While memories of the New American Music Union are beginning to fade, it could be awhile before those in the local scene forgive the American Eagle-sponsored festival for not deigning to showcase a single local artist among its main-stage performers. Especially in such a home-team town as Pittsburgh, it smarts a bit, doesn't it?
One local musician, Lohio's Greg Dutton, decided that he and his musical colleagues weren't gonna be left out. Assembling a 14-track compilation, Dutton and other featured musicians handed out 1,000 copies during the festival, and at a Brewhouse afterparty.
Entitled The Key Party Presents ... Playing Favorites, the compilation is now available at local record stores, and through www.myspace.com/keypartypittsburgh. It features mainly indie-pop performers, many of whom should be familiar to CP readers: Donora; Shade; Triggers; Ball of Flame Shoot Fire; Lohio; Meeting of Important People; Br'er Fox; Boca Chica; Ben Hardt and His Symphony; Good Night, States; The Central Plains; Brewer's Row; Blindsider; and Emily Rodgers.
The title comes from a series of "Key Party" shows held over the past year or so, where some of these acts would swap members onstage or at house parties, performing each other's material.
Dutton is quick to point out that the compilation is "not meant to be a Best-of-Pittsburgh disc and it's not a genre album," he writes. "It's about the relationships between the musicians. ... Many bands share members, some share roommates and most everyone involved knows each other." It's no surprise that the "Top 16" friends on the comp's MySpace page consist of the contributors, plus Brillobox (a frequent venue of choice) and WYEP DJ Cindy Howes (a frequent champion).
In other words, it's admittedly a "scene" compilation, such as happen with some regularity around these parts. As my predecessor Justin Hopper once described the phenomenon, "The results almost always suffer from provincialism, and either a cliquish scensterism or wild genre chaos." The trick to a cohesive compilation, Hopper offers, is to pull the stylistic aperture in a bit tighter.
Provincialism? Sure, and why not: Playing Favorites shows a group of like-minded Pittsburgh bands working to reach some new local ears, which is admirable. But while "genre chaos" doesn't describe it -- the disc certainly steers clear of Pittsburgh's electronic artists and gnarlier experimental ensembles, both scenes with compilations unto themselves -- it would be more unique if it were an actual key-party compilation: recorded versions of bands playing each other's songs.
Perhaps next time. If -- and this is a big if -- these musicians are emotionally prepared for the prospect of a friend in bed with one of their songs. It smarts a bit, doesn't it?