There is a t-shirt that is often present on the streets of Pittsburgh that reads “A Drinking Town With a Sports Problem”, the validity of that slogan was on prime display in the basement venue of Cattivo this past Saturday evening. Under the heavy fuzz of local trio Honey a subdued crowd remained quarantined in the specified drinking zone of the all ages club where they tried not to focus on pre game coverage for game three of the Stanley Cup Finals. As the puck dropped to start the game Blaenavon a trio of young gents from the UK took the stage and did their best to seduce the big eyed sports fans away from the television behind the bar with catchy tunes like “Let’s Pray” and “Lonely Side”. Blaenavon takes some of the pop sensibility of bands like Muse and Travis delivering these bright and groovy pieces with a distinct tone of sadness and still finding time to plunge into little fits of rock and roll rage. Singer guitarist Ben Gregory also has quite the voice, one that I dare say has the ever so haunting similarity to the late great Jeff Buckley. With members of Blaenavon just recently exiting their teen years and releasing their first full length album this year the future is most certainly wide open.
By the time White Reaper was plugging in, there was a soft filtering of the crowd towards the stage, perhaps the effect of the alcohol was taking hold and what ever shyness that was keeping them from approaching the stage to see the band they paid to see play began to dull. Earlier in the evening I had witnessed bass player Sam Wilkerson pacing around the venue audibly complexed about the lay out of the bar to stage location and now that pacing had shifted to the stage. It was clear the band was visually agitated by the lack of interest from the back of the house and laid down the first riffs of the night with a little extra gusto. White Reaper looks like the kind of guys that would show up to your party uninvited, drink all your beer, make out with your girlfriend and steal your moms car to go to Denny’s. They might look small but they punch hard and with anthems like “Judy French” “Party Next Door” and “Little Silver Cross” it’s not hard to imagine the harmonic riffs shaking the inside of an arena someday soon. Tony Esposito’s low slung Les Paul and raspy snarl puts him into the caliber of a punk rock Jack White, taking what bands like the Black Lips and No Bunny have done but instead of driving a busted El Camino they’re rolling up in a monster truck. The band smashed through a set consisting mostly of material off of the new album “World’s Best American Band” but not before wishing vocally to the remaining members of the bar that “they hope the Penguins lose”.