Critics’ Picks, Dec. 24-30 | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Critics’ Picks, Dec. 24-30 

Performances by Balloon Ride Fantasy and RATM2, plus a gathering of local producers and a holiday-themed dance night

click to enlarge Balloon Ride Fantasy - PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN PELUSO
  • Photo courtesy of Dan Peluso
  • Balloon Ride Fantasy

[POP] + SAT., DEC. 26

Local synth-pop six-piece Balloon Ride Fantasy describes itself as “indie pop,” which is a bit misleading; this is pop music, plain and simple. Even though vocalist Chris Olszewski enunciates words like “moribund” and “microcosm” that might fit better in a Decemberists song, BRF’s sound is more akin to an unholy hybrid of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (dig those proggy keyboards!) and the catchy modern slickness of Maroon 5 (Olszewski sounds just like Adam Levine at times), with hints of Duran Duran or Gary Numan in the retro ’80s drums. Catch the band tonight at Club Café with Paint31 and Old Soles and Seedy Players. Andrew Woehrel 9 p.m. 56 S. 12th St., Southside. $7. 412-431-4950 or 


Spirit became the place for dance nights in 2015, and tonight the venue hosts Diva’s Night, Holiday Edition. The evening will be sure to please, with seasonal hits from Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, *NSYNC and Wham. And don’t worry if you work retail and thus hate Christmas music: There will be other non-holiday favorites on the playlist. Come dance off the extra weight you may have gained from Christmas dinner, or at least the extra stress you gained from having to talk to your racist uncle about Donald Trump. Hosted by DJ Diana Boss and DJ Yass Queen.  AW 10 p.m. 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. $5. 412-586-4441 or

[ROCK] + MON., DEC. 28

Even though it’s not totally clear how the members of Rage Against the Machine would feel about this, RATM2, a local RATM cover band, described itself as “Rage Against the Machine Done Right!” The band plays tonight at the Smiling Moose, supported by Through These Walls and Shad Ali, as part of A Benefit to Support American Veteran Volunteers in Syria & Iraq. Tom Morello and Zach DeLaRocha probably won’t make a guest appearance, but if you squint while you get your groove on to these funky political jams, you might be able to pretend it’s 1996. AW 9 p.m. 1306 E. Carson St., South Side. $10. 412-431-4668 or

click to enlarge Headphone Activist - PHOTO COURTESY OF STEFAN POULOS
  • Photo courtesy of Stefan Poulos
  • Headphone Activist


If you hadn’t noticed by now, Pittsburgh is becoming a city recognized for its contributions to electronic dance music. Along with the astronomic VIA festival, there are other local electronic festivals popping up. For instance, Locally Grown: The Second Annual Pittsburgh Producers Party is tonight, at the Rex Theater, featuring a selection of local electronic artists. Headliner Headphone Activist is a producer who is gaining national attention in the EDM scene for his smooth and head-bobbing beats, which he calls “vibe music.” He recently returned from a tour of the West Coast and is joined by other local EDM artists LeMoti, NoSleep, Tulpa and DJ Strobe. AW 9 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. Free. 412-381-6811 or


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