Is it Good?

by Heather Kropf

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Week #7: I headed down to Club Cafe to hear Caroline Smith and was happily surprised to hear two opening acts from my city that I’d never heard of before. Lyndsey Smith in the video was the second opener and I loved her voice and song selection. I was really happy to hear an Anita Baker cover, and the original song she did was beautiful. I’ll have to be sure to catch her with her band Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distrubution.

Major props to her for getting up there in heels and singing while far along in a pregnancy!

Filed under Lyndsey Smith Club Cafe

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Week #6: this week held 2 brand new things for me (new ensemble, new venue) and one brand new thing for my city. Silk Sound  a 6-piece Asian-American jazz band, performed their debut (and as of now, only) concert at Bellefield Hall. They played seven pieces, traditional melodies and original compositions, weaving Asian sounds with Jazz forms. 

I could hear the newness of the group and sense their commitment and investment. The music was better than the room or the mix in the sound system. I had expected - without anticipating - that I might be emotionally undone by the music: Asian music and Jazz are on my list of favorites. If they ever add Persian I might just leave my body.

But I digress. The point is that I did not find it to be spectacular. There were some beautiful tones and moments, some lively conversation, some incredible emotion (Mimi Jong on Erhu can capture more feeling in a single note than I hear nearly ever by anyone in my city) and clear intention and presence by the musicians. 

But it felt new and was inadequately mixed for the room. I had to listen past both of those things and couldn’t quite relax. In this way did the concert fall short. I expect it was actually much better than what I heard from where I was sitting.

I would like to hear their 5th or 6th concert in a great space with a great mix.

It’s qualified, but on the whole week 6 was very good.

Week #6: this week held 2 brand new things for me (new ensemble, new venue) and one brand new thing for my city. Silk Sound a 6-piece Asian-American jazz band, performed their debut (and as of now, only) concert at Bellefield Hall. They played seven pieces, traditional melodies and original compositions, weaving Asian sounds with Jazz forms.

I could hear the newness of the group and sense their commitment and investment. The music was better than the room or the mix in the sound system. I had expected - without anticipating - that I might be emotionally undone by the music: Asian music and Jazz are on my list of favorites. If they ever add Persian I might just leave my body.

But I digress. The point is that I did not find it to be spectacular. There were some beautiful tones and moments, some lively conversation, some incredible emotion (Mimi Jong on Erhu can capture more feeling in a single note than I hear nearly ever by anyone in my city) and clear intention and presence by the musicians.

But it felt new and was inadequately mixed for the room. I had to listen past both of those things and couldn’t quite relax. In this way did the concert fall short. I expect it was actually much better than what I heard from where I was sitting.

I would like to hear their 5th or 6th concert in a great space with a great mix.

It’s qualified, but on the whole week 6 was very good.

Filed under Silk Sound Bellefield Hall Ben Opie Jeff Berman Matt Booth Mimi Jong Chris Parker Samir Chatterjee

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Week #5: sometimes music is funny, and being good has nothing to do with being good. Dicey Stewart & Paprika LaRue are a comedic lounge act in my city (although they would consider themselves a world-traveled hit). With egos the size of a giant rubber duck and fashion to match, they order their stageboy around and reinterpret show tunes and pop songs (Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues) to an accompanying pianist. 

Their shows indicate a dedication to humor, craft, and detail. There is some inconsistency as to the success of each number, but there are usually a handful that are so brilliantly hilarious that it makes the show worth it. They pack the house every time, which is a testament to the the value of laughter and entertainment with a capital E. 

This act may not tickle everyone’s funny bone, but for those who’s it does it’s an annual spectacle worth attending.

Not good, but so good.

Week #5: sometimes music is funny, and being good has nothing to do with being good. Dicey Stewart & Paprika LaRue are a comedic lounge act in my city (although they would consider themselves a world-traveled hit). With egos the size of a giant rubber duck and fashion to match, they order their stageboy around and reinterpret show tunes and pop songs (Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues) to an accompanying pianist.

Their shows indicate a dedication to humor, craft, and detail. There is some inconsistency as to the success of each number, but there are usually a handful that are so brilliantly hilarious that it makes the show worth it. They pack the house every time, which is a testament to the the value of laughter and entertainment with a capital E.

This act may not tickle everyone’s funny bone, but for those who’s it does it’s an annual spectacle worth attending.

Not good, but so good.

Filed under Dicey Stewart Paprika LaRue Comedy

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Week #4 - A songwriter circle at Pittsburgh Winery with host Morgan Erina, Chet Vincent, Judith Avers and Kevin Garrett (in video).

I finally made it to the Winery after seeing a solid line-up of artists advertised for a few months. I thought I’d check out the Valentine’s Day show.

The space has a really nice feel tucked away in the basement with strong reds and stringed lights. I felt as if I were coming to a happening rather than just a show. I helped myself to a glass of their white wine and found a seat.

The line up was a really sweet pairing of ethereal and soulful voices, songs ranging from old-school folk, to contemporary singer-songwriter, to astute rock, to soul. Although the artists rarely jumped in to play on other people’s songs like many songwriter circles, they held their own with humorous banter and chemistry in between the tunes.

A snapshot of Kevin Garrett is my video choice. He’s from Brooklyn so technically it’s not a “band from my town” but his songwriting, playing, and vocals were so damn sic, sick, sique — aw hell, however you spell it — that I couldn’t resist posting a clip.

On the whole, Week #4 is good. I seem to be on a roll.

Filed under Morgan Erina Pittsburgh Winery Judith Avers Kevin Garrett Chet Vincent

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Week #3

I took a friend out for his birthday to see Texas Tex, Jim Relja and the regulars at Thunderbird’s Space Exchange this past week. Pete Freeman, pedal steel, called it Outlaw Country, and I have to say there is something about this music that makes sense to me and makes me happy. It’s a fine line though…just a small shift in any direction or derivation from the classics and I lose interest at a soul/gut level. A few songs went there off the Making-Me-Happy wagon, but for the most part it was right in line with what great bar music should be. As one patron told me during the break, “I hear this kind of music and all my troubles melt away.”

There were some volume issues between instruments and some weak links from time to time, but the spirit was strong and apparently the spirits were strong, too, with the lead singer as the night wore on.

A highly enjoyable live music experience. Week 3 is good.

Filed under Thunderbird Cafe Jim Relja Texas Tex Pete Freeman Matt Booth Chris Parker Dan Barrett

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Week #2 - I was invited to see the Symphony in my city play the works of John Williams at Heinz Hall. 

Aside from being yelled at by the usher for taking this photo, the concert was peppered by humor and costumes. I now think all concerts should be conducted by wizards like Professor Dumbledor.

Is it good? Yes. The venue, pacing of the program, and musicianship was class - a great way to keep warm on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

Week #2 - I was invited to see the Symphony in my city play the works of John Williams at Heinz Hall.

Aside from being yelled at by the usher for taking this photo, the concert was peppered by humor and costumes. I now think all concerts should be conducted by wizards like Professor Dumbledor.

Is it good? Yes. The venue, pacing of the program, and musicianship was class - a great way to keep warm on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

Filed under heinz hall Pittsburgh Symphony John Williams

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Week #1: I got a little bit of a late start this year, but last night I made it out of the house for my first time to Rivers Casino to hear the band In The Mood, a dance band that generally plays weddings and other private events. During the set break I played my very first slots.

The space was large, sometimes smoky, and clean. The music was hit or miss with the audience taste for what they wanted to dance to. This video is one of the hits.

Is it good? Neither the venue nor the music was really my scene…a little too commercial, but their energy was great. They were clearly working to bring the party, and with the right song it was pretty smooth. Still, based in all the factors I’m saying it was so-so.

Filed under Rivers Casino In the Mood

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2013 In Review

My favorite December show was a solstice concert with The Early Mays.

The Early Mays

This trio of women artists - Emily Pinkerton, Ellen Gozion, and Judith Avers - is one of the most original, solid acts that my city offers in my exploration this year, and they keep getting better. Their second release is on it’s way in May 2014!

A Summary of the Year

Well, my goal was to see one band a week, or 52 in total. I saw so many more - around 100! I explored a few new venues although I found favorites and kind of stuck to them more than I anticipated I would.

On New Year’s Eve I plan to finish out my year by seeing two bands that have been on my list for a few months now: Wreck Loose and City Dwelling Nature Seekers.

So, anyhow, Happy New Year! Thank to to all the artists and venues (listed below) who made my year better. Keep on making my city worth being a place to call home. I look forward to exploring more venues and artists in 2014.

ARTISTS (not a comprehensive list. With some distance, the artists in bold were highlights)

  • Allison Miller
  • Colter Harper
  • Ben Opie
  • Chris Parker
  • David Throckmorton
  • Akil Esoon
  • Paul Thompson
  • Nancy Deckant
  • Emily Pinkerton Band
  • Soy Sos
  • Jeff Berman
  • Bailey Park
  • Natalie Stovall
  • Brooke Annibale Band
  • Judith Avers
  • OPEK
  • Christopher Mark Jones
  • Eric Suseoff
  • Rick Bruening
  • Brad Yoder & Jason Rafalak
  • Luca Zan
  • Keith Hershberger
  • Tracy Drach
  • Jeff Grubbs
  • Erik Lawrence
  • Kim Richey
  • Noah Gundersen
  • Denison Witmer
  • Striking Matches
  • Bill Deasy Band
  • Skip Sanders
  • Matt Booth
  • Mark Pippas
  • Jesse Prentiss
  • The Wreckids
  • Mark Dignam
  • Preach Freedom
  • Emily Rodgers Band
  • Chuck Owston
  • Brett Williams, Anton DeFade, George Heid II (Elevations)
  • Nameless in August
  • Joy Ike
  • Tim Ruff
  • Iron & Wine
  • Ben Valasek & the Growlers
  • Donora
  • Ralph Stanley
  • The Weedrags
  • Mike Why
  • Sean Jones Quartet
  • Broken Fences
  • Marcus Miller
  • Cello Fury
  • Scott Blasey
  • Barnaby Bright
  • Ben Shannon Band
  • Squirell Hill Billies
  • Lizz Wright
  • Kathleen Edwards
  • Liam Titcolm
  • Glen Hansard
  • Cold Speaks
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Rufus Wainright
  • Brian Blade
  • Bill Frisell
  • Crisis Car
  • Silencio
  • The Harlan Twins
  • Sleep Experiments
  • Meeting of Important People
  • Maureen Budway
  • JG Boccella
  • Thomas Wendt
  • Eric Taylor
  • BJ Fleming
  • Tony Grey
  • Galactic
  • Kenia
  • AppalAsia
  • Flexure
  • Paul Tebachneck
  • ELCO (plays Beck)
  • Lisa Hindmarsh
  • Daniel May
  • Rickie Lee Jones
  • Corned Beef & Curry
  • Carla Bianco
  • Rusted Root
  • Jeremy Caywood and The Way of Life
  • Triggers
  • Thunderbird Ramble
  • Alex Peck
  • Karl Blau
  • Laura Viers
  • Jimmy Ponder Tribute Night
  • The Wheals
  • Emay
  • The Early Mays

VENUES (favorites in bold)

  • WYEP Third Thursday
  • Thunderbird Cafe (esp Space Exchange series)
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Club Cafe
  • The Barn in Penn Hills
  • Andy’s
  • Bottlebrush Gallery
  • The Bluebird Cafe
  • The Oaks
  • Biddle’s Escape
  • Carnegie Library Music Hall
  • Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
  • Three Rivers Arts Festival
  • Pittsburgh Jazz Live International Festival
  • Massey Hall
  • Mr. Small’s
  • Elks (Deutschtown Festival)
  • Winchester Thurston
  • Hartwood Acres
  • Highland Park Reservoir of Jazz
  • Eclipse Lounge
  • Riverview Park
  • Grey Box Theatre
  • James Street Gastropub
  • Hillman Center for Performing Arts
  • St. Andrew’s

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Who really knows what week it is anymore. I was off for a few months due to a mild concussion. Before the injury I had checked out a bunch of bands that I wanted to mention, but the only one that I remember is Jeremy Caywood & The Way of Life. Jeremy sounds like David Gray with the energy on stage of Justin Timberlake. I totally enjoyed his debut of the full band.
My first live music excursion after my injury was to The Backstage Bar to hear Jeff Berman, vibes, and Chris Parker, electric guitar. I ordered the salmon with crispy kale, and it paired up pretty nicely with the music. A great low-key gig.
This past weekend I went to hear The Wheals, a rock and roll band with country/Americana affectations. All the players play multiple instruments. I haven’t officially heard a straight-up rock band yet this year, and this was a great start. Plenty of riff-driven songs.
All good.

Who really knows what week it is anymore. I was off for a few months due to a mild concussion. Before the injury I had checked out a bunch of bands that I wanted to mention, but the only one that I remember is Jeremy Caywood & The Way of Life. Jeremy sounds like David Gray with the energy on stage of Justin Timberlake. I totally enjoyed his debut of the full band.

My first live music excursion after my injury was to The Backstage Bar to hear Jeff Berman, vibes, and Chris Parker, electric guitar. I ordered the salmon with crispy kale, and it paired up pretty nicely with the music. A great low-key gig.

This past weekend I went to hear The Wheals, a rock and roll band with country/Americana affectations. All the players play multiple instruments. I haven’t officially heard a straight-up rock band yet this year, and this was a great start. Plenty of riff-driven songs.

All good.

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Hiatus

I’m behind on entries, but I’m on hiatus for a spell, recovering from a concussion. Hope to be back at it in a few weeks!