Tegan and Sara. Photo by Pamela Littky.

Despite the loss of a rare visit from Elvis Costello, who won’t cross the PSO picket line to perform at Heinz Hall, November remains top-heavy with excellent shows from artists both national and local. Read on for some of the best Pittsburgh concerts in November:

Music for a Cause

Never ones to shy away from speaking up, Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag headline “Rock Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership” at Mr. Smalls November 3. The free, all-ages event includes performances by labor singer Anne Feeney, hip-hop MC Son of Nun and Providence-based “Bilingual saxophone fueled radical dance party” Downtown Boys.

On November 4, the Kelly Strayhorn hosts a free evening of music and advocacy with Reimagine Justice. Part concert, part get-out-the-vote effort, the event includes performances by LA singer/activist Mike de la Rocha and members of 1Hood, including Jasiri X, Jacquea Mea, Idasa Tariq and more. Elected officials and faith and union leaders will also be on hand to speak and mobilize attendees to address social justice causes in Pittsburgh.

Another free concert takes place November 4 with the Live PGH Music launch party at the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls, including performances by three local acts: Spencer Allan Patrick, Grandadchilds and Cisco Kid.

Not quite country

On November 15 a pair of alt-country artists, Lydia Loveless and Wayne “The Train” Hancock perform at Club Cafe and the Rex Theater, respectively. Both are signed to Chicago’s Bloodshot Records but the similarities end there: Loveless, who played Club Cafe less than a year ago, is heavy on electric guitar and frequently veers into pop-rock territory. Hancock is a honky-tonk throwback in the vein of Hank Williams. Both are touring in support of new albums. Pittsburgh’s own Beagle Brothers open for The Train; Nashville singer/songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan sets the stage for Loveless.

Later that month on November 27, Texas psychobilly act The Reverend Horton Heat performs at the Rex. Formerly signed to both Sub Pop and Interscope Records, the trip continues to wow crowds with their frenetic stage show. If you like your country delivered straight-up, Cole Swindell headlines Stage AE November 10.

Local release shows

One of the more anticipated release shows in recent memory takes place November 12 at Mr. Smalls when The Commonheart celebrate the launch of their debut album, Grown. If you caught them opening for Gary Clark Jr. at Stage AE or any number of local festivals you already know the high-energy exploits that await. Mike Minda slays guitar as well as anyone in the city and Clinton Clegg’s gritty, soulful voice threatens to bring down the house at any moment.

Two more local release shows take place November 12. At Cattivo, The Hills and The Rivers release their sophomore LP, Apocalyptic Dreams. The seven-piece street-punk ensemble combines mandolin, fiddle, and male-female vocal harmonies to create a lush, timeless soundtrack. And at Mr. Smalls, Illusion of Joy release their new LP A Stone Throw From a Glass House as part of Shimmer: “a showcase of Pittsburgh ethereal, shoegaze & darkwave.”

But wait, there’s more! On November 1, Pittsburgh-native Amy Rigby celebrates the vinyl release of her 1996 classic Diary of a Mod Housewife with an intimate performance at Club Cafe. Morgan Erina opens. And on November 5, Formula412 guitarist Byron Nash releases the debut EP for his new group, Byron Nash & Plan B. Afterward on November 5, head to The Park House for a 7″ release show for Chet Vincent‘s new acoustic single “Hey Neighbor,” including a solo performance by Chet and a full set by Molly Alphabet.

Allman Joy

Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and the 11-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band play the Benedum November 19 in support of their new album, Let Me Get By, which some reviewers are calling their best yet. Across town at Stage AE that same night Devon Allman Band opens for Rusted Root. Devon (Gregg’s son) is on his third studio album and plays his Les Paul like a man possessed. And if that’s not enough, there’s an Allman Brothers cover band, Live at the Fillmore, playing the Hard Rock November 25.

Punk and emo forever

Four Chord Music Festival returns November 13 with a lineup of over a dozen nationally-known pop-punk and emo bands, including Mayday Parade, Spill Canvas, Hit the Lights and Hawthorne Heights. Now in its third year, the headliners are joined by local acts Eternal Boy (FKA The Spacepimps) and Look Out Loretta.

On November 2, help Screeching Weasel celebrate their 30th year of on-again, off-again existence with a performance at the Rex alongside Bigwig and The Ataris. Another veteran punk band, New Jersey’s Bouncing Souls, perform at Mr. Smalls November 20. The group is best known for their 2001 release How I Spent My Summer Vacation, which includes hits like “True Believers” and “Gone.”

Finally, Ted Leo, of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists fame, performs an intimate solo set at Club Cafe November 18, with support from Brooklyn indie rock trio Ian Sweet, whose debut album Shapeshifter was released on the venerable Hardly Art label.

Hip-hop happenings

Danny Brown‘s new album Atrocity Exhibition came out on Warp Records, an independent UK label best known for albums from cutting-edge artists like Aphex Twin and Flying Lotus. Brown, with his goofy smile and high-pitched voice, exists outside the hip-hop mainstream but you can still find him on the radio: “Really Doe,” which features verses from Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt, is one of the best hip-hop tracks of the year. Catch him at Mr. Smalls November 2.

On November 18, rapper-producer duo Atmosphere make the leap to Stage AE two years after selling out Mr. Smalls. Slug and Ant, who helped found the esteemed indie hip-hop label Rhymesayers in 1995, are on tour in support of Fishing Blues, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart.

Indie, rock and metal

LA psychedelic electro-pop wizard Vinyl Williams headlines Brillobox November 2, with support from veteran Pittsburgh psych outfits Delicious Pastries and Different Places in SPACE. Top-notch local acts elevate a concert from good to great the next night as well when The Lopez, Murder for Girls and Boiled Denim open for the always wonderful Japanese group Shonen Knife at Cattivo November 3. The band is on tour to celebrate both their 35th anniversary and 19th studio album, Adventure.

November 5, Canadian indie pop act Tegan and Sara visit Stage AE in support of their eighth studio album, Love You to Death. The new album doesn’t break new ground for the twin sister duo but is bound to please fans of their slick brand of electro-pop. Singer-songwriter Torres, who headlined Club Cafe in January, opens.

For something a little (OK, a lot) heavier, check out Sludge Fest at Cattivo November 14, headlined by stoner metal gods Bongzilla who are back on tour after a 10-year hiatus. They are joined by power trio Wretch, Wizard Rifle and Sierra. Finally, black metal/post-rock pioneers Deafheaven co-headline the Rex Theater November 22 with Grindcore legends Carcass. But the heaviest concert of all happens at Spirit November 6 when Detroit’s Child Bite headlines five local metal bands for Brewtal Beer Fest.

Rest of the Best

  • The 1975 has a sold-out show at Stage AE November 1. Other sold-out shows this month include Canadian punk rockers PUP at Cattivo November 4 and metalcore band Beartooth at Mr. Smalls November 5.
  • Big Gigantic hosts what’s sure to be an all-night dance party at Stage AE November 3.
  • 9-piece Afrobeat funk band Big Mean Sound Machine returns to James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy November 4.
  • Also November 4, celebrate 50 years of Frank when son Dweezil Zappa “Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants” at the stately Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead.
  • Three-time R & B Grammy Award winner Lalah Hathaway performs at the August Wilson Center November 9 as part of the Cultural Trust’s Soul Sessions series.
  • Calliope presents Americana quartet Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys at the Carnegie Lecture Hall November 12, with support from Nashville via Lancaster, PA’s The Stray Birds.
  • Also on November 12, it’s indie pop from Norway when Racing Heart visits Brillobox, with support from Pittsburgh indie rockers Andre Costello and the Cool Minors and William Forrest. (Who needs Elvis when you have Andre?)
  • Somber Texas post-rock act True Widow visits Cattivo November 17.
  • Multi-talented singer/songwriter/guitarist Alejandro Escovedo visits Club Cafe November 22 in support of his first new album in four years, Burn Something Beautiful.
  • Also November 22, noise-rock/post-punk trio Young Widows play Brillobox, with support from Glowworms.
  • Phish’s Mike Gordon and his crazy light-up bass will also be in town November 22
  • Remember when the South Side was Pittsburgh’s music hub? Stage AE transforms into Nick’s Fat City for the DVE Charity Jam November 26, featuring The Clarks, Brownie Mary, Buzz Poets, Gathering Field and more.

Brian Conway

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.