May Concert Preview: Folkies, Beyoncé, a Guy Named Alice, Joe Grushecky, and Billy Price

Alice Cooper and his band in concert during Halloween Night of Horror at Wembley Arena, London, England, 2012. photo: Kreepin Deth

Alice Cooper and his band in concert during Halloween Night of Horror at Wembley Arena, London, England, 2012. photo: Kreepin Deth

The very, very musical month of May promises to be a good one. One of the highlights is the amount of folk and Americana music playing our fair city, including: The Avett Brothers, Elephant Revival, Tish Hinojosa, Rising Appalachia, and The Milk Carton Kids. Early glimpses of the summer concert season can be seen on the horizon. Mega-star Beyoncé —who had a stunning performance at this year’s Super Bowl—performs at Heinz Field at the end of the month. And major twangers are starting to cross the Mason-Dixon line once again; the Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley will each be playing concerts at First Niagara Pavilion. If you’re in the mood for heavy metal, check out the master, Alice Cooper; also in that genre is Five Finger Death Punch. May has a Friday the 13th, which this month is a lucky omen as Cyndi Lauper, Ellie Goulding, and Bentley all perform on that day.

On the local front, Joe Grushecky and Billy Price were among those inducted as Pittsburgh Rock ‘N Roll Legends on April 28 at Stage AE. Both men gave moving speeches, thanking many. Grushecky received a video tribute during the ceremony from his friend and sometimes collaborator Bruce Springsteen. He then rocked the concert hall with both the original Houserockers and then the current version of the band. Billy Price did a very nice job of bringing some vibrant blues and soul to the audience as well. Both are playing the ‘Burgh this month. Whatever your musical pleasure is, get out and enjoy some.

Thursday, May 5

Not often do you get a song in which the music has a traditional country/bluegrass feel, while the lyrics deal with digital clocks and the essential nature of time. Songs like “What Is Time?” (above) are typical of a genre that the musicians of Elephant Revival have called “transcendental folk.” Other interesting numbers in the Colorado group’s repertoire include “Drop” and “Sing to the Mountain.” Why Elephant Revival? Well, elephants never forget, and the sound is roots-based. But it’s also highly eclectic, with instruments that range from the musical saw to bongos, so it’s not surprising to learn that Elephant Revival has performed with acts ranging from Bela Fleck to Parliament-Funkadelic. Locally, the Elephant will be in the room at Mr Smalls with special guests Ben Sollee and The Unknown String Band. 7:30 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (MV)

Saturday, May 7

Pittsburgh rock royalty Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers—who have remained a constant on the Pittsburgh music scene as the city has changed from steel mills to high-tech foundry—are playing a gig tonight at Headliners at The Meadows. Grushecky is a consummate singer/songwriter and has recently released It’s In My Song, an acoustic solo album of songs in his repertoire that he has created new arrangements for. His previous release was 2013’s Somewhere East of Eden, which he recorded with The Houserockers. 8 p.m. No cover. 210 Racetrack Rd., Washington. (RH)

 

Tish Hinojosa—recently back in the States after living in Hamburg, Germany for nine years—makes a Pittsburgh appearance in the intimate performance setting of the SongSpace at First Unitarian Church in Shadyside. Hinojosa is from Austin, Texas, and enjoys creating and performing in several different musical genres, sometimes fusing together influences from all of them including Mexican folk (which she sings in Spanish), country music, folk, and pop. Invited by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton she performed at the White House in the ’90s. Linda Ronstadt even recorded her own version of Hinojosa’s song “Donde Voy” (“Where I Go”). She is the youngest of 13 children in a Mexican-American family. Christopher Mark Jones opens. 7:30 p.m. 605 Morewood Ave., Shadyside. (RH)

Monday, May 9

Attention, mortal weaklings: Be warned that what happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas. The extremely scary band Five Finger Death Punch, spawned in Las Vegas in 2005, has been known to go out on tour. On rhythm guitar they’ve got the Hungarian assassin, Zoltán Báthory, winner of the Golden Gods 2010 Best Shredder award from Metal Hammer. Five Finger Death Punch as a whole—as an awesomely destructive cosmic black whole, some would say—has itself received numerous accolades, such as Metal Hammer’s Best New Band (2009) and Bandit Rock’s Best International Group (2014). Notable albums range from 2012’s American Capitalist to last year’s Got Your Six.

And listen up, ye who scorn metal: The boys are more than mere brutes. In numbers like “Jekyll and Hyde,” they display a humorous self-awareness and keen sensitivity to the quandaries of life. Their “Wrong Side of Heaven” video, done to call attention to the plight of homeless veterans, is a YouTube hit. Therefore, a multidimensional head-banging experience awaits those who catch Five Finger Death Punch co-headlining with Shinedown at Consol Energy Center. 7 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (MV)

 

The Rides is an American blues rock supergroup that formed in 2013 and is composed of two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee singer/songwriter/guitarist Stephen Stills, five-time Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and noted Chicago blues rock keyboardist Barry Goldberg. Providing a solid rhythm foundation are touring musicians bassist Kevin McCormick from Stephen Still’s band and Shepherd’s drummer Chris Layton, who also played with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Stills calls The Rides “the blues band of his dreams.” Shepherd and Stills both have family roots in a swampy region of Louisiana and share an affinity for not just guitars and blues, but classic cars. The group’s first album, 2013’s Can’t Get Enough, made the top 40 of the Billboard 200. The Rides are touring in support of Pierced Arrow, released this year. 8 p.m. Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (RH)

Thursday, May 12

The Avett Brothers mix the light romanticism of early rock and roll with the craftsmanship of a Paul Simon-like singer/songwriter and add a dash of the hoedown spirit of old-school Americana. Built around the nucleus of brothers Scott and Seth, the North Carolina band rode to prominence in the folk-rock revival that also brought you Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons. Since they partnered with producer du jour Rick Rubin on 2009’s I and Love and You, the Avetts have been unstoppable on their path to mega-success. Their triumph can be traced by their ascension through Pittsburgh venues: In eight years, they’ve gone from a small place at the Three Rivers Arts Festival to filling up Stage AE. The Avett Brothers even created the theme song for the popular PBS series “A Chef’s Life.” Their new album, True Sadness, will be released in June. Chatham County Line opens. Doors open 6:30 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (EC, RH)

Friday, May 13

Two amazing facts about Cyndi Lauper: First, contrary to popular belief, she does not have a Brooklyn accent. Lauper grew up in the adjacent borough of Queens, many blocks away from Brooklyn! And second, at an age (62) when many aging stars do little more than recycle their repertoire of days gone by, this pop diva with the New York voice and New York values keeps experimenting. Her new album Detour is a series of covers of old-time country classics. In tracks like “Funnel of Love” (above), Lauper displays a rangier and more resonant sound than the youthful trill of her 1980s mega-hits such as “True Colors” and the iconic “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Given her other recent activities—like winning a Tony Award for writing the music and lyrics of the 2012 Broadway musical Kinky Boots, and her continuing advocacy on LGBTQ issues—one may wonder: What will Cyndi Lauper do next? The answer is a concert at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall with The Peach Kings. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (MV)

 

Vanderbilt University is one of the nation’s finest, and while many college-bound youths enroll there to become scientists or scholars, young Dierks Bentley chose Vanderbilt for a different reason: It’s in Nashville. The hard-working undergrad from Phoenix, Arizona earned his B.A. in 1997, officially studying English and the liberal arts while unofficially pursuing the highly competitive art of country music. By 2001, Bentley had progressed from fighting for open-mic slots to cutting an indie album. That release, Don’t Leave Me in Love, didn’t sell much but is now a collector’s item. It led to a contract with Capitol Records Nashville, which led to Bentley’s self-titled platinum album in 2003, and the rest is history. He is now touring in support of his 10th album, Black, which features “Somewhere on a Beach” and other laid-back ballads typical of the Bentley manner. You can catch him at First Niagara Pavilion with Randy Houser and Cam & Tucker Beathard. 7 p.m. 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (MV)

 

This is not like the last British Invasion. When the Beatles crossed the Atlantic in 1964 with the bouncy, exuberant pop rock that marked their early hits, they were greeted by screaming crowds of teenaged girls. This time you’d better lock up your teenaged boys as well, because Ellie Goulding is coming to town. The London-based singer has a sexier style—call it sultry synthpop—and she is actually no stranger to these shores. Goulding first toured North America in 2011, after her debut album Lights had made her a rising star. Now she returns as a star of certified magnitude. Her signature singles include a cover of Elton John’s “Your Song,” which highlighted her command performance at Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, and “Love Me Like You Do” (above) from her latest album, last year’s Delirium. Goulding is on tour with exotic electropopper Bebe Rexha and British trio Years & Years. Their outdoor show at Stage AE is sold out, so troll for tickets. Doors 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (MV)

Saturday, May 14

Do you like a band that can deliver a wide range of cover tunes with tightness and great musicality? If so, we submit for your approval The Move Makers Band. Songs from Motown, Michael Jackson, Rick James, as well as recent songs like “Blurred Lines,” “Moves Like Jagger,” and “Get Lucky” are all part of their repertoire. They will get the women (and men) up and dancing. So make that move right now to Headliners at The Meadows. 8 p.m. No cover.210 Racetrack Rd., Washington. (RH)

Sunday, May 15

Although The Jayhawks were a part of the Twin Cities’ vibrant music scene in the 1980s, the group stood out from their contemporaries. They weren’t funky like the late Prince or The Time. They lacked the punk edge of The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. Instead, The Jayhawks were pioneers of alternative country, influencing bands like Wilco while simultaneously paying homage to singer-songwriters like Neil Young. Following two albums in the ‘80s, the Jayhawks’ had their first major label LP in 1992—Hollywood Town Hall—led by the single “Waiting for the Sun.” Over the next two decades, the band would release five more studio albums, undergo lineup changes, and go on hiatus (twice). They are active once again, and although original member Mark Olsen may have left, the other founders Gary Louris and Marc Perlman are still on board. They are joined by longtime members: drummer Tim O’Reagan and keyboardist Karen Grotberg. Joining them on tour and at their Mr. Smalls show is guitarist Chet Lyster, who has previously played with Eels and Lucinda Williams. Their new album, Paging Mr. Proust, has just been released and features production from R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. The  Folk Uke opens. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Friday, May 20

Alice Cooper rose to fame in the early 1970s with the hits “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “School’s Out,” and “I’m Eighteen.” When Cooper first got on the rock radar, he shocked not only with horror imagery, but also with how hard and well he rocked, setting the stage for many rock/metal groups to follow. He blended horrific makeup and onstage props like guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, baby dolls, snakes, and dueling swords with high-quality rock and metal music. Rolling Stone called Cooper the world’s “most beloved heavy metal entertainer.” His dad was a preacher for The Church of Jesus Christ (the Bickertonites) which was headquartered in Monongahela, PA, and now in Greensburg. Cooper was raised in Detroit and then Arizona. He is a very accomplished amateur golfer. His concert is sure to be a music and theatrical event. Doors open 7 p.m. Stage AE. 400 North Shore Ave., North Shore.  (RH)

Saturday, May 21

Does the eight-piece country-rock outfit The Zac Brown Band have the best display of facial hair in music? Most of the band members sport diversely styled beards, and bearded or not they are coming to town on their Black Out the Sun Tour. 2015’s Jekyll + Hyde album, the band’s fourth, features a diversity of musical styles. This diversity is demonstrated by collaborations with both Sara Bareilles and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. The Zac Brown Band song “Heavy is the Head,” featuring Cornell, was primarily released to rock radio stations and not country. The move was a good one as the song sat atop the Billboard chart for Mainstream Rock Songs for a period last year, a rare cross-genre feat. Wax your whiskers and check them out at First Niagara Pavilion. With Drake White and the Big Fire. 7 p.m. 665 Route 18, Burgettstown. (EC, RH)

 

February saw a Pittsburgh visit by Rhiannon Giddens, well known for her performance at Another Day, Another Time. This folk concert, curated by T Bone Burnett, celebrated both the music of Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen brothers film, and the ‘60s Greenwich Village scene. Now, three months later, other contributors to this celebration are coming to the City of Champions—The Milk Carton Kids. The duo, from Eagle Rock, California, is touring in support of their fourth studio album, 2015’s Monterey. They are playing the Carnegie Music Hall of Oakland, an acoustically and aesthetically sound space, though one rarely used for national touring acts. A rare treat. For a sampling of their sound, visit their website, where they offer their first two albums for free download. Their visit this month follows a series of high-profile national exposures within the past year: an appearance on “Conan” and a 2015 story in The New Yorker. They have also received Grammy nominations in the categories of Best American Roots Performance and Best Folk Album of the Year. Margaret Glaspy opens. 8 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. (CM)

Sunday, May 22

Steel Panther struts in for a concert at Stage AE this month. With that name, you may think the band hails from Pitt, but it’s actually a heavy metal group from L.A. Steel Panther’s songs combine humor with R- to X-rated content—the “Community Property” video, above, actually is one of the less raunchy ones—while the band’s whole act, including big hair and over-the-top costumes, parodies the glam-metal bands of the 1980s. The Panther has just dropped a second live release, Live From Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage, a CD/DVD combo set in which the band performs stripped-down fan favorites for an audience of 100 women. Opening for Steel Panther is Gene the Werewolf. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH)

Thursday, May 26

Pittsburgh’s own Billy Price is a hardworking performer—the charity show that he’s playing in Oakland is one of about half a dozen gigs you can head along to this month. Last year Price released an album with his idol, the late, great Otis Clay. The album, This Time for Real, is a joint recording with the Chicago soul/gospel icon Clay, whom Price has called his biggest influence as a singer. The pair collaborated several times in the past three decades. This Time for Real includes covers of soul and R&B tracks and new versions of two Clay originals. Price is a real stand-up guy and will be performing a benefit for People’s Oakland—who utilize a holistic, wellness-based approach to recovery from serious and persistent mental illness. So buy a ticket and help an organization providing services in a treatment category that suffers from chronic and severe underfunding by government. You’ll also be treated to some fantastic music from Pittsburgh’s top blues and soul performer. The Benefit Gala, with food, refreshments, and other activities, begins at 6 p.m. and Price is on at 7:15 p.m. Also featuring Hourglass. Under the big tent in Schenley Plaza, 4100 Forbes Ave., Oakland. (RH)

Saturday, May 28

Best New Artist nominees at the Grammys. SNL musical guests. Haim—your new favorite female rock group? If you watch the music video above, in which the Haim sisters turn breaking hearts into a singalong, then the answer is probably “yes.” Este plays bass; Alana, guitar; Danielle, guitar and drums, at least on the studio recordings. Live, the drummer is Dash Hutton. All sisters sing, often harmonizing. Danielle has  toured with Jenny Lewis and the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, playing guitar in both artists’ bands. The sisters learned music early on, playing with Mom and Dad in cover bands. They have one album, 2013’s Days Are Gone, which garnered dozens of accolades from music publications around the globe. They also opened for Taylor Swift on some of the dates of her 1989 World Tour, though not in Pittsburgh. But Haim will headline Stage AE this month, so fans can appreciate a longer setlist than the band would have had as stadium openers. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Monday, May 30

Eagles of Death Metal never took themselves too seriously. The hipster mustaches, the outrageous album titles, the fact that they don’t play death metal—rock ‘n’ roll for our postmodern times. The music was always tight, though, even if it never really cracked the mainstream (“Wannabe in L.A.,” a great tune, was featured in The Perfect Host, a movie you’ve probably never seen despite a delectably dark performance by David Hyde Pierce). Then the November Paris terrorist attacks happened, and Eagles of Death Metal saw themselves in headlines in a way no band ever wants to see. The band survived the massacre at the Bataclan, and undeterred by the terrorists, performed with U2 at a Paris concert just three weeks later. In February, they played Paris again; this time at L’Olympia. They are touring North America now, including a Mr. Smalls stop. Additionally, and as a response to the evil of those attacks, other bands continue to cover their song “I Love You All the Time,” with all the proceeds dedicated from that song going to the Sweet Stuff Foundation, a charitable organization that EODM band member Josh Homme is involved with. The proceeds are then given to victims or the families of the victims of the Bataclan attack. Thelma and the Sleaze opens. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Tuesday, May 31

The radio hits began in 1997, yet, with each new release, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter sounds as if the best is still yet to come. Those first hits weren’t hers alone. “Say My Name,” “Survivor,” and “Bootylicious” all belong to her and fellow band members in the group Destiny’s Child. Then came “Crazy in Love.” Those horns, all braggadocio. and Jay Z’s rapping assist all contributed to making it a no. 1 hit in the U.S. and one of the best-selling singles of all time. It kicked off her debut solo album, 2003’s Dangerously in Love. Beyonce’s other contributions to the American zeitgeist include, but are not limited to, the music video for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” her marriage and creative collaborations with Jay Z, her critically acclaimed self-titled album, dropped on an unsuspecting music audience in late 2013. Coldplay may have been this year’s top-billed Super Bowl halftime show act, but many felt Beyoncé was the top performer after watching her run through a snippet of “Formation.” Following the premier of her visual album, Lemonade, on HBO, the audio album is now available for download across a variety of platforms. It features Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, and many more. Finally, there’s The Formation World Tour, which is sure to be an intensely choreographed, dazzling spectacle, coming to Heinz Field just before month’s end. 7:30 p.m. 100 Art Rooney Ave., North Shore. (CM)

 

Sisters Chloe and Leah Smith (also known as Leah Song) are the leaders of the band Rising Appalachia. The sisters and other bandmates have created their own vision of Appalachian music which draws on the influences of folk, world, soul, hip-hop, classical, southern gospel, and other genres. The sisters—who rose out of the quaint southern town of Atlanta, Georgia—believe in a wholistic approach to their craft. Leah Song has said “Music is the tool with which we wield political prowess. Melody for the roots of each of us…spreading song and sound around the globe. Music has become our script for vision—not just for aural pleasure, not just for hobby, but now as a means to connect and create in ways that we aren’t taught by mainstream culture.” Their 2008 Evolutions in Sound: Live (CD) was named Green Album of the Year by The Huffington Post. Opening is Arouna Diarra. 8 p.m. Club Cafe. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (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.