Pittsburgh's Ear for Music

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"Songbird giving yourself away, got nothing to lose" - Keith Caputo

What an interesting time for music. Between active discussions about the future of music (is it in live shows? merchandise? indy labels?), the state of music (it sucks! it's awesome! it's electronic! it's acoustic!), there is no shortage on discourse.

Without analyzing too much about what each individual experience means to the future of music as a whole, I offer these recent anecdotes from several different types of musicians.

The Police: at Post-Gazette Pavillion
Sold out amphitheater-type show outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Note on the venue: PGP has a gravel parking lot, and lawn seats = spikey hay to cover up mud. An hour outside of the city. Really shitty parking lot. Not a place to do much tailgating. Ultimately, Post-Gazette, not a news-worthy venue at all.
Though a lot of these songs were well known to almost the entire audience, the band managed to change all of them slightly, turning years of pop anthems into a delicately intricate set. Nothing shaking, nothing ground-breaking, but good music to jam along to, drink or smoke a bit. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, went home, went to work the next day, just keep on keepin' on.

Radiohead: at Post-Gazette Pavillion

Sold out amphitheater-type show outside of Cleveland, OH. Note on the venue: Blossom is gorgeous. Would happily have watched Radiohead from the parking lot. Inside was just as nice. Trees in the lawn area! A bridge leading to the doors! Very helpful staff members who, after only mild hedging, offered to pay for a tire which we popped in the parking lawn thanks to some litterbugs leaving an excess of glass bottles, which broke (and our parking orchestrator subsequently having us drive over this pile).
The ability for them to captivate a crowd was just brilliant. So much for arena rock being dead: these guys are simply a new take on a new perspective. They may have created the perspective, but they've reinvented it so many times, that perhaps people forget that these guys catered to the outcasts way before the hipsters. Perhaps people just feel more like outcasts in general, living in a world where no news is the only good news and it's hard to find an honest smile on the street...
And, it was hard to go to work the next day. Nearly everyone I knew called off the next day. A few of us girls decided we were going to tour with Radiohead. I think I still might. Nearly everyone talked about leaving their jobs, setting off in a new cultural direction. It was like Phish or the Dead shows. It was beautiful.

Bob Dylan: at New American Music Union

Sold out outdoor day-festival at the South Side Works, in Pittsburgh. Note on the venue: Way to go, AE! This boring parking lot was redesigned for the weekend into an outdoor festival location. I am glad I didn't buy tickets, however, because the lawn on the river was much more cozy than the cement standing-room-only area inside. Why not redevelop this parking lot - which is not even a public lot - into a permanent outdoor venue? It would be beautiful, you could have free shows all the time, people could go shopping before and after the shows, everyone benefits.
It simply sounds like Mr. Dylan doesn't care anymore. He played the songs with little energy. Many people seemed to be there for Gnarles Barkley or the Raconteurs anyway, so it shouldn't have mattered to them. Spoon and the Raconteurs were pleasant surprises as well, very glad to have caught these sets.
Dylan does change up his themes as was mentioned for the Police, but he does it in such a way that completely obscures even his most popular song. "Like a Rolling Stone" was perhaps the only recognizable tune, which he performed as an encore before being rushed into his van and promptly escorted out of the cesspool of southside (is this what they told him about us? or is he just not supposed to have that much fresh air in a day?).
Now, as a life-long fan of Dylan, and someone who can perhaps begin to appreciate where the choices he has made throughout his career stem from, I can see why it would be important to bust a groove to the van right after the show. I can also appreciate that he probably gets sent to him thousand of demo-tapes per month. However, does it really take 3 or 4 cronies to slam a door in my boyfriend's face when he's trying to give you my band's demo tape? That seems excessive.

Keith Caputo of Life of Agony: at Club Cafe

Ill-attended evening club/cafe-type show. Note on the venue: Why does no one go to club cafe anymore? The venue is really a nice stage to perform on, the ticket prices are cheap, and they do a lot of good shows there! It was promoted in the CP, but I don't know how many people read the city paper. I didn't when I was in college, and I'm less inclined to these days. I see way more stuff online, but so little from Pittsburgh. Every musician that's ever come through here says it's a tough town to play in, and every local musician says there's an awesome scene but no way to find out about it. WHAT IS OUR PROBLEM???
Either way, this was my favorite show of the bunch, with the exception of Radiohead which was less of a show and more of a religious experience. It did go to show that rock is just no longer "rock and roll", when the bulk of the young rock stars I know show up at Radiohead, an experimental and melodic noise band for the most part, and not at one of the great cult heroes shows (for 1/6th the cost). There are still bands that do it, but it's just not as interesting to people. When admen can turn selling angst into a business, the alternative kids find new outlets for your frustrations. And the alternative kids of today create the admen's business of tomarrow. It's a fucked system, sure, but, as Keith said, "this is America. Land of the thieves, Home of the Slaves".
Thanks for the experience, Dave. Owe ya one.

And, while searching for that Keith Caputo quotation, I stumbled across a video from Jacob Golden. Beautifully composed song, and touching voice. Check him out:

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