James Street Gastropub launches indiegogo campaign to save the venue

Written by Scott Mervis on .


As you may have seen on social media, or maybe experienced in real life, the bands had to be shut down at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy ballroom last Saturday night during the Deutschtown Music Festival due to noise complaints.

It has been an ongoing problem for the eclectic North Side venue, which is now launching an indiegogo campaign to raise funds to soundproof the third floor ballroom.

Kevin Saftner says in his "#SaveJamesStreet" plea that they have been warned that if the complaints continue, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will force the club to close.


He writes, “With your help you will not only help us keep our 30 employees and their families fed, but you will help Pittsburgh musicians, artists & many others too. James Street is honored to host the Legendary Roger Humphries weekly Jam Session.  It would be terrible to have this tradition end because of the issues we are facing.  We are also honored to work with young up and coming musicians such as the Bleil Brothers, Anton DeFade, George Heid III & countless others.  Again, nothing would be worse than having these aspiring artists lose yet another venue to perform at.  James Street is not merely a music venue though.  We host Drag Brunch, Burlesque shows, Private events, Swing Dances, Church Groups & so much more.  There would be nothing worse than closing our doors to all of these amazing people.

In order to #SaveJamesStreet we need to raise approximately $30,000.  This money will go to sound proof the Ballroom as well as to install air conditioning and new electrical work.  We are asking you who to help us with just a small percent of the total cost.”

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Pittsburgh rapper Eddie Barnz opens up about his ups and downs, beef with Wiz Khalifa in "Dollar and a Dream"

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barnz 2

Eddie Barnz has gone where no Pittsburgh rapper has gone before and self-published his autobiography, at 31.

“Dollar & A Dream” is a compelling 300-page account of his life so far, offering a cinematic glimpse into the frustrations and small victories that come with trying to break out of the hood as rapper in Pittsburgh.

He grew up on Somers Drive in the “tight-knit” Hill District with a strict, hard-working mom and laid-back dad who saw that he got some of the nice things in life, like the new Nintendo on Christmas. It was rare among his friends.

Barnz, brimming with self-awareness and honest about both his arrogance and insecurities, admits to being a bit of a bully, saying he was just trying to be “funny and fun.” At 9, he was rapping songs by Run-DMC, Rakim and others, pretending they were his own. At Brashear High School, he became immersed in the East Coast rap of Nas and Jay-Z, and he got by on charm: “I rarely went to class, but for some reason the teachers loved me, so they gave me passing grades.”

His gangsta life began at 18 when he and friends moved into their own house, hustling weed, packing guns and shooting dice. “But we were not bad dudes,” he writes. They had a room he called The Desert that served as a spot for outrageous sexual escapades (Barnz loads his book with porn), but was also equipped with a mini-studio where he made beats for the 20-some rappers on Chauncey Street. He released his first music, “Empire,” at 19.

When the Feds cracked down on the Hill District drug game, putting many of his friends in jail, it opened the door to a new, more violent class of dealers. “Death was all around me,” he writes of losing many of his friends. He moved to Wilkinsburg, got a job at CMU, and had a brief bout of domestication with a single mom, who didn’t care much for his rap ambitions and nearly got in the way of his recording a track with Philly rapper Ab Liva.

The juicy part begins when that single, “Welcome to Pistolvania,” ends up being a title -- coincidentally? -- also being used by a young rapper he calls Lil Tazz (Wiz Khalifa). It creates a beef between the rappers, with Tazz getting the bulk of media support. Barnz manages the stem that tide with a diss track called “I Be on the Block,” which he promoted on Myspace. His first single, “Meltdown Love” would get play on WAMO (thanks to some heavy-handed arm-twisting on his part), opening more doors for him and getting him nominated for Best New Artist at what turned out to be a hostile and tense 2008 Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Awards.

He didn’t win, and the hard luck extended to a gig at Club Deja Vu, where he was sucker-punched and beaten in the middle of performing his song. At that point, Barnz was unemployed and practically homeless, finally moving back with his mom. All the while, he was getting the sense that he was being “priced,” or sized up for a mugging. It finally happened one winter night around 11 p.m. when he was going to borrow a movie from a friend for a date he had with his girlfriend. He was pistol-whipped, relieved of his keys and cellphone (containing all his music contacts) and when he fell on the ice, a bullet went through his oversized cap. “I had been feeling as if God was making me pay for something.” God also spared him by a few inches there.

When he formed what appeared to be a promising label of rap artists called Hood Democrat, it withered when the artists either turned on each other or left to concentrate on day jobs.

“Throughout my life, I had many people try to hold me back from being great,” he writes. “It was the story of my life, either someone was trying to hold me back or turned on me.”

Although he gets lots (and lots and lots) of action, he has a hard-knock life with women, as relationships falter (sometimes his fault, sometimes not), including one that takes place in an East Hills project where bullets fly near their door on summer nights.

Barnz credits his father for teaching him persistence and that pays off when countless record offers and collaborations with producers and rappers fall through.

What he learns in the modern rap game is that “DJ's only played what was hot, which was why there were so many ‘clones’ in music. Future and Young Thug sounded like Lil Wayne and Lil Wayne sound like T-Pain. Everyone was using auto-tune or rapping as if they were from down South or Chicago. This was not the rap I grew up with. I was stressed every day thinking about how I had to be like everyone else, so I had to come up with a kid dance song or rap like I was Young Thug or Migos.”

After all the misery, “Dollar & A Dream” ends on an upbeat note with his song “Uh Uh On” receiving hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube (even though it’s taken down a few times) and Barnz working out a distribution deal with  RBC Records/Entertainment One Music for the single “Get Rich.” He ends up in Hip Hop Weekly and the freshman issue of XXL Magazine.

“Some nights I wanted to kill myself, but I remained strong and fought through it all. The underdog was finally on top… I guess God had a plan for me all along.”

If he can get “on top” a little further, someone just might want the movie rights.

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Kenny Chesney needs to say something to the fans

Written by Scott Mervis on .


KennyChesneyHaley Nelson/Post-Gazette photo



This is an unpopular opinion among many Pittsburghers and virtually all of my Facebook friends, but I really like Kenny Chesney.

Do I think he’s the greatest musical artist of his generation? No, but he’s a quality entertainer with one of those warm baritone country voices, and he’s an athlete on stage, pouring every ounce of energy into the show. He works out constantly to stay in shape to do it. And, unlike a lot of other performers these days, once the fans are in the venue, he commands their full attention. For casual fans who just came for the party, they sure seem to know every word. 

On a more personal level, I’ve interviewed thousands of musicians and will say that he is one of the most down-to-earth. There is no pretense to Kenny Chesney, whatsoever. Rather than having a publicist link you in, he’ll call you directly and just say “Hey Scott, this is Kenny” and for the next 15 or 20 minutes, he’s all there -- warm, friendly, personable.

He doesn’t strike me as a wild-in-the-parking-lot kind of guy (although he did ride off on that police horse in Buffalo 16 years ago -- remember that?), but his 20-something fans who pour in from rural and suburban areas across the tri-state certainly turn it into a crazy annual holiday.

chesney-concert-trash-07022016Andrew Goldstein photoOn Saturday night, once again, they left an epic mess in the parking lot, and after the show, as pickup trucks crushed bottles and cans to get out, sending shrapnel flying, it was dangerous to be anywhere in the vicinity. I pity anyone who had to get through there in flip-flops.

Chesney has been reluctant to play the schoolmarm on social media -- what musician wants to scold fans? -- but a little well-placed tweet or Facebook public service message saying "Hey, this is Kenny, spread the love, not the garbage" would go a long way.

In the wake of the Chesney show mess in 2013, Luke Bryan did it on Twitter a year later.

As for the city, 2013 was a lesson learned. Crews got to the mess right away and, amazingly, had it cleaned up by the morning.

20160703ng-Clean3-2Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette photo





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Mind Cure store will be become Cruel Noise

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Michael-SeamansMichael SeamansOn Aug. 1, Mind Cure Records in Polish Hill will become Cruel Noise Records, under new ownership.

Michael Seamans, who has minded the store at 3138 Dobson St. for six years, has decided to take a break from the day-to-day retail grind and work on his punk documentary and on his Mind Cure label, which has issued releases by the likes of the Bats, Eviction and the S/cks.

Taking over the space will be John Villegas, who plays multiple roles in the underground music scene.

Seamans released this statement:

I am excited to announce that as of August 1st Mind Cure Records is changing. John Villegas, who has been putting out, promoting and writing about underground music for years will be taking over the store as his own and run it under the name Cruel Noise Records. I can’t imagine a better person to step behind the counter and take the reins. John is already a cornerstone of both the Underground music and Polish Hill communities and I have no doubt that he will do a lot with what was started under the Mind Cure banner and make it his own.

To be clear I am not retiring from records, I will still be buying and selling used records and record collections independently but I need some time to take a step back from the day-to-day operations of a store and regroup.

Mind Cure Records the label will continue and the Pittsburgh Punk documentary ‘Give us a Chance’ will be finished this year. The Mind Cure Annex location inside the Commonwealth Press store in Mt. Lebanon will continue on under their watch to ensure that Washington Road’s music needs are met.

Thanks to everybody who has come through the store and supported me and Mind Cure over the years - please continue to do so for John and Cruel Noise as he continues to use this space to promote and sell the finest in Underground music.

We will continue with regular hours until July 18th and then close to allow John time to get the store set up to open for business on Tuesday August 2nd.  It has been a great 6 years at 3138 Dobson St and I couldn’t have done it without the help of a lot of people and the community on Polish Hill.

If you have any questions or have records to sell you can still reach me at (412) 500-6756 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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LoFi Delphi offers warm, melodic touch on new EP

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lofiPittsburgh band LoFi Delphi, not to be confused with disciples of Guided by Voices, is a pop-rock quartet made up of former members of The Lost Sea and Bridgely Moore.

In 2014, the band -- fronted by pianist-singer Becki Gallagher, with husband and bassist Andrew Belsick, drummer Tyler Jessup and guitarist Andrew MacDonald -- debuted with a six-song EP, "Victor."

On June 10, LoFi Delphi returns with a second six-song EP, "Always the Quiet Ones," produced by J Vega at The Wilderness Recording Studio for the local First Flight Records.

"This one is a bit darker, more mature," Belsick says. "We've kind of honed our sound a bit more and feel like we took a step forward with the songwriting. And the sound is much more organic. The last EP was mostly digital."

Gallagher's pure vocals (think Cranberries) are the center of a sound that's warm and melodic, with gushing builds and searing guitar.

"It's kind of a point of irony," Belsick says of the name. We always say we're unapologetically indie pop. We try to focus on melody and create earworms/hooks whenever we can."

The EP will be released on iTunes, Amazon and for physical distribution on June 10. The release show is June 18 with Chrome Moses, City Steps, The Park Plan, and Jeremy Caywood at James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy, North Side.

For more on the band, you visits its site here.



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