In Support of Pittsburgh (Part 1)

adam torres-5Over the past week, yer humble PPI correspondent travelled to his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, to see what all the fuss has been about the last two-and-a-half years he’s been gone. Claims have been made calling the rustbelt city the “Most Livable City” due in large part to the extreme affordability it offers for a city its size: ~305,000. But Pop Press International is first and foremost a music blog, so I was determined to see what I could find musically over my week in the Steel City.

My first day in Pittsburgh landed me at Club Cafe, a small, intimate club offering local and touring bands a great sounding stage and comfortable seating for its fans. Every Monday night is an open mic night giving almost anyone a chance to play a song or tell a joke. But this Monday night, Club Cafe had a special guest in the form of Austin’s own Adam Torres, touring with Rudy Villarreal, Aisha Burns, and Dailey Toliver in support of the re-release of adam torres-2Torres’ solo album, Nostra Novaon Misra Records. The label coincidentally and recently moved its headquarters to Pittsburgh, where it will be managed by Jeff Betten who says, “I don’t think Pittsburgh’s heading for a Seattle moment where we’re going to be known for one genre and that one scene explodes […] I can see Pittsburgh being, if not the next Austin, at least the next Athens, Georgia, where it’s just known as this great music city disproportionate to its general population.” If that game plan isn’t clear enough, then you better check your prescription. The ultimate underdog mentality coming from the scrappiest of midatlantic/midwest/northeast cities.

Back at the club, the band was unfortunately only given fifteen minutes to play three songs. However, immediately after Mr. Torres started singing the opening line from “Voices From The Top of the Mountain,” a hush fell over the rambunctious open mic night crowd, stunned to see a rehearsed act gracing the stage. With a cool presence and a black bandana around his head, Torres and company rolled through the Appalachian-imbued folk songs, treating the Parisians of Appalachia to a well-executed teaser for the reissued debut album.

adam torres-4Villarreal’s thunderous percussion danced with gentleness one finds in the mountains and hollers of the Eastern United States. It seems as though the tumbling green hills soften the blow of storms out this way, compared to the deluge of intense thunder and lightning central Texas has experienced over the past month. Ms. Burn’s fiddle also bore pastoral beauty, a serene carry-over from her experiences playing with her instrumental post-rock band, Balmorhea. Toliver’s bass, which I heard was a new acquisition, battled feedback issues having been plugged directly into the sound system, but when fixed, deep resonations absorbed the room’s energy and repurposed it into subsonic warm vibes, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud and warming the backs of lakeside swimmers. During their quick soundcheck, the sound guy asked Torres to turn his guitar up, to which Torres told him he doesn’t strum too loud. He doesn’t, but the fingerpicking on his Martin guitar swelled, and when synergistically coupled with the band, the music of Nostra Nova belied his modest retort. I talked to Torres and he told me they had only been on the road for a few days and still had more than two weeks before returning to Austin June 20 at Studium. Come to the show and buy the record (again).

Tune in tomorrow for the second installment.

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