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I have never seen Lambchop and couldn’t even recall the last time they were here. I casually like the band and scored a photo pass figuring to hit up some of their set before the excellent WOODS gig in Garfield. As the band came on, I noticed that the stage lights were low. Did I say low? I meant altogether off!?! I knew the pictures were going to turn out grimy but the real kicker was Kurt and the rest of the band ‘rolling their eyes’ at the fact that I dared try to shoot the intimate set. I am as stealth as the next guy when shooting but I guess not inconspicuous enough. No worries, I was late for a show I was actually looking forward to anyway. Later dudes.

What made this night better than usual was that I was just excited to see openers Hacienda as much as headliners Heartless Bastards. I have seen them before and they did not disappoint. If you never heard of these guys, do yourself a favor and check them out. Cool dudes to boot!

Starting out the night was Devin Therriault. He was good but what I’ll remember from him was as we were walking down Carson pre-gig to grab a bite, Devin and his band were coming the other way. My buddy commented (not knowing who he was) after he passed, “Nice haircut Flock of Seagulls.”

Unfortunately with the sheer amount of shows I shoot, it’s a very rare one that I am actually looking forward to seeing. Add the fact that my wife wanted to see the band as well and this show had epic written all over it (at least for me). The band did not disappoint. They sounded fantastic and the best part of the night is Club Cafe took away the annoying tables so there was plenty of room to hang making it a contender for one of the best shows of the year! More photos here.

I love these two. They are like a indie folk Burns and Allen. Scott’s jokes are SO damned corny you just gotta laugh.

Club Cafe
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It seems that I didn’t have as much as a fawning giddy fanboy crush my fellow blogger had for this show but I am positive he didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. the next morning. The handful of tunes I did stick around for were pleasant enough…I really should have familiarized myself more with her stuff before the gig.

Club Cafe
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Midway through the set, a drunken former roommate of Adam came in to the place and along with his friends started celebrating hard, in front of the stage no less, his engagement that night. It was kind of hilarious to see one of the guys hand Adam a bottle of beer, as he was playing a solo! He was actually waiting for Adam to take it! Nice move. One thing the dude did mention that I couldn’t have said better was, “You guys sound better and better every time I see you play!” So true. Wait till everyone hears the new album. So good.

Le Cachot Club Cafe
Saturday, January 21, 2012 Southside

The band’s bassist Paul ‘Miser’ Werkmeister was cool enough to drop me a line inviting me to the show. I had a fairly packed schedule but was able to end the night down at the Southside. The enticement of my boys Triggers opening up surely help persuade me to stay up past my bedtime.

Greg Dutton Club Cafe
Wednesday, January 25, 2012 Southside

As much as I dig The Wreckids and as much as I know very little about Jaymay, I wanted to trek out last night for one reason only. I had never seen a solo set by Lohio’s main man Greg. He mainly played new tunes (here’s hoping some of it will be recorded/released soon!) and although the band’s future is somewhat up in the air(?), it was reassuring to see no less than three of his Lohio mates in the room for support. Hmmm…who’s down for helping start a “We want more Dutton!” campaign?

I arrived to hear the last two songs of her set and was wishing I heard more. I usually have a hard time getting a spot at Club Cafe but on this night the first three front tables were empty so…score one for the photog!

As this was another “WYEP presents…” gig, I wasn’t all that familiar with his music. O.K., truth be told, I never heard of the dude before. He seemed cool enough with his acoustically suave love songs. I couldn’t hang for the whole set as I was running to the Delicious Pastries CD release gig.

As I was listening to these local guys, I couldn’t help but think to myself what an idiot I have been in only seeing them play once before four years ago. They really bowled me over with their amazingly intricate guitar interplay. I have to say that if you love acoustic folk, you must check these two out. Here’s some recent video.

Solo shows are nice but sometimes my mood is better suited for a full band. I am not taking away anything from his set, it’s strictly the “it’s not you, it’s me” thing.. He has a serious Sun Kil Moon vibe happening and it’s a shame not too many people turned out for the gig. Believe me, if it was billed as “Band of Horses’ guitarist Tyler Ramsey”, it would have been more crowded. Wait, was it billed as such?

Mandrake Project ‘Transitions’ CD Release Show

Mandrake Project is a Pittsburgh based ‘conglomerate’ of over 30 transitional musicians that’s been playing since forming in 2002. The latest 8 piece configuration of the band are celebrating their new release next week at Club Cafe with support from my buds in The Emily Rodgers Band. Lead singer John Schisler was nice enough to take the time to participate in this edition of First/Last Friday.

The first album you ever bought?

I think the first album I ever bought was “Grace Under Pressure” by Rush on Vinyl. I was 14. My parents had a giant wooden console stereo / record player / 8 track player in our basement. I used to get off the bus from school, run home from the bus stop and head down to the basement to listen to records before my mom got home from work. I vividly remember listening to “Grace Under Pressure” over and over while reading the lyrics on the album’s insert. I also loved Hugh Syme’s artwork on the cover. Before ever having enough money to buy any records I used to listen to my older brother’s albums. He turned me on to Black Sabbath, Supertramp, Kansas, Styx, and a plethora of other stuff. Once I bought a CD player when I was in college, I purchased CD versions of all the stuff my brother turned me on to.

Your last album bought?

Man, that’s a tough one. I really don’t buy music anymore. I know that’s a sad statement coming from a musician but I truly only listen to streaming music on Pandora now. I pick different channels depending on my mood. Honestly, the last album I bought was for my 2-year-old son and it was from a children’s musician called Raffi (hey, you asked!!) But, the funny thing is, my son doesn’t like that stuff anymore. When we’re in the car traveling he requests something with a pounding beat. I never thought I’d listen to Top 40 radio but I’ve been suckered into it by my beautiful son. His favorite songs? Dance Until the World Ends by Britney Spears & Dynamite by Taio Cruz. He shouts, “Turn it up!” whenever either of those songs come on and my wife and I absolutely CANNOT talk to each other while those songs are playing. He sings along at the top of his lungs.

Getting back to your question on the last album I purchased for myself…It was probably “A Hundred Days Off” by Underworld. I love their music.

Favorite album of all time?

Man, another tough question. I have favorite albums and they’re all equal depending on my mood. I think each one has a special place in my heart for nostalgic reasons and brings me back to a time when music was fresh to my young ears and I was beginning to develop my taste and appreciation for music. Here they are:

Least favorite/most disappointing album?

Hmmmm.. probably Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief.” I really wish that Radiohead would quit experimenting and get back to writing “hookier” songs. I respect them for taking turns off the main road but every album since “Kid A” seems like a Thom Yorke, avant garde solo album. Just my opinion.

First concert attended?

Rush – “Grace Under Pressure” at the Brendan Byrne arena in New Jersey. I was 13 or 14. My parents drove my friend and I down to the concert in their brown Pontiac LeMans Safari station wagon. It was amazing. The sights and sounds of my favorite band at the time. I remember leaving the show and still hearing the music streaming through head.

Last concert?

U2 360º Tour at Heinz Field. I was photographing the show for my job.

Favorite concert ever?
It’s a toss-up.

Photographing The Verve at Lollapalooza in 1994. I got some great images from the show and the band sounded epic. Just a wall of amazing sound. I roamed the entire festival taking pictures and hearing all that great music.

Radiohead – Ok Computer at Metropol in the Strip District (August, 1997). The band was great. I had a friend who was doing PR and they let me hang out after the show and meet the band. I talked to Phil (the drummer) about their early days in Oxford and I talked to Thom about their recording process of OK Computer and fashion.

Least favorite concert?

30 Seconds to Mars – My band at the time (New Invisible Joy) opened for the band. I remember a girl taking photos of Jared Leto with her point-n-shoot camera while his band was playing. He stopped the show and asked people to stop taking pictures because it was distracting him. I thought, “What a self-absorbed douche.” This girl was possibly having the time of her life and was just trying to capture memories of the show. Instead she got chastised by an actor-turned-musician who didn’t appreciate the people who paid hard-earned money to see his band.

Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?

I was introduced to a guitar player named Mike Gaydos soon after moving to Pittsburgh in 1994. I was poking around trying to find a band to join. Mike said his band was looking for singer and asked me to try out. We clicked immediately and started writing music. The band was called “Vent” and we played a bunch of shows at dive bars before we morphed into New Invisible Joy a couple years later. That band lasted 12 years and was chock full of good times..we recorded 4 pretty stellar albums (in my opinion) and I’m proud of the music we made. I was also introduced to a diverse group of friends (and my wife) while playing in NIJ, and for that I will always be thankful.

Thanks John. What’s funny is I vividly remember my buddies playing the snot out of Grace Under Pressure in high school and how I learned to loath that particular album after awhile. Proof positive that the power of music has no bounds.

I liked this local band. They were very lo-fi and well, dreamy. My only criticism is that their intensity level was steadfast and dronelike, which wasn’t bad…just ‘non-wavering’. That doesn’t make sense, does it? Yeah, I write a music blog.

For the last several visits to Pittsburgh, the band has been playing the Brillobox. Their inaugural stop at Club Cafe was a sell out. A STR only sell out. Listen, I have been to Club Cafe countless times over the years and have been noticing a strange trend as of late. Instead of standing five deep by the bar, which sucks for sure, patrons are nestling themselves around the foot of the stage for the show. I tried it for Joe Pug (just to get the shot) and it was literally a pain in the ass after awhile. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t hang in that cross legged position too long and bailed early on in the set. Really dumb move on my part because they did sound great. My onle caveat is that they seem to play here often and I am sure they will be swinging through town soon enough. I just realized that the new normal of sitting down at the CC started when I became a cranky old bastard. Another perspective on the show here. More photos here.

Second time seeing Joe and the compliment of a couple other musicians was a welcome addition to his folk tunes. It’s not that I don’t dig solo acoustic, it’s just my preference is having a little variety in the set which Joe pulled off perfectly on this night. His solo songs in the near the end of the show contrasted with the other songs to have an even greater impact. I have also never seen a more earnest guy performing than Joe. Really nice to see him getting a following as evidence with the packed house.

Timothy Showalter is Strand of Oaks. His minimalist tunes were actually very well received by the near sold out crowd. Not to take away from his music, which was quite good, I have to believe that his engaging demeanor throughout the set also had something to do with the audiences rapt attention. Turns out the guy was just as nice off stage.

My buds over at Draw Us Lines have been big fanboys of him for awhile and have pimped him more than a few times. Here’s an interview they conducted with Timothy. Here’s a Daytrotter session to groove on.

I previewed this show a couple of months ago when the band’s guitarist Josh participated in First/Last. Hailing from Greensburg, I guess you can call them local, right? Cool dudes to boot.

After many times trying, this was my first time seeing the band. My man Jon gave me the hook-up. Thanks buddy. I encourage everyone who reads my blog to please support live local music.