May Music Preview: A Nice Spring Mix
As the spring weather starts to heat up finally, we’re seeing some nice action on the concert scene. In the mood for some early rock ‘n roll? How about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons? For 80s hit makers we offer Styx, John Mellencamp, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Alt-rock pioneers The Replacements are also in town. Members of the various The Band bands have united to pay tribute to that great musical legacy. Current hit makers in our mix include Ed Sheeran, All Time Low, and Kenny Chesney. Rejoice jazz lovers, George Benson returns home to play the Benedum. On the local side, there’s a Stones (for Children’s) benefit, a showcase of women singer/songwriters, and a Billy Price CD release party. There’s something for all musical tastes, so get out and see our featured shows and the many other cool concerts happening this month.
Saturday, May 2
Hall and Oates—the blue-eyed soul group that rose out of Philly in the 1970s—are bringing their stellar harmonies to Stage AE. Billboard Magazine named the group, composed of Daryl Hall (lead vocals, piano, multi-instrumentalist) and John Oates (vocals, lead guitar), as the most successful duo of the rock era. Six No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “Rich Girl”, “Kiss on My List”, “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”, “Maneater”, and “Out of Touch” figured heavy into that accolade. Oates and Hall met while they were both students at Temple University. Although in separate bands at the time, they joined together. They achieved Platinum sales status with only their second album Abandoned Luncheonette which contained the hit “She’s Gone.” 1975’s Daryl Hall and John Oates generated the major hit “Sara Smile” and “Camellia.”
Hall and Oates rode the turbulent, changing musical tides of the late 70s and early 80s with a string of hits. As new wave genre took hold they incorporated some of those new sounds into their songs while still maintaining their soul underpinnings. They are a very popular act and SOLD OUT Stage AE on their last visit here and for this current show. Many people may know of Daryl Hall from his TV show “Live From Daryl’s House.” Mutlu opens. Doors Open at 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Side.
Sunday, May 3
The music business is fraught with peril and hardships, and a career that spans more than a couple of years is generally considered a significant accomplishment. Frankie Valli has reached that level of achievement. Born in Newark, N.J., Valli rose to fame in 1962 as the lead singer of The Four Seasons (they took the band name from a New Jersey bowling alley), and his fame train continues to chug as powerfully as ever. The Four Seasons’ first hit, “Sherry” put the band on the map. Other hits include “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” and “Working My Way Back to You.” Valli comes to Heinz Hall in what is guaranteed to provide a harmonious joyride down melody lane. Opportunities to catch legends like Valli are increasingly scarce, so pen this one into your evening’s “high-priority” category. 7:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave. Cultural District.
Monday, May 4
Singer-songwriter Ben Folds has long bridged pop and orchestral, dating back to his time with his band Ben Folds Five and hits such as “Brick.” The group disbanded in 2000 but has regrouped sporadically since 2011. Folds is currently touring with yMusic, a New York City-based sextet ensemble. He and the ensemble also collaborated on the upcoming album So There, to be digitally released later this spring. The album was recorded in Nashville, where Folds lives and also operates the historic RCA Studio A. Pittsburgh fans both impatient to hear the new record and lucky enough to have tickets can see Folds and yMusic at their SOLD OUT show at the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall.
Tuesday has long been the ugly stepchild of the week. How often has a tired laborer, with no weekend in sight, remarked, “Ugh. I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday.” In 2014, Makonnen Sheran, who goes by the stage name iLoveMakonnen, gave Tuesday its due, reminding the world that those who work Saturday and Sunday “ain’t got no … time to party on the weekend.” Those lyrics come from “Tuesday,” released by iLoveMakonnen and later remixed by Canadian rap artist Drake. That remix has more than 79 million YouTube views, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. His show at Mr. Smalls may be on a Monday, but Makonnen, an Atlanta native, is sure to have no qualms playing the hit a day early. Key! and Sonny Digital open. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale.
Tuesday, May 5
“Back By Unpopular Demand” goes the billing for The Replacements’ first tour in 24 years. Unpopular? Tell that to the crowd who bought tickets to the band’s SOLD OUT show at Stage AE or to the fans who gobbled up the April reissue of their eight-CD discography. That discography includes classic albums such as 1984’s Let It Be (not a Beatles tribute) and 1985’s Tim. The Minneapolis four-piece also added a new song, “Whole Foods Blues,” to their recent setlists. It’s been 30 years since their infamous video for “Bastards of Young”; could the new song spell sequel? Nirvana and Green Day may be in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but the ‘Mats are the alternative pioneers. The GoToBeds open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
Friday, May 8
Styx is the mythical river in ancient Greek mythology which sets the boundary between Earth and the underworld (Hades). It’s also the name of a Chicago rock band whose major success was between the chronological boundaries of 1973 and 1983. During that period the band had four consecutive albums certified multi-platinum by the RIAA and sixteen top 40 singles on the U.S. charts. The hit parade included songs like “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” “The Best of Times,” and “Too Much Time on My Hands.” Oh, and of course Steeler fans love Styx’s “Renegade” which is often played at home games. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
This show’s a win-win: Get in a practice run for the Rolling Stones’ Pittsburgh show in June, and support Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital at the same time. Stones (for Children’s) features the entire tracklisting of the 1978’s Some Girls, the Stones’ most successful U.S. release, featuring “Beast of Burden,”and “Respectable.” Additionally, the encore set will contain other Stone’s classics. It’ll be performed by a stellar line-up of local musicians – and by line-up, we mean all of these people: DVE’s Randy Baumann, Donnie Iris, Joe Grushecky, Rob James, Rick Witkowski, Scott Blasey, Michael Glabicki, Jon Belan (Gene the Werewolf), Jay Wiley (The Hawkeyes), Andre Costello, Chet Vincent, Molly Alphabet, Paul Luc, Nathan Zoob, and Josh Verbannets. There will also be backup singers and a horn section for the concert. A portion of the proceeds goes to Pittsburgh Children’s. 8 p.m. The Rex Theater, 1602 E Carson St., South Side.
Saturday, May 9
Young George Benson first began his journey to becoming a professional jazz guitarist and singer by playing his ukulele for money on the streets of Pittsburgh’s bustling Hill District in the 1960s. Under the tutelage of several Pittsburgh jazz pros, Benson started playing the guitar, even recording his first song at the tender age of ten. A graduate of the now closed Schenley High School, Benson formed his own bands, and eventually was hired on to play guitar for the legendary Miles Davis in the mid ’60s. Several solo albums lead Benson to fantastic heights including his 1976 album Breezin’ , which spawned the monster hit “This Masquerade.” The album won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and was the first jazz album to achieve platinum sales status. As the music industry changed, Benson adopted new sounds into his songs while maintaining his high level of musical craftsmanship. This generated more successful hits including “Give Me the Night” and “Turn Your Love Around.” Let’s welcome George back to the ‘Burgh! 8 p.m. Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., Cultural District.
Sunday, May 10
In 1909, a contractor working along the banks of the Allegheny River found a mastodon’s tusk. Tonight another Mastodon roams the banks of the Allegheny. Wandering north from Atlanta, Ga. (most other mastodons went south), this one is a progressive sludge metal band. Instead of ending up trapped in a tar pit, Mastodon can be found writhing at the edge of a mosh pit. The band’s 2004 release, Leviathan, was based on the novel Moby Dick and named album of the year by several music publications. Once More ‘Round the Sun was released in June of 2014 and the band is currently working on a new album for release later this year. Mastodon is teaming up with Clutch—a Fredrick, Maryland rock band—for The Missing Link Tour. Graveyard will bring the crowd to life. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
Tuesday, May 12
He’s a Grammy nominee, BRIT winner, regular tabloid fodder, and possibly the most famous redhead in music right now. Ed Sheeran plays the Consol Energy Center as part of his worldwide tour for the album X. Have your cell phone fully charged and ready to wave along with “Thinking Out Loud” – the heart-tugging ballad destined to be played at thousands of weddings – along with the Justin Timberlake-inspired “Sing” and break-up riff “Don’t.” Also performing as special guest is Northern Irish musician Foy Vance. This is a real treat – those who don’t already know his sweet, folky tunes are likely to have their hearts quickly stolen. 7:30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown.
You may just want to sing along to “Small Town” or “Jack & Diane,” but there’s no excuse for not getting up to date on John Mellencamp’s new music – every ticket purchased to his show at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts includes a free digital download of the new album, Plain Spoken. In the first single he may be telling us he’s a “Troubled Man,” but there’s nothing troubled about his songwriting – after 22 full-length albums, he’s still a powerhouse. If you haven’t checked in since he dropped his “Cougar” alias, 2011’s No Better Than This is well worth the effort too. 7:30 p.m., Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District.
Tuesday, May 19
“You will find peace of mind, If you look way down in your heart and soul” are lines in the Earth, Wind & Fire song “That’s The Way Of The World.” Soaring vocal harmonies from Phillip Bailey; great vocals, innovative concepts, positivity, and musical scores from Maurice White; along with a bevy of accomplished musicians were the crucial elements of success for Earth, Wind & Fire in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Their song “Reasons” has always been an oft requested slow dance song. Phillip Bailey will be with the band when they play the Benedum, unfortunately Maurice White won’t, due to an ongoing medical condition, but he still has a big influence in the band. 7:30 p.m. 237 7th St., Cultural District.
Thursday, May 21
Rubblebucket mixes indie, jazz, and psychedelic to create a danceable concoction. There’s also plenty of love in that mix—members Alex Toth and Annakalmia Traver are a musical couple. The pair met at the University of Vermont as music majors; Rubblebucket, a five-piece, is based in Brooklyn. The band has played “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and, to promote 2014’s album Survival Sounds, they made an appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk. In 2013, band and fans alike were stunned when Traver announced she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Come 2014, though, she was cancer free, and Rubblebucket was again touring. They brought their raucous live show to Pittsburgh last November; they’re bringing it back to the Rex Theater tonight. Vacationer opens. 8 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side.
Baltimore, Maryland pop punkers All Time Low are riding a very nice high as of late, after their newest album Future Hearts garnered the top spot on the Billboard Album Sales Chart for the week of April 25. The bands’ crisp, clear vocals, meaningful lyrics, driving drums and rhythmic guitar licks are some of the reasons for their success. These attributes can be heard on songs from Future Hearts including “Old Scars/Future Hearts” and “Satellite.” Special guests are Issues, Tonight Alive, and State Champ. Doors open 5 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
Friday, May 22
The Weight is composed of talented musicians who played with either the seminal Canadian-American rock group The Band or their members’ solo groups. After coming together as a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins and then Bob Dylan, The Band struck out on their own with their debut album “Music From Big Pink” in 1968. The Band generated a powerful catalog of songs including “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “Life is a Carnival.” The Band broke up in 1976 with a huge farewell concert which included many guest stars including Dylan. Martin Scorsese filmed the concert and would release the documentary The Last Waltz two years later. Members of The Weight have teamed up for a respectful reproduction of some of the top songs in the Canadian-American rock songbook. 8 p.m. Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side.
Sunday, May 24
Do eight-piece country-rock outfit The Zac Brown Band have the best display of facial hair in music? Their seven diversely styled beards and one clean-shaven chin are coming to town to promote their Jekyll + Hyde album, released on April 28. The aptly titled album, the band’s fourth, features a diversity of musical styles as well, as demonstrated by collaborations with both Sara Bareilles and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. The Zac Brown Band song, “Heavy is the Head,” with Cornell was primarily released to rock radio stations and not country. The move was a good one as the song currently sits atop the Billboard chart for Mainstream Rock Songs. A rare cross genre feat. Wax your whiskers and check them out at First Niagara Pavilion. 7 p.m. 665 Route 18, Burgettstown.
Thursday, May 28
Brooke Annibale, Heather Kropf, and Judith Avers are teaming up tonight at Club Cafe for a showcase highlighting three of Pittsburgh’s finest singer/songwriters. Brooke Annibale is known for her acoustic, pop folk sound which she started developing from a very young age. At 17 she cut her first album and for her senior project at Moon Area High School she staged a concert with the proceeds benefiting UNICEF. On 2013’s Words in Your Eyes, Annibale explored new electronic orchestrations combined with sharp, crisp lyrics and wrapped in a framework of ambient sounds. Several of her songs have been used on TV series including “One Tree Hill” and “The Vampire Diaries.”
Heather Kropf possesses an expansive vocal range and mastery of multiple musical genres, including jazz, folk, and pop. Since 2000, she has independently released four studio albums and has had her performances described as “a sanctuary of beauty and solace.” In 2012, Kropf created a collection of new songs that became part of her Kickstarter-funded fourth album, Chrysalis, released in June 2014.
A Pittsburgh resident by way of her hometown of Liberal, Kansas, and time spent in Nebraska, Colorado, and, West Virginia (sometimes it takes awhile to find the right spot), Judith Avers, co-founder of The Song Jar—a custom songwriting business—and a member of the Appalachian-inspired folk trio, The Early Mays, has a smoky, pleasantly resonant voice. This showcase should be a concert of the highest musical quality. 8:30 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side.
Friday, May 29
Pittsburgh’s own Billy Price is a hardworking performer – this is one of about half a dozen local gigs you can head along to this month. But the Club Cafe show is extra special – Price has a new album out this month, and The Billy Price Band are celebrating its release. The album, This Time for Real, is a joint recording with Chicago soul/gospel icon Otis Clay, who Price has called his biggest influence as a singer. The pair have 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. 7 p.m. 56-58 South 12th St., South Side.
2015’s shaping to be a great year for Pittsburgh rockers Daily Grind. Successful appearance at the Strip District Music Fest last January—check. Pittsburgh Pirates-themed song and music video, to air as part of Root Sports’ “Friday Night Rocks” pregame shows—double check. And now a CD release show at Club Cafe. The show will celebrate their new six-song EP, The New Wave. It is the four-piece’s sophomore effort, and it marks the next step in the band’s sound, one which effortlessly walks the tightrope between rock and distortion. The band’s currently in the middle of a cross-country tour, so be sure to see them while they’re in town. Red Room Effect opens. 10:30 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th Street, South Side.
Saturday, May 30
A Facebook group dedicated to banning Kenny Chesney from ever returning to the North Shore may have gained 6000 likes, but that’s not going to stop the country star from playing Heinz Field again this month as part of The Big Revival tour. Chesney’s last concert at Heinz Field in 2013 left behind kind of a mess. The fans, parking lot operators, and city officials all pitched in to make last year’s concerts at Heinz Field run a little smoother. The Big Revival is Chesney’s 15th studio album, and includes the single “Till It’s Gone”, which topped country charts. Chesney regularly plays the annual Farm Aid benefit. Also on the bill are Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, Chase Rice, and Old Dominion. Heinz Field, 100 Art Rooney Ave., North Shore.
Sunday, May 31
The internet lets users create and post song parodies overnight, a capability which could threaten the slower, traditional recording process of veteran parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic. Unless, of course, he ups the ante, like he did with his cameo-studded music video for “Tacky,” a lampoon of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” That video was one of eight that he released to promote 2014’s Mandatory Fun, his first number one album in a career which spans four decades of such satire. For his SOLD OUT concert at The Palace Theatre, expect not only “mandatory fun” but also plenty of video interludes from past movie and TV appearances. He’s also sure to don the fat suit he wore in the video for “Fat,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” “White & Nerdy” was another hilarious top hit for Yankovic. 7:30 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and a lover of great music. Writer and editor Heather McCracken and writer Chris Maggio also contributed to this preview.