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Pop Filter

A punk rock flea market at the Mr. Roboto Project

Pittsburgh has no shortage of craft fairs, creative mixers, and high-end flea markets, catering to any and all crowds who are seeking a real-life version of Etsy spread out in front of them. But it’s exciting to see fabled Penn Avenue punk venue, the Mr. Roboto Project, take on what they are calling a “punk rock flea market” (and potluck, for that matter), featuring a collection of vendors a little more rough around the edges than your normal craft fair might have.

Anyone can be a vendor, but between a few artists and photographers, there are also a host of smaller record labels, like Cool Shoes and Between the Days Records and local bands like Secret Paper Moon who will be selling anything from excess inventory to leftover gear from the merch table. The event is also a potluck/pay-what-you-want affair, so the Roboto folks are asking for a plate of food and a possible donation. For a full list of vendors so far, visit the Facebook event page here. (5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield, Mr. Roboto Project)

Cannibal Ox 'Blade of the Ronin' release show at Mr. Small's

March 6, 9 p.m.
Like Aesop Rock, whom Pop Filter covered just a few weeks ago, the New York-based hip-hop group Cannibal Ox will always represent a particular era in underground rap. Their 2001 debut album The Cold Vein was the debut release for the legendary, but now defunct, alternative hip-hop label Definitive Jux, providing an entire generation of MCs and producers a template for dense, unforgiving, futuristic rap. The record was rightly celebrated as an epoch-defining piece of work that helped inject a new wave of experimentation and alternative approaches into a genre that had grown stagnant with mainstream success. But even after the scene-defining critical acclaim that followed the release of The Cold Vein, Cannibal Ox’s highly anticipated follow-up never arrived.

Now, the duo of MCs at the group’s helm, Vast Arie and Vordul Mega, finally return with their sophomore album after a 14-year absence, dropping The Blade of the Ronin on Tuesday, March 3. And while the album isn’t produced by The Cold Vein’s El-P, producer Bill Cosmiq brings with him a rough arsenal of uncompromised beats that recall the spacey weirdness of El-P while injecting the kung-fu mythologizing that marked the best work of Wu-Tang Clan’s Rza. Meanwhile Cannibal Ox themselves come hungry and wild eyed, showing no rust or lack of chemistry after an almost 15-year layoff. Lucky for Pittsburgh, we get to see the duo just days after the release of The Blade of the Ronin, when they stop by Mr. Small’s for what is being billed as a “release show.” For any fans of underground hip-hop, seeing Cannibal Ox live is a rite of passage that shouldn’t be passed up. For ticket and event information, click here. (400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale, Mr. Small’s)   

PAPA 18: World Pinball Championship

Can we all take a second to appreciate the fact that the headquarters of the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA), a 20-year organization dedicated to putting on the best damn pinball tournament in the world, resides in Carnegie? That’s definitely one of the cooler headquarters Pittsburgh can ask for, and frankly, we should all support/pay attention to PAPA a little more than we already do. With that in mind, the organization hosts the 18th World Pinball Championships starting on March 11 and lasting through March 16, featuring competitive pinball at all skill levels.

The event will take place in PAPA's 30,000-square-foot facility in Carnegie, and features more than 450 pinball machines, with a winning pot in the top division of $10,000. Admission for spectators is free, but in order to compete you must follow the fairly labyrinthine rules outlined on PAPA’s website. On March 11, the PAPA headquarters will be open for practice play and PAPA Circuit (the year-round competitive league) finals, while Thursday through Saturday are designated for divisional qualifying, with the finals taking place on Sunday. The PAPA headquarters are not open to the public on a regular basis, so take this chance during the World Pinball Championships to check out one of the most impressive collections of pinball machines in the country, and catch the highest level of the sport currently being played. (100 Keystone Dr., Carnegie, PAPA Headquarters)

Disarming Violence: SPACE Gallery event combines art and activism

The recently opened SPACE Gallery exhibition Unloaded is a challenging and provocative exploration of the historic resonance and current implications of the use of guns in our culture. Organized by Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University Susanne Slavick, Unloaded features work from local, national, and international artists across a wide variety of media, including sculpture, paint on canvas, video, and photography, that tackles the multitude of different perspectives on gun violence today.

Now, two weeks into the exhibition’s run, Slavick has partnered with social justice groups including CeaseFirePA, as well as Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV), and Mothers with a Voice, for “Disarming Violence,” an event that merges the incendiary work of Unloaded with the actual outreach of activist organizations. Slavick sees this event as an opportunity to start a discussion about gun violence using two different types of communication methods, art and activism, where each message becomes stronger through their collision.

“Art has always been a way to shape individual and collective consciousness. It can condemn or celebrate, obfuscate or illuminate, exhort and exhilarate. It can help us understand realities emotionally and intellectually, sometimes from a distance and sometimes from and in the thick of it,” said Slavick. “As an organizer, I try to bring together people who are investigating and working toward solving issues of concern to me. Altogether, these efforts are my form of activism. But it takes many activists to bring both incremental and profound change."

The event will be held at 6 p.m. on March 4 at SPACE Gallery, and will include talks from the leaders of the organizations listed above, as well as ways in which attendees can get involved with the organizations in their fight against gun violence. Rob Conroy, director of organizing for CeaseFirePA, feels that events in which they can connect with communities in non-traditional ways, like through an art exhibit, provide an unique opportunity for activism outreach.

“At CeaseFirePA, we are always looking for opportunities to further community-based conversation that can inspire people to take action to make their communities safer,” said Conroy. “An exhibit addressing the plague of gun violence that brings together multiple artists, each with his/her own perspective on the issue, from across the country and across the globe, is bound to make people think twice about what’s happening in our communities -- and thus, more likely to want to work together to change it -- and that’s important. “

This event happens in Pittsburgh after a year in which the city’s gun violence reached frightening proportions. The city of Pittsburgh’s gun-related homicide rate jumped from an average of 50 murders a year to 71 in 2014, with a particularly high spike in the impoverished neighborhoods of the Monongahela Valley. For artists and activists like Slavick and Conroy, the importance of addressing and working to challenge the gun-related violence in Pittsburgh is more important than ever.

“Pittsburgh is full of people who regularly fight for better/safer communities and to eradicate gun violence, but many of them -- and the groups with which they work -- exist in pockets that do not always intersect as readily or effectively as they could,” said Conroy. “Although we at CeaseFirePA have been working with more than 100 of these groups over the last few years to heighten awareness and forge both a local and statewide coalition of engaged and active citizens, there is always room for more unification and more action. Exhibits like Unloaded are one way to affect that.”

For more information about "Disarming Violence," visit the Facebook event page here. (812 Liberty Ave., Downtown, SPACE Gallery)
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Society for Contemporary Craft

2100 Smallman St