What to do tonight: I Was Totally Destroying It brings their power pop sound to Lawrenceville's Howlers Coyote Cafe

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A lot of bands cringe at the suggestion that the music they play might be labeled "pop."

Not the five members of I Was Totally Destroying It. They take it and run with it.

Tonight, that run of 27 shows in 32 days brings them to Howlers Coyote Cafe on Liberty Avenue in Lawrenceville.

"It's still totally fun," said John Booker, who plays guitar and does much of the songwriting. "There's days when we get tired. We have been going every night, no nights off since Oakland."

But he has no one to blame but himself. Mr. Booker booked the tour, which continues Friday night in New York City.

"We're very hands-on," he said. "The videos are collaborative, but we have a lot of input on those. We have a label and a manager, but he's just kind of like a consultant."

The thrust of what is I Was Totally Destroying It comes from Mr. Booker, James Hepler on drums, Curtis Armstead on guitar, bassist Joe Mazzitelli, who is the newest member, and the very talented Rachel Hirsh, who is out front with vocals and keyboards.

The band has produced four albums since forming in Chapel Hill, N.C., in early 2007. The sound has been described as "power-pop," and Mr. Booker doesn't mind at all.

"We're an interesting band," he said. "We've played with a wide range of different kind of acts. Metal and ska. We stick to what we do and we're confident in that. We don't cater to crowds too much. We play our music and we think we can win over a few metal fans and indie fans.

"Our new record doesn't really fall under the category of 'power-pop,' but our overall catalog does. I don't shy away from the tag of 'pop music.' Some people think of it as a dirty word, but I love pop music and I think our band is poppy."

He does, however, describe the new album -- "Vexations" -- as being "a bit darker and a bit stranger."

This isn't the band's first visit to Pittsburgh. Last year, they played at The Rex on the South Side.

"Pittsburgh, we definitely have a few [fans]," Mr. Booker said. "Some cities are much stronger for us than others. New York City tomorrow, we have friends there. Minneapolis and Oakland are good towns for us.

"But mostly we're hoping to make a lot of new fans, especially in Pittsburgh, where we've played only one time before. We have a special bond with Pittsburgh. Our drummer is an active Steelers fan and is obsessed with the city itself."

Everyone in Destroying It -- (that's what the kids call them) -- contributes. For better or worse.

"For me, tension and conflict shows that there is passion involved," Mr. Booker said. "The moment people start answering questions with 'I don't care' or 'Whatever you want to do,' then the fire is gone and you need to figure out a way to get that back. But as long as people are fighting for what they want and their ideas and what they believe in, then it feels like there's still something going on there, there's still creative power between everyone.

"I need that tension and that drama sometimes to feel that everyone's passionate about what we're doing. We're a very opinionated bunch. We're a family, we get along well, we fight. We do everything together, and we're around each other all the time. But we get each other."

I Was Totally Destroying It is sharing the bill tonight with Velcro Shoes and Gary Band & the Notions. The show starts at 9 p.m. and there is a $5 cover.

Mr. Booker said those attending will likely have an impact on how the evening goes.

"It is very dependent on the vibe of the crowd and the atmosphere of the room," he said. "What's going on around me influences my performance and how I'm playing. I can't speak for the rest of the band, but I definitely feed off what the crowd is giving back and that mutual interaction.

"We find we're very adaptable. We've played tiny dive bars, rock clubs, every once in a while in an amphitheater. We can do it all and we love it all."

Expect IWTDI to rip through about eight songs in 35 minutes. But if you miss them, don't fret. They're back on the road in six weeks and have added a date -- Nov. 11 at Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale --at the very end of that leg of their tour.

Check it out!

Get a preview of tonight's event!

"My Internal Din"- I Was Totally Destroying It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FakMH5mmH_A&feature=player_embedded

If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456.

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This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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