REVIEW: The Nothing Happens Tour at Mr. Smalls Theatre

Words and photos: Abigail McNatt

Following the release of their debut album, Nothing Happens in 2019, Wallows hit the road to celebrate their album’s success. On February 26th, the tour came to Mr. Smalls Theatre, just on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. As an opener, they brought along Penelope Isles from the UK. 
Penelope Isles could be described as Indie pop, but with a more mellow and chill vibe thrown in. For an opener, I noticed a lot of people in the audience singing along to every word. That’s not something you see too often with opening bands. The audience was singing along as well as jamming as Penelope Isles incorporated their jam sequences to their songs which were a lot of fun and entertaining to watch! I really loved seeing Lily Wolter, the lead vocalist, and the energy and passion she put into her craft. Isles was the perfect opening act to bring in the crowd for the headliner.
Wallows came on about a half-hour later. The show was completely sold out and the venue was packed. The crowd went wild as soon as frontman, Dylan Minnette, came out on stage. They started with “Do Not Wait”, the closing song on their album, Nothing Happens. Throughout their set, they played a multitude of songs from the album such as “Scrawny”, “I’m Full”, and “Sidelines”. For a chill indie band, they really bring the heat to their performances. They have a sound that is smooth but also high energy. I noticed during one of their more high energy ones, a few people tried to crowd surf.. which did not last long. As I made my way through the crowd, I saw the awe in the audience member’s eyes as they all sang along to every word. Another one of their popular songs, which made the setlist, was “Sun Tan“, which has extreme summer vibes all throughout, which was a breath of fresh air with all the rain and low temperatures outside. They ended the night with an encore of their most popular songs, both off of the new album; “Treacherous Doctor” and “Are You Bored Yet?”. In “Are You Bored Yet?”, there is a feature from Clairo, which the audience sang in full, and the band just listened. Such a cool moment. They ended the night with a bang, surely leaving the crowd completely satisfied and already yearning for another show. 
I’d never seen Wallows but I highly enjoyed their performance. They were extremely fun to watch on stage and they really enjoy what they do and the music they play. 
Catch them on one of the remaining dates of the Nothing Happens Tour this year.

Review: The Blue Stones and JJ Wilde at ThunderBird Cafe

Photos and Review by Tess Casto

Duo band The Blue Stones and opener JJ Wilde brought a memorable performance at the Thunderbird Cafe in Pittsburgh. The energy being brought to the crowd was nothing short of spectacular. The love is shown to both band to the audience and vice versa was appropriate for such an occasion on Valentine’s Day date. 

JJ Wilde who has been active on the scene for over a few years brought nothing but an emotional performance. The set may have only been nine songs, but it was long enough to take me on an unforgettable journey through the eyes and vocals of a young woman trying to figure out life. The intensity in her singing clearly showed the honesty behind the lyrics. I’ve seen this promising individual three times now. She proves time and time again that she is capable of maintaining her authenticity. She is a down to earth individual who isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. All of her written work and songs demonstrate this vulnerable asset well. Her songs touch upon the basis of mental health, the highs, and lows that come with life, and so much more. During “Funeral For A Lover”, she momentarily spoke of the meaning behind the song. Essentially, it shares the message of talking about mental health openly. That the stigma surrounding one struggling with wellness within should cease. As an individual who suffers from depression and anxiety, it hit home. To have an artist acknowledge the topic and bring awareness is a beautiful thing. If you have yet to check out JJ Wilde, I highly suggest you doing so. She’s an artist who deserves nothing but success.

JJ had the set bar high for the night, so The Blue Stones had to follow up with something indelible. Without a second thought, the duo had done just that. Though only compromised of two people, their execution was filled with momentum, which flourished and carried throughout. For a few brief pauses, Tarek and Justin thanked the fans and audience who came to support them. That made this concert so much more personal. Seeing smaller artists reminds you that every purchase made supports them to keep living their dreams. 

S&T Bank offers customer perks at S&T Bank Music Park in Burgettstown (Pittsburgh)

So, by now you should have heard somewhere on Pittsburgh media how S & T Bank has become the newest outfit to acquire the naming rights to the outdoor amphitheater in Burgettstown, PA. What you may have missed is what that means to S & T customers and employees that may make you rethink your banking choices.

On Sat., Jan. 4th Live Nation and S & T Bank hosted a press event at Cinemark Robinson Theater to announce that the amphitheater, formerly known as KeyBank, or Post Gazette, or Coca Cola, but always lovingly called Star Lake by ‘Burghers, is now S & T Music Park. A lot of changes are in the early planning stages but nothing has a specific timeline on it (and yes I asked about the screens and that is a top priority to look at). What music lovers can count on are some perks if they do any banking with S & T.

The Uniontown, PA-based bank announced that customers and employees will have access to pre-sale tickets with no fees (and we all know those fees can certainly add up), as well as entry into the S & T Entertainment Lounge, free lawn chairs, and more to come. The ability to rack up a $30-$40 fee is certainly an incentive to open an account along with treating customers like VIP’s.

Lots of shows have been announced already including Jimmy Buffet, Rascall Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Ozzy with Marilyn Manson, Maroon 5 with Meghan Trainor, Journey and The Pretenders, Chicago and Rick Springfield, The Black Crowes, The Doobie Brothers, and KISS with David Lee Roth. We expect much more to come with the total of shows a few more than last year’s events. (check out www.livenationentertainment.com)

In addition, S & T Bank will be launching a financial literacy program where students from local schools will learn about the music business from Live Nation employees, financial planning, investing for the future, and how to start and run a business. In addition, when possible, the students will also get to attend a show.

The press event itself was a great event with all the Live Nation and S & T bigwigs in attendance. A KISS impersonator duo took pictures with everyone and played a two-song set dressed as Ace and Gene. Attendees were treated with concessions, some S & T swag, and a private viewing of Jumanji 2.

See you at the opener for the season June 11 with Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson

All photos AWeldingphoto  © 2020

Steel Panther Proves That Heavy Metal is Alive and Well in Cleveland

by Emmy Susani

I’ve had the privilege of seeing this outlandish group so many times
I’ve lost count. Their stage presence, humor, and musical talent never fail.
These guys are one of a kind. Not much can be said about this group that hasn’t been said already. This scandalous band has been breaking walls down since they burst onto the scene in 2009.

Stitched Up Heart is support for this leg of the tour. The group was founded in 2010 by vocalist Alecia ‘Mixi’ Demner, and the current line-up consists of James Decker – drums/backing vocals, Merritt Goodwin – lead guitar and Randy Mathias – bass/backing vocals.

This group really surprised me with how energic they are on stage and how they captivated the crowd when I wasn’t expecting them to.
I’ve been a casual fan of them for a long time, but I didn’t feel like
they fit the bill. I am one to admit when I am wrong and boy, was I wrong.
They put on a fantastic set and I would love to see SP bring them out on the road again.

The boys have been touring in promotion of their fifth studio record
“Heavy Metal Rules’ which came out back in September.

One doesn’t exactly go to a Steel Panther show without knowing what
you’re getting into (except for me but that story is for another time.)
Their show is a sexual explosion met with comedic banters, catchy riffs,
and lots of hair spray. Their show never disappoints, the energy and the
undeniable talent of these musicians are incredible.

This band is killing it right now, and at the very top of their game.
I try to take new fans or people who haven’t heard of them before to their
shows, and every single time their show makes these people into new fans.
If Steel Panther is coming to a city near you, Do not miss the chance to see them.

All photos Emmy Susani © 2019

Mexican acoustic rock duo Rodrigo y Gabriela rock the Roxian (METTAVOLUTION Tour Pittsburgh with Ida Mae)

It has been five years since Mexican acoustic rock duo Gabriela y Rodrigo put out new music. It’s not that they have been lazy by any means, but they did spend three years working on their new release METTAVOLUTION. Mettavolution brings together Rod and Gab’s passionate interest in Buddhism, the history of human evolution and the liberation of the potential we have as a species; all expressed through the medium of two acoustic guitars. Conceived and composed in their studio in Ixtapa on the Mexican Pacific Coast, then road-tested in South America and the USA in 2017, before more fine-tuning and further tweaks on their Australian tour of 2018, a long list of new material has been distilled down to six new Rodrigo y Gabriela compositions and one audacious, jaw-dropping cover version ( http://www.rodgab.com/ ).

Returning to Pittsburgh and recognizing that they rarely play here, Rodrigo and Gabriela treated the audience to an amazing guitar performance using minimal lighting and the intimacy that the Roxian Theater provides which made for an outstanding evening. Playing roughly fourteen songs, the duo went through some of their earlier work but concentrated mainly on their new album. For many, it was a chance to witness classics such as “Diablo Roja” and also hear the new cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”.

Rodrigo came out with an electric guitar at first to accompany Gabriela on “Krotona Days” from their new LP which added a twist to their usual acoustic enrichments. As they rolled through their set it was hard not to step back and be astonished at their true brilliance. A true highlight of the evening was hearing them speak about their music and it’s meaning to the crowd and of course Gabriela’s solo.

The two have come a long way from their early days playing in Dublin after they became frustrated with the music scene in Mexico City. Now an international sensation due to their originals and seemingly impossible cover of Metallica’s “Orion” and a soul bending rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, the two have become as ‘musician’s musicians’. It would be an absolute travesty if they did not return to Pittsburgh and blow our minds again.

Openers, Ida Mae, are a married couple out of England via Nashville. Their style of American roots music was refreshing. Lead singer and guitarist Chris Turpin plays his dobro or his 100-year-old acoustic like it was another appendage. But its the soul that comes from his fingertips that is truly astonishing. Chris’ wife, Stephanie Jean, sings mainly in accompaniment and uses percussion to round out their authentic sound. Check out their debut album, Chasing Lights recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio in Bath, England. https://idamaemusic.com/

TOOL takes Pittsburgh on an existential trip

The anticipation of Tool returning to Pittsburgh with all-new material was indeed peak, to say the least. Although the music release hiatus had been 13 years since 10,000 Days, Pittsburgh had been able to see Tool as close back as June of 2017 at Peterson Events Center. But PPG Events Center is a whole different ballgame and the inclusion of tunes from Fear Inoculum made for a doubleheader of goodies, including opener Killing Joke.

Starting off with the ten-plus minute Fear Inoculum behind a stringed curtain, the band launched into their signature tight sound. The acoustics were amazing with the addition of carefully placed speakers in the back of the arena as well as in the middle. making for an incredible audible experience. Add to this the mind-bending visuals that Tool is known for and you have the makings of a serious trip without the need of any substances. The band went into an “oldie” with Ænema from the album of the same name and Parabol and Parabola from Lateralus. Maynard, as usual, kept to the back reaches of the stage upon a platform dressed in punk regalia and adorned with a black mohawk and blacked out raccoon eyes. His intensity and singing prowess are hard to match as he was absolutely captivating even with an economy of movement.

The tightness of Tool is unquestionable and the interplay between Jones (guitar) and Chancellor (bass) is plain ridiculous add to that Carey’s percussion, which is arguably the absolute best, and the sound is downright mindblowing. They are certainly at the top of their game and their new music goes to prove it, especially since the new LP shot up to number one on the Billboards Top 200 chart on its debut. But of course the ‘older’ tunes are often what crowds come to hear and Tool did not disappoint with incredible renditions of Schism, Vicarious, Jambi, Forty-Six and Two, and of course Stinkfist. There will always be ones you want to hear, but in the end, it was a very good mix of their past and present (setlist after picture gallery).

Openers Killing Joke are absolute legends and have been around since the late ’70s. Their mark on industrial rock/metal is highly regarded and of course, bands like Tool took a lot from their influence. Metallica might have been the biggest to pay homage by recording Killing Joke’s “The Wait”, Helmet covered “Primitive”, Foo Fighters did “Requiem”, Fear Factory did “Millenium” and bands like Soundgarden, Ministry, Faith No More, Marilyn Manson, and Nirvana have all spoken of their greatness. The current line-up has Jaz Coleman on vocals, Geordie Walker on guitar, Youth on bass, and Paul Ferguson on drums, and Roi Robertson (of Mechanical Cabaret) on keyboards. Some of the audience may not have gotten some of Jaz’s theatrics but the music certainly won the crowd over by the end.

Hopefully, we will not have to wait 13 more years for new Tool and the next time they roll through town they will hopefully bring a legendary opener with them again. It will definitely go down as one of Tool’s best performances in this city and will take quite a bit to top it, which we know they will.

  1. Fear Inoculum
  2. Ænema
  3. Parabol
  4. Parabola
  5. Pneuma
  6. Schism(extended)
  7. Jambi
  8. Vicarious(extended intro featuring ‘Merkaba’)
  9. Descending
  10. Forty Six & 2
  11. Intermission
  12. Chocolate Chip Trip
  13. Invincible
  14. Stinkfist(extended)

Missio + The Score @TheClub at Stage AE

Words and Pix Sarah L. Wilson

photo: Sarah L. Wilson

The Club at StageAE has hosted some awesome bands and the two last night fit right in! A fantastic show from straight out of the gate from openers The Score. High energy, catchy tunes and super energy. The main event blew in on the second date of the current tour and blew the place away! Sometimes a band hits the stage and yeah, they’re awesome but sometimes they’re freaking blinding and that was Missio! From Twisted to Deep Blue to Middle Fingers, Missio were on it last night. They may have been playing the club but if there is any justice in this world, these guys will be in the big room, where they deserve to be by the time they roar through The Pitts again. 

Matt and Kim at Stage AE Pittsburgh

photo: Sarah L. Wilson

Sarah L. Wilson- text and photos

Matt & Kim busted out in true Matt & Kim style with blinding energy last night at Stage AE. First up, the bouncy crowd favorite “Daylight”,  prompting Matt to joke that that will teach people to come late and miss their favorite song! The pure energy is palpable and contagious! This was the second show of the tour celebrating the ten year anniversary of their “Grand” album, an album they played in full last night! A great night of banter, music, dancing, music and a deserved celebration of a truly Grand career, so far, just like one has come to expect from these fantastic humans! 

Ghost leaves a haunting impression in Youngstown

To say that the band Ghost has gone through changes since their first album is an understatement. If you follow the band you probably have a clue as to how the nameless ghouls have been shuffled in and out over the years with the only constant being the man behind the mask, Tobia Forge. Love them or hate them, Ghost has left an impression on the rock n roll world and Tobias’ genius has left them in the somewhat uncategorizable column. Part metal, part classic rock, part pop, part dance, part humor, part horror…you get the idea. But in order to grow what started out as a side project into an arena band has taken some playing with the formula.

Skipping what many long loving Ghost devotees have come to see as tradition, the opening intro of Joycelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball” from Eyes Wide Shut was nowhere to be heard, the incense was nowhere to be smelled, but the anticipation was nevertheless mega-high. Hitting the stage from the side, Cardinal Copia (Forge) belted out “Ashes” from their last full release, Prequelle. As the band and the Cardinal blasted through “Rats” and “Faith” (also from Prequelle) a few things became apparent. First off, the band and Copia were in peak form having had plenty of time to gel since the same ghouls have been together touring since the ‘A Pale Tour Named Death’ theater run and all the European tour opening for Metallica. Secondly, the stage was very wide open like only an arena type show can handle. Some may see this as a great thing and some bad. The Ghost that many fell in love with and saw as ‘their band’ is no longer a dirty little secret. Major radio play has a tendency to do that. So, the blasphemy is a bit down and the camp is quite a bit up.

The various incarnations of Papa’s and the current Cardinal all used humor to enhance the show and offset what some would call ‘devil worship’ but really is just the love of horror films and not far from what Sabbath/Ozzy, KISS, Alice, Mercyful Fate, etc. etc. have been doing for ages. It’s entertainment pure and simple. But as Tobias may have had the goal of doing the arena shows, he has lost a bit of that element that made Ghost shows so special. There was an intimacy and connection that is much harder to come by at a large show, even at half-house like the Covelli Center was last Thursday. Maybe that’s just a fan bemoaning losing their fave to the masses, but while the large scale pyro and lighting are nice, there seems to be a missing element in spots.

Hearing the recently released songs “Mary on a Cross” and “Kiss The Go-Goat” was undoubtedly a ton of fun along with the usual banter from Tobias, even if the Cardinal looks like the bastard child of Father Guido Sarducci and Vincent Price. It will be super exciting to see Papa IV either take his place or see Copia morph into the role next album cycle as Forge has promised. Other big highlights were “Cirice”, “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen”, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”, “Year Zero” and ” Square Hammer”. But gone were huge faves “Monstrance Clock”, traditionally the closer, the heaviest tune and most killer bass line from the first record (Opus Eponymous) “Con Clavi Con Dio” as well as the acoustic version of “Jigolo Har Meggido”. Of course, this is to be expected as a band grows, but it does not stop one from missing it.

All in all, Ghost was impeccable, the band had a bit more time to play instrumentals which really showed their chops and Tobias’ voice was outstanding as he hit some seriously challenging notes. This will be the last time to see the band as they ride into their first decade, of what will sure to be many, for the Tobias is taking 2020 off to write, record, and spend some much deserved time with family. His direction is rumored to be back to “riffage” and some heavier tunes as Prequelle was a bit ballad-heavy. Let us hope he is true to his word and he pairs that heaviness with a creepy Papa (maybe a red skull?) back to the Tri-State area in 2021.