Dethlehem back for more medieval mayhem

Written by Scott Mervis on .

dethlehemcoverWhen last we encountered Dethlehem, on second full-length “The Ghorusalem Codex, Volume II: Of Magick and Tyranny,” an evil warlock had banished the group’s members to different dimensions, losing singer Lord Bonecrush in the process.

With the release of third album, “Destroyers of the Realm,” Brutalitus the Bloodbeard (Jeff Kerekes) makes his official recording debut with the knights of Pittsburgh death metal.

“Destroyers” is another evolution for the band that formed for a Halloween gig in 2008 and chose to keep the medieval good times rolling. Brutalitus, as drummer Overlord Brom (JT Penderville) explains, has a gruesome metal growl while also providing clean vocals, and Dethlehem backs him with bludgeoning, war-hammer-to-the-head intensity from Brom and bassist Grimshaw Longfellow (Buddy Hoebler) and clean, sharp melodic lines from guitarists Hildor (Doyle Daigle) and Bovice (Rick Serafini). Those who dare enter will also be treated to comical skits and occasional touches of jarring prog and elegant art rock.

Dethlehem 2If you’re a fan of GWAR, you owe it to yourself to check out Pittsburgh’s Middles Ages answer to the gnarly warriors from Richmond, Va.

Dethlehem unleashed “Destroyers of the Realm” this week, in advance of its appearance at the Strip District Music Fest (Altar Bar, 11:30 p.m. Jan. 17). It can be purchased at

Brom was kind enough to fill us in on the new Dethlehem dimension.

PG: First of all, no local release party?
Overlord Brom: Not this time. We’re going to unofficially treat the Strip District Music Fest on Jan. 17 as a kind of release party. We didn’t think playing two shows that close together would be beneficial, especially in the winter months when weather can notoriously ruin events. We’ll probably do a big headlining show in the spring, when we can have enough set time to play the whole album, which clocks in at close to an hour.

So, there's a concept to this record ...
Oh yes, definitely. This album is a direct continuation of the first two albums. We dropped The Ghorusalem Codex name, however, since this album actually takes place in another realm that, well, isn’t Ghorusalem. The end of the last album had us falling through a portal. The antagonist, Dregmour (an evil warlock) banished us. Lord Bonecrush was lost in time, but the rest of us made it through to the other side.

So, “Destroyers of the Realm” is about how we meet our new vocalist/leader, Brutalitus the Bloodbeard, (not really new anymore, he’s been in the band for like three years, haha), and how we have to help him defeat his corrupt evil demon brother named Knightmare.

With a K... get it? Clever, I know, hahaha.

Love it! Does the album have the lyrics so people can follow this? Or is it just semi-important?
The lyrics are included in the form of a .pdf when you download the album from our Bandcamp page. Also included is a digital comic book that we created a couple years ago that helps bridge the story gap between ‘Codex 2’ and ‘Destroyers of the Realm.’ That being said, we do have voice acted interludes in between a few songs on the album to help drive home the point that there is a story. They are, by design, extremely cheesy and comedic.

What creative impact has Brutalitus had on the band?
Brutalitus is great. He has a lot of great ideas, musically, and actually helped bring some more ‘brutal-ness’ to our songs. Ha. He has a great metal scream, and can also sing. He and Bovice worked really hard on the latter, to expand upon the clean singing vocal harmonies... which is something we’ve always had, but nothing to the degree of the final minute of ‘Mystic Island,’ for example.

Where did you find him?
In real life: We had some mutual friends, and when we were looking for a new vocalist a few years ago, he got wind of it and wanted to audition. I asked if he could do clean singing too, and he responded with a drunken video of him singing Erasure’s “Always” ... “Alwaysssss I want to be with you/and make believe with youuuu.”

That’s hilarious!
Haha, no lie. Plus, he loves video games. Sense of humor and similar interests equals perfect fit.

The band sounds great on here. How would you say has it evolved musically? Is there more prog to it?
There is definitely more progressive elements! Thanks for noticing! This album has a lot more backing instruments. Pianos, violins, flute, brass, and woodwinds. We really wanted to utilize more instrumentation for dynamics. Plus, we just love the way they sound. A few songs even have the 8-bit Nintendo sound to them.

Where was it recorded?
We recorded at my house in Carnegie. Sent to it my friend, Lee Rule, in Sheffield, UK for mixing; then had Jens Bogren master in Sweden. Jens Bogren is known for producing Opeth, Soilwork, Katatonia, and the new At The Gates album that was just released a couple months ago. We actually had a very successful Kickstarter to help pay for that. We treated it like an album pre-order basically. Then we used that money to pay Jens Bogren to do the mastering.

Whoa. Swedish death metal. Awesome. Does this label of ‘melodic death metal’ suit the band?
You can ask any metal head and they would give you a different answer, because metal heads LOVE their subgenres and nitpicking who belongs to what... but, I would say yes. We’re happy with that label. Death Metal because of the screaming vocals, and melodic because of the guitar harmonies over pretty much EVERYTHING, haha. Which we love. Harmonies for all!

I’ve noticed that usually the bands don’t care what you call them ... Are a lot of your fans also GWAR fans? I would imagine so.
I think so, yeah. We cater a lot to that crowd. We don’t have the money or the stagehands to help put on a theatrical performance like GWAR, but I think their fans appreciate what we are doing with the resources we have available to us. This year, we started sequencing video and the backing tracks (violins, woodwinds, piano, etc.) to our live show, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback for that. The videos really add to the experience. But hey, maybe one day, the money and the crew will come, and we’ll be able to do an even bigger theatrical show! That’s always been the plan. Until then, we work within our means.

The art work is sick. Who creates it?
Our artwork is done by our guitarist, Hildor (Doyle Daigle). Brutalitus (Jeff Kerekes) also helps with the graphic design. Together, they are our art department. They play to their strengths. Doyle is great with digital painting, and Jeff is awesome at layouts and logo design.

Not sure the best way to ask this, so I’ll be blunt: Why aren’t you guys huge (like playing Mayhem Fest or something)?
And that’s the question of the decade... No one has asked us and any emails we send or contact we make with people who run bigger events like that lead nowhere. We’d love to play a big festival (or 10) or grab an opening slot on someone’s tour. The music industry is tough, man!

You need to be on Roadrunner, Metal Blade or some such label ...
Yeah, I think that would legitimize us a bit... we actually sent this album to Metal Blade yesterday, now that it’s officially released and all. They are one of the only labels that still accept unsolicited submissions, which is cool of them.

Labels don’t take submissions?
Well, metal labels. Not sure about the major labels.

I’m not a huge fan of the cookie monster vocal thing but the album is great.
Thanks man! Yeah, I know the cookie monster vocals are an acquired taste.

Bet chicks don’t dig it.
Small percentages, hahaha. Let’s just say Dethlehem isn’t known for attracting the female groupie fans like the ’80s hair metal bands of yore. We actually have to heavily rely on our charming personalities for that.

We touched on this a little but has anything changed in the stage production with the roll out of the album?
The stage production is pretty similar to what it’s always been — costumes are a must, the occasional skit between songs, but now with supplemental live video and some pre-recorded backing tracks to fill in the music we don’t have members for... Maybe one day we can get the Pittsburgh Symphony to learn our songs and we can do what Metallica did with their album “S&M,” haha!

Well, the symphony is doing a night of Pokemon music, so it wouldn’t be a huge leap! You do some touring. How has that gone?
Touring is always a lot of fun for us. We need to do more of it, but sometimes vacation time prevents that. We do as much as we can, though. Last year we did a short run to Madison, WI, and back (with a few stops along the way). This year, we’d like to do a few weeks in the summer. It’d be great if we could get an opening spot with a bigger headliner. I’ll be sending out a lot of emails in February, that’s for sure, haha.

Do you guys listen to a variety of music?
Variety is the spice of life! I’m a huge ’80s pop and ’90s alternative fan. Actually, most of the guys love ’90s alternative: Foo Fighters, Weezer, Green Day, The Offspring.

Who are the guitarists influenced by?
Bovice (Rick) is heavily influenced by Paul Gilbert. Hildor (Doyle) is influenced by a lot of things. As far as metal goes, he draws a lot of inspiration from many European metal bands. One that comes to mind is In Flames, but definitely their early catalogue... not so much their newer stuff.

How bout you...drummers?
I’m a huge fan of Chris Pennie (ex-Coheed & Cambria, ex-Dillinger Escape Plan), but hell if I’ll ever be able to play like him. He’s insanely good! If I can even pull in 5 percent of his talent, I’ll be happy.

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Staff launches fund after fire closes Belvedere's

Written by Scott Mervis on .


belviesThe 25 employees of Belvedere’s Ultra-Dive in Lawrenceville are out of work temporarily due to a fire that damaged the bar and music venue on Dec. 30.

It started in the kitchen at 4:30 a.m. when no one was in the Butler Street club, so there were no injuries, according to employee Leia Nachele.

The fire did not completely destroy the back half of the bar, but did a significant amount of damage, she says, requiring the club to close for remodeling for up to three months.

Belvedere’s staff has launched a gofundme page at to help support the employees while they’re out of work.

“We’re thankful for the large outpouring of support from the community,” Nachele says. “Our customers are our family.”

Belvedere’s has been in business for 15 years and has been presenting live music for the last 10, along with ’80s and ’90s nights.


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New albums coming in 2015: Modest Mouse, Decemberists, Dylan, Madonna

Written by Scott Mervis on .

As soon as the label publicists get back to work, new record announcements are going to come fast and furious.

What we know so far is that the first quarter of 2015 will bring new music from the likes of Modest Mouse, The Decemberists, Bob Dylan,  Fall Out Boy, Madonna and Joey Bada$$. (Dates are subject to change)


January 13
ronsonMark Ronson, “Uptown Special”: Fourth album from the Grammy-winning musician and producer (Amy Winehouse) was written and produced with Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Drake). It comes with lyrics written by Pulitzer-winning American novelist and former Pittsburgher Michael Chabon and a single, “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars.
Justin Townes Earle, “Absent Fathers”: After recording “Absent Fathers” as part of a double album with “Single Mothers” (released in September), the bluesy Americana singer-songwriter (and son of Steve) decided to split this off as its own record.
Panda Bear, “Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper”: On his fifth album and first since 2011’s “Tomboy,” Animal Collective member Noah Lennox leaves “airy minimalism” for a more “dense and playful” sound.
Jazmine Sullivan, “Reality Show”: Third album from the Philly native and Best New Artist nominee reunites her with Grammy-winning producer Salaam Remi (Nas, Amy Winehouse).

January 20
decemberistsThe Decemberists, “What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World”: First full-length studio album since 2011’s chart-topping “The King Is Dead,” was produced by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) and is promised to be “the group’s most varied and dynamic work yet.” It includes a song, “12/17/12,” that frontman Colin Meloy wrote after watching President Obama address the nation following the Newtown school shootings.
Fall Out Boy, “American Beauty/American Psycho”: Fall Out Boy’s comeback record, “Save Rock and Roll,” was a surprise chart-topping success in 2013. The pop-rock band follows it with a sixth record that will feature a different version of “Immortals,” the song that appeared in the movie “Big Hero 6.”
Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities To Love”: The first record in a decade from the Pacific Northwest riot grrrls was produced by longtime Sleater-Kinney collaborator John Goodmanson and, according to Corin Tucker, “we went for the jugular.”
Belle & Sebastian, “Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance”: The first album in five years from the Glasgow indie-pop darlings was recorded in Atlanta with producer Ben Allen (Deerhunter, Animal Collective) and finds the band trying on some danceable beats.
Marilyn Manson, “The Pale Emperor”: Manson collaborated with film composer/producer Tyler Bates (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “300,” “The Watchmen”) who is also joining the band on “The Hell Not Hallelujah Tour.” Manson told NME, ““This album is real rock and roll, and it happened naturally.”
Joey Bada$$, “B4.DA.$$”: Debut from the Brooklyn rapper and Pro Era collective member is being released on his 20th birthday. Pronounce it “Before Da Money.”
The Waterboys, “Modern Blues”: The 11th album from the veteran UK folk-rock band is its first recorded in Nashville.


January 27 

FIFTHHARMONYFifth Harmony, “Reflection”: Full-length debut from the “X Factor” girl group is led by the singles “Boss” and “Sledgehammer.”

Ne-Yo, “Non-Fiction”: The smooth R&B singer worked Dr. Luke, Juicy J, Candice, David Guetta, Jeezy, Charisse Mills, Schoolboy Q and T.I on this album in which every song is derived from a true story, some submitted by fans on Twitter and Instagram.
Doomtree, “All Hands”: The latest from the Minneapolis hip-hop collective that includes Cecil Otter, Dessa, Lazerbeak, Mike Mictlan, P.O.S, Paper Tiger and Sims.
Howlin Rain, “Mansion Songs”: Acclaimed psych-rock band set out to make a record that was “very San Francisco” and “showed raw nerves in the end.”
Napalm Death, “Apex Predator - Easy Meat”: Fifteenth album from British grindcore legends.
The Dodos, “Individ”: Sixth album from San Francisco indie-rock duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber.
Funeral For A Friend, “Chapter and Verse”: Seventh album from the UK hardcore band is led by the single released the track ‘You’ve Got A Bad Case of The Religions’
Pond, “Man It Feels Like Space Again”: Second album from the Australian psych band that features members of Tame Impala.


February 3
shadows-cover-newBob Dylan, “Shadows In The Night”: Believe it or not, an album of Frank Sinatra covers from a legend whose voice has weathered over the years. Dylan commented: “I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time but was never brave enough to approach 30-piece complicated arrangements and refine them down for a 5-piece band. That’s the key to all these performances.”
Diana Krall, “Wallflower”: Jazz diva teamed with noted producer David Foster on a collection of pop covers including the Dylan title track, “California Dreamin’,” “Desperado,” “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” and “I Can’t Tell You Why.” It also features previously unreleased Paul McCartney tune “If I Take You Home Tonight.”
Ricked Wicky, “I Sell The Circus”: Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollard calls his new project “a sophisticated arena rock band.”
Butch Walker, “Afraid Of Ghosts”: Seventh album from the power-pop star was produced by Ryan Adams, features guest spots from Johnny Depp and Bob Mould and leads with a track called “Chrissie Hynde.”
American Aquarium, “Wolves”: Raleigh, NC, roots-rock band calls it “an ode to last calls, lost love and long horizons.”
John Carpenter, “Lost Themes”: The legendary horror movie director refers to his debut solo record as a “soundtrack sampler.”


February 10
fatherjohnFather John Misty, “I Love You, Honeybear”: A new concept from former Fleet Foxes member Josh Tillman comes with the song “Bored in the USA” that he performed with a string section on “Late Show With David Letterman.”

Fat Mike, “Home Street Home”: Punk-rock concept album from NOFX frontman about teen runways written with “Avenue Q” creator Jeff Marx and Fat Mike’s dominatrix girlfriend Soma Snakeoil.
The Dreaming, “Rise Again”: New band reunites Stabbing Westward’s Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus and adds guitarist Carlton Bost (Orgy, Deadsy), bassist Brent Ashley (Static X) and one-time Stabbing Westward drummer Johnny Haro.
Melissa Manchester, “You Gotta Love the Life”: First album in a decade from the “Midnight Blue” singer features special guests Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, Keb’ Mo’, Joe Sample, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder and includes a cover on the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”


February 17
earleSteve Earle & The Dukes, “Terraplane”: New blues album produced by R.S. Field (Buddy Guy, John Mayall) takes its title from the 1930s Hudson vehicle, which also inspired the Robert Johnson song “Terraplane Blues.”

Kate Pierson, “Guitars And Microphones”: Solo debut from The B-52s singer features collaborations with Sia and Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi.
Estelle, “True Romance”: Fourth album from the British R&B star who has worked with Kanye West and John Legend.
BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah, “Sour Soul”: Collaboration between Toronto jazz trio and Wu-Tang Clan rapper.
The Juliana Hatfield Three, “Whatever, My Love”: Indie rocker from the Blake Babies teams with drummer Todd Philips (Lemonheads) and bassist Dean Fisher (Tanya Donelly, Dylan in the Movies) for a sophomore album that arrives more than 20 years after the 1993 debut.


February 24
kidrockKid Rock, “First Kiss”: Kid Rock follows 2012’s “Rebel Soul” and the accompanying “$20 Best Night Ever Tour” with his first album for Warner Bros. Records, which he produced at his studio in Michigan.
Gang of Four, “What Happens Next”: For the follow-up to 2011’s “Content” frontman Jon King has been replaced by John “Gaoler” Sterry and guest vocalists, including Alison Mosshart (the Kills/Dead Weather), Herbert Grönemeyer and the Big Pink’s Robbie Furze. Guitarist Andy Gill is the only remaining member of the band ... but he's pretty good.
The Pop Group, “Citizen Zombie”: First album in 35 years from the post-punk band was produced by Paul Epworth (Coldplay, Adele, Florence & the Machine).
All That Remains, “The Order Of Things”: Seventh album from the Massachusetts metal band was helmed by Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God, Gojira)
Dan Deacon, “Gliss Riffer”: Baltimore electronic musician who opened for Arcade Fire on recent tour returns to a simpler way of writing and recording, similar to that of 2007’s “Spiderman of the Rings.”
Screaming Females, “Rose Mountain”: The New Jersey DIY-punk trio actually worked with a producer, Matt Bayles (Mastodon, the Sword), on this sixth LP that celebrates 10 years as a band.


March 3
ModestModest Mouse, “Strangers To Ourselves”: First album in eight years from the indie legends is led by the single, “Lampshades on Fire.”
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Chasing Yesterday”: First album written and produced by the Oasis star was influenced by everything “from West Coast rock to classic rock ’n’ roll and even some space jazz (!).” On producing he said, “It was a major pain in the arse.”
Of Montreal, “Aureate Gloom”: Thirteenth full-length album from the indie-rock band reflects “a very stormy period in my life,” according to frontman Kevin Barnes, who recorded it at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas.
Moon Duo, “Shadow Of The Sun”: Droning psychedelic side project from Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson and musician Sanae Yamada.


March 10
Madonna - Rebel Heart Official Album CoverMadonna, “Rebel Heart”: The Material Girl has already charted with the singles “Living for Love,” “Devil Pray” and “Bitch I’m Madonna (featuring Nicki Minaj),” among others. The full album, recorded in London, Los Angeles and New York, features production from Diplo, Kanye West, Billboard, DJ Dahi and Blood Diamonds.
Will Butler, “Policy”: Debut solo album from Arcade Fire member was recorded in one week in Jimi Hendrix’s old living room (upstairs at Electric Lady Studios).
Cancer Bats, “Searching For Zero”: Fifth album from the hardcore-punk-metal band was produced by Ross Robinson (At The Drive-In, Slipknot).

March 17
Twin Shadow, “Eclipse”: Third album from Los Angeles-based George Lewis, Jr., aka Twin Shadow, is led by the single “To The Top.”

March 24
Laura Marling, “Short Movie”: The 24-year-old British singer-songwriter who’s drawn comparisons to Joni Mitchell is on a Ryan Adams-style pace with her fifth album in eight years.

March 24
Vetiver, “Complete Strangers”: Sixth album by the San Fran indie-folk band led by Andy Cabic.


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The Sicks: Pure Pittsburgh punk!

Written by Scott Mervis on .


sicksThe debut single from The Sicks — “Pretty Plastic”/“Dose” — is one of the year’s most authentic-sounding punk rock releases, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise given the pedigree.

The members of the Pittsburgh quintet have roots that go back decades, including stints in such heavy-hitters as The Bats, Crow Flies, Aus Rotten, Caustic Christ, Direct Action and Kim Phuc.

The band, which formed two years ago, couldn’t have happened without Kim Phuc splitting, freeing up, for one, roaring frontman Rob Henry.

As veteran punk guitarist Sam Matthews explains, “Rob and I were hanging out a lot together, listening to records and stuff, and at some point realized we’ve known each for years and we’ve never played music together. So, we thought, oh, we should start a band and we’ll just — purity of punk — play all the instruments. Rob doesn’t even play instruments, but I figured I’ll just throw instruments in his hand and we’ll create something.’ That led to us, saying, ‘Oh, we’ll start a band.’ ”

They assembled some of the guys who hang out and talk/argue music at Mind Cure Records on Saturday nights. Joining them in this punk-rock supergroup are guitarist Eric Good and Corey Lyons (both of Caustic Christ and Aus Rotten; Corey also played in Kim Phuc) and drummer Mark Miller (Crow Flies), who has since been replaced by Nick von Krusenstjerna.

“The concept Eric and I had about this is we wanted to be a band that has verses, choruses, middle parts and guitar solos, because it seems like a lot of stuff we’re hearing is people pretty much doing the Nirvana thing: you know, play quiet, play loud, same riff over and over,” Matthews says. “We wanted to go back to what punk was about, to us: sing-along choruses, good riffs, that kind of stuff.”

The guitarist says The Sicks don’t neatly fit into a punk category, and that might be true, but the shorthand here is that “Pretty Plastic” is pure blast of Pistols and “Dose” has the darker shadow of Joy Division.

“We called that ‘Joy Division’ at first until Rob came up with words for it,” Matthews says. “The way we describe ourselves, which started as a joke, but I think it’s really true: proto-punk/punk-rock/post-punk rock, because we’re really just a rock band in a way.”

The Sicks have become the go-to punk band to open for the likes of Negative Approach, Subhumans and Mike Watt, and now the single comes out on Austin-based Fair Warning Records, with a release show Saturday at Gooski’s.

Prepare for the Sicks to be a quick adrenalin jolt. They rage for 20 minutes and Matthews gauges the intensity by “the pile of dead microphones on the floor in the front of the stage.”

The Sicks play Gooski’s, 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill, at 10 p.m. Saturday with Gotobeds and Blood Pressure. 412-681-1658.


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Local promoter Drusky apologizes for Facebook posts

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Prominent Pittsburgh promoter Brian Drusky issued an apology on his personal Facebook page Monday for posts over the weekend that were perceived as making light of recent protests over the deaths, at the hands of police, of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY.

On Friday Mr. Drusky, of the regional Drusky Enterprises, wrote a series of posts that included “The Steelers lost last week. I’m going to lay down in the middle of grant street by the courthouse to protest!” and another about getting the wrong order at McDonald’s.

Initially, the posts were greeted with laughter and “likes,” until it was pointed out to him by Justin Strong (AVA/Shadow Lounge owner), comedian Davon Magwood and others that the jokes were racially insensitive.

In his apology, Mr. Drusky wrote, “My remarks were an attempt to be funny. However, they were not funny to a lot of people because I made light of something that I didn’t understand fully.”

On Tuesday there were more than 400 comments reacting to the apology and debating the issues. The comments have since been removed.

Mr. Drusky, who has a history of hosting charitable events for a variety of causes, including a 2009 benefit concert for the Fallen Hero Fund and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, has decided after talking to Mr. Strong to hold an event to address the racial issues.

He wrote, “...We are going to try to plan on doing a community sit-in at Altar [Bar] in the next couple weeks with members of law enforcement as well as leaders in the community heading up the protests."

Nonetheless, political punk band Anti-Flag has pulled out of a Drusky-promoted concert at Altar Bar on Feb. 6.

Anti-Flag posted a statement on its official web site that included, "Confronting bigotry and blind allegiance to power with education is something Anti-Flag believe in. We hope that Brian Drusky will have that education process happen in his future. While we believe in people’s ability to change and become educated, there must be consequences for the things that he said."

Frontman Justin Sane says some people have criticized the move on social media saying that the promoter has a right to free speech.  

"Anti-Flag defends everyone's right to freedom of speech and expression - including Brian Drusky. Anti-Flag has never said Mr. Drusky doesn't have the right to express himself. What we have said is we find his statements offensive therefore, until we see some evidence that he has grown and taken some action to prove that he has changed, we don't want to work with him."

The show is in the process of being moved to Mr. Smalls in Millvale.

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