This month the Pittsburgh concert scene includes mega-acts Megadeth and John Mayer, many talented mid-range acts and two very cool music festivals. There’s two bands from York playing here this month; Halestorm from near York, PA, and Asking Alexandria from York, England. On the folk-rock side of life we see The Head and the Heart and Valerie June both in for a visit.
The Spinners and The Fifth Dimension team up for a soul-pop concert at the Palace. There’s another interesting double-bill, both literally and figuratively this month with Bill Toms and Billy Price. One of Pittsburgh’s top local rockers, Joe Grushecky, is in concert on the South Side at Club Cafe. And for old-school rap fans Stage AE is hosting Slick Rick, Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff and a few others.
There’s two big festivals this month. The Millvale Music Festival has built a solid following over the years and focuses on our rich vein of musical talent in the region. A new festival is happening this year, The Maple House Music & Arts Festival. It is produced by Thomas Tull and features, in addition to his band, The Ghost Hounds; Jason Isbell, Black Pumas, Lake Street Dive, and Elle King.
This guide features (in chronological order) spotlighted picks, other shows of note, and big shows on the radar. Get out and see what pleases you, whether it’s one of our concerts or something entirely different. Mike Vargo (M.V) contributed to this guide.
Concerts in the Entertainment Central Spotlight
Thursday, May 5
There’s a wonderful double bill of Pittsburgh Blues rock this month, both literally and figuratively. Bill Toms and Billy Price will both be brining their considerable musical talents to Jergel’s. Both will be performing with their respective bands, Toms with Hard Rain and the Soulville Horns; and Price with the Billy Price Band. Toms, in addition to favorites from his catalog, will be performing songs from his most recent album, Keep Movin’ On” (see our story). Price, who a couple years moved to the Baltimore, Maryland area, makes a return to the city that helped put him on the map as a consummate blues and soul singer. Price’s latest album is 2018’s Dog Eat Dog. 8 p.m. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale.
John Mayer went from pop to blues to jam-band. Let’s chart this development. One of his first singles was “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” which won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2003. He moved to blues in the mid-aughts by collaborating with legends such as B.B. King, forming the John Mayer Trio, and releasing Continuum in 2006. Cut to a few albums later, and John Mayer became a Deadhead after hearing “Althea” on a Pandora station. He befriended Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir in 2015. The pair and Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann soon formed Dead & Company, which will be coming to Pittsburgh this summer, so you can even see Mayer twice. He will perform his solo work at PPG Paints Arena. Mayer’s most recent studio album is Sob Rock, released in 2021. 7:30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (C.M., R.H.)
Friday, May 6
Tennessee-born Valerie June got a good musical break when she appeared as a featured artist on MTV’s online series “$5 Cover,” which followed the lives of Memphis musicians and their struggle to survive while chasing their musical dreams. The following year she recorded the EP, Valerie June and the Tennessee Express, a collaboration with Old Crow Medicine Show. Her sound is influenced by folk, blues, Appalachian, gospel, soul, country, and bluegrass. The singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist has gone on to record five albums, the latest being 2021’s The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers. Buffalo Nichols opens. 8 p.m. Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall.
Monday, May 9
Dave Mustaine was Metallica’s original lead guitarist. Shortly before the band recorded its debut album, 1983’s Kill ’Em All, the other members fired him for his excessive substance abuse. In Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir, the singer/songwriter details taking a Greyhound bus from New York City to Los Angeles and finding a pamphlet on the dangers of nuclear proliferation. It warned of megadeath—one million human lives lost because of a nuclear explosion. Mustaine dropped the second “a” in the word, and a new band was born. Despite substance-abuse problems and in-fighting, Megadeth became one of the great thrash metal groups alongside rival Metallica. Megadeth has released 15 LPs, with their latest, The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!, being released on July 8. Megadeth plays the Petersen Events Center. Lamb of God, Trivium, and In Flames are also on the bill. 6 p.m. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland. (C.M., R.H.)
Tuesday, May 17
Halestorm, a heavy metal, rock and roll outfit hails from Red Lion, Pennsylvania, near York. The group features lead vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale and her brother, drummer/percussionist Arejay Hale. Halestorm has five albums to their credit including their new album Back from the Dead which will be released on May 6. Their sound is a a very melodic hard rock. Halestorm has been nominated for two Grammys, winning one. They are teaming up at Stage AE this month with Stone Temple Pilots. STP’s main zenith was in the early 1990s with lead singer Scott Weiland. Tensions between him and his bandmates caused a falling out and he departed the band in 2013. He would die of an accidental drug overdose in 2015. They have carried on with a new lead vocalist Jeff Gutt. STP is led by brothers Dean DeLeo and Robert DeLeo. The band’s latest release is 2020’s Perdida, an acoustic album that they performed with vintage instruments on. Black Stone Cherry opens. Doors open at 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21
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. One longtime Pittsburgh act is the Weird Paul Rock Band, fronted by the irreverent and bowl cut Weird Paul himself. Another act, Murder for Girls, who are releasing a vinyl LP Nine Stories in July, will be playing Mr. Smalls the Saturday night of the festival. Other acts include Liz Berlin, Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Gene the Werewolf, André Costello and the Cool Minors, Royal Honey, and The Redlines. Many visual artists will also participate in the festival and have their works on display. Check the festival’s website for a full line-up and list of venues, which include popular bars, cafés, and craft breweries. Limited hours on Friday and all day Saturday 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Millvale. (C.M., R.H.)
Saturday, May 21
Billionaire businessman Thomas Tull is a Sewickley renaissance man. He sold his ownership in Legendary Entertainment and bought an ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers. He owns a dairy farm in Washington County and is an investor in The Milkshake Factory. He also co-founded and plays guitar in a rock band called the Ghost Hounds, who happened to open for the Stones here during their concert last October. Now he’s producing a Pittsburgh rock festival with his music label Maple House. Top billing at the Maple House Music + Arts Festival goes to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The three middle acts of the festival are very popular and talented too—Black Pumas, Lake Street Dive, and Elle King. And the Ghost Hounds are a top rock outfit with their southern rock tinged music. Beyond the five acts mentioned their are seven more. Hartwood Acres. 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton and Indiana Townships.
This month one of Pittsburgh’s rock royalty, Joe Grushecky, and The Houserockers are playing Club Cafe right off East Carson Street. That’s always a fun show for Grushecky as he has been playing the South Side and East Carson Street since early in his career. He even has an album and a song called East Carson Street. Grushecky and the band are currently celebrating the 25th anniversary edition of their Bruce Springsteen produced album, American Babylon. Grushecky and The Houserocker’s music is the wonderfully written, true-to-life, guitar and drum driven rock that Pittsburgh has enjoyed and run on for many years. This is a great opportunity to see Grushecky and The Houserockers near one of his favorite streets. 8 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St.
Sunday, May 22
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 group’s latest LP release release is 2021’s, Round the Block and Back Again. Sharing the spotlight for the concert is the pop vocal group The Fifth Dimension. They sure were performing at a few more dimensions between 1967 and 1973 when they charted 20 Top 40 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. These included “Up, Up and Away,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and the mega hit “Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” from the Broadway show Hair. Florence LaRue is the one remaining original member. The songs are so great and it’s fantastic to hear them live. 3 p.m. Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (M.V., R.H.)
Monday, May 23
Asking Alexandria is a British metalcore band that rose out of York, England, in the mid-2000s. The group was looking for a name when band member James Cassells suggesting asking Alexandria, bandmate Danny Worsnop’s cousin. After Cassells said that they all thought that Asking Alexandra would be a good name for the band. Asking Alexandria’s has seven albums with the latest being latest 2021’s See What’s on the Inside. Also on the bill are Nothing More, Atreyu, and Eva Under Fire. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
Friday, May 27
Seattle folk-rock group The Head and the Heart sold CD copies of its 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. The sextet took a break in 2014. In the interim, violinist/vocalist Charity Rose Thielen wrote songs for other performers, including Mavis Staples. Bandmate Matt Gervais is married to Thielen. The Head and the Heart just released their fifth album, Every Shade of Blue, on April 29. Special guest is Jade Bird. Doors open at 6 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (C.M., R.H.)
Sunday, May 29
For rap aficionados Stage AE has The Citizen Science Lab presenting Flying Beyond Intergalactic Boundaries Through STEM! The concert features Slick Rick, Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Big Daddy Kane, Das EFX, and Positive K. Slick Rick got his start in the mid-1980s with Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew. He then became the third rapper to be signed to Def Jam records. His music has been heavily sampled by other rappers including Snoop Dog. Rakim, a highly respected and influential rapper and record producer was one half of the hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim. DJ Jazzy Jeff teamed up with the Fresh Prince, Will Smith, for a hot hip hop duo outta West Philadelphia. The partnership produced hits like “Summertime” and “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Doors open at 3 p.m. 400 North Shore Ave., North Shore.
Other Shows of Note
Monday, May 2
Neil Hamburger (Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall)
Thursday, May 5 through Saturday, May 7
Alba Flamenca (Greer Cabaret Theater)
Friday, May 6
MC5 & Murder for Girls (Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall)
Saturday, May 14
Little River Band (Hollywood Casino at The Meadows)
Ryan Hurd (Roxian Theatre)
Pittonkatonk (Vietnam Veterans Shelter at Schenley Park)
8th Street Rox (Moondog’s Pub)
Thursday, May 19
Iration (Roxian Theatre)
Friday, May 20
Bo Bice (Lamp Theatre)
Tuesday, May 24
The Afghan Whigs (Mr. Smalls)
Wednesday, May 25
Cahal Dunne (Palace Theatre)
Friday, May 27
Eddie Manion CD Release Concert (The Strand Theater)
Right Turn Clyde (Hard Rock Cafe)
Saturday, May 28
The Commonheart (Stage AE)
Big Shows on the Horizon
Thursday, June 2
Brad Paisley (The Pavilion at Star Lake)
Saturday, June 4
Robby Krieger (Hollywood Casino at the Meadows)
Monday, June 6
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Three Rivers Arts Fest)
Saturday, June 11
Kenny Chesney (Heinz Field)
Wednesday, June 15
The Lumineers (The Pavilion at Star Lake)
Saturday June 18
Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band (PPG Paints Arena)
Wednesday, June 22
My Morning Jacket (Stage AE)
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.