Any month in Pittsburgh that has a concert by The Who is a great month. Despite losing two key members over the years, the band continues to rock on. Carly Rae Jepsen also deserves to be in our Preview highlights, as she is the creator of one of the best-selling singles of all time—”Call Me Maybe.” Another artist in the same pop vein is Rachel Platten, who honed her skills working as a singer-songwriter in the clubs of New York’s Greenwich Village before hitting it big with her mega-hit “Fight Song.” Country music is one of the hottest genres going, so we’ve been getting some good twang here, even in the winter months. Gwen Stefani’s boyfriend and fellow judge on NBC’s “The Voice,” Blake Shelton, is in concert at the Consol Energy Center. The legendary Charlie Daniels will be providing some tasty Southern flavor with his country-rock hits.
There’s also a couple of dogs this month—and I don’t mean bad, just that they have the word dog in their names—Three Dog Night and Dr. Dog. Now to address the “elephant in the room,” or more accurately, Spring Fling-2016 at the Petersen Events Center. The rock band Cage The Elephant headlines this event with several other bands also on the bill. Looking for some good local bands to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Then head out and enjoy one of the many talented Irish bands and performers we’re so fortunate to have in Pittsburgh, including: Red Hand Paddy, Guaranteed Irish, Corned Beef and Curry, Cahal Dunne, Donnie Irish, Whiskey Limerick, and Abbots Cross. Some places where you might find these musicians and can also enjoy a taste of Ireland’s native waters are Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, Riley’s Pour House, and The Claddagh. Whether you like Irish music or instead prefer German, metalcore, or emo, get out on the scene and enjoy some!
Tuesday, March 1
American blues rock icon Leon Russell, whose piano playing has threads running through the music of Elton John, Badfinger, and the George Harrison-led Concert for Bangladesh, is in concert at Altar Bar to kick off the month. Russell first rose to solo success on the Muscle Shoals-recorded album Carney, which was released in 1972. The album reached no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart and contained the song “Tight Rope,” which reached no. 11 on the Hot 100 chart. Carney also contained the song “This Masquerade,” which several other artists recorded, including Pittsburgh native George Benson, whose version rode the charts to no. 10 on the Hot 100 in 1976. This is a great opportunity to see a legendary American musician. Jefferson Grizzard opens. 8 p.m. 1620 Penn Ave. (RH)
Coheed and Cambria, whose music is a mix of progressive, punk, and metal rock, are in concert at Stage AE. Rising out of Nyack, New York, Coheed and Cambria’s releases are mainly concept albums based on a sci-fi storyline called The Amory Wars, written by the band’s lead vocalist Claudio Sanchez, which have been transcribed into comic books and a novel. Their latest album The Color Before the Sun, released in October 2015, departs from the Amory Wars theme. On the release Sanchez chronicles personal journeys including his move from the country to the city, and his child Atlas. Joining them are Glassjaw, I The Mighty, and Silver Snakes. Doors open at 6 p.m., 400 North Shore Dr. (RH)
Wednesday, March 2
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Jason Isbell is making a Pittsburgh stop at the Benedum Center in support of his latest release, 2015’s Something More Than Free. This is the sixth solo album by Isbell, who hails from Green Hill, Alabama. Something went on to win the Grammy for Best Americana Album earlier this month. A former member of Drive By Truckers, Isbell continues in the alt country tradition. Songs like “Cover Me Up” and “Goddamn Lonely Love” showcase his rich vocals and songwriting talents. Isbell is backed up by his band The 400 Unit. Shovels & Ropes opens. 7:30 p.m. 237 7th St, Downtown.
Friday, March 4
Harlem-born blues singer Shemekia Copeland gained a lot of notice with “Never Going Back to Memphis,” which featured her resonant blues/soul vocals, storytelling lyrics, and fantastic guitar and drum playing. Copeland—the daughter of Texas blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland—started out singing professionally as her dad’s opening act while still in high school. A two-time Grammy nominee, she’s performed with such notables as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Mick Jagger, and Eric Clapton. Copeland has also performed for President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. She’ll be at the August Wilson Center with her band, so bring your own top guy or first lady and join the fun. 8 p.m. 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. (RH)
Saturday, March 5
Fans of Jukebox the Ghost and their 2014 self-titled album got some nice treats in 2015. The power pop trio gave that self-titled album the deluxe edition treatment. The deluxe edition of Jukebox the Ghost has a solo piano version, sans vocals, of every track off the record—perfect for karaoke or for some soothing household ambiance. The band also released an EP, The BSide Session, of two acoustic versions of songs from that album. Let’s not forget, too, just how catchy the original versions are, like the single “The Great Unknown.” Originally from Washington, D.C., they are approaching their 10-year anniversary as a band. They have opened for acts like Ben Folds, Motion City Soundtrack and, in 2010, made a coveted appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” In 2015, they performed “Postcard” on “Conan,” just one of over 150 performances they average annually. They played Pittsburgh on Valentine’s Day last year. 2016 sees them returning just over a year later and once again at Mr. Smalls. Mainland opens. 9 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)
Tuesday, March 8
If you want to relive ska punk’s glory days of the late 90’s, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Altar Bar with Less Than Jake. Combining the distinctive beats of punk with the horns and saxophones of ska, Less Than Jake hit 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. Less Than Jake will be performing their 90’s albums Losing Streak and Hello Rockview along with other favorites. A Wilhelm Scream and Junior Battles open. 8 p.m. 1620 Penn Ave., Strip District. (EC,RH)
Friday, March 11
Rock ‘n’ roll promotes good health. This has been scientifically proven by the remarkable number of bands from the 1960s-70s that are still active and touring, many of them with multiple original or longtime members. Among these bands, one of the most noteworthy is Three Dog Night, because the type of rock performed by Three Dog Night is particularly conducive to wellness: It’s feel-good rock. After all, the group’s de facto anthem is the song called “Joy to the World.” Other top hits, such as “Shambala” (above), also combine happiness-oriented lyrics with beats that are decidedly upbeat. Even spooky numbers like “Mama Told Me Not to Come” are delivered in a festive fashion. In short, these guys never met a song they couldn’t have fun with, and you can see for yourself when Three Dog Night visits The Palace Theatre. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (MV)
Sunday, March 13
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes are bringing their wall-of-sound to the Rex Theater. 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 the co-founder of the band and Bruce Springsteen associate Steven Van Zandt. The albums were mainly composed of songs written by Van Zandt and/or Springsteen. They are known for the songs “Trapped Again,” “Without Love,” and “We’re Having A Party.” Southside Johnny should feel right at home on Pittsburgh’s South Side. 8 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St. (RH)
Tuesday, March 15
Rachel Platten is more than a one-hit wonder, though it’s not surprising if people think of her that way, because that one big hit is really big. Released just last year, “Fight Song” has gone triple platinum in the United States, charted in other countries worldwide, and been used as theme music for causes ranging from Ford SUV ads to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The song, however, didn’t come from nowhere—Platten has been making music since her school days. After graduating from Trinity College in Connecticut in 2003, she first won notice as a solo artist on the singer/songwriter scene in New York’s Greenwich Village. Then, as Platten developed an indie-pop style, she began recording songs for various TV programs, which helped lead to a major-label contract (with Columbia) and “Fight Song.” Platten is touring in support of her new album Wildfire, which includes other popular numbers like “Stand By You.” She’ll be at Mr Smalls with special guests Eric Hutchinson and Christina Grimmie. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (MV)
Wednesday, March 16
The Who are one of the quintessential rock bands of our time, emerging on the mod scene in England in 1964. Although they were Mods they rocked hard with Pete Townshend’s windmill power chords, Roger Daltrey’s dynamic vocals, Keith Moon’s amazing drumming, and John Entwistle’s stand out bass lines. Unfortunately, Moon and Entwistle have joined the great rock band in the sky. The Who in their formative years were known for destroying their instruments and equipment on stage in a power meltdown. This reflected the auto-destructive wing of the pop art movement. On a more constructive note The Who were pioneers in another art form—the rock opera—creating Tommy (’69) and Qudrophenia (’73). Those rock operas spawned the hits respectively “Pinball Wizard,” “We’re Not Going to Take It” and “The Real Me,” “The Punk and the Godfather.”
Subsequent years saw additional hits including “Who Are You.” Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey (his godfather was Keith Moon) very capably handles the drumming duties for The Who and Pete Townshend’s brother Simon contributes on guitar, mandolin, and backing vocals. Pino Palladino plays bass guitar for the group. This is a nice opportunity to see one of the best, and maybe slightly under-rated, rock bands in the world. The Who Hits Fifty! tour. Tal Wilkenfeld opens. 7:30 p.m. Consol Energy Center, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (RH)
The doctor is in this month at Stage AE—Dr. Dog that is. The group hails from West Grove, Pennsylvania, and specializes in rock music with strong crystalline vocals and tight harmonies like those that can be heard on “Broken Heart.” Psychedelic Swamp their latest release, out earlier this month, features some of their oldest music. Dr. Dog originally started working on the album in 2001 and put it aside to work on other projects. Now in 2016 it is finally done. Opening for Dr. Dog are The Districts. Doors open at 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH)
Thursday, March 17
“I’m just kiddin’, I’m a white kid, hi kids”—Yep, that’s Hoodie Allen, the clown prince of yuppie hop, as he summed himself up in a signature line from his 2011 breakout release “No Interruption.” The artist formerly known as Steven Markowitz chose his stage name as a pun on Woody Allen: white guy, comedian, nerdy but kinda cool; get it? In cuts like “Fame Is for Assholes” (with Chiddy Bang) and “Are U Having Any Fun,” he mixes classic hip-hop memes such as gratuitous profanity and the objectification of women with satirical riffs on the suburban upper-middle-class technoculture. Hoodie knows the latter quite well. He grew up on Long Island, acquired an Ivy League degree, and worked at Google before quitting to become a full-time musical prankster. Now on tour in support of his latest album, Happy Camper, Hoodie Allen will be at Stage AE with sidekicks SuperDuperKyle and Blackbear. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (MV)
Friday, March 18
In Canada, just as in the States, you don’t need to come in first on “Idol” to have a successful career. Carly Rae Jepsen may have placed third on season five of “Canadian Idol” but “Call Me Maybe,” her breakthrough single, won on all fronts. Commercially and globally, the single sold over 18 million copies. Critically, it garnered two Grammy nominations. The song’s video also has over 790,000,000 views (and counting) on YouTube—a delectable cover version with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, played on classroom instruments, has over 25,000,000. That single was released September 2011 in Canada and February 2012 in America. It also appeared on 2012’s Kiss, Jepsen’s first internationally released album. The very catchy “Call Me Maybe” is somewhat amazingly one of the best-selling singles of all time! She followed that with 2015’s Emotion, an album which harks to the sounds of ‘80s mega stars like Cyndi Lauper and Prince. For proof, see “I Really Like You.” And, yes, both Tom Hanks and Justin Bieber are in that song’s music video. Jepsen, originally of Mission, British Columbia, Canada, is now based in Vancouver and this month plays Mr. Smalls. Cardiknox and Fairground Saints open. 8:10 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)
Saturday, March 19
Blake Shelton‘s background pegs him a genuine old-school country boy. Born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma, he learned to pick and sing from family members, then at 17 moved directly from Ada to Nashville. But Shelton also typifies the cutting-edge modern face of country music—open to eclectic influences, and reaching out to all audiences, as he tried to illustrate in his famous video of “Boys ‘Round Here” (above). In songs like “Sangria” and “Neon Light,” he mixes traditional country themes with new musical touches. And Shelton makes all his tunes work by virtue of how naturally he comes across. With a fine natural singing voice and an easy, engaging manner, he doesn’t have to shout or showboat to bring life to a song; he just brings himself. A multiple Grammy winner and Grand Ole Opry member, Shelton was named the Country Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year five years in a row. He’ll be at Consol Energy Center. 7 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (MV)
Wednesday, March 23
The first time Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy toured Pittsburgh, he played Heinz Field. Granted, he wasn’t headlining, but what a feat. Equally impressive was that he was opening for pop-star Taylor Swift during her 1989 World Tour. And even more impressive? He got the invite after she covered his ukulele-rich single, “Riptide,” on a British radio program. “Riptide” has become a bona fide hit all its own. It has gone multiplatinum, both in the States and Down Under. In Australia, it holds the record for the most streamed song on Spotify. You can find the song on Joy’s debut album, 2014’s Dream Your Life Away. That album was reissued in 2015 as a deluxe edition with a few additional tracks, including the single “Fire and the Flood,” another hit for the singer. From this single, Joy got the title for his latest tour, one which he is headlining this time. He’ll be visiting the North Shore, again, this time at Stage AE. Blind Pilot and Jamie Lawson open. Doors open 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)
Friday, March 25
Spring Fling Rock AF 2016 presents a quadrumvirate of rock ‘n’ roll sure to alleviate your lingering winter doldrums. Cage the Elephant headline. The band began unassumingly in the college town of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Then their blues/garage rock amalgamation caught fire across the pond in England and soon blew up back in the States, propelled in no small measure by “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” the third single from their 2008 self-titled debut. They have released three more albums since, most recently 2015’s Tell Me I’m Pretty, which Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys produced. The album included “Mess Around” which reached no. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. Also on the bill are Silversun Pickups, who are touring 2015’s Better Nature. The indie rock group hails from the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, where contemporaries Rilo Kiley also got their start. All the way from Oxford, England, come Foals, an indie rock quintet. They are also touring in support of a new album—2015’s What Went Down. Bear Hands, who have headlined Cattivo in Lawrenceville, open the show, which takes place at University of Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center. 7 p.m. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland. (CM)
Sometimes blues, sometimes hip hop, sometimes rock—G. Love & Special Sauce certainly run the gamut, and on their newest release, 2015’s Love Saves the Day, the Philadelphia trio delivers a smorgasbord of all their musical stylings, often all in one song. Just look at who’s featured; it’s not often where one can find Money Mark, Lucinda Williams, and David Hidalgo (of rock band Los Lobos) on the same record. Of course, G. Love & Special Sauce have always had some great friends. Love Saves the Day comes off of Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, and the trio have also recorded with the Hawaiian singer-songwriter. That’s not to say they’re not an impressive group all their own. How else would they have remained a viable performance act over 20 years into their career? For further proof, check out their show at Mr. Smalls. As a special bonus, bassist Jim (“Jimi Jazz”) Prescott returned in 2014 following a five-year hiatus. So it’s the original lineup performing with Jeffrey (“Houseman”) Clemens on drums and vocals and Garrett (“G. Love”) Dutton on guitar and vocals. The Bones of J.R. Jones open. 8:30 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)
Wednesday, March 30
How many adults keep in touch with their middle school friends let alone record and perform music with them? The answer may be limited to the members of SOJA, but for reggae fans, it’s enough. For nearly 20 years, the D.C.-area eight-piece has been playing shows and releasing albums and concert DVDs. Along the way, they have augmented their reggae with hardcore, hip hop, and other genres. They have also opened for artists like Dave Matthews Band and Incubus and garnered huge crowds at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Their hard work has not gone unrecognized, whether through their 200,000-plus albums sold or their 2014 “Best Reggae Album” Grammy nomination for Amid the Noise and Haste. That album, their fifth studio LP, features numerous collaborations, including an appearance by reggae royalty Damian Marley. No new releases currently, but the band is touring, including a stop at Mr. Smalls. New Kingston opens. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)
Thursday, March 31
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.” Unwound opens. 8 p.m. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. SOLD OUT (RH)
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and loves great music.
Christopher Maggio and Mike Vargo also love great music and were major contributors to this preview.