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It's summer!  A perfect evening for music as Livingston Taylor performed an entertaining 90-minute show Friday at the South Park Amphitheater.

Livingston Taylor came to sing songs from his most recent release "Last Alaska Moon", pop songs like Stephen Bishop's "On and On" and some fun songs with titles like "Railroad Bill", "'I'm Not as Herbal as I Ought to Be", "The Dollar Bill Song" and "Olympic Guitar" complete with a running commentary as he played the guitar.

Mr. Taylor mentioned that he flew his own plane from Boston to Pittsburgh before singing "Kitty Hawk" (his tribute song to The Wright Brothers first flight in December 1903), a song off his fall 2009 CD "Last Alaska Moon". Along with the title track,  he also sang "I'm in a Pickle" and told us how difficult it was for him to find something to rhyme with the word hope in the song "Never Lose Hope".

Mr. Taylor is not afraid to go way back in time to share with us his love of well constructed pop songs.  He tried to imagine Irving Berlin convincing a producer to listen to "God Bless America" with the word foam in the lyric:

"To the oceans, white with foam"

Mr. Taylor also knows how to write pop songs of his own like "Carolina Day".

Great stories.  Great music.  What a treat to have Livingston Taylor back in the Burgh.  Ah - It's summer!

Review of Livingston Taylor's concert in Carlisle, PA, October 2008

Review of "Last Alaska Moon", November 2009

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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If it's August  then it must be John Mayer in Burgettstown.  Just two years ago in my review I was lamenting that Mr. Mayer needed polish; his sophisticated lyrics were not matching his performance.  Sunday night he convinced me that he was able to combine the singer-songwriter with the musician.  And he's only 32.

The 120 shows since his last visit to the area have helped him to perfect his act. It was all about the musicianship.  Covers of "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Raspberry Beret" added to Mr. Mayer's ever growing catalog of music.  His seven-piece band often shared the spotlight.

Mr. Mayer also showed off his expertise on various guitars.

The two-hour set was well paced and made for an entertaining evening.  I hope we don't have to wait another two years to see Mr. Mayer here.

Opening the show was the band Train.  As Mr. Mayer noted they are headliners in their own right and we fans were treated to a double bill of amazing music.

Train's dynamic lead singer, Erie native, Pat Monahan not only used the whole stage, but ran out to the lawn for "Marry Me".

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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Alejandro Escovedo and band is this year's Rock The Bock Headliner.  Enjoy the Video recorded live in Austin, Texas.

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Sounds like: Brooklyn lo-fi, drum machines in a damp basement. Despite having all the earmarks of trendiness, it's not obnoxious. Just a really relaxing and pretty song. From the album Small Black EP.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un2xYzvAqhw

There has been a boat load of new releases coming out recently that have hit all the right summer notes for me. Among them is the San Francisco band Sonny & The Sunsets who will be releasing a gem of a album entitled Tomorrow Is Alright on Aug. 31 through Fat Possum Records.

I thought I would share a standout track with you all called "Too Young To Burn". Its a nice nostalgia filled tune that should be finding its way onto many a summer roadtrip playlists. Its not a "Official Video" but at least it allows you to enjoy the song.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg0UsO5SFb8&feature=avmsc2

Sometimes when you hear a song, it casts a spell on you that can only be broken by continuously listening to it for days on end. “Becoming a Jackal” by Villagers still has me in its whimsical grip, and I suspect the only way that the spell can be broken is if I pass it along to the collective consciousness.

Actually, after listening to the Irish band’s debut LP — also titled Becoming a Jackal, out now on Domino Records — I fear the spell won’t go away until the rest of you fall in love with the entire album, just as I have. But for starters, have a look-see at the above video. I must warn you, though — it may conjure emotion.

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The Flaming Lips
Station Square Amphitheater
Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

You have certain expectations when going to a Flaming Lips show.

You expect the wacky costumed fans (spacemen and women, priests with devil horns, plenty of butterfly wings); you expect the epileptic light show; you might even see it coming when Lips frontman Wayne Coyne enters a plastic bubble and stumbles around on the hands, heads and shoulders of the fans cramped in the first rows, in a sort of germophobic crowd surf.

But before the show even starts, Coyne is on stage, urging the crowd to listen to the train that passes less than fifty feet from the Station Square Amphitheater’s stage. It sounds like its coming from the speakers.

And it is, because the Lips put microphones near the tracks.

“Whenever the train goes by, we’ll turn it up and listen,” says Coyne. “I think it sounds amazing.”

When the show begins, no matter your expectations, it’s pretty overwhelming. The perpetually raining confetti, the strobe lights and disco balls, the giant video screen with the hallucinogenic naked dancers; they’re all the expected highlights from the Lips’ resume and it all works.

What’s unexpected is how good they sound, not because they’re in their 28th year as a group, but because their studio sound is so dynamic that a smooth translation to live-performance would seem impossible.

The Lips’ 2009 record, Embryonic, has an incredibly distinct production style. It’s artfully messy, its loud, its fuzzy. It sounds like each instrument is nudging another with its elbows, pushing and squeezing to the foreground resulting in that busy overpopulated sound.

The first single, “Silver Trembling Hands,” sounds like the soundtrack to an intergalactic Indy 500. Its a fast paced race between drums and bass, with Coyne’s lyrics and guitar sporadically piled on top, leading to slow and pretty chords in the song’s chorus (“...when she’s high...”).

It’s the second song they play and it clarifies how they can sound so good live. The production style on Embryonic sounds like an inexperienced sound mixer doing his first show, mindlessly turning knobs and micromanaging the mix. The record's sound has the humility of a live show.

Embryonic isn’t the Lips’ best record and it may be because that production style is so relentless. It has a very distinct mood, and its hard to be in that mood for 70 minutes.

But tonight, the Lips keep it various, playing strong renditions of “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “The Morning of the Magicians” and ending with “Do You Realize?”

Nearly every song comes with a bonus ending, Coyne repeating the song’s lyrics after everyone’s done clapping, eventually leading the band back in for one extra lap through the chorus. It’s a lot of fun.

Coyne sounds as good as ever. He sounds exasperated and dry-throated and aging. Luckily, he sounds exasperated and dry-throated and aging even on their oldest records, so its an honest rendition.

This seems to be the running theme of the show: the Lips know you have expectations for their show, both in performance and flamboyance, and they know how to meet them (though with more F-bombs than expected).

After “She Don’t Use Jelly,” lead guitarist Stephen Drozd notices the passing train and the microphone is turned up. Coyne tells everyone to listen.

The train has a mesmerizing rhythm, with dinks and clinks and imperfections in the track peppered on top, spanning a familiar range of metal tones and industrial timbre booming through the speakers.

Or maybe it doesn't. But watching Coyne listen hypnotically to the passing forty-car caboose, it's hard to ignore the romance of hundreds of people at a concert pausing to listen to the Coke Express.

“I wish we sounded like a train,” says Coyne.

“I think we do, sometimes,” says Drozd.
___

(Photographs: Hugh Twyman)

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I must admit: when critics and blogs began to praise Sleigh Bells earlier this year, I was skeptical about their staying power. They had burst onto the scene with virtually no prior recordings, and that dearth of material led me to wonder if they weren't just another dime-a-dozen buzz band. Then came Treats, their highly anticipated debut album. Continue Reading...

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In today’s fickle, post-Pitchfork world, each new band can start to feel like the latest chillwave flavor of the month. In the ambiguous sea of lo-fi turned glo-fi turned back to shoegaze whatever, it is important to give certain bands the distinction they deserve.

Phantogram duo Joshua Carter and Sarah Barthel are a reminder that, behind the indie genre’s similarities, there are subtle but important shifts in influences and backgrounds. Conceived on an isolated farm in Upstate New York, their debut album, Eyelid Movies, is the lovechild of 90’s hip-hop beats and urban dream-pop. Continue Reading.....

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