September Concert Guide: Festivals, Arena Acts, Veteran Performers

Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa performing at Columbia University in 2010. photo: Andra MIhali.

Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa performing at Columbia University in 2010. He’ll be performing at the Thrival Music Festival this month. photo: Andra MIhali.

Summer isn’t done yet. September welcomes three music festivals and a bevy of top shows in between them.

The first festival is Lawrenceville’s Rock All Night Tour, or RANT, a smorgasbord of local music. The second is Farm Aid, which comes to Burgettstown this year. The event not only supports farmers but also offers concert-goers a chance to see some capital-L Legends, starting with Willie Nelson. The third, Thrival Music at the Carrie Furnace, caps off the Thrival Festival and balances local acts with national headliners plus Wiz Khalifa, who is a little bit of both.

Single headliners are also abundant this month. Roger Waters, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, and Bob Seger play the PPG Paints Arena within days of one another. And Luke Bryan’s Huntin’, Fishin’, & Lovin’ Everyday Tour stops at the KeyBank Pavilion.

Other must-see shows include veteran performers, such as Deep Purple and Alice Cooper at KeyBank, Rodriguez at the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, X at the Rex Theater, Digable Planets and Black Sheep at the August Wilson Center, Pittsburgh’s own Bill Deasy at Club Cafe, and many more. Whether it’s a festival ground, arena, or intimate stage, visit at least one venue for some final summer fun. These are some of the upcoming shows of note.

Friday, September 1

Alice Cooper rose to fame in the early 1970s with the hits “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “School’s Out,” and “I’m Eighteen.” When Cooper first got on the rock radar, he shocked not only with horror imagery but also with how hard and well he rocked, setting the stage for many rock/metal groups to follow. He blended horrific makeup and onstage props like guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, baby dolls, snakes, and dueling swords with high-quality rock and metal music. Rolling Stone called Cooper the world’s “most beloved heavy metal entertainer.” His dad was a preacher for The Church of Jesus Christ (the Bickertonites), which was headquartered in Monongahela, PA, and now in Greensburg. Cooper was raised in Detroit and then Arizona. He is a very accomplished amateur golfer. Paranormal is Cooper’s latest, and 27th, album, released in July. His concert is sure to be a musical and theatrical event. Also on the bill are ‘70s English metal rockers Deep Purple, best known for their songs “Hush” and “Smoke on the Water.” Purple has also been called one of the hardest rocking bands in the business. They have 20 albums that say so, including their latest, Infinite, which was released in April. Edgar Winter opens. 6:30 p.m. KeyBank Pavilion, 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (RH)

Bill Deasy’s musical career began in earnest in a Grove City apartment when he and a few locals got together for a jam session. That band, The Gathering Field, became one of the ’90s-era regional favorites. Before that he had received some notoriety in a band called Shiloh. Since those humble beginnings, Deasy has stacked up a résumé that would help him “make it” in places like New York and L.A. He’s had a contract with Atlantic Records (The Gathering Field), opened for Springsteen and Dylan, and his “Good Things Are Happening” was a theme song for a “Good Morning America” video. He’s even published three novels. All while remaining rooted in Pittsburgh. Deasy’s having a Swings, Scamps and Valiants CD release show tonight at Club Cafe. Good things are indeed happening! 7 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (EC, RH)

Friday, September 1 – Sunday, September 3

Lawrenceville’s sixth annual Rock All Night Tour, aka RANT, now stretches over the weekend before Labor Day. Butler Street and its adjacent boulevards are home to some of the ’Burgh’s hottest spots: bars, restaurants, and Arsenal Lanes. Many of these spots, including the bowling alley, are festival venues. It begins 6 p.m. Friday at Bay 4 at the Foundry, a new venue and former warehouse.

Saturday is the big day with most of the 200-plus bands scheduled. There’s too many acts and venues to list, but here’s a quick sampling: Punk rockers Murder for Girls, hot off their appearance at Ladyfest Pittsburgh, will play Cattivo. The Park Plan and LoFi Delphi, who both put the “rock” in “rock all night tour” last year, will play the VFW. DJ Melnyk and DJ Zombo, who organizes much of the festival, will host a dance party 9 p.m. at Dive Bar & Grille. Singer-songwriter, folk, metal, rap, and other genres will be represented throughout the day.

The festival ends Sunday with an acoustic brunch at 11 a.m. at Hambone’s followed by more bands, such as Nox Boys, at Arsenal Lanes. For a complete list of performers, performance times, and venues, be sure to visit the festival’s website. Free. Lawrenceville. (CM)

Thursday, September 7

Listen to the drumming on the Bruce Springsteen songs “Backstreets” and “Prove It All Night,” and you can see that drummer Max Weinberg provides a strong foundation for the E Street Band to rock on. The Hall of Fame drummer has also played on two of the top-selling rock albums in history: Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell. In many Springsteen shows, fans yell out or hold up signs of songs that they want the band to play. Weinberg is using a similar method for his latest tour with his talented and versatile band, Max Weinberg’s Jukebox. He and the band will perform songs from the early days of rock and roll, and the audience gets to choose from a video menu of over 200 hit songs, ranging from the Beatles to the Stones to Springsteen and the E Street Band. Best of all, you don’t need to plug any quarters in; simply buy a ticket before they’re gone. 8 p.m. Jergel’s Rhythm Grille, 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (RH)

Max Weinberg behind the kit as a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street band in 2008. photo: Craig O'Neal and Wikipedia.

Max Weinberg behind the kit as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band in 2008. photo: Craig O’Neal and Wikipedia.

Saturday, September 9

One of the biggest acts in country music, Luke Bryan, hits the region on his Huntin’, Fishin’, & Lovin’ Everyday Tour. 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 proved to be more than capable of stepping into the spotlight himself, winning the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year award in 2015. 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”). “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” went triple platinum and is the third-best-selling song by a male country artist. Bryan also won the Billboard Music Award for Top Country Artist in 2016. He performs at KeyBank Pavilion. Brett Eldredge and Craig Campbell open. 7 p.m. 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (EC, CM)

Wednesday, September 13

Rodriguez released Cold Fact and Coming from Reality in 1970 and 1971, respectively. Neither initially charted in the United States. The singer-songwriter moved on: earning a degree in philosophy, working construction, and trying to improve his native Detroit through activism. He unsuccessfully ran for different political offices in Michigan while unknowingly inspiring anti-Apartheid activists with his albums, which were hits in South Africa. Rodriquez knew nothing of his fame there; fans conversely thought he had committed suicide. That is, until his eldest daughter discovered a South African fansite in 1997. He soon toured the country for his thousands of fans. The late Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul documented Rodriguez’s story in the Oscar-winning movie, Searching for Sugar Man. Rodriguez finally got the attention he deserved stateside, where he performed on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He will play the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall this month. Cat Clyde opens. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (CM)

Friday, September 15

Charlie Daniels is highly skilled at both the fiddle and guitar.

Charlie Daniels is highly skilled at both the fiddle and guitar. photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Country/rock superstar Charlie Daniels and his band (CDB) play Jergel’s Rhythm Grille. There’s always been a special affinity between Daniels and Pittsburgh; he’s been a frequent visitor and has even sung the national anthem before several Steelers games. One of his songs, “In America,” includes a reference to the team’s fans: “Just go and lay your hand on a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, and I think you’re going to finally understand.” Tragically, in 2011, longtime keyboardist Taz DiGregorio was killed in a one-car accident in Tennessee while driving to the tour bus to embark on a trip. The band’s many hits include “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” “Long Haired Country Boy,” and “Redneck Fiddlin’ Man.” Daniels latest album is 2016’s Night Hawk, and he also has a memoir titled Never Look at the Empty Seats due out in October. John Parrendo with Unwound opens. 8 p.m. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. Sold out.

 

Saturday, September 16

Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and we’re very lucky because he’s stopping in the ‘Burgh to entertain us. He’ll be headlining Farm Aid as it swings by KeyBank Pavilion on its important fundraising and music mission. Nelson is a singer/songwriter/author/activist/businessman and more. He’s had a storied career that includes a Kennedy Center Honor. In 1993, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. One of the founders of Farm Aid, which started in 1985 to help struggling farmers, Nelson was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2011. Nelson’s been known to “inhale” and claimed to have smoked marijuana on the roof of the White House. His 2012 book, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road, is a memoir that became a New York Times Top Ten Best Seller.

First and foremost for Nelson is the music. In 1973, turned off by the conservative nature of the Nashville country music scene, he was a founding member of a branch of the industry in Austin, Tex., called outlaw country. Other members included Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings, who joined Nelson to form the outlaw country supergroup The Highwaymen. When Nelson plays, he is joined by musical associates he calls The Family. Nelson’s latest album is God’s Problem Child, released in April. Amazingly, it is his 72 studio album. With this annual Farm Aid event, he’s sure to play many old and new favorites, including “Always on My Mind.”

John Mellencamp, who hails from Indiana, which features some fine farmland, is also a long-time supporter of Farm Aid. He’s best known for his hit songs “Jack & Diane,” “Small Town,” and “Ain’t Even Done With the Night.”

Neil Young is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, Grammy Award winner, and a very talented singer/songwriter/guitar player/producer/director.  Young co-founded Buffalo Springfield and put the “Y” in CSNY (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). He has always remained relevant, no matter what the times that we’re living in. Hits over the years include “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold,” “Rust Never Sleeps,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down by the River,” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” The concert lineup also includes Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, The Avett Brothers, Blackberry Smoke, and more. Noon. Sold out. KeyBank Pavilion, 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (RH)

Tuesday, September 19

After Syd Barrett’s departure from Pink Floyd, bassist Roger Waters became the group’s chief lyricist. His songwriting often concerned his father, who died in World War Two when Waters was five months old. Waters was the creative force behind The Dark Side of the Moon (’73), Wish You Were Here (’75), and, of course, The Wall (’79), all critical and commercial successes. The Wall Tour was highly theatrical; it was also expensive and appeared in only four cities. Waters left Pink Floyd after 1983’s The Final Cut, resulting in litigation over who owned the band’s name and material. The members later reconciled, and Waters has since toured The Dark Side of the Moon and, from 2010 to 2013, The Wall. His Us + Them Tour, which stops at PPG Paints Arena, mixes solo material, both old and new, and classic Pink Floyd songs. The tour’s title comes from their song “Us and Them.”  8 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (CM)

Friday, September 22

When Katy Perry kissed a girl (and liked it) in 2008, it  would have been easy to write her off as a one-hit wonder who used shock value to get attention in the pop world. But nearly a decade later, Perry has proven to be a pop culture juggernaut. Her 2008 album, One of the Boys, featuring “I Kissed a Girl,” sold seven million copies worldwide. The 2010 follow-up, Teenage Dream, peaked at six million. The album also spawned five number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, a first for a female artist and a feat matched only by Michael Jackson’s Bad. She headlined the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show in 2015 with assists from Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott. Her latest album is this year’s Witness. Perry keeps her fans happy with upbeat, energetic music and a stage with visuals and production value that blows audiences away. You have a chance to experience it at PPG Paints Arena. 7:30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (EC, CM)

“I’m cool like dat” and “You can get with this, or you can get with that” are two of rap’s catchiest hooks. The former is from “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets. The latter is from “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” by Black Sheep. Digable Planets formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 1987. “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” combined rap and jazz for a hit that went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles and No. 15 on the Hot 100. It appears on the trio’s 1993 debut, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space). They disbanded after releasing their sophomore album, 1994’s Blowout Comb. Black Sheep, formed in 1989, also hails from one of the five boroughs: Queens. Like Digable Planets, they had a huge debut, 1991’s A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, but broke up after their 1994 sophomore album, Non-Fiction. Both groups are back and will perform at the August Wilson Center. 8 p.m. 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. (CM)

Monday, September 25

X is a punk band, but its ear has always been wide open. Ray Manzarek, The Doors’ late keyboardist, produced X’s first album, 1980’s Los Angeles, named after their hometown. You can hear his psychedelic keys all over “Nausea.” The album also includes a cover of The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen.” Manzarek produced X’s next three albums: all eclectic, and all buoyed by John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s sharp songwriting. “New World,” which name-checks American cities arguably betrayed by political promises, is more relevant than ever. Original guitarist Billy Zoom, known for performing with a wide smile and making eye contact with audience members, left before 1987’s See How We Are. The original lineup regrouped in 1998 and then again in 2004. Since then, the quartet continues to perform and is playing the Rex Theater as part of its 40th Anniversary Tour. Skating Polly opens. 8:15 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. (CM)

Tuesday, September 26

He’s a Grammy- and BRIT-award winner, regular tabloid fodder, and possibly the most famous redhead in music right now. Ed Sheeran plays the PPG Paints Arena on his worldwide tour for his 2017 album, ÷ (pronounced “divide”). Have your cell phone fully charged and ready to wave along with “Thinking Out Loud”—the heart-tugging ballad destined to be played at thousands of weddings—along with the Justin Timberlake-inspired “Sing” and the break-up riff “Don’t.” “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill” marked the first time an artist has simultaneously charted at number one and two, respectively, on the UK Singles Chart with new music. Sheeran has performed in his native England since 2004; he broke internationally after co-writing and performing on Taylor Swift’s “Everything Has Changed,” from  her 2012 album, Red. He later opened for her on The Red Tour. His headlining show is a treat; those who don’t know his sweet, folky tunes are likely to have their hearts quickly stolen. 7:30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (EC, CM)

Thursday, September 28

Bob Seger enjoyed regional success in the ’60s playing the bars and venues in the Detroit region until, in ’73, he put together the Silver Bullet Band. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band took off with the release of albums Live Bullet  (’76) and Night Moves (’76). When the song “Night Moves” hit the radio, it charted as high as No. 4 on Billboard, and Seger and his band were on the fast track to major league music success. Seger’s sound features his pleasingly smoky voice and interesting lyrics laid upon a solid foundation of piano, guitar, and drums. The soundtracks of many American lives are peppered with such Seger songs as “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” “Mainstreet,” “Old Time Rock and Roll” (used in the Tom Cruise film Risky Business), “Beautiful Loser,” “Turn the Page,” and “Like a Rock” (used in Chevy truck TV commercials). Seger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. His Greatest Hits album has been certified Diamond (10x platinum status). An amazing feat! 7:30 p.m. PPG Paints Arena, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (RH)

Friday, September 29 – Saturday, September 30

Thrival Music is part of the larger Thrival Festival, where the name of the game is capitalist enterprise. Local startup/innovation incubator Ascender powers the festival, a rich brew of entrepreneurship, empowerment, and culture. The music portion runs Fri., Sept. 29, and Sat., Sept. 30, at the Carrie Furnace, a pre-World War I iron plant turned National Historic Landmark. The schedule includes local and national acts. Logic, a rapper who had his first No. 1 album this year with Everybody, headlines the first day. Pittsburgh-based Wiz Khalifa headlines day two. The music video for his song “See You Again” (featuring Charlie Puth), from  the Furious 7 soundtrack, was briefly the most viewed video on YouTube when it surpassed “Gangnam Style” in July. Also performing are Irish indie-rockers Two Door Cinema Club, Detroit-based DJ and saxophonist Griz, Pittsburgh instrumentalists The Garment District, soul rockers Rachel B and little good bad (+-). and many more. Check the festival’s website for event times. Carrie Furnace Boulevard, Rankin. (CM)

Christopher Maggio is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor who enjoys a good rock concert.

Executive producer Rick Handler also contributed to this guide.