5 shows in 4 days: Mannequin Pussy, George Clanton, All 4 All, more

This week's Chasing Fridays column is exclusively dedicated to the boatload of live music I saw over the last seven days.

5 shows in 4 days: Mannequin Pussy, George Clanton, All 4 All, more

Ayo what's up. It's Friday and I'm proud to say that my back, neck, and knees actually aren't sore after marathoning five shows across four days earlier this week. I figured that achievement called for a special edition of my Friday column where, instead of writing about a combination of music I listened to and shows I attended, I'm focusing solely on the latter. Because sometimes, believe it or not, I'm conscious of my own rambling tendencies, and decided that what I wrote below is enough words from me for this week.

So yeah. I saw a shit-ton of live music this week, and frankly I'm still disappointed in myself for not kicking off my run one night earlier at the Chappell Roan show, which would've made for a great "I saw her at that venue" brag when she inevitably plays an arena next time she's in town. That said, I still managed to fit in an eclectic mix of gigs ranging from indie-rock and hardcore, to thrash-metal and chillwave.

I know I usually go pretty long on these live reports, and they're usually packed with some larger context about the artist and a grand takeaway from me about What It Meant to see that band at that particular moment. But this week I tried to keep each writeup relatively concise, while still weaving in some more wide-scale observations about the artists I was seeing. I'm happy with how they came out! These were some fun and special shows.

Check it all out below, and if you'd consider subscribing to Chasing Sundays at the $5/month tier, that'd be immensely appreciated. Thanks so much to everyone who's done so thus far. Ight now get on with it!

String Machine, Kicked in the Head By a Horse, Space Buns Forever, Heading North at Mr. Roboto Project (4/6)

Anyone who's been involved with any form of DIY rock music in Pittsburgh over the last 20 years knows the Mr. Roboto Project, a long-running all-ages DIY space that's long been located in the city's Garfield neighborhood, an eight minute walk from my current house and a two minute skip from my old one. Last month, the volunteer-run venue announced they were partnering with the art space above to buy out the building so they could remain in that spot indefinitely, and fortunately they were able to secure the $50k in funding a few days before this benefit show even happened. So Roboto is stayin' put, and that's a true win for the city and its scene.

Roboto has come to mean a lot to me throughout my seven years in Pittsburgh, and this super mixed-bill gig felt like a beautiful celebration of the various musical communities it continues to serve. Fast-rising pop-punkers Heading North opened with a genuinely amazing set of earworms that fused easycore breakdowns with serious guitar shredding and even more seriously impressive vocal chops. It takes a lot for a pop-punk band to win my approval these days, but this crew of early twentysomethings could legitimately make a go of it as a touring act if they were so inclined. They've got the charisma, the musical prowess, and the songwriting tact that 90% of the bands in that world wish they had. Very cool and fun to see.

My friend Gem Fair reignited their defunct solo project Space Buns Forever for a spellbinding set of stark, brutally honest emo-folk tunes about heartbreak, death, and hope for change. Their songs are pared-back to just rudimentary bass chords and their casually gutting lyricism, which they deliver with a conversational deadpan that still manages to carry a solemn tune. It was hypnotically voyeuristic in the best way, and a completely different vibe than mathcore freak-flag-fliers Kicked in the Head By a Horse, who followed. Clearly one of the night's bigger draws, they pair skramzy vocal shrieks with jittering, discordant riffs and beats that were so forceful that the drummer had to put his disheveled kit back together after each song.

Finally, Pittsburgh indie-rock heroes String Machine closed the night out with another bulletproof set of Folken Social Scene goodness (bad pun, I know, but where's the lie?). They've yet to make it nationally the way they deserve to, but that hasn't soured their spirit, which always shines through in their goofy, earnest banter and the soft-glow magic of their musical partnership. This band has at least three or four songs that're absolute fucking knockouts, and they always put together a thoughtful set that has the room jiving by the end, even the younger folks who came out for pop-punk and/or mathcore, and serendipitously left with a new favorite local act.

I can't tell you how many times a Pittsburgh band has rocked me at Roboto. I'm so happy that that figure will only continue to grow now that this invaluable Pittsburgh institution has secured its permanent home in Garfield. Hallelujah Hellyeah, as String Machine would say.

Alamoans, All 4 All, Yield to None, Street Hassle at Shred Shed (4/7)

This was a great hardcore show done DIY style at this spot called the Shred Shed in Pittsburgh's Allentown neighborhood. Everyone "working" the show plays in a Pittsburgh hardcore band, and most of the people moshing throughout each set were members of the bands playing that night. All 4 All and Street Hassle are from the currently-booming Syracuse hardcore scene (which I wrote about here), and Yield to None are a band from Tampa whose newest EP came out on Designated Mosher's Unit, the great up-and-coming hardcore label who also dropped All 4 All's awesome 2023 demo and Street Hassle's 2024 promo.

All three of the touring acts play no-bullshit American hardcore that's reverent of late-Eighties NYHC. Street Hassle opened with a cover of Sick of it All's "Clobberin Time," and All 4 All covered Warzone ("As One") — as well as Danzig's "Mother" and Negative Approach's "Why Be Something That You're Not," which they ran back four or five times in a row to close their set. The touring trio were constantly goofing with each other and moshing heartily during each other's sets, giving off a real good vibe that was fun and light-hearted, but still reverent toward their mean-and-lean hardcore.

Pittsburgh's Alamoans (featuring members of Speed Plans and Silver Car Crash, among other local projects) capped the night with their "mysterious guy feedback bald skinhead" hardcore, as the show's promoter described them. They were the clear outliers on the bill, but their scowly, noisy, no-banter set still got a wild reaction on the dancefloor, where people strutted and lunged like stalking tigers during the side-to-side parts. Four, real-deal DIY hardcore bands (only one has an Instagram account) playing on a Sunday night in a semi-inaccessible area of Pittsburgh still drew a respectable crowd. Shit's movin' over here right now.

Mannequin Pussy, Soul Glo at Thunderbird Cafe (4/8)

I hadn't seen Mannequin Pussy since December 2019, when they played an invigorating sold-out show at Mr. Roboto, a venue I saw them play to maybe 20 people in just two years earlier. This time, they sold out the 400-cap Thunderbird weeks in advance, and the room was filled with college-age kids (and many younger teens) who knew all the words to their new album, I Got Heaven (which I shared my thoughts on last month).

This was also my third time seeing Soul Glo in Pittsburgh, and while the Philly hardcore troubadours are always air-tight, I'm still chasing the high from the first time I saw them, when singer Pierce Jordan was really on one and it seemed like he was angry enough to chuck the mic down and storm offstage at any moment. It was intense and cleansing and nerve-wracking all at once, and this set was just intense and cleansing. Still great, but considerably chiller than the bar they set for me back in 2022.

Mannequin Pussy, on the other hand, have certainly not chilled out. Since I last saw them, they've expanded their live ensemble into a five-piece, with Carolyn Haynes playing synths, guitars, and adding some backup harmonies to buff out frontwoman Marisa Dabice's crackly falsettos. They opened with a trio of indie-pop dollops from I Got Heaven, allowing Dabice's voice to hit the higher, more delicate melodies of "Nothing Like" and "I Don't Know You" before she threw her vocals into overdrive for the rest of the set. The one-two of "Patience" and "Drunk II" had the room howling, and the loudest crowd participation of the nighit happened during "I Got Heaven," when a militia of locked-in fans upfront tossed the line, "And what if Jesus himself ate my fucking snatch," back at the band while pumping their fists in unison. It was badass.

I've been so-so on the faster, more hardcore-oriented tracks on the band's last two albums, but seeing Mannequin Pussy blaze through several of them in a row was undeniable. As a recorded band, I think their alt-rock songs are more compelling than their punk ones, but this show was a rousing reminder of just how fucking powerful Dabice is a thrashing, sashaying punk frontperson. It was a rip-roaring set, but my night wasn't over yet...

Enforced at Cattivo (4/8)

As soon as Mannequin Pussy approached the final hook of their encore finale "Romantic," I skirted through the back of the crowd, dashed out the venue, and hoofed it around the block to try and catch Richmond thrashers Enforced, who were headlining a four-band bill at Lawrenceville's Cattivo. I arrived at 10:30 and Enforced's tour support, death metallers Blazing Tomb, were still onstage, so I let out a "fuckyeah" and descended the stairs into the lovably crusty old Pittsburgh haunt, where I've seen everyone from Mitski to Negative Approach during my time in the city.

Mannequin Pussy's crowd was comprised of young, fresh-faced college kids, and this dark, dank room was maybe one-tenth full of haggard, stink-facing metalheads. The exact type of folk I want to be surrounded by for an ass-kicking thrash-metal band like Enforced. The band have been poised to become the next Power Trip for a couple album cycles now, and just haven't cracked through to that level yet — but that's certainly not due to a lack of chops. Enforced come from the hardcore scene, but unlike a lot of crossover thrash groups who play shreddy riffs through buzzy, trebley, hardcore guitar tones, Enforced have the bottom-heavy chutzpah of a real-deal metal band.

Their lead axman is a fucking wizard on the fretboard. Both he and their rhythm guitarist sounded absolutely fucking huge palm-muting the mighty verse riffs, and the drummer's ballistic double-kicks made the mid-tempo grooves irresistible to headbang to. I was the only one who threw a few spin-kicks and karate punches during the mosh parts; otherwise this was a circle-pitting and drunkenly push-pitting crowd, which was more than fine with me in this setting. As much as I love some good hardcore dancing, the swagless earnesty of a metal push-pit is a necessary reset for me.

George Clanton, Full Body 2 at Spirit (4/9)

Photo snapped by Shawn Cooke

I had no idea what to expect going into this show, and it might've been my favorite of the whole week (which is saying a lot). Well, I knew that Full Body 2 are the best contemporary American shoegaze band, and their set lived up to the overwhelmingly positive impression I already had of their music. But I purposefully went in almost entirely blind for George Clanton, who I only knew as the 100% Electronica guy who used to make vaporwave and now makes albums with 311's Nick Hexum.

I didn't know that he had the kind of rockstar charisma that I almost never witness at the indie and punk shows I typically attend. I didn't know that his self-made lighting rig — boasting a full-scale LED backdrop, two towers of vintage TV's flanking the stage, and two laser projectors that beamed watery ripples of light atop the crowd — would be the coolest stage production I've seen since Charli XCX in 2022. I didn't know that Clanton would stumble out drunk, and only continue to get drunker as he guzzled beers throughout the set, while still managing to perform his pulsing, chillwavey synth-pop with a flawless degree of showmanship.

But now I know. And I'll never forget it. The dude was seriously such a magnetic presence, nailing the delicate balancing act between belligerent goofery and thrilling spectacle. Standing around six-foot-three (if not taller), he strutted out in a leather jacket and a pair of baggy jeans that were riding dangerously low the whole night, exposing his thin midriff and somehow making him look even taller. When he didn't have a beer in his left hand, he clutched a yellow maraca that he shook vigorously during each song, moaning and bleating into the mic in his other hand, which he frequently hitched back into the mic stand (that he swung around with reckless abandon) so he could tinker with the sound and lighting controls.

His banter was hysterical and confrontational, but never aggressive. He playfully chided the fans upfront for motionlessly holding their phones up, and promised that he was gonna "fuck them up" at some point during the set. He was man of his word. During the final third of the performance, he had a seemingly endless supply of water bottles that he'd drizzle over his face and then splash into the front row, sometimes spontaneously diving onto or leaping into the crowd to spritz and frolic with the sweat-and-Dasani-drenched revelers upfront.

He never stopped moving and almost never stopped talking, blathering with a boozy friskiness that somehow didn't impede his perfectly-timed bass drops and animated light-show maneuvers. He had a rare command of the stage that I didn't anticipate considering his association with vaporwave, a genre characterized by anonymity and home-made compositions that minimize the human touch. The records under his own name, 2018's Slide and 2023's Ooh I Rap Ya, are a lot warmer and more sensual, but his mumbly vocals are shrouded in enough reverb that they get artfully buried beneath the booming trip-hop drums and squealing synths.

Clanton had no trouble recreating that blurry vibe live, but there was so much amped-up personality in his delivery that dancefloor boogies like "Livin' Loose" and "I Been Young" — which sounds like The Stone Roses via "Deadbeat Summer" — hit even harder live. It was the kind of set that I couldn't stop smiling during, either to marvel at the genuinely impressive light show, Clanton's boundless rizz, or the way his primally satisfying head-nodders had the whole room moving in magical, non-pretentious harmony.

I didn't know that Clanton's set would feel more quintessentially rock 'n' roll — loose, unpredictable, sexy, hilarious, savvy, and effortlessly cool — than any of the rock bands I saw in the days prior. But now I know.