The Pump Fakes go deep
• There's nothing on the new record by The Pump Fakes trendy enough to get the hipster crowd or Pitchfork critics to pay attention.
"You need some kind of flugelhorn or layered harmonies," says frontman Patrick Maloney. "We don't have that."
What he and The Pump Fakes have is a lot of heart and Stonesy grit on "Falling to the Occasion." In fact, you could almost be fooled into thinking songs like "Can't Say When" and "Heal" were old Stones outtakes.
"That's always been a touchstone for us," Mr. Maloney says of the Stones. "And listening to a lot of Replacements, too. I don't know if that came through. But Keith Richards and that whole early '70s Stones thing, maybe it had something to do with Keith Richards putting the book out, getting that vibe back. That's definitely in there and we don't run from our influences, as you can probably tell."
The 40-something singer-guitarist admits he came a little late to the party when he started working open stages in the early '00s. After launching the Patrick Maloney Band in 2002 and releasing one album, they took the name The Pump Fakes in 2007 -- now consisting of guitarist Jeff Pfenninger, bassist Darren Hammel and drummer Dave Whaley. He acknowledges that "Falling to the Occasion" was a big upgrade.
"We got to turn the guitars up a little on this, and certainly Rob James [of The Clarks] was a big part of that. He played some lead on some of the tracks."
Also helping out was producer Sean McDonald, known for his work with The Clarks.
"Sean was on board with making a professional rock record," Mr. Maloney says, "but leaving it a little dirty and little funky, so it has that messed-up sound to it, that rawness. Sean has a great ear and he's good at capturing that."
The singer does his part with vocals and lyrics that are alternately raw, weary, angry and loaded with passion.
"It probably starts as a conversation to a certain person, then maybe there's a mixture of fiction and nonfiction once you get to the final product," he says. "The last song ['Death of Me'], the quietest song on the record, is kind of a breakup song ... and I think to some degree they're all breakup songs. I think that was more personal than most. 'Stop Falling in Love' I'm very happy with lyrically 'cause that was one I kind of wrote to myself. It was a different approach for me lyrically -- not groundbreaking or earth-shattering lyrically, but I think it's something more focused and the lyrics are a little more cohesive than past efforts."
Fortunately, the singer sounds just as convincing earlier in the record declaring, "A heart that can break ... can heal."
The release party is at 10:30 p.m. Friday at Club Cafe with Good Brother Earl. Admission is $7. Call 412-431-4950.
• Rusted Root will headline "My Heart Will Go On," a benefit concert for the Reeva Charitable Fund and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation Saturday night at Mr. Smalls.
It honors Reeva Alexis Kelly, the 12-year-old niece of Rusted Root singer Liz Berlin who died in November.
"My niece Reeva was a beautiful and amazingly talented girl who was taken from us far too soon," Ms. Berlin said in a statement. "Her mother (my sister) Katie and the rest of our family feel that the least we can do to honor her memory is to try and create opportunities for children like her to live a more beautiful life."
The Reeva Charitable Fund is dedicated to easing the struggle of children who suffer from Crohn's Disease. The show also features Phat Man Dee, Bill Deasy, Drowning Clowns (a new band featuring Berlin and husband Frank Spadafora from Crisis Car) and their son's band Lightning Box.
The show's at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, with VIP options at $45 and $180. Go to www.ticketweb.com/mrsmalls or call 1-866-468-3401
• Furious Styles, who won the Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award this year for Underground Artist, rises up Saturday with his new EP, "The Furious 1 Mr. Styles," and a show at Z Lounge on the South Side.
It's the follow-up to his debut "I Am the Burgh" and a tease for his second album, "Diary of a Madd Single Black Dad," due out early next year.
Styles is a Greensburg-based rapper who has opened for such artists as Wiz Khalifa, ICP, Young Buck and S.Money.
What makes him underground?
"Because he's not the mainstream," says his manager, Edward "Ogeez" Anderson. "He's not getting radio play. It's not particularly street music, but not in the popular circulation."
Joining him at 9 p.m. will be Slim Stario, Bruce Loc, Basick Sickness, Varsity Squad and 2GZZ. Cover is $10. It's at 2108 E. Carson St.
Back from Bonnaroo
• However busy you may have been last weekend, it probably doesn't compare to Kelle Maize. The Pittsburgh-based rapper played the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Saturday afternoon and had to drive overnight to be back in Pittsburgh for Sunday afternoon gigs at both the Celebration of Unity and PrideFest.
Ms. Maize made her Bonnaroo debut thanks to a Sonicbids fan vote promotion that started with 800 artists applying. "We went hard hitting up everyone, and we ended up in the top eight," she says. "Then a panel of judges chose from the top eight."
She ended up in the top two, winning a spot on a tented side stage at Bonnaroo. She performed a 45-minute set with DJ Huggy, two dancers and tattoo artist Octeel doing live art on stage. She was greeted with a little flurry of Terrible Towels from a Lawrenceville contingent.
Along with the extreme heat, one of the challenges, she says, was preserving her voice over the three days she was there. "It was really, really dusty. Walking around the grounds, I was wearing a bandanna around my face a majority of time."
She didn't get to see Pittsburgh laptop phenom Girl Talk because he was really late on Saturday, but she did get to hang out near the stage for Wiz Khalifa's set, where the Towels were twirling in abundance. (We might add that this was the same state where the Titans cursed themselves by stomping on it.) "One of my best fiends was his DJ -- DJ Bonics. I planned [Wiz's] first release party in Pittsburgh and he was a 15 or 16 at the time, so it was really cool to see him play for such a huge crowd."
In general, she says, the Bonnaroo vibe was great. "We had an incredible time. I got up every morning and did yoga and there were hundreds of people doing yoga in the festival grounds. People were walking around in bathing suits and staying up in the middle of the night. It's a really fun vibe. I'm super grateful to the people who voted for me and I felt honored to be there."
Next on her agenda is to shoot a video this week and finish her next album. "There have been a lot of distractions," she says. Some of them clearly welcome.