March Concert Guide: A Sustained Roar
If February felt a little slow for music, then March promises not only more shows but also more variety. Some acts are older; others, like natives Jackie Evancho and Daya, are young superstars. At least one—Here Come the Mummies—will have you wondering if it’s closer to Halloween, not St. Patrick’s Day.
A great musical pairing this month is Stevie Nicks and The Pretenders at PPG Paints Arena. The Petersen Events Center offers a two-for-one punk punch with Green Day and openers Against Me!. Neither band would likely be around if it weren’t for Patti Smith and her 1975 debut, Horses. She and her band will perform Horses in its entirety at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.
Folk-rockers The Head and the Heart will open the month with a show at the Benedum Center. Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa will also play the Benedum with two concerts on separate days. Other big shows include Casting Crowns, one of the best-selling Christian music acts of all time. GZA, a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, will perform here. Two of Los Angeles’s finest indie rock bands (Local Natives, Cold War Kids) are coming as are America, who formed in England. However, Portugal. The Man, who also play this month, started in Wasilla, Alaska. On the local front, Brazilian Wax and Garter Shake play back-to-back sets at Howlers followed by a DJ dance party by The Lopez.
There’s always plenty of live music on and around St. Patrick’s Day including a post-St. Patrick’s Day concert by Celtic Woman. But to limit yourself to only this holiday would be a peccadillo on par with not wearing green on that most emerald of days.
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Wednesday, March 1
Seattle folk-rock group The Head and the Heart initially sold CD copies of their self-titled debut in hand-sewn denim sleeves. Sub Pop, a record label which has signed bands such as Nirvana and The Postal Service, released the album in 2011. Let’s Be Still followed in 2013. In 2014, the sextet took a break from touring and recording together. In the interim, vocalist Charity Rose Thielen wrote songs for other performers, including Mavis Staples. But the band soon regrouped to record new music. They also reworked a leftover from the Let’s Be Still sessions, “All We Ever Knew.” The revised version is on their new album, 2016’s Signs of Light, and is now their latest single. The song hit number one on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart, and it is their highest charting single yet on Hot Rock Songs, reaching number 13. They play the Benedum Center. 8 p.m. 237 7th St., Cultural District. (CM)
Thursday, March 2
Joe Bonamassa is a blues rock guitar virtuoso, whose soaring lead guitar riffs are heavily influenced by British players, including Eric Clapton, John Mayall, and Jeff Beck. He opened for B.B. King when he was all of 12 years old. Bonamassa’s albums have occupied the number one spot on the Billboard Blues Chart 11 times. Many people will remember Bonamassa from his PBS concert specials. Live at the Greek Theater is his latest release. Pittsburgh has many great guitarists who enjoy seeing other talented players, which is evidenced by the brisk ticket sales for these shows. There will be a second show on Friday, March 3. Both shows start at 8 p.m. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (RH)
No release date is set for GZA’s highly anticipated album, Dark Matter, but the rapper is playing a handful of live dates this year, including one at the Rex Theater. There’s a reason GZA (née Gary Grice) also goes by The Genius. His second solo album, 1995’s Liquid Swords, is often lauded by fans and critics alike as the paragon of lyrical prowess. Its reputation has only grown; almost 20 years after its release, it went platinum. Plus, what topic won’t GZA rap about? Dark Matter will allegedly cover physics, science, and space. He also champions science education for New York City high school students. With Columbia University Professor Christopher Emdin and the website Rap Genius, he helped to pilot Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching, and Learning Science), an initiative which teaches science through hip hop. GZA is a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, arguably the greatest hip-hop group of all time. Amir Miles, NXFCE, and Hubbs open. 8 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. (CM)
Saturday, March 4
From student-worship band to arena act, independent albums to Billboard’s top-selling Christian music act since 2007, Casting Crowns have risen meteorically since forming in 1999 in Daytona Beach, Florida. That’s not to say the members, now based in Georgia, haven’t forgotten their roots. Every one still works “in ministry in their respective churches,” according to the band’s website. This includes frontman Mark Hall. “Oh My Soul,” off of 2016’s The Very Next Thing, addresses his cancer diagnosis in 2015. Elsewhere on the album, like on the single “One Step Away,” the band encourages listeners to find “what’s right next to you.” Casting Crowns broke with their self-titled 2003 album, which quickly went platinum. Their follow-up, 2005’s Lifesong, won the Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. They are currently touring and will play PPG Paints Arena. Danny Gokey and Unspoken open. 7 p.m. 1001 5th Ave., Uptown. (CM)
Sunday, March 5
Who knew there was a world-class voice talent living in the Pine-Richland area? Well, evidently, Jackie Evancho knew! She started out by entering talent contests, including St. Barnabas’ Kean Idol. Acting was also in Evancho’s early repertoire. She performed in Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s version of High School Musical in 2007. She cut an independent album, Prelude to a Dream, and what a prelude to a dream it was. Evancho posted videos of her performances to YouTube. She was turned down twice in auditions for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” The third time was indeed the charm. The ladder to mega-stardom presented itself in 2010 after the nation heard her incredible classical song performances on “America’s Got Talent.” She came in second. Since then, she has recorded five albums, all of which achieved success on the music charts, and is the youngest artist ever to achieve platinum sales status. She sang the national anthem at the presidential inauguration and is releasing a new album this year titled Two Hearts.
Her work has included numerous singing appearances, acting roles such as playing Robert Redford’s daughter in the 2013 film The Company You Keep, and some modeling. She is active in many charitable organizations and was named one of the Ten Best-Mannered People in 2011 by a national organization. Needless to say, Kanye West didn’t make that list. What a great opportunity to see a hometown gal done good. 7 p.m. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (RH)
Tuesday, March 7
In the early aughts, Flaw were a rising metal band. Their major label debut, 2001’s Through the Eyes, went to number one on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart. A song from that album, “Only the Strong,” appeared on The Scorpion King soundtrack. In 2002, they played Ozzfest. And in 2004, they recorded their sophomore album, Endangered Species. However, 12 years of record label disputes and internal tensions would make Endangered Species the band’s last album, save a self-released LP, the appropriately titled Home Grown Studio Sessions. That is, until 2016, when the band put all that behind them and released the also appropriately titled Divided We Fall. Flaw formed in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1996. Their frontman, Chris Volz, also sang lead vocals for the now-defunct nu-metal group Five.Bolt.Main. Flaw are touring Divided We Fall, including a stop at Diesel. Righteous Vendetta, Source, and a special guest open. 7 p.m. 1601 E. Carson St., South Side. (CM)
Monday, March 13
For proof of Patti Smith’s far reaching influence, look no further than Deerhunter’s show at Mr. Smalls last January. During the indie rock band’s last song, frontman Bradford Cox sang snippets of Smith’s “Land,” the penultimate track from her 1975 debut, Horses. Smith and her band will perform that album in its entirety at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. An artist performing an album isn’t novel: Springsteen did it last year (The River), U2 are doing it this year (The Joshua Tree). What is novel, still, after over 40 years, is Horses: punk and poetry hybrid, with a version of Them’s “Gloria” that’s more like an original than a cover. An impressive discography followed Horses, including “Because the Night,” which she co-wrote with Springsteen. Now 70, Smith isn’t slowing down. In 2010, her memoir Just Kids won the National Book Award. At the 2016 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm, she sang “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” on behalf of Bob Dylan, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 8 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. (CM)
Thursday, March 16
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes are bringing their wall-of-sound to Jergel’s Rhythm Grille tonight. The band features a New Jersey rock sound complemented by a talented horn section. Southside Johnny’s first three albums were arranged and produced by Steven Van Zandt, co-founder of the band and Bruce Springsteen associate. The albums were mainly composed of songs written by Van Zandt and/or Springsteen. The band is known for songs like “Trapped Again,” “Without Love,” and “Having a Party.” Their latest release is 2015’s Soultime!. Silent Partner open. 8 p.m. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (RH)
Friday, March 17
Hot off their live debut last month at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, Garter Shake will perform at Howlers. The rock quartet is composed of veteran performers of the Pittsburgh scene. Also on the bill are Brazilian Wax. “Girls to the Front” goes the title to one of their songs, harking back to the rallying cry of Bikini Kill. Specifically, the cry called on men to step aside at punk shows and for women to mosh without fear of battery or sexual assault. Guitarist Jen Sabol co-organized last year’s Ladyfest, which features and empowers female musicians, along with Steph Wolf of The Lopez. Tonight, The Lopez will be behind the turntables for a DJ set and dance party after the concert. The evening is a fundraiser for Brookline-based Casa San Jose, advocates for local immigrants and immigrants’ rights. 8 p.m. 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. (CM)
Saturday, March 18
Years before Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show made Left Shark a meme, Local Natives casted a shark in the music video for “Wide Eyes.” A red-eyed koala also makes an appearance. Perhaps the local fauna is why the Australian Democrats used the song in an election campaign ad. The ad helped the indie rock quintet, who are from Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California, get known Down Under. (Fame will find you in the most interesting ways sometimes.) “Wide Eyes” is off the band’s debut, Gorilla Manor, which takes its name from a messy Orange County house that the members shared. (We’ve all lived, or at least partied, in a “gorilla manor” during our lives, particularly between the ages of 19 and 26.) Local Natives are big in their native U.S. with tour dates to prove it, including one at Stage AE. Their latest album is 2016’s Sunlit Youth. Little Scream open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)
Thursday, March 23
There’s nothing childish about Cold War Kids. Just listen to the ache in singer Nathan Willet’s voice, the bluesy piano that recalls old school alternative groups like the Velvet Underground. The band received international attention for its first album, 2006’s Robbers & Cowards. “Hang Me Up to Dry,” one of their most popular singles, epitomizes their metaphorical lyrics and twitchy instrumentation. They have had a few lineup changes over the years, arguably the most notable of which was Joe Plummer, formerly of Modest Mouse, becoming the drummer in 2013. The group averages an LP or EP every year. Their last release was 2014’s Hold My Home, which featured the hit single “First.” They will play Stage AE to promote their forthcoming LP, L.A. Divine, to be released April 7, 2017. Middle Kids open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)
Saturday, March 25
Green Day, the multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-award-winning, stage-musical-spawning, Californian punk rock band, plays the Petersen Events Center. It’s not often that a group’s career-highs are 10 years apart, but such was the case for Green Day, who wowed Generation X with 1994’s Dookie and then Millennials with 2004’s American Idiot. The latter album inspired a Broadway musical, which toured through the Benedum Center in 2013. Pop-punk heirs Fall Out Boy inducted Green Day into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, the trio’s first year of eligibility. Their newest album is 2016’s Revolution Radio, and they still have staying power among both old and new fans: the concert is sold-out. Bassist Mike Dirnt and vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong got together when they were 14 and formed the band Sweet Children. Drummer Tré Cool joined Green Day in 1990. Against Me!, who are known equally for their power chords as they are for frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s championing of transgender rights, open. 8 p.m. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland. (EC/CM)
Sunday, March 26
Did you know that all three members of America grew up in England? The trio met in high school in London in the ’60s, all three the sons of British mothers and American military fathers. They took on the moniker “America” as a rather on-the-nose way of signaling their preferred national identities while playing clubs across the pond. The group will long be remembered for the iconic “A Horse with No Name,” still featured prominently in soundtracks for major TV shows and films like “Breaking Bad” and American Hustle. However, the song represents only a tiny fraction of the band’s musical library, which spans over 18 albums and five decades. The band’s last studio album was 2015’s Lost & Found. Catch America tonight at The Palace Theatre. 7 p.m. 21 West Otterman St., Greensburg. The Bricks open. (EC/RH)
Chuck Prophet was born in Whittier, California, and has been a prolific rocker since the mid-’80s when he debuted with established rock outfit Green on Red. Prophet has played and recorded with Green on Red frequently ever since, releasing several albums with the group and a dozen more as a solo artist. His 2012 album, Temple Beautiful, was written as a tribute to his adopted hometown of San Francisco, an attempt to musically showcase the many facets of The City by the Bay. Although you probably haven’t heard Prophet on the radio, you may have heard his unique brand of rock on hit shows like “True Blood,” “Californication,” and “Sons of Anarchy.” He’s touring in support of his latest release, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins. Catch Chuck Prophet with his band, The Mission Express featuring Stephanie Finch, Kevin White, Vicente Rodriguez, and James DePrato, at Club Cafe. 8 p.m. 56 S. 12th St. South Side. (EC/RH)
Monday, March 27
We’re approaching four years: the longest stretch yet without a new Portugal. The Man album. No complaints, though, for even if the band isn’t releasing much music, they are performing it and will play Mr. Smalls. Plus, Portugal. The Man have one of the most impressive runs in modern music. Beginning in 2006 with their debut, Waiter: “You Vultures!”, they released a new album every year for five years while touring constantly. In 2013, the group released Evil Friends, which was produced by Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells). A new album, tentatively titled Gloomin + Doomin, has been in the works with Beastie Boy Mike D producing. And a new song, “Noise Pollution,” was released late last year. Members have come and gone, but the core has always been singer/guitarist John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers, friends since they met in Wasilla High School. HDBeenDope open. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)
Tuesday, March 28
Several weeks after the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, when we’ve recovered from our immersion in Irish culture, green beer, and whiskey, and are starting to long for some cheerful Celtic music, Celtic Woman are playing Heinz Hall. The multi-platinum-selling group of angelic-voiced women rose to fame on their vocal talents and quality production values. Many people learned of the group through their popular performance specials on PBS. Sharon Browne and David Downes, a former musical director of the long running Irish stage show Riverdance, created the ensemble. Although members have changed over the years, the group itself is currently on its Twelfth Anniversary tour. 7:00 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (RH)
Thursday, March 30
It should be a triumphant homecoming for Daya, Mt. Lebanon native turned pop sensation, when she plays Stage AE. Not that she’s been gone that long. Recent, local performances included the 56th Annual Light Up Night and the fourth annual Thrival Music Festival. In the studio, she collaborated with The Chainsmokers, who also played Thrival, on their song “Don’t Let Me Down.” The song won the 2017 Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Daya’s career began in 2015 when she and her parents visited Los Angeles, so she could write and record music. “Hide Away” resulted; it later went platinum. She released her debut LP, Sit Still, Look Pretty, October 2016. The eponymous single debuted at 100 on the Billboard 100 and peaked at 28. Its title is ironic, for the lyrics encourage women to do anything but sit still and look pretty. Daya’s not sitting still either with a winter and spring tour that stretches over the United States and Canada. Special guest is Alexx Mack. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)
A band that dresses in a slightly different way—in bandages—is Here Come The Mummies. The group’s background has been described by the band as follows: “It’s been a long and dusty road since 1922 when, at a dig in the desert south of Tunis, Professor Nigel Quentin Fontenelle Dumblucke IV (1895-1973) unearthed the ruins of an ancient discotheque to find a dozen undead Egyptian mummies inexplicably throwing down what he dubbed, ‘Terrifying Funk From Beyond the Grave.'” Individual Mummies have names like Mummy Rah, The Flu, KW TuT, Mummy Cass, and Eddie Mummy. The band is actually a group of very talented musicians from Nashville who formed in 2000 are said to hide their identities to avoid problems with the record companies that they are under contract to. No word on whether they are sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. Their latest album is 2016’s A Blessing and a Curse. 7 p.m. Jergel’s Rhythm Grille, 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (MV/CM)
Friday, March 31
For super-fans of Stevie Nicks, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault was a gift. Almost all of the album’s songs existed as demos that Nicks recorded between 1969 and 1987. Most were leaked on the internet. None, however, were finished. In 2014, Nicks went to Nashville, and in two weeks, she and some session musicians put the final, finishing touches on these songs. The album entered the Billboard 200 chart at no. 7, giving Nicks her sixth top 10 album on that chart. The 24 Karat Gold Tour comes to the PPG Paints Arena with very special guests The Pretenders. If a women-rock-and-roll Mt. Rushmore existed, both Nicks and Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde would be on it. Nicks is a member of Fleetwood Mac, and beginning with 1981’s Bella Donna, she became a successful solo artist. Hynde, who is from Akron, Ohio, formed The Pretenders in 1978 in Hereford, England. Their 1980 self-titled debut came with a small suggestion on the inner sleeve: “This album has a longer running time than most average LP’s therefore to achieve maximum effect PLAY THIS ALBUM LOUD.” This is optimum volume for all Pretenders records, including their most recent, 2016’s Alone. 7 p.m. 1001 5th Ave., Uptown. (CM)
Christopher Maggio is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor and enjoys great music.
Rick Handler, Entertainment Central’s executive producer, also contributed to this piece.