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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. brunomars.com/moonshinejungletour.

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

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Ghost bringing dark mass to Stage AE

Written by Scott Mervis on .

ghostIf you like your bands in cool costumes, it's hard to do better than Ghost, the Swedish hard rock band featuring Papa Emeritus II, in his pope get-up, and his hooded Nameless Ghouls.

The band's last Satanic mass was at Mr. Smalls in May 2013. Now they return to Stage AE, where they opened for Opeth and Mastodon, on April 18, with King Dude. Tickets -- $23 advance; $25 day of show -- go on sale Jan. 31 at all Ticketmaster locations, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Ghost, which uses clean vocals and often rocks about as hard as Blue Oyster Cult or Pink Floyd, released a new EP in November, "If You Have Ghost," produced by Dave Grohl (who has secretly performed with the band) and featuring covers of ABBA, Roky Erickson and Depeche Mode songs.

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Who should be the first inductee of the Pittsburgh Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame?

Written by Scott Mervis on .

 

porkyRich Engler and Porky Chedwick www.richengler.comRich Engler is a great guy and one of the true legends of Pittsburgh rock ’n’ roll.

Our music scene, our music life, our memories would not be the same without the concert promoter, who took a lot of chances and brought thousands of great shows to our city over the span of 30 years.

There is absolutely no question that he should go into the Pittsburgh Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Just not first.

On Jan. 23, he will be initial inductee into this symbolic hall created by the Hard Rock Cafe and the Cancer Caring Center. Inductees will be honored each year with a plaque mounted at the Hard Rock.

Engler, who in addition to being a promoter was the drummer for ‘60s band the Grains of Sand, will be celebrated with an all-star show featuring Donnie Iris, B.E. Taylor, Joe Grushecky, Scott Blasey and more.

On hand will be the actual president and CEO of the national Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Joel Peresman. It’s a testament to DiCesare-Engler Productions that Mt. Lebanon native Peresman got his start there as an go-fer.

The chairs of the Pittsburgh rock hall are Mary Ann Miller and Theresa Kaufmann, who both work in the public relations business. They conceived of the hall as a way to honor Pittsburgh music legends while raising money for the Cancer Caring Center, clearly a noble cause.

They are working on “a blue ribbon committee” to make decisions for the hall in the future.

Miller says that for now Engler was chosen because he is “where music came from in our lives — his name was on everybody’s list.”

As longtime Pittsburghers know, it didn’t start here with Rich Engler.

A legit Pittsburgh Rock ’N’ Roll of Fame should begin with Porky Chedwick, who started playing “race” records here in 1948, even before Alan Freed, who is credited with popularizing the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll.” It was the Daddio of the Raddio who launched rock ’n’ roll in Pittsburgh, played the forbidden black artists, broke records nationally and literally drove our teenagers wild in the streets (Stanley Theater 1953).

He’s still very much alive at 95, god bless him ...

jimmybJimmy BeaumontFrom there, you have to go Jimmy Beaumont. And Joe Rock. Beaumont was and is the golden-voiced lead singer of the Skyliners, who went to No. 12 on the charts in 1959 with “Since I Don’t Have You.” It was the first major Pittsburgh hit of the rock era. (You have heard the Guns N Roses version).

It was written by late Skyliners manager and producer Joe Rock, who also managed the Jaggerz (No. 2 in 1970 with “The Rapper”) and the Granati Brothers. He would have been the logical co-inductee with Beaumont.

There were other brilliant choices from the doo-wop era, including the Marcels (“Blue Moon”) and Del-Vikings (“Come and Go With Me”).

patdPat DiCesareBusiness-wise, the first inductee candidate is a no-brainer. It was, after all, called DiCesare-Engler, the DiCesare being the man who brought the Beatles to Pittsburgh in 1964. I would say that Pat was the Bill Graham of Pittsburgh, but he predated Bill Graham. A songwriter for doo-wop acts, he started booking concerts in 1962, mentored by his friend Tim Tormey, who was more of a Sinatra guy. DiCesare became the dominant promoter in town during the ’60s and when Engler came along as the new kid on the block in 1969, Pat didn’t try to squash him — he made him a partner!

So, your first class of Pittsburgh Rock N Roll Hall of Famers: Porky Chedwick, Joe Rock, Jimmy Beaumont and Pat DiCesare.

You can’t blame Engler for graciously accepting this honor. You can bet, though, that he will have a hand in making sense of this operation in the future.

 

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Mac Miller is leaving Rostrum

Written by Scott Mervis on .

macmiller14Mac Miller is a free agent. Let the bidding start.

After two albums on Rostrum Records, the Pittsburgh rapper is parting ways with the hometown label.

He told MTV that his contract expired and will not be renewed.

“Rostrum is my family. That is forever,” he said. “No matter what, we will always work together. We moved mountains and I can only see them continuing that tradition. I am grateful for everything I learned and am always here for whatever.”

Miller signed to Rostrum in 2010 on the success of his independently released “K.I.D.S.” The next year his “Blue Slide Park” became the first independently distributed debut album to top the Billboard charts (with 144,000 sales) since Tha Dogg Pound’s “Dogg Food” in 1995.

Rather than jump to the majors, he stuck with Rostrum and last year, he landed at No. 3, right behind Kanye West and J. Cole (at 102,000) with his more experimental “Watching Movies with the Sound Off.”

Miller’s label mate and fellow Allderdice grad Wiz Khalifa issued his first two albums on Rostrum before signing a cooperative deal with Atlantic Records.

Rostrum President and CEO Benjy Grinberg told MTV, “Mac is an incredible artist and has a bright career ahead of him. We are proud of the historic run that we had together and we will continue to support him in any way that is needed. We wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

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RIP Stevie 'Shuffles': A fixture on the concert scene

Written by Scott Mervis on .

QuinlanIf you attended a concert in Pittsburgh over the past 30 years, odds are you encountered Steve Quinlan.

He was the quiet, unassuming guy in the Grateful Dead tie-dye who handed you a flier, very passively, for an upcoming concert.

“He had the lowest job on the totem pool, but everyone loved this guy,” said Pat DiCesare, the former co-owner of concert promoter DiCesare-Engler Productions.

Quinlan, affectionately known as Stevie “Shuffles” for the way he walked, died last Friday at 48 of heart disease. He will be remembered at a memorial celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday at Carnegie Library Music Hall in Munhall.

Quinlan, who grew up in McKeesport and moved to the South Side in 1996, got his start in the concert business after finishing high school in the early ’80s.

“I remember him coming to us when we had the I.C. Light Amphitheatre at Station Square,” said Mr. DiCesare. “He and his brother Jeff. Stevie was a unique person, an extremely humble person. He loved the music business and wanted to be in it, and he didn’t care what level it was.”

DiCesare-Engler first hired him as a cleaning person, but he found his calling in street marketing.

“We needed someone to pass out fliers and posters,” said Mr. DiCesare. “He did that job diligently — better than anyone else. He became kind of famous for distributing fliers and posters, a job no one else would want to do. He did it with such pride.”

Quinlan never drove, so he did it all on foot, by bus or hopping rides from people like his friend Ryan Longeway.

“He really liked music and he really liked Pittsburgh,” said Mr. Longeway. “He knew the trends of what would do well where. He was a very simple guy. He didn’t ask for a lot, and he’d do anything for you.”

According to friends, since the death of their parents more than a decade ago, he has been a big help to his older brothers, Dave and Jeff, who went by their mother’s maiden name, Langer.

With the demise of DiCesare-Engler, Quinlan handled street marketing for Live Nation, Drusky Enterprises and Opus One Productions, which meant hanging posters and handing out fliers at such venues as Mr. Smalls, Carnegie Library Music Hall, Altar Bar and Stage AE.

“Steve used to work with me at Live Nation on our marketing team,” according to Matt Mager. “This kid could walk in to any concert without a ticket or a pass because he was so well known around the Pittsburgh live music scene — he was the pass. Such a super great guy who was dealt a lot of tough life cards, but he really made the best out of what he had. He kept such a positive attitude and had an extreme passion for music and promoting concerts via fliers and posters. Any poster you see in Oakland or South Side and other city places, Steve most likely put them up.”

DiCesare said he also got work as a vendor at Mellon Arena and in the Strip.

“We would see him on the corner in the strip, selling T-shirts and hats for sporting events. When he got a break he would come over and sit down. He would never talk. He would just sit and listen. In that way he was a great conversationalist!

“I must have had a thousand employees in my life,” Mr. DiCesare added. “A handful affected me. He was just a unique individual for this business. People respected him, yet he placed no importance on himself.”

He is survived by his brothers Dave and Jeff Langer.

Like Jerry Garcia, his musical hero, his remains will be scattered in the San Francisco Bay.

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