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Friday, December 30, 2011

Margaret Welsh's top five favorite shows of 2011: Touring bands edition

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Editor's note: This weekend we'll be dropping some best-of considerations from CP music scribes. Here's some commentary on notable live shows from listings editor and Family Circus enthusiast Margaret Welsh!

1. Earth, June 18, Braddock Carnegie Library Theater

Between the all-female Assembly of Light Choir (on tour with sludgy duo the Body), spooky loopstress O Paon, and the current lineup of Earth, of which Dylan Carlson is the only dude, this was a night of great lady performances. Earth is slow, either wonderfully or painfully so, depending on who you ask. I, for one, didn’t much appreciate their slowness before seeing drummer Adrienne Davies in person, serving as the band’s measured heartbeat and hypnotic conductor. Carlson, all in black, resembled both Johnny Cash and the devil, and his sparsely constructed western doom riffs seemed to bathe the room in both good and evil (or, more fittingly, Darkness and Light). I’d speculate that this is what church services are like in purgatory (not least of all because, all together, this show went on for roughly five hours) but I doubt parishioners in purgatory are able to achive such levels of blissed-outedness.

2.Mumford’s, July 20, Howlers

After hearing this Iowa band’s somewhat regrettable name (I’m guessing they had it before Mumford and Sons hit it big), and seeing several of their seven members assembling various horns, I’ll never know what compelled me to stay for their set. Combining frantic ska, rap, Red Hot Chili Peppers-style funk-rock, and ex-Catholic angst, Mumford’s should, by all logic, be terrible. And yet, somehow, they were riveting. From the first few bars of their first song, my face remained plastered with a huge, confused grin.

This was almost entirely because of front man Nate Logsdon, who is built like a young Scott Hamilton and dresses in sweatpants, for maximum mobility. When he wasn’t playing trumpet and/or performed synchronized dance moves with the bass player, he let loose jam-packed lyrical tirades that make “Hard to Be a Saint in the City” look spare. The guy never stopped moving, and never seemed to stop for a breath, even after falling with the grace of a gymnast off of a rickety bar stool and into the minimal crowd. Amazingly, without having listened to them since, I still get a couple of their songs stuck in my head from time to time.


3. Devo, June 17, Stage AE

Many were perplexed by the large number of free tickets available for this show, and the cynical among us, who don’t value anything we get for free, braced for an awkward nostalgia act. Devo, however, did not disappoint. Old hits were played with due fervor and energy, as were the few songs they played from 2010’s Something For Everybody. There were costume changes, and political jokes and bouncy balls. Booji Boy made an appearance and everyone, it seemed — little kids, old punks, the super fans and the people who barely knew who Devo were — danced and laughed and had a great time.

4. Bill Callahan, July 8, Carnegie Museum of Art Sculpture Garden

The peaceful and secluded sculpture garden, the breezy summer weather, Mr. Callahan’s light blue seersucker suit, the slowly setting sun, the enthusiastic fan who stood up, stretching his arms up along with the lyrics, “You won’t get hurt if you just keep your hands up,”: there really was a whole lot to like about this show. Callahan’s set list included treats from the old Smog catalogue, as well as plenty from his latest record, Apocalypse, and he delivered each song with the gentlemanly elegance and class of a Grand Ol Opry star. Is it any wonder that all the indie-rock starlets fall in love with him?

5. Inquisition, December 15, Kopec’s

Love letters to Kopec’s, I could write a dozen of ‘em. And Dagon, one half the thrashy black metal duo Inquisition — and possibly the most gracious and friendly man to ever wear corpse paint — seems to agree. He was effusively grateful for the chance to play the tiny, living room - esque venue, the sort of underground place, he said, that Inquisition played in their early days. Following crushing and highly entertaining sets by Abysme and Brock Samson, respectively, Dagon opened with an invitation, as metalheads crowded around him: "Even if you don’t like black metal or anything to do with Satan, enjoy the music!"

Dagon founded the band in ‘88, recruiting the drummer, Incubus, in ’96, and the two still perform like true believers. Black metal is not a genre known for its warmth, but Inquisition sounded amazingly rich — at times even teetering on the edge of a weirdly danceable bluesy groove — and Dagon’s robotic Popeye vocals were sharp and creepy and hilarious and totally awesome.

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There's no pleasing some people

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Thought I'd share this feedback from a reader, who apparently wasn't impressed with our "Occupy Christmas" cover of a few weeks ago ... or with the Occupy movement itself. (It's worth noting that, like so many of the letters I get here, this came in an envelope addressed in a shaky hand, with no return address.) It raises some questions to be sure. Like: Do Occupiers REALLY shop at J. Jill?

On a related subject, did ANYONE catch that the little poem that went with this image was to the tune of "Away in a Manger"? Oh well. Happy New Year, all.

coverfeedback.jpg

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Stagehands Union to Protest at First Night

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Earlier today, I talked with Pittsburgh Cultural Trust CEO and President Kevin McMahon, who says he remains optimistic that the Trust will reach a settlement with members of IATSE Local No. 3 before New Year's Eve, and avoid a First Night protest. The two parties have been in talks for days, and "Those conversations are continuing," McMahon told me. "I like to be optimistic about these things."

But McMahon didn't seem aware of an IATSE press release (which hit my in-box at 1:20 a.m. today). The release branded as "lip service" a Dec. 16 statement by McMahon expressing hopes for "a long-term mutually agreeable solution to the issues" between the union and the Trust. And it indicated that the 400-member union will "banner" the Dec. 31 community event, meaning members will carry signs and hand out leaflets to the 35,000 or more visitors expected Downtown.

Continue reading »

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New Year's Eve Eve and New Year's Eve Goings-Ons

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Just look at this fuckin guy!
  • Freddy the Yeti, from today's Abominable Snow Jam

Hey all! Here's your rundown of notable local musical things going on this New Year's weekend. See good music and stay safe!

Tonight (Friday):

— Identity X presents its annual Abominable Snow Jam at Altar Bar; it kicks off early at 5 p.m. and features My Greater Sky, Curse Icon, The New Era and Doomsday Initiative in addition to the headliners. And there's a promise that Freddy the Yeti (pictured at left) will be present.
— Spinster and CP cover model Elliott Sussman at Lili Coffee Shop, supposedly starts at 7:30?
— Two shows at Smiling Moose tonight — The Beauregards (whom I reviewed this week) at 6:30 and German Shepherd and Onodrim, 10 p.m.
Bear Cub headlines at Thunderbird Cafe, with Gypsy and His Band of Ghosts and City Dwelling Nature Seekers opening.
— It's a two-or-below show at Howlers tonight, where When Particles Collide, The Lopez, Dan Koshute and Action Camp all play. 9 p.m.-ish.
Black Coffee plays at Club Cafe, late show, 10 p.m.
— Bropocalypse Now! dance party and drag show with Sharon Needles and Alaska Thunderfvck, Brillobox, 10 p.m.

Tomorrow (the_REAL_NewYearsEve):

— The Cheats headline at the 31st St. Pub for a punk rock New Year's.
— Guitar Zack & the Daves play with The Armadillos at Howlers.
— Backstabbing Good People play Thunderbird Cafe.
— Code Whiskey takes care of business at Smiling Moose.
— Brillobox is manned by DJs Keeb$, Cutups, Cucitroa, Dizcrepnnc and James Gyre.
— Shadow Lounge and AVA team up for a Title Town Soul and Funk Party New Year's with Kwest_ON spinning in the AVA part of the building.
— Down n Derby goes down at Belvedere's; don't break a hip as the ball drops!
— APPARENTLY BIZ MARKIE IS DJING AT SAVOY?!

Did I miss your event? Add it in the comments! Be safe this weekend! FYI, AAA's Tipsy Tow program is NOT offered by the local chapter of the organization, so don't rely on that. Call a cab, have a designated driver, wear your walking shoes, etc. etc.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Santorum comes from behind!

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 4:12 PM

All right, I confess: I just wrote that headline because it's a sophomoric riff on the alternative definition of Santorum. And in fact, I stole it from a comment posted on one of the zillion other online posts -- including some made locally -- expressing surprise and dismay that Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum is polling well in Iowa. He may even finish third.

Already, Santorum is being taken seriously enough to be drawing fire from fellow Republicans like Rick Perry.

Lefties too are drawing a bead on Santorum, reminding us of his knuckle-dragging views on gay rights, sexual privacy, and a raft of other social issues.

I can't say this uptick in popularity comes as a huge shock.

Continue reading »

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Chaibaba releases first video

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 11:08 AM

Chaibaba has been around a few years, and chances are you've seen members playing with another band here or there (German Shepherd, Machete, etc.). Yesterday the proggy/jammy rockers released their first video, which is beautiful and features bicycling, fire-spinning, parkour and a ton of peanut butter-and-jelly-eating. Also a few Pittsburgh music-scene cameos. Take a gander:

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tension continues between stagehands union and First Night organizers

Posted By on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Last week, I.A.T.S.E. Local No. 3 announced that it would "banner" the First Night celebration to protest the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's use of outside labor for the event. But the union's business agent, Robert Brown, told City Paper this morning that he's hopeful the Trust and the union can come to an agreement and avoid a protest.

"Hopefully, First Night is a wonderful event and we're not forced to take any action at all," Brown said. He declined to comment further on what he characterized as continuing talks between the 400-member union and the Cultural Trust, which runs First Night.

The union and the Trust have a relationship that goes back to the Trust's inception, in 1986. The current dispute dates to 2003, when the Trust took over First Night, the Downtown community New Year's Eve celebration encompassing events on the street and in dozens of galleries, theaters and other venues.

The Trust employs I.A.T.S.E. members throughout the year at such venues at the Byham Theater and the Benedum Center. But while union members also staff those theaters during First Night, the Trust has continued the First Night practice of hiring outside, nonunion workers to staff outdoor venues, like the mainstage located at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street.

Last week, Trust CEO and President Kevin McMahon told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was concerned that using union stagehands would have a negative effect on First Night's finances. But according both to the paper and a blog post by an informed observer, the pay scale does not appear to be the only issue.

The Trust pays $20.50 an hour for the nonunion First Night workers, slightly less than I.A.T.S.E. workers make. The union agreed to work the event for that scale, but the dispute continues. The trust and the union have also discussed whether the union would get "jurisdiction" for other Trust-organized events, such as the mostly outdoor Three Rivers Arts Festival.

The impasse has even resulted in an early-December meeting between the two parties in the office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

I.A.T.S.E. officials have contended that as an event that receives taxpayer funding, First Night should provide workers the prevailing wages, benefits and conditions. According to the web site of the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, First Night received grants totaling $125,000 for this year's event.

(Correction (Added Dec. 30): The $125,000 in DCED funding for "First Night 2011," as listed on that agency's web site, was actually awarded for the December 2010 First Night (though the funding wasn't issued until 2011). This year's First Night received no government funding of any kind, says Trust CEO and President Kevin McMahon.)

The Trust also receives considerable funding from local taxpayers. Between 1995 and 2011, the Trust was awarded $9.6 million in funding from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, which administers proceeds of a 1 percent sales tax. (RAD funding, which cannot be used for festivals, was not used for First Night. But among arts and culture organizations, only the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has received more overall support than the Trust.)

The Cultural Trust is one of Downtown's largest property owners, with properties including the Byham, the Benedum, the O'Reilly Theater (home of Pittsburgh Public Theater), Wood Street and SPACE galleries and numerous other small gallery and theater spaces. It is also a programmer, presenting series including PNC Broadway Across America, the Pittsburgh Dance Council, and the Pittsburgh International Children's Theater and Festival.

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New video: Dethlehem

Posted By on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 4:24 PM

And now, presented without comment, for your viewing pleasure, or whatever emotion you might associate with watching it: a brand new video from CP readers' favorite metal band, Dethlehem.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

MP3 Monday: Action Camp

Posted By on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 10:23 AM

Action Camp

Happy Boxing Day!

Today we bring you a new MP3 from local duo Action Camp. Last week, we ran a review of their new EP, Better Made Fast; today, you can stream and download the leadoff track, "Seven Days." Go for it!

[[[Download link expired, sorry!]]]

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Weekend notes!

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 2:21 PM

This is where I'd usually tell you what all is going on this weekend, music-wise. But there's not a ton going on tomorrow, being Christmas Eve. Tonight you've got your choice of a few shows, many highlighted in this week's paper — The Long Time Darlings at Frankie & Georgie's; all the things I critic-picked basically.

Also, keep in mind that if you missed this year's WYEP Holiday Hootenanny, like I did, you can catch the whole thing on Christmas Eve AND Christmas on the radio station. It'll air at noon tomorrow and again at 5 p.m. on Sunday on 91.3 FM.

Happy holidays!

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