Paddy The Wanderer
w/ André Costello & The Cool Minors
& Delicious Pastries
Review and photos by Melanie Stangl
Memorial Day has come and gone, and the weather has been warm for a while, but in a lot of ways, Paddy the Wanderer’s album release show for their new record, The Neighbors Are Listening, on June 3rd felt like the official start of the summer. Not least of which was the just-too-hot basement of Spirit in Lawrenceville, which left everyone in attendance with a slight sheen of sweat. But this was a mild inconvenience compared to the treat of seeing three prominent, talented, and innovative Pittsburgh bands for the low, low price of free. With Andre Costello and the Cool Minors and Delicious Pastries as opening acts, the lineup was a prime example that rock music (in all its iterations) is still alive and kicking.
Getting things started around 10:20, Andre and his minors (Matthew Fiorillo on bass, James Hart on keys, and Nicholas Charters on drums) found a way to stay cool under the hot lights: ordering a six-pack of PBR to the stage. They lived up to their name figuratively as well, managing to balance Americana folk vibes with funky grooves, rhythmic basslines with church-organ keyboards, lush instrumentation with deliberate builds that gradually bring us there, and let us appreciate the ride. Much of their set list has not yet been released as studio tracks, so the crowd got sneak previews of songs such as “Kinda Makes You Feel Good” (featuring a guitar solo that did just that) and “How Long,” which Costello prefaced with, “This song’s about heartbreak.” (To which an audience member replied sympathetically, “The MOST feels!”)
Following that was “She Took My Hand,” a blissed-out jam that Costello wryly introduced with, “You stand a chance of hearing this one, it’s actually recorded on an album.” As was the next track, “Virgil (Easy Go),” which emphasized Costello’s adept, soulful guitar playing. They wrapped up with “NSA,” a tongue-in-cheek song about a man “on the interweb trolling for suspects” on behalf of said government agency. Their set was certainly a great start to the night, and if you missed them, you can catch them (and the other two acts, among many others) at Deutschtown Music Festival, taking place on July 8th and 9th.
Next up was Delicious Pastries, a delightfully quirky pop-rock group who create, in their own words, “melodic vignettes as familiar as they are odd.” The six-piece (featuring Jonathan Chamberlain on acoustic guitar/vocals, Jesse Ley on drums, Burr Settles and Stephen Gallo on guitar, Dan Styslinger on keys, and Vincent Poprocky on bass) was a little cramped on stage, but they sounded right at home. In one word, their performance was psychedelic. Between the rainbow-striped light show projected onto the wall behind the drums, the loose paisley shirts/scarves rocked by most of the members, and their frequently distorted, echoic guitar sound, the band had a style all their own, and they were confident in it. This was exemplified by their seamless transitions, both between songs and between tempos in individual songs.
They kicked things off with “Sunbabe,” then moved immediately into the poppy, dance-able “Metaphors.” Chamberlain was notably upbeat, and maintained this energy throughout their eight-song set. Of the eight, three were unreleased, set to be recorded when Delicious Pastries goes back to the studio after their performance at Deutschtown. The third song in their set, “Medicated Medicated Superhazel,” was one of these: an unapologetic progression of their specific brand of creativity. Slow verses eased into powerful choruses, building anticipation and then delivering on it, and the guitars alternated between an in-your-face rock sound and distorted psychedelic bliss. Their skill at balancing these various styles was undeniable, and they didn’t let the crowd catch their breath when they began “Women’s Health” without a break. (Apparently the audience didn’t need it: during this track, they began dancing in earnest.)
When DP did pause, they were grateful, Chamberlain remarking that Spirit was their “favorite place to play.” His sense of humor showed at times too, such as when various members were asking for sound adjustments, and he referred to his group as “the ol’ Pesky Pastries.” And when acknowledging their fellow opener, he quipped, “Are they mining cool? Are they mining coal? In Pittsburgh, it’s all the same thing.”
From “Women’s Health” they moved into “Radial Blur,” which highlighted guitarist Settles’ technical skill with impressive solos. Next up was “Something Else!,” a slower tune, that was quickly followed by another fresh track, “Precipice of a New Vibration,” which had the heaviest hard rock sound of their set so far. Styslinger, the keyboard player, took out a tambourine for this one, jamming along energetically to the delight of the crowd. They concluded with the unreleased “Liquid Stun,” whose powerful build–interspersed with minor-key melodies and chord changes, reverb-heavy vocals, and sustained by a beat that alternated between frantic and slowly simmering–lived up to its name.
The audience had steadily grown to fill most of the standing-room-only area by the time Paddy the Wanderer (comprised of Joey Troupe on lead vocals and guitar, Zach Dowdell on keys, Bob Hartle on bass, and Tim Kelly on drums) took the stage at 12:45. Where the projector had previously shown rainbow stripes, it now displayed artwork from The Neighbors Are Listening, as well as PTW’s logo. To mark the show’s occasion, they announced (to cheers and whoops from the crowd) they were going to play their new album in order, in its entirety.
Labelling their style with such descriptors as “basement” and “garage,” Paddy the Wanderer reminds us WHY rock was cool in the first place. They offer unapologetic, in-your-face power chords, driving beats, gritty, expressive guitar solos, and powerful vocals with more than trace similarities to Billy Corgan’s drawl. The album, produced by Delicious Pastries’ Poprocky, delivers on all these fronts, as did their performance. They started with the badass, energetic “Battle Cry,” which guest vocalist Bethany Berkstresser says is her favorite of the new tracks. Her description summarizes the song’s appeal: “The first time I heard it, I was driving around Pittsburgh in this intense thunderstorm and it was such a cool soundtrack for that, and the energy made me feel like I was in a video game or something.” Hardly a better way to begin an album that absolutely should be the soundtrack of your summer.
Next up was “Phantom Limb,” a Shins cover that highlighted part of PTW’s particular charm: they lack ostentation, in a good way. They deliver the goods, presenting only their impressive talent, with nothing fussier than Troupe’s sweet green shades. The third track was “Disappear,” a midtempo, feel-good track, followed by “The Spider,” which Troupe prefaced bluntly with, “It’s heavy as shit.” He wasn’t kidding: the four-person band was able to create an imposing wall of sound, balancing it with relative lulls in the middle that only served to emphasize its strength. The six-minute track, in which both guitar and drums were highlighted with inventive instrumentation, certainly succeeded in “weaving a web around your mind.”
Apparently Spirit’s ubiquitous disco ball wasn’t festive enough for certain concertgoers: during this song, glowstick bracelets were passed around, thrown onto the floor, and even onto the stage, where Troupe picked up a green one and stuck it behind his ear. “No Time” was the fifth song, aggressive but fun, a fitting soundtrack for a motorcycle ride on an open road. They slowed down a bit with “Felon,” which delivered a charged, guitar-heavy hook and explored the higher range of Troupe’s voice.
“Can’t Help Yourself,” the seventh track, was the preview single from the album, debuting on Bandcamp on May 31st. For good reason, too: it’s a fast-paced tune, with an incredibly catchy guitar riff and a pounding drumbeat that makes it near impossible to resist dancing around to it, or at least nodding your head. It’s almost as if…you can’t help yourself. The song was perfectly timed to counter the crowd’s slight weariness at the late hour, and provided yet more incentive for them to listen to Troupe’s subsequent helpful suggestion: “If you haven’t bought the album yet…please do.”
They followed a snappy two-and-a-half minute song with a nine minute one, ironically titled “It Won’t Be Long.” The track travels through various tempos and moods, flirting with both psychedelic and hard rock, but each one felt purposeful and connected to the others: there was a cohesiveness that comes with the confidence PTW have in their sound. During the last minute or so, Chamberlain, Gallo, and Poprocky of Delicious Pastries, as well as Costello, joined the band on vocals, crowding around the two microphones to repeat, “It won’t be long, ‘til we’re all gone.”
The last song from the new album, “Swallow,” was a rollicking, jaunty number. It featured Berkstresser, who joined them onstage, on additional vocals. Often heard in the electronic context of her regular band, Balloon Ride Fantasy, Berkstresser displayed her range well in this collaboration, even showing country leanings in her slightly twangy pronunciations. Reflecting on her time in the studio with PTW, she said that they “create a very positive atmosphere as a band…it makes an outsider feel at ease.” That atmosphere extended onto the stage and into the audience, as attendees and opening band members alike danced along to the uplifting beat and such lyrics as, “Some folks are still afraid to die; some folks are just afraid to try.” They ended the night with many “thank you’s” and two standbys from their back catalogue, “Worldwide” and “Moonage Daydream.”
Though it was after two in the morning by the time the music stopped, the enthusiastic applause throughout and animated chatter of the crowd afterwards proved the show was worth staying up for. As is sure to be the case for many warm, music-filled nights to come this season, attendees and performers alike had (to quote “Worldwide”) “a hell of a time.”
Check out The Neighbors Are Listening on Bandcamp here. (No seriously, do it.)