On June 21st, Kaiti dragged me to see a show at Cafe D'Amore. I was getting second thoughts, feeling anxious, and all of that silliness. I almost didn't go. I'm glad that Kaiti is so excited to go out and see music because this show was great!

I had never been to Cafe D'Amore before, but it's just up the street from our house. It's a cozy spot that has coffee and small snacks. Large sculptures adorned the walls of the room where the musicians were to perform; I think these pieces were made of paper. I also appreciated the various elements of the store that promoted environmental care. When we got to the store, I had to do a U-turn to grab money from an ATM.

When I got back, our friend Ky Vöss had started their set. Ky Vöss is an electronic artist who lives here in Pittsburgh. They've been getting pretty popular lately, and I can see why. Ky's musick is exciting and spacey with tuneful vocals and the cool air of synthesizers. It's vocal-driven synthpop that reminds me of early Madonna or Japanese city pop. Kaiti says Ky is a like a gothic Purity Ring or Grimes I'm sure that hardcore fans of this kind of stuff have some better points of comparison. My partner and I really like the song about being an astronaut.

Philadelphia's Son Step is also electronic, going for an indie rock/ambient/funk sound circa 2008. Geometric patterns cavorted behind the pair as they projected their bright sounds upon the audience. There were some really great bits of soft, white noise, but it's sort of a pastoral sound overall. Son Step reminded me of a Pittsburgh band from years back, Sundog Peacehouse, though it's not a one-for-one sound.

Sneeze Awfull was a more experimental version of Son Step. Eric Weidenhof played cello, and Jay Eff Winkelins channeled found sounds and keyboard creations. The songs were wobbly, ghostly VHS-vocalled, micro-symphonies part mystery and part comedy. This, again, reminded me of Sundog Peacehouse and the Fantastic Voyagers event that happened a few times. Those were some of my earliest show experiences in Pittsburgh, so I felt nostalgic.

It was good to see this show and be reminded of the creative things I saw around years ago before, during, and for some time after the Roup House days. Neither then or now is perfect, but there are interesting things all around all of the time somewhere. You just have to look around you.

Desperate Times are a band from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I've never been there or anywhere near there. Some members of this band are in a Facebook group I'm in called Warehouse of Strangers and were looking for a review of their new album Peace at Last.

The cover art to Peace at Last is very metal, though Desperate Times isn't a metal band. There's the grim reaper holding a destroyed world and standing over skulls. The background is an assortment of scratches and chains and stuff. It's kind of roughly done, but it fits the album well even if it isn't perfectly rendered.

"Enough" starts the album off with screeching feedback into full-speed fury. What I can understand of the lyrics is cool - "I've had enough!". I like the short and discordant guitar solo. "Peering" is a grim thought about the "abyss of our future". I've been worrying a lot about this same thing in the last few months due to losing my job, government issues, and the state of the environment. The song brings a similar anxious quality, and I like the breakdowns that provide a state of clarity that clearly states these types of worries. It's an interesting juxtaposition. "Class War" is the last song on the first side. The guitar sounds great. This song has some extra sonic space which I appreciate.

"Prison" starts with an intro like a sci-fi film, but it's reality about prisons; we don't even need a dystopian future for this monologue. I was less impressed as it started, the vocals being a repeated "and they are" about the state of prison cruelty, but there are some other things here too. I like the idea of minimalist lyrics and the like, but I felt like the phrase "and they are" doesn't stand on its own like it should for something of this nature. "False Till True" has a cool chord progression, and the lyrics go off like a chant. The last song is a cover of "Some of Us Scream, Some of Use Shout" by Flux of Pink Indians, a band that I have not listened to enough. This song was a bit poppier than the others, except perhaps "Class War", though I wouldn't call either of these pop songs. To respond to the song, I don't think that it's too late for us to change. It's a tough fight though.

Peace at Last is a screechy and hard punk album along the lines of Crass and the like. I enjoyed it overall, though these types of things aren't my favorite. If you like peace punk/anarcho-punk, you'll probably dig this one.

Peace at Last receives a Good.

This review was originally written for a class I took about jazz music. The writing is a bit different on this one because of that. I had a lot of fun writing it, so I wanted to post it up here. This event was also a totally different experience for me, one that I hope to replicate sometime. Maybe you will too.

Earlier tonight, May 19th, I attended a recurring event, Off Minor Jazz, at Alphabet City in Pittsburgh (not the Alphabet City in New York City). Alphabet City is part of City of Asylum, an organization that works with writers from countries that have limited their freedom of speech. Tonight’s performance was part of their monthly jazz performances and entitled “4 on 6” after the piece by guitarist Wes Montgomery. Appropriately, this concert was centered around jazz guitar. The performance featured three trios and one sextet. Thomas Wendt and Tony DePaolis played brushed drums and pizzicato upright bass respectively for each group; the difference was the guitar player.

The first guitarist was Eric Susoeff, a professor of jazz guitar at Duquesne University. Susoeff moved to Pittsburgh from California in the 1970s. His first piece was his composition “The Do-Over”, a Latin jazz piece based on Brazilian samba with a theme of redemption. The first chorus was by Susoeff, the next by DePaolis, and them Wendt and Susoeff traded fours. Susoeff’s second piece was another of his compositions, “Promise”. Susoeff mentioned that this piece originated from a discussion with a previous girlfriend. The piece again had a Latin influence. Susoeff again took the first chorus and DePaolis the second, but Susoeff again took the third. The last piece was the jazz standard “Without a Song”. This is a classic AABA form of 16 bars, for the A parts, and 8 bars, for the B parts. Susoeff’s version of the song went into a Latin direction as was done with the earlier pieces. The drums were very exciting. Here, the choruses were taken by Susoeff, DePaolis, and then Wendt. This order continued for the most part throughout the night.

The next trio to step forth was led by Pittsburgh native, Mark Strickland. Strickland had a few funny anecdotes to tell about George Benson and Chad Evans. Strickland used the Wes Montgomery thumb-style for his pieces. He did not give a name for the first piece but mentioned that it was a blues song. “With the blues, you cannot lose,” Strickland remarked. The song was a 12-bar AAB form. Strickland took the first chorus, DePaolis the second, and Wendt the third. Strickland remarked how it was tough to follow Susoeff, said that George Benson was always out for blood, and then went into his second piece, “Easy to Love”. This was another blues-influenced AAB piece. Strickland took the first chorus, and DePaolis took the second. Wendt and Strickland traded fours for the last section. Strickland’s final song was another unentitled one, this time in a post-bop style. For this piece, he played all of the choruses.

The last trio of the night was led by John Shannon. Shannon is much younger than Susoeff or Strickland. Shannon graduated from Berklee and lived in New York City for a time. His set began with an original composition, “Fresh Water Prayer”. Shannon did some fast-picking during his set with tremolo lines cutting through the mix. There was a feeling of mystery in the air. The piece was hard-bop and featured the usual guitar, bass, and drums chronology of choruses. Shannon mentioned a new jazz club he was opening in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood before he began his second song, McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance”. This is another post-bop number in a 32-bar AAB form. DePaolis created a very swinging, walking bass. Shannon went a bit overboard for part of his initial chorus, but the song was good. Wendt provided the second chorus with his own degree of showmanship, and Shannon finished with the last one. I really liked Shannon’s guitar parts; the sound was again very mysterious. The final song that Shannon’s trio played was “Isfahan” by Pittsburgh legend Billy Strayhorn. It uses a 32-bar ABAC form as a sultry ballad. Shannon took the first and third choruses with DePaolis taking the middle. When Shannon finished, there was a special treat to close out the night.

The last band was a sextet composed of all of the previous players and a student at Duquesne University named Greg Jones. There were four guitar players in this band! They played Wes Montgomery’s “4 on 6” first. Jones took the first chorus, then Susoeff, Shannon, and Strickland. During the fifth chorus the group took turns trading fours with Wendt. Some of the guitarists did not play during all of the sections. Strickland provided excellent rhythm guitar the whole time, however. This song went in a swing direction with Strickland and Jones provided great blues licks. The last song was Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne”. Wendt mentioned that Burrell was suffering from a serious disease and had a GoFundMe up to support him at the moment. He encouraged those who could to donate. The sextet played the AAB 12-bar blues form excellently. The first chorus was taken soulfully by Strickland. Susoeff followed with a more trebly, angular chorus, and Shannon continued swinging with the third chorus from there. Jones took the last chorus with his own swing style.

It was a great show all around. My favorite piece was “Chitlins Con Carne”. As a person more familiar with rock and blues, I loved Jones’ and Strickland’s solos. I don’t believe that any of the pieces had much improvisation. Shannon was certainly the most idiosyncratic with his playing, reaching far out at times. Strickland reminded me of myself a lot, so he was very endearing to me. Susoeff’s Latin style was very interesting to hear live. All of the players were very good, and I would love to see them again. I spoke to Greg Jones a bit after the performance, and he expressed excitement about sharing the stage with such great players. He mentioned that each guitarist had chosen their own pieces, though Thomas Wendt had chosen the final two. Jones was somewhat sarcastic and self-consciously walled, but he was overall friendly. I intend to make a new habit of seeing live jazz. There are tons of jazz shows happening in Pittsburgh every week, and many of them, this one included, are free. With many young and old artists playing together, the music is sure to be interesting.

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