Here’s our roundup of the best concerts in December and January (should you need a break from roasting chestnuts over an open fire).
Dec. 4, Phish: Petersen Events Center, Oakland
They’re one of the biggest bands in the world despite next to no airplay and nothing close to a hit single. These heirs to the Grateful Dead’s eternally-jamming legacy have their own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (“Phish Food”) and they’re playing Pitt’s basketball arena.
Dec. 6-7, We Want the Funk Festival with The Fatback Band, The Ohio Players and Average White Band: August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Downtown
“The funk” has been invoked plenty by many who have only experienced it second- or thirdhand. Hear it from some of its 1970s originators here, from the disco-smooth sheen of The Fatback Band to the soulful strut of the Ohio Players, to the chart-topping Scottish spin on the genre played by Average White Band.
Dec. 7, HughShows Secret Santapalooza IV: Kollar Club, South Side
This show is dubbed “a tribute to the Pittsburgh indie music scene,” and it seems like the whole scene will be playing. Performers include Drauve, Honey Prism, INEZ, Livefromthecity, The Chad Sipes Stereo, The Real Sea, Javerbloo, Ladylike, Lindsay Dragan, Sierra Sellers and The Pump Fakes.
Dec. 7, Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers: Club Cafe, South Side
No, they never broke through to the mainstream, like their pal and not-so-secret admirer Bruce Springsteen. But now they’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of their debut album “Love’s So Tough” — and it’s something people still want to hear — which is quite a feat in the fickle music biz.
Dec. 9, Corey Harris, Todd Albright: Club Cafe, South Side
The blues has been at the core of so much great American music since time immemorial, so its importance can’t be overstated. But has blues music seen better days? Lately, it seems to be the soundtrack to a weird amount of erectile dysfunction pill commercials, which is unfortunate. Corey Harris, though, has been sticking up for the legacy of acoustic blues since the 1990s, pushing the art form forward by traveling and collaborating extensively in West Africa, where roots of the blues were born.
Dec. 11, J. Robbins (band), Nightmarathons: Club Cafe, South Side
Jawbox was a band that seemed to embody a time and place now lost to the ages — but it was amazing while it lasted. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the D.C. hardcore punk scene revolving around Dischord Records grew in unpredictable ways, spawning mutations like the tense, angular guitars, rich harmonic invention and inscrutable lyricism of Jawbox. For a brief moment, it looked like they might take over the world. J. Robbins was Jawbox’s driving force, and is still making music with a “(band)” that sounds like nobody else.
Dec. 13, The Get Up Kids: Rex Theater, South Side
Wonder how Generation X stayed out of the recent millennial/boomer generational fracas? No idea, unless they were all just keeping their heads down listening to second-generation punky emo giants The Get Up Kids on headphones, hoodies pulled up. They’re not talking, so we’ll never know.
Dec. 13, Flower Crown, Side Sleeper, Century III: Spirit, Lawrenceville
Calling themselves “the most cursed band in dream pop,” Pittsburgh’s Flower Crown are celebrating the release of their latest single, “High Fantasy.” They’ll be supported by Side Sleeper and the band that gets my vote for best Pittsburgh band name — Century III.
Dec. 14, The Klezmatics: Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland
Is there a more joyous sound in the world than the euphorically upbeat klezmer of the Klezmatics? Probably not! They’ve brought Eastern European Jewish musical traditions to the masses since 1986, anchored by the swinging trumpet of Frank London.
Dec. 15, Sweet Honey in the Rock: August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Downtown
Heirs to a tradition that stretches back to the gospel liberation theology of Mahalia Jackson and the sanctified soul of Aretha Franklin, this a capella vocal group evokes and interprets the history of African-American music. They also perform in American Sign Language.