Local Scene in Music: News on Drowning Clowns, City Love Story, Squirrel Hillbillies

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Drowning Clowns: Supergroup debut

■ Liz Berlin and Mike Speranzo are arguably the First Couple of Pittsburgh Music with her being a longtime member of Rusted Root and him being in the bands Out of the Blue and Crisis Car.

Of course, they also own one of Pittsburgh's more popular venues, Millvale's Mr. Smalls.

Their other project, along with raising their 18-year-old son, is the local supergroup Drowning Clowns, with singer-guitarist Frank Spadafora (also of Crisis Car, Out of the Blue), singer-guitarist Evan Smith (a pro skateboarder and Mr. Speranzo's nephew), guitarist Glenn Strother (Jazzam), bassist Jesse Prentiss (Ritual Space Travel Agency), drummer Shaggy Marcello (The Distractions) and keyboardist Levi Graft.

The result is "a self-described psychedelic rock orchestra" that's filled with surprising musical twists and turns, and draws from everything from Pink Floyd to the Postal Service.

"That's because I'm 42 now and have been such an avid music fan all my life," Mr. Speranzo says on the phone from Tampa, Fla., where the band was playing on its way back from SXSW. "I've absorbed so many genres. Initially, I thought this would be for the studio walls and my friends. I leaned on any section without worrying about the influences or where it was going."

He says of the way the band evolved, "I think originally it was a place for me to go while I was away from music, to figure out what I love in music. As it evolved and more people came into it, it became a great collaboration."

The band releases its first album, "All That's Covered Over," with a show at Mr. Smalls Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Lushbudget, Pure Cane Sugar, Nacosta, Thieves & Gypsys and Mike Why. For more, go to www.drowningclowns.com.

City Love Story debuts

■ If City Love Story looks familiar, that's because you may have seen the Pittsburgh band around here for the past several years as Rising Regina.

"We really wanted to have a fresh start," says guitarist Rich Kulbacki. "We're incorporating more rock into the sound and bringing more electric guitar into the mix. We also feel that our songwriting has matured a lot over the past six years of playing together, so we thought we should have a name that reflects that."

He formed Rising Regina with sisters Jessie and Kiki Young at their father's church in Rural Valley, Armstrong County, and they debuted in 2010 with "Travel Lightly." Now, with drummer Eric George and original bassist Dave Traugh, they return with a seven-song self-titled debut that retains the sisters' glorious harmonies while injecting rocking a bit more electrically and aggressively.

The EP, recorded at Red Caiman Media, Downtown, ranges from the rich, CSN-like "Adalaide" to the folky Nickel Creek style of "The Sky Is Falling" to the roadhouse rockabilly of "Skidoodle."

The greater diversity, he says, is a result of "playing out more and wanting to not be in that little folk-sized box. You know what I mean? We can still do stuff like that, but bringing the electric sound lets us spread our wings a little more."

City Love Story plays a CD release show at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Carnegie, at 8 p.m. Saturday with Broken Fences and Boulevard of the Allies. Tickets are $15; www.wearecitylovestory.com.

Hillbillies' 'Shoes'

■ The Squirrel Hillbillies, the folk/country/blues duo of Jenny Wolsk Bain and Gary Crouth, release the new CD "Goody Shoes" right in their 'hood Sunday at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill branch.

The Hillbillies, who have been together since 2010 and have played the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the Pittsburgh International Children's Festival, drop a number of local references into the songs, including Jerry's Records on the title track.

The Hillbillies will be joined by special guest Jason Rafalak for the free release show from 2 to 4 p.m.; www.squirrelhillbillies.com.


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