By Margaret Welsh
Pittsburgh Current Music Editor
We all have those tricky people on our holiday gift lists: Your sister who already has everything she wants, your mom, for whom your mere presence at Christmas dinner is a present, your nephew who thinks you’re desperately uncool. The answer for the hard-to-gift is — almost — always music … and shouldn’t music haters get lumps of coal in their stockings anyway?
For the person who doesn’t want more junk: Concert tickets! For holiday-themed music (and early gift-giving) take a peek at the Heinz Hall holiday schedule. It starts early with Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 7 ($21-98), then Highmark Holiday Pops featuring the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and Broadway star Ashley Brown (Dec. 13-22, $22-99). On Monday, Dec. 16 and Tuesday, Dec. 17 BC Taylor carries on the legacy of his father’s annual holiday concerts with Feel the Love ($45.75-73.75). And Celtic Women: the Best of Christmas will perform an assortment of Irish Carols and festive anthems on Dec. 18 ($35-95).
And of course there are plenty of big, giftable tours coming in 2020. To name just a few: indie-pop up-and-comer King Princess at Stage AE, Saturday, Feb. 8 ($27.50-30); country weirdo Sturgill Simpson at the Petersen Event Center Wednesday, March 4 ($80.50); worldbeat indie rockers Vampire Weekend at Stage AE Wednesday, June 3 ($49.50-55); pop heart-throb Harry Styles with Jenny Lewis at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday, July 14 ($69.50 and up); and Green Day hits PNC Park on Aug. 15 ($56.50-450) with Weezer and Fallout Boy.
For the budding musicologist: A portable turntable ($49.99-239.99, www.musitrend.net) and a starter vinyl stash. If you’re shopping for a younger person — a daughter, a nephew, your best friend’s kid — help them explore and develop their taste with an assortment of records by local artists. Try Dead and Pathetic by goth punks Empty Beings ($15, www.playalonerecords.com); Circular Signals by trippy hip-hop duo The Latebloomer & Moemaw Naedon (five year anniversary release $20, soulslimerecords.bandcamp.com); Knife EP by garage psych-rockers Astrology Now ($8, astrologynow.bandcamp.com); Pressure by soulful arena rock ensemble The Commonheart ($25, www.thecommonheart.com); or Good Days Never Last Forever by indie rapper Mars Jackson ($20, https://marsjackson412.bandcamp.com).
If you feel like doing some brick and mortar shopping, swing by one of Pittsburgh’s record stores to pick something out, or grab a gift certificate. To name a few: Jerry’s Records, 2136 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill (412-421-4533); Cruel Noise Records, 3138 Dobson St., Polish Hill (412-621-1715); The Attic, 513 Grant Ave., Millvale (412-821-8484); The Government Center, 519 E. Ohio St., North Side (412-208-3262).
For the aspiring rock star: Studio time. You know that brilliant artist in your life? The one who’s been gigging around the city, writing songs, and recording on their laptop? Help them reach the next level by buying them some time with a professional recording engineer. There are many to choose from, including: +/- Recording in South Side (plusminusrec.com); Mr. Smalls Recording and Mastering Studio in the North Side (mrsmallsrecording.com); Very Tight Recordings in Sharpsburg (verytightrecordings.com); and Tuff Sound Recording, in Point Breeze (tuffsoundrecording.com). Hourly rates vary depending on the engineer and the project, so contact studios for more information.
Remember, choosing a recording studio can be a very personal decision, so you may want to give your beloved artist a heads-up before you drop the cash. If you don’t want to ruin the surprise … musicians always need gear. Another great opportunity to play it safe and pick up a gift certificate! Avoid the big box stores and try Pittsburgh Guitars (1305 E. Carson St., South Side, 412-431-0700) or N Stuff Music (formerly Pianos N Stuff, 468 Freeport Rd., Blawnox 412-828-1003).