Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013

 As I pull back the reigns of attempting to see every band at every venue on every night of the week, I continue to realize that it's not quantity but quality that counts. 2013 had many great moments for me and next year as I celebrate a decade of doing this, I know I won't come close to seeing 186 bands at 56 different venues as I did this year. I will be concentrating on presenting quality Pittsburgh music through the HughShows Live @ Eide's concert series. Please consider joining us every month and as always... SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC!

2013 Pittsburgh Albums
Favorite National Albums 

Favorite Blog Discoveries

 Posting over 300 First/Lasts in 2013 has it's obvious advantages. I get to be exposed to a ton of cool music out there and many times I am struck at how good most of these bands are and wonder how I would have never discovered them without doing the blog. Here are a few that have changed my musical world this year. Maybe they will change yours too.

Favorite Live Moments from Pittsburgh Bands

Three Hour Tour / Sunday, June 30th / Gateway Clipper Fleet
There have been Pittsburgh bands playing on a riverboat since forever. The difference this day was these were 'our' bands. The best of what local indie music has to offer crammed on an afternoon cruise down the Mon. Organized by Round Black Ghosts' Aaron Shafer, the line-up also included Josh Verbanets & Jody Perigo, Chet Vincent & The Big Bend, Grand Piano, and Shelf Life String Band. Cross your fingers for a round deuce this summer.

FKT / Wednesday, July 31st / The Shop
FKT is the name given to this one-off performance of The Van Allen Belt as a trio, minus bassist Tom Altes. I can't tell you how much I love the intentional 'weirdness' of this band, but here they stripped down and brought a subtleness to their music that really blew me away! I still can't believe I won't ever be seeing them perform this way again. Never say never.

Ghost Horse Comanche / Tuesday, July 23rd / Howler's Coyote Cafe
Speaking of one-off performances, this 'supergroup' composed of Chet Vincent, Rob Collier, Madison Stubblefield and Jason Lawrence somewhat quietly debuted in Pittsburgh before embarking on a short tour before just as quickly disbanding. The set almost had the feeling as a drunken goof but the music was intense and honest and so fantastic! C'mon boys, you gotta do it again... for Pittsburgh!

Donora / Tuesday, January 29th / "Play Nice" EP Release
It's weird to say but since I first saw them perform back in 2008, this is the first time I have seen Donora only once in a year. This was also the first time I saw them 'acoustic' and as a quartet, with Cold Weather's Mark Ramsey rounding out the sound. Man, this set was incredible. All the songs I know and love played with a loving care and purpose that transcended the versions that are so familiar to me. O.K., I may sound somewhat of a jack-ass but 'The Chorus' was the best thing I ever heard them do.

Greg Dutton and Liz Adams / Saturday, February 10th / The Park House
Having seen Greg open for Donora a few weeks prior, I realized that he wasn't really playing out at all that much and asked him if he would be cool enough to honor a request to play my favorite song of his which is also my favorite song ever by a Pittsburgh musician, 'Fainting Goats'. He reassured me he would and when he and Liz arrived at The Park House to sneak in an acoustic set during The Harlan Twin's break, I was worried that the non-attentive and extremely loud bar crowd would kill the beautifully understated and delicate vibe of Greg's songs. Even though it was a blatant mismatch of artist and audience that night, he could have played in a construction zone and I would have come away with the same feeling of witnessing not only my favorite musical moment of the year but quite possibly my favorite of all-time. Thanks so much, guys!

Favorite Live Moments from National Bands

 Phosphorescent / Wednesday, March 27th
Great show behind a killer release this year.

 Deadstring Brothers / Wednesday, June 19th / Thunderbird Cafe
Haven't seen the band in years and they totally brought it as a stripped down trio.

Grant-Lee Phillips / Sunday, May 19th
No opener, no frills. Just Grant-Lee and his guitar for a couple hours. Can't beat it.

PAWS / Sunday, June 8th / Garfield Artworks
This band is great. Saw them the same night as the incomparable Bob Mould and they were better.

Jeff Mangum / Thursday, January 10th / Carnegie Music Hall
The only show in the last nine years I didn't take my camera as per the request of the artist. Such a wonderful evening totally 'enjoying' a special performance.

Taylor Swift / Saturday, July 6th / Heinz Field
The 'I'm missing Deutschtown for this?' mood quickly turned into 'How could I be anywhere else but my daughter's first concert!?!' It was priceless watching her love for live music blossom before my eyes. Plus, the show was a true 'stadium spectacular' that didn't have me running for the beer garden every two seconds. Back to the kid, I might have created a monster... don't believe me? Check out MaeShows!

My Favorite Photo of the Year

Alexander Sands of Coronado on Saturday, May 3rd
1/200 - f 1.4 - 50mm - ISO 2000
Why this particular image from the thousands I have taken? I really can't say. I just dig it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

HughShows presents...

Kicking off my ten years covering the Pittsburgh music scene in 2014 with a kick-ass 'pre-party' at Howler's Coyote Cafe. Please come out and support local music!

Sunday January 5, 2014
Doors 7 - Show 8 $5

Gold & The Rush
Altcountry-rock from New Orleans

 Round Black Ghosts
Alternative-indie rock from Pittsburgh

Alexander Sands
Special solo set from Coronado songwriter:


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First/Last-Secret Mountains

"You’ve got that neo-gothic Portishead vibe going on, laced with clear and delicate vocals, but then again, you’re so psychedelic. You’ve been reviewed by the NY Times but still remain totally obscure. You rock really hard but then you shoegaze away. You’re great, that’s all."

Check out the band at their official Website, Facebook and Twitter. The band is featured on the Paste 50 States Project reppin' Maryland. Their latest album is "Rainer" from February via Friends Records. I want to thank Jeffrey Lewis Silverstein (Guitar/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
A CD Single of Mase's 'Feel So Good'. It had the actual single as well as just the instrumental version as well. Sometimes I would put the instrumental version on repeat and just try to 'rap' over it. I was obsessed with the horn intro. Still such a good music video also. Other than that, I remember having the ‘Space Jam’ soundtrack really early on, as well as a Barenaked Ladies album that had 'One Week' on it and the Presidents of the United States of America album with 'Peaches'. Thankfully soon after that my brother showed me “License to Ill”.

Your last album bought?
I recently picked up the new Bars of Gold Record on Bellyache Records. Members of Bear Vs. Shark went on to form this band and it is just as raw and honest as all of the Bear Vs. Shark releases. They are from Detroit and just have such a well-rounded approach to songwriting. The lead singer Marc Paffi is one of the best frontmen I've ever seen and a fantastic lyricist.

Favorite album of all time?
“Akron/Family” (self-titled). This album and band entered my life at a really pivotal time for me and I'll forget the first time I heard tracks like 'Franny You're Human' and 'I'll Be on the Water'. It was also produced by one of my favorite musicians, Michael Gira from Swans.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
I just don't get Radiohead.

First concert attended?
The first local show I ever went to was a Ska band called Face First from Rockaway, NJ. My parents came inside first to make sure things were cool and then let me have at. I bought a t-shirt that I would wear at least twice a week for a long time. The first 'real' show I went to was Weezer with Saves the Day.

Last concert?
Went and saw my friends Quilt play with Happy Jawbone Family Band at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn.

Least favorite concert?
Father John Misty at GoogaMooga Festival. I normally love the dude but either his banter is on point and hilarious or you just really want him to shut up. It was the latter that evening. The rain wasn't helping.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
The first time Secret Mountains ever played in Pittsburgh it was at a punk house that I wish I could remember the name of. Everyone that lived there was total sweethearts and it was the last night of a very hit or miss tour. We would up playing with a band called Dangerous Ponies from Philadelphia who we all bonded with immediately. There was a night on that tour where we played to the sound guy, he might have gone upstairs at one point so playing a packed basement show and meeting a band that we would remain close friends with for years is always something I associate with Pittsburgh.

Thanks, Jeffrey. Awesome call on Akron/Family. Love everything those guys do.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

First/Last-Unnatural Helpers

"Led by vocalist, drummer and Seattle music fixture Dean Whitmore, Unnatural Helpers have been bludgeoning Northwest listeners over the head with their raw, wheels-off brand of garage punk since they got together while working for Sub Pop. Their only full-length album, Cracked Love & Other Drugs, was released by local label Hardly Art in 2010, and apparently they’ve just finished recording a second album. Best enjoyed while sipping a PBR…or maybe chugging a PBR…or actually, probably, hurling it at the stage." - Ryan Bort PASTE

Check out the band on Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation and MySpace. The Washington band was part of the Paste 50 States Project with their 2010 Hardly Art release, "Cracked Love & Other Drugs". My thanks to Dean Whitmore (Drums/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
“Van Halen II”. My sis had the first & I went looking for my own copy but they were out. Was still pretty psyched.

Your last album bought?
Edgar Broughton Band “A Bunch of 45’s”. Was initially turned off by the vocals sometimes being too Beefheart but they’ve got their own thing going.

Favorite album of all time?
The Who “Live At Leeds”. In my opinion the best live band, in their prime, improvising, kicking ass & being arty at the same time.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Not sure about this one. A number of years ago I decided that I was going to start trying to buy a “hot new release” every once in awhile without really researching it or anything to touch base with the general zeitgeist. I picked up the first Interpol record based on some description that, if my memory serves me, said something about it being a more punk Joy Division or something. I almost busted it over my knee to take it out of circulation & save someone else from the same mistake but took it back for the $3 trade or whatever the next day.

First concert attended?
Devo, Mercer Arena Seattle, 1981. My friend had a cool brother who hipped us to the big college bands of the day like The Jam, Blondie, Elvis Costello, The Clash etc. We loved Devo & he took us to this & it blew our little 13 year old minds. Punkers were smoking weed & making out & being crazy & I’d never seen anything like it. This show ended up being released a couple years ago which was also kind of mind blowing & excellent.

Last concert?
Terakaft & Kinski at Neumos in Seattle. I love that Malian guitar groove stuff.

Favorite concert ever?
So many great ones, I have no idea.

Least favorite concert?
So many bad ones, I have no idea.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I’ve never been to Pittsburgh but hope to someday. The strongest emotions I get regarding Pittsburgh are the feelings of getting fucking scammed out of a Super Bowl win in 2005. Haw. We played with a great band from there called Slices that I really dug too!

Thanks, Dean. It may be heresy to say around these parts but I agree with you on the Super Bowl win. I speculated and was proven a few weeks after the game that Pittsburgh would gobble up more swag than Seattle and I was right. The NFL is a BUSINESS and... ah, don't get me started.

Monday, December 16, 2013

First/Last-Sun Club

"Sun Club serve as a brilliant amalgamation of various styles that swirl together into one cohesive and incredibly satisfying result. They carry a certain spontaneity that makes their music inherently enjoyable, you’re never too sure of when they’re going to stick to a catchy rhythm or break into a primal flash of shouts and percussive breakdowns. Combining Afropop rhythms with contemporary pop melodies, Sun Club has crafted an original sound that careens through various soundscapes, creating an eccentric and enjoyable listening experience." - Grant Golden PASTE

Check out the band on Facebook, Twitter and BandCamp. The indie-pop band are featured on the Paste 50 States Project representing Maryland and their latest release is the "Beauty Meat/Language Juice" 7". I want to thank Shane Justice McCord (Guitar/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
“Good Charlotte”, dude. Good Charlotte.

Your last album bought?
The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” or Mac Demarco “2”.

Favorite album of all time?
Probably The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”, ha-ha. Jjust took way too long to get.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
The new Born Ruffians album. It could have gone either way… and it went South. But I love that band and they're great live, i just don't dig the new stuff.

First concert attended?
Bob Dylan was one of them, the next was Green Day.

Last concert?
Ours... just kidding, ha-ha. Uhhhh, last real concert? hmm... Heyrocco.

Favorite concert ever?
Ah, this is too hard. Local Natives have been crazy great. But I think Morning Teleportation takes the cake.

Least favorite concert?
Cold War Kids… sorry...

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Not yet! Haven’t been ever, but would love to come through! I think we're going to in February after we release our EP in January!

Thanks, Shane. As I am expressing to many of the young out of town bands possibly swinging through Pittsburgh, drop a line. Maybe we can work out a gig?

Friday, December 13, 2013


"Levek is the multifaceted project bearing the surname of front man, songwriter and musical jack-of-all-trades, David Levesque. The first showing of Levek’s versatility surfaced back in 2009, when a handful of a capella cover songs, embellished with what would become his signature Mickey Mouse tribal sound, became an overnight viral phenomenon. His deep-rooted infatuation with Disney nostalgia traces back to the childhood he spent overseas, where the only thing he could get his hands on were vintage VHS tapes from the company’s vault."

Check out the band on Facebook, BandCamp and Twitter. As part of my coverage of the Paste 50 States Project, I return to Florida with Levek. The band's latest effort is "Look a Little Closer" from 2012 and I want to thank songwriter David Levesque (Keys/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
“Rage Against The Machine” S/T  (I think I was in 7th grade or so).

Your last album bought?
Herbie Hancock "Death Wish" Soundtrack.

Favorite album of all time?
I can't answer that, but at the moment it's Herbie Hancock "The Spook Who Sat By The Door" Soundtrack.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Any album by the Ruby Suns after "Sea Lion".

First concert attended?
I'm not quite sure if it was Phil Keaggy (guitar wiz) or Bob Dylan with my dad.

Last concert?
Lady Dug, Pospulenn, and Ghost Fields at the FLA Gallery here in Gainesville!

Favorite concert ever?
The Zombies at a bike shop in Austin.

Least favorite concert?
Bob Dylan hands down worst cheezzy back-up band in a huge auditorium nose bleed section.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Yes. pittsburghthoughts. Just playin. Ya'll are great. Would love to share some Gainesville, FL band love with you guys soon.

Thanks, David. If you ever make it up this way, drop a line. Maybe we can put a gig together.