Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tonight's Setlist: 1/25/15 Weather Permitting (Winter), New Bohemian, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Shakin' the walls at ol' St. Wenceslaus...

St. Wenceslaus, an old Polish church on Pittsburgh's North Side, has been converted into the New Bohemian, an awesome artspace/tattoo studio/host for today's Winter Weather Permitting food/music/beer extravaganza.

We played an acoustic set with Dave on congas for the first time, and it went over well. We cranked up "Friend of the Devil" to the original tempo and cast a nod to ska group and co-headliners The Pressure with an old-school Wailers tune, complete with a little spur'o'the moment "Bend Down Low" tease thrown in because I was listening to it over breakfast this morning!

Click here to download/stream the set, courtesy of

One set:
Gentleman of Leisure (J. Winchester)
New Mexican Shuffle*
Mother's Meth Head Blues*
Friend of the Devil (Dead)
Garden of Eden (New Riders of the Purple Sage) >
Let Him Go (Marley/Tosh/Livingston) >
Bend Down Low tease (Marley) > Let Him Go
Ophelia (The Band)
Back on the Train (Phish)


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Friday's Setlist: 1/16/15, Bloomfest 'Rock Against Racism,' Poppy's, Pgh., Pa.

'Father Joe falls out the bar,
Singin' hope that you know where you are...'

We played our first all-original setlist tonight. Having only 25 minutes makes it easier to do! Due to the rush getting on and offstage — there were eight groups at our venue, with a super-tight schedule that we pretty much stuck to, rare for such a large group of musicians! — I didn't record the set.

Thanks to the folks at Poppy's, Self Cyphadeen, Ferdinand the Bull, Wire Riots and everyone else who contributed great music to a great night all over Bloomfield:

All originals:
Quite a Night (in Spain)
Mother's Meth Head Blues
New Mexican Shuffle
That's It

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tonight's Setlist: 1/10/15, Thunderbird Café, Pgh., Pa (w/Kyle Lawson Band)

'The piano has been drinking,
my necktie is asleep...'

In the immortal words of Ric Flair: "WOOOOOO!"

It was a great night sharing the stage with the Kyle Lawson Band at Thunderbird Café. We debuted a new original as well as a personal favorite, a cover of Tom Waits' gin-soaked ode to shitty bars, "The Piano Has Been Drinking."

Click here to download/stream the set, courtesy of

One set:
Mother's Meth Head Blues*
Quite a Night (in Spain)*
That's It*
Feelin' Alright (S. Winwood)
Half-Steppin' Jam > Feelin' Alright >
Les Brers in A Minor (D. Betts/G. Allman) >
'Spooky Jam' > Les Brers Reprise >
Rain (Lennon/McCartney) >
The Piano Has Been Drinking (T. Waits) >
China Cat Sunflower (Dead) >
Werewolves of London (W. Zevon)
Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning (D. Van Ronk) >
Don't Let Go (J. Stone)

^First time played

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Eve Setlist: 12/31/14 Park House, Pgh., Pa.

'He got a snakeskin sportshirt,
and he looks like Vincent Price...'

A little Dead. A dash of Tom Waits. Sprinkle in some bluegrass and a few completely unrehearsed tunes and you got our acoustic New Year's Eve at the Park House on the North Side. Free peanuts, shells on the floor, delicious falafel and pitas and plenty of booze. 

Click here to stream/download the set, courtesy of

Set I (Pat):
Third Street Woman
Rain Song No. 3*
Garbage Man
Drag the Lake, Charlie
Jitterbug Boy
Peggy-O >
Leaving Louisiana
Pride of Cucamonga (inst.) >
Mother's Meth Head Blues*
I Can't Wait to Get Off Work

Set II (Pete):
Key to the Highway
Stagger Lee
Black Mountain Blues
Whinin' Boy
Love in Vain
It Hurts Me Too
You've Been a Good Old Wagon
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
In the Pines
Fare Thee Well, Titanic
He Was a Friend of Mine
Hesitation Blues

Set III (Pat & Pete):
Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Spooky (inst./false start)
New Year's Countdown/Auld Lang Syne
Ramble On Rose
Jimmy Olsen's Blues
Cocaine Blues
Big River
The One That Got Away >
Back on the Train


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

COMING SOON! Charlie Hustle & the Grifters — Live!

"American Horror Story: Freak Show" is running way off the rails. I've given up on trying to rationalize its insanity by way of reviews.

So why not take the opportunity to invite you all to one of two upcoming Charlie Hustle & the Grifters shows in the Pittsburgh area?

• Jan. 10, 9 p.m., at Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler St. (poster above), in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood. We're double-billing with our buddies in the Kyle Lawson Band for a night of blues, folk, funk, soul and more. $7/21+. Check out Thunderbird's page for more info.

• Jan. 25, 3-8 p.m. at the New Bohemian, 887 Progress St., on the North Side. We're one of three bands (the others are The Working Poor and The Pressure) playing throughout the day. $10/All-ages, kids are free. There will be beer available from Rock Bottom and food trucks as well (I can only hope one will be the Lomito truck.) Check out the Facebook event page for more info.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'American Horror Story: Freak Show': S04E06: 'Bullseye' [SPOILERS]

I feel like this was basically the look on  Ryan Murphy's face
when he wrote both Ma-Petit-Gets-Killed-
OR-DOES-SHE-hehehe scenes...

I got news for you, Ryan Murphy: deliberately staging scenes where it appears that characters get killed and then revealing (over and over again) that HEY NOW LOOK WHAT I DID THERE, THEY'RE STILL ALIVE is not clever writing. If anything, it's the opposite. It's a lazy way of manufacturing drama where, currently, there is little to none.

The second Paul volunteered to be strapped into the Wheel of Death, anyone who didn't know exactly what was about to happen hasn't been watching the same show I've been watching. Although, if scheming-ass Elsa Mars DID gut him with the intention of making it seem accidental, I gotta say: hitting his torso, the one part of his body that's essentially spinning in place? Not a great plan if you fancy yourself an expert knife-tosser, who would never throw at that spot. It's a guaranteed hit.

I was really hoping Jimmy and Desiree would get together. It doesn't appear that's the case now. Jimmy's been set up as a fairly smart kid, it's hard to believe that he believes Esmeralda's sudden change of heart.

Common sentiment on the comment boards is that Stanley's as-yet-unseen-but-apparently-gigantic penis is what's ultimately going to end up in the American Morbidity Museum, and that's hard to argue against. What kind of con man's plan includes murder? At that point, it's not a confidence scam... it's murder for profit. The whole idea behind the concept is to get away with no one the wiser, not someone the deader. And forcibly enlisting someone in your bloody confidence scam... really? If Stan is any kind of con man, he should be able to make enough small-scheme money to at least get by. I need some sort of rationale for his urgency.

I'm doing a lot of complaining, especially for an episode that so many people have praised, but this one just didn't do it for me. Even Dandy, who has a world of murderous potential for character development, is getting a little old — although, "There's nothing left but the dust, and the scorpions inside me" is a great piece of dialogue. Props.

Lots of things have been set up that could pay off, though: Desiree's abandonment of Dell and his recruitment by Stanley... Jimmy and Esmeralda's attempt to run away from the circus, which would be a coy little trope reversal... Ethel maybe following through on her threat to kill Elsa... and whatever batshit insanity Elsa undertakes when she finds out there are no plans in the works for her namesake television show.

Once again, though, the loss of Twisty is very apparent. Dandy's descent into empty, raging homicidal insanity has some appeal and as I mentioned earlier, a lot of potential. But did we really need another scene of him getting all petulant and tantrum-y, this time when the Tattler twins wouldn't "play by the rules"? Not really. 

More to come...? Possibly. Re-watching it with the wife later tonight...

Friday, November 7, 2014

'American Horror Story: Freak Show': 'Edward Mordrake, Pts. 1 & 2,' 'Pink Cupcakes' [SPOILERS] which the murdering serial-killer clown somehow
becomes a sympathetic figure — yet remains murderous
and serial-killery...

"Edward Mordrake, Pt. 1" set the stage for a few dark tales of redemption. The second half provided a very unexpected example of those tales, one that managed to turn what we all thought was this season's Big Badguy into a halfway-sympathetic figure and a ghost to boot.

Wes Bentley's bad-but-good accent — which I finally placed: Maid Marian from "Robin Hood: Men in Tights"... I figured it out between episodes and every time he spoke in "Pt. 2," I could only hear, "Oh Robin... I'm so heppay!" — and bad-but-good second face prosthetic were an effective method of exploring multiple characters' backstories, revealing their humanity, frailty and pain.

But Twisty's story was the best of all. My only issue is that, owing to his general demeanor and the dwarves' "Simpleton" nickname for him, Twisty is an intellectually-stunted man-child. The Twisty we were introduced to seemed to convey more intelligence and intent, which is a credit to John Carroll Lynch's ability to emote with only the top half of his face. But screw it, let's not quibble. 

Now it seems the true Big Badguy is dear ol' Dandy Mott, who started out pretty terrifying when he strapped on Twisty's mask (was I the only one expecting his immature side to cut through an otherwise-transformative moment and hear him go, "Oh God, that stinks!"). What wasn't so terrifying was the lazy "American Psycho" homage, which lacked only an overlong explanation of why Kay Starr's "Wheel of Fortune" is the perfect song for their day and age. (That is a fantastic song, by the way. I first heard it on the "L.A. Confidential" soundtrack. Kay Starr's whole catalog is pretty great.)

But even in his butchering of poor Andy — which will surely bring the finger-cracking wrath of Dell Toledo, Closet Strongman Who Has Yet to Perform Any Feat of Strength Onstage — Dandy was more of a morbid curiosity than a terror. He should have left the mask on when he came home to Mother. A blood-drenched Dandy with that cancerous grin would have been the perfect image to end the episode.

Back to Mordrake for a few moments. The cheesiness of the green fog aside, I have a few observations about his, and his gang's, brief run:

• Tall Skinny Black Dude is super-creepy.
• Mordrake's grainy-film-stock backstory was great.
• The rest of the gang has their gruesome injuries and retains their freak qualities — why does Twisty get his jaw back?
• Say it with me: I'm so heppay.

"Pink Cupcakes" was all about fantasy. In fact, it was SO much about fantasy that until I re-watched it, I wasn't really sure that Dandy killed Andy. I'm actually STILL not sure, because who the hell could 1) survive being stabbed in the chest and lungs several times, and in the heart at least twice, by my count... 2) then take another baker's dozen stabs in the back... 3) THEN, IF BY SOME NIGHTMARISH MEDICAL MIRACLE YOU'RE STILL ALIVE, NOT WAKE UP when the first of your arms gets sawed off? I mean, Dandy is shown coming home to Gloria at the end of the episode, so I presume the whole thing really happened. But this is Ryan Murphy, so... who knows?

Speaking of Ryan Murphy, is anyone else kind of surprised that all of the villains this season are basically closeted homosexuals? I'm taking a leap with Dandy — he may be asexual, for all I know — but Dell, Stanley... what's up with that? 

One thing I really liked is Elsa's realization that her talent — which is not all that great in the first place — is being wasted on south-Florida townies. Without the novelty and anachronism of its debut, her "Life on Mars" performance got revealed for what it was: an aging torch singer who's just kind of okay.

And I don't care what anyone says: Dandy is not as frightening as Twisty. Not now that he's essentially Patrick Bateman with a mask and a doting mother. But I don't think I'll ever get tired of Gloria Mott's grand acceptance of the perils of wealth. ("Cousins marry cousins to protect the money" ... "It becomes rite of passage to have a psychopath or two in the line... Jack the Ripper was a Windsor, for God's sake"... never change, Gloria).

I tire of Jimmy's self-loathing. Do something to avenge Meep or don't, Sonny Jim. What you probably don't need to do is finger-bang Angela Bassett right into the doc's office. That's not gonna end well. Desiree's discover of herself as 100% woman, her desire to "feel something" combined with her moving into Ethel's caravan is gonna drive her right into Jimmy's arms. 

And right into Dell's misplaced rage when he inevitably discovers that Andy is dead. I really, really hope Dandy dissolved the whole corpse, as horrible as that sounds.... I truly shudder to think what Dell might do if he finds it.

The denouement of the Mordrake episodes was surprisingly emotional. This week's episode picks up the tone the early installments established. But Twisty's absence was very noticeable, and most of the supporting cast, who have been woven rather well into all the episodes, were largely relegated to the background this week. I'm interested to see the Mott's plot to keep Dandy's habit under wraps ... I've learned not to put any stock in the teasers, so it's pretty hard for me to believe that all with all this talk of inbreeding, Gloria would want a two-headed daughter-in-law to have her grandbabies. 

Then again, the sixth episode is right about the time "Coven" started to run off the rails. Some of the hectic fantasy/reality editing and general weirdness of "Pink Cupcakes" had me feeling like this season may be starting to tilt and wobble. Time will tell.