• There aren't many bands in Pittsburgh, or beyond, who travel with their own mascot, but Gramsci Melodic has its own take on Steely McBeam in a dancing character with an oversized green head.
He was even grooving in the hot sun earlier this week at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.
Gramsci Melodic, which formed in early 2007 with a nod to philosopher Antonio Gramsci (pronounced Grom-she), is a five-piece synth-rock band that draws comparisons to They Might Be Giants, Weezer and Fountains of Wayne.
Singer-guitarist Martin Rubeo started the project making homemade demos and then added the full band of drummer Sean Rayl, bassist Tony Willoe, keyboardist Greg Haduch and synthesizer player Joel York to play nearly 100 shows within two years and win the 2008 Pittsburgh Rock Off.
Now, Gramsci Melodic issues its 11-track debut CD, scattering its attention among driving synth-rockers like "Eggshell," dreamy ballads like "Way Back to Christmas" and a '70s funk workout called "New Delhi."
The CD Release show is at 10 p.m. Saturday at Altar Bar in the Strip. Admission is $7.
• Having played the Pittsburgh scene and beyond for three years, The Atomic Drops figured it was about time to drop the debut, so the band will do so Friday night at the 31st Street Pub, and even give away free ones to the first 50 people in the door.
The 12-song CD captures "Pittsburgh's only true Rock and Roll Band," as the Drops claim to be, in the vein of AC/DC and Thin Lizzy. It's loud, brash and never stops rocking.
In its first three years, the band -- singer Scotty Terz, guitarists Mike Copen and Luke Mitchell, bassist Mike Lux and drummer Phil Irvin -- has shared stages with such acts as Valiant Thorr, The Supersuckers and Gito Gito Hustler and played the Heavy Rebel Weekender in North Carolina.
• The Poogie Bell Band, fresh from a European tour and a show at the Blue Note in New York City, returns to Club Cafe Friday night with its blend of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, rock and funk.
Bell, a Hill District native who started playing drums at 10 months and made his debut at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh at age 2, has worked with the likes of David Bowie, Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu and David Sanborn.
His jam band features bassist Kevin Barefoot, saxophonist Tony Campbell, guitarist Juan Vasquez and keyboardist Howie Alexander.
The show is at 10:30 p.m. Admission is $7. Call 1-866-468-3401 or go to myspace.com/thepoogiebellband.
Big Girl Talk show
• In what looks to be the dance party of the summer, Pittsburgh laptop sensation Girl Talk will play the Amphitheatre at Station Square on July 31. Stay tuned for ticket details.
Weekend Mag editor Scott Mervis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2576.