First/Last – Bitter Whiskers

October 10, 2016

Bitter Whiskers is a folk trio from Pittsburgh who’s sound incorporates not one but two lead accordions for a unique acoustic based dream pop. The band play a special event this Saturday (10/15) for the Friends of CLP Lawrenceville Art Auction. I want to thank Emily Fear (Accordion/Vocals), James Todd (Guitar), and Tessa Barber (Accordion/Vocals) for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.

  • The first album you ever bought?
  • Emily Fear: The first album I was ever really excited to purchase with my own money was the first Spice Girls album on cassette.
  • James Todd: MC Hammer Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em on cassette.
  • Tessa Barber: On cassette, Eponymous by R.E.M. on CD, “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.
  • Your last album bought?
  • Emily: Beyonce Lemonade.
  • James: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on vinyl.
  • Tessa: Moai y Yo by Maria Usbeck.
  • Favorite album of all time?
  • Emily: Changes regularly, but right now: The Kinks, Village Green Preservation Society and The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs.
  • James: Minutemen Double Nickels on the Dime.
  • Tessa: I don’t do well with absolute favorites. I had a tape with Boy with the Arab Strap on one side and If You’re Feeling Sinister on the other that was constantly in my car for almost all of my college years and I can still listen to those albums all the way through and still really love them and not get sick of them, so that speaks to what would make something a favorite for me. Same with Harrow & the Harvest by Gillian Welch. Boys for Pele is pretty perfect.
  • Least favorite/most disappointing album?
  • Emily: Arcade Fire Reflektor – I know I’m in the minority but it left me kind of cold.
  • James: The Smiths The Queen is Dead – One of those bands that everyone I relate to musically enjoys, but I just don’t get.
  • Tessa: If something starts giving me an earworm, I tend to avoid it and that makes me sad.
  • First concert attended?
  • Emily: Letters to Cleo, Our Lady Peace and Everclear at Metropol, 1997. I was in 7th Grade and my mom came with me and my best friend. At one point, the crowd pushed us back behind a chain-link fenced off area guarded by a bouncer. Well, because my mom was there, he let me and my friend stand there. Moments into the Our Lady Peace set, the members of Letters to Cleo appeared there and I got to meet Kay Hanley, which blew my 13-year-old mind.
  • James: Schoolyard Bully and Brothers Keeper at the Dickinson College Arts Haus, 2000. A lot of slam-dancing and several poles in the middle of the floor.
  • Tessa: Tiffany at the Syria Mosque, at which a then-unknown New Kids on the Block opened, even though I was so young I don’t remember much of it.
  • Last concert?
  • James: Trash Bag, Reign Check and Preppers at the Shop.
  • Emily: Same. Reign Check rules.
  • Tessa: Angel Olsen.
  • Favorite concert ever?
  • Emily: Either Shonen Knife at 31st Street Pub OR Le Tigre in 2004, shortly before the election. Gloria Steinem was in town and surprised the crowd by introducing the band on stage.
  • James: Shonen Knife, 31st Street Pub.
  • Tessa: Joanna Newsom at the Warhol for emotional heights and intensity, The Rentals for sheer joy and fulfillment of an adolescent dream.
  • Least favorite concert?
  • Emily: Modest Mouse, Rostraver Ice Arena, 2004. The band’s flight was delayed, so they were nearly TWO HOURS late. It was an all-ages show so by the time they got on stage, they only had about 30 minutes before the show had to end. The acoustics were terrible, because it was in an ice skating rink. And it was in the middle of July, so it was two hours spent being sweaty, sticky and bored.
  • James: Alkaline Trio, Chameleon Club in Lancaster, 2002. They seemed bored and the opening bands were terrible.
  • Tessa: Godspeed You ! Black Emperor at the Homestead Library – it was humid, everyone smelled like sour wine and cigarettes, the band played with their backs to the audience, I experienced such a profound feeling of alienation and impending migraine that I made my companion leave partway through which I almost never do.
  • Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
  • Emily: Early morning hours walking across bridges, seeing the light change from the reflection in the river. Getting to know my city better through the work produced by its amazing local artists, writers and musicians.
  • James: I’ve lived here ten years and I still feel like I’m walking into a painting every time I step outside.
  • Tessa: I had a blast singing with the Complaints Choir made by Christiane Dolores, Deryk Tines & Phat Man Dee. Complaints ranged from silly to serious and we got to sing them to people during the Arts Festival a couple of years ago. Even though it’s an international thing, singing complaints seemed very Pittsburgh to me.

Thanks, all. I have to agree with you, James. I have lived in Pittsburgh for almost 50 years and I feel the same way as you almost every time I step