The World Cafe features interviews and music from all around the country and the world — but on Wed., Dec. 11, it'll be all about Pittsburgh.
The syndicated music-and-talk show, which airs at 6 p.m. weekdays on WYEP locally, will feature a pre-recorded live set and interview with local faves Donora, a trip to Jerry's Records, some history talk with local soul legend Billy Price and a segment with WYEP Morning Mix host Cindy Howes.
Charles Wallace is an instrumental group that plays jazz versions of popular songs. The group released a new album titled Mariposa this year that includes both original compositions and jazz versions of songs like Radiohead's "Nude" and Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush." Today's MP3 is a song from that album called "Don't Ask." Stream the track below and check out more information and music at www.charleswallacemusic.com.
A new series from the Pittsburgh Folk Music Society premieres this weekend. The Sunday Gravy Show is a part-gameshow, part-concert house party that is hosted by Wammo, a recording artist and co-founder of The Asylum Street Spankers. Each month, the concert will be held in a different Pittsburgh neighborhood and will feature internationally touring artists and musicians.
This weekend's premiere show will be held in Lawrenceville and will feature Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering and Thievery Corporation. The exact location of the show is only disclosed to ticket holders, but the concert will be held in someone's living room and is limited to 50 seats. The show is on Sunday, Nov. 24 starting at 4 p.m.
You can find more information and get tickets for The Sunday Gravy Show — which is sponsored by the Sprout Fund and in partnership with Calliope, a nonprofit music organization that organizes concert series and educational outreach programs — online at calliopehouse.org/sunday-gravy.
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Kevin Devine has had a busy year. Now nearing the end of his U.S. tour, Devine will be stopping in Pittsburgh to play at the Rex Theater on Nov. 20.
After launching a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, Devine released a dual album — titled Bulldozer and Bubblegum — on his own label Devinyl. The campaign raised $114,000 ($64,000 more than his original campaign goal) to support the two albums and the current tour.
Devine's album Bubblegum was produced by Brand New's Jesse Lacey and shows a grittier side of Devine, whose music ranges from indie folk to pop-punk. Check out the video for the album's title track below.
Wednesday's show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $15 at the door. For more information on the show, call 412-381-6811 or visit www.rextheater.com.
It's MP3 Monday!! We may have missed last week, but we've got a good one for you today.
Local psychedelic rock band Shaky Shrines just released their debut LP Mausoleum at the beginning of November and today's MP3 is is a song from that release called "Can't Quit." When the band is not out playing their dark psych music, songwriter Braden Faisant spends his days working in a cemetery — a job that clearly influences the music. Stream the track below, and head over to the group's Bandcamp page to hear the rest of the album.
Alash, an ensemble of Tuvan throat singers, will perform tonight at the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside. Tuvan throat singing is a special vocal style in which singers can generate multiple tones simultaneously, creating a unique, almost otherworldly effect. Alash is a well-known group that incorporates some Western influences into traditional Tuvan styles and they have toured the United States extensively, stopping in Pittsburgh on multiple occasions. Made up of Bady-Dorzhu Ondar, Ayan-ool Sam, and Ayan Shirizhik, the group performs with traditional Tuvan instruments in addition to their singing.
AppalAsia, a local Appalachian-Asian fusion band, will open the show. The group is comprised of Jeff Berman, who plays dulcimer and percussion; Mimi Jong, who plays the erhu (a Chinese two-stringed instrument); and Susan Powers, who plays banjo and provides vocals.
7:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 15. First Unitarian Church, 605 Moorewood Ave., Shadyside. $20. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com
Titus Andronicus on paper may seem at odds with Titus Andronicus in action. Never shy about self-reference (see "Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe"), high-mindedness (see "Upon Viewing Bruegel's 'Landscape With the Fall of Icarus'"), or tongue-in-cheek commentary (see http://titusandronicus.net: Specializing in punk solutions since 2005), the band makes plain that its output is not reflexive or off-the-cuff, but conceptual, a pilot program for a still-forming worldview. Its last two albums explored the Civil War and the eco-system of the local music scene, respectively. Despite the philosophical underpinnings, the music is pure punk in execution: frenetic and lively. Titus Andronicus shows no willingness to reconcile inherent contradictions and no sign of abandoning grandiose ambitions. In fact, the band's next album will be a rock opera, the most grandiose of rock offerings. In this interview, frontman Patrick Stickles talks about the medium and the message.
Your songs tend toward big, existential ideas. Do you ever feel stifled by the limitations of your medium, as though the themes you deal with in your songs might be better explored through media such as fiction or film?
While it may be true that rock 'n' roll cannot traditionally allow the level of detail and explication of ideas that some other formats can offer the artist, it has one major advantage over, say, a book or something: A book can be easily put aside and ignored by the idle student, but a rock 'n' roll band, at its best, is impossible to ignore, and engages the audience in a more confrontational and visceral manner. Words on a page can beckon an eager mind, but rock and roll will shove its message down the throat of even the most ambivalent bystander. Books, paintings, these sort of things invite as rock 'n' roll attacks. In the same way, articulating a feeling on paper may allow greater clarity of expression, but it will be lacking in the catharsis of screaming those same feelings. The physicality of the act of rocking grants transcendent qualities to even the most crudely expressed feelings, tearing down the walls of apathy the listener may put up around themselves so that essence of these feelings, as articulated (however crassly) by the artist may touch the primal oneness within.
That being said, all this screaming and getting in people's faces and the ceremonial endurance of all the loud noises, is easy to turn on and off like a faucet (easy to turn on, anyway), but as the artist gets older, the practicality of less physically demanding mediums of expression grows in its appeal. As I get to be an old man, I can see why certain creative types would find it preferable to spend a year writing a book, maybe with a nice cup of tea in hand, than spend that same year screaming. Also, the price of finding the right place to do all that screaming may be greater than finding a place to put a desk. For now, I choose the life of screaming.
It is important to remember through all this, though, that while we may find it appropriate to try to achieve certain artistic ends with an album that other artists may find more suited to a novel or film, all of that stuff is secondary to the real essential element of rock 'n' roll's appeal, which is the toe-tapping element, the jumping up and down part of it, the part of it that touches the Dionysian and the Bacchanal. Rock 'n' roll having this element separates it from other art forms, but it does not deny it the same hifalutin' ambitions that a painting or a novel may have. The trick is making it work on both levels, so that it may satisfy a sweaty throng on a Saturday night who want nothing more than to connect with their animal nature, or a desperate loner on a Wednesday morning who seeks validation and understanding. It is the same trick we humans must play, balancing the cerebral and the carnal impulses that are forever at war within ourselves. Rock 'n' roll, at its best, will please both ape and ubermensch.
Each Titus Andronicus album seems to have a thematic through line. Do you find taking a thematic approach makes for an unwieldy creative experience, or does it lend a sense of structure?
During the songwriting process up to this point, it is not that I have purposefully catered the songs to adhere to the parameters of the project, but that the parameters of the project have been kept loose enough to allow for me to freely follow the muse. The moment of creation validates the work from birth — it would be foolish to reject something that feels right because it doesn't fit into some predetermined scheme. The particulars of the scheme are established much later, with the disparate pieces of work as evidence of the larger picture.
If anything, the larger concept of the rock opera offers me answers that can reached somewhat logically which I would not have at hand if trying to simply write three perfect minutes of rock. A three minute rock song as a completely blank canvas seems like a lot of freedom, but for me it can mean a lot of hand wringing, as one way to move forward is as empirically “good” as a million others — should I play G then C, or G then D? “Oh baby” then “yeah” or “yeah” then “oh baby?” Having even the vaguest of over-arching themes or goals eliminates a lot of guesswork sometimes.
As you've alluded to, you've said your next album will be a rock opera. How close will it stick to a proper narrative?
The rock opera we are working on now will follow a narrative across five acts, but it is more of an allegory or a fable rather than “This is the story of so and so who performs actions x, y, and z, and then this other one does this.” Our hero sings more about what it feels like in a succession of moments than a laundry list of events advancing the plot forward. If in one part of the story, our hero is sad, he sings about being sad. When he becomes happy, he sings of happiness. It is more a plot like that than, “...and then a thousand starfighters appeared and they all fired their lasers and yadda yadda.”
The rock opera you are working on was inspired by your own experiences with manic depression. Have friends and loved ones urged caution in the level of autobiography you put onto the album?
As far as the level of autobiography in the rock opera, the important people in my life know better than to advise me towards making art which is “safer.” I have told most of my secrets already in previous Titus Andronicus songs, which were all autobiographical, but the rock opera is a work of fiction and not autobiography. That is not to say that all the things which happen to our hero did not happen to me, but the hero of the rock opera is not necessarily me, and he should not be thought of as such, anymore than Hamlet is Shakespeare, not to compare myself.
Do you have a vision for what you'd like the Titus Andronicus canon to look like when you're done? Are you working from a playbook set forth at the beginning of the Titus Andronicus run?
I cannot claim that every movement of Titus Andronicus up to this point has been a piece of a larger, unified scheme. When I started the band, I was just a dumb kid doing whatever and making a mess. Now that I am an adult, and the person responsible for this body of work, even if the person who made it means as much now as a snake's last molted skin, it now falls on me to contextualize the things we have done in the past, reconcile them with the sort of artist I want to be now, and create work which will act as a sort of glue between what we have done, making connections between the pieces and trying to create a larger picture which will be more than the sum of its components.
In much the same way as I cater the structure of the rock opera to accommodate its disparate pieces, so too must the work we do now suggest a context which allows for that which has come before to coexist and reveal itself as part of a process of growth and development. With each new release, you come, hopefully, a step closer to achieving your artistic ideal, and as a more perfect realization is achieved, the seeds of it come to reveal itself in that which came before. The artist always has had a vision, but could never communicate it truly, could never liberate it from its cerebral prison, but can only present the best possible articulation of it at that time.
As the body of work grows, the artist is able to present a clearer and clearer vision of his or her or their ideal of artistic goodness, and the listener can take their own understanding of that ideal and bring it to the earlier work, more able to forgive youthful weakness of expression and see the essence, almost see into the mind of the artist. It is in the mind that the great work is done — all these artistic forms just faulty mirrors.
Paying dues as an opening act is par for course for most up-and-comers out to build a buzz. But singer-songwriter Meredith Sheldon, formerly of the Ben Taylor Band and Family of the Year, is paying her dues in style. She may be unsigned, but, as tour support for Johnny Marr (of Smiths fame), Meredith finds herself sharing an audience with a rock legend. (The tour comes to Mr. Small's Theatre tonight.) And it isn’t the first time. A few years back she was in the same position when Evan Dando brought her on tour with The Lemonheads. Sheldon is lucky by her own account, but the songwriting acumen she displays on her new self-released EP, A La Mar, makes plain that it wasn’t just luck that brought her to the precipice of opportunity. Brash and bright, A La Mar espouses a fake-it-till-you-make-it ethos that pays little heed to risk and much to reward. In this interview, she talks about catching breaks and capitalizing on the opportunities she was given.
As an unsigned artist how did you end up on tour supporting Johnny Marr and, before that, the Lemonheads?
I’ve been really fortunate in the people that have heard my music and supported me, taking me on tour and becoming great friends, as well. Evan Dando was a big supporter of my demos and got me to start playing live by taking me over to England, even though I had never played any of my solo material before. I met the Marrs’ on that tour as well, and they became amazing friends and supporters. Marina (of Marina and the Diamonds) had some of my demos from when I was 18 and had been offering to take me on tour for ages, so when that finally materialized it was really fun.
You're in the process of releasing series of self-recorded EPs. Do these span your entire career, do they represent your output since you embarked on the solo project, or are you still in the process of recording them?
The EPs are comprised of material I've been working on over the past couple of years. They are what I've made on my own, with some help from someone on drums occasionally and my wonderful friend Matthew Cullen, who mixes them. I am beginning a full length album as well, which will include many of these tracks. In the meantime, [I] just wanted to get out the songs I've made to make room for new ones.
Am I right in hearing "A La Mar" as Spanish for "To the Sea?" Does the ocean hold a particular significance to you? Where does it fit into your music?
I have always been at home by the sea, have always lived nearby and spent a lot of time next to it on the island of Martha's Vineyard where I now live in Massachusetts. Its very cleansing for me. It reminds me that energy is constantly moving and changing, and I always want to have that flow in my music (and in my life for that matter). Its easy to get hooked on things and want to keep doing them, but ultimately the greatest joy comes to me when I try things out of my comfort zone and find myself surprised by what comes out.
Brighten up your Monday with a new song from indie-folk band Butterbirds. Butterbirds makes music that they accurately describe as "squawky, demented, friend jams." This week's MP3, called "Double Fisting," is from the group's new album Sweet Little Honey Nothin' and features squawky vocals over feel-good folk-rock instrumentation. Stream the track below, and check out the rest of the album here. If you like what you hear, you can catch the band playing at Brillobox on Tuesday with BRONCHO.