By: Ryan Cummings
From the outside, Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale, PA looks like a church. In fact, the building is an old historic church renovated and converted into one of Pittsburgh’s leading music venues. Actually, it’s just the opposite of a conventional bar or music venue. The main room consists of one small and one large bar, and a mini-kitchen for grilled and fried foods. There’s also a VIP balcony viewing area opened for sold out shows. The original wood from the pews and the unique doors from the church’s day were recycled to produce parts of the music venue as it stands today. Apart from the addition of the upstairs, lounge-style bar that opened last week (comfortable couches and chairs and an outdoor patio for smokers, included), Mr. Smalls has a very classical feel that evoked the perfect ambiance for an amazing performance by The Manhattan Project and Conspirator.
The first act, comprised of Shawn Drogan on drums and sequencers and keyboardist Charlie Lindner, began promptly at 8p.m. Equipped with a cache of various keyboards, synths, electronic, and acoustic percussion, The Manahttan Project smoothly unite diverse sounds to create a unique blend of analog, digital, and live electronic music. Arriving at the venue just in time for their last song, a unique rendition of “Ghosts n’ Stuff,” 50 or so fans got down to this excellent Deadmau5 cover. It was quite amazing to see and hear that song being performed using only drums and keyboards.
The main act, Conspirator recently solidified their lineup with originators Aron Magner (keyboardist) and Marc Brownstein (bass) from The Disco Biscuits, RAQ guitarist Chris Michetti, and Lotus’ drummer Mike Greenfield. During the break between acts, Geenfield was seen walking around the dance floor mingling, socializing, and posing for snapshots with fans.
The set opener was heavy with rock guitar, but copped a dubstep feel. As the night progressed, the music only got heavier, and each song got deeper into synths. Brownie’s gritty bass got the crowd going with the Disco Biscuits’ “Mirrors.” Next came another Biscuits tune, “Onema Wa,” a crowd favorite for true heads. The next song, Conspirator’s “Hands Up,” started off with a straight jam and continued with synth-laden drum and bass.
Replete with a visual buildup and audio cues, Conspirator burst into their newer material with “Feed the Wolf.” Combining elements of electro and Dutch house, Brownie’s bass provided the booming low end. With the addition of several multicolored V shaped LED lights, Marc came on the microphone to announce “What’s up, Pittsburgh? We got Greenie back. Give it up for Greenie” referring to Mike Greenfield, who had recently rejoined the tour.
Then, they continued with “What They Want” from the Conspirator album The Key and mixed in a few short riffs of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” According to tour manager, Ben Singer, ever since the Canadian power-trio and rock gods invited them to their show in Louisville, the guys have been teasing Rush songs. The crowd definitely loved it and all of the onstage artists started smiling at each other. During the encore song they also sampled Avicii’s “Seek Bromance,” and teased a little more Rush.
Overall, it was an amazing performance and a good turnout for a Tuesday night. Many fans, though, were disappointed not to see Conspirator’s illustrious, crowd-pleasing pattern lasers that are usually present at their shows. If that’s the only complaint—that’s a good day’s work.
So Much More
Last Man Standing
Feed the Wolf
What They Want
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