JEFF the Brotherhood seems to have amassed a large Pittsburgh following in the years since I first saw them on tour with Pentagram several years ago. Last year’s Thanksgiving show at Howlers was a total party, and those who packed Brillobox last Friday night seemed primed for something similar.
First, there was local three piece Chrome Moses, who offered some well-executed, fully rockin’ garage-blues, and brought to mind Kings of Leon circa 2003. Admittedly, comparing anyone to Kings of Leon is kind of loaded, and potentially a little backhanded, but in this case it wasn’t a bad thing.
Next came Hunters, from Brooklyn, who — because one of their t-shirts featured photo of Kelly Bundy — won me over a little bit before they’d even started. My plus-one was less enthused, describing them as “young, with haircuts.” They did have nice haircuts, it’s true. And the singer’s cotton candy-colored locks were pretty much all I could see of her, because she almost never stopped moving, showing a level of energy to rival any sugar-high 5 year old. Can’t say Hunters blew my mind, but they did their thing, and did it well, and in their best moments reminded me of both the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Live Through This —era Hole. Not bad at all.
JEFF took the stage after a long sound check — “Ten hours” by guitarist Jake Orrall’s estimation. They played half the set as a two-piece, and adding a guitarist and a keyboardist (I think? As a short person, I often fantasize about having a periscope at crowded shows) for the second half. When I’m not actually listening to JEFF the Brotherhood, I think of them as a band that plays succinct and catchy garage rock, and I forget that — as song titles like Heavy Krishna and Heavy Days suggest — they owe as much to Deep Purple as they do to the Ramones. They can also jam out, and did so, quite a bit. It was a strong set, even if it lacked some of the spontaneous exuberance of their Howler’s show. That night had obviously proved memorable for them, too. “We always have fun in Pittsburgh,” Jake said, noting Thanksgiving as a prime example.“Cheers to anyone who was at that show.”
It would be so awesome to discover Ghost B.C. (the B.C. has been grudgingly added due to an over-abundance of “Ghost” bands), as a 14-year-old. You’d be drawn to the catchy tunes (which mostly maintain a Mercyful Fate vibe, but sometimes veer into pop and, weirdly, surf) but troubled by the anonymity of the members, scared out of your wits by front man Papa Emeritus II (an evil, but charming, skeletal Pope) and probably a little worried about what this band was doing to your immortal soul.
I can’t say if anyone at Saturday’s show fit that description, but Ghost (not going to bother with the B.C. from here on out) was spooky and theatrical enough to keep most of their older, more jaded fans entertained.
Openers Ides of Gemini did a fair job of setting the tone for an evening of good-natured blasphemy with their 70s occult rock, and Sera Timms’ voice was almost beautiful enough to cover their multitude of instrumental sins. One friend argued that “sometimes, simple is better,” which is true — and some of the greatest bands in history featured people who didn’t really know how to play their instruments — but you gotta have enough style to balance it out.
As for Ghost, seeing them perform in a former church is appropriate to the point of being a tad too on-the-nose. Taking their cues from the ceremony of a Catholic mass (though, obviously, turning it on its head), smoke machines imitated incense and stage lights stood in for candles. Papa, as audience members called him, quite literally presided over the room. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, particularly next to the rest of the band members, interchangeable in black cloaks and hoods. Many in sold-out room hung on Papa’s every word and action, when they weren’t banging their heads to the air-tight (at times, almost monotonously so) set. In the face of all that mystery, it was a little jarring when the band did normal band things, like schmoozing with the crowd (“I want to know how the ladies at this show are doing,” Papa asked, adding after the ladies responded with applause, “I was asking the boys.”) Ghost infuses a fair amount of humor and charisma into their shtick, and don’t take themselves too seriously — another way in which they’re the inverse of the Catholic church — and might have more in common with Blue Oyster Cult or even Motley Crue than anything truly evil. Then again, who makes catchier music than the Devil?
Hey all! We got it together a little late yesterday, so MP3 Monday is MP3 Tuesday this week. Either way, this is the thing where we feature the singles from local artists that caught our ear. This week we've got "Tempted," from B. White of The 58's. The song features captivating vocals from Anna Ciaccio and a verse from Mayo. The single is off of B. White's third album The Anomaly, and on May 25th he's going to be celebrating the album's release. Stream it below!
Here's one of those that we couldn't fit into the paper this week, but that's worth a listen: Tonight at the Smiling Moose, Cheap Girls — formerly of Rise Records, now independent — play, along with Diamond Youth and I Am a Sea Creature. Cheap Girls' 2012 release Giant Orange was produced by Against Me's Laura Jean Grace.
I could talk about how catchy and big the band's overdriven power pop is, but since this is the Internet, and you have speakers, rather than wax poetic, I'll just let you listen to a tune:
Tonight's show at the Smiling Moose starts at 6 p.m. and is $10. Go after you vote, if that's your thing!
About a year ago, Bridgette Perdue put out her first album of piano-pop tunes, Enjoy This Moment. Tonight, the irrepressively positive Perdue presents a special live event at the August Wilson Center, combining a concert with dance and other art forms.
She's calling "Wake Up and Dream" a "live music and art experience," and in addition to music and dance, it'll involve a multimedia program and live painting.
The show starts at 8, and tickets are $10. More info: www.wuad2013.com
Check out a video of Perdue performing:
Despite its storied rock-DJ history, even Pittsburgh has fewer and fewer regular old-fashioned oldies radio shows — and as of a few weeks ago, it's down to one less. The Johnny Angel Heavenly Soul Show, which had been on the air at 1320-AM WJAS since 2011, went off the air at the end of March, because DJ Johnny Angel — a longtime local performer and DJ — was unable to find the sponsorships needed to keep it afloat.
"I left on great terms" with WJAS, Angel says. But business is business. "They rent that slot out on Sunday nights, and you have to find your own sponsors. At first it was going great, but more recently it was getting tougher and tougher. I have my business and my music, and I just didn't have the time to get out there looking for sponsorships." Angel is a partner in the Atria's restaurant in PNC Park. (Atria's, along with The Attic record store in Millvale, was one of the show's main sponsors.) Angel notes that the station "let me slide sometimes" when he was low on sponsor dollars, and that WJAS was a great station to work with.
There's little else like Angel's show on the air in Pittsburgh right now; some suburban radio stations like WLSW in Connellsville air oldies radio on the weekends, and 94.5-FM WWSW's Sunday Night Oldies Diner still airs, but in a shorter format than in years past and with less of a concentration of '50s and early-'60s material. (That show's longtime host, R.D. Summers, passed away in 2009, and since then it's been run by staff.) Prior to the Johnny Angel show, the Sunday night 7-11 p.m. slot at WJAS had been taken by legendary Pittsburgh DJ Terry Lee, who broadcasts online now. WJAS's general format is nostalgia music, with local DJs during weekdays and some syndicated programs in the evening and on the weekend.
Angel's show was punctuated by chats with '50s and '60s music legends like Frankie Ford, Mary Wilson and Len Barry, and features in which he'd play different versions of the same song, or spotlight a particular singer or musician. Many of the musicians are ones he's worked with during his long career as a singer. "I didn't think of it as a radio show as much as a chat with friends that we broadcast," Angel says. The show had some renown; when I spoke last year with New York DJ Jonathan Toubin, he pointed out that one of the highlights of stops in Pittsburgh was listening to Johnny Angel on Sunday nights.
In an emailed statement, WJAS program director Ron Antill wrote: "He is truly one amazing man, in so may ways. Johnny is a true professional in all that he does, we had a great working relationship with him. All of us at WJAS are sorry to see the show come to an end." He added, "His intense work schedule ... likely played a role in his decision as well, I am not sure if the man ever sleeps."
While it's the end of the Heavenly Soul Show for now, Angel says he's not ruling out a return to radio. sometime in the future if the logistics work out. "I haven't given up my radio dream," he says. "I'm still hopeful a station will pick up the show again."
Calliope, the folk society, has announced its 2013-14 concert series, running from October through April. The shows will all take place at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland.
A quick overview:
Oct. 26 — Vieux Farka Toure
Nov. 16 — Blue Highway
Dec. 7 — Bruce Cockburn
Jan. 25 — True Blues: Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Alvin Youngblood Hart
March 8: Karan Casey Band
March 29: Jake Shimabukuro
April 5: The Steel Wheels
April 26: Martha Redbone Roots Project
More details will be available from Calliope as the season approaches.
Know what's BIG right now? '90s nostalgia! And no one's taking advantage of it better (at least, no one locally) than The Composure. When last we left the pop-punk outfit, they had just released last spring's Stay the Course EP; now, they're releasing an EP of all '90s alt-rock covers. Each will be accompanied by a video.
The first one they've let slip is "Closing Time," the tearjerker from Semisonic that caused me to buy that album in 1997 or whatever then decide that the rest of it kind of sucked. But it was OK, because I got it through one of those BMG Direct deals where I got 12 CDs for a penny or whatever. Nothing ventured, really, and I think that's also how I got London Calling, which worked out better.
I'll stop now and let you watch the video, crafted by Quanti Studios:
One for the FYI files: The previously announced Kendrick Lamar show at Rostraver Ice Garden June 3 was cancelled, and the tour package was picked up by Stage AE; it'll take place there the same night, Monday, June 3.
The full details for the new show:
Kendrick Lamar with Schoolboy Q, AB-Soul and Jay Rock
6:30 p.m. Mon., June 3 at Stage AE Outdoors, 400 North Shore Drive, North Side
Tickets $40-45, on sale Sat., May 11 through Ticketmaster
According to PromoWest, tickets previously purchased for the Ice Garden show will not be honored at the Stage AE show. I'm working on finding out what ticketholders for the Ice Garden show should do — expect an update on this post when I know for sure.
Tonight marks the first playoff game of 2013 for the Penguins, and of course some local musicians have stepped up to the plate (to mix my sports metaphors) with fight songs for our hockey puckers.
Every year, Kardaz revises its "The Mighty 'Guins," a take on Dylan's "Quinn the Eskimo," with the names of the current team. Stream or download this year's version here:
And this year, Chip DiMonick added his voice to the chorus of Pens tunes — sort of. The song isn't actually a Penguins song, but today he's releasing a new animated lyric video for his song "Pump," with a Penguins theme. View below: