Last year at this time, pretty much every band in the world was trying to figure out how to monetize virtual concerts to survive. This year it’s a different story entirely.
Though it’s a stretch to say that we’re back to pre-pandemic “normal,” the pent-up energy for live music is palpable for performers and fans alike. A bunch of shows that were canceled due to Covid have been rescheduled for November, which is shaping up to be a pretty solid month for live music.
Please note that most venues require proof of vaccination, negative Covid tests and/or masks, so check with each club. (But really, do that stuff anyway). There are also likely to be additional Covid-related cancellations, so double-check before you go.
Nov. 5, Sylvan Esso: Stage AE, North Shore
Electropop is the sound of fall in Pittsburgh, apparently, with Caribou and Chvrches on the way this month. This North Carolina duo can be as sweet and sticky as undiluted Kool-Aid, with a sharply satirical sense of humor that takes a while to absorb. In their best songs, Amelia Meath’s languorous croon curls curiously around Nick Sanborn’s subtle rhythmic accompaniment, never taking the obvious route. A perfect example of their oblique attack on pop conventions is “H.S.K.T.,” which takes the playground chant of “head, shoulders, knees and toes,” and spins it into a kick in the shins against the oppressive ubiquity of our video screens.
Nov. 9, Bad Religion, Alkaline Trio: Stage AE, North Shore
Bad Religion has somehow been playing punk rock since 1979 (!). To call them fossils would be impolite — but when did punks care about politeness? Plus, in the case of their singer, Greg Graffin, it’s true. About a decade ago, a discovery by a team of paleontologists (including Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History) named a newly discovered species of extinct bird — Qiliania graffini — after the Qilian Mountains in China, where it was found, and Graffin. He’s no stranger to erudition: Graffin is probably the only punk singer with a Ph.D. in zoology, and who would occasionally drop the odd polysyllabic scientific term into a song and made it stick, like “A piece of chaos related phylogenetically/To every living organ system, we’re siblings, don’t you see?” from “The World Won’t Stop Without You.”
Nov. 9, Shake & Holla featuring The North Mississippi All-Stars, Rebirth Brass Band, Cedric Burnside: Byham Theater, Downtown
The musical connection between the dark-as-night blues of the Mississippi hill country and the raucous joy of Bourbon Street isn’t a straight line, but rather a zigzagging, bouncing Second Line swagger through American musical history. You can connect the dots yourself at this big show at the Byham — don’t show up late, either. Opener Cedric Burnside is the grandson of the rawest, realest Mississippi Delta bluesman of them all, R.L. Burnside, and a veteran of the icon’s band.
Nov. 10, Gary Clark Jr., Stage AE, North Shore
He started as the great hope for a revival of electric blues, as fewer of the kings (B.B. and otherwise) are still around to carry the torch. But Gary Clark Jr. quickly began to assert his own vision, which didn’t exactly hew tightly to blues traditions. It encompassed soul, funk, rock, R&B and even hip-hop — with collaborations ranging from Alicia Keys to the Foo Fighters — strung loosely together with blistering guitar solos. His protest-filled 2019 record, “This Land,” packed a political punch aimed straight for the zeitgeist, replying to a racist reality with a century of synthesized Black musical traditions.
Nov. 11, Dinosaur Jr., Ryley Walker: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Millvale
Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis staked his claim as indie rock’s preeminent guitar hero in the mid-1980s, with a wildly original style, copied but never duplicated — a blistering fury of notes, chords and distortion that sounded like a 10-guitar army rather than the work of one man. Plus, he somehow sang over it all, in a reticent, laconic drawl that provided a weird counterpoint to the wall-of-sound guitar work. Well, Mascis is still basically doing the same thing today, but with more gray hair.
Nov. 11, Flaming Lips, Particle Kid: Stage AE, North Shore
The Flaming Lips are one of the few truly weird rock bands to have reached that sweet spot of success, where they have enough fans, money and resources to do pretty much whatever bizarre, nonsensical, even idiotic things they can dream up. And they do — from entire albums meant to be played on synchronized car stereos, to making their own strange little movie about a Martian Santa Claus called “Christmas on Mars.” Of course, that sets up its own dilemma. When your fans expect something new and weird all the time, you’ve got to keep it going. What could possibly surpass seeing lead singer Wayne Coyne inside a giant inflatable hamster ball rolling over the audience? They’ll think of something.