Pittsburgh Plays returns for its second installment | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Plays returns for its second installment

Local bands and musicians will be covering music from Sir. Paul McCartney

Pittsburgh Plays returns for its second installment
Josh Bakaitus
Pittsburgh Plays Petty

After a successful first installment, Pittsburgh Plays is back for a second round. This time, local bands and musicians are covering music from Paul McCartney at Mr. Smalls Theatre.

The initial tribute series took place earlier this year and celebrated the life and music of the late Tom Petty. When Josh Bakaitus and Cory Muro, the series' producers, heard about Petty’s passing, they expressed regret about missing what turned out to be their last opportunity to see Petty perform. Thus the idea for a tribute show was born. They could experience Petty's music live through the talented musicians and bands in the 'Burgh. Pittsburgh Plays Petty sold out two concerts at Mr. Smalls Theatre, one at Jergel's in Warrendale, and one at The Crafthouse in Baldwin.

For Pittsburgh Plays McCartney, the lineup includes Beauty Slap, Cello Fury, Punchline’s Steve Soboslai, Chet Vincent, Rusted Root’s Patrick Norman, Shane Turner, Brett Staggs, Diego, and many, many more. Bakaitus is personally excited to see the string section (Cello Fury) and horn section (Beauty Slap).

“That’s a twist that we hadn’t done in the past,” says Bakaitus. “It’ll be cool to see how the ‘rock’ musicians blend with the classically trained musicians. But beyond that, I’m most excited to see how these musicians interpret the songs.”

The series tends to bring together local artists that wouldn’t normally be on the same bill, or even know each other. 

“It’s funny,” says Shawn McGregor, who performed at one of the Petty shows. “Even in a relatively smaller city like Pittsburgh, it certainly has different groups and cliques of musicians, and it's nice to be able to play with people from different backgrounds who I haven't gotten the opportunity to play with yet.”

That mixing of scenes isn't accidental.  

“Often times the hardest thing about this is coordinating the rehearsals amongst people who live all of the Greater Pittsburgh area,” says Bakaitus. “We try to be mindful of that while also putting musicians together who generally wouldn’t ever cross paths. It’s an effort to help foster an actual local music community.”

Bakaitus and Muro strategically planned the tracklist, and then selected musicians based on the songs. “Somebody like Jon Belan from Gene The Werewolf, being more of a rocker type, we wanted to give him the harder rock songs with more aggressive vocals,” says Bakaitus. "The most important thing is that we push the musicians outside of their comfort zones.”

Experiencing new territory, surrounded by fresh faces, Pittsburgh Plays offers a unique opportunity for local artists, and fans to connect and bask in nostalgia. 

“It's cool that so many local musicians are involved and get to perform together in a great venue like Mr. Smalls,” says Nicole Myers of Cello Fury. “Pittsburgh is one of those cities where musicians are always willing to come together and collaborate, and this line-up of talent makes it really special.”