Whether you're an actual grown-up or just like to pretend once in a while, one of late summer's more civilized pleasures is WYEP's annual Rock the Block party. The independent radio station fills the South Side's Bedford Square with party lights and tents featuring a smorgasbord of local food and drink, while an outdoor stage features local and national musicians.
The event started in 2005 as a fundraiser for the construction of the station's Community Broadcast Center, now located on the Square; in recent years, it's become one of the station's signature events, hosting performances by Brazilian Girls, Ra Ra Riot and Cracker. This year's event, which takes place Sat., Sept. 18, features local band Colonizing the Cosmos and headliner Alejandro Escovedo.
Last time Escovedo was in town, opening this summer's Three Rivers Arts Festival, a torrential downpour put a damper on his set, so it's good to see him back. Though he has a long and storied career, including stints in True Believers and Rank and File, the Austin, Texas, songwriter has been at the top of his game these last few years, with the one-two punch of The Boxing Mirror (2006) and Real Animal (2008). His latest is this year's Street Songs of Love, produced, like Animal, by glam legend Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T-Rex).
Escovedo's recent albums place rootsy, soulful ballads side by side with art-rock explorations, elegant orchestrations and always a couple of raunchy riffs. "I've got a dream, do you wanna be in my dream?" he demands on a rocker ironically titled "Tender Heart." "I've got nothing you need but everything you want."
Speaking of what you want, the music's only part of the reason for hitting Rock the Block. There's also food and drink from 18 local establishments, including Penn Brewery, Piper's Pub, Harris Grill and Las Velas. This year, local crafters will set up an I Made It! Market in the South Side Market House, and the Carnegie Museum of Art's Two-Minute Film Festival will screen in the station during the party.
Rock the Block runs from 8-11 p.m. and tickets are $35 ($40 at the door). With a VIP ticket ($100), the fun starts at 6 p.m. and includes additional delectables and a performance by WYEP favorite Freedy Johnston. For more information, visit www.wyep.org; for tickets, call 412-394-3353 or visit www.proartstickets.org.