Spring is here and there’s an incredible lineup of live music happening in Pittsburgh. Here are our picks for the best of April and May (and look out for our summer music festival guide, coming soon):
April 2, Tatsuya Nakatani, WRiST Trio: Gardenalia, Lawrenceville
Experimental percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani doesn’t pummel you with endless thundering drum solos. He envelops you in unearthly, surreal soundscapes created with a conventional drum kit, cymbals, bowed gong, singing bowls, metal objects and bells — and even his own breath. He’s performing at a new venue located in the back of a charming little garden shop in Lawrenceville.
April 4, Jeff Tweedy: Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland
Wilco’s main man (and before that, the brilliant Uncle Tupelo), Jeff Tweedy drops the sonic experimentation in favor of raw, stripped-down solo confession, having recently bared his soul in a memoir about his struggles with painkillers, alcohol and obsession.
April 5, “Spirit Turns 4” with Dan Deacon, Shilpa Ray, Bjordan, Swampwalk, La’vender Freddy, The Luxury Cavemen, Joe Bickle, DJ Yamez, RB: Spirit, Lawrenceville
Envision the exact opposite of every rock star cliche, and Dan Deacon might be your composite sketch. He’s a bespectacled weirdo from Baltimore who’s about as mysterious and dangerous as a bag of jellybeans — and yet, somehow, he’s got that rock star charisma. Live, he’s never lording it above the crowd in a DJ booth. He’s usually swarmed inside the crowd, leading them en masse, often outside into the street. Musically, it’s a collision of highbrow and lowbrow influences, from intricate minimalist composition and musique concrète to pounding ritual percussion and tempos well beyond dancers’ comfort levels.
April 7, Sage Francis, B. Dolan, Mrs. Paintbrush, Vockah Redu: Spirit, Lawrenceville
Sage Francis hits hard with a flamethrowing, yet reflective flow that spans several eras of underground hip-hop. Together with his epically bearded compatriot B. Dolan, the two trade verses like the Golden Age never ended. Also on the bill are Pittsburgh-based Mrs. Paintbrush (the solo project of Jackson from Grand Buffet) and Vockah Redu, a Bounce-style performer from New Orleans.
April 11, Mr. Airplane Man, The Garment District, Astrology Now: Get Hip Recordings, North Side
This hypnotic two-woman lo-fi garage blues band goes back to the early ‘90s — way before The Black Keys were even a thing — but they went on hiatus for 13 years. Now, Mr. Airplane Man is back for a rare show at Get Hip with Pittsburgh psychedelic rockers Astrology Now and The Garment District opening.
April 12, Crafted Sounds “Bridges” album release show with Bat Zuppel, Merce Lemon, Soft Gondola, The Zells: Spirit, Lawrenceville
Connor Murray created his record label Crafted Sounds’ first release in his Pitt dorm when he was 18. Now, he’s an old pro, and has a new 21-track compilation of local music — everything from punk, garage rock, post-punk, synth pop and shoegaze to experimental music — which is as good a survey of the Pittsburgh scene at the moment as you’re likely to find. A bunch of the bands from the compilation will be performing at the album release party.
April 19, Unwed Sailor, Trovants, The Long Hunt, Sun Trash: Mr. Small’s Funhouse Millvale
The shimmering, cinematic electric guitar wizardry created by the long-lived instrumental trio Unwed Sailor is perfect for soundtracking any sort of vast, panoramic road trip adventure you can dream up. Word is that they’re considerably louder and heavier live.
April 19, Jazzmeia Horn: August Wilson Cultural Center, Downtown
With a name like Jazzmeia Horn, you’re pretty much destined to become a jazz musician. Horn is a singer, though — compared most often to Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan, and she received her first Grammy nomination in 2018.
April 20, 2019 Fiesta Flamenca with Alba Flamenco: Kelly Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty
Celebrating its ninth year, this festival of flamenco — the rhythmically dexterous folk music of southern Spain — will showcase music and dance from Alba Flamenco and students from Flamenco Pittsburgh.
April 23, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, Divino Nino, The Van Allen Belt: Spirit, Lawrenceville
One of the wildest garage rock bands on the planet, New Orleans’ Quintron plays the organ along with his peculiar invention “The Drum Buddy,” while Miss Pussycat (a professional puppeteer) joins him on vocals and maracas.
April 24, Sondorgo, Bombici, DJ Pandemic: Brillobox, Bloomfield
Featuring masters of the tambura (kind of like a mandolin) from Hungary, this concert will get both kinds of blue hairs — the punks and the babushkas — dancing like it’s an Old Country wedding.
April 24, Deerhoof, Palm: Andy Warhol Museum, North Side
Here’s your chance to see one of the most unclassifiable, ferociously original indie rock bands of recent decades. Just about every Deerhoof song sounds different — sometimes noisy and difficult, sometimes curiously fractured pop, sometimes raw, garage rock wildness.
April 26-27, Chuchito Valdes, Diego Figueiredo, Emilio Solla: Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, North Side
Chuchito Valdes follows in a long line of Cuban piano royalty (his father is Chucho Valdes and his grandfather is Bebo Valdes). Chuchito has long recorded with the band Irakere, and draws upon many styles, from bebop to cha-cha-chá to Danzon. Add to this Brazilian virtuoso guitarist Diego Figueiredo and Argentine pianist Emilio Solla, and you’ve got a terrific triple bill of Latin jazz.
May 1, Chirgilchin: First Unitarian Church, Shadyside
From one of most remote places on earth — wedged tightly between Mongolia and Siberia — comes the unearthly music of Chirgilchin. They are masters of the obscure, amazing art of “throat singing,” in which one singer produces two or more voices at the same time, one harmonizing with the other. Chirgilchin keeps this ancient art alive, as practiced by the nomadic tribes of the steppes since the days of Genghis Khan. The vocals are backed by traditional Tuvan guitar-like strings — sounding like a strain of undiscovered blues.
May 2, Television: Mr. Small’s, Millvale
Television was at the vanguard of New York City punk rock in the ’70s, but a bit out of step musically with the rest. They were influenced by ’60s free jazz, avant-garde minimalist composers like Steve Reich and surf/garage-rock like Dick Dale and The Ventures. The band’s music was simultaneously stripped-down and raw — with the pompous rock bombast of the time surgically excised — yet contained interlocking instrumental passages that spiraled and swirled into unexpected shapes.
May 5, The Flying Luttenbachers, Bearskull, Night Vapor: Mr. Small’s, Millvale
Since 1991, Weasel Walter and friends have been exploring the outer reaches of jazz — playing the loudest, hardest, wildest technical death-jazz you’ve ever heard, with a punk rock attitude and intensity.
May 7-8, The Mountain Goats: Mr. Small’s, Millvale
John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats is probably the reigning poet laureate of indie rock (give or take a Will Oldham), and his intricate story-songs encompass everything from theology to death metal to pro wrestling. He’ll be here for two nights at Mr. Small’s.
May 8, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox: Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, Homestead
Cover bands are generally terrible, but Postmodern Jukebox has a gimmick that’s so unusual (playing pop and rock hits in the style of jazz big band standards with total commitment) that it’s impressive and full of surprises. For instance, they’ve done Lorde’s “Royals” in the style of Frank Sinatra (and sung by a giant clown) and Guns N’ Roses‘ “Sweet Child O’Mine” in the style of a New Orleans Dixieland stomp.
May 10, The New Mastersounds, Lamar Williams Jr.: Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks
This free show at the newly-restored Roxian Theatre — which seems destined to become a great new mid-sized venue — features The New Mastersounds, a fiery young Meters/Daptone-style soul/funk instrumental band from England.
May 11, The Lopez, Grand Buffet, Joe Jack Talcum, Maxi Pads, Sammus, Swampwalk, Rue, OC Feel, DJ Spat Cannon: Spirit, Lawrenceville.
Don’t miss this celebration of the life of Jesse Flati and The Lopez’ new album “Heart Punch.” The night will feature Pittsburgh punks The Lopez, of course, as well as hip-hop jesters Grand Buffet and Joe Jack Talcum of The Dead Milkmen. Proceeds will benefit the Homeless Cat Management Team. The new Lopez album will be available on gold vinyl and gold cassette (!).
May 11, Pittonkatonk featuring Los Mirlos, Džambo Aguševi Orchestra, What Cheer? Brigade, La Misa Negra, Lemon Bucket Orchestra, Detroit Party Marching Band and many more: Schenley Park, Oakland
Several traditions of brass music have run parallel to the mainstream of popular and folk music forms: Balkan/Gypsy brass, New Orleans second line jazz and funk, Afrobeat, swing jazz and the myriad uses for a marching band — from halftime shows to protest marches. Pittonkatonk assembles it all in one place for community-building through music and a really big party. This year features the return of brass punks What Cheer? Brigade, the virtuoso musicianship of Macedonia’s Džambo Aguševi Orchestra and Peruvian psychedelic cumbia legends Los Mirlos, among many others at this free, all-day (and all-ages) extravaganza.