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Mind Cure issues Backlash LP from 'The Aarrghman' of Eide's

Written by Scott Mervis on .

aarghIf you were a regular at Eide’s Records back in the late ’80s, you’ll remember the store’s kind metal aficionado Danny “The Aarrghman” Macosko, who also had the column The Aarrghman’s Pit in the Warhammer zine and hosted The Aarrghman’s Pit live shows.

What you might not know is that Mr. Macosko, who died in 1995 from cystic fibrosis, fronted a metal band, a la Sabbath/Motorhead/Pentagram, called Backlash with Rob Tabachka (of Eviction), Bill Koblak and Shawn Usel. It released a cassette from a recording at Audiomation.

“I had heard about it over the years,” says Michael Seamans, owner of the Polish Hill-based Mind Cure Records. “Whenever I would ask people if they had a copy, they were shy about handing it out. One day I was getting a tattoo from Todd Porter [of Eviction] and he said, ‘I have it on my iPod. I could play it for you right now.’ ”

Backlash coverUpon hearing it, Mr. Seamans decided it rocked sufficiently (and it does) to release the Backlash songs as part of his series of reissues of classic Pittsburgh bands, which has included The Bats, The Modey Lemon and Real Enemy.

The six-song Backlash LP will be released on vinyl for the first time, with a download for six more demos. This is a different kind of project for Mind Cure, he says, in that Backlash didn’t play out much and wasn’t very well known in Pittsburgh.

But, he says, “Aarrghman is this legendary character from being this longtime Eide’s employee and all these guys are the quintessential record store crew. They’re what people think of when they think of an underground record store.”

There will be release party from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 20, at Saints and Sinners tattoo studio, 252 S. Highland Ave., Highland Park, for the Backlash vinyl as well as the new/old Eviction demo “Struggle with Society.”

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Drusky doubles down on apology, promises to help black artists

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Pittsburgh concert promoter Brian Drusky, of Drusky Entertainment, touched off accusations of racism in December of 2014 when he posted a series of tweets that made light of a demonstration by the local Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., incident and protests.

They were among the variety of “The Steelers lost last week. I’m going to lay down in the middle of grant street by the courthouse to protest!”

Upon being targeted by local black entertainers and activists, he removed the tweets, issued an apology and agreed to meet with them to find ways of making amends to the community.

As part of this effort, Drusky Entertainment donated more than $12,000 in the last year to the Afro-American Music Institute.

On Wednesday morning the promoter met with representatives of the local group Black Artist Ally Initiative, and prior to the Lauryn Hill concert at the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, Drusky issued the following statement:

“In December 2014, I made racist statements mocking the grief and outrage of black people who protested the loss of Black life at the hands of police violence.

Although I attempted to make amends, I realize now that surface platitudes and small gestures are not enough. Although I am deeply sorry, I realize that just saying sorry is not enough, that sustained and consistent action to combating racism in my own actions and in the actions of others is necessary to achieve healing and to build trust. As a white man that benefits from Black culture and artistry, I know that it is my responsibility to stand in solidarity with Black people, particularly the Black community in Pittsburgh, by devoting my resources as an entertainment professional and as a resident of Pittsburgh to creating true equity and inclusivity in the entertainment industry here. I call on the Pittsburgh arts community, particularly white arts organizations, to stand in solidarity with the Black arts community by committing to tangible acts of allyship that will shift the culture of entrenched racism that permeates Pittsburgh.

To demonstrate commitment and accountability to Black Pittsburgh artists, venues, promoters, and other support workers, Michael David Battle, Joy KMT, and Drusky Entertainment will:

Invite local Black artists to open up for Black headliners when the ability arises and compensate these artists.

Host 1 annual fundraiser in collaboration with Black artists to contribute to the Black Artist Ally Initiative

Collaborate with local Black artists to host a yearly summer academy for young Black artists and fund the resulting youth project(s)/efforts

Offer event tickets to Black youth

Work with local Black artists and promoters and utilize Black venues and support staff for events.”

 

Michael David Battle, artist and founding director at Garden of Peace Project, issued the statement:

"Yesterday evening I received a call on behalf of Brian Drusky. In the very recent past, Brian Drusky was held accountable for public statements that he made that undermined the lives of those protesting Black lives lost to State Violence. This was a continuation of that community conversation to address the tangible strides he is willing to make to show true solidarity with the Black Artist community. I invited him to meet with Joy KMT & me this morning in an effort to hold him accountable and take swift action and the first steps toward investing in Black artists and art in Pittsburgh.

Tonight, we have gathered with local Black artists to share the new commitments Drusky Entertainment has made to Black artists in Pittsburgh and investing in uplifting the narratives and art and expressions of Black artists. To truly invest and contribute to Black art and the lives and legacy of Black artist is to be in an act of resistance -- this takes radical and transformative action and a new way of doing things."

Poet-performance artist Joy KMT, who was also part of the BAAI meeting, issued her own statement:

 

“Black Artist Ally Initiative is a call to action for Drusky and white folks benefitting from Black art, Black labor, Black money, Black love, and Black resistance to be accountable to black artists, venues, and workers in the art and entertainment industry. Pittsburgh has a rich and deep Black Arts legacy that continues to this day. Drusky’s comments were deeply hurtful, but indicative of the casual anti-blackness that supports the structural violence that culminates in making Pittsburgh last on a list of 25 for quality of life for black people, one of the lowest life expectancy rates for black people in the nation, and one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation for black people. Black artists in Pittsburgh continue to be under resourced and undervalued, and Black people continue to live under the impact of entrenched racism, classism, and injustice, and black protest of injustice continues to be mocked and dismissed. This, too, is a Pittsburgh legacy and one that must be shifted. Today, Drusky Entertainment has committed to doing the work and being accountable to Black artists in the Pittsburgh community and to the Black community as a whole.

As a collective we are committed to continuing to foster spaces of transformative and radical inclusion. This public press statement serves as a tool of accountability. Together, we will share how we intend to use our collective gifts to transform and invest in Black artists.”

 

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Daily Grind keeps grinding with 'I Did Those Things'

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Daily Grind hi-res photo credit Pat HoganPat Hogan photoWhile the Pittsburgh-based Wild Kindness/Misra label concentrates mostly on indie rock and Americana (with the likes of Harlan Twins, Grand Piano and Chet Vincent & The Big Bend), it saves a space for The Daily Grind, a crunchier band that harks back to the post-grunge era.


Inspired by the likes of Incubus, Arctic Monkeys and Muse, the friends from Pine-Richland High School formed the band in 2012, released the debut album “The Green Plan” in 2014 and took off on a 60-date national tour with the motto of “Stay Grinding.”


The Daily Grind, which features singer-guitarist Brad Hammer, guitarist Myles Mahoney, bassist Matt Majot and drummer Reid Campbell, returns now with a second blast of hard-driving alt-rock, “I Did Those Things.”


“We’ve grown up a lot,” Hammer says of this album. “We made a conscious decision to write more direct, relatable songs. We try not to take ourselves or the music too seriously, and I think spending so much time over the last couple years allowed us to enjoy the recording process more than when we first started the band. There was a lot more love in the room this time around.”


“I Did Those Things” was recorded at The Wilderness Recording Studio with producer J. Vega and then mastered by Kramer, the New York City producer known for his work with everyone from Galaxie 500 to Gwar.


“J went way out of his way to be around throughout the writing process and help guide us in the right direction,” the singer says. “He’s a fantastic listener and an even better idea man. Kramer made the whole thing congruent; it didn’t flow as well as it does now when it left the studio.”


The Daily Grind plays a release show on Friday at the James Street Speakeasy and then hits the road through late July on another cross-country, 50-plus date tour.


“We treat the bar and restaurant gigs during the week like a day job and play club shows on the weekends for exposure,” Hammer says. “It’s worked well for us in the past and we plan on another successful trip this time around. We’ve developed a nice rapport with local bands in other cities that we’re always excited to play with.”


He calls the new album “a stepping stone. It’s better than the first record, sonically and contextually, but I don’t see it being our crown jewel. The best is yet to come.”

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"Elektra" at the Met, two ways

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

On Saturday, I had the good fortune of seeing Richard Strauss' "Elektra" in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Elektra 3311-sWaltraud Meier played Klytämnestra and Nina Stemme took on the title role of Strauss' "Elektra" at the Metropolitan Opera. (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

Post-Gazette senior editor Robert Croan had seen this production in the Met's Live in HD broadcast on April 30, so we agreed to do side-by-side takes on the production.

I've gushed about the Met's Live in HD productions before. Here are the details for next year's offerings. There are also four encore broadcasts over the summer; more at this link

FYI, the Pittsburgh Symphony will perform the "Elektra" Symphonic Rhapsody, a suite conceived by music director Manfred Honeck and arranged by Tomas Ille, this weekend at Heinz Hall. So if you couldn't see "Elektra" in the movie theater or at the opera house, you can experience Strauss' remarkable score in a symphonic setting. 

Elektra setRich Peduzzi designed the set for the Met production of "Elektra." (Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera)

Now, onto the reviews:

NEW YORK—At most opera productions, there is a bit of a ceremony before the actual performance begins. The orchestra tunes, the conductor comes out to warm applause, the curtain goes up, the musicians play. It is a ritual that we know and find comfort in.

The mood that opened of the Metropolitan Opera production of "Elektra" on Saturday night was different. Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen seemed to sneak up to the podium, evading applause. The opera began not with the severe opening chords of Strauss' score, but with a servant brushing at the steps of the Palace of Mycenae. Her sweeps, deliberate and crisp, like a breath, resounded throughout the massive space of the house. For the first several minutes of this two-hour opera, this was the only sound we encountered.

It was in this way that the Met's tremendous production of "Elektra" opened — not with the loud, brash sounds of Strauss, but with these engrossing, eerie sweeps, "as if to purge the primal sins that earlier had occurred there," as general manager Peter Gelb put it. Even after having read his note in the program, I was still shocked at this moment. It was as if the fourth wall had been constructed without our consent.

This new production was the brainchild of the French director Patrice Chereau, who died in 2013, a few months after this "Elektra" debuted in France. His staging, revived at the Met by Vincent Huguet, unearthed the emotional and musical dimensions of this work, and the Met's dramatic and musical forces delivered a knockout realization of his intent.

The production embraced what seemed to be the classic, timeless nature of this one-act opera, which is based on the Greek myth and features a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Elektra avenges the murder of her father, Agamemnon, by her mother, Klytämnestra, with the help of her brother Orest. Richard Peduzzi's stone-colored sets, with their clean, stark lines and high central arch, evoked an ancient city on its way to becoming ruins.

The singers and orchestra offered this thorny, challenging music with zeal and purpose. In the title role, Swedish soprano Nina Stemme was masterful, delivering a hefty yet nuanced interpretation of the complicated Elektra — twitchy yet full of ardor. Her scene with the fierce mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier, portraying Klytämnestra, was a highlight, a carefully crafted moment that humanized the characters.

Adrianne Pieczonka, playing Elektra's sister Chrysothemis, seemed to get better over the course of the performance and impressed with the substance of her singing in the upper register, while Eric Owens offered a bold, steely take on Orest. Mr. Salonen sculpted a confident, wrenching interpretation, and the orchestra's detailed performance was a rich sound-world unto its own.

—Elizabeth Bloom

Elektra 3666-sEric Owens portrayed Orest in Strauss' "Elektra." (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

It's always best to experience an opera live in the theater. But if you can't get to New York, and your local company is not likely to produce Richard Strauss' "Elektra" in the foreseeable future, the Met's invaluable Live in HD series is an excellent substitute. Moreover, the screen version brings out details that are impossible to discern even from the best seats in the house. This was particularly evident in the superlative production of "Elektra" that closed the 2015-16 Live in HD season on April 30. Notable was the highly nuanced portrayal of the title character by Nina Stemme, seen in close-ups and at unusual angles that showed every gradation of expression and reaction.

When he wrote "Elektra" in 1909, Strauss pushed the musical techniques of his day to their limits, calling for a mammoth orchestra of approximately 100 players, advancing traditional harmony, upping the emotional thermometer and adding a Freudian element — in Hugo von Hofmannsthal's masterful adaptation of Sophocles' ancient Greek drama — that is only hinted at in the original.

Strauss' contemporaries, notably Arnold Schoenberg, would carry musical expressionism further, into the realm of "atonality" and so-called 12-tone music. Strauss took a different route, turning backward after "Elektra" to write neo-Mozartean operas for the rest of his life. As it stands, the Strauss-Hofmannsthal "Elektra" remains one of the most powerful pieces of musical theater ever written, 105 minutes of high tension and inexorable beauty, a cathartic experience in the fullest sense of the Greek definition.

The late Patrice Chereau, staging this opera at Aix-en-Provence in 2013, updated the work to emphasize its timeless message and concentrate on individual feelings and responses. Contrary to tradition, Elektra is no raving lunatic, rather a frightened, abused woman obsessed by the horrendous events she has witnessed. Klytämnestra, too, is portrayed by Waltraud Meier as a still attractive woman living in fear and guilt after murdering her husband, Agamemnon and taking his enemy, Aegisthus, as her lover. The slayings of Klytämnestra and Aegisthus are shown on stage. At the end, Elektra does not dance herself to death, but lingers catatonic and immobile, while Orest returns from the building's interior to walk proudly out the palace gate.

The greatest glories of this performance were musical: conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen's magnificent rendition of this immensely difficult score, and the extraordinary all-star cast. The Met's orchestra is arguably the best orchestra in the world today, and it was in top form. Ms. Stemme is a consummate singing actress, whose ironclad soprano can weather engulfing orchestral torrents, or produce meaningful pianissimos when required by the musical or dramatic context.

Ms. Meier, regal and in top form at 60, was not the usual caricature of an evil harridan. Her confrontation scene with Elektra was probing and credible. Filling out this trio of troubled women was Adrianne Pieczonka's unusually spunky Chrysothemis, a full-voiced rendition that suggests she might graduate to the title role sometime down the road.

Most affecting was the recognition scene between Elektra and Orest. As the long-lost brother who returns to avenge his father's murder, Eric Owens was a commanding presence whose resounding bass-baritone caressed the ear and made every one of his lines significant and eloquent.

Casting was generous down the line. Aegisthus was Burkhard Ulrich, a German character tenor new to the house. The Overseer was Susan Neves, who has sung Tosca and Turandot with Pittsburgh Opera. And cast as the fifth servant woman was a fresh-voiced 67-year-old Roberta Alexander, returning to the Met after an absence of 25 years.

—Robert Croan

 

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The Rave-Ups 'Town + Country' will be reissued on July 8

Written by Scott Mervis on .

 

raveupsThe Rave-Ups 1985 debut album “Town + Country,” a classic in the alt-country/cowpunk genre, will get a long-awaited reissue from Omnivore Records on July 8.

As frontman Jimmer Podrasky noted on Facebook, “I wrote the liner notes for this reissue of a record that was an important part of my musical past. More importantly, a ‘lost’ Rave-Ups album is included in this package -- recordings that the band made with Los Lobos' Steve Berlin (and his partner Mark Linnett) and never saw the light of day. Hearing this stuff thirty years later is a real treat and I'm very thankful to Omnivore Recordings for making this possible.”

The Rave-Ups formed in 1979 while Podrasky, a Natrona Heights native, was attending Carnegie Mellon, and, after cutting their teeth in clubs like the Decade and Electric Banana with the other punk bands of the era, relocated to Los Angeles in the early ‘80s.

The band released two albums on Epic Records before calling it quits around 1990. Podrasky, after a long hiatus from the music world, returned with the solo album “The Would-Be Plans" in September 2013 and played his first Pittsburgh show in 24 years in July 2014.

"Town + Country," which has been out of circulation and almost impossible to find for decades, is the jewel of The Rave-Ups discography. This will be its first domestic release on CD. "It was only available on CD via imports...very EXPENSIVE imports," Podrasky says. "I never even owned one. The cool stuff is the unreleased material we recorded with Steve Berlin."

Here is the track listing:

Original Tracks

"Positively Lost Me"

"Remember (Newman's Lovesong)"

"Better World"

"Class Tramp"

"In My Gremlin"

"Radio"

"By The Way"

"Not Where You're At (But Where You Will Be)"

"You Ain't Goin Nowhere"

"Rave-Up/Shut-Up"

 

Bonus Tracks

"If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)" (Fun Stuff demo)

"Nine Pound Hammer" (Live on Snap)

"Positively Lost Me" (Live on Snap)

"Square Hole"

"Train To Nowhere" (Early Version)

"The Rumor"

"Please Take Her (She's Mine)" (Early Version)

"Mickey Of Alphabet City" (Early Version)

"No No No"

"See You"

"Blue Carrot" (Early Version)

 

For more info, go to http://omnivorerecordings.com/music/town-country/

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