Project Pitchfork (Pittsburgh)
May 28, 2013
Pittsburgh, PA @ 31st Street Pub
Review by: Maresa Whitehead
It was Pittsburgh’s hottest Distortion Productions show so far this year, both figuratively and literally. Not only did attendees drive from neighboring states such as Ohio and West Virginia to pack the 31st Street Pub in anticipation, they also experienced melting of makeup, drenching of dresses, and streams of sweat in a humid heatwave that stagnated in the un-air-conditioned venue. Though the industrial-sized fan provided a modicum of relief and many patrons sought the solace of the circulating 70-degree air outside between sets, the show was ultimately a scorcher (bad pun definitely intended!).
At the beginning of the night, two of Pittsburgh’s home-grown acts hit the stage to … er … warm things up. First was Hexweapon, the one-man project of Jordan Harris. The low lighting and the incense created the perfect creepy ambiance to enhance Hexweapon’s minimal, dissonant Darkwave. Harris’s echoing, metallic vocals and atypical beats reverberated through the Pub in the style of an 80’s-Goth basement show. Though Hexweapon’s lack of melody is certainly an acquired taste, Harris’s set was solid and well-performed, and Harris embodied its atmosphere through his stage presence with dramatic flair.
The night quickly moved into dance mode with the smooth, ethereal Synthpop stylings of Pittsburgh’s Shutterdown, comprised of faery-like vocalist Antisa, musical magician/guitarist Max Bajzek, and outgoing bassist/keyboardist Zane Shapiro. Noteworthy this night was the addition of Shapiro and his live bass to the lineup, which brought a new fullness to the sound. Antisa flirted with the audience from the front of the stage, caressing cheeks and flashing doe eyes between verses. Her powerfully feminine voice was embraced by the timbres of Bajzek’s bright 12-string guitar and Shapiro’s resonant bass. All three musicians took turns playing keys, proof that Shutterdown’s music is truly a group effort among these multi-talented artists. And though the sweat poured from musicians and audience alike, even causing Bajzek and Shapiro to peel off their shirts for relief, the energized crowd couldn’t abstain from dancing to Shutterdown’s sultry beats.
Toronto’s EBM/Synthpop project Ayria took the stage next, featuring Miss Plastic herself, Jennifer Parkin. It was obvious that many of the road-tripping audience members were present just for her, as they smashed forward and crowded the stage with eager grins and bodies ready to move. Fans sung along to the older tracks that dominated the first part of Ayria’s set, while the latter half was comprised of songs from the newly released Plastic Makes Perfect. Despite some technical issues, such as recurring microphone feedback and a dead keyboard during one song, Parkin pressed forward without hesitation to put on the kind of energetic show that has helped make her famous. She was obviously in her element on stage, as she grinned and danced constantly, holding eye contact with individuals as they shouted the lyrics with her. And the technical issues didn’t affect the overall sound quality, which was powerful and undulated through the Pub’s sound system. By the end, Parkin quipped that everyone was a melted plastic mess—and no one would have had it any other way.
German headliners Project Pitchfork rounded out the evening with their staying brand of Dark Electro. By this time, the audience had thinned, but Peter Spilles and company hardly noticed. They matched Ayria’s energy and stage presence, clearly having a fantastic time despite Spilles sweating away his trademark blue facial stripe within the set’s first fifteen minutes. Project Pitchfork showcased a balanced set mixed with older and newer tracks, satisfying the variety of fans in the room. The instruments and Spilles’ voice rang clearly, overtaking the Pub from stage to door with melodic synthlines and pumping beats. And much like with Ayria, the audience sang and danced together with the band, creating an aura of camaraderie well past the Pub’s intended closing time.
Despite the high potential for heat exhaustion, both audience and bands gave it their all between swigs of cold water and outdoor air. The Pub became a sea of sweaty, beaming faces and bouncing bodies, reminding each other why we were there. It was Distortion Productions’ last show of the spring season, and it was quite possibly the most successful of 2013 yet!