A Carsickness/Five reunion (of sorts) at Howler's

Written by Scott Mervis on .


Standing Wave DennisSteveBack in the early ’80s, there wasn’t a wilder gig in town than a meeting of Carsickness and The Five.

Thursday at Howlers, members of the two legendary punk/noise bands will assemble for an evening of trance and oud music that shouldn’t require ear protection.

Carsickness members Steve Sciulli (electronic accordion) and Dennis Childers (drums) will share a stage together, debuting Standing Wave, an Americana trance duo whichthat Mr. Sciulli describes as “imagine King Crimson writing the soundtrack for the movie ‘Deliverance.’ ”

The two musicians had been part of the post-Carsickness Celtic roots band Ploughman’s Lunch in the ’90s with singer Karl Mullen, who is partly responsible for this current reunion.

“When that tsunami hit Japan a while back,” Mr. Scuilli says, “Karl was contacted by a Japanese guy whose prized collection of Carsickness albums was destroyed in the flood. He wanted to try and replace his precious records.

“At that point Karl contacted me and Dennis about a possible Carsickness reunion mainly to record new music. We were all up for it. At the same time Karl’s new Americana band The Wandering Rocks started to take off so the idea was put on hold. Dennis was coming out to see my bands Life in Balance and Raised By Machines, and we started talking about doing something together again.”

Mr. Sciulli and Mr. Childers played together last year in a brief project called The Darkroom, but Mr. Sciulli was looking to do something more intimate.

“The accordion seemed like an organic choice, so as we rehearsed with this new instrumentation we found that the other musicians we were playing with didn’t share our collective telepathy. Besides, we surprisingly had a full and big sound together. And, boy, did we have fun playing together.”

He says tonight’s gig, billed as a “Pre-Valentine’s Day Show: Music for Cynical Lovers,” will be the first time in more 30 years that ex-members of Carsickness

Ploughman’s Lunch will hook up with a Five member, in this case Tom Moran (electric oud/electric sitar/guitar) and wave drummer Katabu Masudi as Moran/Masudi.

“Tom’s been expanding and exploring beyond his musical boundaries for a few years now. I’ve been wanting to set something up with him for a while, and this seemed like a good fit: A pre-Valentine cynical love fest. We’ve always been friends. Music is a benevolent presence constantly available to all and we need to share this presence with those who have restricted hearing.”

Doors open at 8:30 p.m. with music at 9 The show is at 9 p.m. at Howlers, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $5. Call412-682-0320 or     


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Pittsburgher's story: How I got a shout-out in a John Lennon song

Written by Scott Mervis on .


John-LennonPittsburgh had its own John Lennon stalker -- only she left a love letter.
And Melissa (Swoager) Egan, who grew up in Castle Shannon and recently located to Chicago, believes she got a shout-out in one of Lennon's last songs.
Listen closely. I think she's right.
Here's her story in her words: 
"I've been a fan of the Beatles since I was a little girl, and have won many trivia contests on them. In 1980, I was in NYC with my parents, a sweet & (if I do say so myself) well built young thing, and decided that I was going to do my best to meet John Lennon. The funny part is that I really had no intent of being a groupie or anything, I just wanted to meet a Beatle, but especially John. On 12 August 1980, I put on a little yellow sundress, 3" heels (Remember Candies? Yep!), and to my embarrassment, my parents came with me as we took a cab to the Dakota Building.

"The Dakota is a squared-doughnut shape, with a large arch leading to a fountain in the middle. The entrance is on W. 72nd Street, and at the time, you could walk right into the Courtyard, and even sit on the edge of the fountain in the middle, if you'd like. The main entry was almost into the Courtyard, on the right and up a three steps - very small, in the scheme of things. I decided to hang out on the outer perimeter of the building, but at the entrance. My parents took pictures, I took pictures, we all tried to figure out who lived where, where Rosemary's Baby was filmed, etc. For three hours, I patiently waited, walking back & forth, until one of the guards waved me inside. My dad stood within sight while I talked to the security guard, right inside. He asked me who I was waiting for, and I said, "John Lennon & Yoko Ono." I was savvy enough to know to include her!
The guard told me that I had just missed them, that they were recording a new album, and probably wouldn't be back until after 6 p.m., have dinner, then return to the studio. Our plane was due to leave by then! Seeing my disappointment, the guard asked if I'd like to leave a message, and I said sure. Somehow, I found the right words to say, to thank John for music which had enriched my life, and to thank Yoko for being such a constant in John's life (okay, I wasn't wild about that part). I ended by saying something to the effect that life can be strange, but if they found themselves near Pittsburgh, they should know that they have a friend there. It wasn't mushy or groupie-ish, more of a letter of thanks and I got to write it on Dakota stationary! I watched the guard put it in John's letterbox, thanked the guard and left with disappointment.

"You know the next part - John & Yoko made a last album, "Double Fantasy," and less than a month later, John was shot & killed. He stumbled up those same three steps, and said, "I'm shot," as he collapsed exactly where I wrote to him. I was in a daze, except for one small thing: at the very end of "Starting Over", you hear an airport-type PA system voice saying, "Love Airlines, Flight 12, Pittsburgh."  Hmmm.... Also, the gates to the Dakota were closed at that point, and a new security station built on the outside of the gate.

"About a year or two later, a book came out, detailing each day of the last year of John's life. On 12 August, he & Yoko came back from the studio, picked up a solitary note from a fan (!), had dinner, relaxed, then returned to the recording studio to finish "Starting Over". In the next few years, whenever I would talk to those who make their money on Beatle history, I would tell them the story and ask their opinion. Every one of them said that was exactly something John would have done - put a little "hello" in a song without being overt about it. It made me feel good, I admit. I should also say that I know a couple local disc jockeys (formerly with 3WS) and they REALLY felt that John had been saying hello.


 "One morning, I heard a team of "Beatleologists" on the radio fielding questions about the Beatles, and asked people to call in. I did, told my story, and they were seriously impressed. One of them actually said, "You know, you got the best of the deal - a lot of people who hadmet John thought he was a real a**hole!" A few more years went by, and these same Beatleologists were on my favorite radio station again. After some banter, the one said, "Hey, does that chick who thinks she was mentioned in "Starting Over" still listen?" My dj friend said, "Melissa, call in NOW!!!" so I did. The guy told me that he had been at a studio party, talked to Yoko Ono, and thought he'd mention my story. She immediately said, "I remember her! She wrote such a niceletter, instead of the usual groupie sh*t, so when we went back to the studio that night, we thought we'd put a little mention in there. John figured that, if she really was a fan, she'd know it was for her. Wasn't her name something like Melinda, Melissa...? I know she lived in Pittsburgh." The guy said, "She knows!"

"So, it wasn't my imagination! If you listen to the very end of "Starting Over", you can hear it, and it was confirmed by Yoko Ono herself! To this day, I have never met a Beatle, but, as the man said, I may have gotten the best part of the deal!"
The reference is at about 3:26 in the song

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Unplugged: Flea comes clean on Super Bowl halftime

Written by Scott Mervis on .


fleaAP photo

The first rule of Super Bowl halftime is: you do not talk about Super Bowl halftime. 

Props to Flea for telling it like it is.

In response to questions -- from Living Color's Vernon Reid and Axl Rose, among others -- about the Red Hot Chili Peppers not being plugged in during the Super Bowl halftime, the bassist came clean, detailing what people have long suspected: it's not a legit performance.

Only the vocals were live when the Peppers came on to jam with Bruno Mars on "Give It Away." The rest of the sound was recorded earlier in the week. And that's how it always is, because you can't perfect concert sound in the middle of a football game.

Flea makes a good case for why the Chili Peppers faked it, saying they wouldn't do it normally but "when this Super Bowl gig concept came up, there was a lot of confusion amongst us as whether or not we should do it, but we eventually decided, it was a surreal-like, once in a life time crazy thing to do and we would just have fun and do it."

The Chili Peppers are a proven quantity. No one questions whether they can actually play -- same for the Stones, McCartney, The Who, etc. -- so there was no good reason for them to turn down the biggest music showcase in the world.

A few years ago, I asked Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band about playing live at the Super Bowl and he danced around the issue, being a good soldier but kind of copping to it: "Yeah, that's a tough one. I was playing live the whole time. We rehearsed for days and kind of like... regularly ... it's a part of that TV thing. And this is the most extraordinary TV show I ever did. There were like 10 producers, all these huddles with management. As best as I can see, what I played live is what I heard on TV. I can't promise it wasn't something I played two days earlier, but it sure didn't look like it to me. That's one of the nice things about being in a band - I'm not the bandleader, so while all the mangers and people are trying to grab Bruce in a side room and have meetings, I just keep doing what I'm doing unless I'm asked to do something different."

Now, Flea has gone on the record and we can all get past this. The Super Bowl halftime is fixed. If you want live, you have to go to the show and, um, hope that it's all real there.


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Dylan sold out. I'm burning all of his albums. Lol, no I'm not.

Written by Scott Mervis on .


dylanSorry, but I’m beyond freaking out at Bob Dylan for doing a commercial.

He already did Victoria’s Secret and Cadillac, and let Apple use his image, so why get bent out of shape that Super Bowl night had him pitching Chrysler and Chobani yogurt?

Both commercials were entertaining in different ways. The Chobani ad used “I Want You” in the background as a bear ransacked a small-town convenience store for yogurt. It doesn’t make the song any less great and should it evoke the image of grizzly bear in the future, so be it.

The Chrysler ad was a cinematic two-minute production with Dylan waxing poetic on American-made cars. He’s stood up for the American worker, he’s from the Midwest, so this was not that much of a reach. The backlash has included Chrysler being owned by Fiat (although they make the cars here) and Dylan suggesting that we should buy our phones from Asia and our beer from Germany, as if America doesn’t have quality breweries.

It’s hard to imagine Dylan needs the money, given the royalties that must stream in monthly, so his incentive here must be to get his (botoxed?) mug and his music into prime-time.

Actually, that was a welcome sight and sound, given that we generally only see Dylan on network television when he’s doing a bizarro Grammy appearance.

Of course, the comment sections today are filled with cries of “sell out!,” as if Dylan has never confused and confounded us before this.

Here’s the deal: If you love Dylan like I do, and a lot of people I know do, this is barely a blip.

What am I going to do: Burn my copies of “Blonde in Blonde” and “Highway 61 Revisited” on the front lawn in a sacrificial rite? (OK, maybe “Down in the Groove.”) Haul all the Dylan records and books up to the attic? Delete him from iTunes?

No, I’m not throwing Dylan out with the bathwater. His stuff is too good, and basically, he’s ascended to that realm where he can do whatever he wants to do — short of rape and pedophilia — and my opinion’s not changing at this point.

Having watched the commercial a few times, I wasn’t concerned with Fiat or German beer or why his face looked unwrinkled. I wanna know who engineered these commercials, because Dylan’s voice sounded better than it has in ages. It was like “Oh Mercy” good. Warm, sonorous, comprehensible.

Whoever it was, let that person produce his next album!


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Bruno Mars: Super Bowl winner

Written by Scott Mervis on .

super-bowl-footballJULIO CORTEZ/AP

Skip Bayliss said this morning on ESPN’s “First Take” that when Percy Harvin returned the second half kick-off for a touchdown, they should have brought Bruno Mars back out for the second half.

The pop star was certainly on his game more than Peyton Manning and the Broncos Sunday night.

A whole 90 minutes of Bruno Mars may have been problematic, as he’s a little short on material and it would require him to do “Gorilla,” lighting up the FCC hotline, but for those 12 minutes, we couldn’t have asked for more from the Grammy winner.

The opening drum solo was designed to win him instant cred, and it worked. From there, Bruno and his Hooligans launched into their James Brown-looking revue with “Locked Out of Heaven” (from the Sting playbook) and “Treasure” (very Kool and the Gang), during which he revealed, for the uninitiated, that he has the whole package, with the Motown/Stax vocals and the JB footwork, not to mention the songwriting.

I have to admit that I flip the station a lot when “Grenade” and “Just the Way You Are” come on, because they’re played out, and the vocals verge on whiny. But as a live performer, he’s a dynamo, as he displayed in his full set at the Consol Energy Center in July.

The fact that he dresses like the band, and pretty much stays in a line with them, tells you everything you need to know about his lack of ego. Just like the Seahawks, he seems to be a team player.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were trotted out there for the 40-and 50-somethings, which is kind of a weird thought, generating a cool collision between the two bands on “Give it Away.” With the fireworks and lasers and topless Peppers, it had that all-hell-breaking-loose quality that the game sorely lacked.

It was a fun addition, but Bruno didn’t need the help. He’s been out on the road long enough that he could have filled that three minutes without letting the energy drop.

The reflexive response to Super Bowl halftime is to bash the singer for being too old, too pop, too crude, too whatever, and even though he sings and dances like a champ and draws from classic R&B influences, Bruno has not been immune. Facebook and talk radio are filled with critics today, including the PG’s own Ron Cook, who sounds like he would eliminate halftime altogether.

If James Brown, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke (combined!) came back to life and stepped out there in their prime, people would still be complaining. Like the Buffalo Bills, on the Super Bowl stage, the performers can’t win.

Bruno, however, got as close as you can get. Not U2, not Prince, but somewhere in the discussion of top 10 Super Bowl halftimes.

And here comes the plug. It was announced today that another leg of his “Moonshine Jungle Tour” begins in April. It’s not coming here, but you can catch him in Cleveland on June 28 and Buffalo on June 30.

If you haven’t seen him live, it’s more talent than spectacle and well worth the trip.

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