Pittsburgh’s always had a pretty great music scene. From long-running acts like The Clarks to rapper Wiz Khalifa to top contestants on “The Voice,” the city has spawned plenty of musical talent, and more talent just keeps on coming. As we head into 2016, here are five up and coming musicians you’ll definitely want to watch out for. Who knows? Maybe one of these local artists will make it big someday, and you’ll be able to say, “I heard them first.” No matter what genre you’re into, there’s something for everyone. Here are the best up-and-coming Pittsburgh bands to check out in 2016.
Pop Thief & The Grand Larceny
The Pop Thief himself is Virgil Hawkins, a hip hop and rap musician originally from Philadelphia, but now based out of Pittsburgh. Last February, he released a more rock-oriented “Eclipse” EP, featuring Hawkins on an electric guitar performing songs normally played acoustically at open-mic nights. In the fall, he added a backing band, the Grand Larceny, and they are currently recording material that we expect to see in the spring of 2016.
The Clock Reads
A psychedelic/jam band initially formed in 2013, The Clock Reads is made up of University of Pittsburgh graduates. You can catch the band live when they headline Mr. Smalls Jam On Revival on January 9. The event is free for everyone 21+ and just $2 for those underage. If you can’t see them live, their recordings come pretty close; an entire set from a November show at The Rex Theater is available on their website, as is a Halloween cover set. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them on the summer festival circuit sometime soon.
For more psychedelia with a little bit of funk thrown in, try Trailheads, hailing from Connellsville, about an hour away from Pittsburgh. This band consists of three friends who met in junior high. Their latest song, “As Long as It Takes,” released in November, offering a peek at a new album they’ll be putting out in 2016. They’re also looking to add to their current lineup.
Dick Whiskey & The Bottle Openers
Dick Whiskey began with acoustic solo material in 2014, then began to include the Bottle Openers in the act. The band first released the more folk-oriented “Fermentation Demos” in the fall of 2014, followed by a more aggressive-sounding live recording of a set at Howlers in May of 2015. Most recently, Dick Whiskey & the Bottle Openers signed with a Pittsburgh label and will be recording new material this winter.
Singer/songwriter Brett Staggs brings some grit to his music, demonstrated in 2014’s “Rio Grande” EP, Staggs’ only official release so far. But his music has been used in several local films, plus he’s been playing plenty of local shows, including a spot at the Three Rivers Arts Festival over the summer and as an opener for post-punk favorites Echo & the Bunnymen in the fall, where he impressed with an acoustic set. In addition to working on new material for release, Staggs can be seen alongside numerous other local musicians at Strip District Music Fest on Saturday, January 16.
Janelle Sheetz is a 20-something closed-captioner by day, writer by night, just outside of Pittsburgh. She also regularly contributes to AXS.com and Examiner.com, and her writing has also been featured on The Billfold and Neutrons Protons.