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Monday, September 30, 2013

MP3 Monday: Stephthelyricist

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 2:09 PM

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This week's MP3 Monday comes from 17-year-old singer-songwriter Stephthelyricist. The folk/pop musician, whose real name is Stephanie Kong, writes and sings about serious issues that she faces in her life. In this week's track, titled "Her," Kong sings about her experience with depression and loneliness in high school over simple and sweet instrumentation.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Despite a steep uphill climb, Independent Les Ludwig thinks he can make a run at Peduto

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 4:48 PM

Les Ludwig has run for mayor before -- as a write-in candidate. Voters wrote him off instead. But the Squirrel Hill resident is hoping to change all of that. On the November ballot this year, Ludwig's name will appear on the ballot as an Independent candidate, challenging presumptive front-runner Democratic nominee Bill Peduto. And while you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes that Ludwig has any shot of defeating Peduto, the 80-year-old candidate believes it can happen.

"I'm gradually beginning to think from what people tell me that I'm not that much of an underdog as you might consider," Ludwig says. "I needed 895 signatures to get on the ballot, and I went out and got 1600.

"Of those people who signed they either signed because they said they didn't like Bill Peduto or they signed because they wanted someone as mayor who was independent because they are sick and tired of the politics."

He says his campaign will be entirely self-funded; he will take no contributions. By contrast, he says, Peduto took more than a million dollars in campaign donations: "Sooner or later he'll have to pay back the people who gave him that money."

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Recap: Kurt Vile & The Violators at Carnegie Lecture Hall, 9/25

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 4:17 PM

You missed a good one this week. Philadelphia‘s Kurt Vile and The Violators stopped by Carnegie Lecture Hall Wednesday night for another installment of the Warhol Museuem's always-worth-it Sound Series.

And despite a slightly underwhelming turnout, a few sound issues and a muggy un-airconditioned room, Vile and crew came through with flying colors (or whatever it is Kurt Vile comes through with), playing through his early catalogue and highlights from 2013’s Wakin' On A Pretty Daze.

If you’re unfamiliar, Kurt Vile is a subdued, finger-picking guitarist and singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, and a founding member of the also excellent War On Drugs. Vile departed the group in 2008 after their (criminally underappreciated) debut Wagonwheel Blues and has been releasing solo material near-constantly since (five full lengths and five EPs in five years).

What started as lo-fi dude-and-a-guitar folk has evolved into something way more interesting and fully-baked. These days, Vile is more 70s classic rock than bedroom-folk, making guitar-heavy, (relatively) accessible rock music that melds with his dry, sardonic lyrics to an incredibly satisfying end. His most recent release, the critically adored Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze, can also double as an elaborate love letter to Neil Young.

On Wednesday, Vile and band took the stage after a solid showing from local openers Old Head and dove straight into the Wakin’-heavy setlist (“Wakin’ On A Pretty Day,” “Jesus Fever,” “Was All Talk,” and “KV Crimes” to start). It’s hard to explain, but Vile is kind of a great performer in an anti-performer sort of way. He doesn’t move much. His hair obscures his face. He’s not really a talker. But it’s hard to look away; he’s got charisma and it goes a long way.

After a few audio hiccups, a dozen or so guitar-swaps and a few songs of Vile on his own, the band closed out with one of his best, strangest tunes called “Freak Train.” It’s a seven-minute, one-note stampede of energy, all drum loops and feedback and stream of consciousness and one seriously killer saxophone solo.

In an unexpected encore, Vile returned solo for a laid back two-song finish (with a different guitar for each) and concluded with a polite nod and one of those little kid waves where you shake your whole hand from the wrist. It's pretty hard not to like the guy.

So... there weren’t very many people there. And there were some issues with the sound. And it was pretty hot. But glass half-full: it was an intimate, appealingly unpolished, warm performance from a great young talent with a bright future.

*Also, my mom wanted me to clarify that Kurt Vile is not related to, nor is he the same person as, the German composer Kurt Weill.

Warhol’s Sound Series continues on October 9th with Bill Callahan. Kurt Vile heads to Cincinnati next, followed by a bunch of other American dates, then the rest of the world. Go find him.

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Beat 'Em Bucs: Some tunes to help you raise the Jolly Roger

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 1:42 PM

In this week's special Pirates issue, I wrote about local band Gene the Werewolf rewriting the '70s Pirates anthem, Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," to reflect the current Bucs club. Below, you'll find that tune and some classic Pirates-related songs, to get you pumped for this weekend's all-important, home-field-determining series against the Reds.

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Restructured Port Authority board meets for the first time

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 11:18 AM

In a meeting lasting just a few minutes, the Port Authority board convened for the first time since a new law took effect that allows state officials to appoint five of the expanded 11 member board.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who is allowed one appointee, has not yet announced his pick.

In a unanimous vote, the board elected Robert Hurley as Chairman, Thomas E. Donatelli as vice chairman, Constance Parker as treasurer and Jim Brewster as secretary. Hurley, Donatelli and Parker served on the board before it was reconfigured this summer.

Republican and Democratic leaders in the state legislature each appoint two board members, a move that some worry will recreate political fault lines that already exist in Harrisburg on the county transit board.

Rep. Dom Costa, a Democrat, is optimistic.

“There’s a political aspect to the board now,” he says, adding that the Republican appointees are “looking out for the interests of everyone.”

D. Raja, who ran against County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in 2011, and was nominated for the Port Authority post by Senate Republicans, echoed that sentiment, saying the issues facing the board will require mutual respect and cooperation.

A complete list (to date) of the board appointments is after the jump.

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Slow Machete to perform at Haiti benefit concert

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Slow Machete is a collaborative music group made of up Haitian and American artists: six female vocalists from Cap Haitien (a city on the northern coast of Haiti) and Joseph Shaffer, an electronic musician from Pittsburgh who is currently based in Washington, DC. The result is hard to describe; a combination of nearly every genre I can think of, the music is haunting, otherworldly, sometimes ambient, other times groovy. Whatever the genre — or even the proper adjectives — it is certainly beautiful and memorable.

Slow Machete's newest EP, Mango Tree, was released in July and features an array of sounds; electronic beats, layered vocals, and field recordings from Haiti all come together to make uniquely inspiring songs. They have a laid-back groove to them that feels really natural. They're not overproduced or too Americanized. Rather, they're songs that stay true to the roots of the musicians. In fact, the whole project goes back to those roots: All proceeds from the recordings support the Haitian people through education and agriculture programs in the region.

The group is performing in Pittsburgh this Saturday at the Espwa Foundation's Haiti Benefit Concert. The concert will take place at Northgate Church (238 West View Ave.) and will start at 7 p.m.

You can listen to Slow Machete's music on their Soundcloud and see photos from Haiti and the group's travels on their Instagram.

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“Skull” winds down; PICT announces new season

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 9:48 AM

As the penultimate show of Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre’s current season nears its final performance, the company announced its 2014 season — the first under newly hired artistic director Alan Stanford.

I wouldn’t call A Skull in Connemara — whose three concluding performances are tonight and tomorrow afternoon and evening— a great play, or even the best I’ve seen by playwright Martin McDonagh. Both The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Pillowman, themselves staged in recent years by PICT, were more interesting.

Still, this dark comedic sort-of-whodunnit about a seasonal grave-exhumer in rural Ireland isn’t a show you’ll soon forget, with its over-the-top, literally bone-crushing humor. (Most of the bones that get crushed belong to the dead, but — fair warning — watch out if you’re sitting near the Charity Randall stage.)

Meanwhile, McDonagh’s ear for dialogue seldom fails, and director Martin Giles and a hardworking cast skillfully wring the script for every drop of humor. Where else are you going to hear a character say of his late wife, “She’d be the first to defend me if she heard people saying I was the one who killed her”? (More details are in Michelle Pilecki's review for CP.)

Also this week, PICT announced its first season since the firing earlier this year of co-founding artistic director Andrew Paul — its first season ever, in other words, without Paul at the helm.

Everything here’s pretty much in keeping with PICT’s name and mission. And on the whole, the season announced by the Ireland-born Stanford , with its theme of “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” is a bit more Irish and a bit more classical than Paul’s choices had been in recent years. (This season, for instance, included a play by a Polish playwright and one based on a Tolstoy novella. Here's what Paul's up to nowadays.)

It opens in May with Blithe Spirit — a production that PICT claims, rather amazingly, is the first local professional staging of Noel Coward’s classic comedy since 1945, just three years after its Pittsburgh premiere. (The play is of course a community-theater favorite.) Stanford will direct.

In June, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot arrives, the first full local staging in some while. The director is Aoife Spillane-Hinks, who directed this year’s potent season-opener, Our Class.

PICT follows up with Woman and Scarecrow, Irish playwright Marina Carr’s 2006 play about the last moments of a woman’s life (a work some have compared to Beckett); Stanford will direct this show starring local favorites Nike Doukas and Karen Baum.

Next September comes Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, a 1985 work by Irish playwright Frank McGuinness — written during the height of Ireland’s “Troubles” but set amongst new recruits to the British army during World War I.

Just in time for next Halloween, it's Macbeth, directed by Stanford.

The season closes with an adaptation of Great Expectations. Stanford will direct this stage version of the Dickens classic, which Hugh Leonard originally adapted for him at the Gate Dublin Theatre.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Genius grant" choreographer from Pittsburgh

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 2:07 PM

While nobody expects to win a MacArthur “genuis grant,” we can’t say we were too surprised to hear that one of this year’s 24 winners of the $625,000 prize was Pittsburgh native dancer and choreographer Kyle Abraham.

Kyle Abraham photographed earlier this year

We’ve been highlighting this brilliant 35-year-old CAPA grad and his work for years. Previewing a 2009 show by Abraham and his New York-based troupe Abraham.in.Motion, CP’s Steve Sucato wrote: “Talking with dancer and choreographer Kyle Abraham, you get the impression he is on the verge of something big. … Whether he’s taking on social issues or making ever bigger splashes on the local and national scenes, the sense that Abraham is on the verge of a breakthrough looms primarily because his talent is just too big to ignore.”

OK, we were hardly alone in our admiration: Dance Magazine, for instance, had already named Abraham one of its “25 To Watch” for that year. And Abraham himself — speaking to CP today by phone — credits his success to folks dating back to his mother’s circle of friends who still turn out for his Pittsburgh shows like this past Febuary’s Pavement, at the Byham Theater courtesy of the Pittsburgh Dance Council (and as featured on CP’s cover that week).

“You really realize how big a family can be,” says Abraham, speaking by phone from San Francisco, where he is choreographing a new work for Los Angeles-based troupe Body Traffic.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Central Web Site For Regional “Art Places” Unveiled

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 3:02 PM

All regional venues for visual, performing and literary arts are invited to include their profiles on www.pittsburghartplaces.org, a searchable web site launched yesterday by Pittsburgh’s Office of Public Art.

The site, intended as a resource for both arts groups and arts patrons, currently includes 200 profiles, said OPA director Renee Piechocki at a press event yesterday. And it’s not just about museums, galleries and theaters: bookstores, public libraries, public art sites, even bars with live music are invited to participate.

Venues can also list information about specific exhibitions and facilities rental.

“We really want to engage the widest array of visitors” to the site, said Piechocki. The site is open to any venue or artwork in the 13-county region.

Continue reading »

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Rubber Duck Updates

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Two bits of info from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s press event today, about tomorrow’s opening of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, featuring the much-ballyhooed Rubber Duck Project.

First, if you want to see the 40-foot-tall, bright-yellow Duck being towed upstream for its sure-to-be dramatic arrival at the Roberto Clemente Bridge (during the Rubber Duck Bridge Party), get there early. The party starts at 5:30 p.m., and sources in the Trust say the duck could arrive as early as 6 p.m. (Once it gets there, it'll bob all night then head to a mooring spot down by the Point for at least the next three weeks, said the Trust’s Paul Organisak, who curated the PIFOF.)

Second, the presser -- held inside the gates at PNC Park, looking out on the bridge -- included none other than Florentijn Hofman, the Dutch artist who created the Duck in 2007 and who has since presented it at cities around the world. (PIFOF marks its North American premiere.)

As first reported on this blog, about two weeks ago, local cartoonist Joe Wos drew the ire of the Cultural Trust when he started taking orders for a T-shirt featuring an image of the Duck. Wos contends that using the image was within his rights; the Trust told him (via email) that he was compromising "the brand of the rubber duck" and risked creating "ill will."

At the time, Hofman did not respond to CP’s email seeking comment -- and Wos is still taking T-shirt orders. So today I asked Hofman whether -- given prior copyright flaps in China over the creation of actual rival giant yellow ducks -- he had any comment on the disagreement.

"This is a nonissue," he replied.

That seemed kind of non-answer, but I asked Hofman whether he had any plans to take legal recourse on copyright grounds.

"Rubber ducks don't belong to anyone," said Hofman. "But rubber ducks of 15 meters, 18 meters, 20 meters, they belong to me." Again, he added, "It's not an issue for me, actually."

Which still didn't clear up how much Wos has to worry about legal action. As reported in CP’s prior post, Hofman would likely have grounds to pursue a copyright-infringement claim on the duck. Whether he actually does so remains to be seen.

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