Is it smoky in here or is it just me? [Rubs tears from bloodshot-red eyes; guy next to me passes out from lack of oxygen.] No, it’s definitely goddamn smoky in here.

So, so, so, take off your momma-made sweater and your Velcro-strap sneakers and bark hello to the neighborhood of fucking make-believe! This is the fifth installment of Welcome To Pittsburgh … Now Go Home, friends, and tonight we’re reporting from the front lines of the dive bar scene, the legendary Gooski’s, where the drinks are cheap, the music’s loud, and the smoke (of both the tobacco and marijuana variety) is thick and welcoming and loverly.

Somebody must’ve forgot to tell guitarist/vocalist/man-about-town Patrick Waters and, um, just about everybody else in Polish Hill that T-Tops weren’t headlining this dual record-release shindig — the band was second on a three-act bill — because they goddamned owned Saturday night. The crowd was thickest and loudest for them. The walls and floors shook the most when they played. The set was impeccable; not a note was out of place. And, man, they were on!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Pittsburgh quartet Night Vapor marked the release of its new debut full-length with a live set Saturday at Gooski’s, menacing the crowd with a sound reminiscent of early- to mid-80s metal minced with late 90s post-punk. Interesting and dark stuff, to be sure: not for Sunday brunch with Grandma. The highlight of the band’s set might’ve been the familiar no-wave single ”Climber” — the set’s opener, good call — which has been making rounds here near the Golden Triangle since it was released on Bandcamp as an early teaser to the new release, a grim affair.

T-Tops also celebrated a record release, this one a self-titled successor to a live debut, a fine, fine outing that was reviewed in these fine pages and on Swordfish in less smoky times. The band sounds as razor-sharp live as they do in drummer Jason Jouver’s studio. If anything, the raw energy of the stage and the pulse of the feedback bring out a kind of amplification and rage that get flattened or, in the least, slightly stunted in the production process. ”Drugstore Life” and ”Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’,” in particular, sounded like live-wire surges from some lost Melvins gig from a decade ago, and interesting little blasts of noise not on the CD (”Dead Magician” and ”Stunted Lowly Dolt,” according to the setlist) were a real treat.

Far from being filler, the one-man drummer-band opener Gangwish held the crowd’s attention and then some with inventive triggers and perplexing rhythms, managing to keep all of his soundscapes loopy and fresh. Each offering also provided countless windows into which you could enter a groove and get lost, expand on themes and find your way onto different textures and polyrhythms — no small feat for one man with a small kit and no less than a few small hook-ups and pedals. Worth catching next time you see this guy on a bill.

All in all, a fine evening, no cover and what’s the worst you could say? You have to take a few extra showers to get that nicotine smell off your eyelids and your toenails? For a live rendition of T-Tops’ ”3 Plates of Monkey,” isn’t it worth it?!

About the Author

Justin Vellucci

Justin Vellucci is a former staffer at Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines like American Songwriter and PopMatters, alt-weeklies such as Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper, and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish and Linoleum, and the Gannett publication Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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