This summer is packed with great live music, indoors and out. We’ve created a go-to guide to summer music festivals, which you’ll find right here.
And below is our roundup of two dozen cool concerts — big and small — happening during June and July around Pittsburgh.
June 1, Starship Mantis, feralcat: Mr. Smalls, Millvale
I once saw the singer for Starship Mantis carried onto the stage in a coffin … and then it got weird. This show is a double album release party for homegrown funk scientists Starship Mantis and the band feralcat, with Michael Canton of WYEP’s The Soul Show DJing beforehand.
June 3, Jon Spencer & the HITmakers, Cheater Slicks: Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks
Jon Spencer has always understood that the raw, unschooled euphoric energy of punk rock and the low-down, heartbroken vibes of the blues were a match made in heaven (or perhaps a bit lower). The impresario and frontman of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Heavy Trash is back with a new band, making outsider rock-and-roll like a man possessed. Don’t miss him at this free show.
June 4, Toots & the Maytals: Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks
You’ll find no more life-affirming music on this Earth than the immortal ‘60s and early ‘70s sides of Toots & the Maytals. Born out of gospel and soul and struggle, they’ve been playing reggae music since, well, before it was even a thing — their 1968 song “Do the Reggay” even named the genre.
June 4, L7, Le Butcherettes: Rex Theater, South Side
The first ladies of heaviness bring their gut-rattling, pre-grunge roar back to Pittsburgh. There once was a time when a group of women playing loud and heavy was a rare and remarkable thing. Now that it’s not, this seminal L.A. band deserves all kinds of praise for the example that they set.
June 6, Justice Yeldham, Paradot, Michael Johnsen: 3577 Studios, Polish Hill
Part performance art, part magic show, part gory horror movie — Justice Yeldham plays giant shards of broken glass with his face. Like a horn player trapped in the second dimension, he blows on the edges of broken glass to create a disturbingly amusing fantasia of unearthly sounds, some of it music. Yes, there’s often blood.
June 7, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Fishbone, Miss Velvet & The Blue Wolf: Rivers Casino Event Center, North Side
There aren’t too many living legends still lurking — much less, the kind who have invented entire genres of music. Somehow George Clinton, interplanetary missionary of the funk, still reigns supreme. And Rivers Casino has him for an early summer date.
June 11, Ibeyi, Sudan Archives: Mr. Smalls, Millvale
Ibeyi consists of two sisters with haunting voices. Daughters of Cuban drummer Miguel “Angá” Díaz (of the group Irakere) and descendents of Nigerian slaves, they were raised in Paris. The duo sings in English and Yoruba, a language spoken by their ancestors, backed by an intoxicating combination of beats and samples, touches of jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
June 11, David Murray & Kahil El’Zabar: Gardenalia, Lawrenceville
The fire-breathing, yet lyrical power of David Murray’s tenor saxophone and the joyous rumbling of Kahil El’Zabar’s percussive virtuosity will be coming together at one of the city’s most charming, unusual new venues, located in the back of a little garden shop in Lawrenceville. Also performing are special guests Trimm & McCune.
June 12, Ariana Grande: PPG Paints Arena, Uptown
The pop star may not loom large onstage, but she does everything big to make up for it — including packing the biggest room in town, PPG Paints Arena. It’ll likely be a dark horse candidate for the loudest show of the year, if you count the crowd.
June 14, Daughters: Rex Theater, South Side
Punishingly loud and uncompromisingly abrasive, Providence’s Daughters made last year’s feel-bad album of the year, “You Won’t Get What You Want.” If you’re looking for some uneasy listening, or simply want to scald your earholes clean of all the petty problems of the day, the deadly Daughters ought to do the trick.
June 21, Earth, Helms Alee: Spirit, Lawrenceville
When you aspire to a massive, hypnotic sound that’s as monolithically large as the planet itself, you might as well call yourself “Earth.” Since 1989, this all-instrumental outfit (with occasional guest vocalists) has taken the heavy metal template and stretched it past the breaking point, embracing the sonic possibilities of minimalist drone and post-psychedelic doom.
June 21, Robyn Hitchcock: Club Cafe, South Side
Robyn Hitchcock started playing surreal psychedelic rock in the mid-70s with The Soft Boys, one of the great bastions of melody left standing while punk rock was busy destroying everything in its path. Whether with a band like the Egyptians or as a solo act, he’s been able to craft entire musical worlds populated with characters too eccentric and original for anyone else to successfully imitate.
June 22, The Black Madonna, Jarrett Tebbets: Hot Mass, Strip District
From disco to house to techno, The Black Madonna is known for uplifting, euphoric DJ sets that showcase a restless, relentless musical mind, with a penchant for broad, sweeping inclusion. As with everything at Hot Mass, it’s going to go pretty late.
June 22, Outlaw Music Festival with Old Crow Medicine Show, Willie Nelson, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Dawes: KeyBank Pavilion, Burgettstown
Legendary bluegrass bandleader Doc Watson discovered Old Crow Medicine Show busking on a street corner in Boone, North Carolina. Now they’re playing stadiums — which is kind of incredible for what’s basically a bluegrass band. Their breakthrough (certified platinum) song, “Wagon Wheel,” was co-written with Bob Dylan, who wrote the chorus back in 1973. Catch Old Crow along with the immortal Willie Nelson and new Americana giants The Avett Brothers and Alison Krauss.
June 24, Juliana Hatfield: Club Cafe, South Side
The jangly, sparkling indie pop of Juliana Hatfield was once about the sheer, unfettered joy of melody. Our current reality has taken its toll, however, and it’s quite remarkable to see her use her formidable talents to vent the anger long boiling beneath the surface of her music.
June 28, Hearken, Pet Clinic, CALYX, Derider: Mr. Small’s, Millvale
Great local band showcase with Pet Clinic, CALYX and Derider opening for the guitar-and-drums duo Hearken, for whom it’s the album release party for their new record, “Help Me, I’m Alive.”
June 30, Pittsburgh’s Homegrown R&B with Benji, Mars Jackson, Clara Kent, Starship Mantis: Hartwood Acres, Hampton
So, despite the R&B billing (Benji and Mars Jackson are pretty obviously hip-hop) this is a giant showcase for some of the city’s brightest young stars. This has been the worst year ever for Pittsburgh-grown hip-hop — losing both Mac Miller and Jimmy Wopo — so the steady rise of these two introspective, adept lyricists is really something to be celebrated. Singer Clara Kent and funkateers Starship Mantis round out the bill.
July 10, Seb El Zin, Ishtar, 8 Cylinder: Mr. Smalls Funhouse, Millvale