Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina spent the day like so many American families this summer, cruising the highways through the Midwest with their son and all their stuff loaded in the car. Setting out from their home in Washington, D.C., the next 10 days will take them to places like Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland.
But this isn't a vacation. Mr. MacKaye and Ms. Farina make up the group The Evens, and this is their first tour in five years or so.
First stop: Pittsburgh.
"They were originally looking at playing at The Mr. Roboto Project, but we were afraid it wasn't large enough," said Rick Moslen, who works with the Bloomfield-Garfield venue. "So we reached out to the Union Project."
The Union Project is the former Union Baptist Church on the corner of Stanton and North Negley avenues, where East Liberty and Highland Park come together. Built in 1903, the building has been abandoned, purchased and renovated as a community center for several nonprofit organizations.
Public grants and private contributions have combined to create friendly space for weddings, parties, studios, classes and summer camps. All taking place under beautiful stained-glass windows.
Perfect for a post-punk couple that is looking to play someplace other than the noisy bar scene. Here is Mr. MacKaye, a former member of the band Fugazi, discussing the topic with National Public Radio:
"Over the years playing in Fugazi, it had become increasingly clear to me the irony [that] this was my form of expression, and yet the only venues in which I was allowed to perform it were these venues where the economy is based largely on self-destruction," he said. "And I don't think it's evil; I don't think it should be shut down. I just thought it was strange, when you think about all the arts, that music -- rock music, especially -- always gets shunted into the bar scene. Which is incredibly ironic considering just how important a role music plays in 16- and 17- and 18-year-old kids' lives. The idea that these people can't see these bands who are making this music, only because of the fact that they're not old enough to drink alcohol, shows you there's a very deep sickness in that system."
Which brings them to the Union Project.
"They both have a long history of playing in bars and clubs and traditional music venues, and they were looking for someplace that was all-ages and someplace that was a little bit different," Mr. Moslen said. "And they're bringing their own lights, their own sound person. They're bringing the music to a room or a space that may not always have music.
"Hopefully, it's something that will lead to other opportunities [for Union Project and Mr. Roboto Project] to team up for shows. I've been to weddings at Union Project, but that's been it. I think the space is perfect for this kind of show."
"It's crazy the amount of money it costs to put a show on," Mr. MacKaye said in that NPR interview. "So if you're trying to put a show on for a low ticket price, you're up against it. So we discussed finding a way to split off from that system, and one way to do it was just to turn down the volume. Turning down allowed us to play basically anywhere. ... It's so great to play in a barn, or a museum, or an art gallery, or a theater lobby. Quite often, when you put music into an unusual or untraditional space, in many cases, the music really steps up. It's not being filtered through the venue experience as much."
Mr. Moslen said The Evens have been to Pittsburgh twice before, once in 2004 and again in 2006.
"They haven't toured recently because they had a kid," he said, referring to the person Wikipedia identifies as 5-year-old Carmine Francis Farina MacKaye.
Ms. Farina, who used to play with The Warmers, told NPR that having a child has had an impact on The Evens.
"It's not like one of us can stay with the kid while the other one goes to rehearsal or something like that," she said. "It's logistically very complicated, and we're really fortunate to have family nearby and a kid who's actually really easy to do things with. ... He does like our music; he's also not too shy to critique things."
The Evens' music differs from what Mr. MacKaye and Ms. Farina used to play.
"Both members have a history of playing with very influential punk bands," Mr. Moslen said. "But this is definitely much more toned down. It's just her on drums and him on baritone electric guitar.
"The song-writing is a little more straightforward. It has elements of punk music but also folk-rock and indie-rock, And both members sing, so there's lots of harmonies."
Since forming the group in 2001, Mr. MacKaye and Ms. Farina have recorded three albums: "The Evens: (2005), "Get Evens" (2006), and "The Odds" (2012). Their record company -- Dischord Records -- is owned by Mr. MacKaye.
The Washington Post described their sound as "what happens when post-hardcore becomes post-post-hardcore."
"I think there will be a lot of younger people there tonight because of the history," Mr. Moslen said. "Because both members played in such important punk bands. But I think we're also going to get a lot of older people for the same reason. It's pretty likable music. It's pretty easy to listen to."
You can decide for yourself at Union Project, 801 N. Negley Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. and there is a $6 cover.
And it's an all-ages show.
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 email@example.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/