As previewed last week, Macy's of Downtown Pittsburgh hosted a Black History Month event honoring the work of iconic photographer and film director Gordon Parks. A diverse group of upward of 100 people, both young and old, were seated in anticipation of the “In Conversation” panel discussion, as local DJ Nate Da Phat played classic soul and funk music from the '70s era that birthed Parks' most popular film, Shaft.
Veteran freelance writer/producer Joseph Lewis hosted the panel discussion, while fellow Pittsburgh-based entrepreneur and Emmy-award winning producer Emmai Alaquiva joined as a member of the panel. Alongside Alaquiva were prestigious actors Terrell Tilford and Malinda Williams. In addition to his recent acting role as Sean Clarke on VH1's television series Single Ladies, Tilford is a painter and artist himself. Williams has acted in films including A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, The Wood and Idlewild, and may be best known for her role as Tracy “Bird” Joseph Van Adams on the popular drama series Soul Food, which aired on Showtime from 2000-04.
The conversation at Macy's included a variety of topics related to the panel members' individual artistic background and how Gordon Parks has influenced their lives and work.
“My interest in the arts was more about depicting life,” explained Williams. “I was just a child growing up who saw these interesting characters and interesting people and wanted to share them with the world.”
“You know, it's a privilege to be an artist, and I have to remind a lot of young people about this,” added Tilford. “We don't do a regular 9 to 5 job, some of us are incapable of doing so.”
Alaquiva, who is founder of the Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K. youth arts education program and currently manages his own video production company, acknowledged the life and work of Gordon Parks as an inspiration. He told the story of Parks being birthed a stillborn baby with no heartbeat. As the story goes, the family doctor declared Parks dead before another doctor went through with an idea to immerse the newborn in ice-cold water. The shock caused his heart to begin beating, as the infant Parks cried and came to life.
“When I hear that story, I connect,” said Alaquiva. “In so many ways as a young man growing up I felt like I was dead, but finding arts at the age of 13, and finding music and falling in love with hip-hop was my first introduction into the arts.”
Alaquiva added about Parks: “His legacy inspires me as a filmmaker, and as a photographer, and as an artist in general to continue to chase my dreams and to continue to use every second as a lifetime.”
“Gordon Parks was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things,” said Tilford, who is a long-time collector of art and fan of Parks' work.
“Of the works in my collection, and I own almost four hundred pieces, there's a piece by Carl Sidle... He shot a photograph of Gordon Parks with a silhouette of a tree over Mr. Parks' face. And, it's appropriately titled 'The Learning Tree,'" explained Tilford, who was evidently impacted by the piece as he began to tear up while talking about it. "The significance of that work resonates in terms of our journey as a people. And when I see that tree and the silhouette over his face, it reminds me of the journey, the struggle, the all that our predecessors gave so that it would even enable us to be here right now."
Like Alaquiva and Tilford, Williams shared a story about Parks that has had a profound impact on her life.
“I remember him saying something, and I'm paraphrasing, that at one point in life he wasn't sure where he was going or what he was going to do but he knew he had a fear of failure,” said Williams. “And that resonated with me because ... in some respects I have a fear of failure, but I also in some respects have a fear of success. What Gordon Parks said was 'I just knew that I would spend the rest of my life beating that down, chasing down my fear of failure.'”
As the “In Conversation” panel discussion concluded, the audience made their way to the table of concessions that was provided by Savoy Restaurant. Lewis, Alaquiva, Tilford, and Williams continued to talk with attendees and share their appreciation for this informative event that Macy's put together.
“Macy's has a tremendous responsibility, being an American staple from a commercial aspect, to give back to the community,” said Alaquiva. “And the fact is that Macy's doesn't necessarily just take one month to recognize African-American history, or diverse history. They do this year-round, it just so happens to be that it's February so we're gonna celebrate Black History Month.”
Hey there! It's another Monday, and with it comes another great track from a local band. This week's track is "Zombie-A-Go-Go" courtesy of surf-rock trio The Turbosonics. Stream it below!
This week in CP:
— Andy Mulkerin writes about Mac Miller, Lord Finesse, and the future of mixtapes in hip-hop.
— Critics picks featuring Jenny Dalton, Murder By Death, and Code Orange Kids.
This Thursday, February 21st at 5PM, Macy's in Downtown Pittsburgh will be celebrating Black History Month with an event honoring the life of revolutionary photographer and film director Gordon Parks.
Join us in "In Conversation" as Pittsburgh-area veteran writer/producer Joseph Lewis emcees a spirited discussion on Gordon Parks’ influence on film and the future of African-American cinema with actor Terrell Tilford, actress Malinda Williams and Emmy-winning producer Emmai Alaquiva.
Goers will see some of Parks' most iconic photos on display, including Grease Plant Worker, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1944:
Parks gained recognition for his photographic work throughout the '40s, '50s, and '60s that showed crime, fashion, labor, and poverty. The pioneering visual artist has photographed celebrities like Muhammad Ali and Marilyn Monroe, as well as civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver. Parks was the first African-American to work for the highly-respected LIFE magazine.
In addition to his work as photographer, Parks became Hollywood's first major African-American film director with an adaptation of his autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree, in 1969. A few years later in 1971, Parks hit it big as director of Shaft, which starred Richard Roundtree and is considered to be a classic blaxploitation film.
A multi-talented artist, Parks also composed music and at times performed as a jazz pianist. Most notably, he composed and choreographed Martin in 1989, which was a ballet dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Following the discussion, enjoy light refreshments courtesy of Savoy Restaurant. Plus, with any $50 or more purchase made during the event, receive a commemorative Gordon Parks journal while supplies last. To RSVP, please call 1.888.622.9769.
DJ Nate Da Phat will be spinning for Macy's Soul Jam dance party that is set to take place after the panel discussion and pay homage to '70s era soul/funk music. The entire event will take place on the Main Floor of Macy's in Downtown Pittsburgh.
On Valentine's Day, Pittsburgh music artist Ricardo Iamuuri released a music video for his new single, “Imperial Sugar”. Directed by Alisha B. Wormsley, the video begins with Iamuuri typing on a type-writer, speaking aloud presumably acting as a news writer asking for his deadline to be pushed back. “I just need more time, can you make that happen? Yes, make time happen,” he says, before adding that it is a story he is not capable of sugar-coating.
The soulful tune was produced by Akil Esoon, of Formula 412, and will be made available on Iamuuri's album that is slated to be released later this year. On the songs chorus, he sings uplifting lyrics:
“It's never too late to shine, fill up your heart and your head will rise/
above the sky, it's a sweet life, sweet life”
The video concludes with various sugar-covered faces hymning “don't refine your shine,” you can watch Ricardo Iamuuri's “Imperial Sugar” below.
That's what the front door of Brillobox said on Saturday night as Donora was set to perform the final show of their Play Nice Tour. Presented by Opus One Productions, the locally bred band was joined on this night by fellow Rostrum Records electro-pop/rock group Teammate.
On a snowy night in Pittsburgh, hundreds of fans found shelter inside the Bloomfield club. The tour that started earlier this month took Donora and Teammate on the road to ten other cities throughout the Midwest and East Coast. The tour promoted Donora's new release, the Play Nice EP. It also helped introduce audiences to Teammate, who plan to release their debut project in the coming months.
After an opening set by acoustic artist Greg Dutton, Teammate's Dani Buncher and Scott Simons took the stage. Buncher on drums and Simons on a dual-keyboard set-up, the duo received a warm welcome from the growing Pittsburgh crowd.
A few songs in to their set, the opening bassline to their new single, “Girls With Boys' Names,” rumbled through the room as Simons began singing the song's opening line “she shoots down everything, even your best intentions”. Another highlight of Teammate's was a song that showcased Buncher as the main vocalist as she simultaneously maintained the beat on her drumset throughout the song. Their set closed with the previously released single, “Sequel,” which had the audience mimicking the chorus aloud. Having showcased a number of catchy tunes about the opposing emotions that are attached to love and heartbreak, Teammate's performance instilled high anticipation for their soon-to-be-released debut album.
Donora followed the great performance by Teammate with one of their own. In a glittery red shirt, lead singer Casey Hanner was joined on stage by bandmates Jake Churton on guitar and Jake Hanner on drums. They performed their hits, including to new EP's title song, “Play Nice,” and popular single from their prior album, “And Then the Girls”.
Throughout the set, Ben Tabas provided visuals on a projector screen that covered the wall behind the stage. The visuals certainly added to the quality of the overall show experience, as they often aligned with the lyrics of the songs — for example, the visuals for my personal favorite song from the new EP, “Under the Lights,” showed vintage video of couples dancing blended with video of rows of light bulbs lighting up.
What Casey said was the last song of their set on this tour, “Boom Boom” had the entire room dancing, as anyone standing still could feel the black-and-white checkered floor shaking beneath them. For this homecoming and final tour stop, the band agreed to perform a few more songs. “The Chorus,” engaged the audience to put their hands in the air and clap along to the beat. They aptly closed the tour on this Saturday night with “Weekend Tongue,” which again had the jam-packed audience singing along.
Hope everyone's weekend was as fantastic as they'd hoped. If it wasn't as fulfilling as you might have hoped, check out our Critics' Picks this Wednesday for a list of some of the best acts in town. For now, here's "Self-Improvement," the first track off the debut album from Indiana, Pa.-based rockers Coastal Remedy. Full of depth and energy, it's a perfect track to start the week.
Here's our brief write-up of the full album. Stream or download below!
—Critics' picks featuring Jandek and Bad Books.
On Thursday, February 7, Pittsburgh-bred DJ Petey C competed in the Red Bull Thre3Style East Coast regional event. Having advanced after winning the Pittsburgh qualifier a few weeks prior, Petey would be competing against fellow qualifying round winners from Boston, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. The night's event took place in Philly at Voyeur Nightclub. Less than an hour after doors opened, the venue was jam-packed with people ready to dance, party, and rock-out to some of the regions best DJs.
“I'm feeling great,” Petey C said as the audience began flooding into the club around 10 P.M. “I'm starting to see a lot of 412 tee's show up. I'm stoked, man.”
Two of Petey C's competitors from the Thre3Style Pittsburgh qualifier, DJ Midas and Pete Butta, were in the building to support their hometown friend. DJ Bonics, who judged the Pittsburgh qualifier, hosts a radio show on Wired 96.5 FM in Philly and made his way out as a spectator.
The five competing DJs in Red Bull Thre3Style's East Coast regional event were, in order of performance, DJ Petey C, DJ Trayze, DJ Zeke, DJ LayZee Boy, and DJ PHSH. As the only of the bunch that made it to this round last year, Petey seemed comfortable with the news that he'd be the first to perform the 15-minute DJ set that is asked of the competitors.
“This is the destiny, man, this is what was made for me,” Petey said before going on stage. “Everyone's watching me and everyone's gonna start this whole battle off with me.”
DJ Petey C rocked out, showcasing skills in all five of the criteria categories that Thre3Style DJs are judged on — song selection, creativity, mixing, audience response, and stage presence. One of my favorite portions of Petey's set was his blend of the vocals from Notrious B.I.G.'s first single, “Party & Bullshit,” atop the instrumental of “Insane In the Membrane” by Cypress Hill, followed by a mix into Jagged Edge's 2001 R & B/Pop hit “Where the Party At?” Embracing the energy that had accumulated in the audience as they awaited the first performer, Petey's set closed with several areas of the crowd chanting his name.
“I think that he embodied the Thre3Style, to me at least and my taste,” said DJ Bonics during a follow-up phone call a few days later discussing his thoughts on Petey's performance in the event. “He made it more than a DJ set, he made it a story and took you on a journey. And I think that makes the best Thre3Style sets. Overall, he definitely should've placed and he did.”
Following the individual performance sets of the five DJs, the panel of reputable judges — DJ Jazzy Jeff, A-Trak, Z-Trip — decided on a winner. Of the five competitor's, the three top-ranking DJ's would receive prize packages. Event host Rich Medina announced Petey C as the third place recipient. It marked his first time placing in this East Coast regional event. In second place was DJ Trayze, with DJ PHSH finishing in first place and being awarded the opportunity to advance to the Red Bull Thre3Style National Finals event in Los Angeles later this year.
“Pittsburgh's a small town, I don't think people were expecting someone from Pittsburgh to place over someone from New York,” said Petey, as he went on to talk about the other advantages of being a part of the Thre3Style competition. “I met so many people networking, you can't buy that or fake that... coming off stage and getting props from DJ Cash Money and legends and stuff.”
Petey also noted his appreciation for having been able to share this experience with D.C.'s representative, DJ Trayze, whom he had met about two years ago.
“I'm happy we were up there together,” said Petey, continuing on with a story that happened as he and Trayze stood at side-stage after the competition. “We were just standing there waiting for [Jazzy] Jeff to go on [to perform], because we were so excited to watch this legend go on and shut it down. So we're standing side-stage, and all of the studden these huge bouncers come in and blow everyone out of the way. And then A-Trak and Z-Trip just, like, walked in. And, they were like 'we're gonna watch the show right here with you guys.' We were just like, 'great!' (laughs). I did kind of have a quick moment, they were both like 'you did good' and we took a pic.”
Currently, DJ Petey C is taking on a variety of deejaying gigs. This Thursday, Feb. 14, he's playing at S Bar in the South Side with DJ Bromeo. On Saturday, Feb. 23, Petey will be playing a double at Seven Springs Ski Resort — on the deck during the day and at night at the Matterhorn. He also recently began a monthly residency at Bent Willey's in Morgantown, West Virginia, as he continues to expand his brand beyond Pittsburgh.
Wrapping up our conversation on his performance in the East Coast regionals of the Red Bull Thre3Style, Petey said “[advancing to] the next round is really what I'm after at this point.”
Contact and booking information for DJ Petey C can be found at DJPeteyC.com.
This week, CP presents a special two track MP3 Monday. The bands, Grisly Amputation and Lycosa are holding a dual release Saturday at Dead Horse Cantina.
The two tracks are the title track from Grisly Amputation's debut full length album, Cannibalistic Tendencies, and "Barbara" from Lycosa's debut self-titled EP. Both are being issued by Innervenus. (You can find more information on the release show, and the albums, at the collective's site.)
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