PGH DIY Beat Report: BSS 2 Year Anniversary – Review
February 23rd turned into a day of celebration and music when Ba Sing Se, a local house venue, celebrated its 2nd anniversary. BSS is a staple of the Oakland music scene and has promoted many bands during its two years of existence. This promotion of more underground band has brought many new bands into our sights, and I have learned a ton about music from the nice people who have created this great space. While there are talks of a possible ending to this space coming soon, a birthday bash like the one last week will keep this venue close to everyone’s hearts long after it closes its doors. They stick to the music and God was the music good this night.
I arrived a minute or two late for the opening band, Silver Car Crash. Silver Car Crash are known around the scene for noisy and experimental post-punk. Personally, I am not well versed in their music and did not recognize any of the songs, but the whole band was incredibly tight. They also have a much different sound than much of the DIY scene that seems to be focused more around twinkly emo and indie rock. By the time they left the basement Silver Car Crash had made an impact on the people who were there. While the basement stood still for most of set, everyone was just in awe of how incredibly well performed these songs were. Their heavy sound and tight performance made a fan out of me, and I look forward to seeing them more at future shows.By the end of the set the basement had filled up with people beginning to stream out onto the porch. Everyone was enjoying themselves and a party-like atmosphere developed as the porch became full of friends and musicians alike. With the smell of cigarettes in the air, a wave of excitement was starting to come over everyone in anticipation of the great lineup still ahead.
Their classic indie rock sound with twinkly guitars, incredible crescendos, and catchy lyrics will never not be fun in a basement
I was extremely excited for the next set. I was also dreading it. Distant Futures were the first Pittsburgh band I fell in love with. I still remember clicking on the spotify link a friend sent me when their last EP, Were, came out in 2017. They were the reason I went to one of my first house shows, and I still listen to those three songs on Were almost religiously. Before the show, it was announced that this could very well be Distant Futures’ last set. But I was looking forward to hear the songs I love one last time, and they still rock! Their classic indie rock sound with twinkly guitars, incredible crescendos, and catchy lyrics will never not be fun in a basement. After opening their set, frontman Connor Schweisberger announced that the band had just finished recording a new album which had been derailed after he had busted his vocal chords for a couple months. They went into a couple new songs that got me incredibly excited for the possibility of a new album; even if their won’t be shows. Finally, they closed out their set with “Cabaret,” the closer of Were, with Connor yelling over the outro “Thank you we are Distant Futures” for maybe the last time.
Following up Distant Futures final set was going to be hard, but there is no band more perfect to get a crowd going than Short Fictions. In our last PGH DIY Beat Report, I reported on a Short Fictions headlining show. At this birthday bash they played two fewer songs which was disappointing, but nonetheless they put on another fantastic show. Band screamer, Alex, had to sit down as she delivered her passionate performance since she had an ankle brace and crutches, and the band had a different drummer than normal so the shorter set was totally understandable. As always the whole band’s musicianship was unparalleled with the incredible guitar work and intricate percussion. When they launched into final part of “Ellen” the basement got raucous for the first time that evening. Everyone was yelling along to “Ellen I love you/ We’re gonna kick his ass” and jumping up and down. I think that shows like this one will be legendary one day if Short Fictions ever blow up outside of Pittsburgh, which I think is a complete possibility.
the people behind the music take care to develop the song’s raw energy.
Then next band, Choir has been in the scene since about 2015. They hold a special place in my heart, as they were one of my first house shows. They fall somewhere between noise rock and noise punk, with strong 80’s no-wave influence. Much like My Bloody Valentine or Darkthrone, it is the kind of music that is easy to listen to wrong. They start with a shrill ear-piercing noise over a drumbeat. With a bit of patience and a keen ear the room will inevitably start to feel the riffs dissolve into fierce rhythms, then trippy motifs then, finally into a weird uneasiness. The uneasiness is not freeing or trying to tell you something specific but, it doesn’t feel bad either. Finally, the song will bring all the motifs, riffs, and uneasiness into brilliant crescendo, returning you to earth. While finding this kind of music isn’t rare, It is rare to see it so well done. You can tell the people behind the music take care to develop the song’s raw energy. This attention to sonic and emotional detail makes each performance unique and gratifying. If this type of music appeals to you, I highly recommend you see Choir live.
Trash Bag was a band I was not super familiar with until this show. This was actually a reunion show for them. I had heard rumors about how great they were but, was completely unprepared for their live performance. I was excited as people started crowding in to see them. I was in the front row as the bassist and drummer started to play. It sounded kind of like musician goofing off before a gig. Nonetheless, I was starting to get into when suddenly I noticed a bit of a commotion behind me. I turned around to see a coffin. I could not believe my eyes. A full sized coffin was being carried through a crowded Oakland basement barely high enough to stand in. It was placed on the stage and, to my bewildered eyes, the lead singer popped out and the performance started. I have been to an uncountable number of house shows. I have never seen anything like this. Trash Bag plays sludge metal, which is a mixture of everything great about punk and metal in one genre. Larura Faux’s shrill voice commands your attention as she amends the lack of guitar. Behind her the Bass and drums create a sound to rival two instrument bands like Trunkweed, Skating Polly, and Nai Harvest. At this point, the crowd had started dancing, moshing and screaming along with the music, which passes my litmus test for a great metal concert. I’m glad to have seen Trash Bag for the first time and many older friends were super happy to see them one last time.
The tender, heartfelt lyrics and warm guitar helped everyone cool down after a wonderful night of hardcore punk, emo and metal.
The night finished with a dramatic shift in tone. Somehow, Scratchy Blanket’s charming, warm, sound seemed to complement the more hardcore lineup. The tender, heartfelt lyrics and warm guitar helped everyone cool down after a wonderful night of hardcore punk, emo and metal. The emo-pop band is led by Shannon Keating with Chloe Hodgkins (of Skull Kid) playing guitar behind her. They also had drums and an additional guitar behind them. They played fan favorites like “Warm Bath” and “Sorry” to a impressively large crowd, considering it was almost midnight. The size of the crowd was less surprising when you realize how big they are in the local D.I.Y. scene. This was one of their first shows after making the front page of the city paper in January. For many bands making it into a newspaper is a pretty big deal, let alone being on the cover. With only an EP and a Single under Scratchy Blanket’s belt, It seems like the band is destined to outgrow the basement sooner or later.
House venues provide a different experience from commercial venues. There’s less pressure on the artist, so the music, and audience engagement tend to be more experimental. Respect is often given to residents who open up their house to complete strangers. Many brave these risks to help the local music scene. Places like BSS create stages for smaller acts to experiment, grow a following, and start careers in music. Artists like Benji and Wiz Khalifa came from local scenes and needed the support that house venues provided to start growing a following. So consider trying out a house show. You may be surprised with the local talent that surrounds you. And, thanks for two great years BSS, not many venues last as long as you have!