Friday, July 25, 2014

Reignwolf at Brillobox, with Shaky Shrines - Concert Preview and Ticket Giveaway - July 30, 2014

In March, Pittsburgh got a visit from Gary Clark Jr., one of the most badass blues guitarists on the planet today. And on Sunday, Jack White comes to town.

Next week, at Brillobox, we get a visit from another one of the greats.

Jordan Cook, aka Reignwolf, is on his way to becoming a legend. He doesn't even have an EP to his name, let alone a full album, yet he's spent his summer so far playing at some of Europe's largest festivals: Glastonbury, Eurock√©ennes, Impact, Download - to name a few. Before that he was opening for Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath. And in 2013 he opened for a little band that goes by Pixies. 

Cook is from Saskatchewan but he's called Seattle home for the past few years. He's 30 now, which means he's been playing guitar for about 28 years. In an interview, Cook told the Seattle Met : "I actually failed grade one because I was so heavily into guitar. My mom always says, while other kids were out playing baseball and basketball in front of the house, I would be downstairs rattling the china cabinets."

The article continues: "By age five, Cook was playing afternoon jam sessions at the local blues club; by nine, he was touring western Canada with his band of elementary school friends."

Just watch this video, of him performing live on KEXP, to get a sense of what's in store for Wednesday: 

This is the same KEXP that, on their blog, described Reignwolf as "Robert Plant meets Layla-era Eric Clapton meets Stevie Ray Vaughan meets Jack White." 

We have a pair of tickets to giveaway to this show. Enter by emailing your name to, and put "reignwolf" in the subject line.

Somehow, tickets are still available via Ticketweb. $15, doors at 9. Pittsburgh psychedelic rockers Shaky Shrines open.

-- B. Conway

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Club Cafe, with Wicked Chief - Concert Review and Photos - July 24, 2014

CYHSY at Club Cafe 7/24/14. All photos (c) PMR

Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has a pleasant speaking voice that would play well on public radio. I could listen to him coo traffic updates and stock reports all day long, from the comfort of an overstuffed leather chair, sipping from my tiny cup of espresso. Yet when he sings its an altogether different voice, yet it too is pleasant one.

My friend Matt, who came with me to the show, said that Ounsworth's singing reminded him of a combination of Bob Dylan, Andrew Bird, and Thom Yorke. I don't know about Bird, but many of the songs I heard Thursday began with that relaxed delivery reminiscent of Dylan. Ounsworth rides this plainspoken entry into a yelping, near-falsetto peak in nearly every one of the tracks. It's certainly unconventional, even jarring at first, but it adds an emotive heft to the tracks quite nicely, and pretty soon its just another part of the sonic tapestry.

The band's new album, Only Run, didn't feature as prominently in the setlist as one might expect, though this was the opening night of the tour, so maybe they'll ease some new tracks into the repertoire over time. That album, which just came out a few months ago, instantly reminded me of Radiohead. After seeing CYHSY live, and hearing Ounsworth's emotive delivery backed by equal parts synths and guitar, I still think that the analogy fits. And while Radiohead is certainly not a bad band to be compared to, I don't want the comparison to minimize what they've accomplished on this new album. I could never get into the band's first couple albums; I'm thinking now they needed repeated listens. But the new material clicked for me on the first go around, and I think it did in-person with the audience as well. 

The crowd was a boisterous one; they clearly hadn't read Scott Mervis' recent piece on concert etiquette. The noise from the bar seemed to get on Ounsworth's nerves a bit, as he joked between songs that he "didn't have to carry the whole room." The rowdies were shushed handily by those immersed in the set, most of whom spent the entire night dancing along. Some excellent drumming propelled the rhythm heavy songs, and it was nice to actually hear the bass for a change. 

As I said before, the singing was unconventional, but that's just part of the band's charm. I think the Radiohead comparisons came to me precisely because the band manages to be both unconventional and relatable. That's why they arrived on the scene with such a splash nearly a decade ago. And that's why they carried the crowd at Club Cafe last night. 

The highlight for me was "As Always," the leadoff track from the new album and the first of a two song encore. It was heavy, a little bit different, and had the crowd cheering for more. Hopefully it won't take so many years for the band to visit again next time. They're only six hours away in Philly, after all.

Local rockers Wicked Chief opened with a more conventional but still striking set. Their lead singer cut a dramatic figure with his long, dark hair and black shades. I only caught the last few songs but will make it a point to catch their whole set next time. They headline the Smiling Moose Saturday, August 16.

Here are some photos from the evening: 



 -- B. Conway

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kopecky Family Band and Essential Machine - Photos and Concert Review - July 19, 2014

Kelsey Kopecky and the Kopecky Family Band. Club Cafe 7/19/14. All photos (c) PMR.
Saturday was a night of fun music, pure and simple. Essential Machine opened with an up-tempo set that had the crowd dancing and singing along, not just milling about the bar and killing time like is so often the case with openers. RJ is the lead singer and his wife, Karen, plays the drums. RJ has a beard the Duck Dynasty guys would envy. A couple times I worried it was going to get caught in his guitar strings and the whole thing would end up looking something like this:

 Thankfully, nothing like this happened. 

Check out the band's track "Les Squelettes" if you haven't heard it yet. I usually think that the xylophone is a gimmicky instrument but there's something very carefree and inviting in how its used in this song.

Not ten minutes after Essential Machine finished their set and the Kopecky Family Band was on. I only caught the first five or six songs because I had been sick all weekend. The good news is that my fever finally broke sometime in the middle of "My Way." But I probably wasn't the only person in the crowd breaking out in sweats during their performance. These guys are awesome. There was six of them onstage, an impressive feat considering the size of the stage at Club Cafe, and the number of instruments they use.

The aforementioned "My Way" started off with a pretty little xylophone lick (maybe I should reconsider the xylophone) before launching off into a chorus that the whole audience shouted along with. Lead singer Gabe Simon traded his guitar for a trombone halfway through the song, then the bassist, Corey Oxendine, went and traded for one too. There were two trombones going at once! What madness! The whole performance was a lot of fun, and I only wish I could have stayed for the whole thing.

Here are some photos from the performance:



-- B. Conway