Ears to the Void
One thing you can be sure of if you walk into The Shop on Saturday is that your ears will get a beating.
But if you like to be challenged more than entertained, it might be good for you in the long run.
Welcome to Winter Void 3 Mini-Fest, an uncompromising look at the hard-edged experimental music scene presented by Dynamo Collective. It features Expensive S---, the live drumming-electronics duo of Paul Quattrone (!!!) and Eric Yeschke (Dreadnots); noise-rock vets (((Microwaves))); Edgar Um Bucholtz's electronic project F--- Telecorps; ambient specialists Hunted Creatures; punk rockers Free Clinic, plus Torus (Adam MacGregor of Brown Angel), Dark Circles, Last Of England, Chris Niels, Forest Dweller, Waterfinder W/ Great Blue Heron and Rhinestone Quarry.
"There's a ton of styles of music I enjoy but Winter Void is definitely a showcase of more fringe-type music or musicians who I feel are pushing limits or experimenting with new territory," says organizer Ryan Emmett, who started Dynamo Collective in 2003 to release experimental music and promote shows under the banner. "It's definitely not an indie-rock showcase, but while there is a lot of abstraction, it isn't all abrasive either. Fans of minimal synth-pop and dark wave might enjoy Dark Circles, while fans of finger-picker John Fahey with an Eastern lean will like Chris Niels. Torus may appeal to those with a penchant for '80s-style industrial noise like SPK."
The fact that Mr. Emmett can assemble a lineup like this with mostly local musicians points to a fertile underground/experimental scene in our midst.
"Absolutely," he says. "Dark Circles is coming from out of town and I am super excited for that. Otherwise, all the acts are local and you can see them perform other shows around the city on a semi-frequent basis. Whatever criticisms I have for Pittsburgh, the underground/experimental music scene isn't one of them. There are a lot of really fun, great acts in the city and it has an effect on even the more mainstream, palpable performers.
"It seems to me that the most well-known acts to come from Pittsburgh definitely tip their hat to the underground noise-makers of the city. When Greg Gillis [Girl Talk] hosted the WYEP event on South Side a couple years ago, the amazing circuit builder Michael Johnson was on the same bill as Wiz Khalifa definitely freaking out some squares."
He says this festival was placed in the middle of January to fight off the winter blues.
"This is an excuse to put on the snow boots, get out of the house and hang out with some cool people and music."
It's at The Shop, 4314 Main St., Lawrenceville, at 4 p.m. Saturday. $10.
Motown on Liberty
• What will happen to the Motown Sound in the hands of a bunch of (white) Pittsburgh indie/Americana bands?
Find out at 8 p.m. Saturday as Howlers, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield, presents a Motown Tribute Night with performances by The Harlan Twins, Meeting of Important People, Slow Reel, Neighbors, Allegheny Rhythm Rangers, Dave Wheeler, Weird Paul Rock Band, Earls of Industry, Moldies & Monsters, Lover 29 and more.
Proceeds go to Hope Academy, a program run out of The East Liberty Presbyterian Church that offers low-cost or no-cost after-school and Saturday courses and private lessons in dance, music and theater for 4- to 18-year-olds. Admission is $5 to $10.
• On Friday, Howlers presents the Pittsburgh Electronic Showcase 2 with 8Cylinder, Mind Tiger, Humdrum, Danila Gaji, Johnny Jitters, Ag Ag Lady and more. It begins at 7:30 p.m. and guests get a free compilation CD of the artists performing.
Wiz making news
• This week, Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa and (Uncle) Snoop Dogg dropped the video for "That Good," the first single from their Cheech & Chong-like movie, "High School," due on April 20. The celebration of weed is so thick you could probably get a contact high, but you can see enough through the smoky haze to detect that Snoop is sporting a Steelers cap (while Wiz goes with Raiders).
There are two other pieces of Wiz news. His single "Black and Yellow" came in at No. 61 on the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop Poll, a survey of the nation's critics. Pittsburgh sound-collage artist Girl Talk's album "All Day" landed at No. 106. Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" was the runaway winner for best album with 3,250 points (LCD Soundsystem came in second with 1,634). The top single was Cee-Lo Green's "[Forget] You."
Also, as expected, Wiz will be part of the lineup at the 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival April 15-17 in Indio, Calif. The headliners are Kanye West, the Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon. Also representing Pittsburgh will be drummer Paul Quattrone in the dance-punk band !!!.
Steelers fight songs
• When the Steelers make a playoff run, you can be sure there will be songs to go with it. "Black and Yellow" is the clear leader this year, but there are some other entries to check out:
The Pop Rocks "Go Steelers": Teen-group The Pop Rocks, which popped up during the last Super Bowl turning Pat Benatar's "Heartbreakers" into a Steelers fight song, dips into the classic-rock playlist again, with a black-and-gold take on Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla."
Kelle Maize, "City of Champions": This one might be a little harder to sing along to. The female rapper salutes the city and the teams with a staccato techno beat and a scenic video tour.
Gene the Werewolf, "Steelers Polka 2011": The glammy bar-rock band updates a classic with a dose of Red Bull and vocal that sounds like your Aunt Gertrude got drunk.
Roger Wood Band, "Here We Go": The old funk staple is back, this time name-checking Rashard Mendenhall and Sean Suisham, among others.
They can be found on YouTube and the bands' websites.
• When CMT premieres the new comedy series "Working Class" on Jan. 28, it might have some Pittsburgh talent in the mix. "This Is My Day," a song written by Bill Deasy and sung by Maddie Georgi (both well-known local artists), turns up in the preview for the show. They'll find out next week how the song will be used.