Local Scene 12/29: 'The Gas Bardo' and 'The Abominable Snow Jam'

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Gasbarro on the go

• Just as Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir frequently branched off for solo records or side projects, Dave Gasbarro of Grateful Dead tribute band Fungus has done the same with his second album, "The Gas Bardo."

Fungus fans, aka Deadheads, should find lots to like on this record, which runs the gamut from fluid folk-rock to boogie-rock to old-timey country, with some other surprises.

"The thing I admired about the Grateful Dead was their ability to successfully cross over various genres of music," Mr. Gasbarro says. "They were equally adept at rock, country, jazz ... you name it, they played it well. I try to emulate that approach. I want the listener on their toes, not knowing what's coming next."

He recorded the album at Mojo Boneyard with studio chief Jeff Ingersoll and Fungus partner Terry Callahan producing. While there is some overlap between Fungus and his solo stuff, he says he went this direction because "Fungus is wide open and loosey goosey in approach where The Gas Band has much tighter lines."

In the other words, the longest song on the album, "Carry Me," tops out just under five minutes at 4:58.

It might take a few listens, but those who listen to the album as a whole will discover that there's something other than the sound holding the songs together.

"The overriding concept here is that we are following a central character through a life cycle that began with the first record," Mr. Gasbarro says. " 'The Gas Bardo' describes the journey post-mortem and is set in a celestial bar called 'The Church of Saturday Saints' [the title of the first song], where each patron at the bar has a story that is told through song. 'They Burned Down the Church' [the album closer] refers back to 'The Church of Saturday Saints,' so I open the album by building the church and close the album by burning it down. Oh, the irony ..."

Among the characters to be found on "The Gas Bardo" are "Harry the Hitchhiker," bears that dance in the woods and even a beloved old landmark in "The Day They Tore Three Rivers Stadium Down."

"I live in Jefferson Hills, 12 miles from town, and the reverberation from that dynamite blast shook my windows," Mr. Gasbarro says. "When it hit, all these emotions came to light, so I sat down and wrote a song. I think any Pittsburgh sports fan can relate to it."

The biggest surprise here is the hard rock, nearly metal song "My Old Stomping Grounds."

"The lyrics dictate the feel of the song," he says. "If you're singing about stomping grounds, then the song better be something you can stomp your feet to."

Fungus and The Gas Band will perform at 10 p.m. Saturday at Frankie and Georgie's, 5832 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill. $10 cover includes small buffet and party items. Call 412-422-5027.

Snow Jam

• Pittsburgh alt-rock band Identity X presents its inaugural holiday extravaganza called "The Abominable Snow Jam" Friday at Altar Bar in the Strip. Identity X will play along with Doomsday Initiative (metal/experimental), The New Era (hip-hop/electronic), Curse Icon (hard rock from Columbus) and My Greater Sky (metal).

The band says, "Our goal is to package a yearly showcase of new bands to help build interest in the various talent from Pittsburgh and the surrounding region."

Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 advance/$12 door; www.pghsnowjam.com .

-- Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com ; 412-263-2576; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg

First Published December 29, 2011 5:00 AM


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