VIA’s fifth annual festival doesn’t disappoint

Courtesy of Nick Seyler- Vocalist George Clarke of black metal band Deafheaven screams on stage last Thursday at the Rex Theater.
Courtesy of Nick Seyler- Vocalist George Clarke of black metal band Deafheaven screams on stage last Thursday at the Rex Theater.

Following another successful outing this past week, VIA concluded its fifth annual festival that celebrated more unknown elements of the music industry, underground artistry and creativity. The five-day, city-wide fest took over various concert venues, theaters and museums all around the greater Pittsburgh area. The Duke attended a portion of the more anticipated shows that range in musical styles of hardcore rock to dainty acoustic ballads.

American purveyors of atmospheric metal, Deafheaven, came to Pittsburgh this past Thursday at the Rex Theater on the South Side. Before the show started, there were lanky metal kids in black t-shirts lined up around the block and when doors opened at 9:30 p.m., the crowds eagerly surged forward.

Pittsburgh natives, Slices, opened the show at 10:20 p.m. with an energetic noise-punk set that, though decent, felt somewhat out of place at this show. The crowd mostly concerned themselves with getting drinks from the bar or talking during the set.

If the crowd seemed unresponsive during the Slices set, they seemed more in-awe during the Liturgy set. The Brooklyn based group describes itself as “transcendental black-metal” and definitely lived up to that reputation. Front man Hunter Hendrix-Hunt opened the set with a simple, “Hey, we’re Liturgy,” before launching into to some of the most mind boggling metal ever played live. Their tight composition, impressive musicianship, and unique tone and textures left the crowd blown away during their songs.

Finally, Deafheaven took the stage around midnight and opened with some atmospheric sounds while the crowd readied themselves. Once the explosion of drums and harsh vocals kicked in, the crowd was moving, climbing over top of one another to get a chance to scream the lyrics back into vocalist George Clark’s face. Clark knew exactly how to play on the crowd’s emotions, dramatically throwing his body forward and whipping his head back while letting out his howling vocals.

The rest of the band seemed more focused on crafting the wall of atmospheric post-metal and kept their heads down, gazing at their shoes and guitar pedals. The band sounded incredibly loud and the sound was a constant ebb and flow of melodies and textures, blending together to form both harsh black-metal inspired parts and melodic soundscapes.

When Deafheaven finally finished their set around 1:15 a.m., the crowd had thinned out, with only the diehard fans remaining, but those who stuck around got to witness a very special show. -MB

Code Orange
On Friday, Pittsburgh natives and rising hardcore stars, Code Orange, made their triumphant return home for a tour in support of their new album I Am King on Deathwish Inc. The band played a sold-out show at Cattivo in Lawrenceville and turned the house upside down.

The show started off with South Carolina straight-edge band Discourse, who got the ever-swelling crowd moving. Then, Pittsburgh favorites Eternal Sleep played a pummeling set that made the mosh pit start to seem somewhat dangerous to approach. Following sets from Braddock band Hounds of Hate and Baltimore newcomers Angel Du$t, the crowd was really starting to get energetic.

By the time California metal band Twitching Tongues took the stage, the kids in the mosh pit were out for blood. They had it too, as the violent mosh pit left several with bloody noses. Twitching Tongues definitely deserved this level of energy as they played one of the most impressive sets of the night, somehow managing to sound heavier live than they do on record. Their unique blend of hardcore energy in a metal band is one of the most interesting sounds of the heavy music scene in the last few years.

When Code Orange finally took the stage the excitement in the room was palpable. From the moment the band built with feedback, the room was a blur of swinging fists and feet disappearing into the crowd after stage diving. Code Orange opened the with the title track of the new album, “I am King,” and sounded insanely heavy. I am King has managed to take a unique blend of influences, which the band says include Disembodied, Alice in Chains, and Prayer for Cleansing and combine them to make them sound absolutely skull crushing. The band has a kind of desperation to their sound that make them sound incredible in a live setting.

By the time their set was over, the whole venue was drenched in the sweat of the crowd and everyone tiredly left. -MB

Mary Lattimore/Jeff Zeigler Duo
VIA made its annual conclusion Sunday evening at the Thunderbird Café in Lawrenceville. Rather than conduct a peaceful resolution to the five-day festival, performers at the Café brought a much darker and more aggressive resonance to the small stage.

Harpist Mary Lattimore and programmer Jeff Zeigler (who has helped record albums with the likes of Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs), opened the evening’s musical festivities. Compared to other performers of the night, the duo’s short 15 to 20 minute set was rather subtle.

The entire set was a nonstop song, solely based on the ability of their instruments versus a vocal-based show. Despite the lack of a sing-along, the melody of Lattimore’s harp accompanied by Zeigler’s keyboard effects made for an attention-grabbing experience. Being able to illustrate a story without the use of dialogue would be a difficult task for most, but the manner in which the duo conduct their musical sequences made for an intense show. –SF

Circuit Des Yeux
From an initial glance at Haley Fohr, the mastermind behind solo project Circuit Des Yeux, one would infer that they would experience a quaint folk show that you could tap your toe to. In this case, appearances are certainly deceiving, as Fohr took aggressive songwriting and distortion to its peak Sunday evening.

Fohr made an impact immediately, wildly strumming her guitar to the tunes of her 2013 LP, Overdue, which does not pull many punches. Her shrill candor in conjunction with her rapid swaying back and forth on stage rivaled that of someone that was possessed. Fohr’s long, dark brown bangs covered her face as she screamed through her vocals a la Neil Young.

Fohr continued on throughout the set with the same attitude; loud and abrasive. She even debuted a new, untitled song which discusses the loss of a close friend. Although the track is very personal to Fohr, she felt very connected with the crowd at the Café and performed it exceptionally well. -SF