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Month: November 2018

House Of Soul at TwentyFive, Elias Khouri at Seventeen: PumpkinFest 7

Last year at PumpkinFest 6, I met the young musician Elias Khouri.  He and his dad unloaded the car, and he walked over to me to ask where to set up.  He was a bit quiet of demeanor, which set us all up for the big Maggot Brain surprise.  House Of Soul, same location and a few months later at OysterFest , braved the bitter cold and gave us a tremendous closer under the Grays bridge and next to the Homestead tracks.   By the way, HOS is celebrating their 25th year, and there’s a feature on the Timmy Willis Show to celebrate that milestone: 

Fast forward to 2018 and PumpkinFest 7: it was great news to hear that both acts were coming to the same event.  I knew what to expect from the veteran HOS, but Elias has come a long way in the past year.  He’s seventeen now, and he’s done huge crowds, Three Rivers Arts Festival, a Bootsy Collins jam in DC, and more.  The supporting cast is anchored by Dad Khouri on bass, with guests coming and going from event to event.  As a result, the performances can be a little disjointed, but that doesn’t take away from the joy of watching our young man develop.

 The EK band showed up this time with not just with the standard power trio, and not just with a horn in support, but with double brass and keys.  On top of that, they added Santana’s Abraxas to the repertoire AND worked through consecutive album tracks.  The veterans who joined EK for the evening, like Hill Jordan, clearly enjoyed supporting him.  Significantly, I have not seen the level of poise in Elias that he brought to PumpkinFest this time.  For comparison, look at the 2017 and 2018 vids I took of him at the festival.  The maturation is obvious.

Elias Khouri, PumpkinFest
Elias Khouri, PumpkinFest 2018

One of the things the concertgoer brain does is jiggle and reassemble personnel to concoct virtual bands: What if she sang with him?, I wish they’d add so-and-so’s sax to the horn section, etc.  In this case, I have been paying attention to the Shaq Nicholson vocalist, Sarah Jane Kirkland, and it would be wonderful to see her sit in with Elias on a song or a set.  The two of them have that cool brown hippie vibe, and it could work.  Maybe “Castles Made of Sand” or something?

Elias plays Light Up Night 2018.  Don’t miss.

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Migration Liberation Suite, Somi, Buika

I call Afro Yaqui Collective the Sun Ra Orchestra of Pittsburgh. In many cases, the themes AYC’s performances are wrapped around are progressive and heartfelt.  This time the story line was the impact of climate change on human migration patterns.  I attended the second night, and it spilt over with beautiful dance choreography, performers of all hues, and the warmth of the New Hazlett.  As with MCG’s performance space, I can never figure out how the brick sidewalls sound so soft.  

If you go to an Afro Yaqui concert, the Pittsburgh world can feel much bigger.  So was it, too, at the August Wilson Center for the VIP opening night of Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities.  The reception was awesome, the guided tours enhanced the already amazing art on hand, and then there was Somi to close the evening.  Oh, my……

Opening reception for Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities
Somi at AWC

When Janis Burley Wilson welcomed the attendees at the Buika performance a week later, she beamed about the increasing international flavor of AWC’s offerings.  Buika sang in Spanish all night and conversed bilingually with the audience.  What I will say, in a very positive way, is that AWC’s mission is clearly also to feature more women-focused performances.  As of this writing, Faith Hill came right on the heels of Somi and Buika.  

Next up: PumpkinFest 7, with a House of Soul reprise and an Elias Khouri serious repackaging.

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