July Music Preview: Festivals and Fun

While the Pittsburgh concert scene in July doesn’t contain as many musical heavyweights as we saw in June, there is no dearth of talented bands and performers. July’s big names are Wiz Khalifa, Fall Out Boy, Kelly Clarkson, Van Halen, and Jane’s Addiction. This month’s twang will be provided by Shania Twain, Rascal Flatts, and Luke Bryan. Looking for something on the soulful side? Try Smokey Robinson and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, or Natalie Cole. A blast of 1990s nostalgia will be served up hot by Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, and Uncle Kracker, all traveling on the Under the Sun Tour. The Vans Warped Tour and Mayhem Festival will satisfy the craving for something a little out of the ordinary. Buddy Guy, Duke Robillard, and many hard-working local bands provide cool sounds for The Pittsburgh Blues Festival. Local artists in the spotlight this month are Billy Price, Norm Nardini, and Bill Toms and Hard Rain.

Thursday, July 2

 Wiz Khalifa loves Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh loves Wiz Khalifa.The Taylor Allderdice alum is also one of the hardest working people in the entertainment industry. His rap music has been nominated for seven Grammys, including the hometown fave “Black and Yellow.” In between frequent solo releases, Khalifa has collaborated with artists as diverse as Snoop Dogg and Maroon 5. His Taylor Gang Entertainment label, headquartered in the Steel City, recently partnered with Neff, an active lifestyle brand, to produce apparel including hats, jerseys, sweats, and more. Blacc Hollywood, his fifth studio album, went to number one on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart in 2014. Khalifa recently performed the lead single from Blacc Hollywood—”We Dem Boyz”—on both ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” He’s returning to Pittsburgh with the Boys of Zummer tour.

Pop punkers Fall Out Boy, from the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, are on the bill with Wiz at First Niagara Pavilion. Fall Out Boy was started by bassist Pete Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman as a pop-punk side project of their respective hardcore bands. Soon they were joined by lead vocalist and instrumentalist Patrick Stump, and when drummer Andy Hurley came aboard, they had the lineup that exists today. Since 2004 Fall Out Boy has been nominated for 43 music awards, winning 23. The group has two albums that garnered double platinum sales status and several multi-platinum singles. Fall Out Boy is currently touring in support of its sixth studio album, American Beauty/American Psycho, released this past January. Hoodie Allen opens. 7 p.m. 665 Route 18, Burgettstown.

 

Thursday, July 9

The Vans Warped Tour—what is at its core a punk rock showcase long ago expanded to include dubstep, hip-hop, metal, reggae, and other genres. Begun in 1995, the Warped Tour is not only the largest touring music festival in the United States but also the longest-running. The tour launched Green Day, Blink-182, and even Katy Perry. This year, with nearly 100 acts playing the tour’s First Niagara Pavilion date, there’s too many to list. However, some bigger acts include Escape the Fate, a post-hardcore band from Las Vegas. Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump co-wrote “Picture Perfect” with them for their 2014 album, Ungrateful. As a sign of the festival’s musical inclusiveness, there’s also Le Castle Vania, an Atlanta-based DJ who will be bringing remixes as well as original electronic compositions. Australia’s Trophy Eyes, meanwhile, will have plenty of the pop punk that the festival’s still known for. For a complete list of acts, visit the Warped Tour’s website. Set times and performance locations are not determined until the day of the show, so attendees should arrive early and seek the performance schedule, which is printed not on paper but on a giant, inflatable billboard. 11 a.m. 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (CM)

 

The voice of Motown meets Steel City classical when William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. brings his soaring tenor pipes to town for a concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Best known as lead singer of The Miracles on hits like “Tears of a Clown” (above), the Detroit legend also earned his spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a performer, music-business maven, and songwriter. In 1959 he helped Berry Gordy, Jr. launch the Tamla and Motown labels, then served as VP of Motown. And along with composing for his own group, Robinson wrote prolifically for other Motown stars. (His credits include “My Guy” for Mary Wells, “My Girl” for the Temptations, and “Ain’t That Peculiar” for Marvin Gaye.) Now a spry 75, Robinson remains very active, releasing the duet album Smokey and Friends just last year. If his gig with the Symphony turns out anything like his house-rocking live shows of the ‘60s—here’s “Shop Around”—‘twill be a concert to remember. 7:30 p.m. Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (MV)

 

Canadian rockers Three Days Grace put out their fifth studio album, Human, in March, and its first single, “Painkiller”, was a slow burn success. It took a few months, but eventually hit No. 1 on the Billboard Rock charts. Second single, “I Am Machine,” did the same. It was proof the band’s fans hadn’t deserted them with the departure of lead singer Adam Gontier, who quit in 2013 for health reasons, after more than 20 years with the band. New lead singer Matt Walst, brother of bassist Brad Walst, has taken up the reins. Despite the change in line-up, it’s been a pretty good run for the Toronto-based band, who had a hit with their debut single, “I Hate Everything About You,” in 2003. They’ve been struck by some bad luck on the current tour—canceling a gig in Burlington, Iowa, in June due to an electrical storm which damaged gear. Local fans will be hoping the weather stays clear for their outdoor show at Stage AETheory of a Deadman, Finger Eleven, and Pop Evil open. Doors open 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (HM)

Friday, July 10


It’s her first North American tour in more than a decade, and Shania Twain says it’ll be her last. But she’s had no shortage of time on stage in recent years, with the current 48-stop Rock This Country tour coming hard on the heels of a two-year residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, titled Shania: Still The One. The country star hasn’t released a studio album since 2002’s Up, after which she took a step back from performing due to voice problems. You couldn’t blame her for sitting back and admiring the trophy cabinet for a while. She’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, has collected five Grammys, and, with 1997’s Come On Over, claims the title of best-selling country album and best-selling album by a female artist. Featuring hits “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” and “You’re Still The One,” it was a country-pop-rock crossover juggernaut. While a new album has been promised, she’s not expected to be introducing new tracks on tour, so fans can expect to sing along with a catalog of hits. Twain plays at the Consol Energy Center with Gavin DeGraw. 7.30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (HM)

 

Long before suburban sprawl, Long Island was known for its oyster industry—and then, in the strangest of cosmic convergences, the Island gave birth to Blue Öyster Cult. Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, Eric Bloom, and company have been among the heaviest of heavy-metal and genre-busting rockers for more than a generation. Now Roeser and Bloom with the current incarnation of Blue Öyster Cult play the Allegheny County Summer Concert Series. Be prepared for songs including “Godzilla,” “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and an oyster-y feast of many more. Opening is Gene The Werewolf. Free. 7:30 p.m. South Park Amphitheater. Brownsville and McCorkle Roads, South Park. (MV)

 

Jane’s Addiction rose out of the City of Angels in 1985 to become one of the hottest acts in the burgeoning alternative music scene. The Los Angeles group’s self-titled first album was a success, as were the subsequent releases Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual.  Jane’s Addiction consists of founding member Perry Farrell (lead vocals), longtime members Dave Navarro (lead guitar and formerly of another L.A. band, The Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Stephen Perkins (drums), plus relative newcomer Chris Chaney (bass). The band has broken up and reunited several times since its first “farewell tour” in 1991. That tour was a Lollapalooza—the name Farrell gave it—and with other bands joining, Lollapalooza became a signature annual event in its own right.  After a couple of hiatuses Lollapalooza was reborn as a fixed-site festival in Chicago, with branch festivals now held in countries outside the U.S. as well. Meanwhile Jane’s Addiction is visiting Stage AE for a concert that will surely include several of the band’s biggest hits, like “Jane Says” and “Ocean Size.” Openers are Failure and Radkey.  Doors open 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH)

 

Pittsburgh Winery’s Songwriters in the Cellar series features a stellar local line-up this month. Brooke Annibale hosts three other songwriters, who are taking the stage without the backup of their usual musical cohorts. Casey Hanner of Donora, Judith Avers of the Early Mays, and Mark Ramsey of Cold Weather will be performing, sharing stories, and collaborating on stage. Vocalist from upbeat indie pop band Donora, Hanner has promised country break-up tunes, ’60s girl group pop, as well as pared-back Donora tracks for her solo show. Who knows what magic will be created when that’s combined with the talents of award-winning songwriter Avers, from the folk band the Early Mays, who are known for their sweet and intricate harmonies. Also add singer-songwriter Ramsey, the driving force behind chamber pop/folk indie Cold Weather. Ramsey and Hanner are likely to be already quite familiar with each other’s music—Jake Hanner (Casey’s older brother and band-mate) co-produced Cold Weather’s album, When Waking. 9 p.m. 2815 Penn Ave., Strip District. (HM)

Sunday, July 12

Christina Perri‘s big break came when her unreleased song, the moody, angst-ridden “Jar of Hearts,” was featured on an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2010. It went on to sell more than 4 million copies in the U.S.—but it was no fluke. Since then, she’s released two full albums, 2011’s Lovestrong—featuring another multi-million selling single, “A Thousand Years”—and 2014’s Head or Heart. Perri is sharing billing on a summer tour with Colbie Caillat, who also made her breakthrough with a smash single—2007’s “Bubbly.” Caillat’s now promoting her fifth album, Gypsy Heart, and still pouring out melodic, catchy pop tunes. The first single off Gypsy Heart is the sweet, self-acceptance anthem “Try,” the video for which features the most shocking kind of nakedness—women without makeup. The Girls Night Out, Boys Can Come Too tour is at Stage AE,  with special guest Rachel Platten. Doors open at 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (HM)

 

Mat Kearney‘s 2014 single “Heartbeat” is an infectious dance-pop tune that’s likely to have the crowds at Hartwood Acres up out of their lawn chairs and dancing on the grass in seconds. The single, from Kearney’s fifth album, Just Kids, also features a remarkable video—shot in a single take from a drone over the (almost dry) Los Angeles riverbed. Originally from Eugene, Oregon, the Nashville-based musician’s music has appeared on television shows including “30 Rock,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” He appears at the Hartwood Acres free summer concert series with Americana-folk band Judah and the Lion, also from Nashville. 7.30 p.m. 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton and Indiana townships. (HM)

Tuesday, July 14

“If lyrics sold, then truth be told / I’d probably be just as rich and famous as Jay-Z.” So raps Brooklyn’s Talib Kweli on “Ghetto Show” featuring Anthony Hamilton and Common, off Talib Kweli’s sophomore album, 2004’s The Beautiful Struggle. It’s been over ten years since Kweli (born Talib Kweli Greene) rapped those lines, but they still ring true. Despite acclaim for his socially conscious, politically insightful lyrics, Kweli will be playing Altar Bar. A hip venue, yes, but, in terms of attendance, a far cry from Consol Energy Center, which Jay-Z played the last time he was in town (though even he had trouble filling seats). Kweli has plenty of material to mine for the show. 20 years, seven solo albums, and collaborations too numerous to name, though we will cite one—1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star. It’s the only album by Black Star, but cuts like “Defintion” garnered it instant canonization as well as hopes that Kweli and Mos Def will record another one someday. Two years have passed since Kweli released a solo album, but seeing as 2013 saw the release of two (Prisoner of Conscious and Gravitas), no wonder he just wants to tour for now. Space Invadas, Palermo Stone, Chris Allen, and DJ Selecta open. 8 p.m. 1620 Penn Ave., Strip District. (CM)

Saturday, July 18

Hey metalheads! It’s your time of year again: The Mayhem Festival comes to First Niagara Pavilion. Kick off your loafers and don your steel-toed boots; armor up and get ready to mosh. Headlining this year is Slayer, supported on the main bill by King Diamond, Hellyeah, and The Devil Wears Prada. Slayer’s heavy guitar riffs and intense vocals come to us for a night of serious headbanging. An inspiration to bands like Slipknot, System of a Down, and Lamb of God, Slayer has been rockin’ out since the early ’80s and is considered by many to be a major influence in the death metal subculture. We’re bound to hear some older material like “Seasons in the Abyss” and maybe even “Bloodline,” complemented by new stuff from more than a dozen of the country’s most promising hard rock, heavy metal, and metalcore bands (a full list is on the Festival’s site). Doors open 1 p.m. 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (RH)

 

Nine-time Grammy winner Natalie Cole performs in Washington, PA, as part of The Meadows Summer Concert Series. Cole, daughter of jazz pianist and crooner Nat King Cole, is best known for 1991’s Unforgettable… With Love, an album of standards previously performed by her father, which went seven times platinum and scooped six Grammys. More recently, she’s been collecting awards for her Spanish-language album, Natalie Cole en Español, released in 2013. And, echoing the succesful “Unforgettable,” in which she sang a duet with a recording of her late father, the album features the duet “Acercate Mas,” using a recently discovered recording of  Nat King Cole singing in Cuba in 1956. It’s the 23rd studio album for the singer, who has struggled recently with health problems. Good to see her touring again. 8 p.m. 210 Racetrack Rd., Washington. (HM)

Sunday, July 19

New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem knows to respect one’s rock ‘n’ roll elders. From Bruce Springsteen, to Pearl Jam, to the Replacements, the band’s done their homework. (For proof, see frontman Brian Fallon’s interviews during Color Me Obsessed, a documentary about the Replacements.) In 2008, all that homework paid off with the band’s critically acclaimed sophomore album, The ‘59 Sound. Kerrang! put them on their cover without the magazine ever having previously written about them—a first. The Boss declared himself a fan. And the four-piece soon was sharing the stage with both The Boss and other heroes, like Eddie Vedder. They’ve released three albums since and are appearing at Stage AE in support of their fifth, Get Hurt. It’s been billed as one of those departure albums, with computer technology and electronic instruments used for the first time during the band’s recording process. But don’t worry. From the leadoff single, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” it doesn’t appear The Gaslight Anthem’s strayed too far from their New Jersey-punk sound. Desaparecidos and Murder By Death open. Doors open 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

 

Kelly Clarkson has spent more than a decade squarely in the public eye since becoming the first (and, by a good margin, most successful) winner of “American Idol” in 2002. She’s since released seven studio albums, won three Grammys, and sold more than 25 million albums. She’s also gotten married, had a baby, faced the inevitable online backlash for gaining baby weight, and has through it all maintained the honest, no-nonsense attitude that fans love her for. This summer she’s promoting her new album, Piece by Piece, which opened at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The first single, “Heartbeat Song,” features a sample of her baby’s in-utero heartbeat. Follow-up single, synthpop anthem “Invincible,” returns to a familiar Clarkson theme: emerging on the other side of heartbreak stronger than ever. Clarkson plays First Niagara Pavilion with Pentatonix and Eric Hutchinson. 7 p.m. 665 Pennsylvania Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (HM)

 

The kid was a genius. Young Billy Strayhorn was the talk of the Pittsburgh jazz scene in the late 1930s, partly for his piano playing but mainly because he’d come out of Westinghouse High School writing and arranging music like a masterful pro. Duke Ellington hired him, sending him travel money to New York and directions for getting uptown to the bandleader’s apartment in Harlem. The directions began with “Take the A train …” And when Strayhorn showed up he had a surprise for the Duke: a tune he’d just written. “Take the ‘A’ Train” (interpreted, above, in a movie short by the Delta Rhythm Boys) became an enduring jazz standard—as did many more songs that Strayhorn wrote for, or with, Ellington and his musicians during a nearly 30-year partnership. When Strayhorn died of cancer in 1967, Ellington recorded a memorial album in his honor.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Billy Strayhorn’s birth. To help celebrate him here in Pittsburgh, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra—a Grammy-winning band from New York that specializes in salsa and Latin jazz—is featuring a special tribute to “the Latin side” of Strayhorn’s music in a free concert at Hartwood Acres Amphitheater. 7:30 p.m. 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton and Indiana townships. (MV)

Friday, July 24

It seems a bit like tempting fate to call your concert series the “Riot Tour,” but it probably won’t be an issue for country-pop trio Rascal Flatts, who are headlining a national tour for the 13th year in a row. The Ohio band are promoting Rewind, their ninth studio album, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts, and features singles “Rewind” and “Riot.” It’s been a good year for the three-piece, made up of vocalist Gary LeVox, bass and keyboard player Jay DeMarcus, and guitarist Joe Don Rooney. They come to Pittsburgh fresh from opening for the Rolling Stones in Indianapolis and playing the first-ever country residency at The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Rascal Flatts plays the First Niagara Pavilion with Scotty McCreery and RaeLynn. 7:30 p.m. 665 Pennsylvania 18, Burgettstown. (HM)

 

The late B.B. King called Duke Robillard “[o]ne of the great players.” If that somehow isn’t enough of an endorsement, The Blues Music Awards named him “Best Blues Guitarist” four different years. He’s also played with artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Dr. John. Born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Robillard formed Roomful of Blues in 1967. Early gigs included sharing the stage and the studio with heroes Big Joe Turner and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. After a dozen years with Roomful of Blues, he left to pursue a solo career, during which he collaborated with artists as diverse as rockabilly king Robert Gordon and jazz saxophonist Scott Hamilton.

At 66, he still plays as many as 250 dates a year and, somewhere in between, gives lessons through Sonic Junction, an online music education website. This year, one of his tour dates includes a stop at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival. Local music legends Norm Nardini and Billy Price will perform with Robillard. Now in its 20th year, the festival has raised 100,000 pounds of food and two million dollars for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Gates open 4 p.m. Robillard performs at 9 p.m. Friday is free admission with a bag of non-perishable grocery items to donate to the Food Bank thanks to Fox 53, Giant Eagle, and WDVE 102.5 FM. Hartwood Acres Park Amphitheater, 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton and Indiana townships.  (CM)

Saturday, July 25

Buddy Guywho recently opened for the Rolling Stones in Chicago (why do we always seem to get the lesser of the Stones’ opening acts in Pittsburgh?), is ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Guy has influenced other great guitarists on that list including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He is one of the most successful artists in the Chicago Blues style and was a member of the legendary Muddy Waters band. He also frequently teamed up with noted harmonica player the late Junior Wells. Two of Guy’s top songs are “Stone Crazy” and “Cut You Loose.” Guy is one of the heavy hitters at this year’s Pittsburgh Blues Festival to benefit the Pittsburgh Food Bank. He often wears a polka-dot shirt and is known for sometimes pulling young rockers up on stage to jam with him. Bill Toms and Hard Rain open at 7:30 p.m.; Guy’s performance begins at 8:45 p.m. There are many talented local bands on the bill. Hartwood Acres Park Amphitheater, 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton and Indiana townships. (RH)

Sunday, July 26

The Tallest Man on Earth is a 5-foot-7 Swede named Kristian Matsson, who records lo-fi folk and plays it live with a punk rocker’s intensity. After four albums and two EPs, Matsson’s finally gotten, ahem, big enough to warrant a touring band and mid-sized historic venues, like Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. Part of Matsson’s waxing popularity has to do with opening for singer-songwriter Bon Iver back in 2008 and for the millions of plays his singles have garnered on Spotify. His partnership with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon culminated with Matsson recording overdubs and vocals at Vernon’s Wisconsin studio last year for Matsson’s newest album, Dark Bird Is Home, released 2015. The upbeat tempo of singles like “Sages” belies the album’s main theme, even if the lyrics reveal it—the dissolution of Matsson’s marriage to fellow Swedish singer-songwriter Amanda Bergman amid the rigors of touring separately. Like much heartbreak, it makes for great art, so be ready for extra fraughtness during what is sure to be a cathartic and intimate live show. 8 p.m. 510 E 10th Ave., Munhall. (CM)

 

When Trampled by Turtles played the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival last year, it drizzled, and Pittsburghers weren’t familiar with the new songs (Wild Animals, their seventh studio album, came out a month later). There will be no rain at Mr. Smalls. Well, there still might be rain, but the five bandmates are probably used to worse, being from Duluth, Minnesota and all. Plus, Mr. Smalls does have a ceiling. The Pittsburgh hip have had a year to learn the new songs and will hopefully dance to more than the back catalog. But don’t get those hipsters wrong, they like that back catalog, particularly the tunes off 2010’s Palomino, an album which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart. They love “Wait So Long” and that awesome cover TBT does of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind.” (Although, if the band could perform their cover of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies),” that would be even more awesome-er. Just sayin’.) No new album is in the works just yet, but the band will headline Red Rocks Amphitheatre in late August. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Monday, July 27

When The Killers released their debut album, Hot Fuss, in 2004, critics christened them as heirs to ‘80s arena rock, citing U2 and Bruce Springsteen as obvious forebears. Much of that praise had to do with frontman Brandon Flowers, whose tenor howl is just as rock ‘n’ roll as his name. A prolific songwriter, Flowers has released two solo albums between Killers recordings—2010’s Flamingo and 2015’s The Desired Effect. So what if the former received mixed reviews? Flowers just needed a little help from his friends. The Desired Effect features contributions from Bruce Hornsby, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, and some bandmates from the Killers, among others. And don’t forget producer-secret-weapon Ariel Rechtshaid, who’s worked with everyone from Bieber to Vampire Weekend. The result is a tight pop album, one which harks to everything that was great about the ‘80s. (Those synths! That Flashdance-esque typography on the cover!) While touring the album, Flowers has been joined onstage by both Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Bernard Sumner of New Order. Now he comes to Mr. Smalls. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

 

There’s something incredibly compelling about Brandi Carlile‘s video for “The Eye.” Carlile and bandmates, twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth, perform the stripped-back song, featuring just guitar and three-part harmonies in a single, unmoving take, staring straight down the camera as they sing: “You can dance in a hurricane / but only if you’re standing in the eye.” It’s one of the stand-out tracks off the new album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, along with opener “Wherever Is Your Heart,” with its belter sing-along chorus. The alt-country/folk artist’s fifth album, released in March, has had great reviews and been her most commercially successful to date, reaching No. 1 on both the US rock and folk charts. Carlile plays at Stage AE. Anderson East opens. Doors open 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (HM)

 

Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses blew hipsters’ minds when they announced they were releasing a covers album, due July 17. Pittsburgh hipsters, get ready to have those minds shattered once more for the duo’s show at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. That show is one of many in support of Sing into My Mouth, its title a nod to Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” one of 12 covers on the album. Other cuts include Sade’s “Bulletproof Soul” and Pete Seeger’s “Coyote, My Little Brother.” Iron and Wine is the stage name of singer-songwriter Samuel Beam. Fans include Kristen Stewart, who selected “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” to play during the prom scene in Twilight. Ben Bridwell doesn’t have a cool stage name, but he does front Band of Horses, one of the country’s most popular indie rock bands. Beam and Bridwell knew each other while growing up in South Carolina. Pre-file sharing, they would mail each other cassettes and CDs of music they liked, making this covers album something like 15 years in the making. Lydia Loveless opens. 8 p.m. 510 E 10th Ave., Munhall. (CM)

Tuesday, July 28

“Running With the Devil,” “The Cradle Will Rock,” and oft-played early MTV hits “Jump” and “Panama” are all signature songs of Van Halen. Formed in Pasadena, California in 1972, the band has seen several lineup changes around its core, brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen. For a brief period while growing up Alex was the guitarist and Eddie was the drummer in the family. Then Alex started playing Eddie’s drums, so Eddie said he was going to play Alex’s guitar, and they both found their niches. Eddie Van Halen is now one of the most noted guitarists in the world, ranked number eight in Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. Alex is a highly respected drummer who lays a steady and solid beat for Eddie’s guitar and the rest of the band. The original bassist was Michael Anthony, replaced in 2006  by Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie’s son with actress Valerie Bertinelli. For lead singers—see if you can keep up with me here—the theatrical rocker David Lee Roth was the original until 1985, then it was Sammy Haggar from 1985 to ’96, then back to Roth for a brief period in 1996. Gary Cherone bravely stepped in for a three-year stint, then Haggar returned from 2003-05, and Roth replaced him again in 2006. Aren’t rock bands grand!

Van Halen’s music is evocative of a rock and roll train, with a steady, ever-present, driving beat on which fantastic guitar riffs are built. The bass contributes as do harmonic rock vocals and interesting song concepts. In 2007, Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band’s latest album is Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, recorded at a 2013 gig in Japan and released in March of this year. Van Halen comes to First Niagara Pavilion with (remember, now) David Lee Roth on lead vocals, and the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band opening. 7:30 p.m. 665 Pennsylvania Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (RH)

 

Hozier, born Andrew Hozier-Byrne, was arguably pop music’s most pleasant surprise in fall 2014. The 25-year-old Irish singer-songwriter looks like he works at some cool coffee shop, what with the ponytail and facial hair, but he sings in the tradition of Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf. Shortly after his self-titled debut went platinum in his home country, he was playing “Saturday Night Live,” and his inescapable single, “Take Me to Church,” was raking up views on YouTube by the millions. Even Taylor Swift counted herself a fan when she tweeted “Work Song” was the perfect song. A Grammy nomination followed as well as a performance with Annie Lennox at the 2015 Grammy Awards. A new album is reportedly in the works. Until then, Hozier’s success brings him to the Steel City, where he will play Stage AE. Los Angeles folk-rock band Dawes open. Members (and brothers) Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith recently appeared with Elvis Costello and others on Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, an album built around old, unused Bob Dylan lyrics. Doors open 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Wednesday, July 29

In “Scared,” Delta Rae weave gospel harmonies and a pop beat over the band’s folkish core. It’s an arresting number, the lead-off single from After It All, their sophomore album. It also evinces they have no intentions of slowing down. Formed in Durham, North Carolina, the group is one-half a family act—three of its six members are siblings. When they released their debut album, Carry the Fire, in 2012, it perked the ears of music staffs ranging from NPR to VH1. An EP followed in 2013—Chasing Twisters. The EP saw Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham declaring his fandom; he played on a re-recorded version of “If I Loved You,” a song which originally appeared on Delta Rae’s debut. In addition to making multiple appearances on Leno and Conan, Delta Rae have played nearly every American music festival: Bonnaroo, Voodoo, Lollapalooza, you name it. This summer sees them touring in support of After It All, including a stop at Altar Bar. Liz Longley opens. 8 p.m. 1620 Penn Ave., Strip District. (CM)

 

Friday, July 31

One of the biggest acts in country music, Luke Bryan, hits the region on his Kick the Dust Up tour for back-to-back concert performances. Since 2009, the native Georgian has been on a tear with eleven songs rising to number one on the U.S. Country charts. “Country Girl (Shake it for Me)” went triple platinum and is the third-best-selling song by a male country artist. Early in his career, Bryan earned his keep as a Nashville songwriter by penning tunes for the likes of Travis Tritt and Billy Currington. He has proved to be more than capable of stepping into the spotlight himself, winning the 2013 Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year award. More often seen in a baseball hat than a cowboy hat, Bryan has become a fan favorite by writing music that deals with some pretty popular themes (see tracks like “Wild Weekend,” “Cold Beer Drinker,” and “I’m Hungover”). Luke Bryan will be joined by Randy Houser and Dustin Lynch at First Niagara Pavilion. 7 p.m. There is a second concert on August 1. 665 Pennsylvania 18, Burgettstown. (RH)

Entertainment Central’s executive producer, Rick Handler, is a lover of great music. 

Christopher Maggio, Heather McCracken, and Mike Vargo also made substantial contributions to this preview.