May 2023 Concert Guide: John Mellencamp, Lizzo, Brooks & Dunn, Billy Idol, and Blink-182
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This May in Pittsburgh is an especially festive month. There are three music festivals occurring. The biggest, the Wonder Works Music & Arts Festival is happening at Hartwood Acres with headliners Hosier and Jason Mraz. The Millvale Music Festival features over 300 music acts on 28 stages. And Pittonkatonk highlights brass bands and more from near and far at Schenley Park.
PPG Paints Arena sees action with tour stops from big talents: Lizzo, Brooks & Dunn, and blink 182. The month opens with classic punk-popper Billy Idol at RMU’s UPMC Events Center. There’s also a two-night stand from John Mellencamp, a very creative and insightful rocker, who’s hits climbed the charts for many years. He is still writing insightful songs with great hooks.
This guide features (in chronological order) Spotlight Picks, Other Shows of Interest, and Big Shows on the Horizon. Get out and see what pleases you, whether it’s one of our concert picks or something entirely different.
Monday, May 1
“It’s a nice day for a white wedding” was a lyric from one of Billy Idol‘s biggest hits in the 1980s and it will also be a nice day on May 1st to attend Billy Idols’ Pittsburgh tour stop at UPMC Events Center. Idol (nee William Michael Albert Broad) is a native of Stanmore, London England, and was part of the second British invasion of new wave artists. He got the name Idol because one of his teachers saw him as being idle. Other hits for the punk pop rocker include “Dancing with Myself,” “Rebel Yell,” and “Eyes Without a Face.” Idol is a grandfather with two granddaughters, one named Poppy Rebel. Idol’s latest release is the 2022 EP, The Cage. 6001 University Blvd., RMU, Moon Twp.
Friday, May 12
There aren’t many big music duos these days which makes the continuing country music success of Brooks & Dunn all the sweeter. They did retire the partnership in 2010 which left the pair, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, free to pursue solo interests. They decided to reunite in 2015 and released a new album, their latest, Reboot, in 2019. The album is a rerecording of a selection of Brooks & Dunn songs done again with various musical collaborators. Luke Combs, Kane Brown, Kacey Musgraves, Jon Pardee, and Ashley McBryde all assisted in the project. See Brooks & Dunn along with special guests Scotty McCreery and Megan Moroney at PPG Paints Arena. 7 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown.
Saturday, May 13
It was just a few years ago that Lizzo was playing medium-sized venues when her tour came to town. Now she is playing one of Pittsburgh’s top concert places, PPG Paints Arena. Lizzo’s meteoric rise is due to her talent and determination. Lizzo was born in Detroit and grew up in Houston, the same city that produced Beyoncé. He first two studio albums were Lizzobangers (2013) and Big Grrrl Small World (2015). Next up, and first on a major label, was the EP Coconut Oil in 2016. Three years later saw the release of Cuz I love You which generated the singles “Juice” and “Tempo” and created some mainstream buzz. The single “Truth Hurts” rocketed up the charts. Her 2022 album release, Special, featured the blockbuster hit “About Damn Time” which reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. A collaboration with Cardi B, “Rumors,” also lit up the Billboard 100 charts. Lizzo went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. There are three other Grammys in her trophy case too. In addition to singing and rapping Lizzo is a highly talented flautist. The Smithsonian invited Lizzo to play President James Madison’s 200-year-old crystal flute at a Washington, D.C., concert. Special guest is Latto. 8 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown.
Pittonkatonk is a fun-ky music festival featuring mainly brass bands from near and far. It’s held every year at the Vietnam Veterans Pavilion at Schenley Park. Bands slated to perform include: Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band (Burkina Faso), Balaklava Blues (Ukraine/Canada), Tamikrest (Morocco), Kizaba (Congo), Undertow Brass Band (Prov/FKA What Cheer? Brigade), Detroit Party Marching Band, Hugo Cruz and Caminos, 1Hood, Mai Khoi and the Dissidents, Timbeleza, Eagleburger Band, May Day Marching Band, Balafon West African Dance. Food and beer/drink trucks, and other vendors will also be on hand. This will be the 10th year for Pittonkatonk, an environmentally friendly music festival. Starts at 1 p.m. Free.
Wednesday, May 17
Blink-182 formed in Poway, California in 1992 as Blink and part of the skate music scene. The trio scored a breakthrough record with 1999’s pop-punk masterpiece, Enema of the State. The members disbanded in 2005, regrouped in 2009, and then have had various lineups ever since. Co-founder and vocalist Tom DeLonge returned to the band in 2022. The year was also a return to the high charts for the group as their song “Edging” reached positions of the Billboard 100 blink-182 hadn’t seen in many years. Catch blink-182 at PPG Paints Arena with special guest Turnstile. 7:30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown.
Friday, May 19 & Saturday, May 20
The free Millvale Music Festival returns for an annual showcase of myriad local musicians, who will play indoor venues, like Mr. Smalls, and outdoor venues, like the GAP Park. Acts include Liz Berlin, Gene the Werewolf, Bad Judgement, Brad Yoder, Dumplings, Fuck Yeah, Dinosaurs!, Mark Dignam, Melina Bowser, My Favorite Liar, Steel Mill Rising, Ras Prophet, ShugMac, and Westinghouse Atom smasher. Many visual artists, comedians, and spoken word artists/poets will also participate in the festival and have their works on display/perform. Check the festival’s website for a full line-up and list of venues, which include popular bars, cafés, and craft breweries. All over Millvale.
Monday, May 22 & Tuesday, May 23
John Mellencamp, who hails from Seymour, Indiana, is an authentic American singer-songwriter in the same vein as Dylan and Springsteen. After a somewhat frivolous beginning to his career when a manager forced the name John Cougar on him and he sang about his quest to find a lover who won’t drive him crazy, “I Need a Lover,” he worked his way back to his more authentic self and his real name. His songs shined a light on what was happening in the American heartland. Songs like “Jack and Diane,” “Small Town,” and “Rain on the Scarecrow.” A truly beautiful Mellencamp song is “Ain’t Even Done With the Night” with smooth vocals, saxophone, and subtle interesting drum fills. Mellencamp is touring in advance of his latest album, Orpheus Descending, set for release on June 2. He is be performing songs in his sets from the new LP. Orpheus Descending will be his twenty fifth album and also one of his most personal records to date Top tracks include “Hey God” and “The Eyes of Portland” focus on social issues Mellencamp continues to passionately advocate for. “The Eyes of Portland” examines the empty “thoughts and prayers” condolences offered as a solution to major tragedies and complex situations. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame recently opened a new permanent exhibit titled Legends of Rock: John Mellencamp. In addition to his rock music main gig, Mellencamp is an accomplished painter. 8 p.m. both nights. Benedum Center, 237 7th Ave., Cultural District.
Saturday, May 27 & Sunday, May 28
Last year was the inaugural music festival at Hartwood Acres—Maple House Arts + Music Festival. This year the two-day live music event is Wonder Works Music & Arts Festival Hartwood. Occurring on Memorial Day weekend, this years highlights include Hosier, The Head and the Heart, Coin, X Ambassadors, and Michigander on Saturday. Sunday features Jason Mraz and His Superband, Mt. Joy, The Revivalists, and The Vindys. Numerous other bands also play each day. The event is produced by Elevation Festivals who run other music festivals in the Midwest including in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Hartwood Acres. 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton and Indiana Townships.
Other Shows of Note
Monday, May 1
The Interrupters (Roxian Theatre)
Wednesday, May 3
August Burns Red, The Devil Wears Prada (Stage AE)
Friday, May 5
Arturo Sandoval (MCG Jazz)
Saturday, May 13
Richard Thompson (Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall)
Monday, May 14
Bailen (Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall)
Tuesday, May 16
Waterparks (Roxian Theatre)
Thursday, May 18
Heartless Bastards (Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall)
Saturday, May 20
The Village People (Hollywood Casino at The Meadows)
Tuesday, May 23
Theron Brown (Liberty Magic)
Friday, May 26
Essential Machine, God’s Green Apples, Anti-Corn League (Bridge Music Bar)
Big Shows on the Horizon
Kansas (Benedum Center)
June 2 through June 11
Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
Pride on the Shore (Stage AE)
Jackson Browne (Benedum Center
Dead & Company (Star Lake)
Hank William Jr. (Star Lake)
The Clarks (Stage AE)
Paramore (PPG Paints Arena)
Morgan Wallen (PNC Park)
June 16 & 17
Taylor Swift (Acrisure Stadium)
Trace Adkins (Hollywood Casino at The Meadows)
The Dave Matthews Band (Star Lake)
Dierks Bentley (Star Lake)
My Morning Jacket (Stage AE)
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.
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