Tribute bands are pretty bizarre. Sure, it’s fun to see a band play songs you already know word for word, and it’s fun for bands to play those songs. But what motivates a group of musicians to move from playing covers to actively attempting to disappear into another band?
I was already pondering these questions when I walked into Altar Bar last Friday. There, members of Anti-Flag and White Wives — performing as Green Day — were opening for Pittsburgh’s very own Rage Against the Machine tribute band, RATM2. (The Catastrophe started the show with a collection of pop punk covers, which I missed.)
With “Green Day,” I had pretty good idea of what to expect. They were playing Dookie in its entirety, an album almost everyone of a certain age has owned at some point. They played it well and clearly had a good time doing it; the crowd seemed, more or less, to have a blast.
RATM2 ramped things up with audio of President Obama vowing to close Guantanamo Bay. My plus-one, a self-described “#1 Rage-head,” grinned at me. Could it be that these guys were … true believers? Then they launched into “Testify,” and it was … pretty good. Not bad at all, actually. The band was solid, and what Fake Zack de la Rocha lacked in funk, he made up for in charisma. I was quickly charmed. And then he started talking.
The first major offense was when Fake ZDLR held up an iPhone to take a picture of the audience, saying “One ... two ... three … make some noise for the Internet, yall!” My friend gasped: “Zack would NEVER say that!” And it IS hard to imagine the real ZDLR posting photos of his fans — or of anything — on the Internet. Fake Zack, you’re playing right into the NSA’s hands!
But the real jaw-dropper came when Fake ZDLR, after inexplicably comparing the pit to Sochi, segued into the topic of Pussy Riot. “Those bitches are fucking hardcore!” he proclaimed before — from what I could garner (it was hard to hear) — he began to make fun of the un-listenability of their music. Calling women bitches? Showing less than total solidarity with Pussy Riot? COME ON GUYS.
Which (sort of) brings me back to my original question: RATM was hugely popular, and many, many of their fans were (and are) indifferent or hostile to leftist politics. (Sup, Paul Ryan?) And, really, I’d be happy to listen to any band that can play a committed and passable rendition of “Bombtrack.” The best moments of the evening reminded me how great those songs are, and how much fun it is to hear them played really loudly.
But if you’re even going to touch the political stuff — which is such an integral (if sometimes cheesy and mock-able) part of the real band — why not commit to that as well? It’s hard to imagine why or how one could memorize all of those lyrics without internalizing more than “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” But then again, can anyone in the year 2014 really take anything as seriously as Rage Against the Machine did? Could anyone in 2000? RATM2 may not be Rage we want, but it’s probably the Rage we deserve.
Kids can make moves on the music scene too; The Soundwaves Steelband is proving that. They are the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater's premier youth steelpan music ensemble. The ensemble is made up of students from Pittsburgh's Obama Academy of International Studies, Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School (CAPA), Pittsburgh Urban Christian School, and St. Edmund's Academy. The ensemble has been performing together for two years. On Friday, February 28th, they will be playing a show at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater as part of a Pay-What-You-Can FAMILYtime event. For more information on this event check out the Kelly Strayhorn's website
Rock band Hero Jr. brings back the sound of '70s rock into their music and it works. They sound a lot different than most rock bands these days. They recently released an EP called Tower 18 and the impressive part about this release is that the three tracks were recorded live in their living room. The band made this EP in response to their fans who wanted the raw sound that they bring to their shows. The group plans on releasing a new album in the summer. The Indiana 4 piece rock band will be performing in New Brighton at Wooley Bully's on Wed., Feb. 26th. The show starts at 9 p.m. For more information visit Wooley Bully's Facebook page or Hero Jr.'s website.
Here's one I only just now caught wind of: lo-fi-turned-regular-fi indie-folk heroes The Mountain Goats will play this Friday night at the Rangos Ballroom in the University Center at Carnegie Mellon. Local regular-fi indie-pop heroes Donora open the show, and lots of heroes of different varieties will surely be in attendance.
As often is the case with CMU shows, it's free for CMU students, but $10 for non-students. You can't get presale; tickets will go on sale outside of the ballroom at 7:30 the evening of the show, so maybe camp out there or whatever.
More info on the event's Facebook page.
A couple of years ago, I profiled East Liberty Quarters, a local electro-funk band made up of a who's who of Pittsburgh DJs and hip-hop producers. Since then, one of them, Buscrates (a.k.a. Orlando Marshall) picked up and moved to Atlanta. Last week, Buscrates was hit by a car while riding his bike; his health insurance was not set to kick in until spring, so, while he's going to be OK, he's left with some medical bills — after all, he's got a broken vertebrae.
That's where Pittsburgher Michelle LeMenager stepped in, and you can too: LeMenager, a longtime participant in the arts and music scenes here, set up a FundRazr crowdfunding project to help Buscrates pay his bills. The goal is $10,000; as of this posting, the total donated is just above $2,500.
If you've been touched by Buscrates' music over the years (and if you're involved in hip hop in Pittsburgh, you have been), you might want to throw a few dollars his way during this time of need!
This week's MP3 Monday comes from a local band called Charm & Chain. The band has a rock/funk vibe to their music. The band has plans on releasing a new EP and will be playing at Club Café on March 15th. The song that we're featuring from them is called "Stonekeep". It is available for streaming below.
This week's MP3 Monday comes from a local folk-inflected indie band called Influx. Influx recently released its first EP, "Latency"; The song we're featureing, from that EP, is "Scumnegie." It's available for streaming below.