Issue 25 . July 2001 

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The Akil Essoon Quintet Live

Last night more than just a DJ saved my life...
Dateline: June 8th, The Fine Arts Department performing at the South Side’s Memphis Lounge, above Zythos.

The Fine Arts Department, formerly The Akil Essoon Quintet—not your average Hip Hop band by any means... "We look like some Hip Hop rage shit!" said Akil, referring to the rock band Rage Against the Machine. FAD’s 30-minute first set featured more than eight tight songs, although according to Akil, "everything was going to be improvised tonight."

During the set, which began close to 11:30 p.m., MC Essoon dissed commercial rap—"...money, cash, hoes and clothes...Fuck those video bitches!"—and staked claim to his historic role in the scene, name checking his early 1990's Pittsburgh rap group, dropping science: "...you've never seen rap so rough since Pensoulzinacup!”

DJ Supa C (pictured right, front) transformed his 1200's into instruments, brought in snippets of hip hop classics including “Eric B is President” and BDP's “The Bridge is Over,” and even pointed to a turntable at the exact time when the beat would come back in. Bass guitarist Throck and drummist Mos Jeff did solos that made you think you were in a jook joint or upscale Pittsburgh jazz club.

Essoon and co. have been busy the past couple of months. Akil has formed a drum & bass band called Beam. It's not like your brother’s Pittsburgh-area drum & bass group. Beam is influenced more by the London drum-and-bass scene, according to Essoon: "It's more along the likes of Roni Size and others."

FAD’s upcoming live CD, recorded this past March 1st at the Shadow Lounge, will be available in stores this month. "The cover will look like a jazz album," adds Essoon.

The Fine Arts Department's June shows included a show at Ramsey's II in the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum in Homewood, complete with a horn section. And both the Fine Arts Depertment and Beam will perform at the E Festival 2001 July 14 & 15th in East Liberty.

East Liberty’s Shadow Lounge, where The Akil Essoon Quintet received a lot of exposure over the past year, turns one year old later this month. Akil is grateful for its existence. "It helped me get my start as an artist (with the Quintet)." "I'm so exited (and that) we need a place like that."

DJ John G
editor, PittsburghHipHop.com,
the Pittsburgh Hip Hop Authority

Beggars of the Sea

Drawing influences from Sunny Day Real Estate and Apple Seed Cast, and the Deep Elm/Jade Tree family, with dissonant guitars and emotional lyrics, Pittsburgh’s Serene answer the question "Is emo dead?" with a firm, non-negotiable “No.”

Though they’re immediately following their full-length debut with Pittsburgh-area shows, the band have played in Texas at Arena Rock Records’ SXSW Festival, NYC with Superdrag, and at Olympia, Washington with Poor Ol' Lou.

As Serene give the music thing a serious go, their efforts and synergy are earning the band notice all over. Tangzine ranked the band with Seam and Death Cab For Cutie, raving: “The sound of waves that introduce the opening track of ‘Beggars of the Sea’ is an appropriate sound for a band whose subtle and quiet music is every bit as soothing as the sound of waves crashing softly onto the shore.”

Technically hailing from Grove City, the quartet have a shot at being the next post-indie, last emo, or maybe the first "sound XYZ" band from Pittsburgh to get some decent press. With a gig history covering three corners of the country, they'll already done half of the work.

The other half is their debut CD, ‘Beggars of The Sea’, 11 songs, most lasting over four minutes, and one clocking just under 7 minutes. This first offering, “A Fallen Angel” is strong, and steady, a pleasant listen. Track two, “Shy and Withdrawn” is outstanding technically, its introduction a staccato guitar riff, spiced with a short echo effect, snare-rim taps leading into an anthem.

Track three, “Wars and Rumors of Wars” has repeating guitar pattern that creeps in quietly, then the second guitar plays over top, all done pristinely clean. The track previously saw light on the indie circuit on Velvet Blue Music’s ‘Unsigned Band Compilation Vol. 3 - Scene But Not Herd’ and HM Magazine’s April 2001 CD Sampler.

The last track’s title reads like a concept album, and although “Last Words of a Fallen Angel” seems to be simply a 6&1/2-minute scale exercise, Serene create some cool tape manipulations, changing the disc’s pace. In the near future, the band will continue live shows and issue a split three-track release with Cordelia's Rebellion and Edinburgh.

Esoteric song titles and even more scattered lyrical messages might confuse the novice listener, but Serene’s music has something warm and fuzzy going on underneath the emo facade, a soothing sound that can be your next late-evening soundtrack.

• Chris Pecoraro
editor, pittsburghrock.com
Pittsburgh’s most comprehensive
local-rock website

>>Relevant info:
web: http://serene.cjb.net
booking: Ryan @ 724.458.3229
email: hollowlewis@hotmail.com


After one hell of a decade, the Oakland Beehive closed its doors for good Tuesday, May 15. From the front, the club looked like a small castle, and in actuality, the place was fortified against all that was not cool. A longstanding cultural landmark, the King’s Court building over the years hosted events including an endless chain of local independent artists, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, professional wrestling, and true alternative acts. The outside served as a Parisian café in the heart of Pitt University, and its lobby was a full-service coffee bar. Walls adorned with trippy frescoes, the cavernous main room was a concert hall and movie theatre, an excellent place to catch independent and major musicians and films. In the past four years, a liquor license made possible The Pollinator Lounge, a cozy upstairs bar that hosted everything from DJ nights to international sensations including Neutral Milk Hotel to local bands from Whiskey High to Rusted Root, who recently performed a multinight series of sellout shows. In its final days, the Beehive a Guided by Voices/Spoon show, and the venue’s combination of location and ambience will be impossible to replace.

Owner Steve Zumoff, one of the city’s main propagators of vibe, also operates South Side’s Beehive coffee house and Lava Lounge, one of the city’s more intimate venues. “It wasn’t financially feasible for us to stay there,” Zumoff told Unsung Hero, explaining the closing as the result of a lost lease, and said that he is now working on establishing a new place to stage local shows. In a year that’s seen the city lose venues including hole-in-the-wall punk landmark The Electric Banana, it can’t happen soon enough.

• Mitch Kramer


Nestled at the nexus of three rivers, Pittsburgh hosts countless free outdoor musical events every summer. The early season was gray and rainy, but just in time, the weather broke, sun filled downtown, and the music came out.

Now in its fourth year, the premier outside showcase for local emerging and established talent, M Squared takes place in downtown’s Market Square Fridays, from happy hour ‘til the stars come out. In the past, M2 has taken place every week all summer, presenting local club favorites in the fresh air. This year, the ongoing mini-festival ran on a limited scale and just wrapped up. But while the party was going on, the tight schedule but gave ‘Burghers a dense, who’s who of Pittsburgh talent: Brownie Mary came out of retirement to join the Buzz Poets, and other bands that graced the stage included Sporadic, Sho’Nuff, Grapevine, the Voodoo Babies, and the Freedom Band.

WYEP, Pittsbugh’s independent public radio, sponsored the Three Rivers Arts Festival, presenting two solid weeks of free concerts at The Point—the park where the rivers meet—in a stellar fortnight combining the some of the ‘Burgh’s better talent and major national acts. Fast on their way to qualify as both, Pittsburgh’s The Clarks played, as did New Invisible Joy, The Gathering Field and Pittsburgh rock godfather Joe Grushecky. National acts included Lucinda Willians, Donna the Buffalo, and Martin Sexton. A uniquely pure, tastefully electic radio station, ‘YEP is member supported and gives back to the community in spades. Take a listen at www.wyep.org to see what you’re missing.


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