Critics' Picks: May 22 - 25 | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Critics' Picks: May 22 - 25 

Local shows by Trans Am, Old Gray and Ingrid Michaelson, plus a festival of new music with pieces rarely performed in Pittsburgh

"Inuksuit," as performed in Brooklyn

Photo courtesy of Shawn Brackbill

"Inuksuit," as performed in Brooklyn


Robert Ashley's opera Perfect Lives is a bit different from most pieces of music; for one thing, it's not meant to be performed in one place. The nomadic composition goes indoors and out, here and there. Performed as part of this week's Pittsburgh Festival of New Music, it'll take place everywhere from Market Square to Marty's Market (in the Strip District) and James Simon's sculpture studio (Uptown). It's the first Pittsburgh performance of the piece, and it'll be carried out by Varispeed, a Brooklyn group that has performed the piece before, with praise from Ashley (who died this past March). Also featured at the festival, put on by Alia Musica: Frederic Rzewski in a rare performance of his own work (Sat., May 24); the outdoors-set piece "Inuksuit," by John Luther Adams (Sun., May 25, at Lake Elizabeth on the North Side); and more. Andy Mulkerin 11 a.m. Continues through Sun., May 25. Multiple venues; most performances at New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. Individual concert tickets range from free to $15; festival pass $40. 412-361-0194 or


Phil Manley, Nathan Means and Sebastian Thomson of Washington, D.C.-based Trans Am were paving the way for post rock well before the likes of Caspian or Explosions in the Sky; the band just released its 10th studio album, Volume X. Trans Am's relevance in the music world comes from the band's range in sound, using effects on every instrument, which creates fuzzy, distorted guitar and spacey, sometimes menacing keyboards. At times using heavily modified vocals reminiscent of Peter Frampton, the band doesn't stay static, and keeps the listener tuned in to its soundscapes. The band plays the Smiling Moose tonight with Microwaves and The Lopez. Zach Brendza 1306 E. Carson St., South Side. $10.80-$14. 412-431-4668 or

[EMO] + SUN., MAY 25

Coming up in the DIY scene, Old Gray has a sincere style with heartfelt lyrics and intensity in each instrument, with chords slammed out of guitars and drums pounded to a breaking point. Its sound is reminiscent of better-known hardcore acts like La Dispute, The Saddest Landscape and Caravels. The New England-based band released a new song, "An Epitaph," earlier this month and it embodies its sound and who the members are: a passionate band playing genuine music with somber words to go along. The band plays The Mr. Roboto Project tonight with Frameworks, Annakarina, Driver and Sorta Lonely. ZB 5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $8. All ages.

click to enlarge Ingrid Michaelson
  • Photo courtesy of Shervin Lainez

[POP] + SUN., MAY 25

The latest from Ingrid Michaelson, Lights Out, features collaborations with everyone from indie group A Great Big World to singer-songwriter Mat Kearney and Michaelson's husband, musician Greg Laswell. So far, though, the biggest hit from the record has been from Michaelson alone: The pop tune "Girls Chase Boys" has climbed the charts since its release in February. Tonight, Michaelson, who's made a name with lots of TV placements (and that orange-juice commercial where she sang a Beatles tune while floating with a piano), brings her show to Stage AE tonight. AM 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Drive, North Side. $25-27. All ages. 412-229-5483 or


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