There’s always interesting musical aspects of any month in Pittsburgh. Even one that is only 28 days long and has no large acts. What’s interesting about this February is that there are several shows already sold out. These include Trey Anastasio (of Phish fame), JJ Grey and Mofro, Rostam Batmanglij (of Vampire Weekend fame), and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore.
If you are looking to get funky, look no further than Jergel’s, where funkmaster George Clinton is in concert with his Parliament-Funkadelic. Blazing guitars more your style? Joe Satriani’s G3 2018 features three top lead guitarists: Satriani, John Petrucci (Dream Theater) and Phil Collen (Def Leppard). Political punk-rockers Anti-Flag coheadline a hometown show at Mr. Smalls with Stray from the Path. There’s a big, gigantic concert at Stage AE featuring the band Big Gigantic and their elaborate electronic show and effects. Another promising concert is Swedish dream/alt rock band The Radio Dept. at Mr. Smalls.
Oh, and there’s also several parties at The Palace to celebrate a royal’s 75th birthday. Said royal is King Cool Donnie Iris. Also on the hometown hero front, Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers are in concert at South Side’s Club Cafe, and The Clarks are in action at the newly restored Lamp Theatre in Irwin. Remember, a short month can still equal big fun.
In the Entertainment Central Spotlight
Friday, February 2
Sweden has produced a pipeline of pop and rock talent over the last 40 years. Bands such as ABBA, Roxette, Ace of Base, Europe, Eagle-Eye Cherry, The Cardigans, The Hives, The Tallest Man on Earth, Robyn, and First Aid Kit have all had success outside of Scandinavia. Now there’s another Swedish band on the rise—The Radio Dept. The dream-pop/alt-rock band hails from Lund, Sweden, and consists of Johan Duncanson, Martin Larsson (aka Martin Carlberg), and touring member Daniel Tjäder. The group has four albums out including their latest, 2016’s critically acclaimed Running Out of Love. They describe Running Out Of Love as being “about the impatience that turns into anger and ultimately withdrawal when our love for the world and our existence begins to falter.” “Swedish Guns,” from the album, is an indictment of the Swedish arms manufacturers and the damage that their products cause. The lyrics may sometimes be intense, but the music is a melodic mix of vocals, guitars, keys, and drums. Good news, you don’t have to travel all the way to Sweden (although that would be nice) to see them. Their U.S. tour includes a stop at Mr. Smalls Theatre. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (RH)
Saturday, February 3
Local rock royalty Donnie Iris—a.k.a. King Cool—turns 75 on February 28. He’s so cool that his February 3rd birthday bash concert at the The Palace Theatre sold out so quickly that they added another one on February 10 and on March 3. Iris, born in New Castle and raised in Ellwood City, broke onto the national scene with a group called the Jaggerz (named, of course, after those things that grow on jaggerbushes). Their 1970 hit “The Rapper” reached no. 2 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Later that decade, Iris met Mark Avsec through the Ohio-based band Wild Cherry. They teamed up to form The Cruisers. National-charting hits by Iris and the Cruisers in the ’80s included singles “Ah! Leah!” and “Love Is Like a Rock” and albums Back on the Streets and King Cool. The band has reunited and/or re-formed at various times, with further releases including the 2006 album Ellwood City. The Story of Donnie Iris and The Cruisers by rock journalist D.X. Ferris will be out later this year. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (RH, MV, CM).
You can hear a little of Otis Redding in JJ Grey’s raspy vocals. The music of Stax Records, meanwhile, permeates his backing band, Mofro, specifically within those lush horns. Unsurprisingly, Grey touts both Redding and Stax, along with Jerry Reed and rappers Run-D.M.C., as influences. Grey hails from Jacksonville, Florida, and his home is his maternal grandmother and grandfather’s former chicken farm (It now houses a recording studio). He formed Mofro in the late ’90s, and their debut album was 2001’s Blackwater. 2015’s Ol’ Glory is their latest album. They have a good thing going with Pittsburgh: JJ Grey & Mofro headlined the Pittsburgh Blues Festival in 2014. The Commonheart, one of the hottest acts in the ’Burgh opened for them in multiple cities this past fall, and do so again for this show at Mr. Smalls. Sold out. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)
Wednesday, February 7
George Clinton has been on a musical journey of exploration for many years. He started out in a doo-wop group called The Parliaments, modeled after Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, while working in a hair salon. Then he became a writer, arranger, and producer for Motown Records before working for other Detroit musical companies. As the leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, he was one of the top innovators of funk music, along with James Brown and Sly Stone. Combining music like that of Brown, Stone, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and others with different sounds and lyrical arrangements and a big dose of funky bass and drums, Clinton came up with an outline for his sound. This led to massive success for him in the ’70s with “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” and “Flash Light,” among others.
It would also be remiss if Clinton’s creativity with shows, lyrics, titles, and costumes was not mentioned. He even had a spaceship that he called his Mothership, which descended to the stage at concerts. Parliament-Funkadelic also had an album called The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, which later spawned the Clinton-produced female funk group, The Brides of Funkenstein. His concerts are fun events. Clinton has been primarily a solo artist since the ’80s but periodically collaborates with others. His latest release, 2015’s P-Funk Live at Metropolis, is remarkably his sixth live album. Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic are 1997 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 8 p.m. Jergel’s Rhythm Grille, 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (RH)
Thursday, February 8
How much of Vampire Weekend was Rostam Batmanglij? It’s hard to parse, but short answer: a lot. He co-founded the band, produced or co-produced its first three albums, and played myriad instruments on each one. The question will persist after the New York City indie group releases its long-awaited fourth album. Although he departed in 2016, he is collaborating on the new release, working in his man-behind-the-curtain capacity recurrent in other recent projects. These include production credits on Haim’s 2017 album, Something To Tell You, and singles by Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX. However, he’ll be front and center for his show at The Warhol, part of its Sound Series. Rostam, who performs under his first name like Cher and Madonna before him, is promoting his solo debut, 2017’s Half-Light. Vampire Weekend fans will find the lush string arrangements on songs like “Gwan” familiar. Joy Again opens. Sold out. 8 p.m. 117 Sandusky St., North Side. (CM)
Friday, February 9
Mr. Smalls presents a double bill of punk and metal with Anti-Flag and Stray from the Path. Many Pittsburghers, whether punk fans or not, know the former. The locally based, internationally known punk rockers formed in 1988 and released their debut album, Die for the Government, in 1996. Today, Anti-Flag still enjoy performing, protesting, and recording music. Their latest album, American Fall, was released in 2017. The quartet also released a live album, which they recorded over three nights at the noted Troubadour club in Los Angeles, in 2016. It’s called Live, Vol. 1, and it draws from their entire catalog up to that date. Stray from the Path hail from Long Island, New York. Their mission, according to their Facebook bio, is “to bring honest pissed off music to the world.” With 17 years of experience, international gigs, a spot on the Vans Warped Tour, and song titles like “Goodnight Alt-Right,” it appears that mission is accomplished. Their latest album is 2017’s Only Death Is Real. The White Noise and Sharptooth open. 7 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (RH, CM)
As if Rostam weren’t enough, The Warhol continues its Sound Series the following day with a Thurston Moore acoustic show. An atmospheric film projection will backdrop the performance. Like Rostam’s concert, Moore’s is also sold out. Moore co-founded Sonic Youth in 1981 in New York City. Where to begin when summarizing the seminal noise-rock band? Influences on Nirvana for one. Models on how to navigate a career from the underground to alternative radio and Lollapalooza for another. 1987’s Sister, 1988’s Daydream Nation, 1990’s Goo, even 2006’s Rather Ripped are all great albums. He and Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon married in 1984, but they divorced in 2013, and Sonic Youth are inactive. Moore has five solo albums, most recently 2017’s Rock n Roll Consciousness, and he is a member of the band Chelsea Light Moving. His other projects include everything from film scores to collaborations with artists such as R.E.M. and Yoko Ono. 8 p.m. 117 Sandusky St., North Side. (CM)
Saturday, February 10
There are many buffalo references in music—e.g. the former band Grant Lee Buffalo, the song “Buffalo Stance” by Neneh Cherry, and Ted Nugent’s “The Great White Buffalo.” Another interesting buffalo is Donna the Buffalo, a band that plays across the musical genres of folk, rock, country, bluegrass, and zydeco, and hails from the Finger Lakes region of New York. The songwriting heart of the band is composed of Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins, both of whom perform vocals and are multi-instrumentalists. They even have a “Funky Side.” Donna the Buffalo is one of the founding/host bands for the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance and additionally the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival. Followers of the band are known collectively as “The Herd.” The band got its name when the musicians mis-heard a friend suggesting the name Dawn of the Buffalo.The Buffalo are working on a new studio album with noted producer/ engineer Rob Fraboni, who has worked on projects for Eric Clapton, The Band, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones. The group’s last album was 2013’s Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday. Tiger Maple String Band opens. 8 p.m. The Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. (RH)
Sunday, February 11
Rock guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, the lead guitarist of the supergroup Chickenfoot, joins two other top-notch slingers: John Petrucci (Dream Theater) and Phil Collen (Def Leppard) for this year’s G3 2018. The concept is a simple one: Satriani invites two additional highly skilled lead guitarists to join him on tour and jam. Satriani is no stranger to working with big-name musicians. He was recruited by Mick Jagger to play on Jagger’s first solo tour, and he has also performed with Deep Purple. Before he broke into the mainstream, Satriani worked as a guitar teacher, shaping the young minds of future rock stars like Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Andy Timmons (Danger Danger), and Steve Vai. Satriani is a 15-time Grammy nominee and is the biggest-selling instrumental rock guitarist of all time. Satriani’s most recent album is the just-released What Happens Next. With all the great guitar players and guitar lovers in Pittsburgh, this concert should be packed. 8 p.m. Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (RH)
Monday, February 12
Jam-rocker Trey Anastasio—who still fronts the popular band Phish—stops in the ‘Burgh on his 2018 solo acoustic tour. Many of the tour’s concerts dates are sold out including the one in Pittsburgh. Anastasio’s most recent studio album is his ’15 release, Paper Wheels. Songs like “Greyhound Rising” and “Corona” continue the quality craftsmanship of past work. He was even nominated for a Tony Award in 2013 for Best Score for the Broadway play Hands on a Hardbody. It promises to be a great night for music at the Byham Theater. 7:30 p.m. 101 6th St., Cultural District. (RH)
Wednesday, February 14
The Spinners, a male vocal and dance group who originated in the suburbs of Detroit, enjoyed considerable success in the ’70s with top 10 hits including “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “The Rubber Band Man,” (If they were from Pittsburgh it would be “The Gum Band Man”) and “I’ll Be Around.” In ’74, they teamed up with Dionne Warwick to produce the number one smash hit “Then Came You.” During the 1960s The Spinners were with Motown before switching to the Atlantic label in the ’70s. The Spinners still tour regularly and have one original Spinner remaining—Henry Fambrough, who has been in the band since its formation in 1954. That’s a lot of R&B. The beat goes on in a show at The Palace Theatre with The Marcels opening. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (RH)
Saturday, February 17
Pittsburgh rock royalty Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers have remained a constant on the Pittsburgh music scene as the city morphed from steel mills to high-tech foundry. Grushecky is a consummate singer/songwriter; in 2017, he penned the anti-President Trump protest song “That’s What Makes Us Great.” His pal, Bruce Springsteen, liked it and agreed to sing on it. Grushecky and The Houserockers have a new album coming out, More Yesterdays than Tomorrows. Other recent work by Grushecky includes It’s In My Song, an acoustic solo album of songs in his catalog that he created new arrangements for. He and The Houserockers are playing just off East Carson Street on the South Side at Club Cafe. 9 p.m. 56-58 S.12th St., South Side. (RH)
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, 16 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 2015’s Rewind, released on the Clarkhouse Entertainment label. 8 p.m. Sold out. The Lamp Theatre, 222 Main St., Irwin. (EC, RH)
Friday, February 23
If you want to relive ska punk’s glory days of the late ’90s, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Mr. Smalls with Less Than Jake. Combining the distinctive beats of punk with the horns and saxophones of ska, Less Than Jake hit the mainstream in 2003 with the album Anthem. The band has toured with Bon Jovi, The Warped Tour, and Bad Religion. We can hope to hear their famed “She’s Gonna Break Soon” as well as old and new favorites. Co-headlining the show is Worcester, Massachusetts, pop-punk band Four Year Strong. Openers are Direct Hit! and Bearings. 7 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvalle. (EC/RH)
Big Gigantic will bring their “livetronica” to Stage AE. The electronica portion comes courtesy Dominic Lalli, who lays the beats and samples. The live portion? Jeremy Salken, who plays drums, as well as Lalli, who also plays tenor saxophone. Wild stage lighting will ensure the show is as much a visual feast as it is an audio one. The duo, based out of Boulder, Colorado, has released six albums, beginning with 2009’s Fire It Up. Their newest, 2016’s Brighter Future, features rapper Waka Flocka Flame and electronic peers Cherub. Rapper Logic and Griz (who also melds saxophone with electronica) appear on the record too. Pittsburgh audiences will remember Logic and Griz from their respective appearances at 2017’s Thrival Music. Brighter Future received a deluxe release and a remixed release in 2017. Of course, Big Gigantic have remixed plenty of songs too, including Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.” The Floozies open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)
Some Other Notable Shows:
Tuesday, February 6
Rachel Whitcomb—singer, songwriter, and music education professor at Duquesne University—headlines the Calliope Songwriters Open Stage at Club Cafe. Calliope, which promotes folk music in Pittsburgh, and John Hayes, who used to host an open mic night at the late Bloomfield Bridge Tavern through Calliope, are helping to organize this monthly open stage, which falls on the first Tuesday of every month. The organizers welcome all acts and genres.Sign up at 7 p.m., performances begin at 8 p.m. No cover. 56-58 S.12th St., South Side. (CM)
Wednesday, February 7
Black Label Society, an American heavy metal band lead by Zakk Wylde, formed in Los Angeles in 1998 and has ten studio albums to their credit. Wylde is also known as the lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. His guitars often sport his trademark bullseye design. Corrosion of Conformity and Red Fang open.Doors open 6:30 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH)
Thursday, February 8
If you’re craving a little country at this mid-winter time you can catch Chris Young at the Petersen Events Center. Young was the winner of the singing competition show “Nashville Star” on the USA Network in 2006. Since then his albums and songs have done very well on the country charts and he’s been nominated and won several industry awards. His latest album is Losing Sleep which was released in October. Openers are Kane Brown and Lanco. 7:30 p.m. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland. (RH)
Saturday, February 10
Chet Vincent, known for performing with his band the Big Bend, is releasing a solo folk record called Where the Earth Opens Wide. Vincent is a lead vocalist, who also plays guitar and the harmonica. The album was recorded by Alex Herd at the Thunderbird House in Lawrenceville with the studio band Biirdwatcher. There will be a record release party at Get Hip Recordings performance space in Manchester. The company is a record label and distributor of over 20,000 titles in independent music started by members of the rock band The Cynics. It is now led by Cynics guitarist Gregg Kostelich and his wife, Barbara Garcia-Bernardo. Opening for Vincent are Zack Keim and Kayla Schureman. 7 p.m. 1800 Columbus Ave., Manchester. (RH)
Sunday, February 18
Palm opened for Deerhunter at Mr. Smalls in January 2017. This month, the Philadelphia experimental quartet headlines Club Cafe. The members mix time signatures and tempos while strumming psychedelic riffs and looping percussion effects. New album, Rock Island, is out February 9. The Spirit of the Beehive and It It open. 8 p.m. 56-58 S.12th St., South Side. (CM)
Thursday, February 22
Wild Rivers is a folk/pop band from Toronto, Canada that creates some beautiful harmonies from members Khalid Yassein, Devan Glover, Andrew Oliver, and Ben Labenski. Opening is Jesse Denaro. Mr. Smalls, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (RH)
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central. Writer and editor Christopher Maggio also contributed to this guide.