March 4, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers: Petersen Events Center, Oakland
Sturgill Simpson is at the forefront of a new breed of country music, which is really just a throwback to the old one — like icons of realness Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson — prizing honest expression above country-fried cliches.
March 7, Of Montreal, Lily, Horn Horse, Chariot Fade: Mr. Small’s, Millvale
Indie pop stalwarts Of Montreal have nothing to do with Montreal. They do, however, have a musical imagination that has ventured far beyond the 1960s psychedelia that initially inspired them, taking them to some strange, unexpected places, like the blissed-out synthesizer roller skating jams of their new album “UR FUN.” You’ve also probably heard them, whether you know it or not — their music has been in so many movies, TV shows and commercials that it’s kind of hard to miss.
March 8, Om, Wovenhand: Spirit, Lawrenceville
There’s a weird netherworld where metal, pushed far past its extremes, begins to turn back in on itself, leaving something majestic, even (occasionally) pretty, in its place. There’s a trance-inducing minimalism to the sound of Om — and an embrace of various forms of esoteric religious iconography — which never fully lets go of the heavy groove that propels it. Om co-founder Al Cisneros (vocals, bass) was in legendary doom metal megaliths Sleep, so he can do what he wants.
March 16, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: Byham Theater, Downtown
One thing to know about Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — they will not be out-sweated by anyone. These dudes put absolutely everything into their performances, a tsunami-force blast of classic Stax-style R&B — and, in fact, release their music on the mighty imprint of Stax Records.
March 16, Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley Trio, Rex Trimm and Chris McCune: Spirit, Lawrenceville
One of the jazz world’s most powerful forces in the past decade or so has been Ken Vandermark’s saxophone. He’ll be joined by trumpeter Nate Wooley, another fearless explorer on the outer edges of jazz expression, at Spirit.
March 18, Against Me!, Stef Chura: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Millvale
They were once earnest, give-a-damn punk rockers, got a little polished and popular, and then got dissed as sellouts by some of their former fans. Of course, enraging your fans is pretty punk rock, and “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” is perhaps the best song about the post-punk life. Then came “Transgender Dysmorphia Blues,” which dealt with more fundamental questions of identity than who’s a real punk and who isn’t. Not surprisingly, this fearlessness helps Against Me! make some of their best music ever, right now.
March 19, DragonForce: Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks
Being a guitar god isn’t what it used to be. Back in the 1980s, every metal band worth its weight in hairspray had at least one fretboard-shredding maniac who could play like his red leather pants were on fire. Those days are long gone — but that’s slowly changing, thanks to a few guitarists like Herman Li of DragonForce, who has almost single-handedly resurrected the genre of power metal, with a little help from the video game “Guitar Hero.”
March 20, Watererer, Sneeze awfull, Astroturf Noise: The Government Center, Deutschtown
Watererer is hosting a release party for the new record “To Finding Out,” at Government Center, the outstanding new North Side record store. Watererer is the latest project from one of Pittsburgh’s most consistently interesting musicians, Dave Bernabo (Host Skull), and a lot of friends, including PJ Roduta (percussion), Matt Aelmore (bass, trumpet, vocals), Patrick Breiner (tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet), Nadine Sherman (cello), Ben Barson (baritone saxophone), and Jules Krishnamurti (violin).
March 20, Ying Yang Twins, Bow Wow, Lloyd, Omarion, Pretty Ricky, Sammie, Soulja Boy, Ashanti: Petersen Events Center, Oakland
There’s a little bit of everything here, from the strip club jams of the Ying Yang Twins, to the slick R&B of Ashanti, to the one-hit-wonder Soulja Boy, who was the biggest thing in the world for a hot minute there.
March 28, AntiFest with Anti-Flag, Suicide Machines, Punchline, Grade 2, Doll Skin, Swiss Army: Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks
Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag has flown the flag for political punk for decades now, taking it all seriously, and acting like a song or two can still change the world. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. They’re headlining AntiFest, which brings together the equally long-lived ska-punkers Suicide Machines and some of the Pittsburgh scene’s best newcomers.
March 25, Jonathan Richman: Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland
Nobody has ever known how to classify Jonathan Richman. His mercurial, childlike-yet-brilliant songwriting appeals to aging punks and 6-year-olds in equal measure, and nobody can tell a story in a song quite like “Abominable Snowman in the Market,” “I’m a Little Dinosaur” and “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar.”
March 30, A Winged Victory For The Sullen: Rex Theater, South Side
Though they might have the emo-est name ever emoted, A Winged Victory For The Sullen actually creates lush, sweeping, vaguely unsettling ambient soundscapes for the movies in your head. Just space out and let your brain drift …