October Concert Guide: McGraw-Hill, The National, Halsey, and Third Eye Blind

Tim McGraw performing on his Soul II Soul Tour, in 2006. photo: sisterphotography and wikipedia.

Tim McGraw performing on his Soul2Soul II Tour, in 2006. photo: sisterphotography and Wikipedia.

Summer concert glory has faded. Most of the outdoor venues are done for the season and we are now transitioning into more of an indoor concert season. The country music tour of Faith Hill and hubby Tim McGraw visits PPG Paints Arena in one of October’s bigger shows. Another much-anticipated concert is that of rising talent Halsey, also at PPG Paints.

The Toronto music collective known as Broken Social Scene is on tour. This year the flexible band includes Emily Haines of Metric and Leslie Feist of her namesake group. Alt rockers The Pixies bring their pop punk sound to Stage AE. Also at that venue is rock group The National, who rose out of Cincy and now call Brooklyn home. Any month is a good month when the versatile Ben Folds is in town. He will perform at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. It’s always cool to have Dinosaur Jr. roaming our fair city; the band will be at Mr. Smalls. ’90s pop rockers Third Eye Blind is all set to perform at Stage AE.

It’s never too early to start thinking about Halloween night, and Stage AE has you covered with a show by the Canadian rock band Japandroids and Clevelanders the Cloud Nothings. On the hometown heroes front, The Clarks play an annual benefit show at The Palace, and Bill Toms and Hard Rain featuring the Steeltown Horns are having a two-night album release party at Club Cafe. The concert pace may have slackened from September, but there are still some very high-quality shows on the music scene. So venture out for some fun with one of our highlighted shows or one of your own favorites.

Sunday, October 1

Having recently visited Toronto, I can attest that there are many happening scenes there, including the music scene. Broken Social Scene is a collective of Toronto musicians built around the nucleus of Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. The size of the group can go from a low of six to a high of 19 members. Many play in other bands in Toronto including Metric, who were here last year as a headliner for Thrival Music Festival. Leslie Feist of her namesake band also performs with the group. Feist and Metric’s Emily Haines are slated to perform on this tour. Broken Social Scene’s music is fluid, occupying many different genres such as Baroque pop, grand orchestrations, and experimental. The group has released five albums including Hug of Thunder, which dropped in July. Broken Social Scene has been nominated for five Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Awards), winning two. Opening is Scottish indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit. 8 p.m. Byham Theater, 101 6th St., Cultural District. (RH)

Wednesday, October 4

For Wye Oak’s fourth studio album, 2014’s Shriek, Jenn Wasner put down her guitar and picked up the bass. This might not sound like a big deal, but consider that Andy Stack is the only other member of this Baltimore duo. Consider too how big a record their previous LP, 2011’s Civilian, was. The A.V. Club voted it the best album of 2011, and the title track was used in “The Walking Dead” and in the indie film Safety Not Guaranteed. It was a sonic departure—the flash of “Holy Holy” traded for the slow-burn of “Glory”—but it worked. Fans and critics lauded Shriek. 2016 saw the release of Tween, an album of songs which originated between Civilian and Shriek. This year, Merge Records released two new Wye Oak songs, “Spiral” and “Wave Is Not the Water,” on a limited-edition 7-inch. If you missed Wye Oak last year at their sold-out concert at Club Cafe, they return there again this year. Luke Temple opens. 8 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (CM)

Boston alternative band the Pixies formed in 1986 when guitarist Joey Santiago bought an ad looking for a female bass guitar player who liked both Peter, Paul and Mary; and Hüsker Dü. Only one person responded, Kim Deal, who had never played a bass before. She liked Santiago’s concept, got a bass, and joined the band, which also had Black Francis and David Lovering in it. In 1987, they released a mini-LP, Come on Pilgrim, which was followed a year later by their first full-length album, Surfer Rosa. The Pixies broke up in 1993 but reunited in 2004, and Deal exited the band in 2013. They continue to perform at a high level. The Pixies have been cited as an influence on later bands including Nirvana, Radiohead, Bush, and Weezer. Opener is Sunflower Bean. Doors open 6:30 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH)

Friday, October 6

Gogol Bordello returns to Pittsburgh for a show at Mr. Smalls. The band plays Gypsy punk, which incorporates accordion and violin. Eugene Hütz is the group’s frontman—his mustache and charisma rival Freddie Mercury’s. Hütz, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Vermont with his family as a refugee, named his band partly after the writer Nikolai Gogol. Just as Gogol the writer permeated Russia with Ukrainian culture through his art so did Hütz bring Gypsy culture to English-speakers. The band has released seven studio albums, most recently this year’s Seekers and Finders. If one is new to their music, their 2010, Rick Rubin-produced album, Trans-Continental Hustle, is a great place to start. One may also recognize the band members from movies. They have appeared in 2005’s Everything Is Illuminated and 2008’s Filth and Wisdom, which Madonna directed. Lucky Chops open. 8:30 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Saturday, October 7

The National are having a great year. The rock quintet’s fourth album, Boxer, turned 10. It is one of their best in a discography filled with capital-G Great albums. A lesser band’s career might have floundered, or at least plateaued, 10 years after such a release. Not the National, who have steadily risen from their beginnings in Cincinnati through their seventh studio album, Sleep Well Beast, released this September. The group, now based in Brooklyn, consists of the brothers Devendorf, twin brothers Dessner, and frontman Matt Berninger. Lizzy Goodman chronicles the National and dozens of other indie groups in her book Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York 2001-2011, which was released this year to considerable buzz. However, the National never forgot home with songs like “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” They play an outdoor show at Stage AE. Doors open 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Tuesday, October 10

Halsey is having a moment. The singer-songwriter already had an album, 2015’s Badlands, peak at no. 2 on the Billboard 200. However, her career exploded when she appeared on The Chainsmokers’ single “Closer.” The song stayed at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 consecutive weeks in 2016. “Closer” was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. She followed this success with her sophomore album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, this year. A concept album inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom follows Solis Angelus and Luna Aureum, lovers separated by socioeconomic class in a purgatory-like land. And hey, the singles, such as “Now or Never,” are catchy too. Halsey was born Ashley Frangipane. Her stage-name is an anagram of her first name, and it also references Halsey Street station, a stop on the New York City Subway. She will perform at the PPG Paints Arena. PartyNextDoor and Charli XCX, who is having her own moment with singles like “Boys,” open. 7 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (CM)

Wednesday, October 11

Jacksonville-based rock band 38 Special was formed in the mid-‘70s by friends Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zant (brother of Lynyrd Skynryd lead singers Johnny and the late Ronnie Van Zant). Although Donnie left 38 Special a few years ago, Barnes is still there on lead vocals and multi-instruments, and the group hasn’t eased off the gas at all. 38 Special’s genre at its inception was something that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on Dazed and Confused’s soundtrack—kind of a southern-style rock ‘n’ roll. However, their sound has shifted and evolved considerably. For example, compare 1978’s “I’m A Fool For You” with their breakout hit “Hold On Loosely,” only three years later (which was their first major hit and remains their biggest hit to this day). The difference is notable—but what each entry in 38 Special’s library has in common is that every song showcases their outstanding ability to rock out. Which they’ll be doing at The Palace Theatre. Michael Christopher opens. 8 p.m. 21 W Otterman St., Greensburg. (EC, RH)

Thursday, October 12

Country superstar Tim McGraw seems to be at a very good place in his life right now. He is a very popular act, having won three Grammy Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music awards, 11 Country Music Association (CMA) awards, 10 American Music Awards, and three People’s Choice Awards. And 10 of his albums have occupied the number one spot on the Top Country Albums charts. Oh, and he’s also married to the very talented and lovely Faith Hill, who will also be performing with him on this Soul2Soul tour as a co-headliner. Life hasn’t always been a bed of roses for McGraw. Growing up, he thought his stepfather was his real father until, while searching for Christmas presents at age 11, he found his birth certificate with his father listed as baseball player Tug McGraw. Tim’s mother took him to meet Tug, but Tug denied that he was the father for seven years. Then Tim and Tug became very close until Tug’s death from a brain tumor in 2004. In response to his father’s death, Tim recorded the song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” The song stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard country music charts for seven weeks.

Hill also has a very impressive list of accolades. She has been nominated for 17 Grammy Awards, winning five. Hill has taken hardware home from the Academy of Country Music and People’s Choice Awards. She has sold over 40 million albums worldwide, making her one of the top-selling country artists ever. Top songs include “This Kiss,” “Breathe,” and “The Way You Love Me.” Both Hill and McGraw have landed some good acting roles too. As an infant, Hill was adopted into a loving family. It’s good to see both her and McGraw have overcome some early obstacles to find true love and highly successful careers. 7:30 p.m. PPG Paints Arena, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (RH)

Saturday, October 14

Just as assuredly as Pittsburghers can expect tailgating at the Stillers game, fries on their sammiches, and backups at every tunnel, they can expect The Clarks to keep playing solid working-class rock. The group gained a strong local following in the early ’90s gigging at clubs like Graffiti (remember Graffiti?), and has remained together and active long after nearly every other band on the scene during that era called it quits. After 25 years, nine albums, countless gigs and zero line-up changes, The Clarks have gone from being a regional favorite to a local institution. And the band members, who formed at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, have never forgotten their home turf. Their most recent album is 2015s Rewind, released on the Clarkhouse Entertainment label. They are playing a benefit for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Laurel Region at The Palace. 7 p.m. 21 W Otterman St., Greensburg. (EC, RH)

Wednesday, October 18

It may be fall, but Third Eye Blind’s Summer Gods Tour continues with a show at Stage AE. The tour celebrates the 20th anniversary of the band’s six-times-platinum eponymous debut album. Since that album—featuring the hit “Semi-Charmed Life”—there have been no shortage of musicians adding “former Third Eye Blind member” to their résumés. But vocalist Stephen Jenkins, the remaining founding member, has been the common factor through the years. They never repeated the commercial success of that debut, which sold 6 million copies in the US (of course, it’s hard for anyone to sell 6 million albums anymore), but they’ve hardly sat around collecting royalties. The band—in various iterations—has continued to record and tour, and they have grown a new fan base, particularly with the release of 2009’s Ursa Major, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. They followed up 2015’s LP, Dopamine, with an EP, We Are Drugs, in 2016. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (HM, CM)

Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21

Bill Toms and Hard Rain featuring the Soulville Horns are holding a two-night record release at Club Cafe.Toms is heralding the band’s latest album, Good for My Soul. Toms’ slightly raspy, deeply soulful voice and his guitar-playing prowess combine with the drums, horns, and rest of the band to create a hot rock sound. Toms was a member of Joe Grushecky’s Houserockers for over 20 years. Opening is another Houserocker alum, Marc Reisman, with his Strong Way Band. 8 p.m. both nights. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (RH)

Sunday, October 22

Singer-songwriter Ben Folds has long bridged pop and orchestral, dating back to his time with his band, Ben Folds Five, and hits such as “Brick.” The group disbanded in 2000 and a year later, Folds released his debut solo album, Rockin’ the Suburbs. The title track charted on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks, ironic as it lampoons some modern rock bands. The Ben Folds Five regrouped in 2011 and went back on hiatus in 2013. In 2015, Folds collaborated with yMusic, a New-York-City-based sextet ensemble, on So There, an album of original chamber pop songs. It also included one piano concerto recorded with the Nashville Symphony. Folds and yMusic later toured together. He returns to the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall on his Paper Airplane Request Tour. Fans can write down song requests on paper airplanes and launch them toward Folds for his consideration. Tall Heights open. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (CM)

Sunday, October 29

Dinosaur Jr., an alternative rock band formed in 1984 in Amherst, Mass., play Mr. Smalls. The trio is especially well-known for the talented guitar play of lead guitarist and singer J Mascis. Top songs include “Feel The Pain,” “Over It,” and “Said The People.” Mascis, who founded the group, was a member until its disbandment in 1997. Mascis and the rest of the original lineup reformed in 2005. They’ve released four albums since, most recently 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. “Tiny” was the lead-off single. When discussing Nirvana’s influences, Dinosaur Jr. are key, right up there with The Pixies. Dinosaur Jr. have a feedback-heavy yet melodic sound, similar to what Nirvana incorporated into their own sonic landscapes. Nirvana also supported them on tour. That was 26 years ago, yet Dinosaur Jr. are still going strong and continue to influence up-and-coming rock-‘n’-roll bands. Easy Action opens. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (RH, CM)

Tuesday, October 31

Stage AE has given concertgoers some one-of-a-kind ways to spend Halloween the past two years. Last year, it was the 1975. This year, it’s the one-two punch of Japandroids and Cloud Nothings. The former hails not from Japan but from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Japandroids are a guitarist and drummer; however, they arguably have less in common with the garage-rock duos that preceded them (The White Stripes, The Black Keys) and more in common with classic rock. “Near to the Wild Heart of Life,” the eponymous track from their newest album, released this year, throttles with Springsteen-esque carpe diem. Nearly five years passed between this album and 2012’s Celebration Rock, but it was worth the wait.

Cloud Nothings are from up the road in Cleveland, Ohio. The quartet’s sound harks back to ’90s alternative. If you missed them at WYEP’s Final Friday in Schenley Plaza in August, catch them when they open for Japandroids. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and enjoys great music.

Christopher Maggio is a writer and editor who likes attending concerts.