Tuesday, March 31, 2009
For the tired and weary out there who may be debating whether to suck it up and make it out for an 11:00 p.m. Handsome Furs show on this fine Tuesday night, here are some recent reviews to help you make up your mind. You know you want to.
Handsome Furs – “I’m Confused” (Mediafire link)
Monday, March 30, 2009
We’d seen this unattributed quote in a few places on the old internet and, though we’ve given them a few recent shout-outs on the blog and we both dig their studio releases, neither of us had seen Good Night, States live. Turns out the description above is pretty apt, as we learned for ourselves this past Friday when we both skipped the Antlers in favor of the local indie darling. Here’s our take on our maiden voyage with GNS at the Thunderbird Café:
Roberto: It was clear from their stage setup on Friday that this is a band who takes their sound seriously. And though that doesn’t mean their studio sound is translated directly to the live show, it does mean that the band’s many nuances don’t get lost in the mix.
With a healthy array of keyboards and a plethora of pedals at the ready, the five-piece started out with a couple of more traditional rockers–including the excellent “Family Dark”–before really spreading out and showing off their experimental side.
Henry: Yeah, it was hard not to notice the meticulous weave electric of cabling and homemade pedals they deftly plugged together. In an era of big, booming, black amps their array of mini-boxes strategically miked in the few spaces allowed by the intimate T-Bird stage gave the show a friend’s living room kind of feel.
R: And while less energetic on stage than the well-received Middle Distance Runner, who played just before them, GNS bring a sort of studious professionalism to their live show that works well for their sound. The obvious comparison for their studio material is a slightly poppier Wilco, and that holds pretty true for their stage presence as well (perhaps thinking of a Wilco before the addition of the explosive Nels Cline).
H: At first, I was underwhelmed when they turned the soundcheck into a steady rocker. But the show picked up steam and you had to recognize the tightness of the group. That said, Middle Distance had just finished rocking the room into a swirling frenzy of cigarettey, wailing rock and GNS’ articulate harmonies felt sweet but punchless for the first 4 or 5 minutes as a result.
R: What struck me about GNS, particularly on the epic “Long Coats, No Energy,” was their ability to keep it controlled during a few electro-instrumental interludes that recalled middle-era Sonic Youth, which could have strayed into the risky realm of noise-for-the-sake-of-noise in a small venue like the Thunderbird. Thankfully, the band fell back in line well short of that mark. To me, this showed a level of restraint unexpected for a band at only two years of age.
H: It was clear that all three bands on the bill (Eulogies, MDR and GNS, in order of appearance) are worthy of their music-blog-hype.
Shifting gears, I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend GNS’ clever and oh-so-indie marketing stunt: the band’s merch-girl (who’s name I unfortunately didn’t catch) wandered the crowd throughout the night and had audience members write messages to their friends on GNS postcards, which the band would then mail for you. She had five different cards featuring each of the band’s indie-glamour mugshots on them.
I guess what I’m getting at is this: they are everything you want your local indie-rock-act-with-big-time-potential to be. They’re clever, smallish, tight-jeaned–but above all else, immensely talented. A solid and pleasing show.
R: Totally agree. Their focus was clearly on the music, and I think the audience could feel that and appreciated it. Though all the night’s performers showed up to impress, most folks in the crowd actually seemed to be there for GNS, and it’s no secret why.
Final note: GNS will be playing next on April 15 at the New Hazeltt Theatre on the Northside, and Eulogies will be back in town on May 8, this time at Diesel opening for the Dears.
Click on the album cover above to pre-order your copy.
And you can read Dylan’s atypically straightforward thoughts on the album here.
Bob Dylan – “Beyond Here Lies Nothing“
Full setlist and review of last night’s show a little later. For now, enjoy…
Josh Ritter – “The Curse” (Mediafire link)
Friday, March 27, 2009
Here’s Erika Wennerstrom and her band last week down in Austin:
And here’s Ritter and his a few days ago in Charlotte:
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Read the full article here.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
So anyway, this week I’m not complaining about weekday concerts or Pittsburgh getting passed over, because just down the hill from Brillobox is another of the city’s best small venues, the Thunderbird Café, and as luck would have it, they’re also gearing up for a great weekend.
Friday has a bright indie rock lineup which includes the inaptly-named Eulogies, who have been seeing a lot of exposure over these past few weeks of SXSW buzz. Eulogies’ new LP will be out April 7, so if the Antlers are already yesterday’s news to you, this may be your opportunity to get ahead of the next curve. But the highlight of the night will be Pittsburgh’s own Good Night, States. YEP christened them the best local act of 2008, and SPIN Magazine has described them thusly:
Like Ryan Adams singing for the Boy Least Likely To, Good Night, States marry singer-songwriter vocal stylings and confessional lyrics to near-twee tunes anchored by electronic blips, xylophone and the occasional drum machine. The
Pittsburgh-based quintet sprinkle carefree handclaps and sunny male/female harmonies on a Wilco-indebted Americana foundation.
That’s good company to be in, and the praise is well-deserved. Also playing Friday: Middle Distance Runner, who have enjoyed their fair share of hype over the last month as well. All tolled, this triple -bill (I’m not clear on the night’s order) warrants a ticket far pricier than the paltry $7 they’re charging.
Saturday, leave your American Apparrel gear at home. Calliope is bringing in Philly’s Hoots & Hellmouth—fresh off their own SXSW run—for a rollicking night of gospel-infused acoustic roots-rock. Hoots & Hellmouth have been touted by the likes of NPR and Paste, and they’re reputed to put on a hell of a good show. You can check out their Daytrotter session here.
Opening on Saturday will be local bluegrass maestros Mon River Ramblers. Known to burn through a mean jam before slowing it down for some blue crooners, the Ramblers never disappoint live, and should do well to warm up the crowd.
And, for the jammier fans out there who haven’t had enough come Sunday, Thunderbird will be holding their mostly-weekly Grateful Dead Hour to wind down the weekend. That is, unless you plan to cross the Mon for Josh Ritter, or maybe the Allegheny for Heartless Bastards. Either way, Monday may be a good day to call in sick.
UPDATE: Good Night, States will be the headliner Friday.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The New York Times last year compared Brillobox to “an arty East Village bar,” but this café/eatery/tap room is all our own, from its Warholian handle to its friendly staff and a selection of suds via East End Brewery. It’s also a cozy place to catch a rock show. Why not try one of these:
- Antlers this Friday
- Handsome Furs next Tuesday
- Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin April 11
- Pomegranates April 15
- Headlights April 19
Be warned, however: the main acts at Brillobox tend to go on pretty late. Still, you’ll want to be timely for this set of shows, as openers will include some of Pittsburgh’s best young talent, including Chalk Dinosaur for SSLYBY and Triggers for the Headlights, either of which would be worth the price of admission by themselves.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I’m lukewarm on this new song, though. And on Vampire Weekend’s live presence. Oh well. You can decide for yourself. (Also, that was a total bummer when they announced then cancelled the free show at CMU last summer. Man.)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Check out Chuck D., still representing the Buccos of Suckitude all these years later. (Didn’t the Pirates try to sue him back in the 80′s or something?) This performance is awesome, and it also confirms that the Roots can enhance even a tried-and-true classic, as they fill in for Anthrax on “Bring the Noise.”
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
And not least, our very own Dan Rooney has been nominated as our next Ambassador to Ireland. Why not download these classic Pogues tracks and go for a celebratory stroll?
Stay tuned for the final installment of SITKOT’s great St. Paddy’s Day records a bit later today.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
For those who haven’t experienced the Harp at St. Pat’s before, it’s well worth the minor hassle and a reasonable cover charge to experience the joy that fills it every year. A tent goes up in the back parking lot, the bar stays as is, and you can move back and forth as freely as the crowd will allow. Between the two spaces, the live music never stops, with the tent providing folkier acts to balance out the modernized sounds found inside.
Saturday’s headliners are two staples of Pittsburgh’s music scene: Guaranteed Irish–including Bruce Foley, who played with Tommy Sands last weekend–and the always rocking Red Hand Paddy. Before them, the afternoon will be carried through by Hooley in the tent with Michael Murphy and the Shannon River Band in the bar. (And if you can’t make it over the weekend, Tuesday brings back the same great lineup.)
So, if you’re not in the mood to tread through collegiate puke in Market Square or to subject yourself to Hizzoner Luke in action at a parade, fret not; you have plenty of options:
Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle
Mark Guiser, Michael Murphy & The Shannon River Band, Hooley, Guaranteed Irish, Red Hand Paddy
Hooley, Rivermen, Devilish Merry, Molly in the Crowd, Do it for Johnny, Bon Journey (not Irish, but definitely hilarious)
Irish Dancers, Bagpipes, Gramsci Melodic
Nothing listed on the outdated website, but it’s probably safe to assume they have something going on.
Red Hand Paddy – “Fisherman’s Blues” (Mediafire link)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
As a big fan of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” I’ve learned to get past Bob Boilen’s annoying diction and the underlying pretension of a show that claims to consider all songs in the world and purport 5 or so weekly as notable. Why, you ask? Because Bob usually does play good stuff and often it’s stuff I’ve never heard of before. Plus, I just love Podcasts.
He’s been hyping NPRmusic’s association with SXSW, the SouthbySouthWest music festival, for a few weeks now and if you aren’t going to make it to Austin this month (we aren’t), NPR has done you the favor of providing a 10-Song, SXSW Sampler on iTunes – for FREE!
There’s bound to be something you haven’t heard before on there, unless you’re Bob Boilen or something. SITKOT favorites the Avett Brothers are featured, as are David Byrne, the Decemberists and hip-pop darling K’Naan (pictured with hands up) who I can’t stop enjoying no matter how much I want to. Anyhow, the real pleasures for me were the groups I hadn’t known or known that I knew, like: Thao, Blitzen Trapper (bluish picture) and Blind Pilot.
The link for the iTunes download link is here.
And, if you haven’t checked out the surprisingly robust offering that NPRmusic has become: give it a spin. They’re doing live broadcasts from SXSW all week in addition to their bevy of other concert recordings, articles, Podcasts and information.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Photo: Jay Paul, NYT
Those of you who shampoo regularly may or may not be aware that the much-hyped Phish reunion went down over the weekend in Hampton, Virginia, and apparently lived up to expectations. The Times dished out a synopsis in yesterday’s edition. Some highlights (including a shoutout to the Burghtown):
When Phish announced in September that it would reunite and play three concerts here, the news instantly rekindled the Internet-fueled Phish fan network. Within days of the announcement, even before tickets went on sale, every hotel within at least 20 miles was booked solid.
“I was 5 years old when Jerry Garcia died, and 13 when Coventry happened, so I’ve been waiting all my life to come to a show like this,” Ben Cooper, 18, a high school senior from Knoxville, Tenn., said on Saturday night. Mr. Cooper said his family had pooled $900 to buy him tickets as a combined graduation and birthday present.
“You could offer me $20,000, and I wouldn’t walk away from these shows,” Olen Green, a 38-year-old truck driver from Pittsburgh, said as he sat in the first row of the balcony on Friday night. Mr. Green said he had paid $1,265 for his three nights’ tickets. “People say, ‘Oh, why are you going to all three shows?’ But it’s really just like one event.”
And those prices weren’t for luxury box seats. No such thing here. In an era of high-tech stadiums and fancy amenities, Hampton Coliseum is among the great old-school rock arenas. One of the few halls of its size still to offer full general-admission seating with an open floor, Hampton is known to rock fans as crowded, sweaty, stinky, smoky, loud and in every respect intense. Leave your seat without a friend to watch it? It’s gone.
Monday, March 9, 2009
With a lineup that includes the Rolling Stones, Sinead O’Connor, Sting, Ry Cooder, and many others, The Long Black Veil is a great intro to Irish music, and provides recognizable songs and voices that make it all the more accessible. My favorite track off the record is also one of my favorite folk tunes. It’s thought to be of English origin, but most versions I’ve heard (including Bob Dylan’s) place the story stateside in Missouri. It’s been done by countless folksingers, but Mark Knopler’s interpretation of the song with the Chieftains’ rich orchestrations at his back breathes a whole new life into the old tune.
What’s perhaps most impressive about this record is that despite the stars that join the band on nearly every track, it’s the music of the Chieftains that shines brightest. The songs are all well-chosen, and upon listening you can almost hear the depth of the guests’ respect for their hosts in their voices. For any modern music fan, this is a record worth owning.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
And we out.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Anyway, the song is apparently called “Statues.” Good stuff.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “Statues”
I’ll be honest: I can’t blame Brian Warfield and the Wolfe Tones for being a little bitter after their people endured hundreds of years of persecution by the English crown, so if he wants to theorize that the devil has risen from the dead and joined the British Army, I won’t be one to doubt him. But north of the border, Tommy Sands pens lyrics of a different tone, and to the Wolfes he (with a hand from Pete Seeger) says: “Don’t sing songs of winning and losing… Sing me the music of healing.”
Many Americans think of drinking songs when they think of Irish music, and certainly those are a part of the modern Celtic canon. But there’s much more depth to be explored in the genre, and many of the songs are rich with tales of the country’s history. Both Tommy Sands and the Wolfe Tones are staples of Irish folk music, and through contrasting messages they tell one story of the people of the Irish island.
A listen to the Wolfe Tones’ Greatest Hits followed by Tommy Sands’ The Heart’s a Wonder can offer valuable insights into the past struggles of the rebels against their rulers in the North, and the ongoing struggle to maintain a fragile peace among good people trying to move beyond bad memories. So today, I recommend both. (And I should mention that there’s more here than just lyrics—both also come packed with the melodies and instrumentation that mark all good Irish music.)
Several tracks from Tommy’s catalog are available to stream at his website here (songs at left). He’ll be at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland this Saturday, and tickets are still available through ProArts.
Wolfe Tones – “God Save Ireland” (Mediafire link)
See the full list of St. Paddy’s Day record reccomendations here.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
They should be wrapping things up on the album, as they’re due to start touring in just a few weeks, starting in New England, arcing through the Midwest on down to the South. Sorry, Pittsburgh; you’ll have to drive to Athens, OH (or, better yet, hop a jet to Spain), if you want to see the boys this time around.
You remember that foul evening when you heard the banshees howl?
There was lousy drunken bastards singing “Billy In The Bowl.”
They took you up to midnight mass and left you in the lurch,
so you dropped a button in the plate and spewed up in the church.
Now you’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks,
and they’ll take you from this dump you’re in and stick you in a box,
then they’ll take you to Cloughprior and shove you in the ground
but you’ll stick your head back out and shout “We’ll have another round.”
At the graveside of Cuchulainn we’ll kneel around and pray,
and God is in His heaven, and Billy’s down by the bay.
- Shane MacGowan, “The Sickbed of Cuchulainn”
The Pogues – “If I Should Fall From the Grace of God” (Mediafire link)
Ultimately, any investment anyone is willing to make in bringing more, better live music is a good thing. But when you consider that the casino includes a 1,000 seat riverfront amphitheater and the Steelers intend to build a multi-use, year round ampitheater in the lot outside the Bettis Grille and that the renovated Point State Park has concert space – you’ve gotta wonder how many outdoor venues one tri-river confluence can support…
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
No Line on the Horizon was officially released today, and it’s a solid record for the most part. But it’s not on the list. The Joshua Tree, however, is.
Maybe it’s not Irish music. It’s not even Celtic rock. Most likely, it’s not their most “Irish” record. In fact, it’s named after a park in Southern California, its songs are rooted in blues and gospel traditions, and Bono’s lyrics draw heavy inspiration from the New World, both North and South. Even “In God’s Country,” which Bono set out to write about Ireland, ended up being about the U.S.
No matter. It’s one of the best rock records by one of the best rock bands of the past and present centuries, and though two of the bandmates were born across the Irish Sea, U2 cannot be thought of without reference to the land where all four were raised, so they deserve to be on this list.
Truthfully, it’s not even my favorite U2 album, but it charges out of the gate with crowd-pleasers like “Where the Streets Have No Name” * and “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and picks up emotion as it goes. It’s a classic because the songs are at once new and familiar, and its themes are epic. It’s awesome. So if you don’t own it, you probably should, and this is a pretty good time of year to buy it.
U2 – “Bullet the Blue Sky” (Mediafire link)
*I’m told “Where the Streets Have No Name” is the unofficial theme song of the Baltimore Ravens. Let’s pretend we don’t know that.
Monday, March 2, 2009
To celebrate this season, we’ll be bringing you seven to ten (I haven’t finished the list) records which make for a great soundtrack to the month of March. They may not be the best records ever to come out of the isle (in fact, some may not have come from olde Eire at all) and they may not be the best examples of Celtic music, but we love them no less, and we hope you will too. And so, in no particular order, let’s begin the week with the golden voice that is Van Morrison and a backing band who can’t be separated from the sod their sounds embody.
Van Morrison and the Chieftains – Irish Heartbeat
First, because I’m lazy, an overview via Wikipedia:
The album consists of eight traditional Irish songs, plus re-workings of the Morrison songs “Celtic Ray” (which first appeared on 1982′s Beautiful Vision) and the title track “Irish Heartbeat” (which first appeared on 1983′s Inartiulate Speech of the Heart).
The tracklist gives Van a chance to spread out and show off, getting laid back and upbeat on “Marie’s Wedding,” heart-wrenchingly theatric on “Raglan Road,” and, of course, awesomely melodramatic on “My Laglan Love.” Van aside, the Chieftains more than hold their own between those soulful verses, sounding as tight and bright as they have on any of their own records.
To me, this is one of the most successful collaborations in modern roots music, and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a great disc for St. Patrick’s Day or any day.
“Marie’s Wedding” (Mediafire link)
Sunday, March 1, 2009
The supermarket shelves have been rearranged. It happened one day without warning. There is agitation and panic in the aisles, dismay in the faces of older shoppers… There is a sense of wandering now, an aimless and haunted mood, sweet-tempered people taken to the edge. They scrutinize the small print on packages, wary of a second level of betrayal. The men scan for stamped dates, the women for ingredients. Many have trouble making out the words. Smeared print, ghost images. But in the end it doesn’t matter what they see or think they see. The terminals are equipped with holographic scanners, which decode the binary secret of every item, infallibly. This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living. And this is where we wait together, regardless of age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.
- Don DeLillo, White Noise
Airborne Toxic Event will be at Mr. Small’s tomorrow night. If you miss the show, still try and make it a point to read the book sometime in your life. And if you don’t do that, maybe pick up the band’s eponymous CD. It may not rock you like a DeLillo novel, but it’s pretty solid stuff.
The Airborne Toxic Event – “Sometime Around Midnight” (Mediafire link)