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Friday, March 28, 2008

Health insurance for musicians? For Pittsburgh artists, it's becoming a reality

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 4:57 PM

It seems like we're always hearing about benefit concerts for some working musician or other who got caught without health insurance and ran up a mountain of bills. Perhaps it's questing after artistic immortality that leads musicians to think they're actually immortal themselves ... or, you know, they're just thinking about riffs and lyrics rather than the infinitely less-exciting world of premiums and deductibles.

While there are options available for self-employed musicians -- songwriters' organizations like BMI offer plans to their members -- they're not available to anyone, not widely known, and ain't free.

Pittsburgh artists have more options now, thanks to The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, which has just announced HM Care Advantage, a new health care plan "for local individual artists and part-time and seasonal employees of local cultural organizations," a limited benefits plan that starts at under $60/month. You do need to be a member of the Arts Council (probably not a bad idea anyway).

As I'm basically an idiot myself on such matters, I'll just say that the coverage starts on July 1, 2008, and if you want to know more about it, the GPAC is holding an informational meeting at 6:15 p.m. Mon., March 31 at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side. The meeting is part of the organization's "Last Days Café" monthly networking happy hour, which goes from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

For more information, visit the GPAC website or contact 412.391.2060 x 234 or rfreytag@pittsburghartscouncil.org.

Hopefully the GPAC plan will help put an end to those endless benefit concerts for uninsured musicians. 'Cause there are plenty of more fun ways to blow your cash than having to check in to Presby.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Local rockers Triggers release CD at the 31st Street Pub

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2008 at 5:01 PM

Following-up the 2007 debut EP, Elude the Suits (see review) local indie-pop powerhouse Triggers is releasing a slick full-length, called Smoke Show. The band spent the better part of last year making the album, chronicling their progress along the way in a three-part series of short YouTube videos, “Triggers Make a Record.” Through the surprisingly entertaining videos, you get to follow the band from a musty practice space, borrowed from School of Athens, to the palatial Mr. Small’s Studio, and finally to the more down-home Machine Age Studios for the finishing touches, such as the whole gang pitching in on backup vocals.

You can take a listen to a few tracks from Smoke Show on their MySpace page, or tune in to the WDVE Morning Show at 9 a.m. Fri., March 28 for their live on-air performance. The CD release show will be later that night at 31st Street Pub.


Triggers CD Release with Br’er Fox and Cobra Collective. 10 p.m. Fri., March 28. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $5. 21 and over. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

When the lights go down

Citay reps their city by the bay

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 2:10 PM

Their name might feel a little funny rolling off the tongue, but San Francisco's Citay is a band that's getting some attention in spite of it. They're a pretty big ensemble and feature one of The Fucking Champs, but exhibit a more chill vibe and more complicated orchestration (that's what happens when you have three times as many people playing, though, I suppose).

In addition to your rock ensemble instruments and some pretty vocal harmonies, there's some major mandolin action going on in Citay, lending that sort of "Goin' to California" psychey vibe, plus the lead guitars sometimes sail off like a '70s prog jam.

Citay's on the roster of Dead Oceans (cf. Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian) and their vinyl release was put out by Important (cf. a lot of, well, important acts), and they recently got some love on NPR. They're playing at Belvedere's in Lawrenceville tomorrow (Wednesday) evening, and it's likely to be worth checking out. That's with Tusk Lord and In the Belly of the Whale, and starts around 9:00.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Doors Live in Pittsburgh 1970

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 10:08 PM

"Ah, ladies and gentlemen, I don't know if you realize it, but tonight you're in for a special treat," says Jim Morrison. He's greeted with loud applause from the crowd gathered in Pittsburgh's Civic Arena on May 2, 1970. "No, not that -- you only get that treat on full moons. Besides that, I know there are a lot of young people out there, and I wouldn't want anyone to faint," he says. "The last time it happened, grown men were weeping. Policemen were turning in their badges." More applause. "Well just remember, their motto is ‘Protect and Serve.'"

Someone in the crowd shouts, "Fuck 'em!"

The recently released Live in Pittsburgh 1970 captures one night on The Doors' last tour, packaged to look like a miniature gatefold LP, complete with a slip case for the CD. Plenty of hits, plenty of covers, plenty of cover songs.

Not being a Doors fancier myself -- at least, not since maybe the 9th grade -- I'm reluctant to speak to the relative value of what's essentially a memento for true believers. But perhaps some of CP's readers were at this concert, and if so, feel free to tell us all about it in the comments below.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

A little help . . .

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2008 at 9:23 AM

When I started working at the newspaper about a year ago, I quickly became inured to a certain set of names that would appear in the music listings constantly -- serious weekend warriors who play two shows a weekend, and some musicians who are at it nearly every night.

One of those names was Tony Janflone, Jr. Tony is very much a guitar guy. He's a fixture on the local rock/blues scene, but unfortunately, he hasn't been playing since the beginning of the year -- Tony's had some health problems, not the least of which being injuries resulting from a car accident in September. He's taking some time off to get back to full health, and is teaching guitar lessons in the meantime.

As so often happens in circles of musicians, word got out and some of Tony's friends decided to get together to raise some money for their friend in need. Thus was born the idea for tonight's Friends of Tony Janflone, Jr. Benefit Concert.

The show is at the Rhythm House Cafe in Bridgeville, one of the many venues at which Tony's done his time. The main attraction is, of course, Donnie Iris -- I mean, hey, this is Pittsburgh. (Also, seriously, click that link, watch that video if you never have -- it's a keeper.)

Rob James, Billy Price, Frankie Capri, and the Skip Peck band are also featured on the bill, and B.E. Taylor, DC Tanner, and the venerable Tony Janflone, Sr. are all slated to make appearances. It comes to $20 and of course the money goes to help Tony, Jr. pay his medical bills -- a good enough cause if you ask me.

The Friends of Tony Janflone, Jr. website also features a way to donate if you're unable to make the show but would still like to help out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Girls talk — and shred — when The Donnas come to town

Posted By on Mon, Mar 10, 2008 at 3:46 PM

The Donnas drew a decent crowd to Mr. Small's Theatre on Sunday night, putting on a high-powered show despite the lousy weather, and despite lead vocalist Brett Anderson being under it. Newly independent after parting ways with Atlantic Records (who released Gold Medal and Spend the Night) the Donnas were promoting their new self-released album, Bitchin', whose cover parodies the Mötley Crüe classic Too Fast for Love. As if to further the hard-rock image, the band members have adopted looks, locks and swagger that seem shockingly familiar -- in part because bands like Poison and Crüe were trying to look like women onstage in the first place. The finale's cover of Ratt’s "Round and Round" was the icing on the cake.

As guitarist Allison Robertson blazed through an old-school guitar-hero solo on the new fist-in-the-air song "Girl Talk," it seemed to me that one of the main reasons this style works for the Donnas is the appropriation factor: it’s four women taking ownership of cock-rock, some of the most cartoonishly masculine and misogynistic music out there, and putting it to their own uses. If a bunch of dudes revived this style now, they would seem like meatheads; when the Donnas do it, it seems smart -- and that's truly "bitchin'."

Red Wanting Blue opened, playing mostly resoundingly unimpressive bar-bandish country-tinged ballads. The Columbus, Ohio band’s bright spot was frontman Scott Terry, who, despite his journeyman pipes, managed to convey an excitement, charisma, and passion that the rest of the musicians did their best to completely negate. As my companion and I tried to decide whether the cavorting Terry looked more like Colin Farrell or Billy Crudup, he seemed to be trying to decide whether he was Diamond Dave (he did some actual scatting), Eddie Vedder (especially on the closing gut-wrencher) or Professor Harold Hill (rapping rapid-fire on a song that seemed cribbed from The Music Man). The man’s a natural entertainer though. And had a great hat.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Rollins rolls through the Rex

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2008 at 3:13 PM

Interviewing Henry Rollins for an online magazine was one of the first paid writing gigs I ever had. I was living in northern California at the time, and Rollins’ publicist got me an e-mail interview with Hank, kind of like the one Scott Mervis did for the Post-Gazette this past week, and hooked me up with tickets to his show on the campus of nearby Chico State. That was a number of years ago, and since moving to Pittsburgh, I’ve also caught his act at the mercifully defunct Rock Jungle in Station Square, and later at the Byham Theater Downtown.

So when the over-caffeinated road warrior showed up to do his thing at the considerably more humble Rex Theatre on the South Side on Wednesday, I was there. As were a number of other people: Promoter Mike Elko told me had sold out three weeks ago. It was a seated show, but a handful of stragglers like myself ended up squatting or leaning against the wall for most of the night.

Rollins’ act mostly focused on his travels in the Middle East, his middle-of-the-left politics, and his familiar topics of traveling for no good reason (except that he can, and makes his living do so) and getting to hang out with his fellow punk-rock-star idols. Thankfully, he’s shed most of the men-vs.-women type of material that has long made his act veer a bit too close to standup comedy cliché. And, like any showbiz pro, he had some location-specific anecdotes — some “back in the day” Pittsburgh tales of playing the Electric Banana with Black Flag, and patted us all on the back for surviving in this harsh climate. Yay.

Much of his 2.5-hour spiel boiled down to the exhortation to go live your life and be informed and not be an asshole, because if you don’t, the end is just “Rogaine and regret.” Which I’m sure hit home for many in the late-20s-40s crowd.

Walking back across the 10th Street Bridge to Downtown after the show, I jammed some Nick Cave and thought back through what Rollins had said. Don’t get me wrong, seeing his show is a good time, and it’s kind of cool that such a thing as a punk-rock motivational speaker exists in the world. But for most of the people at the show, myself included, what are we supposed to do with this information afterwards? Quit our jobs the next morning and fly to Syria with a backpack? Go hang out with all our theoretical rock-star friends? I suspect that this kind of agenda really only works for one person — and he’s the guy up onstage we’re paying to see.

But I suppose most of us could be a little more proactive about getting outside this walled city of ours once in a while, and taking a look around.

For more info, visit http://www.henryrollins.com/

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Robot rock

Two big acts take over Wilkinsburg's DIY venue this weekend

Posted By on Wed, Mar 5, 2008 at 1:56 PM

When a venue's run and booked by a rotating cast of members, there are bound to be ebbs and flows in the kind of music booked there. The Mr. Roboto Project, being collectively run, hosts a variety of different types of show, nearly all somewhere along the loose lines that (perhaps fail to) define "punk."

While a lot of heavy rock and noise shows have vacated Roboto to different venues over the past few years, this weekend brings two notable national acts that are a bit different from the hardcore shows we see there more often lately.

Friday night, Hair Police, the members-of-Wolf Eyes et al. noise outfit from Lexington, infiltrates, fresh off of being named in the Post-Gazette as one of Henry Rollins' favorite current bands. Do ride the wave of fame that accolade brings you, guys.

Saturday night, New York's Blues Control, who defy the general rule that if a band's name starts with "Blues," they're a, er, blues band, pull in. The duo inhabits the venerable Holy Mountain label and plays a weird brand of kinda-experimental electronics-infused rock. They're on their way to SXSW, where they will be playing at an American Apparel.

Both shows start around 7:00 and are all ages. A fine assortment of locals and semi-locals open for each.


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