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Saturday, March 31, 2012

William Bennett/Cut Hands

William Bennett seems like a cool guy, but I don't like Whitehouse a whole lot; the vocals are too direct for me.  Cut Hands is a different story.


The awesome Trogpite, Nick Painter, played first at Cut Hands' show at The Shop on February 21st.  Fog covered the room as he started.  Trogpite used the best pedal ever, the MVP of Satyr/Elfheim, the DOD Echo FX 96, to help create his set of a pulse with slithery sounds surrounding from the outside.  It was like living in a freezer in the Lower East Side of 1983.  Transmissions from the edge of the night.

Next TM Eye played, but I didn't know he was playing until the very end.  I liked the last stuff he did which reminded me of Can, but the rest was just DJing it seems.


William Bennett took to the stage with a big video flashing the words "Cut Hands".  There was a robotic announcement questioning our culture and the video changed to images of the underdeveloped areas of Africa and the people, children and adults who live there.  Cut Hands' set was made up of samples of African drums and other instruments from the cultures native to those areas combined with electronic drones.  His beats ventured into the freeform, not always matching up to what had come before.  The music, the darkness, and the imagery all bordered on the macabre and made quite a statement, it was also unlike anything I had seen or heard before.  It was all good because I had went into the show wondering why this was so important, but afterwards came to realize why.
If you get a chance to see Cut Hands definitely do it.  Like Kony 2012 without the savior complex.
Buy the Cut Hands album here.

The Forbidden Zone


The Forbidden Zone was a strange play/variety show involving a lot of people that I know.  It was similar to the Experimental Variety Show from last year and was also put on by the Rogue Messengers Union.


The main story involved Lulu, played by North Star, who is trying to catch a fairy/angel looking being; a bunch of weird events end up happening around her.  These events were apparently hampered by many technical difficulties the first day of the show, but on the second day, February 19th, most everything was going smoothly.


Sigh Meltingstar gave a TED Talk about memories/computer data functioning as eternal life/heaven and eventually brought back Princess Diana (Gunner), Darrell Workman did a satirical impression of a preacher with an electrical generator, Seth LeDonne sang hymns and explained art with humorous overhead drawings, and Marlon did an amazing set of heavy drum/keyboard music with a creepy mask.


During intermissions there were dancers with glowing hula hoops.  There was also a post-rock band, an interesting anti-capitalist metaphor with a girl walking over trees with symbols of our current society strapped to her, and video collages from old movies.


At the end stuffed animals fell all over the floor, everybody took a bow, and some sort of ending was explained with a moral or something.  The theme of the play was something like "Are computers alive?" or "What does it mean to be living?" or "Do androids dream of electric sheep?".  Hopefully another transmission from the Rogue Messengers Union will be coming in through the spaceways soon.

Roup 200


On January 14th the Roup 200 party was held in celebration of rouper RJ and roupie Becca's one year anniversary, the same people's birthdays, and the 200th Roup Blog post.  It was a huge party with lots of food and bands.  I was scheduled to play as Satyr/Elfheim and then as part of Mousy Razor/Mouth Eraser, but this didn't happen.


Legs Like Tree Trunks played in the basement first.  Nobody really knew them, but they had asked to play for some reason; it was kind of cool.  They sounded very college-y and brought a big audience of Pitt kids that left quickly.  Jangle pop


Next Relationships, the new emo kids doing math band featuring Eric Ross (Wasp Nest Head Dress), took over the basement.  A lot of pictures were taken and rouper Brian carried rouper Autumn around during their set.  They had a lot of cool riffs/chord progressions or whatever you call them and gave it their all.  I don't really like later emo stuff, but Relationships is pretty cool and don't have those terrible vocals that are often employed.


As soon as Relationships stopped, Last of England, the infamous harsh noise of RJ Myato and Erik Ciora, enveloped the area, frightening the unexpected.  They were joined by Eric Ross on drums and played an awesome set, probably one of the best Last of England sets that I've seen.  I don't think that there was nudity, but it was fun to see people so afraid of noise and thrashing and spitting.


Next was KBD from Ohio in the Roup living room.  Their set was spooky; you could here a craft approaching across the darkened skies and over mountains.  We were taken aboard, hearing distorted vocalizations, finally being let go to awaken in a cold, waterlogged marsh covered in lush foliage.  This is what you hear at 3AM on WRCT that causes you to do the same.


We returned to the basement to see rouper Brian and his friend Rob play a great set.  There was a weird dynamic caused by the two sharing an amp causing loud feedback, but they pulled it off.  Brian sang with tons of reverb and played keyboard while Rob played simple, but very effective guitar parts.  Lots of screechy pop ensued, including a cover of Robyn Hitchcock's "Listening to the Higsons".  Ali and the Haitians or the Ramblin' Roosters is probably one of the top Roup affiliated bands and they need to play another show.



Returning to the living room, Jason Zeh played a tone for half an hour.  He was very good: meditative, stark, and focused.  Listening closely revealed tiny details like staring into a circuit board city.  He and I apparently know each other from somewhere, but neither of us knew from where.


Dire Wolves played their second last show next (the first last show was in December 2011).  Creaking/crackling Teisco guitar and a weird flute and Daphne's trumpet, it was all very interesting.  Dire Wolves was much more focused and less singalong-y than in December and I was glad to see them, even though they were taking the place that I was originally supposed to occupy.  It was fun though; thankfully they had one last last show next month.



KEROAÄN was last in the basement.  Featuring Reed Evan Rosenberg of Tandem Electrics, who had played Quiet Sound Night VI at Roup last year, KEROAÄN was like Last of Engkand with lights instead of nudity and physical confrontation.  Their set was a marathon of cutting lasers and pulsing, hissing noise.  At times they would stop and come back again at near full speed, a head on collision.  I lost sense of what was going on and became very confused at some point of it, possibly due to a low blood sugar.  I do remember the intensity.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jandek's Return


Jandek, the legendary outsider musician, returned to Pittsburgh earlier this year on a Friday the 13th in January.  He was accompanied by Red Bob, who works at Paul's CD's (now Soundcat Records) on drums, Rachelle Lalonde on guitar and vocals, and my friend Jay Dowl, from Mustache Required and Middle Children, on bass.  Jandek (or the Representative from Corwood Industries) played guitar and also sang or sort of moaned.  Garfield Artworks was packed and covered in shadows; people moved in and out and I wasn't sure which were coming back to which seats.  There was a distinctive lack of youthfulness or enthusiasm in the crowd or the performers; every sound/sight/smell was composed of an empty husk of ghosts coiled around a pile of dust.

 
Jandek and his temporary band played his album The Living End.  I have never heard it before, or any other Jandek albums, so I don't know in what entirety it was played or how it compares to the album.  I do know that Jandek and co. were awesome.  His voice was not as dry as when he played the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in 2010, but much more spooky.  His band and he also played songs instead of long winding, but going nowhere passages for three hours.  There was significant a significant presence of the blues, but stripped of its machismo, bravado, and tall tale story-telling.  Instead the vocals resided in a mire of no-wave sludge/doom that knew no optimism and didn't care; this was perhaps the most nihilistic, but aggressive music, very punk.  Jandek himself sung the faster and more jigsawed songs while Rachelle sang the slower, more floaty songs that resembled Mazzy Star or maybe a more straightforward rock/blues band with unnatural instrumentation.  Just as when I saw Bob Dylan, the show seemed to end in a whirl, and, even though I was a little late, I still ended up seeing over an hour.  I hope that Jandek will return in the future; maybe I will have listened to some of his studio recordings by then.

Zvoov: Rock Variety at Howlers

The first show this year that I went to was on January 5th.  My friends Triangle & Rhino and Thin Sketch were both playing.  I was really excited to see Thin Sketch again because I hadn't seen them in a year or more.


I missed the first band, Lonely Ghost Parade, who apparently had made a big deal about playing early.  Triangle & Rhino was up next, but Jake Lexso's guitar was making some weird sounds; I didn't notice a huge problem, but it did seem off.  They fiddled with it for a while before deciding to just play with drums and synths.  It was pretty similar to the set they did at Little Italy Days, but with less guitars and less weird guys.  Jake picked up his guitar about halfway through and played some messy stuff that sounded like hurricane force winds.


The touring guys from Brooklyn, Zvoov, played after Triangle & Rhino.  They were really technical with lots of tapping and jazzy parts.  Everything was super composed and they never got really crazy with the db's.  Most of their songs involved the guitarist playing tightly coiled solos over top the concise rhythm.  Just check it out here.  Buy some of their albums and stuff too cause they were nice guys.


Thin Sketch was the last band, but they kind of blew it.  Davon Magwood's vocals seemed off on their better songs like "Heartbreaker" and his outfit didn't portray the cool playboy look that he seems to embody.  Greg Cislon and Jordan Weeks were both fine though, with the bass maybe a little too controlled/quiet.  I don't think that their set was really even bad, it just seemed less exciting than most of the previous Thin Sketch sets that I had seen, presumably due to the same setlist from before.  Hopefully they'll get some new, and hopefully noisy, songs and do it right again.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tiny December

December was a not as super busy as other months: I only saw two shows other than the ones already mentioned.


On December 5th Dire Wolves played their "last show."  I missed a lot of it, but I saw Stefano Pilia play a Noveller-esque set first which was really cool.  He used a bow and did lots of guitar drones.  Next Dire Wolves played a folk singalong set which was weird, possibly caused by unpreparedness (though this doesn't seem right either).  My friend Daphne played trumpet with them.  It was interesting, though unlike the sludge/noise/doom band I saw at Belvedere's opening for Lightning Bolt the year before; anyway, I think everybody had fun.


The other show was on December 7th at Fe Gallery, a new space that I think had only had one other show.  First D.S. Miller played a drone guitar set with computer loops.  He was alright, but went a little too long.  Next Ryley Walker played an amazing Dylan-ish folk set.  He was very, very quiet, his set is possibly the quietest recording I've made of a live show, but he was awesome.  I loved his songs.  White Reeves did some cool percussive space sounds.  It was a great set that was almost too long, but turned out fine.  Last was Quick Sails who did some similar stuff, sounding like an orbiting tribal kitchen.  The close quarters of Fe Gallery made the show very intimate, though audience members seemed to be coming and going all the time, but never exceeding ten.  There was also a great similarity to the first Roup show with Ryley Walker replacing Andrew Weathers, Quick Sails sort of replacing Quilt, and White Reeves replacing White Reeves.


Here's some audio.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

South Seas Sneak Zine #3 Release

On December 22nd the seemingly uncommonly known Pittsburgh band South Seas Sneak released the third issue of their official fan zine at a show at Assemble.  I had an older issue and thought that it was cool to have a zine and CD that sort of detailed local music and agreed to release a track on the new issue and play at the show.


I played first after a short intro by Greg Cislon and Jordan Weeks of the aforementioned band.  It was kind of weird sitting down and I had some trouble setting up, but it turned out really well.  Everybody seemed to like my set and I thought that it was one of the best that I've done.  "Ribot's Walls" describes my feelings of similarity between a video of Marc Ribot playing "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" to the feeling of the art galleries on Penn Avenue in the dark of winter.  It was strange because I was used to hanging out with friends at Garfield Artworks on those days, but this was fine and those days had run their course.


Next we watched a video directed by Lord Grunge of Grand Buffet that was a satire on the "Blair Witch Project" or "Paranormal Activity" and then a college girl named Casey Stelitano played a short, country-ish set on an acoustic guitar.  She was very skilled, but her set really wasn't something that I would usually see.  Still I think that she did a good job and it was good to see her play.  Casey played songs full of melancholy and heartbreak.  She could probably be a big star with some actual airplay.


After Casey Stelitano, we watched a South Seas Sneak video made with a Gameboy Camera created by a weird guy named Sean Rush(?) who then played some songs on a toy keyboard and with a musical plush toy.  It was fun and similar to when I saw Weird Paul play a toy DJ set at Garfield Artworks.  Speaking of which...


Weird Paul sang songs from his new album soon afterward.  He opened his present, a random gift from South Seas Sneak, (I got a DVD on magic tricks and Big Star's "#1 Record/Radio City!) and then played a cover of a Christmas song, his compilation song "You Don't Need That Knob", and "We Love to Use the Telephone" which is awesome and from his new album "Check Me Out Now".  This was maybe the best Weird Paul set that I've seen maybe not as good as his reunion with Manny).


Jake and the Jakeman played a short set with a song like Tom Waits, but they quickly transformed into South Seas Sneak with a different lineup.  Greg Cislon played guitar and Jordan Weeks played bass with a vintage drum machine keeping time behind them.  Their set was very post-punk sounding and also similar to Belt of Venus or Prince at times.  Later they were joined by Sarah Daddario with sang their last two songs, covers of classic-ish Christmas hits, and played sleigh bells.

The show was a lot of fun; it was like an unscripted variety show combined with a weird party.  There were snacks, drinks, lots of eggnog (which I don't like), and presents!  Shows like this are definitely a lot of fun and I'd love to play at next year's show if it's anything like this was.  Be sure to check out Sneak Attack #3 if you happen to find one somewhere (it might be sold at Soundcat Records/Paul's CD's).  My review of Rocket from the Tombs is printed inside and a Satyr/Elfheim song called "China Burg" was included on the CD with other tracks by friends RJ Myato (misspelled as Mayto), Wasp Nest Head Dress, and Weird Paul.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dean's Birthday Record Release

In December Dean Cercone released a record with the grindcore Bear Skull and another with the Beefheart-punk Skinless Boneless.  They all played a huge show together on December 17th at the Shop for Dean's birthday.  There were a lot of weird guy taking videos with professional cameras there which seemed annoying at first, but their videos ended up being amazing and really capture the atmosphere of this show.  I guess I just felt out of place with them all there, but we were actually doing completely different stuff and I'm happy to see their great videos.


First up was the amazing Actor Cop which is Sasha who had played with RJ, Greg, and me in Mousy Razor a few days prior at Beethoven's Birthday Bash.  I had also spoken with him at the Rocket from the Tombs show before that where he had told that his band "sounds like yr favorite band" after I had asked him what they sounded like.  He ended up being sort of like if Billy Joel and Todd Rundgren and Queen had a noise band and it was really awesome.  He wasn't even really noisy really, playing acoustic guitar for the first song and then a keyboard.  At the end he played a crazy green Harmony electric guitar, but blew the power somehow and had to switch back to the keyboard.

 
Next up was Slag Womb, a band I had never heard of before, but there was a long delay in between.  Slag Womb were weirdly youthful and hit a bloody Santa Claus mannikin around.  The crowd seemed to change when they started playing and was suddenly a bunch of younger looking people; it made me think they might be a band that was still in high school, but I really doubt it.  I guess they also have a pretty large fan base too, even though I had unfortunately never seen or heard them before.  They reminded me of one of my favorite Pittsburgh bands, Dress Up as Natives, a band that was around in the late 80s that I have never seen.  Slag Womb was also sort of riot grrl-esque, but despite their look and name they were not as distorted and hardcore as I had expected.


Third was one of the Dean collaborating bands, Bear Skull.  One guy screamed while another played drums and screamed.  I didn't really like them too much.  I think their set could have been shorter and they would look less ridiculous if the vocalist was just gone from the band; it seems like the drummer could do it all himself.  The guys with the cameras made a video of the set that you can see here.  I don't like this video nearly as much as the one they made of Dean Cercone because they did a lot of weird lighting effects and pauses.  You can see me at 0:51.


At the end of Bear Skull's set, the drummer was joined by Dean and Jim Storch.  Together they made some really amazing stuff with Jim throat singing over Dean's guitar and the drums from Bear Skull's drummer.  It was spooky and mystical and I loved it.


It was near midnight, but Dean had just started playing.  His set was long as usual, but he did cut it shorter due to my previous criticism.  Everyone was really into it and I thought he did a great job; I think it was definitely one of his better sets.  Dean played his huge organ along with his classic set up of drum and guitar.  At midnight everyone sang happy birthday to him and North Star.  A video of his performance is here.



Finally Skinless Boneless started to play; it was around 1AM.  Skinless Boneless had a new lineup after their old bass player quit, also adding a second guitar.  As soon as they started I felt like my energy had all returned.  Skinless Boneless sounded maybe the best that I've ever heard them, and Dean and North danced during the set.  Not long after they had started the owner of the Shop came in and told everyone to leave as she didn't want to lose the building.  It sucked, but there really shouldn't have been so many delays.  This is the second time that I've seen them get cut short by an event getting shut down.

I think some things got lost after the show, and there was a weird issue with money with a lot less than what seemed like it would be there from such a large crowd.  Everyone went to Howlers later and hung out with Dean for a while.  It was a pretty fun night.