Sunday, March 30, 2014

First/Last-The Squirrel Hillbillies

"From deep within the urban forest of Pittsburgh's East End, the Squirrel Hillbillies often emerge to share their eclectic mix of folk, country and blues. The duo has been writing, arranging, and performing original music since 2010, with recent appearances at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Pittsburgh International Children's Festival, Folk Alliance International's annual conference, and concerts presented by Calliope: Pittsburgh's Folk Music Society. Through a collaborative, nonlinear songwriting process, duo partners Jenny Wolsk Bain and Gary Crouth draw from personal experiences, third-hand stories, and vivid imaginations to craft songs that are unpredictable and quirky yet widely accessible. Their debut CD (self-titled, 2012) has gotten air play in the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The duo has also done several live in-studio interviews."

Check out the band at their official Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and YouTube. The band celebrates the release of their second album, "Goody Shoes" this afternoon at the Carnegie Library Squirrel Hill branch from 2-4 pm. I want to thank  Gary Crouth (Guitar/Ukulele/Vocals) and Jenny Wolsk Bain (Ukulele/Mandolin/Bass/Percussion/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Gary: Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends".

Your last album bought?
Jenny: The Early Mays (pre-order; this Pittsburgh trio's new album will be released in 2014).

[One of] your favorite albums of all time?
Gary: David Bromberg's "Wanted Dead or Alive".

First concert attended?
Jenny: Stray Cats at the Savoy, 1983 (great show!)

Last concert?
Gary: Bruce Cockburn at Calliope.

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Both: Pittsburgh is a great town for urban hillbillies.

Thanks, guys. Squirrel Hillbillies in Squirrel Hill? Nothing screams more Pittsburgh than that.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

First/Last-Dex Romweber Duo

"Dex Romweber is nothing less than an icon of the American music underground. Pioneering the template for the stripped to-the-essentials guitar/drums duo format in the (should be) world famous psycho-surf-rockabilly-garage-punk combo Flat Duo Jets—so often emulated, so rarely duplicated—Dex continues his resurgence with the new album Is That You In The Blue? With sister Sara on drums, the Dex Romweber Duo is a potent combo that’ll get your leg twitching with the beat and your heart racing -and sometimes breaking- with the feral excitement of music. If it don’t, you might want to consider turning in your “I Heart Rock n Roll” badge. Seriously."

Check out the band on Facebook. In 1987 I went to see the film Athens, GA: Inside/Out. Loved the film but the highlight for me was discovering The Flat Duo Jets via the their blistering performance from the movie. Dex Romweber formed his eponymous duo in 2007 and has just released their latest album "Images 13" via Bloodshot Records. Catch them live in Pittsburgh tomorrow night at The Rex opening for Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band. My thanks to Dexter himself (Guitar/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
“KISS Alive”.

Your last album bought?
“Organ Moods at Midnight” featuring The Magic Fingers of Merlin at the Hammond Organ (1957).

Favorite album of all time?
“Rockabilly” with Benny Joy.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?

First concert attended?
Josh Johnson.

Last concert?
Jerry Lee Lewis.

Favorite concert ever?
I don't judge people trying to be creative.

Least favorite concert?
See above.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I hope to see my friend Maqui Ortiz.

Thanks, Dex. Been following your career for many years now. It's really a pleasure to have you on the blog. BTW, I believe we share a birthday!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


"FENSTER makes de-constructed pop music, exploring electro acoustic arrangements peppered with traffic noises and bird calls. Their lyrics are often carefully constructed dream narratives, finding inspiration in the world of ghosts, graveyards. trains, religious imagery, and broken machinery. In their music, they build songs around errors, blending melodic chords with broken beats or minimal percussion. Their instruments range from banjo to synth to inanimate objects, using slamming doors and city soundscapes."

Check out the band at their official Website, Facebook, and BandCamp. The lo-fi popsterssecond album, "The Pink Caves" was just released via Morr Music and they hit the Thunderbird Cafe tomorrow night sharing a bill with New Bums and friends of the blog Pairdown. I want to thank JJ Weihl (Guitar/Vocals) and Johnny Jarzyna (Guitar/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
JJ Weihl:Dookie” on cassette (duh!)

Your last album bought?

Johnny Jarzyna: Connan Mockasin “Caramel”.

Favorite album of all time?
JJ & Johnny:The Velvet Underground” Self-Titled.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Johnny: Creed “Human Clay”. Why did I buy this when I was 14? I'll never know.

First concert attended?
JJ: Weezer! I won free tickets on the radio.

Last concert?
Johnny: Played last night in Lawrence, Kansas with a great local band called Spirit is the Spirit. They gave us a pile of animal masks and some weed. Those guys are awesome.

Favorite concert ever?
JJ & Johnny: Electrelane at Festsaal Kreuzberg in Berlin was pretty fantastic. Hot summer night, sweaty and powerful.

Least favorite concert?
Johnny: The Red Hot Chili Peppers in Berlin. Just like, whatttt????

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Played a crazy show hooked up by the Pittsburgh promoter Manny at Garfield Artworks last time, arrived on time and sat around for an hour a bit worried that no one would ever show up, but Manny came and 3 other bands. I think it was Gap Dream and some local bands and it turned out to be a fun night, bizarre but very enjoyable.

Thanks, fellas. Gotta give respect to Manny. He's a somewhat, seemingly polarizing figure here in town but I am definitely on his side.

 FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. The links helps to support this site and will allow me to keep writing about local music.

Monday, March 24, 2014

First/Last-The Grim Game

"A fusion of styles sexfully fighting for dominance."

Check out the band on Facebook, SoundCloud, Twitter and BandCamp. The Pittsburgh 'Americana Indie-Rock' band released it's debut self-titled EP earlier this year. They play around town a bunch so try to catch them when you can. I want to thank Sarah Trusilo (Vocals), Lee Ali (Bass/Vocals) and Ryan Miller (Guitar/Vocals) for taking a few to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Sarah Trusilo: The term "bought" would have to refer to ones that weren't pirated, shoplifted or given to me. I'd guess then, in that case, it was “Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols”.
Lee Ali: Al DiMeola “Kiss My Axe”. I used the change I had saved from left over lunch money to buy the CD because there is a picture of a naked woman on the cover.
Ryan Miller: Motley Crue “Theater of Pain”. Ouch. Not sure which is more embarrassing, that that was my first album or that I'm still pissed off that it wasn't as good as “Shout at the Devil”.

Your last album bought?
Sarah: I’m one of those people who only buys the songs they want to hear on an album. I bought The Black Keys’ “El Camino”about three years ago and I still haven’t listened to the whole thing.
Lee: Blood Orange “Cupid Deluxe”. No words to describe sonic bliss.
Ryan: The National's “Boxer” album back in 2005 and that was probably the first album I had bought in the ten years prior. I pretty much stopped listening to new music after high school but had a gift card I had to use and it was among the new releases. I never heard of them but liked the name. By dumb luck it became one of my favorite albums ever.

Favorite Album of All Time?
Sarah: “Rumours”. That’s a good album. And I get it.
Lee: Paul Simon “Graceland”. This album is part of my soul.
Ryan: Shudder to Think “Pony Express Record”. There are probably better things out there but I can always listen to this and never feel like I've heard it too many times.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Sarah: Oh, my. “Load”.  I think I may have stopped liking metal after that.
Lee: Incubus “If Not Now, When?”  "What happened to these guys?" should be the name of the album.
Ryan: Anything put out by Prince during one of his religious phases.

First concert attended?
Sarah: Janis Joplin in my dreams. I had backstage passes     and was laughing it up with everyone.
Lee: Lilith Fair. I was in love with a girl, enough said.
Ryan: My dad took me to see Peter, Paul and Mary when I was a kid.

Last concert?
Sarah: I’m pretty sure that was Eddie Money and it was free. I’ve had a lot on my mind, okay?
Lee: Pinback. Rob Crow is my boy, and they rocked it at Smalls.
Ryan: I think it was The National at The Rex about six or so years ago. I should get out more.

Favorite concert ever?
Sarah: Well, in my book, dancing at a concert, no matter who is playing or whether or not it's "real", gets #1 pick.
Lee: Paul McCartney. 4 hours, nonstop.
Ryan: The Jesus Lizard in '91 at the Upstage. Craziest damned thing I'll ever see. Life changing. I'm pretty sure it's the reason I've never been able to properly 'grow up'.

Least favorite concert?
Sarah: No Doubt. I had tickets and didn’t get to go when I was a teenager as punishment for not doing chores.
Lee: The Jets. They attempted to teach me to ‘Keep off the Grass’ in a sixth grade school assembly.
Ryan: I once fell asleep at a Toad the Wet Sprocket show.

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Sarah: All the fun I’ve had here.
Lee: Primanti Sammiches, Carnegie Museums and the South Side before its demise. The people in this city are like no other and they make it what it is...home.
Ryan: Best place in the world to come back to after you've gotten sick of it and moved.

Thanks, guys. I had that same experience at Lilith, Lee. It wasn't a totally bad experience but kind of like when I attended Carlow. Us guys sorta stood out.

Friday, March 21, 2014

First/Last-Hawk and Dove

"Hawk and Dove is a post-Americana rock band with a calm-before-the-storm approach, a contemporary yet classic sound that's like the psychedelic country David Bowie never wrote. “Hawk and Dove channel a 60’s pop band and a modern alternative outfit,” The Deli says. Supajam adds, “it's almost like an alt act doing the seventies." This Yesterday Will Never End (2014) juxtaposes haunting ballads with thunderous stoner grooves, crafting a unique rock experience. This Yesterday is “…an album that transcends the boundaries created by different genres of music," The Aquarian says. "Hawk and Dove transition… effortlessly, and take the listener on a journey guided by Miller’s tender singing.” Hawk and Dove's songs never do what you expect them to. They ramp up with enormous energy to what would normally break into some bombastic chug-a-long, then scale back with restraint to relish small moments of sonic delight. Guitar, violin, and banjo drone like slow-moving glaciers. Ballads bounce with off-kilter rhythms. Keyboards tumble down the scale just when it seems they'll ascend. This disarming inventiveness is what makes Hawk and Dove's sound so beguiling. With their steadily growing following—and a killer live show—Hawk and Dove is proving to be the loudest quiet band you have ever heard."

Check out the band at their official Website, Facebook, BandCamp and Twitter. The band's fantastic debut album "This Yesterday Will Never End" was re-released this week and they stop in Pittsburgh tonight at Garfield Artworks along with Spires supporting Oberhofer. I want to thank Max Hodes (Tenor Guitar/Vocals), Joan Chew (Violin/Bass), AJ Sausville (Drums), Caitlin Becker (Keys/Vocals), John Kleber (Guitar) and Elijah Miller (Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

The first album you ever bought?
Max Hodes: “David Bowie Reads Peter and the Wolf”.
Joan Chew: Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction”.
AJ Sausville: “Diary of a Madman” Ozzy Osbourne.
Caitlin Becker: Goo Goo Dolls “Dizzy Up the Girl”.
John Kleber: Motley Crue “Dr. Feelgood”.
Elijah Miller: “The White Album”.

Your last album bought?
Max: Miles Davis “On the Corner”.
Joan: NIN “Hesitation Marks”.
AJ: “Monsters of Folk”.
Caitlin: Regina Spektor “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats”.
John: Last Exit “The Noise Of Trouble”.
Elijah: “Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads and Dirges 1968-1974”.

Favorite album of all time?
Max: Sonny Sharrock “Ask the Ages”.
Joan: Doesn’t play favorites.
AJ: Bright Eyes “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn”.
Caitlin: The Beatles “Abby Road”.
John: Bonnie “Prince” Billy “Summer in the Southeast”.
Elijah: Leonard Cohen “New Skin for the Old Ceremony”.

Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Max: “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” Red Hot Fuck These Guys.
Joan: Milli Vanilli “Girl You Know It’s True”.
AJ: Bright Eyes “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn”.
Caitlin: Kings of Leon “Mechanical Bull”.
John: “Whipped Cream & Other Delights” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
Elijah: Fleetwood Mac “Rumours”.

First concert attended?
Max: B.B. King.
Joan: Metallica (in Singapore – first time Singapore ever brought in a “rock” act of any sort!!!).
AJ: Elton John.
Caitlin: N’Sync.
John: Baaba Maal and the Mahotella Queens.
Elijah: My Grandmother – Jackie Pack.

Last concert?
Max: Windhand.
Joan: What’s a concert these days? Some gigs I’ve attended are way better than concerts.
AJ: Elvis Costello Solo.
Caitlin: Elvis Costello Solo.
John: Brian Wilson, ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ tour.
Elijah: Nick Cave.

Favorite concert ever?
Max: The USA is a Monster; last US tour; in Providence, RI, w/Lightning Bolt.
Joan: Doesn’t play favorites.
AJ: Medeski, Martin and Wood, Pearl St, Northampton, MA.
Caitlin: Ben Folds.
John: Metallica ‘Wherever I May Roam’ tour.
Elijah: Tom Waits ‘Glitter and Doom’ tour.

Least favorite concert?
Max: Every show I’ve ever mixed. F*** your band.
Joan: Norah Jones.
AJ: Zappa Plays Zappa.
Caitlin: Some band in Philly, I forget their name.
John: Phil Lesh and Friends.
Elijah: Phil Lesh and Friends.

Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
There are a lot of good questions here, but we felt that the most interesting question was this one; we all have favorite albums and favorite concerts, but with six people in the band the gamut is too wide to adequately capture the essence of what we are trying to do as a band or as a musical outfit. We have been to Pittsburgh many times and have come to realize that is a home away from home for us. When we are there we can relax, stretch out and play the way that we really want to: unrestrained, with passion. We are looking forward to performing in a venue that has a history of recognizing artistry for its raw, naked truth. Hawk and Dove has been performing in myriad iterations over the years and only now do we feel that this lineup realizes the vision that we set out to achieve at the inception. We think that Pittsburgh’s welcoming, intentional spirit will allow us to achieve the performance that we initially intended to capture.

Thanks, everyone. Really nice comment on our town. It is always wonderful to hear good things from people across the country that appreciate what we have here.