Wednesday, April 18, 2018

First/Last - Mike Mains


"Mike Mains and the Branches step into that world to offer a breath of fresh air in the form of eleven shimmering, propulsive indie rock songs. The message of their sophomore full-length, Calm Down, Everything Is Fine, is laid bare right in its title, so take forty minutes with your phone off and your eyes closed to let it sink in." - Troy Sennett Under the Gun

Mike Mains is an indie rock songwriter from Michigan who is kicking off his Spring tour in Pittsburgh tonight (Wednesday, 4/18) at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls behind his sophomore release Calm Down, Everything is Fine. Joining him for support are locals Matthew Maraist and blog faves Ryan Hoffman and the Pioneers. I want to thank Mike for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.



The first album you ever bought?
Hanson - Middle of Nowhere.

Your last album bought?
Big Thief - Capacity.

Favorite album of all time?
Third Eye Blind - Self-Titled.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Brand New - Daisy.

First concert attended?
Leanne Rhymes (Yes, I know I'm a farmer at heart, SUCH a good show though.)

Last concert?
The Weepies.

Favorite concert ever?
The National touring Trouble Will Find Me.

Least favorite concert?
Mickey Avalon (Woof. That was quite a trip I was tricked into watching.)

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Favorite thing about Pittsburg is the friendships we've made in that City. We've had so many fans open their homes to us and those relationships have grown into some great friendships. Pittsburgh people are loyal and tough, which are great traits!

Thanks, Mike. I had to look up Mickey Avalon. Maybe it would have been better if Simon Rex was with him... maybe not?

Monday, April 16, 2018

First/Last - Lindsay Dragan


"Lindsay Dragan is a Pittsburgh-based garage folk artist. You can catch her as a solo act and a full band on local, national, and international stages."

Lindsay Dragan is a singer-songwriter originally from Brooklyn and now residing in Pittsburgh who can be seen out on a regular basis in the flourishing open mic scene in town. Her debut from a few years ago, Be Good to Yourself is a beautiful indie folk pop collection of songs both personal and universal. She is taking part in a very special show tonight (Tuesday, 4/17) at Brillobox supporting ex-Pgh artist and blog fave Roger Harvey as he stops back in town along with his family of songwriter friends for a celebration of his latest release. Seriously, Paul Luc, Emily Rodgers, Anthony Heubel and Chris 2? What a lineup! This is going to be one hell of a show. I want to thank Lindsay for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.


The first album you ever bought?
Hootie and the Blowfish, Cracked Rear View.

Your last album bought?
I traded a copy of my album with Liv Lombardi for her album, Freedom Girl.

Favorite album of all time?
Fleetwood Mac, either their self-titled or Rumours.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Honestly, if I don't like an album, I just stop listening to it.

First concert attended?
Hanson, on the Middle of Nowhere tour, 1998.

Last concert?
Paul Luc, Bad Seed release, March 2018.

Favorite concert ever?
I'll give you my top three: Feist, Carnegie Music Hall, on the Reminder tour (I think that was 2006 or 2007?); The War on Drugs at Terminal 5 in New York, Sept 2017; Savages at the Mercury Lounge in NY, January 2015.

Least favorite concert?
Wilco. So anticlimactic.

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
This sounds so cliché and cheesy, but of the several places I've lived, nothing feels as deeply like home as Pittsburgh. I feel like a part of the land here. Also, raising my daughter in the city has been a pretty awesome experience so far.


Thanks, Lindsay. Shhhh on that Wilco pick. They have some pretty fervent defenders. Personally I love them but I can see how they can be boring to some... or most.

Monday, April 9, 2018

First/Last - Merilette



"Vocally heavy-hitting and thoughtfully written, Mindpaint is a collaboration of personal experiences, collective consciousness, and kinetic synth. It is the perfect mix of a little bit of everything that everyone can relate to in some way, shape or form. Because it is realistic. And it is distinct, yet divergent in the same instance. Because it is Merilette; she embodies every drop of sound that will soak your inner ear as you listen. So enjoy, lovelies; after all, it is about the music, and how it moves you, both literally and figuratively."

Merilette is the stage name for electro-pop songwriter Morgan Graf, who's debut album MindPaint is available now. A native of Texas, Merilette now calls Pittsburgh her home and you can catch her live at a couple upcoming shows including this Thursday (4/12) at The Black Cat Market on behalf of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. She will also be at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls next Tuesday (4/17) opening for LAYNE. I want to thank Merilette for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.



The first album you ever bought?
That would be Dookie, by Green Day!

Your last album bought?
In the present days of streaming, I don't buy many albums, but the last album I bought was Taylor Swift's Reputation.

Favorite album of all time?
The Dark Side of the Moon. I have never felt more spiritual than when I listen to that album. “Us and Them” will always make me cry.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. So much hype, and I just can't get into it.

First concert attended?
That would be again, Green Day. That band is my childhood, the soil that I grew from.

Last concert?
A couple weeks ago, my best friend Livy and I went to see Miranda Lambert. I'm a Texas woman, and will take any chance I get to quench my homesickness. This concert did just that.

Favorite concert ever?
I saw Skinny Lister in Houston about five years ago. That night they were opening for Flogging Molly. Skinny Lister was my favorite band at that time and their cheerful music carried me through my depression, PTSD, self harm, and suicidal ideation. After their incredible performance, I beelined to the merch table to meet them. The frontwoman, Lorna, was there selling merch and taking photos with people. I got to the front of the line and words just started spilling out - I told her how they had saved my life, how their music had been narrowly keeping me from the throes of misery. After the words spilled out, the tears started spilling out. Lorna and I were in this huge venue, with people all around us, hugging each other, crying, and reminding each other that we are loved. I left after that, before Flogging Molly played - I had experienced all I wanted to experience that night.

Least favorite concert?
My least favorite concert was Walk the Moon in Austin, TX. It had nothing to do with the performance - they were great. But it was a huge standing room only venue, I was 60 feet from the stage, and I am short. That's no fun for me. I saw them again at the Greek Theater in LA and THAT was amazing.

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I started building my music career in Texas and moved to Pittsburgh a couple years ago. The thing I love about Pittsburgh is the small town feel. The interconnectedness is incredible. Everybody knows everybody. You don't get that where I'm from, because everything is so spread apart. You have to drive at least 30 minutes to get anywhere. If you want to go to another city it takes hours by car. Public transportation doesn't work because of the sprawl. Moving to Pittsburgh rekindled my connection with other human beings and made me feel like I was part of a community - something I had never felt before.

Thanks, Morgan. Wow, that interaction with Lorna sounds incredible. It's always great to hear cool stories of meeting musicians like that but that is an amazing story.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

First/Last - Scenes From a Movie


Scenes From A Movie is a pop rock band from West Virginia who are reuniting for a 10th Anniversary tour to celebrate and play in full their album The Pulse. They hit up Pittsburgh on Wednesday (4/4) at The Smiling Moose. I want to thank Tony Bush (Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.


The first album you ever bought?
Kris Kross Totally Krossed Out. And not only that, I see to record myself rapping to this album on my tape recorder when I was about 8 years old. RIP Chris Kelly.


Your last album bought?
The last album I bought was Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Starting to see a hip hop theme going.


Favorite album of all time?
What a difficult question! This one took a minute to cycle through. But I think I’ve landed on The Matches Decomposer. And it edges most everything else out because we got to tour with them on the 2007 Warped Tour and they were just the best dudes. And Shawn has such a fucking way with words and ideas that always resonated with me.


Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Elvis Presley… Having fun with Elvis On Stage. “Enough with the funny business man! I’m just tryin' to shake my hips over here.”


First concert attended?
Creed/Three Doors Down. Ode still shreds. Tremonti is a GAWD. Tremonti/Stapp 2020. But only because there was not a ton of hip hop concerts rolling through our area.


Last concert?
I THINK it was the 10 year anniversary of The Question with Emery. But I could be wrong. Oh yes I am wrong. I saw Punchline and Nightbeast over Christmas.


Favorite concert ever?
Every single one that we’ve been fortunate enough to play. But for real, Aerosmith was absolutely top notch. Can’t be my real answer though. Maybe it is?


Least favorite concert?
Every Kris Kross show I was unable to attend. And every time I accidentally saw Escape the Fate perform on Warped tour.


Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
LOVE Pittsburgh. Great city that is on the upswing. Phenomenal food scene. Always been a thriving music scene. Fun fact... Jon, Jared and I have all lived there at different times. And I’m pretty sure we all look back on those times very fondly. Can’t wait to come rip it the fuck up.



Thanks, Tony. I always hate it when I 'accidentally' see a band that I never can forget because of the awfullness. Doesn't happen very often but when it does, it sucks.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

NPR Tiny Desk Contest Pittsburgh 2018




For the third year in a row, NPR is having their Tiny Desk Contest in which any band can submit a video of an original song to win a chance to perform for the wildly popular Tiny Desk Concert. The contest closed on March 25th, 2018
As with past years, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania (that includes you, WV) is represented with some cool submissions. If I missed your entry, please feel free to contact me as this list will be updated to reflect ones that I have missed.

Monday, March 26, 2018

First/Last - Sadie's Song



"I was born and raised in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, PA. My mother being the largest influence in my life, the CD's she owned and the radio stations she listened to quickly became what I was humming as a child. Stevie Nicks and Jackson Browne were two of the largest influences in my music as an adolescent and as I grew into myself I discovered Folk and Blues music. Janis Joplin, Etta James, and Stevie Nicks became the three power houses I wanted to be. I've always loved a piece of every genre though. The lyrics in Folk, the raw emotion in Blues, the honesty of Country, the sexual nature of R&B, and the excitement of Rock n' Roll. I'll take it all. I try to emulate as mush as I can through my music. I hope you can appreciate my music as much as I've appreciated others."

Sadie's Song is the moniker for songwriter Sadie Freund, who is a regular in the vibrant open mic scene in Pittsburgh. She will be celebrating that scene with a 'solo' show entitled "Feel the Folk" with Sadie and Friends this Thursday (3/28) at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls featuring the Sweaty Already String Band, The Lone Pines, and Luke Sadecky. I want to thank Sadie for taking the the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.




The first album you ever bought?
That would be Celine Dion's Greatest Hits because I knew nothing of good music yet. I was around 10.

Your last album bought?
I rebought Ryan Adams Heartbreaker record for my record player. My old one had been played too many times and was a little scratchy.

Favorite album of all time?
Matchbox Twenty's Yourself or Someone Like You, because I'm a 90's kid I suppose. :)

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
The Head and the Heart's Let's Be Still. I don't like the direction they took their sound, and you can tell they were trying to create something that wasn't honest.

First concert attended?
Tim McGraw was my first ever concert. I was 8 and thrilled.

Last concert?
Tyler Childers in Cleveland. Great show, and good dude.

Favorite concert ever?
Iron and Wine performing at the Carnegie Music Hall. There was something in the air that night other than 90-degree weather with no air conditioning.

Least favorite concert?Toby Keith. He was drunk the whole time, but I went with my mom. She's a huge fan.

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
My favorite experiences in Pittsburgh all revolve around music. It's difficult to pick one, because there have been so many shows I've been a part of or been a spectator for that have been a joy to my life.

Thanks, Sadie. I'll give you a pass on Celine Dion since she was ALL over the place when you got the album. PLus you were ten. Believe me, there have been way worse answers than that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

First/Last - Astrology Now


"Ten melodic, lo-fi, psychedelic rock n' roll songs. The album was recorded over the last few years in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA on a Tascam Portastudio 488 MKII cassette recorder."

Astrology Now is the moniker of Pittsburgh songwriter Greg Mastrean. Gathering together some friends, who happen to be in some of the best indie bands in town, Greg has created a stunning DIY debut entitled Semi-Hollow Review. As with the changing times, you can snag a physical copy on a limited edition cassette along with the standard digital download. I want to thank Greg (Guitar/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.


The first album you ever bought?
I grew up listening to a lot of my parents tunes, but the first album I remember having that was mine alone and certainly wouldn’t have been bought or listened to by my parents was Ego Trip, by Kurtis Blow; one of the earliest hip-hop artists. It had absolutely nothing to do with a really, young white kid from the suburbs having any sort of tangible connection to hip-hop culture, it was purely based off of a cut from that record named, “Basketball”. I loved basketball as a little kid and Kurtis Blow name-checked a bunch of NBA stars and referenced alley-oops and slam-dunks, so this obviously was my jam. “Basketball is my favorite sport/I like the way they dribble up and down the court.” Indeed.

Your last album bought?
The last album I purchased was OBN III’s – Live in San Francisco. “Live in San Francisco” is a multi-release set from Castleface Records in LA. Essentially, Castleface records live shows of killer bands and presses them to vinyl… sometimes it’s that easy. They completely RIP!!!! Previous iterations include sets from Thee Oh Sees, White Fence and Destruction Unit. But this one is from rock n’ roll savages OBN III’s. When considering how to transition Astrology Now tunes from a lo-fi, bedroom project to a full-band playing live shows, the Casteface “Live in San Francisco” albums were very inspiring.

Favorite album of all time?
This is tough, but I think I’m going to go with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Dylan was a big part of my Dad’s vinyl collection, so this was a discovery I made through him. Being one of Dylan’s earlier releases, its sparser, more acoustic and folkier than some of his work that came soon after, but this LP forced me to consider lyrics in a way I hadn’t previously. “Girl From the North Country”, my favorite track, gets me every time.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
When listening to music, I've always been more of an "album" listener than a "song" listener. I enjoy watching bands grow, change and evolve, and I think it's easier to notice when you digest full albums. Having said that, when trying to get into something I haven't heard before, I tend to start with early recordings, then work may way towards newer recordings. Unfortunately, with Iron & Wine, I didn't do that. I was aware of the early Iron & Wine stuff when it came out, but was late to the party in terms of actually listening. I ended up picking up a record that came out maybe five or more years ago and to say that it didn't click with me, is an understatement. I think it had a dog on the cover... just not for me, man.

First concert attended?
I forget the name, but I attended a radio sponsored music festival here in Pittsburgh years ago and it was terrible. I don't remember who the headliner was because I was out of there way early, but I do seem to remember the band Everclear taking part. I recall looking around realizing that hardly anyone was paying attention to the bands or music. Generally, bummer festival crowds like that can bring me down, but it was a no-win situation for all parties involved.

Last concert?
Local show at the Rock Room in Polish Hill. One of my favorite local acts is Bat Zuppel and I really lucked out because somehow I fooled two of them into playing in Astrology Now, too. The full line-up of the show was Zuppel, the Gotobeds (awesome) and B Boys (from NYC).

Favorite concert ever?
At the risk of not being specific enough, how about any Guided by Voices show I've ever seen? Great tunes, great stage presence, great crowd and all around great vibes. To merely say Robert Pollard and GBV were an influence on Astrology Now would also be an understatement. After all, our debut release Semi-Hollow Review was recorded on an old eight track cassette recorder, a decision some of my friends never understood. But they never got into GBV, so I just ignored them.

Least favorite concert?
There was a period in the late 90's when the Fugees, Wyclef Jean and Lauren Hill were doing some interesting stuff. In particular, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was stellar. Anyway, at some point I attended a solo Wyclef Jean show and it was a mess from the start. He would basically start a song, stop halfway through, pick up a guitar, rip a misplaced solo, start freestyle rapping, then cut the song short. I left early.

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
As a native Pittsburgher, the growth and changes that are happening in many neighborhoods is very clear. I can completely relate to the apprehensions that come with these type of changes, but I view this evolution positively because of our city's fierce sense of unpretentiousness. Which I love. I expect that the unpretentiousness with which Pittsburghers carry ourselves will never be overshadowed by the negative aspects of gentrification and corporate encroachment.


Thanks, Greg. This is some killer music, man. Congrats on getting it out!