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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 Ann 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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Mwenso, Bettye LaVette, Sweet Honey

It has been several weeks since the new Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival, and the musical torrent has continued since. It’s one thing to write a quick blurb, and another to present some multimedia to go with the text.  Catching up is hard to do, but fun.

I rushed from WYEP to the August Wilson Center to introduce, then witness, Mwenso and the Shakes.  Their high-energy presentation crisscrossed genres, and every turn was unpredictable – roots, stride, reggae, show, …

Next up that Saturday evening was Bettye LaVette, who presented her songbook with weighting toward the new Bob Dylan cover project.  To me, the biggest highlight of the show (and I wish I had all of it on video) was the encore.  She came out with a fantastic a cappella and a rocker. (If you’d like to hear excerpts of my interview with Bettye, please check out the Oct. 4 blog.)

Sweet Honey in the Rock’s current lineup, after all of these years, still features two of the founders.  It’s notable that at least half of the shows I’ve seen since the beginning of 2017 bemoan our state of affairs, and this perennially socially conscious group brought that theme totally home.  Aside from that, their harmonies were exquisite.  The one musical instrument was a bass to cover the lowest registers.  

Next up: Somi, Migration Liberation Suite, Buika

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Bettye LaVette Interview (+ clip from Blues & Heritage), Donny Hathaway

Bettye LaVette sat down with me to discuss her career in music just prior to the wonderful performance at Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival.  The interview aired on The Soul Show, and here are the three 2-minute segments in case you missed it.  Enjoy! 

Bettye LaVette: The Breakout Album
Bettye LaVette: The British Rock Songbook
Bettye LaVette:  The Industry and the Bob Dylan songbook album

Donny Hathaway would have turned 73 this week.  One of the things I think about often is how The Soul Show founder Stef Chatman and I completely converged in taste when it came to Donny… he is our favorite vocalist.  Even though this is not a “major” milestone birthday, I don’t need much of an excuse to do a mini-feature this coming Saturday 


The Midnight Hour, Tony Campbell, Concert Calendar, Mobile Soul, Brian Edwards

Adrian Younge, soundtrack artist/producer for Marvel’s Luke Cage, has teamed with Ali Shaheed Muhammad again, this time in a project called The Midnight Hour.  I was excited to see that TMH is coming to Club Cafe in November; see the Concert Calendar at  Separately, I scheduled a Younge phone interview for next week, so the timing is perfect.  

The Baylor Project has been added to the Concert Calendar.  This is a Kente production and, as I told Gail and Mensah at Backstage Bar last night, they never ever bring a disappointing show to Pittsburgh.  Speaking of Backstage Bar, Tony Campbell was back after a multi-year hiatus, and he delivered all of that pent-up energy.  My biggest regret was having to leave early for Maxwell at Heinz Hall.

Maxwell totally delivered, except the sound was disappointing.  A lead singer’s voice should ALWAYS float above, but the mix just wasn’t right.

New Brian Edwards music is scheduled for The Soul Show on 10/6 – listen to the Three Rivers @Three segment, 3:00pm Eastern.

Mobile Soul, my new video interview series on, will launch soon.  The concept is simple: drive around with local artists,  taking in the pretty city bridges and other sites as we talk about their music, projects, etc.  

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Interview Segments – Cydney Nunn on The Soul Show, 9/15/18

On the 9/15/18 episode of The Soul Show on WYEP, I interviewed Cydney Nunn, Marketing and PR Manager of the August Wilson Center.  Cydney discussed the Wall of Sound series, whose next installment is Aaron Abernathy.  Also, she provided an excellent overview of the inaugural Blues & Heritage Festival, taking place September 28-30.  In case you missed the show, the audio is presented here.  Enjoy.

Cydney Nunn interview, Part 1 – Wall of Sound Series

Cydney Nunn interview, Part 2 – Blues & Heritage Festival

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Funky Fly Project talk of evening; Propaganda/Liz Vice:

Young Funky Fly Project opened for Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles last night at the Rex on Pittsburgh’s historic Southside.  This quartet is shepherded by dad and manager, the famous Poogie Bell. As we’ve come to expect, each successive show improves upon the last.  For those seeing FFP for the first time, there was surprise and almost incredulity.  Original compositions. Refined, tastefully extended jams.  Fresh playlist, important to us veterans. Crafted appearance, all with their merch tees worn.  Moms and dads selling gear – a twist on the devoted soccer parent theme.  Gracious and happy teenage musicians all.  

Propaganda and Liz Vice added to the Concert Calendar!

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Expanding Concert Cal, Bettye LaVette chat, incoming TSS Music:

Several new additions to the event schedule include the Superior Motors series – check out the Concert Calendar.

The August Wilson Center has secured a Betty LaVette interview for The Soul Show.  It will air on the 29th, just before her Pittsburgh performance.

New music on The Soul Show 9/15/18 includes Jonathan Scales (with a host of fantastic collaborators like MonoNeon) and Brandon Coleman Resistance.  

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