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Pop City Presents Wilco documentary at Row House Cinema

November 4, 7:00 PM
For the second installment of Pop City Presents at Row House Cinema, we are showing I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: a Film About Wilco and pairing the music documentary with a handful of Chicago beers to honor the band's Windy City home. The beers will be featured during our sponsored showing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4. The showing coincides with documentary film week at Row House Cinema where four Lawrenceville-based businesses selected films that reflect their work: 720 Music, Clothing and Cafe - Nas: Time is Illmatic; Bike PGH - Urbanized; Tree Pittsburgh - Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai; and Espresso a Mano and Commonplace Coffee co. - A Film About Coffee. For more information about the films and show times, visit www.rowhousecinema.com

Without starting too many arguments, let's just say there are three types of music documentaries. There are the tried-and-true concert films, like Scorsese's The Last Waltz or the LCD Soundsystem tribute Shut Up and Play the Hits. There are the revered retrospectives about artists/bands/scenes/eras, like the almost unbearably sad Big Star tome Nothing Can Hurt Me or the white-hot punk history American Hardcore. And then there are those films that, somehow, manage to capture a moment frozen in time; sepia-toned, maybe, but still brimming with the unpredictable, glorious chaos of life. Those can be trickier to suss out.

The best two examples I can think of start with the standard concert film template, but end up dealing with, respectively, the birth and the death of the 1960s. Legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebaker made Don’t Look Back about Bob Dylan’s 1965 European tour, which expertly captured the enigmatic messiness of the emerging counterculture by focusing on its most enigmatically messy musical icon. And then there's the Maysles Brothers' Gimme Shelter in 1970, which chronicled The Rolling Stones 1969 U.S. tour and culminated with the disastrous Altamont Free Concert, catching on film the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Meredith Hunter by a member of the Hell’s Angels security team.

Sam Jones’ extraordinary black-and-white 2002 documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: a Film About Wilco carries in it the verite human drama of both Don’t Look Back and Gimme Shelter, but trades in the huge societal upheaval of the 1960s for the quiet cultural shifts occurring at the turn of the millennium . Jones chose to follow the Chicago alt-country rockers Wilco as they wrote, rehearsed and recorded their fourth studio release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a record that would subsequently rise in stature to become one of the seminal rock albums of the past 20 years. The film is set against the digital music revolution of the early aughts, and captures the music industry at a time when the bottom has dropped out of the old business model and the big labels are scrambling for cover. What Jones didn’t anticipate, besides YHF’s eventual massive critical and commercial success, was that he was going to document Wilco at a significant creative and professional crossroads, as internal tensions spur infighting, existential and physical exhaustion, and a broken relationship with their own unforgiving record company. 

Lead singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy is an incredible subject; he’s the calm, affable, yet damaged musical genius trying to hold everything together. He wants to push his band into new sonic directions, experimenting with electronic textures and looser song structures, but frequently engages in battles with long time collaborator Jay Bennett over the group’s creative vision. He wants to believe his label Warner Bros./Reprise will support the record they paid him and his bandmates to make autonomously, but soon finds out creative independence has its financial limits. He wants to support his young family, but realizes that the piece of the pie for a moderately well-known indie rock band like Wilco has just shrunk even more. Through out the film, we witness Tweedy walking through this minezfield to create and share his art with the world, a journey occasionally punctuated by his stress-induced migraines that send him running to vomit in record studio bathrooms.  

But for all that drama, the film doesn’t play out as a series of rock cliche plot developments rising to a climax; Jones did such an incredible job dissolving into the background over months and months of filming that viewers become slowly immersed in the ebbs and flows of a band that’s desperately trying to carve out their own corner of the world. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
 isn’t rock 'n' roll myth making, it’s a quiet testament to the human toll the creation of art can carry with it.

For a full list of the films showing at Row House Cinema for documentary film week, visit their website.

Being Good documents residents investing in communities through art

October 27 - January 2
There is no shortage of sweat equity being poured into distressed Pittsburgh neighborhoods through planning work, community engagement initiatives, and increased private and public investment. But outside of the most practical channels of revitalization, community stakeholders and local artists are contributing to the renewed life of their neighborhoods through more creative means. The upcoming documentary photography exhibit Being Good is a collaborative effort among three photographers to capture the work of three Pittsburgh natives who have invested in their communities through art.
 
The exhibition will focus on the work of Bill Strickland, founder of the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation; Randy Gilson, whose home on Arch Street is itself a work of art and a North Side landmark; and Vanessa German, a Homewood-based multi-disciplinary artist who utilizes refuse and found objects around her neighborhood for her three-dimensional collages. Local photographers Scott Goldsmith, Brian Cohen, and Lynn Johnson photographed the subjects, respectively. The event opens on Oct. 27 and runs through Jan. 2 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, featuring a reception and artist talk scheduled for Nov. 6. For more information including short biographies on the artists and photographers, visit the event page at the MCG’s website. (Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, 1815 Metropolitan Street, North Side.) 

HITCHCOCK! A Halloween Party at the Carrie Furnace

November 1, 8:00 PM
For locals ready to enjoy a beautiful fall, Pittsburgh and the surrounding area definitely have their share of leaf-peeping activities and creepy Halloween haunts. And now, the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene is getting in on the autumn action as The Brew Gentlemen and the Independent Brewery Company team up with Bar Marco to host the horror film/craft beer nerdfest that is HITCHCOCK! A Halloween Party at the Carrie Furnace in Rankin.

The event is a welcome addition to the region’s busy fall event season. The craft beer festival is expected to draw visitors to the Braddock area and to raise the borough’s profile in the wake of new destination-ready businesses— like The Brew Gentlemen– already open there.

"We're selling tickets like crazy," The Brew Gentlemen's Matt Katase said of the party. "It looks like we're going to pretty much double the population of Braddock for the evening." 
 
In addition to a dance floor, DJ and a bevy of local craft brews and craft cocktails, local eateries like PGH Taco TruckBlowfish BBQStreet FoodsGyros N’at, and Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches will set up shop in the shadow of the great Carrie Furnace to provide refreshment. The organizers also promise, according to the invitation, that the event will “have all of the components of a great Hitchcock film: suspense, romance, and psychological thrills.” Regardless of the vague intrigue being thrown around this inaugural event, the setting and good beer alone will hopefully make HITCHCOCK! a Pittsburgh fall event staple.

For event and ticket information, visit the Eventbrite website for HITCHCOCK! here.  (Carrie Blast Furnace, Rankin)

Rubblebucket revives indie rock at Rex Theater

November 1, 8:00 PM
The Brooklyn-based quintet Rubblebucket, who've been kicking around since 2007, have the unique distinction of making music that’s nostalgic for an extremely recent moment in indie rock. That moment (pretentiously pushes glasses up on nose) was called “Blog Rock,” a theatric brand of synth-driven guitar rock that flourished thanks to the rise in prominence of MP3 blogs like Pitchfork and Stereogum in the early- to mid-aughts.  And while, yes, enough time has passed that bands like Tapes n’ Tapes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and the Black Kids, who plied their trade making similar music as Rubblebucket, now seem to be a part of an era of music rather than living, breathing entities, it still feels like the genre’s placement in the canon arrived too soon.
 
Apparently Rubblebucket agree with that sentiment, because their fantastic fourth full-length album Survivor Sounds (released late last August) hasn't really given up the ghost of that early millennial sound. And as someone who came of music appreciation age during the Blog Rock epoch, I couldn’t be happier. The record is full of loping, glitch carnival synths, static-y power chords, the occasional awkward horn section and the hushed, child-like vocals from lead singer Kalima Travers. Lead single “Carousel Ride” is so quirky, and misshapen, and 2005, mentally picturing it playing on an old Myspace audio player is far too easy. Lead track “On the Ground” is a dead ringer for any Rilo Kiley b-side, while “Sound of Erasing” sounds as if it could have fit in nicely on the Garden State soundtrack. All in all, the album is remarkable for how pleasantly familiar Rubblebucket is capable of sounding. For anyone ready to get all gooey about that time in their lives when indie rock seemed like it was going to change the world-- a time that probably doesn’t seem like it’s more than 10 years ago now-- Rubblebucket’s upcoming show at the Rex on Nov. 1 can’t miss. (1602 E Carson St, The South Side, The Rex Theater)
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Society for Contemporary Craft

2100 Smallman St
412-261-7003
www.contemporarycraft.org

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