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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 12:35 PM

click to enlarge Penn Avenue between Mathilda and Evaline streets re-opened to two-way traffic this morning. - PHOTO BY AL HOFF
Photo by Al Hoff
Penn Avenue between Mathilda and Evaline streets re-opened to two-way traffic this morning.

As the ball drops and midnight kisses ring in the New Year, residents in Garfield may be celebrating for a different reason — the re-opening of the neighborhood's main artery, Penn Avenue, to two-way traffic.

"We're glad that the roadway is going to open, and we're blasting it [the news] everywhere because people are bypassing the entire avenue, not just where the construction was," says Aggie Brose, Deputy Director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, a non-profit that advocated for the reconstruction.

This week, Mayor Peduto's office announced that the street construction between Mathilda and Evaline streets is complete and that Penn would re-open in the wee hours of New Year's Eve day. Improvements to sidewalk, street lights and traffic signals will continue until the summer, which may impact street parking, a press release from the mayor's office says. The project, which has been ongoing since August 2013, ran into several obstacles causing delays that wreaked havoc on local business and drivers alike.

"People who don't know what's on this side of the door [of his storefront], it was kind of daunting for them to come by with one-way traffic, no parking and an eight-foot fence in front," says Jerry Kraynick, owner of Kraynick's Bike Shop on Penn Avenue.
click to enlarge PHOTO BY AL HOFF
Photo by Al Hoff

Crews ran into rusted, paved-over trolley tracks, which contaminated the soil, and hit into water lines, including a main one running to Children's Hospital that could not be shut down, according to Brose.

"It was a very well-planned out project, but the street didn't have any maintenance for decades," and crews didn't even know what they were going to run into underground, Brose says.

Brose compared the project to the re-vamped Brookline Boulevard in the South Hills. Once completed, Penn Avenue is slated to have benches, new lighting, new trash and recycling recepticles, and businesses will have the option to either get rid of or get new sidewalk vaults — the double doors that lead to basement steps from the street level.

"It's dragged on long enough to have people very upset," Brose says. Even with the "financial harm" done to businesses, she hopes that people will remember what the avenue used to look like.

"There were gigantic potholes, old trolley poles all rusty and brown.  The sidewalks were deplorable; curbs were swallowed up," she says. "We have parking meters, and I lose track of time, but some 15 years ago, someone came and sawed off all the tops for money. Just the poles were left."

Brose says the mayor's office was cooperative and even provided loans to businesses that experienced financial hardship because of the construction.  The mayor's office was contacted for the piece but didn't respond.

Phase two between Evaline and Graham streets will begin in 2017. Brose says this section of Penn received much more maintenance and investment over the years and should be a quicker fix.

"This has been a long journey and will have great results at the end once everything is finished," Brose says.


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Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Two exhibits closing this weekend and The Andy Warhol Museum's 2014 rehang are a good reason to visit, not to mention free Good Fridays all this month. More in Program Notes.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 9:41 AM

In today’s print edition, you’ll find Nadine Wasserman's reviews of two temporary exhibits closing Sunday at The Andy Warhol Museum: the fascinating 13 Most Wanted Men and the splendid Chuck Connelly: My America. But if you haven’t been to the Warhol lately, there are plenty of other reasons to visit, most thanks to the museum’s big rehang, completed in May.

The reorganization is largely notable for its new emphasis on Warhol himself, not just his iconic artworks. Visitors had been telling the 20-year-old museum that they wanted more Andy, says museum director Eric Shiner; the Warhol responded with a virtual three-dimensional seminar on the Pittsburgh native who changed the course of visual art.

And here’s the January bonus: Starting this week, the museum’s Good Fridays series offers free museum admission from 5-10 p.m. every Friday, with a cash bar and music by DJ Huck Finn.

The museum’s new offerings start, perhaps most accessibly, with a new half-hour documentary on Warhol that screens continuously in the museum’s first-floor theater. Jamie Schutz’s good-looking film is a fine primer on Warhol’s life and work, and features entertaining and insightful interviews with the likes of Shiner; Factory denizens Billy Name and Jane Holzer; writer Bob Colacello; and Warhol’s late brother, Paul Warhola.

The other new Warhol exhibits start on the museum’s seventh floor and work down. They include a rich array of Warhol artifacts and important but little-seen artworks, beginning with his birth certificate and a selection of his student artwork from his days at Schenley High School and Carnegie Tech.

There’s also a generous selection of his crucial commercial work from the 1940s and ’50s (department-store newspaper ads, LP covers) and, poignantly, photos of him during those early days, on campus and in Manhattan. Perhaps most fascinating are a whole gallery of his early experiments with pop art, copying newspaper ads and limning consumer products before he hit on the iteration of the Campbell’s Soup can that made his name, in 1962.

You needn’t even be a Warhol fan to find this stuff fascinating.

Arguably, as much of Warhol can be found in what he collected as in what he silkscreened. And there’s a lot more of this stuff, too, including a wall-sized cabinet full of glassware Warhol collected and the chance to see the contents of one of his famous time capsules laid out for easy viewing.

A big draw for film and video devotees is a new media room. Prior to May, the only way to see most of Warhol’s vast catalog of experimental films and TV programs was as they rotated through the museum’s first-floor screening room. Now a huge chunk of that work has been digitized and can be called up and viewed as desired on one of a bank of widescreen monitors, with headphones. You can sample anything from an episode of Andy Warhol’s TV featuring a puckish early-’80s chat with John Waters and Divine to the whole of the split-screen epic Chelsea Girls.

Another groovy new feature is an attempt to recreate the spririt of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol’s mid-1960s multimedia sensory-overload extravaganza starring the Velvet Underground. A whole gallery is set aside to pay tribute to the Velvets and overwhelm you with art-rock noise and wall-to-wall projections.

Last but not least, you’ll note that the gift shop has been moved to a former first-floor gallery space, tripling its size. And even the museum’s streetfacing windows on Sandusky have gotten a makeover: The first in an artist series called Exposures features a clever installation by local artist Daniel Pillis. His recreation the Warhola family’s Oakland living room, circa-1940s, is up through March 1.

The museum is located at 117 Sandusky St., on the North Side. 

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Posted By on Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 4:37 PM

After this morning's kitchen fire at Belvedere's, three local bands were left scrambling for a new venue for their New Year's Eve show. Now it looks like the show, hosted by the Harlan Twins (who have headlined Belvedere's for several years running) has found a home at Howlers in Bloomfield. 

Also playing tomorrow night's show: The Lopez and Dream Phone. A champagne toast is included in the price of admission, and rumor has it Mama Jo will be providing kielbasa and sauerkraut. On top of it all, there'll be a collection to help out Belvedere's employees who are out of work until the bar re-opens. 

There's also a GoFundMe crowdfunding page for those who want to donate money to help the out-of-work employees. 

Friday's Enforcery DJ night has been moved to Cattivo

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Posted By on Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 12:11 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
click to enlarge Local artist Cheryl Capezzuti's garage studio is overflowing with First Night parade puppets. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Local artist Cheryl Capezzuti's garage studio is overflowing with First Night parade puppets.
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight ..."

Big, neon-colored paper-mache bird heads march up and down a concrete stretch as a dancing puppet drill team practices in artist Cheryl Capezzuti's driveway in Brighton Heights. See-through fabric covers the dancers' faces — their dancing human legs stick out at the bottom.

"It's really meant to be fun," says Ellie Voyvodich, parade project manager. "Our theme this year is 'Imagination: Delivered'" — a nod to the parade's sponsor FedEx.

Nearly 300 of these puppets will march down Penn Avenue for the annual Pittsburgh Cultural Trust First Night New Year's Eve celebration, as they have for more than a decade. Giant bees, penguins, giraffes, and flower puppets will join decorated "art cars" — including a sedan disguised as a sabre-toothed octopus —  as well as decorated pedicabs — look out for a fox and elephant pedaling on Penn. The parade will even feature a puppy dog dance drill team (puppets, not real puppies) and, yes, dryer lint puppets.

Supporting the hundreds of puppets and providing the parade's soundtrack are nearly 700 volunteers, musicians and drivers. Several area marching bands will be featured, including the Ambridge Steel Drum Band, Perry High School Marching Band,  the Timbeleza samba/funk ensemble, the Hill Jordan & Slide Worldwide brass band, the Pittsburgh Steeline drummers and the Colonel Eagleburger's High Stepping Goodtime Band.

"It is fun and artistically valuable work, but it is also important community-building work," says Capezzuti, visual artist and puppet maker who also teaches middle school art at Falk Laboratory School, which is associated with the University of Pittsburgh. "I hope this artist-made, people-powered celebration resonates with the greater Pittsburgh community as it does for the participants."

The parade begins on New Year's Eve at 8 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Penn Avenue and will turn right on Sixth Street toward the Allegheny River.

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Posted By on Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include new information about the rescheduling of this week's events at Belvedere's.

Lawrenceville bar and venue Belvedere's Ultra-Dive is closed today after a two-alarm fire broke out in its kitchen early this morning. 

The bar is a mainstay of the punk and metal scenes and hosts regular DJ nights and electronic shows as well, and is a past winner in City Paper's annual Best of Pittsburgh Reader's Poll, including for its weekly Neon '80s Night. It's expected to be closed for about a month, according to Joy Toujours, its manager. He says the source was electrical, and that a friend who books shows at the venue first noticed smoke coming out of the bar when he happened to be walking by around 5:30 a.m.

"One of my boys who does punk shows just happened to be walking by and noticed," Toujours says. "Luckily, no one was there, so no one was hurt, and there wasn't a mad rush for the doors or anything."

"The kitchen is gone," he adds. "But other than that, it's cosmetic."

The bar has about 25 employees, Toujours says.

Toujours says in the immediate aftermath, employees are gathering to discuss plans; one of the most pressing will be trying to find a place to hold the bar's annual New Year's Eve event, which for the past several years has been hosted by The Harlan Twins. Other upcoming events scheduled for the bar include Friday's Enforcery event ), featuring KRTS, :Tropic, Ivies, Morgantics and Mr. Owl. According to DJ and Enforcery promoter Mr. Owl, the Enforcery event Fri., Jan. 2, will now take place at Cattivo, 146 44th St. in Lawrenceville, in the upstairs bar area. The Harlan Twins' James Hart says he hopes to move the New Year's Eve event, but as of right now, there's not a confirmed new venue for that show.

While January is usually a slow time for music venues, Toujours says there aren't necessarily fewer events at Belvedere's in January than other times of the year. "We're not like other places, so there aren't fewer shows — just fewer people coming to them, generally." 

According to Pittsburgh public-safety spokesperson Sonya Toler, the cause of the fire is under investigation. The fire department estimates damage at a total of about $30,000.

One bright spot: Only hours after the fire, folks are already looking for ways to pitch in. "People are already offering us benefit shows, GoFundMe fundraisers," says Toujours. "It really shows the community we have here. I lived in L.A. for a couple of years, and no one cared about each other — this is Pittsburgh. Everyone is reaching out already."

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 11:26 AM

click to enlarge Kinetic - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL CANTON
Photo courtesy of Michael Canton
Movement is one of the few things in life that can be considered constant no matter how noticeable or unnoticeable it may be — and the band Kinetic is one whose movements will likely be noticed by many to come in the near future.
The band’s six members are, in many cases, familiar names from other bands, or from solo work: Anqwenique Wingfield as the vocalist, Michael Borowski on guitar, Jason Rafalak on bass, PJ Roduta on percussion and Ryan Socrates on drums, along with the band’s leader and composer, Joseph Sheehan, on keyboard.

At first listen, there’s a noticeable jazz influence in the band’s sound, but Kinetic is more than what meets the ear. Sheehan says the band’s style and arrangement can largely be attributed to West African percussion as well as R&B and modern jazz. Take those sounds and add just the right amount of soulful vocals from the talented Anqwenique and you have something that is unique on the Pittsburgh scene.

The audience responses from the band’s album-release party last month at the Pittsburgh Winery proved it can live up to its name. Between the call-and-response segments with the audience and the captivating solos, there was no one in the room that night who wanted who the show to end.

Kinetic’s debut album, World of Wonder, is for sale on iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby; as a sample, check out this week's MP3 Monday offering, "Waiting for Giving."

Kinetic: Waiting for Giving

[Download link expired]

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Posted By on Fri, Dec 26, 2014 at 1:54 PM

In case you missed the news in between exchanging gifts, eggnog and holiday turkey, Sony Pictures decided to release its controversial film The Interview after originally pulling it over threats made against theaters showing the film.

Locally, viewers had two options to see the film: streaming online or at the South Side Works theater. In fact, of the 311 theaters showing the film nationwide, South Side Works was the only theater in the state to screen the film. 

Since things were a little slow around the City Paper offices this morning, I decided to watch the film, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, and will have a review coming in next week's issue. But before that, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the movie.

The plot of the film is extremely well known at this point: A television tabloid journalist (Franco) and his producer (Rogen) score an interview with Kim Jong-un. They are then enlisted by the CIA to assassinate the dictator, a task they agree to. The film and the decision to depict Kim Jong-un (hear Rogen and Franco discuss the decision with Howard Stern) has been extremely controversial in recent weeks.

The film is being cited as the reason for a massive hack on Sony, the company, which is releasing the film. While the FBI has claimed that North Korea was behind the attack, security experts are starting to disagree. In the wake of the hack and other threats, theaters began pulling out of screenings and Sony pulled the film, much to the dismay of President Obama. Sony reversed course Christmas Eve and the film made $1 million after a one-day limited release.

But at the bottom of all of this controversy sits a Seth Rogen/James Franco film that is cut from the same mold as their previous outings Pineapple Express and This is the End. If you liked those films (and I did), then you're going to like this film (which I do). But if you're of a mindset that you have to go and see this film out of some sort of patriotic duty not to let "the terrorists" win, and you've never seen, liked or heard of the duo's other films, then you're likely going to be disappointed. If that's your reason for seeing the film, you might want to instead just upload the picture of the bald eagle with a single tear and make your statement that way and save the $10 bucks.

But if you like a raunchy comedy with all of the typical cringe-worthy trimmings — like hiding a top secret projectile in the one place that not even a seasoned North Korean military man might look — this movie really is a can't miss. It's full of cheap laughs (Franco's character Dave Skylark has "stink dick" after a night of partying) to some clever moments as well that remind us that while the United States is obviously not North Korea, we still have a penchant for diplomatic stupidity of our own.

In one scene for example, Skylark is confronted with the idea that killing Kim Jong-un might not actually solve the problem. "How many times will the U.S. make the same mistakes," Skylark is asked. 

"As many times as it takes!" he bellows in return.

The Interview is not a political thriller in the vein of the Manchurian Candidate or political satire cut from the cloth of Dr. Strangelove, but it's a really funny, entertaining film. And although the ending is pretty predictable (and pretty violent), if you're a fan of this type of comedy, it really is worth a peek.

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Posted By on Fri, Dec 26, 2014 at 9:11 AM

Shake off some holiday torpor this Saturday with a reading at the Carnegie Library's Oakland branch by two stars of the national zine scene.

Artist and writer LB is an educator from Chicago who publishes the acclaimed zine Truckface.  LB writes often about the working life, including her current job as a teacher at a public high school.

Also reading is K, who publishes Lake Effect, another well-loved zine from the Midwest.

The reading is from 2-3 p.m. in the library's Quiet Reading Room. Bring zines to swap and/or read at the open mic.

The event is free. The  library, which is big on zines,  is located at 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 8:47 PM

Produced by Ashley Murray

At a table near the wall in a small dining room Jody Young ate his ham, potatoes au gratin, peas and a roll. Behind him was a cafeteria-style window, and volunteers grabbed plates from the counter.

"Having all these people here, it's joyful for me, " Young says. "I've been in this program, and we usually help ourselves [to meals]. It's a different experience for people to wait on me for a change." 

click to enlarge Mayor Peduto stopped by to talk with volunteers and media about poverty in Pittsburgh. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Mayor Peduto stopped by to talk with volunteers and media about poverty in Pittsburgh.
For four hours, the Light of Life Rescue Mission on Pittsburgh's North Side served hot meals for its annual Christmas banquet. Several of the nearly 100 volunteers (and a small media swarm when Peduto stopped by) filled the dining hall, while others helped distributed coats, hats, blankets and bags of toiletries in a tent set up just outside the mission. Volunteers also delivered several meals to nearby high-rise apartment buildings. 

"I reside here," Young says. "This place has saved my life. I was down and out, and this place brought me back to God again.  I've lost a lot, but I'm gaining a lot since I've been here." 

The Light of Life Rescue Mission is a Christian-based organization that serves hundreds of people each year with meals and an emergency men's shelter - which can sleep up to 38 men at a time - and a homeless program for women with children in which they are housed in off-site apartments. Additionally, the organization provides long-term addiction recovery programs and case management.

"The organization is 62 years old now," says Kate Wadsworth, public relations manager. "It started as a soup kitchen, and once they saw the many other needs, it's really expanded over the years to what it is today."

The location is open 24 hours per day every single day of the year.

"Usually the men who come to our 90-day program, usually aren't there for recovery support," Wadsworth says. "They just need an address for their resume and case support. Primarily, the men and women who come to our long-term programs are homeless because of addiction."

The main cook behind the holiday banquet meal actually graduated from the program several years beforehand.
click to enlarge Kevin Hutchison, far right, leads grace before serving meals. Hutchison, now employed as a cook at Light of Life, is a former resident. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Kevin Hutchison, far right, leads grace before serving meals. Hutchison, now employed as a cook at Light of Life, is a former resident.

"When my dad passed away in 1987, I really took it hard, and I just started medicating myself, you know, with  alcohol," says Kevin Hutchison, who talked in between preparing pans of potatoes. He said when his mother passed away in 2003, his bottom fell out and he didn't want to live anymore.  He eventually did 18 months in a the Light of Life program. In 2006, he was hired to work in the kitchen there. "Not only myself, but our residents, my co-workers here, some of us have come from brokenness.  So to see others that have been given a hope-shot, and have turned their lives around [is hopeful.]"

The mission also holds big holiday meals for Thanksgiving and Easter.

"We provide good, traditional meals and a community for those who may not have one," Wadsworth says. "We don't want anyone to be alone or not able to enjoy a good meal on days like this."