Review/Pictorial: Tree of Life Benefit show @Stage AE feat: Daya, Mike Glabicki (Rusted Root/Uprooted), Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane), Low Cut Connie and more

The impact of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting was felt not only here in our city but nationwide.  Since that horrible day, there have been a few events put together trying to find ways to help.  WYEP General Manager Abby Goldstein also felt like she needed to take action and along with other others helped organize a tremendous show.  Stage AE provided the venue for free and employees worked for free so that more proceeds could benefit The Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh’s Victims of Terror Fund.

The biggest star of the evening was Daya, a Mt. Lebo native who wrote and performed the Billboard smash (#23),  “Hide Away“.  Daya was the second act to say yes to the show, only being beaten by Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie who performed the night before the shooting in Pittsburgh, both being stunned by the outrageous act that happened in a city otherwise known for its friendliness and compassion.

Acts poured in as Goldstein put together the show in a mere 5 weeks, a daunting task for anyone.  Sean Rowe (fr. Troy, NY), an alt-folk singer/songwriter opened the show.  Rowe has been performing since 2003 and is best known for his deep soothing voice and lyrics that connect with nature.  Rowe was outstanding and an excellent choice to start the evening.  Pittsburgh native Jessica Bitsura came up next and performed her country/folk style songs that were very heartfelt and although influenced by modern acts like Taylor Swift have a tinge of Baez and June Carter-Cash.  Bitsura currently lives in Nashville where she is finishing up her studies.

Jorma Kaukonen, a Rock N Roll Hall of Fame inductee for his work with Jefferson Airplane, and is known as well for the duo Hot Tuna,  played a killer set of his fingerstyle guitar playing of American grassroots music.  Brooke Annibale, another singer/songwriter, played an indie-acoustic set that held originals as well as a Beatles cover.  Her latest effort, Hold to the Light, is “a pop-progressive album that offers a fusion of textured electronic and traditional (guitar, strings, keys) instrumentation with songs bearing Brooke’s keen, soulful lyricism”.

Daya (the Sanskrit word for “compassion” or “kindness”) held court next as the energy and pace skyrocketed immediately.  Daya currently resides in L.A. but felt she had to return home to give something back to the city.  Daya is a Grammy Award-winning artist for  “Don’t Let Me Down” and has performed for the Obama’s at the White House, has done cameos with the likes of The Chainsmokers and RL Grime.  This night she shared the stage with Chris Jamison (3rd place Season 7 of “The Voice”) and performed an energetic and fun-filled set.

Pittsburgh legends, Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers, played next and even brought Jamison and Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner out to jam.  Their set was filled with good old rock n roll and was certainly an evening highlight.  When speaking of Joe it’s hard not to mention his close relationship with Bruce Springsteen, but alas, no Bruce sightings were to be had.  Next up was Mike Glabicki, best known for his multi-platinum band Rusted Root.  While Rusted Root is on hiatus, Michael has been devoting his time to creating an entirely new soundscape with new band Uprooted.  Mike played acoustically and opened up with mega-hit “Send Me on My Way” and also performed some new songs.  His set was heartfelt and he expressed how he ‘was at a loss for words’ when speaking of the tragedy.  Uprooted is performing Dec. 30th at Jergels.

The man not at a loss for words was Mayor Bill Peduto.  The Mayor spoke of the events of the tragic day and how they unfolded.  He went on to give a very uplifting speech about how great Pittsburgh is and all the people who came together that day and continue to do so.

Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie had performed a successful show the night previous to the shooting.  Adam Weiner expressed how he felt he had to come back.  It was a great close to the evening as Low Cut Connie is a rock n roll band that is part Jerry Lee Lewis, part J. Geils, and all about putting on a great performance.  Their latest release, Dirty Pictures (Part Two) is out now via Contender.  Indefinitely Low Cut Connie is one of the most energetic bands out there today, Los Angeles Weekly said, “Their ferocious live show…is unmatched in all of rock right now.”  We wholeheartedly agree.