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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 12:56 PM

The choices for the Republican presidential nominee just keep growing. Your 14th contender, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is done flirting with running for president, and is in the race for keepers. Christie's entry also bodes well for what is shaping up to be the TV Event of the Summer, the first Republican primary debate, scheduled for Aug. 6.

Stay tuned to City Paper for updates to the Magnetic Chart of 2016 Primary Awesomeness, as well as upcoming coverage of Election 2016.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 1:58 PM

click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Krystal Ritenour
Photo courtesy of Krystal Ritenour

This week's MP3 Monday comes courtesy of local songwriter Nick Barilla. "Signs" is a cut from Barilla's 2014 EP, Take a Chance. If you like what you hear, download below, and check out his Bandcamp page for the whole thing.


This download link has expired. Sorry!

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 1:13 PM

click to enlarge City Paper's 2014 cover when same-sex marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania. - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
Photo by Heather Mull
City Paper's 2014 cover when same-sex marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania.
In a 5-4 decision, The Supreme Court of the United States ruled this morning that laws banning the rights of same-sex couples to marry are unconstitutional.

In the opinion Judge Anthony Kennedy wrote:

"The history of marriage as a union between two persons of the opposite sex marks the beginning of these cases. To the respondents, it would demean a timeless institution if marriage were extended to same-sex couples. But the petitioners, far from seeking to devalue marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities, as illustrated by the petitioners’ own experiences.

"...Decisions about marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make. ... This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation. ...There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle, yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable. It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage."

The ruling today is obviously a huge win for members of the LGBT community, however, there is still plenty of work ahead for legislators and activists, especially in Pennsylvania. As we've reported many times, Pennsylvania, while offering same-sex marriage, doesn't actually have any laws on the books preventing discrimination against LGBT individuals. Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf mentioned that fact in a statement this morning:

"On the heels of the Supreme Court’s action today, the Pennsylvania legislature should stand-up and pass non-discrimination for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, so that they can no longer be discriminated against in employment or housing for being who they are.”

Below are local and state reactions to SCOTUS' ruling:

Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf: “Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that no American can be denied the right to marry because of who they love. This historic ruling is a victory for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians and allies. ‘Gay marriage’ is now simply marriage and the pursuit of happiness will no longer be denied for same-sex couples." 

Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania
: “This is an historic and joyous occasion. We know from our experience here in Pennsylvania that no one is hurt when people are allowed to marry the person he or she loves. We should all be proud of this victory for equality, freedom, and love. It is an important step on this country’s journey to full acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress: "This morning’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is the last hurdle for same sex couples seeking marriage equality. The justices found that the Constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law for LGBT Americans, which is a right extended to state-issued marriage licenses. All Americans can marry whomever they love no matter what state they live in; when they travel from state to state the legal status of their marriage is recognized by law everywhere. This is a great day for all of Pennsylvania's families."

Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach: “I am overjoyed. The Court's historic decision granting marriage rights to same-sex couples is a triumph for values that all Americans hold dear: liberty, justice, and equal treatment under the law. In the decades since Stonewall, Americans have fought, bled, and even died in their pursuit of this historic achievement. We have them to thank and remember as we celebrate this momentous decision with the people we love.”

Pa. Lt. Gov. Mike Stack: “I applaud the United States Supreme Court for ruling in favor of equality and human rights, and I congratulate members of the LGBTQ community for winning the fight they have waged for so long. “Love prevailed in the Supreme Court decision. The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental right that dates back to the very founding of this nation. LGBTQ rights are human rights, and everyone deserves to be able to marry the person they love. “I’m proud to support marriage equality in Pennsylvania and beyond.”

Many folks also took to Twitter to celebrate the ruling today:

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Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 11:32 AM

With nine Top 10 hits, including “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Cold as Ice,” there are few bands as omnipresent as Foreigner. Members have come and gone over the years, but multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel — who plays guitar, saxophone, flute and keyboards— is one of the group’s longest-standing members, having joined in 1992. Before that, he toured with Aerosmith (look for him next time Wayne’s World 2 is on TV). Gimbel spoke with CP over the phone in advance of Foreigner’s appearance at the First Niagara Pavilion, this Sunday.

click to enlarge Foreigner - PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL BERNSTEIN
Photo courtesy of Bill Bernstein

Are you at home right now?
Yeah, I’m here at the desk, I opened up my laptop, I feel like a real professional. [laughs]

As a multi-instrumentalist, what is your favorite to play?
I would have to say singing. It’s the most expressive, you can tell a story, there’s just no other instrument that you can really paint a scenario like that. But I try to play the sax like I’m singing. At one point when I was trying to get better, I used to play the sax and imagine a word in my head behind every note. So, it would come out like sentences. In any instrument, you have to be careful not to speak in paragraphs. You’ve got to stop and take a breath and let the ideas come across.

All the other ones are really tied. I could go on and on about why I love each instrument, starting with the drums, which was my first when I was a kid. So many musicians start out on the drums. I remember Steven Tyler and I would both take turns on the drum kit. [Former Foreigner singer] Lou Gramm, I think, was originally a drummer … the list goes on and on.

When I think about Foreigner, it’s kind of mind-blowing how ubiquitous the hits are. What is that like, as a member of the band? You probably hear the songs wherever you go.
It’s neat. They've become part of the sonic landscape. “Cold as Ice” is part of the nomenclature. Someone might say to someone “You’re as cold as ice,” or [sings] “Hot blooded!” It’s really cool to see that kind of recognition. And it goes around the world. We’ve done shows in almost every imaginable country, from China to Russia, through South America, and we’ve had great, great, great shows. And people sing along, especially in South America, they sing very loudly. And it turns into this giant choir. Its indescribably delicious to be a part of. It’s really a thrill to know that the music is so widespread.

What is it about Foreigner that people connect with?
No one knows the magic behind a hit song. We’ve asked Mick Jones, the main songwriter and founder of Foreigner, about songwriting and how he wrote so many great songs, and he say he doesn’t really know. He gets the process started, and then it goes, and then he sort of wakes up and it’s finished, and the words are on the pad and the music’s on the tape. So I think there’s a lot of indescribable stuff there. I would call it magic. And whatever it is, he’s not telling us how he did it.

But as a listener and a participant, I think a lot of it has to do with the openness of the songs. First of all, it’s incredible music, the chorus, the rhythm, the melody … all that is obviously world class, top notch. But the lyrics themselves are very honest and direct. There’s nothing esoteric, he’s not talking about the planets — well, he is on “Starrider” — but in general, the lyrics are conversational. And I think that kind of stuff stands up really well over time. Those [are the] kinds of lyrics everyone can relate to.

I would think that no matter how good the songs are, you’d be somewhat sick of them after all these years.
No … I feel so incredibly fortunate that these songs have never aged for me when I do play them every night. I look forward to playing them every night. I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate. This music has not worn on me one bit. And a lot of that is because there’s some complexity woven into the simplicity. The chord structures keep me satisfied

Is there anything the band consciously does to keep things fresh?
Mostly things like … throwing pretzels at the drummer while he’s taking his solo. We love doing that. The poor guy, Chris Frazier, is out there playing his heart out — he’s an incredible drummer, he used to be with Whitesnake and Eddie Money and Steve Vai — and he’s a real showman and he’s up there doing an incredible drum solo and all of a sudden just bowls of pretzels are falling on his head and he’s catching them with his mouth. Little stuff like this [laughs].

And we enjoy all the fun stuff like yogurt and berries and quinoa. Regular rock n roll stuff.

click to enlarge Tom Gimbel - PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY JONES
Photo courtesy of Emily Jones
Tom Gimbel
What’s it like spending so much time on the road?
We've toured more in the past 5 or 6 years than then we used to in the first 14. There’s more of an emphasis on live performance now, because there’s no way to duplicate it and put it on a hard drive and give it to your friends [laughs]. The concert is where the rubber meets the road. It’s been great to be a part of that, its like an upward momentum. We’re playing more shows, we’re making more friends, seeing more people that we know at these shows.

You’re a golf enthusiast … do you find time to play while you’re touring?
I’ll bring my clubs and try to play on the days off. Aside from that, we go to the fitness room … what I do is, I go to the fitness room, and then I stretch, and then I fall asleep on the mat. So, that keeps me from getting injured and also keeps me rested. [laughs]

Do you have a favorite Foreigner Song?
I think it’s probably “Urgent,” not just because of the saxophone, I really love the song itself. It makes everyone move, it makes your foot tap, makes your hips kind of sway a little bit. It’s just a great dance song. 

FOREIGNER with KID ROCK. 6:45 p.m. Sun., June 28. First Niagara Pavilion, 665 Route 18, Burgettstown. $20.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 5:09 PM

At the June 24 Pittsburgh City Council meeting councilors discussed a resolution to launch a cost benefits analysis of creating an in-house demolition division. While council ultimately decided to hold the resolution for a public hearing, the discussion raised concerns about vacant properties and blight in city neighborhoods.

"I truly have some safety hazards in the district," said District 1 Councilor Darlene Harris. "One of the houses looks like it's ready to fall. There's a lot of accidents waiting to happen."

At yesterday's meeting, several councilors talked about the balance between demolishing abandoned properties that have become safety hazards and preventing city streets from being filled with vacant lots.

"Not every neighborhood is in the same place in it's development," said District 7 Councilor Deb Gross. "There are some places in the city that feel like they've suffered too many demolitions."

They talked about promoting alternatives to blighted lots and property. District 4 Councilor Natalia Rudiak suggested planting a certain type of grass on vacant lots that would be easier to maintain to eliminate the weeds and tall grasses that fill up these lots in the summer. 

Others suggested increasing rehabilitation efforts to save more vacant properties. However, District 9 Councilor Ricky Burgess said sometimes rehabilitation takes too long.

"Since I have probably the most vacant houses, vacant and abandoned land in my district, I have some insight," said Burgess. "One of the things we have to do is teach the public about funding streams because often times they really want to rehabilitate the vacant housing but there's scarce public dollars to do that. You hear people say they want to see a halt to demolition but I don't think they see how difficult it is to rehab houses."

District 2 Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith who sponsored the resolution said she's received complaints from several constituents living next to vacant properties who want to see them torn down. 

"We're starting to hear that the cost of demolition is increasing," said Kail-Smith. "I think we should work with the community who live next to some of those properties."

Council also approved the expansion of permit parking in the South Side flats and $150,000 for the city's summer Learn and Earn youth employment program. Additionally, they increased funding for civil service test preparation at the Community College of Allegheny County by $4,000. Final votes on these measures will be held next week.

Earlier this week, city council held a public hearing on zoning to address the need for changes to the city code on urban agriculture

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 3:34 PM

The Last Summer on Earth Tour rolled through Pittsburgh last night, featuring performances from the Violent Femms and the Barenaked Ladies. After an afternoon thunderstorm, the clouds parted for a sunny evening of music. The lawn quickly filled with blankets of relaxing families, couples and the like as Colin Hay opened. The Violent Femmes came on soon after, opening with their hit "Blister in the Sun", and immediately getting the crowd dancing and on their feet. After an energetic set of both new and old tunes, the Femmes departed the stage with the crowd screaming for more. The Barenaked Ladies headlined, stepping on to the stage just as the sun started to set. The crowd began to sing along within seconds as the Ladies jumped into a set that did not disappoint. 

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Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 2:56 PM

The field of Republicans vying for the presidential nomination just jumped to Lucky 13! Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal made it official today. (In both parties, there are now seven current or former governors in the running, with still two more waiting in the wings.)

As of today, Jindal's Twitter page header features a photo of the governor posing shamelessly with the Duck Dynasty dudes, but for us, the winner is this earlier snap from May in which the gov is being photobombed by a bear, a.k.a. the "state mammal."

Stay tuned to City Paper for updates to the Magnetic Chart of 2016 Primary Awesomeness, as well as upcoming coverage of Election 2016.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 11:54 AM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist containing tracks from artists covered in the current music section. This week's issue is PACKED with good stuff, so be sure to take a listen. 


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 5:01 PM

Just a lil drizzle of concert announcements for ya on this rainy/sunny day.

Patty Griffin and Sam Lee perform at the Byham Theater on September 27 ($37.75-47.75, on sale Friday)

On October 12, Stage AE hosts The Neighbourhood, Bad Suns and Hunny ($29.50-32, on sale Friday)

The Velvet Teen plays Brillobox on August 2 ($10-12, on sale now)

This year's  "All-Scene" Entertainment Festival is scheduled for August 8 at Mr. Small's Theatre ($8 with Facebook RSVP, $10 without)

The Word (featuring Robert Randolph, John Medeski & the North Miss. Allstars) appears at Mr. Small's, along with Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers on October 13 ($30, on sale Friday): also at Mr. Small's: Timeflies on October 18 ($28, on sale Friday); theNEWDEAL on November 5 ($17-20, on sale Friday); and DigiTour Slay Bells on December 16 ($25, on sale Monday)

Chief Scout  and Concord America play Club Cafe on August 4 ($7, on sale now). Also coming to Club Cafe: Alter The Design and The Next Month on August 7 ($10, on sale now); Heather Kropf on August 13 ($10-12, on sale now); Morning Teleportation on August 18 ($8-10, on sale Friday); Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers on September 19 ($14-16, on sale now); Head For The Hills on September 23 ($10, on sale Friday); 
Bill Toms and Hard Rain on September 26 ($12-15, on sale Friday); Willie Watson and Heather Maloney on October 9 ($12-15, on sale Friday)


Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 12:43 PM

Pittsburgh 350, a climate activist group, marched along the Allegheny River this weekend. - PHOTO BY AARON WARNICK
Photo by Aaron Warnick
Pittsburgh 350, a climate activist group, marched along the Allegheny River this weekend.

On Sunday, Pittsburgh 350, a local chapter of the climate-activist group and which is supported by numerous other groups, led a Climate Action Rally at Allegheny Commons East Park.

Concerned Western Pennsylvanians gathered to air grievances over dirty air, to preach against oil over the sound of a bomb train — the name given to trains carrying crude oil at risk of derailing — on the nearby track, and to caution about climate change as the crowd baked under a hot Pittsburgh summer sun.

“This is the most important issue of this century” said Thom Crown of Lawrenceville. “Well, actually, it’s the most important issue of the last century … but now the conversation is beginning to change and things may actually happen.”

Crown came to the event with his wife JoAnne Buchanan and 15-year-old granddaughter Hope. Crown and Buchanan are members of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy organization.

“I just wish I had seen more younger people,” Buchanan said. “That generation is the one that is going to be stuck with this. We’re really at a critical point."

Attendees ranged from the neighbors of industrial sites in Pittsburgh to homeowners from Greensburg who fear they’re brewing their morning coffee with frack water.

The event was attended by “around 200 throughout the day” estimated Peter Wray, a member of Pittsburgh 350’s steering committee.

“Our next goal is to get the word out to a much broader populace,” Wray said by phone on Monday.

The day started with about 30 people taking a very hot 6-mile hike from the Shenango Coke Plant to the park on the “Walk for Paris,” named for the upcoming United Nations climate summit to take place in France later this year. Afterwards, the group rallied and gained numbers at Allegheny Commons East Park to hear some speakers before a small cohort marched along Allegheny River Walk.

Mayor Bill Peduto opened the event with remarks, calling for his electorate to push Pittsburgh into being a model for environmental change.

"We have to decide locally whether we take up [clean energy initiatives] and become a model for other cities to follow and show that it can work or if we decide to be left behind in the 21st century and simply become irrelevant," Peduto said.

Video by Aaron Warnick

City Councilor Dan Gilman followed Peduto’s speech to read a proclamation that made June 21 “Climate Action Day” in Pittsburgh.

“These challenges start with very local efforts,” Councilor Dan Gilman said before reading the proclamation. “This is a truly global effort.”

Several other leaders of other local environmental groups took the stage to advocate different approaches to climate action afterwards. Many speakers referred back to Pope Francis’s newly released encyclical on climate change which was cited as a the precursor to the actions on Sunday

After the event, Wray said he was impressed with the “exceptional speakers” and the climate action solutions they presented.

“From here, we need to keep the pressure on state legislation for support of green energy” Wray says.

Pittsburgh 350 says their goal is to influence U.S. diplomats in pushing for climate action at the summit in December. 

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