In a local nightlife landscape overpopulated with karaoke, bar bingo and televised sports, it’s good to know there are still a few musicians and bars willing to try something adventurous.
Like this upcoming Friday, when jazz saxophonist Rex Trimm and rock guitarist Allen James debut the second installment of their Dark Surf series at Wooley Bullys Juke-joint in New Brighton.
As they did in April at Wooley Bullys, Trimm and James will perform a fusion of surf rock and instrumental “horror jazz” like you might hear on the soundtrack of a fright film.
For Dark Surf 2.5, they’re focusing on the music and themes of horror film master John Carpenter (“Halloween” “The Thing”).
Joining the three-set session will be local veteran percussionist Rob Grano and relative newcomer to the area Mathew Dingo switching from his normal duties on jazz guitar to bass.
“Expect a complete experience and themed show tailored with vignettes and samples from Carpenter’s movies,” Trimm tells me by email. “This is a unique take on my longtime project of playing what I dubbed "horror jazz" back when I started experimenting with home production and electronic music.
“On top of all this, we will have (Beaver County Musicians Hall of Famer) Betty Douglas guesting for a few Halloween themed lounge songs to change up the pace,” Trimm said.
Admission is free, and the music starts at 9 p.m.
Wecht back in Midland
Back by popular demand: "An Evening of Conversation with Dr. Cyril Wecht" will take place Nov. 26 at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland.
As with Wecht’s last appearance there in May, KDKA Radio funny guy John McIntire will guide the chat by the famed forensic pathologist, this time focusing on the JFK assassination.
Tickets cost $30 and $35, available in advance at lincolnparkarts.org or by calling 724-576-4644.
An ’Idol’ in Warrendale
Whatever happened to the Soul Patrol, the ardent fan base for Season Five “American Idol” champ Taylor Hicks?
Fewer than 135 people turned out Wednesday when Hicks headlined Jergel’s Rhythm Grille, and 50 of those folks scored tickets in support of lead-off act Stephen Rubinosky of New Brighton.
Size didn’t matter, as Hicks (and Rubinosky) delivered fun and loose acoustic sets that included Hicks dishing a bit on “American Idol.”
Yes, Simon Cowell is mean, Hicks said.
The Alabama singer also claimed he once traded a songwriting co-credit with John Mayer in exchange for providing the phone number of Season Five “Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee.
Well, you can’t blame Mayer; McPhee’s body is a wonderland.
Hicks still sings in that strong, solid, soulful voice, shining on originals “Six Strings and Diamond Rings,” about how life on the road can be tough on a marriage; and the unreleased tear-jerker “Maybe You Should Go,” a song that Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have “on hold” to record.
It would be REALLY nice if Tim and Faith did cut it, Hicks said -- wink, wink.
As he did on “Idol” -- at Cowell’s insistence -- Hicks let loose with a soulful and moving rendition of Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto.”
A male fan lingering oddly close to the stage received the green light from Hicks to approach and then whispered a lengthy song request in the singer’s ear.
Minutes later, Hicks and his talented guitar partner heeded the request and for the first time tried performing Bob Seger’s “Main Street.” Though leaving out the second verse, Hicks sang it very well.
Hicks acknowledged he’s been off the musical radar for a while, busy hosting “State Plate,” a show about regional cuisines originally airing in 2016 on the religious-minded INSP channel and later on Amazon Prime. In the pursuit of that food show, Hicks said he’s become quite a fan of western Pennsylvania pirogies.
As his set neared its end, Hicks made sure to thank opening act Rubinosky by his full name and urged fans to support the local artist’s music.
Rubinosky celebrated his 23rd birthday that night with a lively set loaded with crowd interaction.
Even before the chorus of his lead-off song, Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” Rubinosky made sure spectators were waving their arms in the air and singing along.
Rubinosky’s vocals and guitar work were sharp, and his humor and smiles charmed the audience. He invited on stage Beaver County hip-hop artist Dante Jordan for their collaboration of “Right Here,” which included a Rochester-made video that somehow ended up played on MTV Europe.
Pocketful of sunshine in Munhall
Natasha Bedingfield deserved a bigger crowd last Sunday, too.
C’mon, the English pop/R&B singer gave us the iconic hits “Pocketful of Sunshine” and “Unwritten” (the ubiquitous theme from MTV’s “The Hills”), yet fewer than 300 people turned out to see her at the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall.
I think the venue was allowing teenagers in off the street, or from the library next door, to serve as seat fillers as Bedingfield took the stage at 9 p.m. in a boxy, white one-piece, like something from an ABBA museum.
Boy, she’s got a set of pipes. Bedingfield’s booming voice filled the old hall. On a number of occasions, she dug deep then hit and held a note for a very long time, stopping short of any Christina Aguilera-like histrionics.
She expertly crafted a setlist that wasted little time getting to 2008’s double-platinum “Pocketful of Sunshine,” interspersed with mid-level singles, like “Single,” and songs from her impressive new album, “Roll With Me,” where the theme is finding love and acceptance amid the modern world’s chaos.
Bedingfield’s versatile band put a nice slow burn on Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and quite capably set her up to soulfully belt out Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
Bedingfield didn’t look fazed by all the empty seats, tossing her torso around to the beats and having fun with a wind machine -- pretty much a cross between an industrial fan and a top-notch leaf blower. She aimed at fans at one point for them to feel the experience of being a stage performer.
Bedingfield’s voice showed range, beauty and power on “Wild Horses,” followed by her spry new single “Kick It,” and the obvious and necessary encore of “Unwritten” turned into an anthem of independence for everyone to latch onto.
At 37, she’s in an challenging place. Not young enough for either the KISS-FM or YouTube-first crowds, but not “classic” enough for Pittsburgh’s dated radio stations. It might be up to adult contemporary stations like WISH-FM to give Bedingfield’s new album the exposure it needs. She’s a talent that deserves to be playing for full theaters.
The more you know
Next time you’re at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, take a look under your seat, where you’ll notice a wire rack.
Those racks were designed as a place for gentlemen to put their hats during concerts, a longtime venue employee informed concertgoers last Sunday.
I’ve long suspected those stiff wooden seats were original to the circa-1898 theater.
Scott Tady is entertainment editor at The Times and easy to reach at firstname.lastname@example.org