Review: Gardens & Villa

When you hear an album from a band like Gardens & Villa, you can’t help but wonder if it’s a really talented and cohesive band, or just a couple of studio wizards slaving away at a soundboard. Both groups can create great records, but the former creates a significantly better live music experience.

Walking into Club Cafe, I really hoped that I wasn’t going to experience a few dudes who were really good at playing MacBook, and not so good at playing instruments. Fortunately, Gardens & Villa is the exact opposite. By the time they launched into their second song, “Domino,” and the lead singer started playing the flute, I knew I was in for something special.

Gardens & Villa is a different type of band from the groups that dominate the indie scene today. With a lead singer who plays guitar and flute, a dedicated synth player with an array of old 80’s synthesizers from companies that must have long since gone out of business, a bassist, drummer and another synth player, there was no need for a MacBook onstage.

As Gardens & Villa played through their two-album catalog, they deftly created a wide array of sounds using simple tools and challenging themselves to think beyond the convenience of digital, utilizing analog instruments like electric pianos and recorders to create a refreshingly original sound.

Gardens & Villa’s glittery and dark brand of synth pop brought a small but passionate crowd to the show. As the night went on, the audience started being more interactive, shouting requests and words of encouragement like, “you’re awesome!” For the last three songs, a few of the audience members who had previously been standing in the back of the show rushed to the stage and started dancing in front of an otherwise seated crowd.

I couldn’t help but get the feeling that everyone at this show had been waiting for years for Gardens & Villa to play a show in Pittsburgh. Upon ending their set, the band couldn’t even make it offstage before being commanded by the audience to play an encore. When they finally finished the encore, the audience kept shouting requests for songs that the band didn’t play, with one fan even screaming, “Play every song you know!”

While Gardens & Villa isn’t the biggest band in the world, or even on the indie scene, they’ve managed to create something very special and unique in a way that very few bands do. Because they’ve taken such a unique approach to making music, they’ve been rewarded with an incredibly passionate fan base that probably checks in weekly to see if the band is up to anything new. Their show at Club Cafe was a true testament to just how talented the band is, and how dedicated their fans are.

Post by Kyle Henson.


Sondre Lerche at Altar Bar (Oct. 20, 2014)

For the last stop on his North America tour, Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche brought his own particular brand of rhythmic indie-pop to Pittsburgh’s Altar Bar. Opener Chris Holm warmed the audience up with a soulful vocal-and-guitar set, and then joined Lerche on stage to play bass, along with drummer David Heilman.

Touring in support of his most recent release, Please, Lerche quickly launched into a series of songs from the new album, starting with “After the Exorcism,” followed by the upbeat single “Bad Law.” Lerche’s music is always disarmingly earnest, and newer songs also demonstrate a tendency start simply only to devolve into distortion or exuberant instrumental jamming. This translated well to a live performance, with Lerche and his band ripping through newer tracks, which then provided a pleasant counterpoint to older acoustic material.

As always, the most charming aspect of Lerche’s live performance was his loose, conversational tone in addressing the audience. He engaged in some banter in quiet moments between songs, and was wryly self-deprecating after forgetting the middle verse to an older song. “I have a setlist. I just don’t respect it,” he told an audience member who suggested that he stick to the agenda. “Two Way Monologue” later became an exuberant audience sing-along as Lerche initiated an extended call-and-response chorus. He remained engaged with the audience throughout, launching into “Wet Ground” during his encore based on the shouted suggestion of an audience member. Closing track “Modern Nature” cast the audience as Lerche’s duet partner, ending the set on a communal note. Lerche, of course, stayed long after the end of the set to sign merch and take photos with fans, who eventually dispersed, already looking forward to the next time they would be able to catch him on tour.

Post by Gesina Phillips.


Kevin Amos on Tricky’s new album, False Idols

Hi folks. I have been following Tricky for a long time now and I’m so glad that folks are now into him. And…. believe it or not…. he has crossed generations. For those of you unfamiliar with Tricky, his real name is Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws. He puts together music of what people think are different styles of music but are actually the same. One of the things that I gather from talking and listening to people is that folks tend to never follow the evolution of the music and like to follow what is trendy. This music is yet another form of what some of us call “Great Black Music from the ancient to the future” and this is what I expose to folks who check out my program. I am not into being trendy but I am into exposing the creativity of many artists.

The new cd is distributed on the infamous !K7 label, out of Berlin. He is back to being himself as he talked to the folks from Afro-Punk.com in February of this year. “This new album I’ll stand behind every track. I don’t care whether people like it. I’m doing what I want to do, which is what I did with my first record. That’s what made me who I was in the beginning. If people don’t like it, it don’t matter to me because I’m back where I was.” This is his tenth studio album, and it features Antlers’ Peter Silberman, Fifi Rong and Nneka. The first single that was released was Nothing’s Changed features Nneka and Francesca Belmonte jams on Tribal Drums (my personal favorite) as well as other cuts. Be sure to check out the interview with Tricky and watch the official videos.

Post by Kevin Amos.


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