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The Pittsburgh Comedy Festival makes its debut

August 21 - 23, 8PM
Pittsburgh’s comedy scene continues to attract a wide range of national acts, like the star-studded Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival that comes to First Niagara Pavillion at the end of the month. This makes the time right for the city to make a more significant mark on the national comedy scene by nurturing homegrown talent. 

Luckily, the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival makes its debut this Thursday at the Henry Heymann Theatre situated in the Stephen Foster Memorial in Oakland. The fest spans three days and features performances from national acts such as 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander, and the “slow play” weirdness of Craig Cackowski (Community) and Rich Talarico (Key & Peele). Pittsburgh natives including Tom Henry, Shannon Norman and Travis Walling will also be playing.

The festival will also showcase a comedy talk with Brenda Harger of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center and Hannah Du Plessis of Fit Associates; a panel with the aforementioned Cackowski & Talarico along with Tim Diamond; and a Kids Comedy Cabaret with local comedians Josh & Gab, Penny Arcade and Mark Hayward.

The PCF runs from Thursday through Saturday. For more information about tickets, and a full lineup and schedule, visit
pittsburghcomedyfestival.org. (4301 Forbes Avenue, Oakland, Henry Heymann Theater)

Brazillian psych rock duo Boogarins stop by Cattivo

August 20, 7PM
Brazillian rockers Boogarins are a fantastic example of the ways in which American and British music traditions greatly benefit from the injection of a more diversified group of influences.

In this case, Boogarins—comprised of high school friends and natives of Goiânia, Brazil, Fernando Almeida and Benke Ferraz—have taken a revitalized look at trippy, chugging psychedelic rock and filtered it through the samba-inflected coastal grooves of the Tropicalia movement that grew substantially in Brazil in the 1960s. Their debut album As Plantas Que Curam was recorded while Fernando and Benke were still in high school in their parents' basements.

The album was obssessed over and tinkered with for at least a few years and manages to recall the exuberant weirdness of Brazillian psych legends Os Mutantes, as opening track "Lucifernidas" sounds like its speeding out into the desert for an indefinite stay on the back of a Ratatat guitar line and loping drum beat. Hearing lead singer Fernando practically whisper the lyrics in his native Brazillian Portugeuse makes me think the language was created to be sung aloud.  

The clanging, house of mirrors rocker "Ere," the languid, dusty island jam "Despreocupar," and the spacey jangle pop of "Doce" show a young band with a creative vision firmly intact and a tight grasp of how their influences should inform their work, not stifle it.

It's not every day a Brazillian band plays a neighborhood joint in Lawrenceville on a Wednesday, and considering Ferndando and Benke have been touring for the better part of 18 months, their live show should be more than capable of delivering the Tropicalia-inflected psych rock that made their debut album so fascinating. (146 44th Street, Lawrenceville, Cattivo)

Kishi Bashi brings kitchen sink pop to Mr. Small's thanks to WPTS

August 25, 8PM
Karou Ishibashi has gotten around. The insanely talented multi-instrumentalist has toured and/or recorded with acts like Of Montreal, Regina Spektor and Sondre Lerche in addition to founding mid-aughts synth pop act Jupiter One. And even though he's only managed to release two albums for his solo project Kishi Bashi over the course of his decade plus career—2012's 151a and 2014's Lighght—you get the feeling the creativity energy he pours into his work is both restless and exhausting.

Lighght, which was released last May, picks up where 151a's whimsical, orchestral pop left off. The album spins off dizzying classical string arrangements in between bursts of synth pop mania, knotty melodies and earworm hooks that Ishibashi appears to craft effortlessly.

The one, two punch of "Philosophize in it! Chemicalize with it!" and "The Ballad of Mr. Steak" set the stage for an album that's practically effervescent as it snaps and crackles coming out of a set of speakers.

"Mr. Steak" in particular shows off a number of influences including Of Montreal's theatrical electronic pop and Andrew Bird's stirring string intros. Also, Ishibashi knows how to turn a song with a lot of moving parts and compositional trickery into a dancefloor rival of, say, Passion Pit's "Little Secrets." It's a track that could easily close down an unexpectedly raucous day time set at a summer festival, and it will be interesting to hear Ishibashi bounce its numerous, shiny bits off the cavernous walls of Mr. Small's main room.

If you want to see a performer in a relatively intimate setting before he starts playing venues with four and five digit capacities, don't miss Kishi Bashi this Monday. (400 Lincoln Ave, Millvale,
Mr. Small's)

'Parade' tackles history through musical theater

August 21 - 31, 8PM
The New Hazlett Theater's programming remains consistently challenging and compelling, on both an artistic and social level. Their latest project, the Jason Robert Brown musical Parade, depicts the incendiary history of Leo Frank's trial in 1913 Atlanta, when Frank, a Jewish factory owner, was accused of raping and murdering 13-year-old employee Mary Phagan.

The trial was soon sensationalized by the media and a ravenous public looking for blood, aided in part by the growing political power of the Klu Klux Klan in the southern part of the country. As current race relations in the United States continute to boil over into prejudice, injustice and violence, the events depicted in Parade and the theme of old wounds being re-opened anew continue to be terrifying relevant today. 

Theater company Front Porch Theatrics produces the play as former CAPA alum and Squirrel Hill native Benjamin Shaw returns home from New York city to direct. Front Porch Theatrics was founded by Bruce E.G. Smith, a local businessman, and Leon S. Zionts, an attorney and actor in 2009, and can thank the support from The Heinz Endowments, The Pittsburgh Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, among others, for allowing them to pursue their mission. (6 Allegheny Square E, North Side, New Hazlett Theater)
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2100 Smallman St