An Art Institute of Pittsburgh student wants to unite student photographers across the city.
There's no shortage of aspiring photographic artists and photojournalists in Pittsburgh, especially not on college campuses. But despite the abundance of student-run media clubs, opportunities for young photographers to network across schools remain scarce, says Richard Woodson, a senior graphic design major at the Art Institute.
"There are tons of schools down here," says Woodson (pictured). "Pittsburgh isn't large to the point where having all these people united is just unfathomable."
To remedy this lack of a citywide community, Woodson created a Flickr page and a Facebook page for his newly formed Student Photo Group of Pittsburgh, an organization open to photographers from any school.
With luck, he says, it will attract members from smaller on-campus groups, as well as others who, like him, don't enjoy brief, informal meetings.
"I was the person who wasn't interested in those small groups," he says. "I don't want to meet with people for 10 minutes and talk about our pictures and go."
Although Woodson hasn't yet established any meeting dates, he plans on using the club to organize activities as diverse as photo walks, gallery showings, print trades, picnics — even the publication of a blog and an online zine. And while his own passion is black-and-white film photography, Woodson is recruiting people from across all genres and practices.
"I spend about five hours each day scouring the Internet for these kids that I know are photographers and that are in college here in Pittsburgh," he says. "They have Tumblr accounts, they have blogs, they have Flickr accounts, they have Facebook pages. You don't make that if you're not trying to reach out to somebody."
Although Woodson will graduate next summer, he hopes the group — which currently boasts 13 members — will continue to grow in his absence.
"I'm just hoping this is something that lasts after I'm gone," he says. "I can definitely see it expanding beyond students."
Brooklyn electro-indie band Yeasayer will kick off a tour tonight in Pittsburgh to celebrate the release of the band's new album Fragrant World. The album, issued by Secretly Canadian and Odd Blood, will hit stores on August 20th.
Fragrant World presents Yeasayer's unique take on electronica melded with pop sensibilities and indie rock structure. The album's first two singles, "Longevity" and "Henrietta" are laced with quirky synth lines, driving bass and thumping drum samples. "Henrietta" also features a lengthy ambient passage, sending basic keyboard progressions floating into the atmosphere, eventually met by heavily distorted and vocoded vocals. Check out official vignettes for "Longevity" and "Henrietta" below.
The rest of the album follows the same formula: synth-heavy and atmospheric pop music begging comparisons to Daft Punk and MGMT. Despite not deviating much from this sound, Yeasayer manages to create an interesting and cohesive album that will keep your attention front to back. Check them out at Mr. Small's tonight with Daedelus. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is $20 to get in.
As I approached Altar Bar on Friday July 27th, I didn't quite know what to expect out of my evening; I'm sure I wasn't the only one. Standing in line, it seemed that everyone was waiting for a normal, run of the mill show. While it had all the markings of a standard night at Altar Bar, by the end of the night Punchline seemed to set the bar high for set length.
Taking the stage around 8:30, Punchline wasted no time kicking into its first set. Loaded with fan-favorite songs such as "Don't Try This At Home", "Stop", and the ironic selection "Just Getting Started", the set was a 45-minute onslaught of the band's signature energy. There were minimal stops to talk to the crowd, as the band was saving the inevitable thank-you speeches and stories of being a band for 15 years. The only downside was that the crowd took a long time to get warmed up and show any enthusiasm.
After a 20-minute intermission, Punchline took the stage for the second set. While the chill factor was raised for this set, it was also kept interesting by special guest appearances by former drummer PJ Caruso, former guitarist Jon Belan, and long-time collaborating producer Mike Ofca. Primary vocalist Steve Soboslai commented before playing the band's song "Keystoned" that the song was in the running for Belle Vernon High School's class song of 2012, but was beaten by "some country song". After running through another 13 songs, the band took an additional intermission before its final set.
By the time Punchline took the stage for its final set of the evening, everyone was loosened up and finally into the music, dancing and singing along. Opening with the essential Punchline song "Play", the band launched into the final 11 songs of the evening. Soboslai mentioned that the final set would be easy on the band, as they have played these songs "a million times". With a broad selection of songs from the band's catalog from 2000 to the present, Punchline delivered a set that was not to be matched to end the evening. Expressing gratitude to everyone that attended the show, watched it live on the internet via StageIt, and supported the band through the last 15 years, the band ended the night with the loosely themed match-up of "Universe" and "A Universal Theme".
Officers in the Jordan Miles civil suit suffered a setback in federal court today, when a witness called by the defense repeatedly declined to shore up its case.
During Miles' testimony last week, defense attorney Jim Wymard asked him if he ever told Ryan Allen, a former high school friend, that he'd been carrying Mountain Dew back in January 2010, when he encountered Pittsburgh police officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak. Police have contended that they mistook the bottle for a gun; during the resulting encounter, Miles claims to have been beaten by officers -- who he says didn't identify themselves.
On the stand last week, Miles testified that he didn't have a bottle, and that he never told Allen any such thing. This morning, Allen pretty much agreed.
Allen was called to testify by the officers regarding a statement he made to the FBI in February 2011; according to a report made during that investigation, Allen said that Miles told him that he had a bottle. But on Monday morning, Allen repeatedly told Wymard that he didn't remember saying that to the FBI -- and that he didn't recall Miles ever saying that to him.
"I don't remember telling [Special Agent Sonia Bush] that," Allen testified. Wymard appeared frustrated by Allen's response and began asking the same questions in different ways, but Allen continued to say he didn't remember. Wymard insinuated that Allen didn't want to testify to what he heard Miles say because he didn't want to hurt Miles' case.
"I'm not here to hurt or harm," Allen said. "I'm not picking sides."
During cross-examination, Miles attorney Tim O'Brien gave Allen another chance to defend his story: "There is a suggestion here that you would lie to help Jordan."
"I'm trying to give you what I remember," Allen replied.
Allen's testimony comes as a blow to the defense. No Mountain Dew bottle was taken into evidence -- police say they tossed it away at the scene -- and Allen was an independent witness corroborating the officers' version of events. Wymard has mentioned Allen several times throughout the trial, intimating to jurors that he would back up the officers' claims.
Earlier this morning, the defense called Patricia Colman and her son A-Ron Roberts. The pair live in the house next to where Miles' incident with police took place. They both testified that the morning after the event, they found the bushes on the property broken down, and there was blood on the ground and hair in the bushes. The officers claim Miles sustained a lot of his injuries when he was tackled through hedges. Miles says that did not happen.
On cross-examination, though, Miles' attorney introduced a photo that showed there were additional strands of Miles' hair laying on the ground. The officers also claim that Miles was sneaking around a house late at night giving them suspicion that he was up to something. Miles says he was walking down the middle of the street.
Defense attorneys have applied that Miles could have been cutting between the houses to take a shortcut to his grandmother's house on the next street over. But Roberts testified that it was impossible to do that because of a fence and over-grown trees.
Testimony will continue this afternoon.
Tags: Slag Heap
Georgia singer-songwriter Meiko is set to play at Club Cafe this Wednesday, August 1st. She is hitting the road in support of her newest album The Bright Side, released this past May by Fantasy Records. The Bright Side has been a critical success, reaching as high as number four on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Meiko has recently opened for Death Cab For Cutie and also made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, performing the single "Leave The Lights On".
More information on Meiko's performance can be found on Club Cafe's website.
This week's MP3 Monday comes from Braddock hardcore outfit Blood Red. The band features current and former members of Hounds of Hate, Code Orange Kids, Run Forever, Pissed Jeans, and plenty more. Blood Red's EP, Seize You, will receive an elaborate vinyl treatment: the album is pressed on a one-sided 12-inch with a screen-printed b-side, with hand-numbered die-cut covers, and will include a poster and lyrics sheet.
The band will be playing Kopec's tonight along with Stripmines, Raw Nerves and Mower. Seize You's official release show is this Friday, August 3rd, at the Mr. Roboto Project with Host, Caust, and Ratface. The release show also features the opening of a collaborative art exhibit at Roboto featuring Blood Red bassist Cassie Staub and Girlfight vocalist Dave Watt.
Check out "Shed The Shackles" below.
[Download link expired, sorry!]
The East Liberty art project that's a restaurant and a talk show bakes its last waffle tomorrow night.
Carnegie Mellon art professor Jon Rubin says it's simply time to shut down the venue he co-founded in 2008. "Creatively, the shop's kind of run its course. It's kind of less unexpected than it was," Rubin says.
The venue at 124 S. Highland Ave. will bow out with appropriate hoopla, however: Saturday night's "Cavalcade of Stars" is open to any of the 7,000 or so people who Rubin estimates have taken the Shop's stage.
That'll happen from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., the shop's signature late-night hours. Or you can come earlier, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., for the popular brunch.
Waffle Shop began as one in a series of boundary-defying public-art projects Rubin undertook with students in the mid-'00s. Many were storefronts with conceptual premises (like a travel agency for imaginary journeys). The idea was to blur the line between commerce, art and social interaction, expanding the definitions of all three.
Waffle Shop is the one that stuck. The joint was a functioning diner, specializing in waffles and coffee. But its stage hosted talk shows that welcomed everyone from local performance artists to everyday people. (You can find video at www.waffleshop.org.)
It probably didn't hurt that Waffle Shop is in the heart of East Liberty's resurgent restaurant and nightlife area, and right around the corner from Shadow Lounge.
Still, says Rubin, Waffle Shop showed "how you could use food as a way of creating audience [and] how food created this great space for talking about politics" and other issues. "It created a site of comfort in public."
Anyone, after all, could wander in for waffles and end up watching an interview with a local artist, a discussion about unemployment or a cooking show, or participating in a Skype discussion with Iranian filmmakers.
Waffle Shop was originally open only on Friday and Saturday nights; the brunch came later. Rubin says that in addition to formal guests, in its four years Waffle Shop hosted between 20,000 and 30,000 people.
"I couldn't have foreseen that, that people would remain interested in participating in what we were doing," he says.
One performer active at Waffle Shop was Gab Bonesso. In February, the comic staged an "anti-talk show." She played a "childlike adult" living with her parents, whose program was co-hosted by her imaginary friends (as portrayed in the flesh by local actors). "It was everything I ever wanted to do onstage," says Bonesso.
She also hosted somewhat more conventional programs, including a show in which she interviewed children about being bullied.
Bonesso appreciated Waffle Shop as a venue.
"Because of Jon Rubin being so well versed in art, it lets you have zero boundaries," she says. "Literally anything can happen at the Waffle Shop."
"I don't think we have anything like it in Pittsburgh, and I'm sad to see it go," she adds.
Although Waffle Shop had the support of East Liberty Development Inc., building-owner Eve Picker and others, Rubin acknowledges that the project could be a financial strain. The space was rented. "It's a tough go running a restaurant, let alone running a restaurant and a talk show," he says.
To help defray the cost, Rubin says, Waffle Shop will be selling off its distinctive sign, tables and chairs — even the stage.
But Rubin says the main reason for closing the shop is that a sister venture in the same building, Conflict Kitchen, is taking more of his attention. Conflict Kitchen is a take-out window serving a rotating array of street food from countries the U.S. is at odds with, like Iran and Afghanistan. Plans to move Conflict Kitchen Downtown took precedence over continuing Waffle Shop, too.
However, Rubin says that a CMU-based art presence will remain onsite in the form of the billboard atop the Waffle Shop building, bearing provocative messages. So while the storefront will be silent come Sunday, for additional aesthetic stimulation, just look up.
Tags: Program Notes
Allegheny County's paratransit service ACCESS has been spared from significant service reductions, at least for now.
ACCESS had faced a significant service reduction -- the first in its history -- as part of the Port Authority's pending 35 percent reduction in September due to a $64 million budget deficit. The cuts would have reduced the service to the minimal service allowed by federal law -- only offering rides to riders eligible under the American Disabilities Act that start and end within three-quarters of a mile of a fixed bus route.
But at a monthly board meeting this morning, Port Authority CEO Steve Bland said the agency has received funding from the Federal Job Access Reverse Commute and Federal New Freedom Program, as well as matching dollars from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The result: an estimated $6.2 million to keep ACCESS afloat. The authority says it will request to stretch that money out for the next two years.
"This is huge," Bland said following the board's monthly meeting. "We had 2,000 individuals who frankly were thinking 'What am I going to do?'"
The fare increase that went into effect for ACCESS on July 1 will remain in place. But the service will function at its current level, operating door-to-door service between any two points within Allegheny County, and up to 1.5 miles into neighboring counties for those who qualify.
ACCESS ought to be safe at least until September 2013. After that, Bland said, the future is uncertain. The authority plans to use half of the money this year and the remainder the following -- as long as it receives permission from the funding authorities. But if the authority does have to go through with cutting its regular fixed-route bus and light-rail service this fall, that would likely push additional riders to the ACCESS system, which could create other funding challenges.
"There are no guarantees [the funds] will cover a second year," says authority spokesman Jim Ritchie.
Bland praised PennDOT, federal and state officials, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the county's legislative delegation in Harrisburg. But he noted the agency isn't out of the woods yet; it still faces a massive reduction of bus and light-rail service, as well as massive layoffs, this September.
In his report to the board, Bland said contract negotiations are continuing between the authority, state officials, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 and Fitzgerald's office. Bland said the group agreed to stay mum on talks, but did say "everyone at the table ... is working very hard to avoid the 35% service cut."
Time is of the essence. Today was the authority's last board meeting before September, though Bland said the board could reconvene at any time if a funding salutation was presented.
"The cuts can still be avoided," he said. "But we're running very short on precious time."
Tags: Slag Heap
The Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra will be holding a new program, The Looking Glass, to benefit the Union Project. The concert will be held at the Union Project building (801 N. Negley Avenue, in the East End) this Sunday, July 29th.
The Union Project's mission is to facilitate a space for creativity and celebration of the local community. ELCO is no stranger to interesting musical pieces, having utilized most musical genres under the sun to create unique pieces that push boundaries. The musical core of The Looking Glass melds artistic influences from pop art, op art, and minimal art of the late 1960s together with the musical influence of classical minimalism, jazz, funk and contemporary dance pop.
Tickets for the program this Sunday (July 29th) can be found here.
Today marked the beginning of the defense's case in Miles' civil-rights trial against Pittsburgh police. And Saldutte testified that on the night of Jan. 12, 2010, he and fellow officers Richard Ewing and David Sisak were working in a "99 car" doing a plainclothes detail and patrol out of Zone 5. As the officers patrolled Homewood, Saldutte said, he spotted a figure in dark clothing standing up against the side of 7940 Tioga Street around 11 p.m.
"It was highly suspicious what he was doing: standing around the house late night, it was dark, cold, no one around," Saldutte said.
Saldutte asked his fellow officers "what's that guy doing?" They turned the car around to investigate, and as they got closer to the home, Saldutte testified, the figure walked toward the sidewalk.
"He stopped, looked up at us and put his hand in his pocket."
That alarmed the officers even more. Saldutte said Miles stopped and turned his body away from the officers. Ewing announced "Pittsburgh police," Saldutte testified, as Saldutte began getting out of the car, then held his badge up and told Miles to take his hands out of his pocket.
"Anytime you're dealing with someone, you want to be able to see their hands," he told jurors, "technically that's what's going to hurt you."
Miles did remove his hands from his pocket, Saldutte said, but when Saldutte asked if that was his house, Miles said he lived down the street and again turned his body away from him. "I was able to see the bulge in his front right pocket," Saldutte said.
"As soon as I asked him, 'Why are you sneaking around someone's house?'" he said, Miles started to walk away without answering. Saldutte testified that as Miles walked, he kept his right arm straight down over his pocket. Saldutte said he commanded him to stop as the police vehicle began to follow him, but Miles began running instead.
Tags: Slag Heap