably saving their money to see Saint Vitus at the Rex Theater on September 23rd. Better play it safe and bring ear plugs to that one.
You didn't think you'd get away without a new MP3 this Monday, did you?
This week's free stream and download comes from Polish Hill Strangler. The band, of course named for the Striking Distance villain, plays pretty good hardcore punk rock. See for yourself: The track below, "Destruction of the Human Race (Pt. 1)" is the first song on the band's debut full-length.
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It's that time again: Friday is when we give you a bunch of songs to listen to, by the bands we wrote about in this week's issue.
Here's a live radio performance the Auto Club did, which went on their 20th anniversary release:
For his part, George is in a band called The Sterling Sisters; they're opening for the Auto Club at the New Hazlett next week.
In Critics' PIcks this week, find the following bands:
Guardian Alien (who played the 31st St. Pub last night)
Blackberry Smoke (who played Altar last night)
Maps and Atlases (Shadow Lounge, tonight)
Tigers Jaw (tomorrow at Smiling Moose)
Elikeh (tomorrow at Thunderbird Cafe)
Led by singer/guitarist Josh Verbanets, local pop rockers Meeting of Important People will release the new album My Ears Are Having a Heart Attack with a Saturday show at Mr. Small's Theatre.
The pop music scene in Pittsburgh has changed dramatically since MOIP started in 2007. Since many bands have moved or no longer exist, what are your thoughts on the present- day local pop scene?
MOIP got very, very lucky in that we started out of the gate with a strong and supportive local community. We came from a large group of like-minded musicians that played all different kinds of music (garage, folk, dance-pop) and honestly got along wonderfully together no matter how you paired them up. At the time I remembered thinking, "We'd better enjoy this while it lasts, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," and I was right.
We're still dear friends with many of those folks, and while some have faded from playing, there are others that still seem very realistically poised to do amazing things (and are even more on top of their craft now).
We get along great with many of the younger bands and do what all nice "older bands" should do: stay out of the way of the Pet Clinics, Whiskey Hollers, Butterbirds, and Broken Fences of the world and offer some sagely advice if and when we can.
With such busy private lives, how difficult is it to keep this band so active?
[Drummer] Matt Miller and [bassist] Aaron Bubenheim are my two best friends and have a slew of real-world things that need increased attention as the years go on like families, houses, jobs, and school. I found myself faced with a very different path: opportunities to write songs for film and TV, a commission by the Montour School District with my pal Gab Bonesso to create a rock-n-roll anti-bullying show for kids (www.joshandgab.com), and offers to do solo acoustic shows. It all seemed to fall into place properly, and as a result, 2012 became probably the best year of our lives for all three of us. Matt is a true renaissance man, balancing a career, home remodeling, and drumming; Aaron and his wife Pam welcomed a healthy baby boy just this month; and I left my job at Carnegie Museums to focus on making a living from music, which has been a great decision.
Concerning the new album, it has a more (dare I say) mature quality to it both musically and lyrically (with loads of references about getting old) than past recordings. Would you agree?
Everything about my approach to music has matured a bit — I'm even writing three-minute songs instead of two for God's sake. The first album had songs that were written when I was still a teenager. I now have all those boring late-20s/early-30s things to think about. So it’s the perfect counter-piece to the first album, which was all about happy-go-lucky dreamy suburban times.
This album offers maybe a response to most of those older songs. We did an EP in 2010, Quit Music, which was mostly character songs, but this new album is more or less me speaking for myself for the first time…and not embarrassed to do so.
How else did this recording experience differ from making the last album?
We attempted this time to do less "three-piece garage rock" stuff and make a much more groove- oriented album (lots of shakers and controlled rhythms—almost like demented island music in places). These are songs that we have been playing for over a year now, and lots of friends and people in the community are familiar with them and (we hope) looking forward to hearing them properly recorded with plenty of reverb.
There's a lot more space on this album than on anything we've done before, and whereas our other albums have been attempts to preserve our live sound as much as possible, this was conceived from the ground-up as a stand-alone recording project. I recorded the album and Donora’s Jake Hanner mixed and mastered the disc; he has gotten simply amazing, and it was an absolute blast to work [with him] on our third MOIP project together.
MOIP used the Kickstarter site to help fund this album. How was that experience?
We had a full album written, but without any indication that people wanted to hear a "real" album, I would rather just make a sloppy demo and call it a day. In order to go through the process of making recordings that sound decent, we had to know that there were people who actually wanted to hear something (it would have been absolutely fine had we learned that nobody had any interest at all).
I had been a [Kickstarter] skeptic for several years, but we honestly had such an overwhelmingly positive response from our campaign. I'm still beyond words with thanks for the friends, family, community members, and musicians who contributed and allowed us to make what I believe is our best project yet.
Also, it gave me the chance to do all sorts of fun things. For example, the finale on the album contains this big backwards freak-out rave-up in which we read the name of each and every Kickstarter backer through a megaphone. You have to play it backwards like a Led Zeppelin album to hear your name and witness the MAGIC.
Finally, name me some details of this big CD release show.
It’s probably the biggest event we've ever undertaken in Pittsburgh. We want to hold an evening where people of all walks of life can actually come and enjoy a rock show.
We're also proud to be giving a portion of our proceeds to a great local dance troupe called Texture Ballet, who will be performing to open the night. We've got an incredible lineup of other bands: The Great Ants, that wacky reunited female trio that actually gave us our first MOIP show back in 2006. Young psych-rockers Pet Clinic will also be performing!
FYI: VIA, the annual music-and-visuals-and-other festival that's making its home base in East Liberty these days, opened up its 2012 guess-the-lineup contest. Go here and you can see a spinning set of photos of 2012 festival artists; name as many as you can, and you can win free passes. The tiebreaker is time-based, so hurry, fool!
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust just announced its 2012-13 Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents series. The performing-arts series includes music, comedy and other performance; music highlights include:
Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society, Fri., Oct. 5 — tickets from $30
Gilberto Gil, Thu., Nov. 15 — tickets from $30
Juan DeMarcos & the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Wed., March 20, 2013 — tickets from $23
Boney James, Fri., April 26 — tickets from $28
The lineup is filled out by WQED pledge-break favorites (Celtic Thunder, Sept. 30; Brit Floyd, March 1), holiday traditions (Eileen Ivers' Irish Christmas, Dec. 1; Mannheim Steamroller, Dec. 11-12), contemporary musical theater programming ("Stew & The Negro Problem: Songs from Passing Strange and Others," Feb. 9) and one-person shows from Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss (Nov. 28) and William Shatner (Nov. 29).
All shows are at the Benedum Center or Byham Theater; more details here.
Later this week, local stalwarts Meeting of Important People release a new record, one that was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. This Wednesday, we'll be running a Q&A that frontman Josh Verbanets did with our Rick Moslen; in the meantime, they're offering up our MP3 Monday this week. Below, please stream and/or download "Innocents Abroad," the lead track from the new album, My Ears Are Having a Heart Attack.
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Quick heads-up: A new single, via YouTube, from locals White Wives:
We here at City Paper love newsprint, we really do. That's why we're some of the last people on Earth using the medium. But, we also realize there are things newsprint can't do. Like ... play music for you. Which is a setback when you're writing about music. How much easier would it be if people could just LISTEN TO THE MUSIC THEMSELVES?
So, we're going to throw some streams at you so that you can just do that. Here's a quick round-up of this week's issue:
— Our main music feature is on the band Neon Trees; our Aaron Jentzen looks at the band through the lens of the members' Mormon faith (or, in some cases, lack thereof). Here, stream their song "Everybody Talks," from their second album, Picture Show.
(As a side note, we understand that the Neon Trees show at Altar Bar next Wednesday is now sold out. Just FYI.)
— I reviewed three new(ish) local(ish) albums in our reviews section this week; here, test a song from each:
— And from this week's Critics' Picks ...
Here's a TSOL song in honor of Jack Grisham playing the Smiling Moose tonight ... (this one's not for the prudish among us, FYI):
And a tune from Nate Kinsella's Birthmark:
That's not to imply that Barry Manilow isn't ALWAYS doing cool things. But this is especially cool.
As you may have heard, Manilow is coming to Consol Energy Center on Sept. 16. If you haven't already gotten your ticket, and you have a trumpet lying around not getting any use, here's a tip: From now until the day of the show, if you bring a new or gently used instrument to CEC to donate to music programs in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, you'll get two free tickets to see the "Mandy" man. It's all part of his Manilow Music Project.
The tickets are for a pre-selected section — you presumably won't be getting in the front row — but still. Free.
Drop-off is at the Dick's Sporting Goods box office at Consol, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays or 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.
Give a kid a sax and get to see Barry. What's not to love?