The day is nigh — the day when the whole country knows the name of Punxsutawney, and pays it the kind of heed only residents of Jefferson and Elk counties do the rest of the year. And Pittsburgh's famed singin', school-bus-drivin' cowboy and one-time Northern Tier resident has graced us with a musical tribute to the weather-forecasting rodent. Observe:
If you head up north on Saturday, take care!
In the late evening, Donora and a slew of friends made their way to Club Cafe in the South Side for the Play Nice EP release party and performance. Show openers Mark Ramsey and Greg Dutton mellowed the audience with solo acoustic performances. Ramsey shared a laugh with the crowd as he sarcastically made a remark about both he and Dutton's soft singing voices. As their performances concluded, WYEP's Morning Show host Cindy Howes directed those in attendance to a projector screen that stood to the right of the stage. Attendees collectively watched Donora's new music video, “Play Nice” (watch below), and were given a sneak peak at the band's yet-to-be-released video for another song from the new EP, “Float Away”.
Hand-claps and cheerful hollers from the jam-packed audience welcomed Donora to the stage. The band's lead singer/guitarist Casey Hanner, her brother/drummer Jake Hanner, and bassist Jake Churton were joined by aforementioned show opener Mark Ramsey, who played keyboard with the band during their performance. After beginning with a couple familiar tunes from past releases, the band began playing songs from the new EP. Those in attendance tapped their feet, danced, and nodded along with the music as Donora performed the Play Nice EP in-full, and concluded the performance with a few more of their previously released popular songs.
In February, Donora begins a national tour with label-mates TeamMate. Tickets are on sale now for all tour dates, including a return to Pittsburgh on February 16 for a show at Brillobox in Bloomfield.
Donora - “Play Nice” (Music Video, directed by Ben Tabas and Casey Hanner)
The electro-hip-hop DJ duo Tracksploitation, who ranked third behind only Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller as the city's best hip-hop acts of 2013, are looking for your help as they prepare to set-out on a tour that will include a performance at the SXSW film and music festival in Austin, TX this March.
The duo made up of DJ's JCT45 and Professor ASAP has launched a Kickstarter that welcomes donations to fund the tour that they're booking around their showcase at SXSW. Donations will also be invested in new performance equipment and instruments.
This is all so very exciting but the bottom line is we are booked to play at an official SXSW party on March 9th and we need your help to get there. Help us represent all of you on a national stage.
More information on the group and benefits of donating can be found on Trackploitation's Kickstarter. For example, an exclusive Tracksploitation t-shirt will be sent to anyone who donates $25.
Free mixes produced by Tracksploitation are available at www.soundcloud.com/tracksploitation
Fans of upbeat, ambitious and slightly strange indie pop have a show to go to this week. Tuesday night, Brillobox hosts the Portland outfit Ramona Falls, on the road for their sophomore album Prophet. Local notables Nevada Mountains and The Show will open.
If this is the first you’re hearing of Ramona Falls, here are the bulletpoints (in paragraph form). Founded by former Menomena member and notable nice person Brent Knopf, Ramona Falls debuted in 2009 with an album called Intuit (Barsuk). It’s a great sounding record, beautifully produced and dark in a sort of quirky way, kind of like what Grizzly Bear would sound like if they had a little more fun. Or if they wrote songs like “Two Weeks” more often.
In 2011, Knopf left Menomena to work Ramona Falls full-time and the renewed focus seemed to pay off. Number two Prophet is near-perfect in terms of following up and escalating the ideas on the debut. It’s equally pretty and still refreshingly un-electronic, but more cohesive and (somehow) more personal than the first, all while cranking out some high-level highly accessible pop music. Start with “Bodies Of Water” (like the album does) and that’s a good picture of their sound, the way they balance the weird and their love of a strong, catchy chorus.
If you’re not sold, here are some hard-hitting gotcha questions I sent Knopf over email this week to help push you over. Show info at bottom.
I checked out your 9386 mile winter tour route on Facebook. It’s a beast. Do you do a lot of writing on the road? Can you think of any Ramona Falls songs you wrote on tour?
Songwriting, for me, is related to how much free time I have. I tend to tour-manage most tours that I'm a part of, and the time-commitment for advancing shows, booking hotels, and driving is significant. So, usually it's towards the middle or the end of the tour that I begin to find time to delve into songwriting, because that's when most of the logistics have been sorted.
The first song on Ramona Falls' debut Intuit was written in a dormitory stairwell of Grinnell College in Iowa. In fact, that stairway was so reverberant that I actually used some of the original takes in the final recording of "Melectric" (despite having recorded through a crappy built-in laptop mic). I remember that I wrote the lyrics for "Wet and Rusting" while sitting in the van. About a week into our most recent tour, I began jotting pretentious poetry into a notebook during some of the epic drives. It's always a fuzzy process.
I heard a rumor that Timbaland's tour bus contains a small recording studio, and that sounds like heaven to me (regardless of whether or not it's true). I'd love to be able to purely focus on writing and making songs while on tour, because that's the part of the creative process I find most fascinating / challenging / invigorating.
I’m a big fan of your music videos. It seems like you really enjoy the form and particularly the opportunity to tell full bodied stories in the medium. Do you have a favorite music video (or favorites)?
Yeah, Michel Gondry's music video for "Let Forever Be" is jaw-dropping (like most of his work). I'm really sad that musicians and labels are struggling financially these days, as it's becoming increasingly impossible to cover even meager production costs of a quality music video (even if everyone works for free).
I'm heartbroken that my attempts to create more music videos for Prophet have failed. That said, I've been so incredibly fortunate to have worked in the past with ingenious directors like Stefan Nadelman, Thom Glunt, Cullen Hoback, Trevor McMahan, Lance Bangs, and Jonnie Ross. With each music video, I try to get a sense for how I can be helpful, and how I can foster a context so the director can create something exceptional. My role has ranged from writing the entire storyboard, to weighing in on edits, to orchestrating an animated typewriter sequence, to just being a location scout.
Ramona Falls' video for "Fingerhold," directed by Thom Glunt.
I read an interview you did in May (Portland Monthly Mag) where you mentioned "Weird Al" Yankovich as an influence due to your “love of pop music.” What's your favorite Weird Al song? What makes a great Weird Al Song? And lastly, this is an incredibly difficult question, but what RF song has the most potential for a great Weird Al song? I won't ask you to come up with the wordplay yourself, but if you're up for it…
Ha! I think "Weird" Al's song "Yoda" is sensational (it's a parody of "Lola" by The Kinks). When I was very young, my parents (rightly) shielded me from adult subject matter, so buying Madonna's "Like a Virgin" wasn't an option. Thankfully, buying "Like a Surgeon" was, and "Weird" Al records became my gateway into pop music. Some of his greatness I, as a former middle-school kid, attribute to his ability to draw out the absurdity of culture and expression by purposefully confusing popular memes. His music has all the catchy / sexy hooks, but with the playfulness and silliness of youth!
I think I'd be more honored by "Weird" Al parodying a Ramona Falls song than I would by getting inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's almost like having an appearance on The Simpsons — inarguable proof of one's cultural influence (for better or worse). I have no idea which Ramona Falls song would lend itself best to a parody. Maybe "Bodies of Water"? Maybe the lyric "I have to let go of total control" could be perverted into a jingle for Depends? Replace the word "total" with "bladder," maybe? Keep in mind, our target audience here is prepubescent boys, so lyrics need to be gross to be effective.
Find Ramona Falls, Nevada Mountains and The Show at Brillobox this Tuesday. Tickets $10, 21 and Over. Doors at 9:00pm, music 9:30pm.
Hello hello! It's John, City Paper's newest music intern. I'm looking forward to bringing you the latest tracks and releases from local bands. Pretty stoked about the whole process, to be honest.
This week's track, "Truth," comes from Cait Cuneo, formerly of local soul act Black Coffee. Her latest solo E.P., Violet, carries a more modern sound. Stream or download it below!
I know the snow is bearing down, but in case you're looking for an excuse to get out, I've got a few shows we weren't able to squeeze into print this week that I'd like to bring to your attention:
A little birdie told me they're also working on a video for the tune, like right now as we speak basically!
Tonight at Howlers: The Ceiling Stares hit the stage; Great Ants and Good Sport play this one as well.***
*** This entry originally had the wrong headlining band listed; the email we received from Howlers had Slices as the headlining band for tonight, but that listing was in error. We've since fixed it to reflect, er, the truth.
January 25, 2013, 7 PM, at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Pittsburgh activists/hip-hop artists Jasiri X and Paradise "The Arkitech" Gray will be hosting an opening ceremony for their One Hood Media Academy. They'll be joined tonight by Grammy award winning, multi-platinum rapper/producer David Banner, who has also established himself as a respected socially and politically aware leader. A Conversation with David Banner will include an in-depth discussion with David Banner regarding the black male image in hip-hop, his career in the music business, and the current state of hip-hop. The ceremony will also feature a performance by One Hood Media Academy graduates Jordan Montgomery and Cameron Layne. Admission to tonight's event is FREE.
One Hood Media Academy, established by Jasiri X and Paradise “The Arkitech” Gray, in conjunction with August Wilson Center for African American Culture and a generous donation provided by the Heinz Endowments, is the tool to help African American young men critically analyze media messages, broaden their experience of media, and develop the creative skills needed in producing their own media. The mission is to improve self-image, dispel stereotypes, and provide a positive forum of self-expression. The program is offered to 25 young African-American men, ages 13-19. The course will include, though not limited to, the art of blogging, video production, and social media. Applications for entry are now being accepted until February 1, 2013. The Academy will be held at the Elite Studios, 901 Western Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA.
Written and produced by Chris Moore for WQED TV, the "Game Changers" documentary highlights One Hood's work in the community:
Game Changers: The One Hood Media Academy
You might remember last year when our Margaret Welsh profiled soul singer Spanky Wilson, who's back in Pittsburgh and performing again after so many years. Now, Spanky is featured on a new song by L.A.-via-Ohio artist Ruckus Roboticus, "T.G.I.F. (Thank God It's Funky)." It's a right catchy tune, and the video is great, so without further ado:
If you love it, you can buy the vinyl on Ruckus Roboticus's Bandcamp page.
Earlier today, Jasiri X, whom you've read about in our pages before, dropped the title track from his long-awaited upcoming album, Ascension, now due in late March. Have a listen:
Ascension is being issued by Wandering Worx.
When CP interviewed Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, about his upcoming performance at the Andy Warhol Museum on Sat., Jan. 26, he was eager to discuss his favorite Everly Brothers records. Read the full CP article: Will Oldham takes stock of his 2012
In February, Oldham will release What the Brothers Sang, a duet album with Dawn McCarthy, consisting of songs learned from Everly Brothers records. Here’s a preview video, the song “Christmas Eve Can Kill You.”
Bonnie “Prince” Billy singled out these three Everly albums as particularly dear to him:
Will Oldham: “The Every Brothers did a record called The Very Best of the Everly Brothers, once they were signed onto Warner Brothers, I guess. And in order for Warner Brothers to own the masters, I guess, they re-recorded all of their big hits from the late ’50s, and maybe crossing over a little bit into the early ’60s. And that’s one of my first and deepest favorite records.”
More info on Allmusic.com
Many of these songs are tired old hits by others, “and you think, ‘Oh man, I don’t wanna hear that.’ And then you hear it, and it’s awesome. So don’t be put off by song titles, I guess, is another thing I’m suggesting.”
More info on Allmusic.com
Will Oldham: The Everlys “both made a bunch of solo records, almost none of which are interesting or satisfying — except for Don’s first solo record, which is just called Don Everly. It’s one of those great, mysterious records that are fully satisfying and completely unknowable. I don’t understand how it was made. But it gives a lot of insight.”
More info on Allmusic.com
That’s what Bonnie “Prince” Billy thinks, anyway. Do you agree? What are your favorite Everly Brothers albums and songs?