From hip-hop and rock to blues and jazz, October boasts enough shows to please any musical palette. Take a closer look at a some of this month’s standout concerts before they sell out.
This is what the future sounds like
Neon Indian (aka Alan Palomo) performed at Mr. Smalls last November in support of new album Vega Intl. Night School, an electronic disco odyssey that defied easy characterization from music critics (the closest they could get is “future funk”). He returns to Smalls October 6, this time with Classixx, an electronic dance duo from LA whose most recent album included guest vocals from T-Pain and Passion Pit.
The next night, October 7, Mr. Smalls hosts a sold-out show with Baltimore experimental music pioneers Animal Collective. Their newest album, Painting With, was their first in four years and was met with mostly favorable reviews; with its vocal harmonies and strange electronic twists, it is Animal Collective through and through. For even more future sounds, head to Smalls October 26 to catch Swedish-born dubstep/drum and bass artist Liquid Stranger on the Weird & Wonderful tour, with support from Bleep Bloop and Perkulat0r.
October is a rare strong month for rap in Pittsburgh, most notably October 25 when Lupe Fiasco visits Mr. Smalls and Yelawolf performs at the Rex Theater. Fiasco made his mark a decade ago with his debut, Grammy-winning album Food & Liquor. Today fans await Drogas, one of three (3!) albums Fiasco says he will release this year. He also says he might retire in 2017 (he’s threatened to retire before), so that might be enough to tip the scale toward seeing him over Yelawolf, whose new album Trial by Fire drops sometime this fall.
October 24, a pair of love ’em or hate ’em acts visit Stage AE when Rae Sremmurd headlines a bill that includes Lil Yachty as lead support. Pronounced Rae SHRE-murd, the brothers from Tupelo first performed for a national audience as amateur participants on 106 & Park. 19-year-old Lil Yachty keeps guesting on everyone’s singles so he must be doing something right.
Rapidfire Georgia MC Rittz performs at the Rex October 8, with support from Jarren Benton. Flo Rida headlines the 96.1 KISS Halloween Party at Stage AE October 28, while nerdcore rapper (and Aqua Teen Hunger Force voice actor) MC Chris plays the Smiling Moose October 28.
Speaking of hip-hop, this year’s VIA Festival (October 6-9) is headlined by a pair of artists making their first appearance in Pittsburgh. October 7, it’s ESG, the hip-hop inspired post-punk act from the South Bronx orignally founded by four sisters in the early ’80s. October 8, from New York, Rakim (of Rakim and Eric B. fame) performs his seminal Paid in Full album in its entirety. Other artists include DJs Juliana Huxtable and Ben UFO. Keep an eye on NEXTpittsburgh for more coverage of VIA as the date approaches.
Shades of Blues
All types of blues acts visit Pittsburgh in October, beginning October 9 when famed bluesman Taj Mahal and his trio visit the stately Carnegie Lecture Hall. The event is presented by Calliope and is a fundraiser concert to mark the organization’s 40th year. If that’s not enough, there’s always blues at Moondog’s. Head out to Blawnox October 15 to check out Bobby Rush, a bawdy Chicago bluesman with a back catalog 50 years in the making.
For those who prefer their blues hot and heavy, there’s The Record Company at the Rex Theater October 13. The LA trio plays rock and roll sprouted from a bed of John Lee Hooker records. And on October 18, NY blues rockers Clear Plastic Masks play upstairs at The Smiling Moose.
One of the best things about concerts in Pittsburgh is that musicians regularly play venues more intimate than most other cities. Exhibit A: Destroyer, aka Dan Bejar, at tiny Club Cafe October 10. For years fans have been attracted to the singer’s enigmatic lyrics, which are subject to much interpretation and have even inspired a drinking game.
October 7 sees performances from Esperanza Spalding at the August Wilson Center and Ben Folds at the Carnegie Library of Homestead. The supremely talented bassist and singer Spalding released her fifth contemporary jazz album, Emily’s D+Evolution, this past March. Meanwhile, Folds visits Pittsburgh on his “A Piano & A Playpen” tour, during which most songs will be performed solely by Folds on his piano.
Andrew Bird plays the Byham downtown October 8. His latest album Are You Serious is heavier on guitar than his earlier fare. Fortunately, it is a proven scientific fact that an increase in electric guitar causes a corresponding increase in listener pleasure. October 15 marks the return of the psychedelic cowboy, Sturgill Simpson. Simpson is touring in support of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Inspired by his time as a sailor stationed in Japan, the new album was a creative leap for Simpson, who continues to expand his alt-country sound into something far more compelling and original than any of his colleagues today.