Jason Isbell & 400 Unit. Photo by Alysse Gaftkjen
Photo courtesy of Evanescence.

Dec. 14, Evanescence, Halestorm: Petersen Events Center, Oakland

Modern radio-ready hard rock has been caught in a feedback loop of post-grunge and nu-metal doldrums for decades now, with little new to add that, say, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains hadn’t already done better years ago. Evanescence is a rare exception, with the strong vocals of Amy Lee leading them fearlessly through a genre dominated by dudes with questionable facial hair and emotionally-stunted lyrical content. Openers Halestorm, from Red Lion in York County, have also scaled the heights of the genre with a woman at the helm, Lizzy Hale, who grabbed a grammy in 2012 for “Love Bites (So Do I).”

Guided By Voices. Photo courtesy of Guided By Voices’ Instagram.
Guided By Voices. Photo courtesy of Guided By Voices’ Instagram.

Dec. 18, Guided By Voices: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Millvale

GBV pretty much owned the ’90s, when indie rock first bubbled up from the underground. The band came out of nowhere (actually, Dayton, Ohio) powered by the restless, eccentric musical mind of Robert Pollard, who recorded hundreds of fragments and shards of pop/rock genius while working as an elementary school teacher, to little notice. Until, suddenly, lots of people noticed. The band was something strange and familiar at the same time — taking a wide-angle lens to the British bombast of The Who, forgotten nuggets of psychedelic fuzz, and sharp post-punk, and boiling it all down into catchy, perfect pop songs, recorded as imperfectly (full of ambient noise and glaring audio imperfections) as possible. They still do that, even though they’ve experimented with real production values and the occasional semi-hit tucked within the ever-expanding reach of Pollard’s self-contained musical universe.

Dec. 22, “Festivus XVI” with Dumplings, ATS Acoustic, Honest Babes and Lorenzo’s Oil: Government Center, Deutschtown

It’s a Festivus for the rest of us! Bored with the usual holiday parties? Well, this annual Seinfeldian bacchanal features Feats of Strength, the Airing of Grievances, the festive Festivus Pole, and copious amounts of Seinfeld trivia. It will be held at the Government Center record store’s excellent new location, which has a full-sized stage. Local bands performing include ATS Acoustic, Honest Babes, Dumplings and Lorenzo’s Oil. Obviously, you can browse for records too. “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and you’re gonna hear about it!”

Rave Ami. Photo courtesy of Misra Records.

Dec. 23, Rave Ami: Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall, Lawrenceville

Guitar-driven Pittsburgh indie rock stalwarts Rave Ami rub right up against Christmas Eve with this show at the Thunderbird, which should be a great atmosphere for a band that does their best work live. The trio has been playing together for 10 years and enjoys that symbiotic meeting of musical minds that comes with playing uncountable shows together.

Jan. 18, Lost Dog Street Band: Stage AE, North Shore

They started out literally busking on the streets of Nashville for change, and a decade later, the Lost Dog Street Band has graduated to arenas like Stage AE. Currently, they’re playing primarily acoustic old-time country music, with their latest album, “Glory,” filled with deeply personal stories of hard-fought sobriety, survival and perseverance through hellish adversity.

Jan. 25, F’d Up, Empath, F’ Yeah, Dinosaurs!: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Millvale

Best band name ever … or worst? Either way, F’d Up is easily one of the most original bands working in the otherwise moribund hardcore punk genre, pushing it to its limits and often well beyond. Giant, inscrutable 78-minute hardcore rock operas, long flute solo intros, epic concept albums released in monthly installments (“Year of the Horse”), collaborations with a playwright … these guys have deviated further from Minor Threat’s louder/faster/harder hardcore template than anyone since Hüsker Dü. Live, it’s a chance to witness how Damian Abraham’s scorched-earth screams never seem to stop, before he jumps on top of you (seriously, watch out if you’re in the front row).

Photo courtesy of Erasure’s Instagram.
Photo courtesy of Erasure’s Instagram.

Jan. 27, Erasure, Bag Raiders: Byham Theater, Downtown

The sleek, glossy sound of ‘80s synth-pop will never go away. And on the pop side of things, Erasure was impossible to miss. The UK band is actually biggest in parts of northern Europe and South America, selling 28 million albums worldwide. Their most recent record, “The Neon,” was an attempt to go back to their original electropop sounds, using older synthesizers, just as their oldest hits find a new generation of listeners.

Jan. 28, Wolves in the Throne Room, Full of Hell: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Millvale

Black metal heretics Wolves in the Throne Room have a lot of enemies among the corpse-painted true believers, but they’ve always been reaching for something else, using the genre of black metal as a jumping-off point rather than a destination. They’re as likely to retreat off the grid deep into the Cascadian forests as they are to do a traditional tour. They also do forbidden things (for black metal) like break up their bleak, wintry squalls of guitar noise with vintage synthesizers and the occasional pretty interlude (like their collaboration with classical singer Jessika Kenney).

For more things to do, read 12 December events not to miss in Pittsburgh.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.