Come December, the concert calendar can feel as bare as Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Fortunately, Pittsburgh’s local scene picks up the slack with plenty of release parties and holiday showcases. Take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle and check out some of these can’t-miss local and national December Pittsburgh concerts. After all, new music is the gift that keeps on giving.
Tuesday, December 1. 9 p.m.
Spirit – 242 51st St.
While vinyl continues its resurgence, Pittsburgh electronic musician Jan-Tosh Gerlin—AKA Troxum—made his new album, Gaia Lesson, available on a 24kt gold CD designed to last for at least 300 years. Fitting for an artist fixated on the longview, whose music may sound to some like it is from the year 2300. Glitchy yet melodic, spacey yet danceable, Gaia Lesson is an album that begs repeated listens. New Mexico synth/shoegaze artist REIGHNBEAU also performs, with support from Pittsburgh’s Slowdanger and Good Dude Lojack. ProjectileObjects will VJ. Check out the incredible video for the track “Lucky Sun” for a sample:
Friday, December 4. 9 p.m.
Brillobox – 4104 Penn Ave.
Celebrate a decade of floor-shaking global beats with a night of, uh, some more floor-shaking global beats at Pandemic’s 10th anniversary party. DJ Pete Spynda and a revolving door of world-class DJs combine cumbia, Bhangra, Balkin Brass, Afrobeat and more to create one of Pittsburgh’s most popular and original dance parties. On this occasion, drink, dance, stomp and yell with Pandemic Pete; “Crypto Crunk Charlatan” Joro Boro, from Bulgaria; and New York DJ and Cumba Mela co-founder Thornato.
Sunday, December 6. 3:30 p.m.
Romp n’ Roll – 1661 E Sutter Rd., Glenshaw
$5-$10 suggested donation. (Free for 18 and under. Skate rental extra)
Girls Rock! is an empowerment program for young women of all backgrounds, that uses the process of making music “for amplifying self-confidence, creative expression, independent thinking, mutual respect and cooperation.” Over the summer, campers ages 8-18 met for four days, formed bands, and composed and recorded their own original songs. This Rollerskating Album Release Party is a chance for campers to reunite and perform their songs live. Copies of the album, which contains one song from each of the nine bands, will be available for sale. And be sure to stick around for a performance by local supergroup Dream Phone.
Tuesday, December 8. 9 p.m.
Mr. Smalls – 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale
The Sword straddles that imaginary line between hard rock and heavy metal. Hailing from Austin, the band’s most obvious influences are Black Sabbath (musically) and Led Zeppelin (philosophically). Their songs are about mountains, and witches, and mythical women on horseback. They even do the whole “zoso” symbol thing for each member of the band. It’s meat and potatoes, retro rock and roll at its finest. The Sword are touring in support of their 2015 release, High Country. For more gnarly riffs, check out the opener, Royal Thunder.
Wednesday, December 9. 8 p.m.
Altar Bar – 1620 Penn Ave.
G Herbo, formerly Lil Herb, is from Chicago’s South Shore, specifically the east side, known locally as “Terror Town” for its violence and gang activity. Herbo is touring in support of his Ballin’ Like I’m Kobe mixtape, a reference not to Kobe Bryant but his friend, Jacobi Herring, murdered at age 21. As expected, Herb has an aggressive rap style similar to other Chicago drill rappers. He has collaborated with both Nicki Minaj and Common and is signed to indie hip-hop label Cinematic Music Group, home to the likes of Big K.R.I.T. and Joey Bada$$. Not bad for a 20 year old.
Thursday, December 10. 7 p.m.
Stage AE – 400 North Shore Dr.
$17 adv. $22 d.o.s.
Hoo-te-nan-ny \ˈhü-tə-ˌna-nē\ noun, a gathering at which folksingers entertain often with the audience joining in. This year, local musicians Norm Nardini, Brooke Annibale, Bill Deasy, Kai Roberts, Chet Vincent & Molly Alphabet, City Dwelling Nature Seekers, and over a dozen more of Pittsburgh’s brightest musicians join together for a celebration of local music brimming with holiday carols and cheer. Every year the “Hoot” is a bit different, but here’s hoping for another enormous cookie table. Gifts will be collected for Veterans’ Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania.
Saturday, December 12. 8 p.m.
Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall – 510 East 10th Ave, Munhall
$29 – $49
People can’t contain their excitement over Joanna Newsom. At one of her recent UK performances, a man yelled out between songs, “You’re a genius. Literally. A genius.” To be fair, Newsom’s new album, Divers, her fourth to date, was almost universally received by critics as a masterpiece, her apotheosis to greatness. “Breathtaking,” said the Boston Globe. “Brilliant,” gushed The New York Times. Newsom sings and plays harp, but to put it so simply would be to say that Warhol painted and made films. Her singing—love it or hate it—is often compared to Björk’s, but that is a pairing that is often made by lazy critics who are simply lumping together “avant-garde” female performers. Labels aside, Newsom creates spellbinding, evocative music without compare. Watch the video for “Divers” to judge for yourself. It was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, in whose film Inherent Vice Newsom narrated and also acted.
Sunday, December 13. 9:30 p.m.
Brillobox – 4104 Penn Ave.
Nothing like a solid double bill to provide some bang for your buck. All Them Witches hail from Nashville, while New Madrid calls Athens home. Both play what could be loosely called Southern psychedelic rock. All Them Witches have a darker edge reminiscent of The Black Angels; their music would feel right at home in a Southern Gothic crime drama, or The Walking Dead. New Madrid played at Club Cafe earlier this year and impressed as much with their face-melting riffs as their gorgeous three-part harmonies.
Saturday, December 19, 7 p.m.
Kollar Club – 3226 Jane St.
If WYEP’s Holiday Hootenanny is the Pittsburgh indie music scene’s main event, then Secret Santapalooza is the raucous afterparty. Held inside the South Side’s intimate Kollar Club, Santapalooza boasts a who’s who lineup of the Pittsburgh indie rock scene, including Chet Vincent & The Big Bend, Wreck Loose, the Red Western, Andrè Costello and the Cool Minors, and more, including a duo performance by Clinton Clegg and Paul Luc. The format is loose and band members regularly fill in for each other and cover one another’s songs. The event is organized by Hugh Twyman, warhorse concert photographer and local music blogger. Tickets to the event are limited and typically sell out well in advance.
Thursday, December 31, 8 p.m.
Stage AE – 400 North Shore Dr.
$35 ($50 for 2 day pass incl. 12/30 show at Mr. Smalls)
Lotus play back-to-back nights in Pittsburgh December 30th and 31st, but tickets to the first night are only available as part of a two night package. Very few bands would actually restrict who can buy tickets to their show, but hey, they’ve got it like that. It’s rare that a band can fuse rock and electronica in a way that doesn’t leave the listener wishing that they’d just focus on one or the other, but Lotus does just that. So while Lotus are generally referred to as an “electronic jam band,” their studio albums don’t do their music justice; Lotus, like the Dead, are just one of those bands that have to be seen live.
- Explosive Syracuse punk band Perfect Pussy play Brillobox December 3, with support from Brooklyn songstress Fielded and The Gotobeds.
- Also on December 3, The Marshall Tucker Band plays Jergel’s.
- Pittsburgh’s Brooke Annibale headlines the early show at Club Cafe December 5, in support of her gorgeous new release, The Simple Fear.
- If you missed Todd Rundgren at Stage AE in April, or when he performed with Ringo Starr in October, you can catch him at the Carnegie in Homestead December 7.
- Pittsburgh synth-pop band Emerson Jay continues to grow in popularity. Don’t miss their first ever headlining gig, at Club Cafe, December 10, with support from Eastend Mile, and The Getaway.
- Indie-pop band City Steps celebrate the release of their new single, “Change Your Mind,” December 11 at the Thunderbird alongside some other local heavy hitters, Paddy the Wanderer and Andre Costello and the Cool Minors.
- 10,000 Maniacs visit Mr. Smalls December 11, in support of their ninth studio album, Twice Told Tales, a collection of classic British folk covers.
- Bloomfield’s The Beagle Brothers celebrate their 10th anniversary with a gig at the Thunderbird December 12. Support from The Armadillos and The Mavens. Also your first opportunity to try East End Brewing’s new Beagle Brothers Porter.
- Also December 12, Billy Pilgrim‘s Big Empty Things Vinyl Release Party at Spirit.
- Pittsburgh’s own Ali Spagnola performs a live version of her Power Hour at Club Cafe December 22, her first performance since she left town for LA this time last year. (Learn more about Ali in our profile of her.)
- What would New Year’s Eve in Pittsburgh be without a Rusted Root concert? Catch them at the Rex.
- Finally, The Pittsburgh Symphony has holiday concerts planned all month long in December.
- Post-rock ensemble The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die play Morgantown’s 123 Pleasant Street December 1.
- Columbus’s CD102.5 – the other 102.5 – host their annual Christmas party December 5, featuring Silversun Pickups, Foals, Wolf Alice and Circa Waves.
- Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips continue their joint tour with a show at Philly’s Electric Factory December 5, this time with support from Dan Deacon.
- Bradford Cox opens for himself when Atlas Sound and Deerhunter play Union Transfer in Philadelphia December 6.
- Waxahatchee opens for Sleater-Kinney at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium December 9 and Buffalo’s Asbury Hall December 10.
- UK indie rock band Foals visits Philly’s Union Transfer December 19, with Circa Waves.