Poster by Joe Mruk
After raising $1500 for Planned Parenthood in February, The Ruckus Bros. are returning to Spirit Hall on Friday, August 25th, with another Radiohead tribute show for charity. This time, the album in question is their groundbreaking 2000 release, Kid A. With an impressive roster of guest musicians (including Andre Costello and Morgan Erina), opening slots filled by Pet Clinic and Honey, visual effects by Mind Crime Studios, and funds going towards the Free Care Fund at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, this concert is an absolute must-see.
“As musicians, we are given so much by the community,” says Ruckus Bros. lead singer/guitarist Diego Byrnes DeMicheli. “Given the current political climate, many things feel uncertain, especially concerning healthcare. Now feels like the right time to give back and support others.”
What is certain is the impressiveness of the task they’re undertaking. Radiohead’s sound is famously dense and complex, and Kid A marked their transition from primarily rock instrumentation to an innovative, genre-twisting electronic approach. “Kid A is one of those mammoth, universally acclaimed albums that created such a sea-change in musical and popular culture,” says Joe Praksti, lead vocalist and guitarist for Honey, who cites Radiohead as “extremely influential” to his own band’s sound. “Its ripples are still being felt today. [It] blended seemingly disparate genres like electronica and free jazz with ease. And its promotional cycle was one of the first to integrate the Internet.”
Guest musician Erika Laing of Working Breed, who will be accompanying The Ruckus Bros. on trombone, synths, backing vocals, and musical saw, agrees. “What is fantastic about Kid A is that through this album, Radiohead was able to bring these soundscapes—non-techno electronica profuse with complex textures—into the mainstream, and further accentuate them to the point of being lavish. In my book, that is something sensational.”
Andre Costello’s appreciation for this album (and artist) is similarly deep. “[Kid A] is probably the most desolate record they’ve ever released, yet perhaps the most starkly beautiful…The intense darkness and dissonance throughout amplify the album’s moments of serene beauty,” he says. “It’s like if you’re in a storm, assaulted by wind and rain, lightning and thunder—and then the sky breaks open, letting in a few rays of sun and blue sky, for just a moment.” He summarizes, “Experiencing this album in a live setting is rare.”
He’s not wrong. Tackling such a record requires a sizable roster of talented, dedicated musicians. The Ruckus Bros. themselves currently consist of DeMicheli on vocals and guitar; Nicholas Coronado on keys and synths; Jason Rafalak on bass; Giuseppe Capolupo on electronics and percussion; and Shawn Klocek on drums. In addition to Laing, Costello, and Erina, other guest musicians on the bill include Jocelyn Rent; Avi Diamond; Collin Binko; and Roger Romero. For their part, Pet Clinic and Honey will be performing a mix of original tracks and Radiohead covers, from subsequent records Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief.
It seems as though this group is more than up to the task. “Rehearsal has been awesome. Honestly, the musicianship of players is off the hook—everyone is exceptionally prepared,” says Laing. “I’ve been most blown away by the dedication to precision, not just in nailing the arrangements and complicated rhythms, but also in the specificity of sounds themselves. Being in rehearsal is like listening to the record, and it’s a really cool experience.” (Considering The Ruckus Bros.’ years of practice in putting together tributes to iconic albums, this might not be that surprising.) Costello elaborates on his own role: “I’ll be taking a break from guitar (mostly) and using my voice (mostly.) I get to channel Thom Yorke. I can’t promise I’ll get the dance moves quite right…but I’ll do my best to channel the angelic despair.”
When arranging their cover songs, Honey faced slightly different challenges. “Radiohead’s music is dense and nuanced…as a three-piece band covering a five-piece’s music, we had a lot of ground to cover and make up for,” says Praksti. “We spent a lot of time just sitting down with the tracks together and spit-balling ideas back and forth. In the end, I think we’ve been able to pay due tribute to Radiohead’s material, while also interpreting the songs from our own unique, creative perspective.”
You can spend any Friday night at the bar, or at home watching Netflix, but this show will absolutely be worth mixing up your routine for. If the high levels of skill and commitment from some of Pittsburgh’s finest, to the music of such a revolutionary band, still haven’t swayed you, consider where the proceeds are going. DeMicheli hopes to raise $2000 for the Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund, which offers necessary hospital care, at no charge, to children in need. Praksti enthuses, “Not only will you be supporting your community’s local artists, but the event is aiding a seriously meaningful, worthy cause: providing care to every child in our community, regardless of any family’s ability to pay.”
He continues, “Friday is going to be a unique, diverse evening of artistic collaboration that you really should partake in, because who knows when/if this is ever going to happen again.” Laing adds, “Get off the fence! It’s going to be an awesome night, especially if you love Radiohead. Plus, it’s my birthday the day before—so come celebrate with me!”
“We are excited to break some walls down, reach new audiences, and contribute to our community the best way we know how: with great live music.” concludes DeMicheli.
The show is happening at Spirit Hall in Lawrenceville on Friday, August 25th, with doors opening at 8 PM. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door; they’re going fast, so scoop one up here. This event is 21+. If you can’t make it Friday, but still want to contribute to the Children’s Free Care Fund, you can do so here. Check out the event page for more details, and keep up with The Ruckus Bros. here.