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Perfect Lives Pittsburgh (photo recap)

May 25, 2014

Well, we did it.  Then was the time, it was ours.  Perfect Lives Pittsburgh went off on Thursday as a great creative success in my book.  I think of the four Varispeed has done, this was our most artistically ambitious one yet, and we really hit our mark with execution.  We’ve been getting more ambitious each time.

Only downside – it was hard to draw a crowd on Thursday, particular for the work-time episodes, and folks didn’t stay out too late at the end given it was a work night.  Lesson learned.  Do it on a weekend if you want a crowd!  It was nice to have passers-by for the Park & Bank though.  Special thanks go to Mimi, Beth, Jim, & Eddie for following us ALL DAY!  Beth, no less, did this on her birthday!  I’m going to use some photographic aides to recap the week we spent in Pittsburgh.


Paul standing outside of James Simon’s studio in Uptown.  James is a wonderful sculptor who opened his home/studio up to us for hours of rehearsal.  He also hosted the Backyard & Living Room and brought out a nice crowd for us.  James was the MVP of the week if you ask me, he made things really nice for us.

IMG_1359Brian playing accordion where the audience sat for the Backyard at James’s studio.  NB: Brian didn’t play any accordion in PL Pittsburgh, but he’s a hell of an accordionist.


Rehearsing the Bar at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Gelsey, Aliza, & I gave each other vaguely Chinese tattoos that said Rodney.  We rehearsed a few episodes there, very loudly, an nobody said a thing to us.  Which amazes & delights me.


Same place, rehearsing the Bank.  Cool gal shades.  Gelsey Bell.

IMG_1379On me, not quite cool guy shades, but something.  Like one of those doubled up hour glass shapes you’d graph in trig class.


Rehearsing The Living Room at James’s, featuring our fine & dandy string section of Cara, Joey, Hilary, Ryan, and Jeff.  Personally, I feel like arranging or co-arranging the Living Room three times in a row, this one finally got it.  In Manhattan & Catskills, the interaction between band & vocalists had been too complicated, that was streamlined, the writing was improved, and most of all, the vocal performances really took a step forward.  Gelsey had an idea last year about the unreliability of the narrator in this episode as being like a noir detective.  She had some cool lighting ideas to boot.  Aliza got the costumes right (trench coats, fedoras, noir lady garb).  We all knew the band’s part better too so playing with the melody of the he says/shes says and the emphasis & phrasing of all the responses made things just nice.  Add to that a chorus made of ideas from the lot of us & Brian’s great bandleading, and you had a really special Living Room performance.


Rehearsing the Bar where we performed the Church.  The Church itself was crazy echo-y and frankly too big for what we were going for.  On the night before the whole shebang, that was the space we had.  So we had Rodney vs. Buddy move into the little ante-room, where things were more sonically manageable.  L to R – Brian R, Paul, Jonghee, Matt A, Gelsey.


The pleasantly spaceship-like tent in Market Square underneath which we performed the Park.  Brian did a stellar lead on this.  Pictured is David Matthews, our sound guy for the deal and a fine fellow.  There was some excellent people-watching to be done from inside here, there’s a bustling farmers’ market behind where the photo was taken.  10 pierogis for $5.  Two Irish wolfhounds were wondering about.  Mimi was circling us with a camera, which was interesting.


Aliza leading the Bank…IMG_1409

…complete with wigs.  Aliza’s costumes & props added a real extra oomph on this one.  Really cool space, echo-y but not too echo-y.  Aliza’s trombone parts really brought it to the next level too, not to mention Brian’s bass playing.


At Marty’s Market, our supermarket, there were not many shoppers, but the sound was terrific.  Mimi generously stepped in as a moving music stand for Shani on violin (Paul did the same for Cara).  The horns – Mark, Naoko, Matt, & Aliza – nailed it, and I felt like our version of the Supermarket really lets you look all the folks there in the eye and talk about the indignity of food and how there could have been robes of our tribe, priceless things, for Helen & John.  This was a ton of fun for me.


Even if Marty’s Market didn’t know what to call us.


Paul Pinto is Noel Givens in The Church.  Paul scored out the whole thing into 4 beat cycles.  Made some beautiful melodies, wrote some really nice keyboard parts, and got a nice little SATB choir to round things out.  The section after Dwayne’s interruption of the ceremony was particularly epic in Paul’s performance (starting around “I can’t figure out how they got together…”).  Energy energy energy from Mr P.


Aliza sets up the transmitter for the Backyard…


And then straps on Brian’s accordion to rotate around Gelsey & the band.  Very lovely stuff.  Gelsey’s arrangement ended with Aliza one floor up from the audience, playing out the window.  It got windy in this episode, but it was darn lovely.  Props to Michael, our great tabla player, for really getting what we were going for.

The Bar – I didn’t have any photos, but we were after a blues band that went long and didn’t get to start til after 11.  Matt Aelmore’s bass playing was a particular delight.  Brian & Paul nailed the delivery.  There was some unspoken touchiness between the regulars and the out of town interlopers, but that’s probably how it should be.  What were we doing carrying a keyboard in a blanket and a bunch of music stands in to Howlers?  Who knows.

That’s the first wave of a wrap.  More details to come.  As always, if you have photos, recordings, whatever, send them our way!

– Dave



One Comment leave one →
  1. May 25, 2014 5:32 pm

    Amazing! Beautiful!! Thanks so much for sending this. We are so grateful…m +M @

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