My Pittsburgh Tour: A Chanced Meeting With the Right Sort Of Crowd – Solarburn & SuperMonkey


Me, Russ Tompkins, a middle finger, Tony Thomas, Mike Stains

I’m hoping this becomes a thing here, looking to share all my rock related moments with folks back home in Africa. So, allow me share this story with you guys out there. As some of you know or don’t know, I moved to Pittsburgh to school for a couple of months, doing my graduate program here. Having a total blast too. Pittsburgh is fucking great, I love the people and the food! I’m a pretty skinny guy so I’m hoping to get some weight on before I head on back to Nigeria or my mom and girlfriend will both kill my ass (no they won’t, I’m Batman and they knows it… you don’t kill Batman.) Now one of the problems I face here happens to be me moving around, I don’t have a car but I do have a license. I don’t want to get a car yet because it happens to be one of the easiest ways to get a record and I’m not having any of that! So what do I do?


1471394_664500350247572_46047428_nSee, the thing is, in a city with many great people, Uber’s  one sure way to meet them. Getting into a car, a long ride from point A to B and you have to talk, unless you want your Uber driver to feel like you’re a retard or something. Hey, I ain’t no retard, no sir! I had to get Downtown Pittsburgh this one time and my Uber driver was Christian Groblewski! For me Chris epitomizes what I love about this city, “friendly.” It was actually the second time I rode with him so we were familiar with each other. And so we got into talking and then boom! I find out he’s a Rock music producer for Supermonkey Recording Co, a record label and he also happens to be in a band too. For me that was huge, meeting someone like him, big fucking deal, what’s even bigger is he’s played alongside Ace Freshley, yes THE one and only Ace! So we got into talking and he said he just finished producing an album for a band recently, the band named Solarburn! So we sampled one of their song from the album titled Ophafo. So there we are, Chris and I bumping our heads to this song as it set us in and then the songs wails on us! It’s a fucking mixture of everything I love about Metal! Chris had goosebumps listening to the song he produced, I had the exact same thing listening to the song he produced! So Chris drops me off at my destination (Gamestop.) He hands me fliers for Solarburn’s listening party and I promise him I’ll be there…. Boy was I in for some fun!

Mike Stains

Mike Stains

Fast forward to the 24th of October and I hurled myself to this awesome place called the Smiling Moose. I can’t describe this place enough, you honestly have to be there to get the legit feel of the entire setup, for me it felt like the place to be. So I made my way in, I met Chris there so it was nice seeing a familiar face. Then Chris introduced me to the band proper. Firstly I met Tony Thomas. He’s the bass player of the band, he also introduced me to his girlfriend, Mary Hannah Hart. How best can I describe Tony? You know that one kid in class who’s super awesome and you just want to buddy up with him? Yea. That’s Tony right there. We got into talking and soon I realized we had similar taste in music. Tony, a huge Jimi Hendrix fan and a history enthusiast just like me. We spoke about music and the different variations and loads more. But one thing we spoke about got me. While we spoke I told him about AudioInferno’s efforts in trying to bridge gaps and expose people to Rock in Nigeria, he asked me about how Rock was in Nigeria. I told him the truth: lots of Rock music fans and potential but not many people stepping forward to bell the cat. We both laughed at that then changed to something more serious. He then asked about the style of Rock music in Nigeria. I explained how many people want to sound like “the real deal” and by that I mean the big bands doing it. I also told him I liked that but you see, what Tony wanted to hear was this:

African bands incorporating the essence of their background and style into their music, not just copying what people are already doing and settling with the ‘norm’

Tony Thomas

Tony Thomas

He made reference to how Rock music here in the US is  fused with many styles like Blues and Funk to make it what it is today. Then it hit me, the truth. The truth we all know. Rock music in Nigeria needs to add that bit of ‘Afro’ in there! Later after drinks (Tony got me a shot of Jager, bless him) Tony introduced me to Mike Stains, the guitarist of the band. Super mellow and a delight to talk with. The best way I can describe Mike is he’s the guy who’s not talking to you when he’s talking with you, he’s talking to your mind and by that I mean he’s always talking on a deeper level. Which suited me well. Of all the uncountable things we spoke something he said stuck with me, it’s something I know and we all know but hearing it from him really sent the ball out of the park for me:

Nothing beats doing what you love, if you aren’t happy doing something or anything then you aren’t living but suffering.

I wanted to jokingly ask him if he was happy doing what he loves, I’m sure his answer would have been, “abso-fucking-lutely.”

Russ Tompkins

Russ Tompkins

THEN I was introduced to Russ Tompkins, the drummer of the band! With beer in our hand we spoke on an even deeper level. We talked about everything you name it, we talked about it. Then we got joined in by a friend of Russ who was at one time a MP at West Point. Those West Point stories of his killed me. He mentioned this one time where in New York, he was with like 15 of MP friends with the guns in holster position and then a mugger approached them asking for their wallet. They all laughed at the guy and brought out their guns, all of them. As the night passed we had drinks and bumped our heads to the song of the album by Solarburn, the songs made the night. As a fan of their genre of music I was home really. Eventually I was invited to come watch the band practice when I was around to which I said, “FUCK YES I WILL BE THERE!!!!!”

The guys were gonna party all night but I had work and assignments to finish that night so I had to head on home. All the while thinking to myself these things here:

What a freaking night,

How more awesome can a bunch of guys who are in a band be,

And the lessons I learnt from each and every one I spoke to at the Smiling Moose.

I said my goodbyes to everyone and promised them I’d show up at their next show in November. You can believe I will be showing up to meet the guys again! It was a pleasure and an honor to connect with such guys and the band as a whole. I wanted to share with you guys their music hoping someway you can connect with it and all I said so far. There is much to learn from bands, asides their music. I wish there was some way fans could connect directly to band, not just through a bandpage or anything like that but a one on one conversation like I had with Solarburn. Check them out guys, here’s a link to their bandpage also.

(Picture credit goes to the band and their Facebook pages, individual included)


Temet nosce. Author of the book: The Complication, Grim. Speed/Thrash Metal enthusiast. Guitarist. #CFC. Sub-serial AudioInferno podcaster. Habitual fire starter, local troublemaker, I'm BATMAN (nana, nana, nana, nana, nana, nana, nana, nana, BATMAN!!!!!!!!)

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