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Pittsburgh's music scene is full of talented artists you don't want to miss!
I’ve been lucky enough to perform live music for about twenty years, travelling as a musician to many other cities (and occasionally another Country or two), and I can truly say that there is no musical community anywhere on Earth quite like Pittsburgh.
In Pittsburgh, my first live musical experiences were as a spectator in 1990’s all-ages clubs, watching hip-hop artists like Strict Flow share the bill with emo bands and space-rockers such as Juliana Theory and New Invisible Joy. I’m now a little past performing regularly myself -- I would most likely be considered a ‘Dad Rocker’ at this point -- but with a bit of distance, I realized that I’ve witnessed entire generations and genres of amazing hometown artists come, grow, sometimes stay, and sometimes move along to other things. Above all else, I’m truly inspired by this continued trend of cross-genre collaboration so celebrated by Pittsburgh’s current crop of musicians, where it’s not uncommon to see an acoustic folk group perform alongside an EDM artist or hip-hop act, all united around a common love of song.
Here are a few of the Pittsburgh performers that have leapt out at me in recent years, particularly ones who continue to create inspiring work during the most challenging era that modern popular music has ever encountered.
This modern folk/American band blends the best of classic acoustic bluegrass with impassioned three-part harmony vocals, and their live performances are truly haunting. The band has been featured in NPR’s All Songs Considered series, as well as American Songwriter magazine, and to me they embody that feeling of rallying your community, breaking beyond being just ‘your friend’s band’ to receiving widespread recognition and chart positions on hometown radio station WYEP-FM.
I first met Roger as a saxophone player working together in regional wedding bands, and was soon drawn into his F3ralcat project, a mix of jazz fusion, prog, and improvization alongside some of the hardest-hitting young musicians around. Roger grew up in a bi-cultural Bronx family, and we couldn’t be happier to now have him in Pittsburgh, releasing amazing music with f3ralcat like the new single “Anselm The Wise’ and an expected full-length in 2021.
An unbelievable hometown hip-hop talent, Mars seems to have the ability to capture the attention of any crowd, anytime, of any size or in any location. One of my favorite musical memories ever is sharing a stage with Mars and my own band one beautiful Spring evening outdoors at the Carnegie Museum of Art sculpture garden, to a crowd of art critics, curious city dwellers, and college students.
This indie-pop duo melds an atmospheric synth sound with great hooks, cool visuals, and a dark sense of humor. Their music video for ‘How Do I Get What I Want?’, produced locally at the end of 2019, is hands-down the best music video I have ever seen from a Pittsburgh artist, in which both members play a variety of characters in a quirky and gorgeously photographed high school setting...and the song’s chorus will never leave your brain.
Winner of Pittsburgh City Paper’s top ‘People Of The Year’ Honor in 2019, Clara is equal parts vocalist, poet, and public speaker, with a voice that must be heard to
be believed. While bundled up at Downtown Pittsburgh’s Light Up Night 2019, my family and I rang in the Holiday season to Clara’s singing as a featured on-stage performer, with none other than Mr. McFeely as her opening act.
I will include my own band in this list only as collaborators of the amazing City Theater Drive-In Music Festival outdoor series that took place this past Fall, in which we performed a live rock-and-roll show to a parking lot full of cars. The weather was amazing, and City Theater provided the perfect Pandemic live music experience with a large drive-in screen projecting the video feed, and the audio mix beamed safely to each car. Once we got used to the headlights flashing and horns honking instead of applause, I think we loosened up just enough to put on a decent show.