By Jim Sabol
Pittsburgh is a city known for its blue collar work ethic and championship sports teams, but just below the surface of the city’s black and yellow is a burgeoning independent music scene accessible to all those willing and interested to listen. With genres ranging from garage rock to folk/country, Pittsburgh’s music scene is eclectic, talented, and inviting. Check out the following bands if you’re in the mood for catchy indie pop music that’s more than likely happening right around the corner from where you live.
Looking for upbeat, energetic, indie pop to enjoy on a summer’s afternoon? Donora is just what you need when you’re in the mood for sing-along melodies and head-nodding rhythms. Fronted by lead vocalist and guitar player Casey Hanner, Donora has a knack for writing catchy pop songs rich with textured guitar lines, tight drum patterns, and big choruses. With brother Jake Hanner behind drums and Jake Churton on bass, the band has no shortage of musical expertise and always packs the room at venues such as Brillobox and Thunderbird Café in Lawrenceville. With a new album ready to drop from Rostrum Records, the band will no doubt be playing more shows in their hometown Pittsburgh, recently treating the city to a surprise outdoor concert at the new Stage AE on the North Shore.
Recommended Listening: “Shhh”, off their 2008 self-titled release, is a perfect example of Donora’s catchy, indie pop style. Driving beats, bell-chime synthesizers and Hanner’s playful vocals make this a memorable tune that inevitably will be stuck in your head for days (which definitely isn’t a bad thing).
Catch Donora at:
400 North Shore Drive Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Hours of operation vary with event
4023 Butler Street Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Everyday: 11 AM to 2:00 AM
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If darker, indie dance pop is what you’re in the mood for, then look no further than Big Hurry. Featuring soaring vocals from Kelly Tobias and complex percussion from Dani Buncher, Big Hurry boasts a catalog of songs that will make you dance, while also satisfying any indie rock cravings you may have. Originating in 2008 in Pittsburgh’s South Side, the band has released two EPs, most notably their 2010 release, Gets Me Low, and plays extensively all over the Pittsburgh area and beyond, never failing to sell out Brillobox or Howler’s Coyote Café. Effects-rich guitar work from Andy Wilkosz and solid bass lines from Lenny Flately turn Big Hurry’s songs into raucous anthems too good to pass up. Currently independent, be sure to watch this up and coming band make bigger waves in the national scene, having recently shared the stage with Jukebox The Ghost and Fitz and the Tantrums at WYEP’s Summer Music Festival.
Recommended Listening: The title track off of Big Hurry’s most recent release, Gets Me Low, is a straight ahead pop rock song complete with high flying melodies, foot tapping drum beats, and anthemic choruses that ups the tempo and temperature at every live show around town.
Catch Big Hurry at:
4104 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Tuesday – Friday 5:00 PM to 2:00 AM
Saturday-Sunday: 12:00 pm to 2:00 AM
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Melodic and bittersweet, Mariage Blanc toes the line perfectly between melodramatic ballads and up-tempo indie rock. Dual vocals and guitar work from Josh Kretzmer and Matt Ceraso keep every song interesting and complex, with no shortage of harmonies and interlocking guitar arrangements. The band’s 2010 release, Mariage Blanc, displays the terrific dual songwriting talent of Kretzmer and Ceraso, relying heavily on Chris Williams’ percussion, Sam McUmber’s synthesizers, and Josh Dotson’s bass. Simply put, the band has an ear for rich arrangements, taking the time to experiment with their newest songs while recording their self-titled release in their Pittsburgh studio. Recently, the band has garnered attention from Paste Magazine, Under the Radar, and several college radio stations around the country. The band is currently working on new material, testing out these tunes at venues in Lawrenceville and Bloomfield.
Recommended Listening: Lead track, “Whatever You Say I Am”, off their self-titled release, is a perfect introduction to the mellow pop world of Mariage Blanc. Successfully illustrating the lush and complex arrangements typical to the bands releases, “Whatever You Say I Am” features call and response vocals from Kretzmer and Ceraso, a rocking chorus, and lovely ‘60s-esque keyboard work from McUmber. How can you not love the sleigh bell intro and outro?
Catch Mariage Blanc at:
Howler’s Coyote Café
4509 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Monday – Friday: 3PM to 2:00 AM
Saturday – Sunday: 6PM to 2:00 AM
Jim Sabol is a Pittsburgh resident, musician, and co-creator and editor of indie music blog Draw Us Lines. Coverage of local and national indie music from Draw Us Lines can be found at www.drawuslines.com.