We Are Scientists Show Review

By the time Sunday night rolled around and I found myself plodding up the stairs to the Brillobox’s second floor, I was a fairly large shell of the human that left his office Thursday evening.  The weekend was long and wet; the city felt covered in sweat for the better part of 72 hours and I constantly felt the sting of perspiration in my eyes.  The crowd felt heavy and many were still drinking booze at 10:30 on a Sunday night; effectively giving the middle finger to the sticky work week ahead.

The room was thick with a haze of… something: irritation, excitement, the collective heat of the city’s black top… I’m not sure. In the middle of this indecipherable urban cloud,  We Are Scientists managed to put on a show that hit pleasure centers I either forgot about or didn’t know I have, transplanting me back to 2003 (my senior year ofof high school) when the sound of New York (Interpol, The Strokes, The Rapture) was literally everywhere.  The thrashing baselines, stomping percussion and ringing guitars of the Brooklyn three-piece coalesced into a slick, indie-disco shit storm, making the heat of August in Pittsburgh, for one moment at least, an integral piece to a seriously fun night. Continue reading

We Were Promised Jetpacks Show Review

Photo by Hugh Twyman

We Were Promised Jetpacks possess probably the most thematically loaded band name in the pantheon of indie rock.  While FatCat label mates (and notable influences) Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad also have names that emote in strange ways,  “We Were Promised Jetpacks” is practically a short story in four words;  an absurdly funny/sad thesis statement for a band known to punctuate their most heart wrenching and sprawling compositions with a wry smile ripe with bracing wit.

After witnessing WWPJP play their first concert ever in Pittsburgh last Thursday at Mr. Small’s, it’s obvious the Edinburgh group’s particular brand of concision doesn’t simplify their music and emotions so much as focus them. What resulted was a blistering wall of potent indie rock that proved to be epic beyond the usual anthemic signifiers of surging guitars and sing along choruses.  Lead singer, guitarist and main songwriter Adam Thompson engaged the audience with his quietly devastating stage presence, blunt lyrics and steely dynamic musicianship, subtly revealing a performance of grand romantic gestures from a truly charismatic man. Continue reading

Sleigh Bells Show Review

I want to get right into this.  I don’t usually write show reviews of bands I have already previewed, but I couldn’t help myself.  Sleigh Bells tore through their set at CMU’s CFA Alumni Concert Hall (not Rangos, like I originally reported) in roughly 33 minutes.  They played all five songs I came to know and love plus three new ones.

What resulted proved to be the sonic equivalent of a shotgun blast set to a Bomb Squad production with a femme fatale narrating the destruction. Without any reservation I can say it was the best concert I have seen this year. Continue reading

St. Vincent Show Review, Diesel 2/21

I watched St. Vincent, other wise known as the saintly Annie Clark, slink up onto Diesel’s stage this past Sunday night in a dress that would be suited for a goth Jan Jetson.  She weaved her way through the maze of guitars, microphones, her 7 or so pedals, a key board, a flute, a clairnet and a violin.

It’s easy to forget when you listen to 2009’s Actor or 2007’s Marry Me how each song, even the ballads, have countless moving parts. Watching Clark negotiate this overflowing stage, I suddenly felt as if this was the physical manifestation her little musical dream world, a place she fits into like a perfectly crafted diamond cog. Continue reading

“Blood Visions, Let’s Go!” Jay Reatard, Kim Phuc Show Review

The crowd for the Jay Reatard/Kim Phuc show this past Monday night at the Brillobox was a little more, how should I say this, meaner than the usual mix of indie kids the Penn Avenue mainstay is used to. A large, enthusiastic crowd, sure, but they had a bit of an edge. It’s a welcome change of pace from some of the more precious crowds I have seen at shows lately.  I will say this  was probably the direct result of a local concert promoter (and by that I mean OPUS ONE) facilitating the perfect union between a local band and a national tour.

I don’t think any Pittsburgh band could even begin to approach the pure viciousness of a Kim Phuc live show and for all those who have seen Jay Reatard in concert already know how similar their musical philosophies are. Between Jay Reatard’s pocket rock opuses disguised as shotgun blasts of hardcore rage and Kim Phuc’s zombie Stooges swagger,  the show, simply put, did not fuck around.  It was a heaving sweaty mess of the loudest music ever to come out of the Brillobox’s monitors, deliriously beaming with something too many Pittsburgh bands seem to lack: attitude. Continue reading

“That S**t is Haunting” – Nicole Atkins and The Black Sea Show Review – 10/27 Club Cafe


Yeah, I’m a novice.  Nicole Atkins is one of those dark, smoldering ingenues who converts humans into disciples with no more than a fiery glance.  During her live shows these humans, guys and gals alike, swoon in measured droves,  pray for their favorite songs and stand mystified, religiously mystified, as Ms. Atkins seduces the stage.

Along with her faithful backing band, The Black Sea, Atkins played a full room at the South Side’s Club Cafe Tuesday evening as the concert spot’s smokey corners and starry backdrop played a perfect supporting character (with the exception of a blown out monitor) to the bombastic qualities of Atkins best work (the street anthems, symphonies, and Patsy Cline homages alike) that were allowed to howl unmitigated into the rainy Pittsburgh evening.  Continue reading

A Big Ol’ Summer Concert Review pt 1

1blackkeys1265I apologize to anyone who actually frequents this site for the slow down (the third of its kind) that was due to a number of factors: job transition, hesitation, and, last but not least, laziness.  While my writing about music has slowed down, my actual concert attendance has risen over the past couple weeks,  culminating with 5, count em, 5 quality shows that have witnessed my attendance since july 21st.  I thought about writing individual concert reviews for each of these shows, but I actually feel more comfortable expelling all those sordid details in tight, controlled bursts.

Regardless of my literary indifference, it’s been a quality summer for the Pittsburgh music masses, which was thriving even before the peak in concert activity that hit in late July/early August.  So this will be a summary of the first 3 shows I saw this summer in a some what spaced out order. Reviews and tracks after the jump. Continue reading

Dr. Dog, Drink Up Buttercup Find That Primal Beat

Dr. Dog perfoming "Army of Ancients" off 2008's Fate

Dr. Dog performing "Army of Ancients" off 2008's Fate

The mic stands and drum kit at Mr. Small’s  stood tightly wrapped in synthetic ivy, looking more like a fruitful product of the stage’s imaginary soil than a gaudy prop of Dionysian excess. Maybe the entire production had been grown rather than constructed. Maybe Drink Up Buttercup and headliner Dr. Dog (who both played barn burning sets this past Wednesday night) played this show together in some other life, some other era.

Is the music they make timeless? Do they overtly reference artists of yesteryear to the point of doppelganger similarity? Do they embody the spirit of rock and fucking roll!?!?!

Maybe some of those previous sentiments were delusions of grandeur, rapturous poetry of the moment that actually never was. Whatever.  But I still can’t shake this feeling of temporal dissonance, this feeling of organic occurrence, this feeling that these two groups have always been here.   Continue reading

Rainy Sunday nights don’t got shit on Headlights and The Love Language

headlights2The wear and tear of life on the road is a badge of courage for most bands.  An endurance trial, if you will.  How many blistering live shows can a group put on before their tanks ultimately dwindle to E, and one unlucky crowd is treated to a 45 minute set on autopilot? 15? 20?

What was so special about seeing The Headlights, touring mates The Love Language and local power poppers The Triggers at the Brillobox last Sunday night was that the restlessness from weeks on the road pitched the show into a kind of euphoric fervor. With The Triggers aside (not because their show was subpar, far from it, but because they were exempt from the grueling tour schedule) The Headlights and The Love Language looked like they were made to play on the same bill, over lapping each others sets by bringing up band members on stage and incorporating a house party intimacy. Continue reading

Diplo melts some Pittsburgh minds

diplo_02So yes, the plucky women of Nakturnal, an all-female entertainment agency hell-bent on merging cutting edge night life with the corporate community, managed to wrangle one of the most important, prolific, party-charging DJ’s in the entire world to rock arguably the city’s cheesiest night club, Diesel, this past Thursday night with unparalleled results.

The man known as Diplo (a.k.a. Thomas Welsey Pentz, Philadelphia-based DJ, producer, and songwriter) put on a master class of mashup beat making for a city spoiled with talented, upstart laptop artists (Girl Talk and Discuss among others).  He casually manipulated a thunderously vibrant sonic narrative for a motley crew of sweat drenched indie kids, frat boy gawkers, greased up clubbers, and rap video cliches that, by the end of the night, were throwing up their “hand” guns in complete unison for the violent, felony laden chorus of this distinguished DJ’s most famous opus, M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” Continue reading