Blairsville band joins Beasts of the Burgh rock show at Mr. Smalls

Aug. 5—There's a reason why Nashville is called "Music City USA."

As the center of the country music industry, and with one of the nation's most vibrant, competitive music scenes, it can create an intimidating situation for a band making its first trip to Tennessee's capital.

Don't tell that to Mike Conrad, drummer for the Blairsville rock band Black Ridge.

"I didn't find it intimidating at all," said Conrad, 24, of Tarentum. "I went down there in high school with my marching band on our senior trip. And even then, I knew I wanted to get a band down there."

Black Ridge, which is steeped in the tradition of classic rock with a soul influence, recently returned to the Pittsburgh area after spending a week in Nashville, just in time for Beasts of the Burgh, a musical showcase set for Saturday at Mr. Smalls in Millvale.

"Playing at Mr. Smalls is one of the best places in the city," Conrad said. "The sound is always tremendous, and to know that you're sitting in the narthex of what used to be an old Pittsburgh church is really cool."

The band is bringing a good deal of energy back from Tennessee.

"I really wanted to get down there and try to make a name for ourselves," he said. "One thing I noticed is there's a lot of singer-songwriters, country artists and cover bands, but there's not a whole lot of ensemble-like bands like Black Ridge down there."

Conrad said the band's gigs went very well, and they were asked back by several band bookers.

Black Ridge will be joined onstage at Mr. Smalls for an all-ages show that also includes hard rockers Chip & The Charge Ups, atmospheric post-rockers Amplifiers and power-pop punk rockers Johnny and the Razorblades.

"Beasts of the Burgh is such an incredibly awesome lineup. The fans are in for a treat — from the first note of the show until the last," said Chip Dominick, vocalist and guitarist of Chip & The Charge Ups. "This is a concert that will be insanely fun, historic and memorable. It's an amazing thing for our city!"

Conrad is excited not just to perform, but to hear the other bands.

"One of my teachers at Highlands High School always talked about the Amplifiers when I was in school, and I'm really excited to see them," he said.

Conrad said the camaraderie of live music is what he loves most about performing.

"I've been playing in live music ensembles my whole life, and there's nothing better," he said. "Sometimes it gets a little repetitious, playing the set-list over and over again, but watching people experience our music for the first time, and the enjoyment we get meeting them after the show? That's what it's about."

Beasts of the Burgh will be at 8 p.m. Saturday at Mr. Smalls, 400 Lincoln Ave. in Millvale. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at or via Twitter .