Thursday, January 30, 2014

Courtney Noelle mixtape release party at Enigma Lounge

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Courtney Noelle
  • Courtney Noelle

Pittsburgh's own Courtney Noelle is the first lady of the independent label Taylor Gang, founded by local rap star Wiz Khalifa. Noelle, who has been singing since she was 6, has finally found her home with the label. Noelle has been on tour with fellow Taylor Gang artists Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J on Khalifa's Under the Influence tour, which stopped in Pittsburgh this past summer.

The singer/songwriter is having a party to celebrate the release of her latest mixtape, Love On The Run. The party will be held this Fri., Jan. 31, at the Enigma Lounge, at 130 7th Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The doors will open at 9:00 p.m. Proceeds for the party will go to the Young Women's Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation and the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chamber Music Society names new executive director

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 5:15 PM

The Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society named a new executive director today. Kristen Linfante comes to PCMS from Apollo Fire - The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, but is already a Pittsburgh-area resident, and serves on the board of commissioners in Mount Lebanon. She is a violist herself in addition to having arts-management experience.

The PCMS, which has been around for over 50 years, has its next concert Mon., Feb. 3, which is also the day Linfante takes the help of the group. The concert features pianist Peter Serkin, and takes place at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland.

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New Jasiri X video "Checkpoint" based on trip to Middle East

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 11:07 AM

This week's paper (hitting stands today) contains my feature on R.A.R.E. Nation teaming up with Jasiri X and 1Hood to bring a series of shows and talks by hip-hop figures to town. On Feb. 6, the collaborative's first event will be a talk with hip-hop producer and artist 9th Wonder and Jasiri X. Just the other day, Jasiri dropped a new video, based on his recent trip to Israel/Palestine. Here's what Jasiri has to say about "Checkpoint," below:

I was recently blessed to be a part of a delegation of artists and activists, including Dream Hampton, Ferrari Sheppard, Remi Kanazi, Professor Robyn Spencer, and Bill Fletcher Jr., that traveled to Palestine and Israel. I honestly was not prepared for the level of oppression, discrimination, and racism I witnessed against Palestinians and African refugees.

My new video "Checkpoint" is based on the occupation and colonialism I saw firsthand. "Checkpoint" is produced by Agent of Change, and directed by Haute Muslim.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review: Pixies at Carnegie Music Hall, Jan. 25

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 12:30 PM

PIxies at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland

Over the course of the past year, the Pixies went from Kim Deal to Kim Shattuck, but then pretty quickly replaced the Kim trend with Paz Lenchantin, formerly of A Perfect Circle, among other projects. Some die-hard Pixies fans got their panties in a bunch over the loss of the OG Kim and then the band went and replaced her replacement anyway. So, the question now is, can the Pixies forget about Kims and move on with all the raging rockness that they had in the ’80s and ’90s? Apparently some say no. But those were likely the people who just couldn’t afford a ticket.

Those naysayers can be damned because the Pixies plus Paz actually rocked the crowd’s collective face off on Saturday night at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. With a robust 27-song set and a hearty 4-song encore, Black Francis crooned and belted to a crowd of aging hipsters. Apologies if that’s not the right word for them, but what else do you call people with style, good taste in music, a few gray hairs and a penchant for craft brews?

From the opener of “Bone Machine” all the way to their passionately, well-done cover of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Head On,” Lenchantin proved that she belonged on stage with the guys, and the Pixies proved that they can still rock as hard as they did in ’86.

They tried to tease the crowd a bit at the end, as if they weren’t going to play an encore. Which, why wouldn’t they? — is what most everyone in the concert hall was thinking. After much continuous applause and some second and third tier stomping, the band reformed in front of the flashing light backdrop that made Carnegie Music Hall feel way more epic than it probably ever has, and they proceeded to play to their adoring fans who knew all the lyrics. They played “Wave of Mutilation” a second time (the first time it was the UK surf version, in case you were there and you know their discography that well). And then they closed, quite perfectly in fact, with “Where is My Mind?”

With the entirety of the Carnegie Music Hall on their feet, the Pixies took a bow and exited leaving no doubt that they still got it.

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John Gorka at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Folk singer John Gorka is bringing his show to Pittsburgh next Thursday, Jan. 30.

With an almost three-decade career, Gorka knows something about longevity. His style is folk with a country storytelling flare. Most of his songs are about love, but also about his experiences in life, which can be relatable for a working-class city like Pittsburgh.

If folk is your thing, check out John Gorka tonight at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts: 7:30p.m. Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. 6300 5th Ave. Pittsburgh. $28, or $12 with student ID. 412-394-3353 or


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Friday night Moot Davis show cancelled

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Moot Davis
  • Moot Davis

The Pittsburgh debut of New Jersey-based honky tonk artist Moot Davis is going to have to wait a couple of weeks. The show scheduled for tomorrow night at the Dead Horse Cantina and Music Hall in McKees Rocks has been cancelled.

As City Paper reported in this week’s issue, Davis was beginning and ending a month-long tour to Texas and back in the area. However, Davis tells CP that the venue called and cancelled the show on Wednesday.

But not to worry, Davis will stop back in the area on his return to the Garden State with a Feb. 15 show at Moondog’s in Blawnox (378 Freeport Road).

Davis says the cancellation sent him scrambling for a replacement venue and he will now be playing at 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Purple Cow Lounge in Morgantown, WV.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MP3 Monday: Marcus Meston

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Marcus Meston
  • Marcus Meston

This week's MP3 comes from Marcus Meston, who's done a lot for being such a young whipper-snapper. The Ohio University student and Pittsburgh native has three EPs to his name, with another one planned for this summer. (He also alludes to some exciting news that's coming in the next month, but won't let on.) For now, he's got a single, "Fading In and Out," that's new and deserves a listen. Stream and enjoy, and have a good rest of your Monday!

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter JazzFest NYC recap

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 10:28 AM

“Over 90 artists on 10 stages,” the program claims, and they weren’t kidding. “They” in this case were the organizers of Winter JazzFest, a five-day festival in New York which marked its 10th anniversary last week. The lineup was mind-boggling, going from the more traditional and straight ahead to a plethora of acts that push the envelope in ways that abandoned tradition like an L subway train heading to Brooklyn.

To a Pittsburgh jazz enthusiast, the constant club hopping can be exhilarating. It also brings with it a feeling of envy. Why doesn’t guitarist Nels Cline bring his non-Wilco projects here? Would drummer Ches Smith draw an audience in Pittsburgh for his trio with violist Mat Maneri and ECM pianist Craig Taborn?

When Mary Halvorson came to Pittsburgh in 2008, she was a member of Anthony Braxton’s ensemble with just a few releases to her own name. Today the guitarist has three critically lauded albums with her own group, which has grown incrementally from a trio to a septet. Getting this group together is a major undertaking, since every member is a leader in their own right. Two of them were coming to their Judson Church performance from other gigs too. (Ches Smith left immediately after for a set at another club.) While the high-ceiling church made for cavernous wash of sounds, sitting in the upper balcony provided sonic clarity. Halvorson, sitting with her hollow-body guitar held close, blended gentle melodies with full-on skronk, bent notes and the occasional power chord, most notably in the new, unofficially titled "#49."

German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann followed the Halvorson group. Known for his gale-force exhortations on tenor and clarinet, his performance had more dynamic range thanks to his co-horts. Drummer Hamid Drake has been a longtime Brötzmann bandmate, but Chicago vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz is relatively new. His combination of dreamy sustain and visceral pummeling (his four mallets made his look like a puppeteer as his maneuvered over his instrument) gave the 45-minute set some contour that made sure it was more than free blowing.

Later that night at the Bitter End, trumpeter Ben Holmes lead a quartet that kept things in a more melodic territory, still offering plenty of energy, especially from drummer Vinnie Sperazza and bassist Matt Pavolka. As the evening got later, Thiefs took the stage for a set that combined trance, r&b and free moments. Drummer Guillermo H. Brown (who once played with the late free saxophonist David S. Ware) used triggers and a trap kit, while saxophonist Christophe Panzani ran his horn through effects that rivaled Halvorson’s set and bassist Keith Witty held down the steady riffs. While the band’s energy was infectious, a chord change or a little more brevity would have helped.

By Saturday evening, the Polar Vortex was a distant memory, with a steady rain being the only connection to it. Subculture, true to its name a basement venue that resembles a theater space more than a jazz venue, offered one of the choice spots of the evening. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society is an 18-piece ensemble exploiting rich sonorities of brass and reeds, using it for thoughtful compositions that still maintain a jazz edge. The blues are still at arm’s length and soloists like trumpeter Ingrid Jensen add to it.

Trumpeter Ralph Alessi already several albums to his credit as a leader before ECM released his exquisite Baida album last year. His set, which drew from the album, was marked by the ability to create suspense at low volume. "In-flight Entertainment" seemed to build to a climax, only to reshape itself into something else — and the band did that twice in the tune. At the end of the set, right when everything seemed to point to a final crash, the quartet stopped and Alessi emitted some tiny notes, saying more than he would have had he just wailed.

An eight-block run seems necessary if there’s a chance to catch visionary composer/reedist Henry Threadgill. Tonight he served as conductor in for an extended piece titled "Old Locks and Irregular Verbs," dedicated to the late Lawrence "Butch" Morris, who pioneered the art of conduction, a combination of improvisation and conducting. Like much of Threadgill’s work "Old Locks" was dense, with alto saxophone solos swirling over accompaniment of tuba, cello and two pianos (Jason Moran and David Virelles). Yet when Threadgill’s raised hands lead to a high-pitched climax, everything that lead up to it made sense.

In the mid-‘90s, saxophonist Tim Berne visited Pittsburgh on a few occasions, most notably with his high-energy quartet Bloodcount. These days, he is also part of the ECM roster, in the band Snake Oil with pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega and, once again, drummer Ches Smith, who was probably the busiest player in the festival. Berne’s latest has a similar melodic range to his earlier work, though things don’t always get as frenzied. Back at Subculture (yes, I ran back after Threadgill), the group was firing on all cylinders. Berne, the master of wry introductions, announced that his first four pieces were all different named “Lame” with a different “part” to their title, and judging from the similar beginning of each one, it made sense. But what really matters with Snake Oil is what happens after things take off, and whether Smith is incorporating gongs and woodblocks, Mitchell is hammering or caressing the keys or if Noreiga plays bass clarinet or standard B-flat. All of the above happened in their set.

Along with jazz-inspired poet Amiri Baraka, the world also lost trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr. last week when he died suddenly. (Cause of death has not been released at press time.) A gifted, versatile musician, he played with several of the performers at Winter JazzFest. Guitarist Marc Ribot dedicated his set with the band Ceramic Dog to him late Saturday night back at Judson. With Halvorson providing a foil for Ribot — who could really handle things well on his own — the quartet shredded for 45 minutes going from spaghetti western music to, believe it or not, indie rock. Some of it veered dangerously close to jam rock, but Ribot never fell into that abyss.

Pianist Matthew Shipp, no stranger to Pittsburgh avant jazz fans, was a close associate of Campbell, and he too dedicated his set to his friend. Perhaps knowing that paints my impression of Shipp’s set, but there were moments when it felt like the pianist was expressing his grief and love through music, brutally pounding on the keys creating his trademark thunder, moving on to gentle melodies. Tired as I was at the trio’s 2:00 am finish, the heavy closing notes of Michael Bisio’s bowed bass and Shipp’s piano proved to be perfect ending of a tremendous weekend.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lovebettie looking to get a gig at the Grammys with your help

Posted By on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 4:22 PM

We've written a few times before about Lovebettie, the local rock band whose second record, Rise, came out last spring.

If you dig the band — or just want to get a little bit of Pittsburgh into the Grammy awards this year — they could use your help. The band is one of 40 finalists up for a possible performance slot at the Grammys, chosen by a judging panel that includes Fall Out Boy, Austin Mahone and Emeli Sande. Until Friday, you have the chance to vote for the band to be the winner.

The contest site is here; Lovebettie's page is here. You can vote up to 50 times, or just put all your chips in at once and choose to cast all 50 votes at once.

We'll let you know if they win!

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Monday, January 6, 2014

MP3 Monday: Them Labs

Posted By on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 3:40 PM

Them Labs
  • Them Labs

Howdy! Welcome to the first MP3 Monday of 2014.

This week's band is Them Labs, the two-man project of Seth Pfannenschmidt (who, in the interest of full disclosure, occasionally contributes words to the music section) and drummer Joe Perkins, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. The track actually comes from an older album they recorded in Columbus, but as they prepare to record their next one, they offer it up to Pittsburgh, since they're relatively new here. Stream "It Comes From Me" below!

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