Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011-Show of the Year # 1 - Good Night, States

House Show
Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's very difficult to explain to someone the power that music can have over you. Some will look at this 'pick' and wonder how in the world it could be my favorite show of the several dozens I have seen this year. Simply put, they opened the set with a request of mine that literally had me on the verge of tears. It was such a moving moment for me that I will never forget it. Sounds all mushy and maybe dumb but to be honest, it will stand as my favorite concert moment that I ever had. Just exactly perfect! I am truly grateful that the band took the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Steve Gretz: I'm not sure.  I know Better Than Ezra's ‘Deluxe’ was early on, but I think it was a gift. Probably ‘The Blue Album’ (by which I mean Weezer's eponymous debut)?
Megan Lindsey: Absolutely cannot remember but it was probably something loud and raucous by Amy Grant. Or even Michael W. Smith. Mercy!
Trevor Baker: I think the first album that I remember getting, but not purchasing, was Bon Jovi's ‘Slippery When Wet’. I had just gotten a radio cassette player and didn't have any cassettes. A neighbor of my family bought the Bon Jovi tape and was really disgusted by it, so he gave it to an 8 year old. But I swear I wore that thing out.
Dan Harding: First CD I was given was Newsboys ‘Going Public’. Joined BMG shortly afterward (12 CDs for $.01!) and got Nirvana Nevermind’ and REM ‘Monster’.

Your last album bought?
Steve: Dawes ‘Nothing Is Wrong’.
Megan: I just bought Trevor a copy of ‘Kitty Wells Sings Songs Made Famous by Jim Reeves’ on vinyl at Goodwill. He might be disappointed because he asked for a lot of indie rock releases, but I heard an NPR piece about her and thought we should increase our 'real country' collection. In memory of Joe Tanner. She's the queen, apparently, and still kicking at 92 years of age.
Trevor: I recently bought a copy of Matt Pond PA's ‘Emblems’ on vinyl. I've had a copy of the record on CD for a long time from a CD swap when we played a show with him. I figured since it was a limited pressing and I've never actually bought the album, it was a good time for an impulse purchase.
Dan: Dawes ‘Nothing Is Wrong’.

Favorite album of all time?
Steve: There are a lot of different kinds of favorites, but for pure love-every-single-song-and-know-every-lyric favoritism, still ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’.
Megan: "All time" is way too hard, but I have a few that get stuck in rotation as go-to albums when I need to remember what it's like to feel emotions.  Currently that album is Sufjan Stevens' ‘Age of Adz’.  ‘Not Animal’ by Margot and the Nuclear So and So's and Wilco's ‘Summerteeth’ follow closely.
Trevor: Oh man, this is a hard one. I'd have to say Rubber Soul. The fuzz bass part on “Think For Yourself" is undeniably good.
Dan: Always changing, but latest in rotation is The Weakerthans ‘Reunion Tour’. Overall, probably Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers ‘Sonoran Hope and Madness’.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Steve: Ryan Adams' ‘Demolition’, even though I prefer not to be a Ryan Adams hater. There are albums I like less than this one, but buying Demolition reminded me that for Ryan Adams, making great music is a part-time job.
Megan: ‘The Wilco Album’ with the camel on it. I absolutely could not find any points of attachment. And I love camels!
Trevor: Hulk Hogan's ‘Hulk Rules’. I had high hopes for this one. I actually own a copy.
Dan: Lykke Li’s ‘Wounded Rhymes’ falls into the category of most-recent-album-I-purchased-that-I-want-to-fall-in-love-with-but-somehow-cannot. I will keep trying.

First concert attended?
Steve: Also so hard to say... the first one I have a memory of attending was a Phil Keaggy show my dad took me to.
Megan: I think I saw The Beach Boys in a mall in Athens, Georgia when I was in first grade. I could be making it up, though...they are one of the most formative bands in my musical universe. I'll check with my dad and get back to you. Someone recently mentioned Brian Wilson's affinity for both Bach and Gershwin and it blew me away, brought my entire musical upbringing into focus. Why didn't I make that connection years ago?
Trevor: My first concert was Collective Soul at a small theater in the Southern Tier of New York. My mom took a couple of friends and me. I think she actually enjoyed the show.
Dan: Newsboys ‘Not Ashamed’ Tour.

Last concert?
Steve: Saw Dawes with Robert Ellis at Maxwell's last week--also with my dad!
Megan: I got my brains blown out by St. Vincent's electric guitar voodoo in DC recently.  Even if she hadn't been playing two of Trevor’s Amps and wearing high-waisted leather shorts and velvet heels, it would still have been incredible.
Trevor: Last show was seeing Andrew Bird in Braddock. It's not too often that I'm blown away by someone playing solo, but holy cow!
Dan: Advance Base.

Favorite concert ever?
Steve: Probably Wilco in '09. The venue wasn't great (Keyspan Park in Brooklyn) and they were supporting THEIR eponymous record (there are some definite themes here) which is actually my least favorite of theirs to date, but hearing "California Stars" and "Hoodoo Voodoo" like a mile from Woody's old address on Mermaid Avenue was unforgettable.
Megan: My first big show was U2's Vertigo tour at Mellon Arena with Trevor, and my ticket scanned us into the "inner circle". We stood two people away from Bono. Of course, now I am askance that The Edge doesn't even make his own effects changes, but it was still a great show. I watched workers pulling down the Arena's tiles today to prepare for demolition, so I'm glad I got to attend at least one show there.
Trevor: Megan & I were front row for the U2's Vertigo tour (we waited in line for like 12 hours). That was great! Another fantastic show that I saw recently was St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club in DC. She's always a great performer, but the show production (lights & sound) really put the show at a whole other level. The amps she was playing certainly helped, too.
Dan: Too many to list. Most recently it was Dawes at Stage AE.

Least favorite concert?
Steve: I'm gonna go with the time Grove City made me play the cymbals in marching band.  Although, I suppose that's not just one concert...
Megan: Oh, there have been plenty of zingers at Garfield Artworks.  We'll leave it at that.
Trevor: I love the Flaming Lips, but I caught them in Pittsburgh at Station Square and was completely annoyed by Wayne Coyne trying to get the crowd into the show by yelling "C'mon Motherf***ers!" for most of the night.
Dan: Too many to list. I'll go with U2 Vertigo Tour. Terrible seats! Who knew?!

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Steve: Eating Tram's, almost certainly. (And having such great pictures taken of me by Hugh whenever I'm there, of course!)
Megan: Dear, dear Pittsburgh. A great place to be a small band, have a large family of both relatives and friends, and learn lots of DIY skills. This city is ripe for exploration, slightly disheveled...a great place to be inspired without being overwhelmed.
Trevor: Probably one of my favorite things to do in Pittsburgh is to ride down Smallman Street on my bicycle late at night when there's no traffic. Makes me feel like I'm the only one awake in the city. It's kind of a surreal, even religious experience for me.
Dan: As someone who has been in Pittsburgh my entire life, it's really cool to see the city's transformation, and I think this mostly has to do with people having a positive attitude about what they want their city to be, and having no limits on that. Of course, the Pittsburgh music scene has been very hospitable to GN,S, and we're very grateful to know and be known by so many great bands and musicians. WYEP's Local Artist of The Year was certainly a high point.

Thanks so much Steve, Megan, Trevor and Dan. Cannot wait for the new music this year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011-Show of the Year # 2 - Big Hurry

Big Hurry
Friday, January 28, 2011

The band released my favorite local music this year in two fantastic EPs, Gets Me Low and Sink or Swim. Either of the two release gigs in January and October could have made this list. I am choosing the earlier show not because it was better, but as I was standing amongst the sold out crowd, I realized that everything I ever want out of going to a concert was happening at that moment. The band sounded so 'on', strangely 'on'. Their playing was so energetic and tight it took me aback. I think the fact that the crowd was so into it was a major factor as well. That weird synergy between musician and audience was obviously apparent that even in January, I knew I would be recalling the night 11 months later. Just a perfect show. It seems Big Hurry's future is up in the air as we head into a new year but I am thrilled that I finally corralled my buds in the band to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Kelly Tobias: I had The Beatles Anthology, but ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ was another early buy.
Lenny Flatley: That is a good question. I grew up in the era of 'home taping is killing music,' so I already had quite a few albums under my belt before I actually had to spend money on anything. Indeed, now that I can buy music from home (via eMusic or iTunes) I buy a lot more music than I ever did. My first record was ‘Puttin' on the Ritz’ by Taco. The first full-length I ever purchased might have been ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ by The Smiths or ‘Bossanova’ by the Pixies. I used to hang out at the Record Den in the Millcreek Mall all the time, as if it were a coffee shop (we all did in Erie, PA -- until someone actually opened a coffee shop). Once Cory Brown bought an album buy an unknown band called "Satana" because he thought they must be awesome if they had Satan in the name! You can imagine the let-down when he put the tape in the car and realized he actually bought the latest by Carlos Santana.
Dani Buncher: The first cassette I ever bought was George Michael "Faith." My brother and I shared 2 copies of it and listened straight through, both sides, daily. When my brother was in the 5th grade, he made and starred in a music video for "Monkey" for a school project. He was so cool. The first CD I bought was a BMG Music Club accident. It was the Breeders "Last Splash." It was mailed to my house and I forgot to send it back so they charged me like $800 for it. Remember that crap? Anyways, it was one of the best music mistakes I've made. That band has definitely influenced my music tastes and playing to this day.
Andy Wilkosz: Oh man, I think it was REM – ‘Monster’ or Live – ‘Throwing Copper’... but the first album I really remember burning through was the cassette someone made for me with Pearl Jam – ‘Ten’ and that Blind Melon album... Andy Wilkosz mowed soo many lawns to that tape.

Your last album bought?
Kelly: The newest Ryan Adams.
Lenny: ‘IRM’ by Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Dani: Yellow Ostrich ‘The Mistress’.
Andy: TV Torso - Status Quo Vadis (they are a local Austin band... totally addicted to it)

Favorite album of all time?
Kelly: There are so many, but I could listen to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ over and over an over. And The Long Winters hold a really special sentimental place in my heart.
Lenny: If I had to pick one, it would probably be ‘Combat Rock’ by The Clash.
Not that I think it's *the best* but as an album I find it fascinating. Besides, it has my favorite song on it, ‘Sean Flynn’.
Dani: Um, George Michael ‘Faith’.
Andy: Modest Mouse – ‘The Lonesome Crowded West’ is closest to the isle but so many others friends are sitting in that pew with them.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Kelly: I love you, but Prince ‘Musicology’ was rough. You can't be a sexy dirty Jehovah’s witness.
Lenny: I hated ‘Achtung Baby’ by U2 when it came out -- I thought it was a
sprawling, experimental mess. I worshipped ‘Rattle and Hum’ and wanted
‘Rattle and Hum Part II’. Now I hate ‘Achtung’ because it's kind of
boring and not sprawling or experimental enough. Except for ‘One’ --
that's a pretty good song. The rest of it gets sort of samey.
Dani: Ok, so I bought Alicia Keys ‘As I Am’ and I know it's not cool of me to admit that, but whatever. It was so disappointing. I talked myself into liking it for days... Nope.
Andy: (no comment).

First concert attended?
Kelly: I have great memories of watching high school buddies in 'Jeff Says No'  and 'The Wacos' put on a great show <3
Lenny: Arlo Guthrie. My mom took me because she had tickets and my dad
didn't want to go. The first concert of my choosing? When I was 15 my
dad took me and my brother to Metropol to see The Ramones -- and we ran into Marky and Joey at McDonalds before the show!
Dani: 5th grade. New Kids On The Block - Step By Step Tour. SO WHAT?!
Later in life, you know when I hit my 20's, I spoke to Joey McIntyre on the phone and I couldn't believe how anti-climatic it was. If "10 year old Dani" knew that "22 year old Dani" had talked to the 2nd cutest NKOTB (I liked John the best) things would have been a lot different in 5th grade.
Andy: Metallica.

Last concert?
Kelly: Beirut at the Altar Bar. Just awesome.
Lenny: Big Audio Dynamite (Man, was it awesome).
Dani: Sondre Lerche at Club Café.
Andy: Modest Mouse.

Favorite concert ever?
Kelly: The Wrens in Philly, Built to spill is always awesome and Aimee Mann ( Thank you Hugh for making me your plus one)! Prince! Oh my god and Bruce Springsteen! I always liked seeing Grand Buffet, and any of my local favs. I can't choose.
Lenny: Primal Scream at Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC. The way they combine
punk rock, drum machines, dub, and krautrock and have it coming out sounding like “Primal Scream music" is jaw-dropping, inspiring, and all sorts of other adjectives.
Dani: This is a tie. I was at a U2 "secret" concert in Dumbo (Brooklyn) a few years back. I was so close to Bono and the Edge - it was mind blowing and inspiring. Cliché, I know.
Lionel Richie did somewhat of an intimate performance for the company I worked for and I have never seen more people (men and women) swoon so hard and fast, in my life. I danced my butt off. "Woooooah-oooooh-ooooh... Yeah!"
Andy: Head Automatica - Rex Theater. Daryl, I miss you.

Least favorite concert?
Kelly: There is always something good.
Lenny: Morrissey at the Carnegie Music Hall in 2009. It was one of my
favorites, until I got arrested after like four songs (it was St. Patrick's Day).
Dani: Actually, there's been a lot. I'm not naming any. Sorry.
Andy: You always walk away with something!

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Kelly: Love it! Go Pittsburgh!
Lenny: Pittsburgh's all right! I would like to see more all ages venues in
the city and less of an emphasis on going to bars to see bands. And more bike lanes!
Dani: I lived in NYC for several years before I returned to Pittsburgh and I have never been part of a music scene like this. The Pittsburgh scene is so inviting and supportive to musicians and listeners. The genres range from all over the place and there is a good band that represents whatever kind of music you're into. I love it here.
Andy: The last show I played with Big Hurry was one of the best experiences I had in Pittsburgh, I really felt like I was home, the silly string still makes me smile whenever I think about it.  I have a ball of it on my nightstand, and its still all over my amp.  The next morning I was in a Civic headed to Austin.  So Pittsburgh, we ended on good terms.  I miss your pierogies, Brillobox, amazing beer selection, and all my friends there.

Thanks so much guys. Thanks for the music, the awesome shows and most importantly to me, the friendship you all have given me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011-Show of the Year # 3 - The Baseball Project

As if openers J Roddy Watson & The Business wasn't good enough to be on this year-end shortlist, The Baseball Project ambled on stage and 'hit it out of the park'! As I previously stated, during the show, I was really surprised to be enjoying it as much as I was. This band has always been the antithesis of rock stars poseurs. They are funny, relaxed and always as down-to-earth as you can get. Maybe that's part of why I appreciate them so much. Personality goes a long way. They played for a little over 70 minutes and if they were in a club, they probably would have played another hour and a half. Go see this band, even if you aren't a baseball fan, like myself. Steve and Scott were so cool to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Scott McCaughey: It was HELP! by the Beatles. I had to save up for weeks to come up with the $3.50. It was more expensive because it was a soundtrack album.
Steve Wynn: ‘WIllie and The Poorboys’--Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Your last album bought?
Scott: I prefer to think there will never be a "last album", but I think the most recent one I picked up might be Lisa Hannigan's new one, which I purchased at her phenomenal show at the Doug Fir in Portland. And maybe the "Psychsploitation" LP by Satan's Pilgrims, which I also bought at their show. I know I nabbed a few things at Music Millennium recently, but I can't remember what they were! Oh, yeah, one was a Reigning Sound album... They rule.
Steve: ‘Strange Change’--Grip Weeds.

Favorite album of all time?
Scott: Ah, hell. Let's just say THE BEATLES (the White Album) by the Beatles. It's my default setting. And it's long. (Long long long in fact.)
Steve: ‘Marquee Moon’—Television.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Scott: I don't like to be disappointed so I just avoid the crap ones.
Steve: What did Miles Davis say? There's only good music and bad music? All bad music is equally tied for least favorite and most disappointing in my book.  No need to distinguish any one of them.

First concert attended?
Scott: It was one day of the San Jose Folk/Rock Festival in 1969. The line-up was: San Paku, Pulse, Santana, Chuck Berry, The Blues Magoos, Spirit, and Jefferson Airplane.
Steve: Delaney and Bonnie and Friends--Royce Hall, UCLA.

Last concert?
Scott: I'm going to see the great Richmond Fontaine on Wednesday... If I croak on Thursday that will be my last one!
Steve: By the time you run this?  Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall.  As of now?  My own show last Friday with the Miracle 3 at Bowery Electric.

Favorite concert ever?
Scott: That's pretty impossible to say.  I will say, that in 1976 it was probably Wings at the Cow Palace in SF.  But now -- there's just way too many transcendent moments to choose from. Wilco, Wilco, Wilco. Guided By Voices at the Crocodile in Seattle in 1994 would be right up there. And about ten different NRBQ shows could easily be ranked #1 all time for me. Just saw Nick Lowe twice on his recent tour -- absolutely stellar, breath-taking, and inspiring in every way.
Steve: The Clash at the Fox Warfield, SF, 1979.

Least favorite concert?
Scott: I'd hate to say, if I even knew...
Steve: See above.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Scott: I love Pittsburgh. My best friend as a kid moved there in 1968 -- I went and visited him for two weeks in 1972, so I got to know the city pretty well when I was still a teenager. We saw Humble Pie and Alice Cooper at Three Rivers Stadium (and of course a Pirates game too, not on the same night), and Fairport Convention at some movie theater, and The Faces and Badfinger at the hockey arena. And the Eagles at Syria Mosque. What a great time! I've always loved going there since, with the Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus 5, John Wesley Harding, R.E.M., etc. etc.  Have had some awesome shows at the Club Cafe. Became friends with great Pittsburgh bands like The Cynics and The Frampton Brothers/Break Up Society. I have actually always harbored a fondness for the Pirates, despite them knocking out the Giants in 71. I am rooting for them to turn it around and bring a new dynasty to that amazing ball park.
Steve: Wish I could have stayed more than 2 1/2 innings at PNC Park before our gig, had a sandwich at Manny Sanguillen's stand and have ended up at Chief's Bar. That, along with our really fun show, would have made a perfect night.

Thanks a lot guys. It's amazing how music can affect someone long after it's over. Your show did just that to me and I am so grateful to you for that. Hope to see you again soon.

Best of 2011-Show of the Year # 3 - J Roddy Walston and the Business

This entire night, opener and headliner, was such a surprise to me that it had to make the year end list. I heard a little noise about this band, mainly from the not so subtle adulation of my man Scott Mervis. I was knocked over by the band's first song, blistering out of the gate on a sunny early evening outdoors, no less. They never let up and despite the unusual setting for a hairy 'bar band' (I use that term with the utmost respect), they tore through their set with white knuckle abandon...and they were the opening act!
I am really grateful that J Roddy took the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince - ‘Parents Just Don't Understand’.

Your last album bought?
The Flaming Lips - ‘Transmissions from the Satellite Heart’.

Favorite album of all time?
Randy Newman – ‘Sail Away’.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Hmm…seems mean.

First concert attended?
The Allman Brothers Band.

Last concert?
Band of Horses.

Favorite concert ever?
Old white guys doing Prince covers as country songs in a dive bar in my home town.

Least favorite concert?
Old white guys doing straight Beastie Boys covers in a dive bar in my home town.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I think Pittsburgh is a super under rated town. Pretty much one of my favorite rustbelt towns. Also had one of the best cups of coffee ever in Pittsburgh.

J Roddy was also in a 2011 year end mood as he sent over some of his favorite releases of the year:
Deer Tick ‘Divine Providence’.
Jonny Corndawg ‘Down On The Bikini Line’.
Reptar ‘Oblangle Fizz Y’all’.
Cary Ann Hearst ‘Lions and Lambs’.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. ‘It's a Corporate World’.
My Morning Jacket ‘Circuital’.
‘Drive’ the movie soundtrack.
Delorean ‘American Craze’.
Gunfight! ‘Frontier Land’ (2010 but I don't care).

Thanks man. Not trying to be mean with some questions, just honest. Impossible to like everything. Really hope to see you in Pittsburgh again soon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011-Show of the Year # 4 - The Music Tapes

The New Hazlett Theater
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Julian Koster's indie cred is permanently cemented with his involvement in the band Neutral Milk Hotel. His current project The Music Tapes has been around for awhile, incorporating Koster's immediately identifiable 'singing saw' on most tunes. They were opening for fellow Elephant 6 cohorts Olivia Tremor Control on this night and as I mentioned  in September, I wasn't expecting too much from the set. What we did get was music, magic, storytelling, jokes and audience participation that just totally suckered me in. I really loved it. A friend of mine who was there actually couldn't stand it. He is dumbfounded that I could even sit through the set let alone include it as one of my favorites of the year. Goes to show how polarizing music can be. I want to thank Julian for the show and for taking a few minutes to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
I got my Grandfather to buy me an album called Elvis's Gold Records when I was a little boy. I bought it because I thought the album would actually be gold like the one pictured on the cover. I was bitterly disappointed.

Your last album bought?
Meet the R. Stevie Moore. I cannot believe how wonderful this collection of pop songs is.

Favorite album of all time?
I have too many to print here. But a couple:
Ray Kinney and his Coral Islanders (Decca - 1932).
A Hawaiian bandleader, born on the Islands to an Irish father and a Hawaiian mother, he worked through the 1930's at the ballroom of the Lexington Hotel in New York City. His arrangements, his band, his voice and those of the Mullen Sisters, and the recording itself, are all about as perfect as something can get to me.
Ukrainian Christmas Songs (field recorded by Laura Boulton for Folkways). Though Kolyadas are Christmas songs in the Ukraine, a lot of them actually predated Christianity there. And in any event, it’s music I listen to very happily, often, and all year around.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Everybody loves some things and dislikes others.  Some people love tomatoes, other people hate them. But to be honest, it makes me uncomfortable to write about music I do not like, because I find the music I DO like is much more important to me. And surely, I understand it better.
First concert attended?
Simon and Garfunkel's famous free concert in Central Park (NYC). My dad took me there.

Last concert?
The Sun Ra Arkestra in a tiny little place in NYC led by Marshal Allen on his 80th birthday. It was exactly what I hope music to be: Something that transcends space, and time, and the notes, and our bodies even, and delivers us something far greater that comes both from outside us and within.

Favorite concert ever?
So many...too many. A few:
The Sun Ra Arkestra in NYC. Television in Athens, GA, a long, long, time ago. Negativland back in Athens. Half Japanese at the old Knitting Factory in NYC. Jonathan Richman in Athens right after Vic Chesnutt died...

Least favorite concert?
Sorry sir, see above.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I like it and have some nice memories there. I love how hilly it is, and it seems like every time we play there we have a nice adventure of some sort.

Thanks Julian. I totally respect your answer on the 'Least Favorite/Most Disappointed' questions. I am not trying to be negative about certain music, it's just that to me, as a human being, not all experiences are positive. Your answers concerning the topic are cool.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011-Show of the Year # 5 - Those Darlins

Those Darlins
Friday, June 17, 2011
As I previously mentioned,  this show was such a surprise to me AND to the band. There is an indescribable energy, that very rarely happens at shows, where the band and audience are in some sort of cosmic sync. This show had it in spades. I dug the album for sure but the feeling in the room was unexpected and as the band definitely brought it that night, the crowd returned 'it' back in kind.
I arrived at Brillobox from a fantastic Black Dub gig at Diesel (the very last rock show there methinks???) and was expecting a lot from the gals and guy. As they were taking the stage near midnight, my buddy bought me a beer for my B-Day and they absolutely blistered through their opening song, which happened to be the one I wanted to hear above everything else from the album. Amazingly, things only went up from there. You could tell the band were genuinely loving the vibe. Such a great night! It's so awesome to have the band's drummer (and sole dude!) Linwood Regensburg participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Michael Jackson's Thriller, from a Bradleys.  If you can remember what those were.

Your last album bought?
Gaye Blades self titled, The Champ by the Mohawks.  Oh, and Hard Beat by AKA, very cool 70s psych prog group from Indonesia.

Favorite album of all time?
This question is so lame.  It's like admitting to the world who your favorite aunt is.  My mom's an only child which leaves me with one on my dads side, but if you had six aunts, the other five would be pretty upset to find out they didn't make the cut.  That being said, I will include The Idiot by Iggy Pop, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon, Velvet Underground self titled, Sticky Fingers by Da Stones, Like A Motherfucker (LAMF) by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers as six of my favorite aunts.

 Least favorite/most disappointing album?
So I wanted Beach Boys Party.  Couldn't find it used so I bough it new on CD.  Brought it home, opened it up only to find 'Friends/20-20' inside.  Well I was bummed but very soon found big love for those albums.  So much so I went and found 'Friends' on vinyl.  Opened the sleeve when I got home only to find 'Best of the Hollies' inside!  What does this strange run of events mean??????  While I'm on the subject, Wouldn't Be Nice-My Own Story by Brian Wilson (though it is rumored to have been written by his therapist Eugene Landy) is quite a read.  Go for it.

First concert attended?
The Lemonheads at the Flood Zone in Richmond, Va.  I had the chance to meet Evan Dando in Melbourne, and of course tell him this story and how it changed my life and all that and I wanted to be in a band because of that show, which was partially true.  He was scheduled to play directly after us, but to no ones surprise, was AWOL.  Months later, luck shone my way and our new lawyer turned out to be John Strohm, ex-guitarist for the Lemonheads!

Last concert?
BirdCloud, Denney and the Jets and Ranch Ghost at the 5 spot in Nashville. 

Favorite concert ever?
Charlie Louvin in the Cumberland Caverns, 300 feet underground. 

Least favorite concert?
When I was a teenager I went to WHFstival in DC.  I really wanted to see Run DMC.  A bunch of crap alternarock bands were on the bill too which meant I got to witness the mighty Limp Bizkit.  Fred Durst kept calling Bill Clinton a pussy and ranted about how no one needs a "fucking leader", and then instructed 60 thousand people to start a water bottle riot.  Possibly the most retarded thing I've ever seen.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Our last gig at the Brillo Box was fantastic.  Hellions were on the loose for sure.  Maybe the best night of our then tour with Natural Child.  The next morning we ate at the Quiet Storm and picked up a paperback copy of Maltese Falcon for the road.  Great time indeed.
Thank so much for a great birthday present Linwood. Please come back to Pittsburgh. We'll show you more love than ever brother!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Best of 2011-Odds N Ends

 This has been one amazing year for me. First off, music photography is my hobby. Don't get me wrong, I take it very seriously but it's in no way my 'real' job. That notion was blurred as I look back at the number of times I went out to shoot a band this year. To be in the remarkable position that I could request to 'get in the pit' at almost any concert I wanted made it way too tempting to turn down. Many times I went out for the simple fact that I could. In some cases I wasn't really interested in who was on stage at all. For me, when someone grants you a pass to photograph their band, it's practically impossible for me to say no, regardless of who is playing. I am very, very grateful to be in the position I am in. A friend says I am 'living the dream'. He is so right. I am first and foremost a fan of music. I am an extremely lucky guy.

An amazing aspect of doing this is becoming incredibly close to many musicians in town. Their art and willingness to 'collaborate' with me is humbling to say the least. Their friendship is priceless. I have to emphasize I am most happy about that.

As I look ahead, I cannot imagine seeing another 230 bands in a year. That just seems utterly insane to me right now. What was I thinking? I will go out to shoot of course but will I slow down? Hopefully not, we'll see.

A few notes on 2011:
  • You've seen my Top 5 Albums of the year. Rounding out the Top 10 were Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter, Apex Manor, Woods, David Lowery and The Paperhead. Look for some First/Last love from them in the new year.
  • Next week I am counting down my Top 5 shows of the year. Rounding out the Top 10 were Springsteen/Grushecky, Ray Davies, U2, Donora and The Paperhead.
  • I was at 56 different venues this year. Yes, 56! Mostly at WYEP (13), Mr. Small's Funhouse (10), Stage AE (10), Brillobox (8), The Andy Warhol Museum (6), The Park House (6), Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead (5) and The Thunderbird Cafe (5). Want a list of all them? Email me...I'll tell you the best place to park.
  • I never went to a house show in my life. I went to three this year, Misra Living Room Tour, Good Night, States, and Good Night, States again. Thanks to Raymond, Jon, and Erica and Melissa for making me feel so welcome in their homes. Their sincere hospitality are what made the nights so memorable.
  • I was lucky enough to shoot eight bands off stage either rehearsing, recording or in a promo capacity. They were New ShoutsThe Slow ReelDonora, Emily Rodgers Band, Big Hurry, Good Night, States, Horse or Cycle and Triggers.This has become my absolute favorite aspect of what I do. It's like a private concert just for me. Not really, although I do leave the room feeling that way every time. I consider it a remarkable privilege.
  • I was at three video shoots this year. My past in film and television production is coming back to haunt me. The videos turned out great. They were for Totally Fatalist, The World is Ours, and Mancini's Dance Hall. So much fun!
  • If you read my blog you know I post book reviews. Most of them are wonderful, high quality photo books. I get them from the publisher for free, just for writing a blog and posting about the book. I am donating them to my local Carnegie Library. What comes around...
  • I can't believe the quality of this year's local releases. 1,2,3, Donora, Big Hurry, The Red Western, Neighbors, New Shouts, Delicious Pastries, JD Eicher & The Goodnights, Dazzletine, Brooke Annibale, The Chad Sipes Stereo, Boca Chica, Satin Gum, Host Skull, The Slow Reel and Nik & The Central Plains to name a few. Just amazing.
  • I can't make every show. Not because I wouldn't want to. Some bands actually had the stones to deny HughShows for whatever reason? Iron & Wine, Warren Haynes, John Hiatt. The Jayhawks, Foster The People, DEVO, City & Colour, Smith Westerns, Arctic Monkeys, The Civil Wars, Weezer, Guster, Ke$ha, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Elton John, Bob Seger, Jay-Z/Kanye West and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. It's all good, I still love ya.
  • Shows I should have hit but was busy or too damned tired: The War on Drugs, J Roddy Walston & The Business, My Morning Jacket/Neko Case, Lia Ices, Yo La Tengo, Jason Isbell, Tally Hall, Jeff The Brotherhood, The Felice Brothers/The Dodos among others.
  • PGH Music Report, Draw Us Lines, BNAC, Old Mon Music, Sour Notes, Grassrootsy. My brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh music blogging. You rock.
  • Kathi Radock, Joshua Bakaitus, Brian Drusky, Andy Mulkerin, Scott Mervis, Amy Cooper, Dave Romano, Gabriela DiDonna, Amy Wagner, John Altdorfer...thank you.
  • A heartfelt thank you to Josh, Chad, JD, Adam, Greg, Joshua, Dave, Steve, and Rob.
  • For any of you who have ever 'clicked' on my are why I do this. Period.

Grazie Emanuela, Ti Amo.

Best of 2011-Album of the Year # 1 - The Beach Boys


I have to be honest, I wasn't the biggest fan of The Beach Boys. Sure they had some classic singles and their contribution to popular music was undeniable, it's just that I always felt they were sort of 'vanilla'. I grew up with psychedelic rock which was to surf music in the late '60's what punk was to prog rock in the late '70's. I always thought The Beach Boys were 'square daddy-o'.
In March it was officially announced that band's long lost masterpiece SMiLE would finally be released. This news did pique my interest a little. Just how good was this music that was so revered over the years? I won't go into the history or story of why it was finally being put out. You can watch all that yourself in these excellent webisodes. As with the The Beatles catalog being remastered in 2009, I started perusing the excellent Steve Hoffman Music Forums for info about this project. After reading seemingly thousands of posts, I was actually starting to get somewhat excited about this thing. I ended picking up The Pet Sounds Sessions and beginning to appreciate the genius of the band and particularly Brian Wilson.
When I was finally able to hear it in November, I have to say I was instantly blown away. The album itself is pop music perfection. Dare I say that it is even better than it's much lauded second cousin Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? Hard call. The four bonus discs of studio outtakes, alternative versions and embryonic song ideas on the box set are a bit much for the casual fan. It was almost a chore to get through the first time. An hour alone of 'Good Vibrations'? As I started to get more familiar with the music, I eventually appreciated the fact that they were able to include this bonus material and find myself actually enjoying the wealth of stuff here as a companion to the album.
My main appreciate revolves around the incredible harmonies these guys were able to produce around a microphone. They were awesome vocalists and these amazingly complex songs seem almost impossible to perform. The Beach Boys were able to pull it off and that is what continues to astound me. Not only is this my favorite record of the year, it has quickly become one of my favorites of all time.
Believe it or not, I was very close to getting Brian Wilson's participation in my First/Last series and hopefully will in the upcoming months as the band celebrates their 50th Anniversary in 2012. Until then, enjoy this First/Last with the album's lyricist Van Dyke Parks from last September:

The first album you ever bought?
An EP- Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Divertimento in D.

Your last album bought?
Paolo Conte "Reveries" on Nonesuch.

Favorite album of all time?
Yo Yo Ma---Bach Cello Suites.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
My lips are sealed.

First concert attended?

Last concert?
Rufus Wainwright at Hollywood Bowl.

Favorite concert ever?
Toscanini Mephistophele Prologue, Carnegie Hall '54.

Least favorite concert?

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Parks Township, inc. 1742, a 10 Sq. mile tract, was granted to
my direct ancestor Robert Parks, by Wm Pitt the Elder, by George II.
It sits on Delaware land. On the banks if the mighty Kiskiminetas
River, whose waters spill into the scenic Youghiogheny--from thence
to the Monongahela, the Allegheny, and Ohio.
Parks waters quench the historic thirst of this metropolis.
If anyone asks you the secret of Pittsburgh's enlightenment, just say
"'s the water."!
I went to Carnegie Tech. Although I never graduated, I adopted Carnegie's
motto early on, to wit:
"My heart is in the work".

©Jasper Dailey - Courtesy of The Peter Reum Collection

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best of 2011-Album of the Year # 2 - The Middle East


Favorite song (of the year): Hunger Song

I was so excited to stumble upon this band. They are what I wish Fleet Foxes were. Indie psych folk that's not all hype and has some substance. Nothing against Fleet Foxes, they just bore me. This band are able to effortlessly switch gears from song to song. At times lamenting ballad, other times folksy ramble, and yet some tunes are full out psychedelic rave-ups. I have become obsessed with this album. Naturally, I thought that they had a really bright future ahead of them considering this is their first full length. At a triumphant tour closing show less than a month after the official American release of the album in their native Australia, they announce from the stage that it will be the last show The Middle East will ever play! Noooooooo. Seriously, I was just getting into these guys. Here is the official statement from them:

writing to inform you that we’re ceasing. i’m not sure if we’ll make more music later on or not.
we don’t feel like playing anymore for a whole lot of reasons that i won’t list here and i’m afraid if we continued any longer it would just be a moneygrab. i’d rather go hungry. thank you to all those who came to shows.
we had fun.
t.s elliot wrote ‘you are the music while the music lasts’, but he also wrote that confusing little book about cats so don’t put too much stock in his quotes.
i’m very tired. until next time.
sincerely yours,
the middle east.

Wow, total bummer. Needless to say, countless attempts at a First/Last participation has been met with resounding silence. Ah, who cares, I still love this disc. I probably listen to Hunger Song once a day. Just so good.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of 2011-Album of the Year # 3 - The Belle Brigade


Favorite song: Shirt

Ethan and Barbara Gruska are brother and sister. Their harmonies on this debut album are what keeps me returning to these songs. Sunny, slick, L.A, pop at it's best. I actually previously 'met' Barbara briefly when she was drumming in Jenny Lewis' band in '09. By 'met' I mean I maybe said hello. You think I would have an 'in' for getting them for a First/Last? You would think.
When this album first came out in Spring, I contacted the management for an interview. Two months later, out of the blue I got a cryptic confirmation they would do it. After that I heard nothing till the end of summer when a totally different rep said, sure, they would participate. Another several months go by when yet a different rep asked me my stat counts on the blog? I sent them a few weeks ago with again, no response. Finally, I was told maybe in the new year.
So let's see, it's been eight months, five different people, a dozen emails back and forth and still nothing. Hey, here's a secret, I am trying to get your band some exposure they wouldn't have had otherwise. It's not like they are Coldplay? Seriously? Believe me, I am not upset or anything, just kind of perplexed. Either they are total prima donnas (which I doubt) or they have horrible PR.
Regardless, I wish they would have played along and I am kind of thinking they will do so in the coming months. Until then, if you haven't heard their stuff, do check them out. It is a terrific collection of songs.

UPDATE: Here's a cool little message posted by the band on their Facebook:
"Hey Hugh! Haven't heard about about until just reading your post, look forward to talking in the new year then. Sorry about the confusion!"


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best of 2011-Album of the Year # 4 - Fergus & Geronimo


Favorite song: Wanna Know What I Would Do?

I listened to this wildly, wonderfully weird record a ton over the last year. I was way too psyched when they booked a show at Garfield Artworks in February. I haven't been this excited to see a band in a very long time. I get to the venue and openers Ursa Major are setting up and I was wondering if the guys were downstairs or what? Turns out after about twenty minutes, Manny answers the phone and explains to the few people there that F&G are on their way! Oh, O.k....well, where exactly are they? On the turnpike outside Somerset! Let's see, it's 8:30 now, by the time they get here set up and start playing it will be close to 11:30-ish maybe midnight. I only have to get up at 5 A.M....Bummer. I begrudgingly bail. Thinking they might possibly schedule another Pittsburgh date as they tour the hell out of promoting this album, right? They do play Pittsburgh again. A few months later at Ursa Major's Doo Wop mansion. Too bad I didn't find out about it until that day and couldn't swing it! Unbelievable. Oh well, someday I'll get to see them, I think? Until then I do have the kick ass album to listen to. Here's a fun First/Last from Jason and Andrew from back in February.

The first album you ever bought?
Jason Kelly: Whatever Metallica's latest record is called.
Andrew Savage: CD- Rod Stewart "Vagabond Heart", Cassette-Tag Team "Whoop There it Is", 7"-SMD "Kings of Drunk", LP-Rolling Stones "Their Satanic Majesties Request".

Your last album bought?
Jason: Queen “Jazz”.
Andrew: The Fall "Live at the Witchtrials".

Favorite album of all time?
Jason: Bruce Willis – “The Return Of Bruno”.
Andrew: Of all time on not sure. Of all week its been Cheveu-"1000". Fucking masterpiece.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Jason: Whatever Metallica's latest record is called.
Andrew: I dunno, I usually don't buy full albums of stuff I don't like.

First concert attended?
Jason: Saw a Creedance Clearwater show just three days before their debut in Vietnam war movies.
Andrew: Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins, Matchbox 20, Dave Matthews Band... ah the 90's.

Last concert?
Jason: Jimmy Hendrix cover band @ not sure where I was.
Andrew: Concert concert? I dunno, I guess we played this Festival in France called Midi Festival that kind of got into concert status. Lee Ronaldo played, the food was great... south of France. Far out scene overall.

Favorite concert ever?
Jason: Dave Mathews Band - American Airlines center 04'.
Andrew: I guess it depends on... Yeah I guess Midi Festival.

Least favorite concert?
Jason: Whatever Metallica's last concert was.
Andrew: I dunno, I've never been to Woodstock 99 but that sounded pretty weak. Woodstock 99.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Jason: It's been great in the past! Is it very beautiful! We're really looking forward to experiencing more of the city this time!
Andrew: I tend to like cities with rivers.

Jason added, “Sorry, I wrote the answers while drunk, I hope they don’t think I am being an asshole. Ha ha". Thanks Hugh!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Best of 2011-Album of the Year # 5 - Tristen


Favorite song: Eager For Your Love

Tristen Gasparadek is in her late twenties but sounds years more mature on this, her full length debut. She released a raw, self recorded CD a few years ago but with this album, her music is full of a new confidence and unmistakably beautiful vocal harmonies not found on the first collection of songs.
My recollection of seeing her play in the Spring was the fact that I thought was privy to something undiscovered and special, until unknown to me, two other local music bloggers were crazy too see her as well, and she wasn't even headlining the night!
She is celebrating the season (and a new haircut) with offering up her new yuletide EP here in exchange for your email addy. She was cool enough to take some time recently to participate in this year end edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits. My mom hooked me the first time I heard ‘Jolene’.

Your last album bought?
The Eurythmics Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

Favorite album of all time?
Really hard to narrow down the list but The Beatles Revolver was probably the most influential.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
I don't have the attention span to hear music that doesn't catch me. I tune it out, turn it off or walk away.

First concert attended?
Steely Dan with my parents when I was 8. It was also the first time I smelled the sweet fragrance of marijuana.

Last concert?
Well I just saw Justin Townes Earle play about ten minutes ago & he's just about the baddest country songwriting outlaw I've seen!

Favorite concert ever?
Stevie Wonder at Bonnaroo 2010- I'm not a religious woman but praise Jesus!

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I've only played Pittsburgh a couple of times but I do remember how you all love your Penguins!

Thanks so much Tristen. Really cannot wait to see you play Pittsburgh again.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Image of the Day-"I Get Dreaming"

Saturday, November 12, 2011
I ended up really liking this band. They are from Pittsburgh. Go check them out.

Image of the Day-"Change Option"

Saturday, November 12, 2011
Arriving straight from The Hold Steady/Titus Andronicus gig in Braddock, I was only able to catch a minute or two of the band before they ended.