Outlaw Music Festival: Willie Nelson, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Dawes, and Old Crow Medicine Show. (KeyBank Pavilion)
1) 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 the Outlaw Music Festival as it swings by KeyBank Pavilion with its strong lineup of top musicians and groups. 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, Texas 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, Ride Me Back Home, will be released on June 21. The title track is an advocacy song for horses. Amazingly, it is his 69th studio album. With this Outlaw Music Festival event, he’s sure to play many old and new favorites, including “Always on My Mind.” (RH)
The Avett Brothers, since they partnered with producer du jour Rick Rubin on 2009’s I and Love and You, have been unstoppable on their path to mega-success. Their triumph can be traced by their ascension through Pittsburgh venues: in about ten years, they’ve gone from a small place at the Three Rivers Arts Festival to filling up Stage AE. The Avett Brothers even created the theme song for the popular PBS series “A Chef’s Life.” Their latest album is 2016’s True Sadness. A new album is in the works for this year. (EC, RH)
She’s got the voice, she’s got the violin, and she’s back. Alison Krauss is one of the leading performers of bluegrass/country music, with a staggering 27 Grammy Awards. And though it may seem as if she’s been around forever, Krauss is only 47 and still very much in her prime. The Decatur, Illinois, native started early, learning the violin in childhood, then releasing an indie album as an early-teen prodigy in 1985. Not long after, she joined the band Union Station and has stayed with them for the duration. Krauss has also done solo work and collaborated with artists ranging from Robert Plant to Yo-Yo Ma. Career highlights? Too numerous to recount—though her rendition of the folk hymn “Down to the River to Pray” for the 2000 Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, was a vocal masterpiece; the song remains a favorite among her fans. Krauss’s latest album is 2017’s solo release Windy City. (MV)
Old Crow Medicine Show, a Nashville-based Americana string band, is also on the bill at the Outlaw Music Festival. In addition to their original songs, they also perform pre-World War II blues and folk songs. They were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2013. Their 2014 LP, Remedy, won the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. Crow’s most recent LP is 2018’s Volunteer, which reached No. 1 on the U.S. Bluegrass charts and No. 14 on the Top Country charts. (RH)
Dawes drew a large crowd for their 2017 concert at the Three Rivers Arts Festival (see our review). An earlier, more post-punk incarnation of the Los Angeles quartet was called “Simon Dawes.” The moniker came from the middle names of members Blake Mills and Taylor Goldsmith. (When Mills left, the group dropped the “Simon.”) The band went in a folk rock direction and in 2009 recorded and released its debut album, North Hills. In 2014, members and brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith played on Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes. The album was based on uncovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the recording of material that eventually was released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes. Mills returned to produce Dawes’s 2016 album, We’re All Gonna Die. Dawes’ latest album is Passwords, released in 2018. (EC, CM) 3 p.m. 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown.
2) The Marshall Tucker Band began performing in Spartanburg, South Carolina in the early ’70s. Excelling mainly in southern rock, the band also blends in some gospel, R&B, jazz, and country music. MTB’s sound is unique and catchy and has withstood the test of time. You may still hear “Heard It in a Love Song” and “Can’t You See” on the radio or in a blues bar on open mic night, but live, you’ll hear it straight from the band, which is always the best way. Their latest release is 2015’s, Live in the U.K. 1976. This is a great opportunity to hear an early and important band in southern rock history. 8 p.m. The Meadows, 210 Racetrack Rd., Washington.
3) Herman’s Hermits was the most British-sounding group of the British Invasion. (“Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” sounds like it was recorded by John Cleese in a Liverpool pub while trying to imitate Wallace of Wallace and Gromit.) They’re still touring, even if lead singer Peter Noone is the only remaining member of the original lineup that recorded classic hits like “I’m into Something Good” and “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am.” And lo, Herman’s Hermits re-occupy our fair land for a concert at the Palace Theatre. Special guest is The Latshaw Pops Orchestra, who will Celebrate the ’60s. 7 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (EC, MV)
4) The formula for the June 2019 WDVE Rocker looks like another successful one. The tasty recipe is equal amounts of highly volatile rock and roll ingredients—The Clarks, Gathering Field, The Hawkeyes, The Affordable Floors, and Gene The Werewolf. Things will start cooking soon after the doors open at 5 p.m. Outdoor show. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH)
5) Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors bring their lively brand of jam rock to Rivers Casino Donovan and band released a new album in 2018, We See Through It. They described their new work, saying “It, illustrates the transformational power of music. Featuring ten songs that span genres and eras¸ the sound of the new album blends the vintage rock sound of Zeppelin with the alternative folk of Mumford & Sons propelled by barreling drums.” Appropriately enough you can see Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors in Rivers’ Drum Bar. The band’s prior release was 2016’s Sun King Warriors. 9 p.m. 777 Casino Dr.,
6) For five Saturdays every summer and fall, Walnut Street in Shadyside shifts its focus from the usual bustling bevy of bistros and boutiques to putting a bit of music in the air, courtesy of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce. The annual Jam on Walnut series brings some big names out for free concerts that stop traffic and pack the street. Tonight’s edition features dance pop band Dancing Queen. All of the Jams On Walnut are free to attend and proceeds from food and drink sales benefit Humane Animal Rescue. 7 p.m. 5442 Walnut St., Shadyside.
7) The Squirrel Hill Night Market returns to Murray Avenue. Food trucks, vendors, crafters. live music, and more attractions will be on hand at this pop-up street festival on Murray Ave. 6-10 p.m. Free. Murray Avenue beginning at Forbes.