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Sunday, October 31, 2010

November Pittsburgh concerts


11/4 Gogol Bordello @ Mr. Small's

I've seen these crazy gypsy punks four times now, always at large festivals - twice at Lollapalooza, once at Bonnaroo and once at All Points West. I can't imagine how their manic energy would blow the roof off a small venue.

11/2 Frightened Rabbit @ Diesel

Frightened Rabbit were one of the highlights of Lollapalooza 2010 with their soul-baring sorrow and surprisingly catchy melodies.

11/7 Bob Dylan @ Petersen Events Center
With Dylan these days, there are more bad days than good. But every once in a while you get that really amazing performance. Perhaps this will be the one.

Others to keep in mind:
11/2 Cloud Cult @ Mr. Small's
11/4-5 Joe Grushecky with Bruce Springsteen at Soldiers & Sailers Hall
11/9 Emmylou Harris @ Byham Theater
11/9 Atreyu, Blessthefall & Chiodos @ Mr. Small's
11/10 1900s @ Brillobox
11/11 Barenaked Ladies @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
11/11 Ben Folds @ Club Zoo
11/11 Brendan Benson @ the Posies @ Mr. Small's
11/13 Wakey Wakey @ Brillobox
11/20 John Mellancamp @ Heinz Hall
11/21 Paula Cole @ Club Cafe
11/23 The Hold Steady @ Mr. Small's

Friday, October 22, 2010

Musician tweet of the week: Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al offered this nugget of wisdom recently:

Re: signing a contract with Satan – never use your own blood, just regular ink.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I can tell you I'm sorry, but I can't tell the truth

featuring Steven Page, David Archuleta, & Gin Blossoms
October 19, 2010

Altar Bar, Pittsburgh

The Fall Q Ball, a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation sponsored by local radio station 92.9, was a mish-mash of old and new pop artists that didn't quite fit on the same bill. I skipped out on openers Christina Perri and Ryan Star but arrived in time to see Steven Page, former Barenaked Ladies frontman turned solo artist. His album, Page One, was released on the day of the show, and the solo songs he played resembled everything I remember liking about the Barenaked Ladies--quirky, catchy lyrics and melodies mixed with honesty and a hint of self-deprecation.

Page mixed old and new material during his 45-minute set, opening with "Bull in a China Shop" from 2006's Barenaked Ladies are Me album. The song's lyrics paint a bit of an autobiographical picture as he describes himself as "a tired old metaphor" and "a public embarrassment," things I imagine he feels after his arrest for drug possession and the break with BNL. Personal circumstances aside, though, Page was in excellent voice and cheerfully took requests from the audience, including 1992's touching "What a Good Boy" and '95's upbeat "Shoe Box," my personal request.

Since the show was all ages, a temporary wall divided the room in half in order to keep kids out of the bar area. As Page introduced a new song, "Entourage," he explained, "For those of you on this [under age] side of the room, the album version sounds like Lady GaGa. For those of you on this [21+] side, it sounds like...Frankie Goes to Hollywood." Although "Indecision" is the first single off the new album, the heartfelt "The Chorus Girl," complete with singalong "la la la" chorus, was definitely the highlight of the set. Page wisely ended with Brian Wilson, a familiar track that had many singing along.

It was clear that the reason most everyone was at this show (15-year-olds and 50-somethings alike) was to see David Archuleta, who in 2007 earned the runner-up spot on season 7 of American Idol at age 16. While he's physically grown up a bit, he still has that cute, awkward, boyish appeal that many find charming. "Elevator" was catchy enough, and his voice sounded nice on his cover of Robbie Williams' "Angels," but Archuleta still lacks the depth of feeling and maturity you'd expect of someone singing such sensitive songs. After saying goodbye after a mere 20-minute set, it's clear he still has a lot of growing to do, both emotionally and musically.

The house dwindled down to about half as many people by the time Robin Wilson and Scott Johnson from the Gin Blossoms took the stage for an acoustic set. Not only did the guys appease listeners with slowed-down versions of classics like "Til I Hear It From You" and "Hey Jealousy," but they also performed a new single, "Miss Disarray" from their new album No Chocolate Cake, their first studio release in 4 years. Also from the new album, Wilson explained the tender "Wave Bye Bye:" I wrote the saddest song I could think of to impress the girls who work at Hot Topic." Wilson has taken care of his pipes and still sounded lovely, especially on "Pieces of the Night," which he called "probably the best song we ever recorded." My only complaint was that the set was pretty low-energy--or was it just laid back? Maybe the band was simply relieved that all the kids and their parents had left.

One big bonus to the mass exodus of people before the end of the show--fewer folks to claim the raffle prizes. Unfortunately I missed out on the autographed Carlos Santana guitar, but I managed to win an autographed Adam Lambert guitar--who knew? I guess I better list it on eBay as soon as I pick it up from the station, before he falls into obscurity...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Recent listening: Sugarland and My Chem

The two songs I've been listening to most often lately:

Sugarland are back with a new single, "Stuck Like Glue." Besides featuring a strange reggae breakdown, it's the first country song ever to use Auto-Tune. Thanks T-Pain, your reach is now greater than you ever could have imagined! (The Auto-Tune is subtle and only during the final chorus.) My favorite country song of the year so far.

Video: Sugarland - Stuck Like Glue

My Chemical Romance have a new single "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)." I'm thrilled about this band's return, because mainstream rock music has sucked royally in 2010. Indie rock has been ok, but can you remember the last time you heard a good new rock song on the radio? My Chem answer that question with a lyrically-intriguing track with a memorable chorus.

Video: My Chemical Romance - Na Na Na

Monday, October 11, 2010

MIA's new album is horrifying... and fantastic

A few months ago, "Paper Planes" heroine M.I.A. released MAYA, a record I only got around to listening to recently. I was intrigued after reading a review on Coke Machine Glow with the opening sentence: "MAYA, M.I.A.’s third and so obviously worst album, is the sound of a devoted audience getting fucked over by a musical sociopath."

So I listened and realized that review was correct. The album is disturbing and almost unlistenable. And for that reason, I love it.

It reminds me of Liars' second album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. That record got some of the worst reviews I've seen in my life. Rolling Stone gave it a half star. Seriously, one half of one star. Spin gave it a 0 score. Billboard called it "a gigantic step backward."

I couldn't figure out all the outrage, because I loved that Liars record, particularly the horrifying screams at the end of "If You're a Wizard, Why Do You Wear Glasses?" That album was so dark. Honestly, when so many records these days sound exactly the same, it's a breath of fresh air to hear something so... out there.

It's with that context in mind that I declare MIA's new album one of my favorites of recent months. The highlight, in all its "torture chamber" glory, is "Teqkilla."

MIA: Teqkilla

Friday, October 8, 2010

Musician tweet of the week: Leann Rimes

I probably wouldn't take dietary advice from Leann Rimes under normal circumstances, but this one makes my mouth water:

For those of you who have access to a Whole Foods go buy freshly ground chocolate peanut butter, omg so good.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

October Pittsburgh Concerts

10/3 !!! @ Lawrenceville Moose

We've seen indie dance rockers !!! in venues both large (Lollapalooza) and small (Rex Theatre), and their live show is always a good time. This one is especially exciting because it's part of the first VIA Festival, a weekend visual and music fest.

10/19 New Pornographers & Tokyo Police Club @ Ches-A-Rena
The buzz around Tokyo Police Club died down a bit after their last two albums didn't make a big splash, but their peppy indie sound is still worth checking out. And not much needs to be said about the New Porns - they're one of the best live bands around these days.

Others to keep in mind:
10/2 Fruit Bats @ Garfield Artworks
10/3 Ra Ra Riot @ Diesel
10/8 Anti-Flag @ Mr. Small's
10/9 Bone Thugs N Harmony @ Mr. Small's
10/12 Jill Sobule @ Club Cafe
10/14 Reba McEntire, George Strait & Lee Ann Womack @ Consol Energy Center
10/15 Jukebox the Ghost @ Brillobox
10/19 Eagles @ Consol Energy Center
10/21 Umphrey's McGee @ Mr. Small's
10/22 The Walkmen & Japandroids @ Mr. Small's
10/24 Robert Randolph & the Family Band @ Carnegie Music Hall (Homestead)
10/26 Bear in Heaven @ Brillobox
10/27 Grace Potter & the Nocturnals @ Mr. Small's
10/30 3OH!3, Hellogoodbye & Neon Hitch @ Ches-A-Rena

Friday, October 1, 2010

Musician tweet of the week: John Vanderslice

John Vanderslice operates a studio called Tiny Telephone. He tweeted about it last week:

I had a long, agonizing nightmare that a client gave Tiny Telephone a 1 star review on Yelp because we didn't have a 52" flat screen.