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Pittsburgh Rock ’N Roll Legends Awards: Who should get them and why they don't make sense

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Sadly, there are no Pittsburgh artists in the actual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so it wasn't a bad idea for someone to create a Pittsburgh Rock ’N Roll Hall of Fame, even if it is just a plaque at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Last year, the founding organization, created as charity event for the Cancer Caring Center (so we can't be too critical), got off on a weird note, inducting promoter/drummer Rich Engler, a great guy and great contributor to the Pittsburgh music scene, but one who did not start making an impact until around 1970 -- a decade and a half after the birth of rock 'n' roll.

In April, the event returns as the Pittsburgh Rock ’N Roll Legends Awards, having had to change its name to avoid legal action from the folks in Cleveland.

This time, the ceremony will have three inductees, one each from the following categories:

• Non-performer/music professional (individuals with 20+ years in the business)

• Legacy Legends (groups or solo artists with 40+ years in the business)

 Modern Era Legends (groups or solo artists with 20+ years in the business)

An academy of hundreds will choose the nominees and then a bigger panel and the general public will get the final vote. (The party will be April 23 at the Hard Rock Cafe.)

So, how does this shake out?

porkyNon-Performer: This category is straight-forward and so is the inductee: The music scene here all starts with Porky Chedwick, who died last March at 96. I don't think we have to review the impact of this WAMO/WHOD DJ who went against the tide and played records by black artists, flipped b-sides and revolutionized teen culture in Pittsburgh. If Porky doesn't get it, we can all have a good laugh.

Legacy Legends: Clear mission here: Start at the beginning. The first artists to break out of Pittsburgh in the rock 'n' roll era were the Del-Vikings, with "Come Go With Me," in 1956. Even better, they were the rare racially integrated group in that era. But they were Air Force guys from other places, all stationed at the airport, and they didn't last long, so perhaps they aren't the best representation of Pittsburgh. beaumontWhat then? Jump to the Skyliners, who hit the charts in 1959 with "Since I Don't Have You." Not exactly rock 'n' roll as we imagine it, but certainly in the ballpark. Golden-voiced Jimmy Beaumont, a quiet, unassuming guy, is still active with the group and would likely be happy to show up to accept the award.

Modern Era Legends: Uh-oh. What a fine mess we have here. What the Legends people are saying is, "Screw it, we don't want to go in order. And we need some young people at this party." (Even though the tickets are $150 to $200). It would mean potentially that The Clarks and Rusted Root, for example, get a plaque before that whole generation of The Jaggerz (with Donnie Iris, "The Rapper," 1970), Iron City Houserockers, Frank Czuri (Silencers), Norman Nardini, Billy Price, etc., who quality as Legacy Legends -- but, chronologically, should have to wait for Lou Christie, The Marcels, The Vogues. jaggerzWhat's the incentive of inducting the Jaggers/Houserockers as Modern Era Legends when they fit the other category? Basically, I can't wrap my brain around the logic of this Modern Era Legends award, but my guess is that it gets The Clarks in the room (nothing against The Clarks). Maybe Donnie Iris and Joe Grushecky can present them with the award.

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Hey Pittsburgh, no Rush for you!

Written by Scott Mervis on .

 

rushRush fans have probably heard this before but Rush played one of its first big U.S. shows and its first show with Neil Peart on drums at the Civic Arena in 1974 (with Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann).

Since then, Pittsburgh has been a regular stop on Rush tours, with the band having played here two dozen times, including 2010 and 2012 (“Clockwork Angels”) at Consol.

Not this time.

The itinerary was announced today for the three-month, 34-date Rush R40 tour, celebrating the band’s 40th anniversary, and there is no Pittsburgh date.

It begins May 8 in Tulsa and runs through Aug. 1, coming this close:

 

6/8 – Columbus, OH – Nationwide Arena (after a 5-30 show in VA)

6/10 – Buffalo, NY – First Niagara Center
6/12 – Chicago, IL – United Center
6/14 – Detroit, MI – The Palace of Auburn Hills
6/17 – Toronto, ON – Air Canada Centre
6/19 – Toronto, ON – Air Canada Centre
6/21 – Montreal, QC – Bell Centre
6/23 – Boston, MA – TD Garden
6/25 – Philadelphia, PA – Wells Fargo Center

 

The tour, which does not support a new album, will find Rush focusing on its back catalog, something fans here would definitely want to see. (Tickets for most dates are going on sale Jan. 30 via ticketmaster.)

Our Live Nation shows run out of a Cleveland office, which handles Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus. Unless shows are added, only Columbus got a date with Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.

Maybe there was some country show the night Rush wanted to come here...

 

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Death of friend brought Torn and Frayed back together

Written by Scott Mervis on .

torn

A lot of old friends reconnected last year at the wakes held in the aftermath of Trash Vegas/Ultimatics bassist Tommy Osh dying in a car accident. One of the surprising things to emerge from those reunions is a new four-song EP from long lost ’90s band Torn and Frayed.

Taking its name from a Stones song, not to mention a good bit of its sound, Torn and Frayed formed in 1991 with members of Trash Vegas and the Zippers, and won the Graffiti Rock Challenge a year later. The band broke up a few years after that due to fatigue, and singer Mark Scheer returned in 2003 with the Beatlesque pop group the Discount Stars and then in 2008 in a more alt-country vein with Five Star Dive, using T&F members Vinny Q and Daryl Thumm on guitar and Rocky LaMonde on bass.

In recent years, the latter two have played in Dirty Charms and Q has been with Norman Nardini. Scott Wilson, who was considering selling his drums in recent days, was happy to jump back into Torn and Frayed.

The band had played a gig at Altar Bar about five years ago, but before that, it had been almost 20 years. The musicians picked up right where they left off on “Living Rock & Roll” with four rockers that hark back to the Stones, T-Rex and New York Dolls.

“As far as the arrangements go,” Scheer says, “everybody grew and it’s not as haphazard as it used to be. It sounds better, tighter.”

Since reuniting, Torn and Frayed opened for Ace Frehley — where the band members were told not to make eye contact with the former Kiss guitarist — and will be opening for Blue Oyster Cult at the Palace Theatre, in Greensburg in March.

The release show for the EP will be at Excuses, South Side, 10 p.m. Saturday. $5. 412-431-4090.

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Strip Fest, Bloom-Fest both thrive on January weekend

Written by Scott Mervis on .

 

Commonclegg 1Clinton Clegg (center) and the Commonheart (photo by Scott Mervis)Judging by the crowds this weekend, you can bank on the Strip District Music Festival and possibly Bloom-Fest returning in January 2015.


Both festivals succeeded on the notion that Pittsburghers are desperate to fight cabin fever in January. The fact that there wasn’t a foot of snow or a polar vortex certainly helped.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the festivals occurred on the same weekend, as they had a messy, interlocking background.

The Strip District Fest was plotted in November when Drusky Entertainment VP Josh Bakaitus was looking to fill dates at Altar Bar. He ended up hatching a plan for nearly 80 bands in 10 venues with an online pay-what-you-want policy.

A few acts, including Roger Harvey, dropped off in December when Brian Drusky posted Facebook jokes that were perceived as making light of anti-racist protests. It was the seed for Bloom-Fest, which was quickly assembled by comedian Davon Magwood (who took offense to the posts), Howler’s booker Mary Jo Coll and others as a benefit for social action group We Change Pittsburgh.

Late last week, Magwood, despite having met with Drusky about planning a forum on race, called for a boycott of the Strip festival on his personal Facebook page and urged bands not to play. You may have seen some of the arguments that followed from people insisting that boycotting local musicians (who have enough of a struggle) is never the answer.

The only group to pull out of the Strip fest was VIA, who moved its electronic event with the statement: "We have decided to remove our show from the Strip District Music Festival. This is a decision we came to over the course of some time, which included discussions with both artists and peers. We feel the conversation around SDMF is not about the music - and VIA's #1 responsibility is to our artists, and making sure they are in an environment where they feel properly represented and the focus is on their performance."

Other than that, both festivals went off smoothly, and Drusky and Bakaitus even showed up at Howler’s to show their support.

“On on the whole I felt like this whole city turned out for a weekend of live music everywhere — for a cause on Friday and for the hell of it on Saturday,” Coll said Monday. “Mother Nature cooperated. And, despite some naysayers and people that just want to find fault, it was a pretty cool weekender for January.”

onehoodJasiri X at the BBTThe highlight of Friday night’s Bloom-Fest (for me, at least) was the OneHood set at a packed Bloomfield Bridge Tavern led by fiery rapper Jasiri X, who showed without a doubt why he is in demand nationally for rallies and protest events (he's in D.C. for the MLK March and about to release a project with Chuck D of Public Enemy).

Bloom-Fest, which charged $10 for a wristband, ended up raising $5,000 for We Change Pittsburgh, which is involved with Monday’s MLK March.

With a heftier lineup (Dethlehem, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot, Spacepimps, The Cheats, Chip Dimonick, Bastard Bearded Irishmen) and a concurrent CMU bar crawl, Strip Fest had even bigger numbers on Saturday, resulting in long lines outside most venues. I went back and forth between Altar Bar, the Winery and a way overcrowded Beerhive, and can say that it was a mistake trying to move around too much. My favorite set was the relaxed afternoon matinee from soulful newcomers The Commonheart led by Clinton Clegg (of Jazzam and Backstabbing Good People).

The end numbers are impressive. They anticipated 2,000 people for Strip Music.

According to Bakaitus, “Based on wristbands that were distributed throughout the whole day, we had an estimated attendance of 8,000 to 9,000 people throughout the whole day. Still finalizing all of the artist donation numbers."

He promises more venues, more bands, maybe an outdoor space with a warming station.

"I was originally going to add nationals next year but after seeing how the vibe was and that the key thing was the local music, I think it needs to remain local."

The icing on the cake was a third local event, the Lohio farewell party at the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville Saturday, that had Mayor Peduto jumping on stage with the band.

“I am really proud of the Pittsburgh music community,” Coll said. “They took a few in the chin with all the controversial [stuff]. But still put on one hell of a show.”

 

 

 

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Anti-Flag signs new deal, 'American Spring' due in May

Written by Scott Mervis on .

antiAnti-Flag announced today that it has signed to Finnish label Spinefarm Records and will release its 10th album, "American Spring," in May.

The new album by the veteran Pittsburgh punk band was produced by AWOLNATION's Kenny Carkeet, Jim Kaufman (Funeral for a Friend, Skindred, Helmet) and Anti-Flag and features cameos from Rancid singer Tim Armstrong (on "Brandenburg Gate") and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello (on "Without End").

Spinefarm is a predominantly metal/hard-rock label that boasts such artists as Children of Bodom, Rammstein, Killing Joke, Five Finger Death Punch (in the UK).

Anti-Flag released a statement, saying, "We are excited to announce that our tenth full-length record will be released on Spinefarm Records this spring. There is no shortage of fodder for a new record of commentary on the social and political climate in 2015: Endless wars, the new Jim Crow and American injustice, corprotocracy, environmental coup d'état, the surveillance state, loss, grief, and anxiety. We hope that these songs can grant us solace in a seemingly hopeless era."

The band added, "It has been frustrating to see much punk rock music -- and music in general -- quiet in the face of so many atrocities that are taking place around the world. This record is not quiet. If you are disillusioned with the status quo, these songs are for you. The American Spring is now."

Spinefarm Records general manager Jonas Nachsin called Anti-Flag "a band with a message certainly, and in addition, the music is just as compelling. This album, our first with the band, is just incredible. While we are happy to help deliver it to their legion of devoted fans, our plan is also to extend it out to those who haven't yet been exposed to this treasured act. We are proud that they chose us to bring on American Spring."

It is the first new Anti-Flag album since 2012's "The General Strike," released on LA-based SideOneDummy.

On Jan. 19, the band will do a show at The Visulite Theatre in Charlotte, N.C., featuring "The Terror State" in its entirety that will be live-streamed as part of a Yahoo concert series at https://screen.yahoo.com/live/event/anti-flag.

Anti-Flag Tour Dates:

JANUARY 19 - CHARLOTTE, NC - THE VISULITE THEATRE (The Terror State Show) w/ A Wilhelm Scream and Hungry Girl

JANUARY 29 - CLEVELAND, OH - THE GROG SHOP (The Terror StateShow) w/ Such Gold, The Homeless Gospel Choir, The Public

 JANUARY 30 - INDIANAPOLIS, IN - EMERSON THEATER (The Terror State Show) w/ Such Gold, The Homeless Gospel Choir, and ForeverAtLast

 JANUARY 31 - CHICAGO, IL - REGGIE'S ROCK CLUB (The Terror StateShow) w/ Such Gold and The Homeless Gospel Choir

FEBRUARY 4 - ASBURY PARK, NJ - ASBURY LANES (The Terror StateShow)
w/ Such Gold and The Homeless Gospel Choir

FEBRUARY 5 - NEW YORK, NY - GRAMERCY THEATRE (The Terror State Show) w/ Such Gold and The Homeless Gospel Choir

FEBRUARY 6 - PITTSBURGH, PA - MR. SMALLS THEATRE (The Terror State Show) w/ Such Gold, The Homeless Gospel Choir, and Divorce.

FEBRUARY 12 - TORONTO, ON - HORSESHOE TAVERN (The Terror State Show) w/ The Dying Arts and Worlds Scariest Police Chases

FEBRUARY 13 - MONTREAL, QC - LES FOUFOUNES ELECTRIQUES (The Terror State Show) w/ The Dying Arts and Worlds Scariest Police Chases

FEBRUARY 14 - PETERBOROUGH, ON - THE RED DOG (The Terror State Show) w/ The Dying Arts and Worlds Scariest Police Chases

FEBRUARY 15 - HAMILTON, ON - CLUB ABSINTHE (The Terror StateShow) w/ The Dying Arts, Worlds Scariest Police Chases, The Penske File

FEBRUARY 17 - LONDON, ON - CALL THE OFFICE (The Terror StateShow) w/ The Dying Arts and Worlds Scariest Police Chases

FEBRUARY 18 - ST. CATHARINES, ON - L3 NIGHTCLUB (The Terror State Show) w/ The Dying Arts and Worlds Scariest Police Chases

MAY 23 - LAS VEGAS, NV - PUNK ROCK BOWLING 2015

MAY 29-31 - Nürburgring, DE - DER RING - GRÜNE HÖLLE ROCK

MAY 29-31 - Olympiapark München, DE - ROCKAVARIA

AUGUST 6-9 - Blackpool, UK - REBELLION FESTIVAL

 

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