Tuesday evening was perhaps the coldest day since fall set in here in Pittsburgh. So, we give props to those who ventured out to the Crafthouse Stage & Grill for an intimate evening with Jared James Nichols, his tour mates Cage Willis, and local supporting acts Tim Vitullo Band and Zach Rovito & The Rust Belt Rhythm.
Zach Rovito & The Rust Belt Rhythm started warming up the crowd with brief set that featured a unique mix of rock and country. Described as the melting pot of the blue collar entertainment found in and around the Steel City, they make their own music and deliver country classics along with rock anthems, like “You Wreck Me” by Tom Petty and “Scarecrow” by John Mellencamp, which were both included in the set that night.
Their ringleader is Zach Rovito is a local singer, songwriter and guitarist and The Rust Belt Rhythm is made up of Tony Villella (Lock Haven, PA) on lead guitar, Cory Steighner (Wilmington, NC) on bass guitar, and Colin Bronnenkant (Buffalo, NY) on drums.
Up next was the Tim Vitullo Band. Tim Vitullo is a Pittsburgh-based artist, sideman, and session musician. He has released three albums This is the Thing! (2012), Josephine & Assorted Train Songs (2015), and Running out of Time (2020).
His band has performed in over a dozen different states in support of a long list of artists that includes the legendary B.B. King. Tim was named “Who’s Next” in Music by The Incline (2017) and currently serves as the Artist in Residence for Secret Menu Social and lead guitarist for The Berrys.
Tim was joined by Brent McConnell on drums and Vince Paola on bass for a five-song set that kicked off with their own “Ellicott City” and concluded with a foot-tapping cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” which was the only non-original cut from the band. You can check him out on Spotify or locally as follows:
Genre bending southern rock artist Cage Willis performed songs from his debut album, Who I Am, as well as an unreleased track. A medley inspired by their run with Foreigner last summer was the surprise addition, offering a unique mash-up of two arena anthems, Poison “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” and Tesla’s “What You Give,” that took the songs from teased hair to twang. Other highlights included the heartfelt “Oh Lord Hear My Cry” and “Way Out Here.”
Joined by Andrew Logan on bass and Benji Knoelling on drums, Cage Willis promises an explosive listening experience. Their debut album was produced by songwriter Chris Robertson of Black Stone Cherry. Follow Cage on social media for updates on new music, tour dates, and more captures as they’ve got an up and coming photographer Josh Meredith documenting their journey on the road.
Known for his high-energy finger-picked electric guitar playing technique and arsenal of Epiphone and Gibson Les Paul guitars, headliner Jared James Nichols delivers 1970s style hard-rock with swagger and grit.
Nichols formed his own trio more than a decade ago after winning the Gibson Les Paul Tribute Contest as well as the Musicians Institute “Most Outstanding Player” Award. And, it was his first 3-song EP Live at the Viper Room that started it all.
Jared James Nichols is no stranger to Pittsburgh as he recalled a memorable night at Mr. Smalls Theater opening for fellow axe-slinger, Zakk Wylde, on the Book of Shadows II tour. There were no broken guitars tonight, just lots of string-bending fun with lots of crowd participation.
Jared recently kicked-off his first extensive run through the East Coast and the Midwest in four years with support from Cage Willis following the release of his cover of “Man In The Box” by Alice in Chains from his latest self-titled release Jared James Nichols via Black Hill Records.
The tour also celebrates the launch of Nichols’ signature Epiphone Les Paul Guitar “Blues Power,” and has included a special free show & release party at Sweetwater Music in Ft. Wayne, IN as well as in-store shows in Illinois, Indiana, and his first home state of Wisconsin in earlier in November.
Nichols is joined by drummer Ryan Rice and bassist Louis Collins. And, some make recognize Louis as he performed at the Crafthouse Stage & Grill with Jason Charles Miller earlier this year in support of Faster Pussycat.
The trio pleased the crowd with original cuts like “Down The Drain,” “Good Time Girl” and “Threw Me to The Wolves,” as well as a few fun covers that included Cream’s “Sunshine of My Love” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” He even did some fiddling through on a Beatles request just for fun while enjoying a shot with a family in the crowd, but what truly blew me away was his walk through the history of British blues-rock royalty throwing out riffs from the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Whitesnake among others. That was until he had us laughing when he tossed in the theme from the Addam’s Family tv show just to make sure we were listening. Also noteworthy was Jared’s own version of the Blues Traveler song “Keep Yours Light on Mama” featuring Nichols from their 2021 release Travelers Blues.
Following this run through the US, Jared James Nichols can be found supporting super group Mr. Big on “The Big Finish” tour in the United Kingdom
Live Photos by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen for The Pure Rock Shop. Posted on 12/1/2023.