One look at the lineup for the Strip District Music Fest and your eyes start to glaze over. 21 stages. 160+ performers, almost all of them local. Where do you even begin? It’s like dining at some sumptuous buffet: there’s no way you’ll sample every bit of the bounty, but with a discerning eye and some careful planning, you’ll head home fully satisfied.

Here are some sample itineraries to suit a diverse array of palates and situations. And remember, one of the best things about these day-long festivals is checking out something completely new; if you hear music playing from a venue, dip in and give it a chance. No one will be offended if you leave after 10 minutes, and you might just find a new favorite artist or genre.

The event is free but donations are accepted, with 75% going to the individual artist and 25% to the festival for reinvestment toward next year’s event. More information and a complete schedule is available here.

For the Night Owl:

If you’re on the city side of the Strip, R.A.R.E. Nation founder (and Mac Miller’s original hype man) Palermo Stone is at the Daily Bread/Taylor Gang Beats stage outside of Altar Bar (1620 Penn) at 9:20 p.m. Then, head inside to catch Dethlehem (10 p.m.), Pittsburgh’s medieval answer to GWAR. From there, head to Cruze (1600 Smallman, 21+) for a solid lineup of electronic dance music, then head back to Altar for three of Pittsburgh’s premiere pop bands: Balloon Ride Fantasy at 11:45 p.m.; veteran power-pop trio Meeting of Important People at 12:30 a.m.; and finally, at 1:15 in the morning, the headliners, high-energy electro-pop band Nevada Color.

If you’re on the other end of the Strip, check indie pop band Donora‘s headlining set at the Edge of the X stage at 10 p.m. (31st and Penn), then run down to the Pittsburgh Winery (2815 Penn) to catch Clinton Clegg and the Commonheart blow the roof off at 11 p.m. Or, you can just hang out at Framezilla (2716 Penn) to catch two of the city’s best indie rock bands, Wreck Loose at 10 p.m. and Grand Piano at 11 p.m.

Gaucho Parilla hosts live music from 2:30-10 p.m. Photo by Rob Larson.
Gaucho Parilla hosts live music from 2:30-10 p.m. Photo by Rob Larson.

For the Early Bird:

At noon, local scuzz-rockers William Forrest kick off 14 straight hours of music at Altar Bar (1620 Penn). Otherwise, the closest music you’ll find that early is at the Beerhive (2117 Penn, 21+), where the hard-rocking Street Pigeons kick off the day with a noon set of their own.

After the Pigeons, stick to the Beerhive for some more classic rock sounds with The Even Three, who recently opened for Iron Butterfly. Or head to 26th Street Market and Cafe for some psych rock with Olympic Village (12:45 p.m.; 2549 Penn), or blues rock with The Deep Vees at nearby Savoy (12:30 p.m.; 2623 Penn, 21+).

Seven-piece rock and soul group Nightly Standard perform at Savoy (21+) at 1:30 p.m., after which you can stay at Savoy for some more soul with Rachel B (2:15 p.m.), or head two blocks over to catch acoustic singer/songwriter Mike Cali (2 p.m.) at the Pittsburgh Winery (2815 Penn). And if you’re still up for more, head to the Edge of The X Stage (31st and Penn) for sets by local rockers Wicked Chief (2:45 p.m.) and Talkers (3:30 p.m.).

For people who want to stay in one spot:

You don’t need Joe DeNardo to tell you that it’s going to be cold Saturday, and that the wind will sting your face like a thousand tiny frozen daggers. Have a friend drop you off at Altar Bar (1620 Penn), which boasts a varied, 14-hour long musical bill from which you won’t have to budge. Depending when you arrive, there’s pop-punk in the afternoon with Mace Ballard and The Spacepimps (2:15 and 3 p.m., respectively), and metal in the evening, including Vermithrax, Lady Beast, Greywalker and Arcane Heaven, all playing between 6 and 9:30 p.m.

Need a quick bite? Run (quickly) across the street to Gaucho Parilla (1601 Penn), which boasts an impressive block of psychedelia at the same time as Altar’s metal block, including Dhruva Krishna at 6 p.m., Paisley pastoral-psych from NEXT’s own Jennifer Baron and her band The Garment District at 6:45, psych-gaze from Mantiques at 7:30 and Grateful Dead-style Americana of Dizzy Woosh at 8:15. Afterward, head back to Altar for the headliners and don’t forget to check out the Electronic Basement, which features six electronic artists from 8 p.m. until one in the morning.

For the Scene Vet:

Fans of hardcore punk should post up at the Enrico Biscotti Warehouse, because that’s the only place you’ll need to be. The music starts at 1:15 p.m. with hard rock band The Filthy Lowdown, and new bands take the stage every 45 minutes, including a performance by Broughton’s Rules (ex-Don Caballero) at 5 p.m. The hardcore action really heats up at 8, with Killer of Sheep (ex-Battered Citizens) and World’s Scariest Police Chases.

But what sets this stage apart from every other venue are the four reunion acts. Members of Teddy Duchamp’s Army went on to form Voice in the Wire, but it will be Voice in the Wire performing first, at 9:30 p.m., followed by Teddy Duchamp’s at 10:20 p.m. Former Anti-Flag touring partners Tabula Rasa perform a 45-minute set 11:15 p.m., and the night will be capped off by a performance from math-rockers Creta Bourzia, who at one point, along with Damon Che, made up the entire Don Cab lineup.

For something other than music:

Drinking Partners, Day Bracey and Ed Bailey.
Drinking Partners, Day Bracey and Ed Bailey.

Start your Saturday in the Strip like any other and peruse the markets, making sure to stop in at Wholey’s (1711 Penn), which will have live painting demonstrations from noon to 4 p.m. Afterward, head to the Pittsburgh Public Market from 3 to 4 p.m. for a live demonstration of Black Yoga: a vinyasa yoga routine set to black and drone metal, which has been receiving international press. From there, hurry down to Maggie’s Farm Rum for the Epicast Stage, where the Drinking Partners, Ed Bailey and Day Bracey, will be recording a live podcast from 4 to 5 p.m. Afterward, it’s Murderers’ Row: five straight hours of the best in Pittsburgh comedy, including Tim Ross, John Dick Winters, Molly Sharrow, Shannon Norman, individual sets from Ed and Day, and more.

A full schedule and list of venues can be found on the Strip District Music Fest website.

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.