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Monday, April 27, 2015

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 2:40 PM

click to enlarge A banner that reads "Keep Artisan Alive" hangs on Artisan Tattoo's facade along Penn Avenue in Garfield. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
A banner that reads "Keep Artisan Alive" hangs on Artisan Tattoo's facade along Penn Avenue in Garfield.

With less than 24 hours to go on its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to pay for renovations, the owners of Artisan Tattoo still need to raise about half of their $87,200 goal.

"The money that we raised made the situation go from impossible to just really hard," says Meliora Angst, co-owner of Artisan.

Meliora and her husband Jason Angst are raising money to keep their business "alive" after being told they'd need to do costly renovations to keep their Garfield business up to code.

click to enlarge Owners Jason and Meliora Angst - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Owners Jason and Meliora Angst
The couple purchased the Penn Avenue building in 2012 and say they have since been trying to navigate the city's zoning laws for their vision of a three-story commercial business,  which will eventually include a cafe in addition to the tattoo studio and art galleries. When a new inspector nixed the approvals of an initial inspector, the process became confusing and expensive, the Angsts say — a situation they described for City Paper last month. And now they say, they're required to spend more than $60,000 on building a new three-story fire escape, as well as almost $30,000 on renovating several bathrooms to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tim McNulty, a spokesperson for the city, told CP last month that Artisan did not contact the city to have its 2014 renovations approved and was operating its business in the building before it was allowed.

"As with everything, the city has to balance business needs with safety," McNulty told CP.

The new inspector gave the couple a six-month temporary occupancy permit, so that the business could stay open during construction.

"[The fundraising campaign] bought us time," Angst says.

Angst says the city still has to process some paperwork before their six months officially begins.

"We’ve got half the money, so that’s great," Angst says. "We can figure the rest out on the way."

Angst says after Indiegogo takes its cut of the campaign money (crowdfunding platforms often take a percentage) and they pay for their "perks" promised to donors, they'll have about $30,000, which she says is enough to buy all of the construction materials.

Also, rather than cash, Angst says, some construction companies donated free labor and other organizations donated free space for fundraising events. She says a few more monetary donations could pan out before the deadline tonight.

"We're continuing to build with the money that we raised, while also continuing to work really hard," Angst says. "We have plans A, B, C and D. We're just waiting to see what works out."

Video by Ashley Murray

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Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 2:14 PM

This week's MP3 Monday comes from longstanding rockabilly outfit the Legendary Hucklebucks. "Don't Feed the Rats" comes from the band's new record, Hillbilly Death-Wrock Volume One, which they'll release May 2 at the 31st Street Pub, in the Strip District. Take a listen below. 


Sorry, this download has expired.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 5:00 PM

This film was not screened for critics locally, so we took a look at the trailer.

Film: Little Boy
Opening Date: Fri., April 24
Stars: Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, Michael Rappaport
Necessary Info: “From the producers of Son of God”

Sample dialogue: “But if I have enough faith, nothing’s impossible, right?”

Trailer Analysis: In a perfect vintage movie town — soda fountains, bungalows and clean boys in cloth caps — a kid believes he has the extra-ordinary power to bring his dad back from World War II. The kid makes “magic” shapes with his hands a lot. The words “miracle” and “courage” are used. Two sunsets are shown. (Side note: If I was making a gee-whiz inspirational movie about WWII, I wouldn’t call it “Little Boy,” which was the name of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima.)

Based on these 2:17 minutes, should you go? If there’s nothing new playing on the Hallmark Channel

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Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 4:29 PM

Like the rest of the country, Pittsburgh weathered World War II. But it also had an outsize impact on the war.

click to enlarge The exhibit includes this early jeep, made in Butler. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEINZ HISTORY CENTER.
Photo courtesy of Heinz History Center.
The exhibit includes this early jeep, made in Butler.
We Can Do It! WWII is the title (playing off the famous Rosie the Riveter poster) of the new Senator John Heinz History Center exhibit exploring wartime Pittsburgh, during the 1940s. The exhibit is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the war, which began with the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939.

“The 10,000-square-foot exhibit will explore Western Pennsylvania’s incredible impact on the home, industrial, and battle fronts during World War II,” according to a History Center press release. “Visitors … will learn about the development of the jeep, a uniquely American invention produced by the American Bantam Car Company in Butler, Pa., and reveal the stories behind ‘Rosie the Riveter’ and the local Tuskegee Airmen whose contributions helped to turn the tide of the war.”

The exhibit features more than 275 rare artifacts, including four jeeps, plus photography, interactive displays and interactive installations.

Four new “life-like museum figures” include local people prominent in the war effort, including Uniontown-born Gen. George C. Marshall, Tuskegee Airman Lt. Carl J. Woods, Sgt. Michael Strank and Rosie the Riveter, a figure inspired by the Westinghouse Company.

Other aspects focus on the contributions of local industry. There’s also a recreated 1940s living room and the Veterans Voices room, “featuring recordings from Western Pennsylvania [World War II] veterans and 7,000 recreated dog tags suspended from the ceiling.”

The exhibit was developed by the History Center in partnership with institutions including the Smithsonian Institution, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, Veteran’s Voices, Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Fort Pitt Chapter, the Tuskegee Airmen of the Western Pennsylvania Region, Zippo/Case Museum, Butler County Historical Society and more.

The History Center is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. We Can Do It! runs through Jan. 3.

The History Center is located at 1212 Smallman St., in the Strip District. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors (ages 62 and over), $6 for students and children (age 6-17), and free for children (age 5 and under) and History Center members. 

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Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 11:05 AM

Photo courtesy of PBS

The Pulitzer-winning playwright died 10 years ago, but WQED's August Wilson Education Project, the Hill House Association and the Kaufmann Center are marking his birthday with performances, artwork and a screening of the recent PBS American Masters documentary about him, all in the neighborhood where Wilson grew up and came of artistic age.

Wilson wrote Fences, The Piano Lesson and eight other plays in his so-called "Pittsburgh Cycle," chronicling African-American life throughout the 20th century. (Nine of the 10 were set in the Hill.)

Saturday's free community celebration includes students performing monologues from Wilson's plays; a community collage; and the August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand, which incorporates archival interviews with Wilson, scenes from his plays and commentary from theater experts. There'll also be a scene from the winning entry in WQED's 11th Play Competition, written by CAPA senior Alexis Payne.

The afternoon even includes birthday cake.

Those who can't make it to the Kaufmann Center can still participate by sharing student poems, essays and art inspired by August Wilson, or your own community, for the virtual exhibit "Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood?" You can also email a birthday tribute to Wilson, to be read alongside those spoken in person. (Email to 

The event runs from noon-3 p.m. on Sat., April 25.

The Kaufmann Center is located at 1825 Centre Ave., in the Hill District. RSVP here.

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Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 9:06 AM

This free new day-long family-friendly festival on the Phipps Conservatory front lawn is dedicated to envisioning a fun and sustainable future.

And the displays and activities – electric-bike test rides, anyone? – are complemented by half-price admission to Phipps, where current attractions include the Butterfly Forest and Tropical Forest Congo.

The festival itself includes live music by the likes of Black Little Birds, Gene Stovall, Devin Moses & The Saved, Proper People and Misaligned Mind. Plus: an aquaponics demo; demos by Food Revolution Pittsburgh cooking club and Phipps Café; and tours of Phipps’ new modular classroom.

Along with the e-bike rides and a scavenger hunt, try your hand at making a seed bomb or printing with reclaimed materials. There are also vendors of upcycled or sustainability-minded products.

Also look out for food trucks, from Las Chicas and Mac & Gold.

FutureFest is a project of Communitopia, a group trying to reclaim environmentalism from images of gloom and disaster (though it acknowledges that environmental disasters are quite real). Here’s a recent CP profile of Communitopia president Joylette Portlock, known for her humorous video series "Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!"

The festival runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Phipps’ front lawn, rain or shine. (Many activities are tented.)

Organizers encourage attendees to bike or take transit to Phipps, located at 1 Schenley Plaza, in Oakland.

More info is here.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 5:07 PM

#KeepBloomfieldBikeShare Facebook Page
A group of Bloomfield residents, who say bike share stations will disrupt businesses, have sparked the furor of cycling advocates.

In a meeting earlier this week with city officials, Bloomfield Citizens Council head Janet Cercone Scullion, along with Gloria LeDonne of the Bloomfield Business Network, said the three bike share stations along Liberty Avenue "would cause disruption on the sidewalks and disrupt the businesses there," according to mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty.

The city, along with non-profit Pittsburgh Bike Share, are set to launch a program called Healthy Ride in May that will for the first time allow residents to rent bikes and return them at any of the proposed 50 docking stations around the city. Three stations are planned for the Bloomfield area on Liberty Avenue.

News of Scullion's meeting made its way to local bike supporters who expressed concern that the city might re-think the placement of bike share stations in Bloomfield. 

"Liberty Avenue is a very Pittsburgh street," says Bruce Chan, a Bloomfield resident and chairman of neighborhood group Bloomfield Livable Streets. "It runs through so many neighborhoods; it’s very crucial to the network of the city and cultural aspects of the community. We have a bike lane on Liberty Avenue – what better place to put a bike-share station?”

Scullion, who apparently objects to the placement of bike stations in Bloomfield, would not explain precisely what those objections are. Reached by phone, a woman who identified as Janet Cercone said “I don’t have any information on that for you,” before hanging up. She did not return messages.

"We’re trying to show the mayor and city administration that this small group doesn't speak for the entire community,” Chan adds.

For its part, city spokesman McNulty says placement of bike share stations have "always been in flux.”

City Planning Director Ray Gastil wrote in a statement that the meeting with Scullion and LeDonne "was a meeting that, frankly, should have happened earlier in the process of designing the network of station locations. Given the serious concerns we heard, we are now reviewing station locations and will be looking at options with the Bloomfield community.

"We have also heard your strong support for the Bikeshare program, and its importance to you," the statement continues. "We will be working with everyone to create the best opportunity for residents, businesses, and cyclists."

Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker says “it’s a very hot button issue,” but did not immediately want to comment further.

A Facebook page in support of the bike share stations in Bloomfield had 231 members at press time and Chan is organizing a meeting to discuss the issue 6 p.m., Tues. April 28 at the East End Book Exchange.

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Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 11:34 AM

The highlight of the spring art season in the 18th annual Art All Night. At this Lawrenceville event held from 4 p.m. Sat., April 25, through 2 p.m. Sun., April 26, anybody can display their artwork, and plenty do. Frankly, it can be overwhelming for visitors.

To help you focus, City Paper designed four bingo cards just for Art All Night. In the squares are art forms and subjects to look for: string art and things made with branches; photos of the Pittsburgh skyline and sunsets; portraits of dogs and babies; plus the ever-popular zombies, Steelers and wizards.

Download and print one or all four. To win, complete any row (horizontally, vertically or diagonally). Tweet a photo of your winning card in front of winning art (the one that completed your B-I-N-G-O) to @PGHCityPaper using the hashtag #CPArtBingo, and be eligible for a City Paper prize pack.

True lovers of art in all forms will want to play blackout (finding all the squares). And why not? You’ve got all night.

Art All Night. 97 40th Street, Lawrenceville. Free.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 5:07 PM

The title of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's latest offering, Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015, is a little lengthy. That's because it attempts to sum up a sound with a lot of components. In a way, it speaks to the band's whole career. The Blues Explosion have always lugged the history of Blues and Rock and Roll behind them. But in the nearly 25 years of their existence, they've never indicated any fatigue from pulling that weight.

That first part, "Freedom Tower," makes reference to the skyscraper built at the site of the Twin Towers, post 9/11. This is an album about New York, as experienced by the band, over many years. If the "2015" in the title weren't enough, that "Freedom Tower" should clue listeners that the album is anchored in the here and now. Spencer has no interest in eulogizing. There is a track called "Funeral," but it's the album's opener, as if to indicate there is plenty of life to be lived after the death. The song's uptempo pace begins to make the case, by the time Spencer's first exclamation of "Blues Explosion!" hits, the vitality is undeniable.

Though there can be little doubt that Spencer is committed to his sound; Blues with a healthy infusion of Rock and Roll swagger, that sound is still as at odds with prevailing trends as it was in the early 90's when the Blues Explosion was born. As such, true as it may be to the traditions it follows, it's difficult to take the Blues Explosion purely at face value. It's not contrived, but it is precisely arranged. In that arrangement, there are hints of subtext. Intrinsic to this formula is Spencer's willingness to leave space for his own charismatic personality.

Spencer's willingness to experiment with the component parts doesn't always work. The rippity-rappity style of old school hip-hop rhyming he employs for a great part of the album often feels stilted, stifling the heat built by the tight-as-ever back beat of the Blues Explosion. It is precisely this fearlessness that the "No Wave" portion of the title is meant to address. Cutting his teeth in noise-rock outfits like Pussy Galore, Spencer was reaching for the iconoclastic over the accessible since his first forays into music. As for the "Dance Party" of the title, it requires no explanation. More than anything, the Blues Explosion is an impetus to motion. In the following conversation, Jon Spencer talks about how his inspiration informs his motivation.

click to enlarge The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - MICHA WARREN
Micha Warren
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

You've mentioned in other interviews that you aren't coming from a nostalgic place on this album. Can you elaborate?

I think in my head and in my heart, I still relate to the New York City I fell in love with some thirty years ago and that's a city that no longer exists. I may be wistful at times, but I'm not bitter about it and I don't wish to return to some time that's gone and passed. So, no, this record was not intended to be a nostalgia trip. It's not only about old New York, it's also about New York City today.

Was the purpose, then, to make a juxtaposition between old and new? What brought this stuff to your mind?

Just living and working here for all these years. Blues Explosion has been going for about 24 years and we've definitely been influenced by bands and musicians that have gone before us, people that have lived and worked here in New York City. I think that the city, itself, just living in this big, overwhelming, noisy place has been an influence on us. It wasn't meant to be a concept album. These things just sort of bubble up. When we're writing a song, we try to be very sensitive to inspiration and a lot of the time that's coming from the underneath, from inside, from the subconscious.

I've listened to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion over the years. What I've come to realize, I think, is that it's largely a reaction. I look at it as holding up a mirror to culture.

Perhaps, I don't know. [That] makes it sound like we're only reactive and I think that there's a lot of life and energy in what we do. I don't think we exist just to react to some outside stimuli.

I guess what I mean to say is that the Blues Explosion distills things down to an essence. For example, I read about how you studied the Sun Records artists for their cultural significance and the signifiers in their stage presence.

If you want to talk about Sun artists, what you hit your head against first is the cultural significance. People like Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley; those are huge, almost mythical figures in American culture. What I was more interested in talking about was the actual music, what they did as artists and get into that. That's a much different thing. I think with me and my relationship to rock and roll music and, to a larger extent, the Blues Explosion, we're definitely great fans of rock and roll music and I think we're trying to form very personal connections to this music. With the Sun artists I think that the actual sounds, the recordings, if you could strip away all the signifiers and layers of paint that have been accumulating over the years, I think it's still very powerful music, very powerful art.

Would you say that it's accurate to call what you do in the Blues Explosion fifty percent emulation and fifty percent commentary on - I don't want to call it source material because you're doing your own thing - but blues and rock and roll?

We are a rock and roll band and we are kind of a garage band. We were so in love with these bands and the records that they made that we wanted to start our own band. I think that's the way it's always been. Elvis Presley was in love with certain country and western artists, certain blues artists, and he was in love with people like Dean Martin, popular music artists. It was a jamming together of these different styles.

I think that if there is emulation there, in rock and roll emulation has always been a part of it. I think that rock and roll is a mongrel sort of music and it's no wonder that it changed our society and modern culture in the way that it did because it crosses so many lines. As far as the Blues Explosion, yeah we dig rock and roll and want to play it ourselves. At the root of it, we are like any garage band, emulating our heroes. I think that we wouldn't still be doing it or wouldn't be able to get as far as we have, if that's all there was to it. There's a great deal of originality and style to what we do and that's why people respond to it.

Yes, we live in a post-modern world, but the Blues Explosion is not at all about irony. We aren't doing this because we want to make fun of Little Richard or Elvis Presley or make some comment on these artists or genres. We're doing this because we love this stuff and we want to keep it alive. Yes, there are songs that can and do operate on different levels. A cultivated, sophisticated listener might catch some of these different levels of meaning. Ultimately, we're a rock and roll band, playing a rock and roll show, so we're aiming squarely from the hips.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion with Danny & the Darleans, Nox Boys. 9 p.m., Sat., April 25. The Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $15. 412-381-6811 or

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Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 3:37 PM

click to enlarge Joe Negri - PHOTO BY ALEX ZIMMERMAN
Photo by Alex Zimmerman
Joe Negri
This Friday, April 24, will mark the last time Joe Negri fans will get a chance to catch him play his regular set at the Omni William Penn Hotel — a decision made by management that has angered some in the local jazz community.

"When he announced the gig was ending and it wasn’t by his choice  — and he’s being replaced by a DJ-turned-amateur-singer ... it just [felt] like this isn’t the way to treat Joe Negri,” says Michelle Kienholz, a fan who has regularly attended his shows at the Omni Downtown. She's encouraging supporters to attend his last show in solidarity. He'll perform with pianist Daniel May from 5 to 7 p.m.

Negri, who has played at the hotel once a month for five years, is a renowned classical guitarist who co-starred as "Handyman Negri" on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Negri says that hotel management approached him about two weeks ago and said they "wanted to change the music format, try some different things. It kind of came out of the blue."

"They treated me pretty well for a long time," the 88-year-old Negri adds, surmising they "might be looking to go for a younger crowd.”

Bob Page, the Omni's director of sales and marketing, says the decision to end Negri's residency was made to "freshen things up."

"We just needed to make a change in entertainment for a little bit of variety to stimulate some additional business," he says, adding Negri may still be invited to play special events. "Joe has always been very respected by this hotel. It’s a little frustrating that people are making this out to be a negative thing.”

Page would not say who the hotel planned to book as entertainment down the road, but Carlton Leeper, a local DJ and vocalist who performs jazz, R&B and pop, confirmed he will start performing at the Omni in May, two Fridays a month.

"We’re catching flak for this," Leeper says, noting he had no idea the hotel was ending Negri's residency when Leeper auditioned. People have approached him to encourage him not to take the job, Leeper says, but he's planning to honor the commitment, because "whether we do it or not, someone’s [doing] the gig."

The hotel's move puzzled Tania Grubbs, who is a vocalist and helps organize jazz concerts offered Wednesday through Saturday at Downtown's Fairmont Hotel. “There are people that are really pissed off, because they see it as a nice thing in our jazz community that’s gone," Grubbs says. "Joe is a national treasure. ... I think it might be a little shortsighted on their behalf to eliminate him from their lineup."

Regardless, she adds, “Friday, that lobby will be packed.”

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