Olympus Mons completed its second album over nine years.
By Scott Mervis Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Bowing to Bowie
• The Pittsburgh musicians who brought you tributes to The Clash, Elvis Costello and the '80s (via WXXP) return to the Rex on Saturday to bow down to one of the godfathers of glam rock, David Bowie.
The occasion is the 40th anniversary of the concept album "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars," which was released in June 1972, complete with such classics as "Suffragette City," "Starman," "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang on to Yourself."
Taking on the Bowie role for the show will be Chris Theoret, Rex co-owner and frontman for veteran band The Sponges.
"I know a lot of great singers, but only Chris could pull this off on such a grand scale," says Rod Schwartz, the Aviation Blondes/11th Hour bassist who organizes the tributes. "The first time I met him was years ago at The Upstage. I remember thinking as he walked in, 'I don't know if that guy sings or plays an instrument, but he's a rock star.' He just has this special aura around him. And then there's the voice. First song, first practice was 'Moonage Daydream.' We get to the chorus, and I'm looking at our drummer Kip Ruefle and his jaw was practically on his snare drum. We were all in awe, and we knew right then we had something special."
The tribute band has a endless catalog to draw from, which includes 23 albums and more than 100 singles, encompassing a variety to styles from folk-rock to glam to electronic to dance rock.
"Everyone gave me their laundry list of favorites to compile, and then there was a lot of late evening sifting through Excel spread sheets to choose a songlist," the bassist says. "I think the audience will find everything between '69 and '83 to be well represented."
Of course, when you're talking Bowie, you need some serious flash in the guitar department.
"Bowie has always surrounded himself with amazing guitarists like Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar and Robert Fripp, to name a few," Mr. Schwartz says. "The foundation for most of these songs is not built upon a single riff, but rather intricate layers of interwoven guitar."
Daryl Cross and Steve Morrison will pair up as guitarists, also joined by keyboardists Harvey Coblin and Terry Divelbliss, saxman Tim Pollock and singers The Pretty Things (Jen Fisher, Ronda Zegarelli and Holly Scott), who will help provide theatrics.
"I don't think you could do a Bowie show and not hit upon that area. He was truly a rock 'n' roll pioneer in both fashion and mass media, and Chris was adamant that these areas had to be incorporated."
• "The Mink Trapper's Daughter" is another helping of dreamy, atmospheric rock from Olympus Mons, a Pittsburgh band that takes its cue from The Cure and Joy Division.
Singer-guitarist Mike Ummer, drummer Kurt Threlfall and twin brothers Mike and Brian Bechtold on bass and keyboards, respectively, all went to the same elementary school in Plum and formed around 2003 at the University of Pittsburgh, taking the name from a volcano on Mars.
Unlike volcanoes and the topography of Mars, the music is largely soothing and gentle, with occasional bouts of dissonance -- suitable for rainy day dreaming or, perhaps, the soundtrack to your space flight.
"Some probably say, and we'll freely admit, that we work rather slowly," Mr. Threlfall says of this being the band's second album over nine years. "But at the end of the day, all of us are completely satisfied with what we put out. Although we like the last album, it's a snapshot of where we were at the time. I think our music has clearly matured since then -- songwriting, structure, vocals, etc. In short, I think it's always good to show progression in music, and I'm confident that listeners will be cognizant of how far we've come along in the past few years."
He points to the haunting "July," reminiscent of something from U2's "October," as a highlight for him.
"It was kind of like undiscovered territory for lack of a better term. The idea had come from an outro to one of our tracks on the last album, and it was always one of my favorite pieces of music that we've done. I made it a mission to have us form it into a track of its own for the new album; now that the new album's done, it definitely adds to the sense of completeness."
The release show is 10 p.m. Friday at the Brillobox with Shade and Claire with the Turban. Admission is $5, with all going to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association.
• Pittsburgh band The Damaged Pies will host Natestock, a benefit for Nathaniel Morris, a student at Marzolf Primary School in Shaler who suffers from Hirschsprung's disease and must receive his treatments at Children's Hospital of Cincinnati.
The well-traveled band, which has played such legendary venues as CBGB's in New York, the Whisky a-go-go in L.A. and Liverpool's Cavern Club, will be joined by David and Pappy from theCause, singer-songwriter Heidi Jacobs and Jonny Hartwell (from 3WS Radio) at Club Cafe, South Side, at 6:30 p.m. Friday. There will be raffles featuring Penguins and Pirates memorabilia, an auction and food. Tickets are $8; www.clubcafelive.com.