Any Pittsburgher can rattle off a laundry list of our city's beloved idiosyncrasies -- fries on your salad, yinzers, Steelers, the whole Rick Sebak franchise. But it may soon be time to add another oddball obsession: bagpipes.
Last fall marked the debut of the Balmoral Classic, an event that brought international attention to Pittsburgh as a hub for Highland bagpiping and other traditional Scottish music. The event featured the U.S. Junior Solo Bagpiping Championship, drawing the top 18-and-under bagpipe players from across the country, the only competition of its kind in the United States, as well as a concert at Oakland's Carnegie Music Hall by Ireland's top-notch St. Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band. (An in-depth feature story on last year's event is available in our online archives at www.pghcitypaper.com.)
This year, the Classic will retain the elements that satisfy the small but hardcore following for competitive bagpipe playing, while broadening the event's appeal to a more general audience. Kicking off on Sat., Nov. 15, at the Hillman Center in Fox Chapel, the bagpipe championship runs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., along with workshops on a variety of folk instruments; both are free and open to the public.
The Classic concludes with an evening concert at the Hillman Center featuring Bodega, BBC Radio's Young Folk Band of the Year for 2006, which offers a contemporary take on traditional music with songs in English and Gaelic, bagpipes, fiddle, whistle and harp as well as drums and guitar. Opening the concert at 7:30 p.m. is Canadian piper extraordinaire Bruce Gandy. Tickets for the concert are $20 ($25 at the door, $17 students/seniors). More info is available at www.balmoralclassic.org.
One local band to watch over the past year has certainly been Lohio, the Americana band led by singer-songwriter Greg Dutton, and featuring musicians drawn from a number of other local outfits: Liz Adams, Erik Cirelli, Matt Miller, Craig Smith and Josh Verbanets. Not only has Lohio played increasingly high-profile shows (including the Homegrown Hoo-Ha at the Post-Gazette Pavilion), it's also done a bit to support others in the local scene by organizing the compilation Key Party Presents ... Playing Favorites, hustled together to capitalize on the hype surrounding the summer's New American Music Union festival.
Now Lohio is releasing its second full-length album, History, the Destroyer, at Brillobox at 10 p.m. Sat., Nov. 8. Opening the show are Scotts Roger and The Harlan Twins.