Sisters Ali and Jamie McMutrie are continuing to make an impact years after dramatically rescuing dozens of Haitian children after the 2010 earthquake in the region. Now, the McMutries run Haitian Families First (HFF), a nonprofit organization aimed at helping and empowering Haitian families in despair through emotional, social, and financial support.
Tomorrow (Nov. 9), the pair will host a benefit party at the Rex Theater, featuring karaoke, live performances, and appearances by local celebrities. Mikey and Big Bob of The Morning Freak Show on 96.1 KISS FM, WTAE’s Sally Wiggin, and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto, among others, will compete in a celebrity karaoke competition at the event. And don't worry — there will be non-celebrity karaoke, too.
This is the second annual live rock 'n' roll karaoke costume party hosted by HFF and all proceeds will benefit the organization. Randy Baumann of the DVE Morning Show will perform at and emcee the event, which starts at 9 p.m.
More information and tickets can be found at www.haitianfamiliesfirst.org/events
Free jazz musician Daniel Carter will perform in Pittsburgh this week with his trio The Moon. Carter, who is from Wilkinsburg, plays saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, and flute and has performed with major acts including William Parker, Thurston Moore, Matthew Shipp. Though never receiving too much attention for his work, Carter has been active in the New York scene since the 1970s and has releases on notable labels like Eremite Records, Aum Fidelity, Thirsty Ear, and Silkheart Records.
The Moon — comprised of Carter, electric guitarist Adam Caine, and drummer Federico Ughi — will play two sets tonight (Wed., Oct. 30) at the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville. For more information and tickets, head over to the Thunderbird website.
Just try to pin a descriptor on Philadelphia's Far-Out Fangtooth. The band proves itself a moving target every time. In a post-genre landscape, it fits right in. Though they borrow liberally from the best of many canons, catering to going trends is not part of their approach. Moreover, Far-out Fangtooth don't pick and choose when to make their influences known. These influences are always present and all at once in an unholy, bastard stew. The result is sprawling and dire, as appropriate to a jittery rainy-day drive as it is to a ritual of blood sacrifice. In this interview, guitarist and vocalist Nicholas Kulp talks about joining up with the band, ignoring lazy reviewers, and making the Philly scene with contemporaries like Kurt Vile, Purling Hiss, and the War on Drugs. Far-Out Fangtooth's new album, Borrowed Time, came out Tues., Oct. 29, on Philadelphia's own Siltbreeze records.
The band started as a two piece with a guest players moving in and out of the line-up. How and when did it become the four piece it is today?
[The band was originally] a recording project/performance act by Joe Kusy and Vinnie Alvaré. They were in a bunch of previous bands together, but were never really in bands in which they had complete creative direction. They recorded a cassette in early 2009. [I] traded Joe a screen-printed poster for it. In August, [I] joined the band and that October Tania joined on bass. We began developing existing songs and making new songs together, and also started playing a ton of shows.
There were still guests invited to play, but after Tania joined, [the four of us] became the core group.
What have some of the influences on your sound and group dynamic been?
When we became a four piece, we wracked our brains on what we were [and] wanted it to be. We [came together around] similar influences. The Velvet Underground, The Cramps, Jesus And Mary Chain were some, with the main influence being Smashing Pumpkins, a band we all had in common growing up ... Some additional influences were Christian Death, Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3, The Vaselines, and The Seeds. There were definitely more, [along with] some contemporary bands like Crystal Stilts, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Naked on the Vague, and Blank Dogs.
We definitely share and admire communal social movements and the idea of cult and ritual. Andy Warhol's Factory, The Source Family, Charles Manson, and the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky are common cultural interests. We played with R. Stevie Moore a few years back and after we played a dude came up to us with his wife. He bought three 7"s and told us that we were the modern version of the Manson Family band. We were flattered, but [we're] not about to go senselessly murdering anyone any time soon.
You've been described in a wide variety of ways, ranging from garage to all the way to goth. Are you comfortable with any of these designations?
This day and age your describers or "genres" are what people go off of to pinpoint what you are. There are lazy music reviewers who call everything "shoegaze" if it has a little fuzz and reverb. In the beginning, we were described more on the garage end of things, but have always gotten the goth tag. [It] might be because we primarily wear black on stage and had photos of us wearing sunglasses after dark. Goth is a genre with lots of variation in specific style. We play a kind of dark psych music, which could qualify as one of those variations. We're more on the psychedelic side of the garage, and the post-punk side of the goth, but no one can really pin-point us on one thing and we don't really care.
In terms of sonic layers, the new album, Borrowed Time, seems to have more going on than the last album, Pure and Disinterested. Was that a conscious choice or a natural byproduct of the experience the band has gained since the last time it recorded?
Definitely a bit of both. On this one there was an Engineer, Paul Cobb, and a Producer, Justin Pittney, who also engineered and produced The Thorns EP for Hozac. Justin is a friend who has known us since the beginning. He became focused on emulating our live sound. This record really does capture that more than ever. Also, there was the choice of recording on 2-inch tape, which really helped to create more room for expansion.
Borrowed Time seems to have been conceived and executed entirely in Philadelphia, the city whose recent exports also include Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs, and Purling Hiss, bands with whom you seem to share some common ground. Can you talk about coming up in the scene in Philly?
Yeah, we have been a part of this scene now for four years, and have been living here for the past eight to ten years. [We've] been a part of other bands and scenes and have seen things come and go. We feel like this city's scene has a lot of great people [in] it, even if they are hiding in their own pockets and don't really get the recognition they deserve. This city is dirty and gritty and most of the people here can see through the bullshit. This isn't New York, there aren't a million bands, although there are a lot more recently.
Since the blow-up of Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs, and even Cold Cave, there has been a huge shift in Philly. There's also been the recognition of Birds of Maya, which gave birth to what the world now knows as Purling Hiss and Spacin'. They've all seen daylight via Richie Records. A lot of bands are coming from here, and there's a fire going on, and we definitely feel positive about Philadelphia's scene.
Siltbreeze Records has also played a big role in our outlook on Philadelphia. To do our first record for [Siltbreeze's] Tom Lax was such a mind blower for us. We really wanted to make a record that exceeded his expectations of us. Most people in this city forget that his label even exists here. Siltbreeze is a huge part of underground music history and we are proud to be associated.
From what I've seen and heard, I assume that Halloween is one of the more important days on your calendar. Was the album's release timed to coincide? Besides celebrating the release, how did you spend your Halloween?
Our release show is on All Souls Day, which honors the dead and those spirits who rise from Purgatory. We will be celebrating Halloween this year as the send off for our tour to the Midwest and back.
Far-Out Fangtooth plays Brillobox Sun., Nov. 3, with The Night Beats and The Hidden Twin. $8.
The unstable and often sub-par working conditions of adjunct faculty at colleges and universities have been making headlines recently. This Tuesday (Oct. 29), in conjunction with Campus Equity Week, a benefit concert will be held at Howler's featuring adjunct and adjunct-friendly bands.
The concert will include performances by Emily Rodgers (who is currently an adjunct instructor of English at CCAC, Duquesne University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh), The Homeless Gospel Choir, and The Armadillos. The free show starts at 8 p.m.
Happy MP3 Monday! Today's track is from local math-rock musician Tiger$Eyes, who just released his debut EP entitled Heavyweight Champ in September. Stream or download the title track from the EP below and check out more T$E music on Bandcamp.
Brett Detar grew up in Greensburg and came of age in hardcore band Zao and emo outfit The Juliana Theory. More recently, he's been writing soundtrack music and solo work that's more in the vein of Americana; he answered some questions for CP via email on a day off from his current tour, which comes to Thunderbird Cafe on Sun., Oct. 27. The show starts at 9:30 and Gypsy and His Band of Ghosts and Joseph West open.
Pittsburgh-area folks know you for some heavier bands — what made you pick up the acoustic guitar a few years ago?
My two solo records are very rootsy country/folk/Americana stuff. I've been heavily into that music for at least 10 years now. I recall the last few Juliana Theory tours - me wearing Waylon Jennings shirts on stage and blasting Loretta Lynn and Gram Parsons in the van in 2004. I've never been one to limit myself to a few styles of music. Zao to The Juliana Theory was a pretty big stylistic jump, as was TJT to my solo stuff, as is my solo stuff to the film-composing work I do that sounds like none of the above. Haha. Maybe I just get bored easily. As for picking up the acoustic guitar - that's always been my go-to instrument since the beginning of my songwriting days. I've written more songs on an old acoustic that I bought in New Kensington in 1993 than probably every other instrument I own combined, so not much has changed in that regard.
As an established artist, how did you come to the decision to issue your latest solo album as a free download?
I've released both solo records on vinyl LP, CD, and free download at my website. I like to make it very easy for people to get the music however they want. Lots of people pay for the music in both the physical formats and at iTunes and Bandcamp, etc., but I also know that a lot of people will search out how to download the record for free at some torrent site or something, and I'd rather them come and get it straight from me. I sell CDs for name-your-own-price on tour and more than anything else I just want people to have the music - to spend time with it - and hopefully be moved by it, so I'm honestly happy to let people download it for free from http://brettdetar.com.
How has your approach to touring changed, over the years, and through your several bands?
Touring as a solo guy is a lot different than touring with a band because there aren't 10 guys to wait for on a smoke break or their cellphones at every truckstop! It's also a lot easier to pick where we eat when there's only 2 people in the vehicle. Picking food stops in a big band always meant someone would be let down. Ha. As for my approach to playing shows as a solo guy, I've really been enjoying stripping down songs to just my voice and either a banjo or a guitar. It doesn't allow you to hide behind walls of guitars and loud drums. I have to be more engaging, sing better, and pick a more engaging set-list than I ever had to in the past. It demands a much higher level of performance. I think it gets much more to the heart of a song than any other touring I've done - and songs are more important to me than anything else in music. Stylistically, a lot of "ex-punkrock-band-lead-singers" go out and play solo shows where they essentially play their old band's songs in the same basic way but "unplugged" on an acoustic guitar, or they play relatively the same style of music their band was known for but just do that on an acoustic guitar instead of in front of a band. That's totally cool and I understand why a lot of guys do that. I'm not slagging on that vibe, but I'm taking what might be the road less traveled. I've never played any songs from my old bands, and I don't play stuff that really feels much like anything I've been known for in the past. I'm playing pretty much straight-up country and folk music on banjo and guitar. It's fingerpicking and pretty mellow and I'm singing with my real voice and singing much better than I have at any other point. I've been really enjoying it. Oh, and the other big difference is sound checks are much shorter, and there's no one in the band to get mad at me if the singer has a bad show!
What keeps you in L.A. these days, and what do you miss about Pittsburgh/Greensburg?
Lately I've been doing a lot of film-scoring - composing all the music for movies - so it's mighty helpful to be near Hollywood for that stuff. I'm also a sucker for sunshine. Being a kid in Greensburg, I was always happiest when it was super sunny outside and you know as well as I do that those days are something you gotta wait for around here. I'm a bit spoiled now having sun pretty much every day. I miss a lot of things about home - my family and friends of course - and Penguins games. Those are way up there. I miss the pizza and Italian food too. I've done a lot of traveling in my life and there's nowhere in America (NYC included) that holds a candle to the pizza in Western PA. Seriously, it's the best. No matter where I end up I always take with me a bunch of things that have been formed in me by the greater Pittsburgh area - particularly my work ethic and can-do attitude. The 'Burgh taught me that if I work hard enough I can figure almost anything out. You can take the boy out of Pittsburgh but you can't take Pittsburgh out of me.
What are you listening to in the tour van this time around?
Well, first off I'm touring in a car like, the classics used to do in the old days - Hank Williams and Cash and Elvis and all those guys started off touring in cars, which is kinda amazing to think about. It's only me and a couple instruments and my buddy Joseph West, who's also playing the Pittsburgh show, and we're skinny guys, so there's no need for a van. Haha. That being said, I've been listening to a lot of talk radio, Pens games and ironically enough - really heavy stuff like Trap Them and Doomriders. My go-to standby is always my favorite XM radio station, Willie Nelson's Roadhouse, which plays nothing but classic country. Good stuff.
Head out to Lawrenceville tonight for a night of soul jams and dancing with DJ Jonathan Toubin. Presented by Brooklyn Brewery Mash and Pandemic, Toubin's Soul Clap and Dance-Off is well-known DJ night and dance contest that was founded in New York City. Around 1 a.m. there will be a dance contest judged by a local panel, and dancers can win a $100 cash prize and a free trip to Brooklyn for the Soul Clap Nationals in February.
Tickets are $5 at the door, and one dollar of each ticket sold will benefit Slow Food PGH, a local sustainability nonprofit. The party starts at 9:30 p.m. at Remedy bar (5121 Butler St.).
Our Mike Shanley spoke with jazz pianist Randy Weston for this week's issue; only a short version of that piece ran online, so here's a less-abridged version.
Randy Weston grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, becoming friends with musicians like jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. In his late 20s, Weston decided to devote himself to playing the same instrument.. He has traveled throughout the world, incorporating numerous influences into his playing. He comes to the New Hazlett Theater with his African Rhythms Quartet on Sat., Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. Call 1-888-718-4253 for info.
You have said you feel like you’re a storyteller, not a jazz musician. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, my wonderful travels in the world are because of music. And music is the star, not Randy Weston. And music is spiritual. It’s taken me from Bed-Stuy growing up, to the black church, the blues, [playing in a] big band and all over Asia and Africa. So I tell stories about my experiences, about African-American culture, African culture and the spirituality in music itself.
I spent seven years in Africa. I traveled to 18 countries in Africa. I looked at the oldest musicians I could find, the oldest music I could listen to. When we grew up as kids in Brooklyn, we always hung out with our elders, you see? So I tell stories of these great people before us: my mom, my dad, going all the way back to African civilization.
What was it like, meeting these musicians?
They’re very traditional people. They’re all in tune with nature, the universe, the galaxy. They have a different concept of music. But they also keep the stories alive of their particular society. So I feel it makes you understand better, [questions like] who was Louis Armstrong, who was Duke Ellington? They were not only great musicians, with the music they played, they told the story of African-American life in the ’20s, in the ’30s, in the ’40s. That’s why they were storytellers. So I try to pass on that tradition and respect and love of those artists that came before me, who sacrificed a lot to produce this music that we call jazz or blues or samba, reggae whatever.
Can you call your music “jazz”?
Jazz doesn’t really give the full story. What have African people contributed to the US? America is so young, compared to most countries on the planet. So what we call jazz in African-Americans’ contribution to the United States. So if you look at it that way, it gives you the understanding, also the genius and the spirituality of all these people. How do they do what they do? How do they make music out of a broom, out of a bottle? In Africa, people make music out of anything. For them, music is the voice of the creator.
And I think about my mom and dad. How did they keep us so spiritual? They made sure we went to church every Sunday. They made sure we were spiritual, made sure we had our pride, our dignity, no matter what. So they are the heroes. [Laughs}
That piano teacher that was 50 cents a lesson and hit my hands with a ruler if I made a mistake. She made sure I practiced that piano!
I want everybody to understand more about what African people have contributed to America. I think if they understand that, we’d have a different approach of who we are, what we did, despite all the slavery and the racism. But all the beauty that we gave, it’s amazing.
I was lucky to have known Duke Ellington. I knew Count Basie. I met Billie Holiday and shook Louis Armstrong’s hand. I shook Mahalia Jackson’s hand. In my life I’ve been so blessed to meet these people that have never been given the proper credit for what they’ve given to America.
Did you know Thelonious Monk well?
I hung out with him! In the beginning, I didn’t understand what Monk was doing. But then I heard something. I met him and we hung out for about three years. I’d pick him up at his house in Manhattan and bring him back to Brooklyn, we’d go to places. He never said much, but his music…. For me, you can’t call this music jazz. This music is in touch with the ancient civilizations, the galaxies, the planets. By hanging out with him, I understood better [stride pianist] James P. Johnson, Ellington, all the people that preceded him, the history of piano. So the further you go back, you realize how humble you have to be today. And how they did what they did. It’s a miracle.
Ironically, I never heard a musician say to another musician, “We’re going to go play some jazz.” Interesting, huh? Instead, [they’ll say], “We’re going to play Duke’s music or Billie Holiday’s music or Benny Goodman’s music.” We never use the word.
You didn’t start playing piano professional until you were in your late 20s. How come?
Well you can understand why. People like Art Tatum and Earl Hines and Nat Cole and Duke! Erroll Garner — all those people [were] around. So to call yourself a pianist, you gotta be careful! That was royalty.
I used to go to [1920s ragtime pianist] Eubie Blake’s house and hang out with him. We’d go hear Willie “The Lion” Smith [another stride pianist who had been playing since the ‘20s]. Those people. You call yourself a pianist, you better be quiet! [laughs]
And if they were alive today, I’d be a little boy. Not to mention Bud Powell. There were all those people who played this music and did it a different way. Earl Hines did it this way, Monk this way, Count Basie this way. On the same instrument! So that’s why it took me a long time to decide to be a professional musician.
When you play with the African Rhythm Quartet, how do you plan a set?
We always try to bring on some of the traditional rhythms of Africa. So people can feel where it’s come from. I spent years with the people of Morocco, the Gnawa. They were taken in slavery. So they maintain a very powerful spiritual music.
From there, maybe we’ll go to the blues. But we’re just trying to tell a story of the history of African music. At the same time we all come from the motherland, everybody on the planet. It’s a combination of all those things.
I always tell the audience, “You’re a part of this band, because we’re going to take the trip together.” By the magic of music, it’s amazing how you look at the audience and see all the shades of the rainbow. Different colors, genders and ages. When the music is right, everybody becomes in tune with the music.
Southside American is the solo project of Pittsburgh-based singer-songwriter Benjamin Sweet. Sweet released his debut EP under this moniker, titled In Our Keystone State, last month and today's MP3 is one of the songs from that release. Stream or download "In the Dust" below.
This weekend is full of benefit concerts; on Saturday alone, you can go out and support The Pittsburgh School for the Choral Arts, WhyHunger, and the Arts Department of Braddock Hills High School. Check out more information on these benefit shows below.
This Saturday, head out to Howler's in Bloomfield to show your support for Braddock Hills High School, which is hosting a benefit show for its growing Arts Department. Art teacher Natasha Dean began the Arts Department at the school just last year and is hoping to start a Ceramics Department with the proceeds from this benefit. The show will include live music by local groups The Shelf Life String Band and Grand Piano, an art auction featuring local artists, and a raffle. The benefit will begin at 9 p.m. More information on the benefit show can be found on its Facebook page.
The Every Voice Benefit will also take place this Saturday at 7 p.m. in support of The Pittsburgh School for the Choral Arts (formerly the Oakland Girls Choir). The concert will feature local singer Daphne Alderson performing the iconic ballads of Edith Piaf and Leonard Cohen. The benefit, which will take place at the Wallace Event Center at Hosanna House, will also include a silent auction. More information and tickets can be found at www.pghchoralarts.org/event/every-voice-benefit.
If the weather is nice, you can spend the evening in Donaldson Park for the Fayette Fall Festival. Local band The Damaged Pies will be hosting a "Homemade Jam" at the festival to support WhyHunger, a national nonprofit that supports community-based solutions to hunger and poverty. This all-ages show will begin at 6 p.m. More information on WhyHunger can be found at www.whyhunger.org.