From massive stadium shows to intimate club gigs, September has something for everyone. Mac Miller takes over Stage AE, the Boss returns for round two of The River tour, and Thrival Festival is bigger and better than ever. Read on for a preview of some of the most noteworthy Pittsburgh concerts in September:
Cream of the Crop:
Some of the biggest shows in the city this month will give you déjà vu.
Let’s start with Bruce Springsteen, who visits Consol Energy Center September 11. Bruce and the E Street Band are still on their The River 2016 Tour, which kicked off in January at, uh, Consol Energy Center, with a 28-song set that included The River album in its entirety, not to mention a 6-song encore that included “Born To Run” and a Bowie cover, “Rebel Rebel.” No doubt Bruce will play The River from start to finish before dipping into his immense back catalog.
Across town, on September 14, Yo La Tengo play The Andy Warhol Museum, with support from Lambchop. Yo La Tengo, more than just the subject of the greatest Onion article of all time, are indie rock royalty. Their latest album, 2015’s Stuff Like That There, is a collection of covers and original compositions. They’ll be sharing the stage with another fiercely independent, genre-bending artist in the form of Kurt Wagner’s Lambchop. Both bands will play their own material as well as collaborate on each other’s songs.
Another band back for more is Against Me!, who visit Mr. Smalls September 15. The Florida punk band has played Pittsburgh twice since the January 2014 release of Transgender Dysphoria Blues (three times if you count their New Year’s Eve show at Altar Bar in 2013). Fortunately, fans can finally expect to hear some new music this time around, as their seventh studio album, Shape Shift With Me, comes out the day after this performance. Judging from the first three singles released so far, Laura Jane Grace and co. are still straddling the line between their anarcho-punk roots and the more polished, stadium rock anthems of White Crosses and Total Clarity. Potty Mouth and Frameworks open.
Next up, September 18, is Mac Miller, performing at Stage AE almost a year to the day he kicked off his GO:OD AM tour at, you guessed it, Stage AE. And just like last year, the performance is the night of the Steelers home opener. Mac has released a pair of singles since we last saw him, one with CeeLo Green and another with Anderson .Paak. Here’s hoping Mac’s Steelers kickoff concert becomes an annual event.
Mac would be a no-brainer if it weren’t for another incredible act playing blocks away on the North Side the same night. The Sun Ra Arkestra performs at the New Hazlett Theater September 18. Don’t worry, those popping sounds you hear are synapses in your brain firing and forming new connections, a common side effect when listening to the Afro-futuristic space jazz of the Arkestra. Sun Ra departed this realm in the early ’90s, and today the Arkestra continues to carry on the bandleader’s legacy under the stewardship of saxophonist (and living legend) Marshall Allen, who played with Ra since the 1950s. The event is presented by Kente Arts Alliance and coincides with the opening of a new art exhibit by Charlotte Ka.
The Return of Thrival:
Four years on and Thrival Innovation + Music Festival finally has a lineup to match its outsized ambitions. Now at the Carrie Furnaces, Friday begins with a pair of heavy hitters from the local scene: power pop trio Meeting of Important People and rowdy rockers Bastard Bearded Irishmen. Night one ends with Scottish electro-pop act Chvrches and a headlining set from red hot EDM duo The Chainsmokers. As of this writing, their song “Closer” is number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Their other hit single from this year, “Don’t Let Me Down,” features Mt. Lebanon native Daya on vocals. Coincidentally, Daya is performing earlier in the day on Friday, which puts the likelihood a guest appearance during The Chainsmokers set at about 95%.
Day two of Thrival boasts even more bands, beginning with performances from local favorites like Donora, Beauty Slap, Balloon Ride Fantasy and others. National acts include Wu-Tang’s Cappadonna, synth-pop band Metric, and headliners Thievery Corporation. The D.C.-based DJ duo have never visited Pittsburgh before. Rob Garza and Eric Hilton incorporate hip-hop, bossa nova, dub, and more into their sound, and with a full backing band it should make for an unforgettable finale. Tickets cost $50 for single day admission; $59 for 2-day. Check out the Thrival website for the full lineup and set times.
Party like its 1999:
Not one but two nostalgia-drenched music festivals come to Pittsburgh in September. Up first is ’90s Fest, which comes to the Strip District September 17. Hosted by Pauly Shore (!), the lineup boasts Bone Thugs N Harmony, Spin Doctors, Sister Hazel, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Sisqo, and Pittsburgh’s own Rage Against The Machine 2. On September 24, at the Petersen Events Center, it’s I Love the ’90s, featuring Salt N Pepa, Coolio, Color Me Badd, Vanilla Ice, and more.
Which one should you attend? Tickets to ’90s Fest run $65, but the setting, a warehouse on Smallman Street, will be more intimate than the Pete, where tickets to I Love the 90s start at $40. It ultimately comes down to what songs you’re feeling more affection toward: “Crossroads” and “The Thong Song,” or “Shoop” and “Gangster’s Paradise.”
And if that isn’t enough ’90s nostalgia for you, check out Weird Al Yankovic when he brings his Mandatory World Tour to the Benedum September 16.
Classic Rock Conundrum:
On September 30, Kansas returns to Pittsburgh to kick off their new tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of Leftoverture, which included “Carry On Wayward Son” and is widely regarded as their best album. That same night, September 30, .38 Special plays out at Jergel’s. No offense to “Hold On Loosely,” but there’s little doubt that Kansas had the bigger hits. That being said, Jergel’s seems like a much better venue to catch classic rock in than the stately Benedum. Both bands are without their original lead singers, something to consider before dropping $50+ dollars for a seat at either of these two shows.