As the decade ends, one local release that succinctly sums up what today's kids are listening to comes in a small slipcase simply titled Play'r Productions Compilation CD. The disc, which came out in October, brims with music that both your twenty-something office bro and your teen-age kid sister would find listenable: the polished pop of Annasay and Cali AC; the power-punk of Nothing Unexpected and The Spacepimps; the keyboard-tinged screamocore of Maesion, Remember Thy Name and Fancy Me Dead (the only band with a female singer); and dance-rockers The Switch Kids.
Play'r is a promotional company consisting entirely of the unassuming Donald Byron, who started organizing shows for pop-punkers Punchline while still in college. "They're from Belle Vernon, right down the road from me," says Byron, 31, of Monessen. "I set up a show for them at a basketball court in Monessen. Then I did some of the very first shows at the Charleroi VFW." He chose the Play'r name as a joke, and it stuck.
Byron estimates he's put on at least 150 shows, including hosting national acts The Devil Wears Prada, The Spill Canvas and Attack Attack! in large venues such as Mr. Small's. "It's just something I do every once in a while to help bands whose music I enjoy," he says.
In late 2004, Byron decided to put out a compilation to give more exposure to the local bands he was presenting. "Pete Finelli from Kid Durango told me, 'You lose money on shows all the time -- bands have merch to sell, it'd be nice if you had some, too,'" he says. But actually bringing the project to fruition took years. "Pete works at [Lawrenceville studio] ID Labs, so they let us go in one day and adjust all the volume levels so the music ran smoothly together."
Byron's roommate Sarah Mattis created the cover artwork, which depicts another friend, Mindy Harkless, lounging on her bedroom floor with records and a turntable. The overall aesthetic is hard to pin down. "I like bands like Donora," says Byron, "but they wouldn't fit well on the comp, and neither would The Clarks."
After giving 30 copies to each band, Byron has about 400 of his own to sell, which he's doing mainly via www.playrproductions.com ($5 plus shipping through PayPal). Byron has a steady job as a mail carrier and isn't looking to make a killing from the release.
"Kids already know these national bands," he says, "but if I can bring attention to the Pittsburgh guys, that's really what it's all about."