Is it Good?

by Heather Kropf

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Week of August 26, 2014

This was a showcase of women artists curated by a music fan.

Interspersed throughout the night was spoken word by Joanna Lowe. Most of her material is ernest and profound and often goes to the edge of tears. If you don’t allow her to take you there it can feel heavy. But if you suspend disbelief and follow her into her world, it is raw and crafted and takes you somewhere. Her intensity paired well with the intensity of the other artists.

Crystal Morgan has a lovely voice, clearly trained. She had some really interesting musical moments, all weakened by her choice of instrument to accompany her. I’d go for a full-sized acoustic guitar to suit her voice. I’d also be a fan of electric.

Morgan Erina was in the finest form I have ever seen. She reminds me of Sinead O’Connor and PJ Harvey. Usually there is something so ethereal about her music and voice that I imagine her evaporating into the ether. Not at this show. She was fiercely grounded, like granite, but with reckless alt rock edges. Like a steel weapon. I’ve always liked her but at this show I felt like she transcended to that rarified space— the league of great national artists. No joke. And I’m a real fan now.

Jasmine Tate has been getting tons of buzz; I’m glad I finally saw her live. She’s got extraverted rockstar charm, playing groove-based songs with lyrics that go from rap to bluesy/rock sung choruses.

I would definitely lose the cello and the idea of noodling, and play up the bass/drums backing her. Because her song don’t “go anywhere” in the sense that verse and chorus are over the same chords with few, if any, bridges, the foundation has to effing swing as hard as she does.

I had to leave before hearing her whole set but I’d like to hear more, and especially hear her develop a less jam-band sound. Add some real riffs and some arranged shapes, keep it tight, because she’s totally got it.

Is it good? Yup. I heard some new artists and became bigger fans of old ones. Yet another showcase night to display how my city is rich with young and developing talent.

Filed under joanna lowe morgan erina crystal morgan jasmine tate

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Sometime in August

Yes indeed, more Space Exchange from Thunderbird Cafe. It was a refreshingly new combination: Soy Sos and Erik Lawrence. 

The crowd was light and I was warding off a head cold but the music was interesting. One could hear them feeling out the relationship…and I felt it was most strong when Soy Sos moved away from responding to Erik’s playing and into his own textural context and beats. The beats were key.

I had to head out early due to my head but I felt I got a good sense of the edges of where they would go before I left.

Is it good? Mostly. As are many early iterations and partnerships it felt too new to really fly, but there was potential and interest.

Sometime in August

Yes indeed, more Space Exchange from Thunderbird Cafe. It was a refreshingly new combination: Soy Sos and Erik Lawrence.

The crowd was light and I was warding off a head cold but the music was interesting. One could hear them feeling out the relationship…and I felt it was most strong when Soy Sos moved away from responding to Erik’s playing and into his own textural context and beats. The beats were key.

I had to head out early due to my head but I felt I got a good sense of the edges of where they would go before I left.

Is it good? Mostly. As are many early iterations and partnerships it felt too new to really fly, but there was potential and interest.

Filed under Erik Lawrence Soy Sos

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Week of August 8, 2014

Well, this is not my city although it’s one of my favourites. I visited NYC to see a friend play Rockwood 1. This is Brooklyn’s Daryl Shawn and LA’s Pi Jacobs. 

And it was thoroughly enjoyable despite the glass of wine that nearly cost as much as a bottle.

Good.

Week of August 8, 2014

Well, this is not my city although it’s one of my favourites. I visited NYC to see a friend play Rockwood 1. This is Brooklyn’s Daryl Shawn and LA’s Pi Jacobs.

And it was thoroughly enjoyable despite the glass of wine that nearly cost as much as a bottle.

Good.

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Sometime in July

Whoever this is keep an eye out for her. Saw her at an open stage. A real talent (but I didn’t catch her name)

Sometime in July

Whoever this is keep an eye out for her. Saw her at an open stage. A real talent (but I didn’t catch her name)

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Week of July 20, 2014

This week started with Lake Street Dive at Hartwood Acres. All I can say is that I get it now.

This band has worked my city for a few years and developed a feverish following. On YouTube I couldn’t figure out the appeal but live is different. They have that secret extra something that makes you happy to be there and makes you want to cheer them on.

I didn’t always care for the retro throw-back vibe — I didn’t always care for that vibe the first time around — but the musicianship and excellent harmonies were a treat….so creative and so polished.

I probably wouldn’t buy their records because I can’t imagine all that translating to tape but I would see them live again, in a heartbeat.

Yup, good.

Week of July 20, 2014

This week started with Lake Street Dive at Hartwood Acres. All I can say is that I get it now.

This band has worked my city for a few years and developed a feverish following. On YouTube I couldn’t figure out the appeal but live is different. They have that secret extra something that makes you happy to be there and makes you want to cheer them on.

I didn’t always care for the retro throw-back vibe — I didn’t always care for that vibe the first time around — but the musicianship and excellent harmonies were a treat….so creative and so polished.

I probably wouldn’t buy their records because I can’t imagine all that translating to tape but I would see them live again, in a heartbeat.

Yup, good.

Filed under Lake Street Dive Hartwood Acres

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Week of July 12

Ok I apologize for the bad photography. These are pics from the 2nd Annual Deutchtown Music Festval. I went to 3 venues (instead of 1 last year) and saw a larger variety of acts. A few on my list included Grand Piano and Andre Costello & The Cool Minors. But I also caught Nameless in August, Route 28, Harlan Twins, and D.o.B.

This is a cool festival for bringing together a huge slice of my city’s music community. And I kept running into people who weren’t performing that were a part. What a great gift for everyone. I hope they keep it local and don’t dilute with an urge to pull in National acts.

Nameless in August and Andre Costello were my favorite. I was so glad to catch a few songs from D.o.B. on my way to the car just for the diversity; up until then I was overwhelmed by the lack of it.

I wasn’t terribly blown away by Grand Piano, the band with arguably the biggest buzz, and Route 28 was doing cover tunes and proving themselves to be an adequate bar band and without much new to offer. The Harlan Twins were solid as usual!

Is it good? A resounding yes. The event, in itself, is great! Musically it wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve seen. Next year I’ll be seeking out women rock bands and the acts who offer all kinds of musical diversity.

Filed under Deutchtown Music Festival Nameless in August Grand Piano The Harlan Twins Andre Costello & The Cool Minors Route 28 D.o.B.

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Week of July 6, 2014

I had a chance to see Maxwell at Heinz Hall. I couldn’t stay for the whole thing because the house mix was so boomy it flared my brain injury symptoms, but while there I enjoyed a great audience. The music itself left me a little flat — was hoping for better interpretation and less superficial gloss. The mix was super annoying in the house, but he’s a mighty incredible singer and the wardrobe malfunction was pretty amusing. 

All in all I’d say I was disappointed. Not so good. His talent wasn’t served by the show and context….for as long as I was able to be there.

Week of July 6, 2014

I had a chance to see Maxwell at Heinz Hall. I couldn’t stay for the whole thing because the house mix was so boomy it flared my brain injury symptoms, but while there I enjoyed a great audience. The music itself left me a little flat — was hoping for better interpretation and less superficial gloss. The mix was super annoying in the house, but he’s a mighty incredible singer and the wardrobe malfunction was pretty amusing.

All in all I’d say I was disappointed. Not so good. His talent wasn’t served by the show and context….for as long as I was able to be there.

Filed under Heinz Hall Maxwell

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Semi-Annual Review

The first half of my year was interrupted by a re-aggravated brain injury and my own CD release, which meant I couldn’t get out and about much or be in computer screens to update my blog.

Now that I’m up for live music again I hope to pick up my blog where I left off. In the meantime a very short review of what I’ve seen and where I’ve been:

(top photo) Tony Grey and Brett Williams - James Street - This is a reason why jazz works in my city. Here’s a venue that enthusiastically supports it and players who bring it when they are on stage and crowds who turn out.

(photo 2) Avi Diamond - CD Release at AVA - AVA used to be located in another neighborhood and joined forces with The Quiet Storm, which also relocated, to form the new AVA. The food is exceptional. I went to see young women musician/songwriters. Opening the night was Velvet Heat, a mighty impressive jazz ensemble fronted by the mighty impressive Arianna Powell. Avi took the stage with a collection of players, most of whom I didn’t know, and presented her collection of songs. They weren’t really to my taste but I felt she’s creative in a Fiona Apple kind of way and young. My city and venues like AVA, owned by Justin Strong, are exactly the kinds of places where young artists can develop and grow. I was glad to support the new venue and a new artist.

(photo 3) Christopher Mark Jones - CD Release “Atlantica” - This man’s stage presence and songwriting as just so damn classy. The songs shuffle along with a maturity and grace and his jagged bluesy voice weaves stories and imagery in English and French. The album is super solid. He was joined by his band which includes Vince Camut on pedal steel (in the picture)

(photo 4) Clinton Clegg - Ok, this man’s voice and songs are among my favorite that my city has to offer! His performances are mature, funny, soulful, insightful, and a good time. He was joined by some of the players from City Love Story at the AcoustiCafe Open Stage.

(photo 5) The Gathering Field - this is a band that was hot in the 1990s and has reformed with frontman Bill Deasy. They are working on a new album and I wanted to check out a band in the Pittsburgh Winery to see how it sounded. A little scouting. :-) The band sounds solid as usual and packed the house.

(bottom photo) Heather Kropf - CD Release @ Pittsburgh Winery - So the venue was my pick for my release party. What a fun night! Here’s the first of what I hope will be a few live videos: http://youtu.be/342g3Rx73x0

Filed under Avi Diamond Brett Williams tony grey Clinton Clegg Christopher Mark Jones Vince Camut Velvet Heat The Gathering Field Heather Kropf Pittsburgh Winery Ava

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For this week’s excursion I had the pleasure of doing an opening set for Matthew Ryan at the Hospitality House Concert series. The house is a large affair powered by solar panels with an urban farm/garden adjacent. One of the owners is a musician so the entire downstairs is littered with instruments, extra beds for traveling artists, and a few stray recording devices. The house concert involves potluck food and home brew and a sliding scale donation for students/artists.

Matthew Ryan apparently has a story of his own but he doesn’t bother too much with that in his songs. He’s too intent on telling the stories of others. Siting admiration for The Clash and Replacements, I could hear the rock n roll in his music and voice even stripped back. And lyrically it was like listening to high art. Not as a direct comparison but I thought of Springsteen and Dylan. Clearly Ryan is a writer first.

My city is lucky to have such an artist recently relocate to our area. The audience hung on every word.

Good? Um, more like great.

Filed under matthew ryan hospitality house concert

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Week ? — So good! I checked out the Songwriter Circle hosted by Max Somerville at the Pittsburgh Winery. The guest songwriters were Guy Russo, Arianna Powell, Justin Endler, and Derek Krystek.

Something about the combination of artists headed by an obviously heavy weight host who was generous with his love and respect for everyone set the night up for a really human, authentic musical experience. I swear I teared up more than once.

Highlights were that each artist had at least one hit song or moment, Justin’s arty obscurity (and that Jeff Buckley/Jimmy Somerville voice!!) really offset the loveliness of Russo’s folk writing and Max Somerville’s soulful accessibility. Derek gets props for being the most vulnerable with his between-song banter, and Arianna is why I went. She is a fully formed guitarist at 23 and has incredible stage presence. I was curious about her writing and I wasn’t disappointed. While she’s a young performing singer with tons of room to grow, her songs are as cleanly and fully formed as her playing. They offer a simplicity and emotive rawness that obscures the songs’ intelligent and sophisticated foundations. She uses the rhythm and imagery of words creatively and for maximum emotional impact. Honestly, it was beautiful stuff and I hope to hear more.

From a personal perspective what struck me most was how different this generation of song makers are from mine. Gen Xers (me) and Millennials are really different. And it’s a good difference; I came away feeling like the creative heart of my city is in pretty damn good hands. 

So yes, this was a good week.

Week ? — So good! I checked out the Songwriter Circle hosted by Max Somerville at the Pittsburgh Winery. The guest songwriters were Guy Russo, Arianna Powell, Justin Endler, and Derek Krystek.

Something about the combination of artists headed by an obviously heavy weight host who was generous with his love and respect for everyone set the night up for a really human, authentic musical experience. I swear I teared up more than once.

Highlights were that each artist had at least one hit song or moment, Justin’s arty obscurity (and that Jeff Buckley/Jimmy Somerville voice!!) really offset the loveliness of Russo’s folk writing and Max Somerville’s soulful accessibility. Derek gets props for being the most vulnerable with his between-song banter, and Arianna is why I went. She is a fully formed guitarist at 23 and has incredible stage presence. I was curious about her writing and I wasn’t disappointed. While she’s a young performing singer with tons of room to grow, her songs are as cleanly and fully formed as her playing. They offer a simplicity and emotive rawness that obscures the songs’ intelligent and sophisticated foundations. She uses the rhythm and imagery of words creatively and for maximum emotional impact. Honestly, it was beautiful stuff and I hope to hear more.

From a personal perspective what struck me most was how different this generation of song makers are from mine. Gen Xers (me) and Millennials are really different. And it’s a good difference; I came away feeling like the creative heart of my city is in pretty damn good hands.

So yes, this was a good week.

Filed under max somerville guy russo derek krystek justin engler arianna powell pittsburgh winery