For lots of people, getting out of Pittsburgh is easy. Countless members of my generation grew up in Pittsburgh – some even went to college there – and then moved away after graduation. The generation before, Pittsburgh lost lots of jobs with the shuttering of steel mills, pushing residents to look for jobs elsewhere. It’s not unusual for Pittsburgh ex-pats to eventually come back, but the various forces that have caused Pittsburghers to make their way somewhere else have created a vast Pittsburgh diaspora that’s best reflected in attendance at road games for Pittsburgh’s sports teams. Everyone born and raised in Pittsburgh is a sports fan and that gets moved with the people, who usually remain committed and connected to their hometown through the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers.
For Pittsburgh bands, escaping the city has proven to be a lot harder. On several occasions, local bands have signed deals with major labels, recorded an album… and then had the whole deal fall apart. The Clarks recorded Someday Maybe on a deal with MCA, but were dropped from the label before getting any promotion for the album. Seven years prior, The Affordable Floors also recorded an album for MCA, only to be dropped from the label before their album was released.
After the Floors disbanded, bass player Eric Riebling went on to become a founding member of another local band, the Gathering Field. Like their contemporaries, the Clarks, the Gathering Field’s first album was a local hit and their second album got the attention of a major label. However, after Lost in America was released on Atlantic Records, there was turmoil at the label and the band and album got lost in the shuffle, eventually resulting in the band asking for and receiving a release from the label.
Although the band went on “indefinite hiatus” back in 2002, they made their mark on the Pittsburgh music scene in the mid and late-90’s. Frontman Bill Deasy continues to be a prolific songwriter, working with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus, Martina McBride and the Clarks and opening for folks like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. So maybe it is possible for Pittsburgh musicians to make it big outside the city, even if it’s mostly in a supporting role, rather than a starring one. Seems somehow fitting for a city built on steel.
Dylan Thomas Days – The Gathering Field