Sunday, June 03, 2007

Saturday night was one of those great nights when just like it looks like the evening is going to bottom out, there's a stunning change of events and things turn out wonderfully.

It was, as previously noted, a big weekend for local music. The approaching thunderstorms kept me away from Remora Deign at the Relay for Life. Saturday the choice was between the 5 band show at the Y or BroBean. Unwilling to be the creepy old guy with the camera at the Y, I and my posse, identifiable by our conspicuous bling and inconspicuous weapons jumped in the hooptie and headed to Seneca.

Well, at least the venue part was true.

I'm not really that punctual when it comes to shows, but for whatever reason, Saturday night we showed up at exactly 7pm - there was a good sized (~30) crowd made up predominately of teen girls. Never a good sign, but I soldiered on. Robert Morris (not the early American banker and Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania as you might suppose) was on stage as the opener for the headliners, newmen (I should mention now that it takes quite a bit of control not to add the article "the" in front of their name, but, as far as I can tell, there isn't one.)

Morris is a young guy, with some rough edges and was overamped for the space, but had undeniably face appeal for the teen girls. But, in a dramtically un-pretty boy like fashion, he seems pretty dedicated to improving his craft - I overheard him pumping people for honest feedback and discussing his attempts to and frustrations at getting a full band together rather than staying solo. So, while I was really worried if I would be able to sit through a two hour set of his material (in which a lot of the songs sounded alike), his ten minute-ish set was just enough to satisfy his fan base and introduce him to some new peopleat the same time . It's hard, too, for someone his age (I'm guessing sixteen-ish) to find people who are committed to craft as he seemed. The guitarist he brought up on stage for a song or two, for instance, seemed mostly interested in mugging rather than connecting or playing.

There was a smooth transition between Morris and Newmen. The three guys, Jesse Proper(lead guitar and vocals), Kevin Proper (rythym guitar), and Chris Prenatt (bass) who make up the Titusville-area band took the stage and then Jesse turned around, knelt and a taped percussion loop filled the speakers.
Oh boy.

See, they lost their drummer and are in the process of "training" a new one, so for this show they were playing to a pre-recorded percussion. And, here's the deal, while I normally would have turned up my nose and muttered snide Ashlee Simpson remarks at my people, these three guys took what could have been a giant liability and made it work for them (although a foot pedal would have smoothed out the starting and stopping of the tracks).

They played well against the loops and with each other. One of the things that distinguish newmen from a lot of other local acts is their chops. They are tight. I mean James Brown tight (if the greatest showman on Earth had been a white guy with previous military service), clearly the product of practice, practice practice. So while at first I thought it was really odd to hear that they were "training" a new drummer, as soon as they started playing, it became clear why.

These weren't three guys playing together, this was a band. A unit was made stronger through the collective efforts and talents.

It was clear that these guys were having a good time last night. Although they had a friendly familiar crowd, they didn't mug (Kevin, for instance, has a regular guy stage charm that enables him to look goofy and proud at the same time - sort of like Ben Kweller with a headband - after a particularly good number like "Dutch Hill Down" available for preview, but, alas, not download on their myspace page). The bassist was classic for his type - quiet, confident, and proficient, stepping forward at one point to play a solo song that went over well.

Jesse has a shy stage presence which is both an advantage, in that women go for the shy thin emo guy thing (although the Mao cap he had on last night gave him a separated-at-birth vibe with Fyedka from the film version of Fiddler on the Roof), but a disadvantage in that the stage patter sort of drags and wanders as in this clip last night of "Thoughts Unspoken":
Thoughts unspoken

Jesse brought out the harp for "9 to 5 Waltz":

As you can see, he's got a folky kind of singer-songwriter vibe going, but the sound is rounded out by the other two players. What will be interesting is to see how newmen will be able to explore their sound once they re-add live percussion - they don't groove that much right now, but a drummer with some jazz chops would really add a depth that would push the band into a new more mature sounding place.

No merch table again - local bands, what do I have to do to give you my money, to plaster my gut with your t-shirts, to attach your badges to my messenger? I beseech you, take my money! That may change though. Newmen plays the Hydetown Festival June 8th and then huddles up this summer to put together a CD. I'm looking forward to buying it. And so should you.

Finally, to those of you who brought your own drinks into a coffeehouse show? Tacky, tacky, tacky. If I had been the owners, I would have given you the boot. But of course, like most people, they're nicer than I.

Jerome Wincek plays Seneca's Brother Bean this Thursday from 7-9.

Huzzah and kudos to the Franklin Public Library's Monday Evening Book Club whcih will be discussing native born author's Hildegarde Dolson's The Great Oildoradoon June 25th from 6:45-8 pm. The group is open to all and copies of the book are available at the desk.

A commercial shoot near New Castle needs an experienced set decorator for June 21& 22. Send your resume with a few photographs of previous work.

The Pittsburgh area metal fest Sincerity Fest needs a film crew:
I'd really like for someone to step up and film this fest for the DVD I plan on releasing. I have a live sound board recording set up and I'd really like for some decent to high quality footage to put along with it. We can discuss money or equipment or whatever we gotta do to make this happen.

The Alleghenies has launched an outdoor digital photo contest to highlight the scenery of the 1.8 million-acre region (Johnstown, Altoona, Raystown, Laurel Highlands, Bedford/Breezewood, McConnellsburg and State College regions).

Photos can be submitted through Oct. 21.

In a sweet Long Tail move, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has embraced the present and has begun offering burn-on-demand CDs of their performances:

. . .the seven restored PSO discs are just "the tip of the iceberg . . . [f]or the Pittsburgh Symphony. . . I am sure there are 30 or 40 discs coming."

Alexandra Bauer was crowned the marbles queen of Allegheny County and will be heading to Nationals in Wildwood NJ. I love marbles. I'm such a nerd.

French artist Lucette de Rugy and her company, Artlumiere will use the exterior of four downtown Pittsburgh buildings for her light based installations starting on Wedensay.

The NYTimes profiles summer travel books and graphic novels.

Salon interviews one of my wife's favorite authors, Berkeley Breathed

Poet William Meredtih has died:

"In Loving Memory of the Late Author of Dream Songs"

Friends making off ahead of time
on their own, I call that willful, John,
but that's not judgement, only argument
such as we've had before.
I watch a shaky man climb
a cast-iron railing in my head, on
a Mississippi bluff, though I had meant
to dissuade him. I call out, and he doesn't hear.
'Fantastic! Fantastic! Thank thee, dear Lord'
is what you said we were to write on your stone,
but you go down without so much as a note.
Did you wave jauntily, like the German ace
in a silent film, to a passerby, as the paper said?
We have to understand how you got
from here to there, a hundred feet straight down.
Though you had told us and told us,
and how it would be underground
and how it would be for us left here,
who could have plotted that swift chute
from the late height of your prizes?
For all your indignation, your voice
was part howl only, part of it was caress.
Adorable was a word you threw around,
fastidious John of the gross disguises,
and despair was another: 'this work of almost despair.'
Morale is what I think about all the time
now, what hopeful men and women can say and do.
But having to speak for you, I can't
lie. 'Let his giant faults appear, as sent
together with his virtues down,' the song says.
It says suicide is a crime
and that wives and children deserve better than this.
None of us deserved, of course, you.
Do we wave back now, or what do we do?
You were never reluctant to instruct.
I do what's in character, I look for things
to praise on the riverbanks and I praise them.
We are all relicts, of some great joy, wearing black,
but this book is full of marvelous songs.
Don't let us contract your dread recidivism
and start falling from our own iron railings.
Wave from the fat book again, make us wave back.

1 comment:

Justin said...

a great show on saturday night, indeed. (the) newmen are one of the few bands (if not the only) in the area that are producing an original sound. very impressive and quite a surprise. i only wish that i would have been able to concentrate more on the music. we sat at a table with some old guy who kept telling stories about how his dad turned all board games into checkers.
my apologies, also, to anyone whose listening euphoria was interrupted by our 3 year old and his constant need for new and exciting games.