Zach Pietrini Anodyne Coffee, Milwaukee, WI 9/30/2022
Zach Pietrini Opens His ‘Rock & Roll Is Dead’ Tour in Milwaukee
Indie artist Zach Pietrini can claim a title as “Milwaukee’s Americana Crooner.” Over the past 9 or so years he has been in the area, he has pumped out 8 albums and EPs of personal soul-searching songs exploring a whole host of emotions.
Zach Pietrini launched his tour in support of his newest release, Rock & Roll Is Dead, on September 30, 2022, at Anodyne Coffee Roasting in Milwaukee to an enthusiastic crowd of old and new fans. For his current tour, Pietrini is backed by long-time collaborator Eric Anderson (keyboard, guitar and vocals), Jared Plant (guitar), Barry Paul Clark (bass), and Nick Lang (drums).
Much of Pietrini’s work is introspective, and has typically tended towards mellow acoustic. His songwriting and performances have been described previously as “Salt of the Earth Americana.”
However, Pietrini kicks it up several notches with Rock & Roll Is Dead, which dropped on September 23, 2022. Despite the title, the album enthusiastically represents Pietrini’s lively tribute to the genre.
While Rock & Roll Is Dead departs in structure and style from much of his earlier work, it’s not fair to suggest that Pietrini has fundamentally changed his musical approach. Instead, Rock & Roll Is Dead represents more of a testament to Pietrini’s versatility as an artist. Think of it as spreading his wings to embrace more of the broad range of Americana.
The evening’s set list included all of the songs from Rock & Roll Is Dead, with a few of his earlier works included, as well as a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”
Pietrini opened with ”Dead End Town,” the lead-off song on the album. Starting with Nick Lang’s aggressive drum intro, the song’s upbeat tempo immediately set the tone for the evening.
During “Walked Out The Door” and other songs, Pietrini virtually attacked his guitar with big free-wheeling strokes as he danced around the stage.
Throughout the set, Zach Pietrini commented frequently about how his music is borne from his personal experiences and life. Pietrini’s music represents what it feels like to pull away the façade and reveal the real and raw nature of one’s soul.
“I Want It All” showed a bit of Pietrini’s impressive vocal range, as his voice soared continually during the chorus.
“Seventeen” took the tempo down a bit. The song represented a bit more of his introspection, which Pietrini attributed to the perspective that comes from time and life’s experiences.
Pietrini performed an acoustic solo with “Amelia,” a song about the complications of modern love that he said represented a channeling of his malaise at the time of its writing.
Several songs in the set were inspired by Pietrini’s family. “Life Will Get Hard” is a love song to his wife. Penned during 2019 during the midst of the pandemic, Pietrini described this as an ironic ode written when there wasn’t much to do other than to write music.
Pietrini commented on his desire to include his own original sound in Rock & Roll Is Dead, but then wondered if most modern music wasn’t simply derivative to one extent or another.
Pietrini and his band then launched into their take on Springsteen’s classic, Dancing in the Dark. Despite his laments that there may be nothing new under the sun, his interpretation of Dancing was quite fresh and original.
“Losing My Life” reflects the low point of a person’s existence. “Alone in the living room, the light’s down dim/8-ounce coffee cup filled with gin….nobody’s better at wrecking my life than me.”
For his closing numbers, Pietrini and his band were joined by Christopher Gold and Phil Bregant.
Pietrini and his band ended the set on a high note with “Rock & Roll Is Dead.” Starting out slow and soft, the song gradually built to a rollicking, loud anthem with all of the band members and Gold and Bregant joining in on the final choruses.
During the set, Pietrini commented on recent thoughts of whether he should relocate to Nashville, noting that many of his friends in the industry are there. His family’s expanding roots and happiness in Milwaukee seem to have prevented him from following through on that move.
His decision to stay, of course, is to Milwaukee’s benefit as his talents remain. You could use the analogy of ‘big fish in a small pond’ aptly to describe how Pietrini fits into the local music scene! As his talents and following grow, however, one can’t help but wonder whether he will eventually set his sights on a much bigger pond.
Catching Up With Zach Pietrini
I caught up with Zach for a few minutes prior to the show. He relayed to me that the seeds for Rock & Roll Is Dead were planted in 2019, with a release for the album planned for late 2020. A few events intervened, such as the Covid pandemic. Once Covid restrictions began to lift, Pietrini became involved in other projects, including a highly successfully and satisfying 2021 collaboration with Memphis-based singer-songwriter McKenna Bray.
Interestingly, Pietrini also commented that the release of Rock & Roll Is Dead was delayed by the availability of raw materials for vinyl pressings. He commented wryly that it appeared major stars like Adele and Taylor Swift, with contracts for thousands of pressings, can command the attention of vinyl pressing companies better than much smaller indie artists like him!
Christopher Gold Opener
Christopher Gold sings about serious subjects. His songs represent his life’s journey and the struggles he and others have faced along their roads.
But Gold is really a funny guy! While he claims it’s not funny about 85% of the time to talk about depression, he injects humor into his songwriting to address this and other subjects. And his banter between songs had the audience laughing out loud.
Hailing originally from Kentucky, Gold currently makes his home in Appleton, Wisconsin with his wife and 13-year-old son. He’s toured throughout the country during his career and has appeared at festivals like ROMP alongside John Prine, Del McCoury, Sam Bush and Punch Brothers.
Gold’s style is essentially mellow, his guitar playing pure and clean with his chords and notes. His voice is calming with a bit of an edge showing through at times.
His lyrics are direct and often take an ironic approach to his subjects as if to suggest we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously even when we are dealing with weighty issues.
As with all performing artists, the Covid pandemic hit Chris Gold hard. He described the gut-wrenching feeling of having over 100 shows cancelled in 3 days during March 2020.
The time off forced Gold to turn inward toward songwriting, penning songs like “A Little Longer,” which is a tribute to the time he cherished with his wife.
Americana artists draw on their experiences and typically lay bare their vulnerabilities, fears, joys, challenges, and weaknesses. Perhaps this is a key to why the music resonates so meaningfully with audiences. Each of us can relate to or at least feel a kinship with the artist’s message.
Zach Pietrini perfectly represents this genre as he offers his heartfelt, and often heart-wrenching, view into the soul of the singer-songwriter.
Zach Pietrini’s Rock & Roll Is Dead tour continues through mid-November. For tour dates and the latest news on Pietrini’s music, check out his website: http://www.zachpietrini.com
Learn more about Christopher Gold at his website: http://www.christophergold.com
Rock & Roll Is Dead Tour Set List
Zach Pietrini—Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company—Milwaukee
DEAD END TOWN
WALKED OUT THE DOOR
I WANT IT ALL
WHAT ARE WE NOW
WRECKING BALL HEART
LIVING THIS WAY
LIFE WILL GET HARD
DANCING IN THE DARK
MILE HIGH FIRE
JUST A BOY
LIKE THE PAIN
AS LONG AS YOU’RE WITH ME
LOSING MY LIFE
I’M LETTING GO
ROCK & ROLL IS DEAD