"WSG Soundbytes" pamphlets recently appeared on countertops citywide. No, they're not for Soundbytes, the CMU a cappella group, nor for the social event sponsored by the Pittsburgh Symphony. This Soundbytes is actually a series of indie rock bands and electronic artists playing all month, every Friday and Saturday, at the Wood Street Galleries. And it's not just another multimedia art exhibit: no new visuals, just music.
This isn't groundbreaking for Downtown's Cultural Trust bastion of contemporary art (along with sister gallery, SPACE). They've both had bands at openings and gallery crawls. But with so many bars, art spaces and cafés around town already hosting music, what's the urgency for yet another venue? Especially one in an area where no audience lives, except a handful of Point Park and AIP kids?
WSG curator Murray Horne says it's about the science of bringing people Downtown.
"From our surveys, I know that we wanted to continue attracting that younger audience, from 18 to 30." The notion of colliding "high" and "low" cultures (according to the Trust's biased definitions) excites him. "We're not a monoculture anymore in America -- it's a series of micro-cultures that people can choose to participate in ... [and] in order to have a energetic city, you have to get young people involved."
So he farmed out booking duties to two X-ers on his gallery staff: Chris Korch (electronics, assisted by Geoff Maddock) and Thad Kellstadt. These guys went with what they knew. For rock, Kellstadt called on groups like The Working Poor, Natura Nasa and Centipede E'est. Korch's plan features Colongib, WRCT DJ Alan Lucas and Xanopticon (who follows a WSG appearance on Saturday with yet another European tour).
And so far, it slams. Maddock's slating of Cincy-to-Berlin breakcore wizard Enduser packed 100 people in the space, mostly from the down-low drum-and-bass scene that only comes out for the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern's Fuzz nights. Other plusses are free admission (or "suggested donation") and free drinks and eats. The bands also get paid well -- an amount equivalent to a packed night at Gooski's -- straight from the Trust's budget.
So what's not to like?
Well, a skeptic could question whether this is a solid commitment to underground music, or merely intended to boost short-term demographic numbers. Horne says it's a commitment; in January, a series will alternate between SPACE and the WSG. "We're looking especially for musicians who cross between the artistic disciplines." Interested parties should e-mail him: firstname.lastname@example.org.