From single-day neighborhood festivals to weeklong extravaganzas, summer music festivals in Pittsburgh take on all shapes and sizes. Here’s a closer look at each of the festivals, with information on the performers and what makes each festival unique.
Pittsburgh Festival of New Music
Now through May 30, throughout town. Pricing varies by event.
This one is already underway. There was a pop-up performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite in Market Square. Otherwise, glancing at the full festival lineup, there are a lot of world premieres and descriptors like “minimalist” and “avant-garde.” Take, for example, the Pittsburgh premiere of Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning, described as being composed for “a large number of trained and untrained musicians, based on on texts by Confucius in Ezra Pound’s translations.” Kudos to anyone doing something outre and new in Pittsburgh. Get the full lineup at the Festival website.
Layer Cake Festival
June 3-4, Mr. Smalls (21+); Cattivo (21+); Spirit (21+); James St. Gastropub (all ages). $15 (single venue) – $30 (all venues).
Last year, Layer Cake Festival took the neighborhood tour model and packed it inside James St. Gastropub, with over 30 bands spread across 3 different stages. Like Deutstchtown, Layer Cake expands to 2 nights this year. Over 120 bands will play across 4 different venues, each with multiple stages. A shuttle will run between venues. Layer Cake stands out for featuring a large number of local hip-hop acts, as well as a smattering of regional bands. More info, including set times, will be announced on the Layer Cake Facebook page.
Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
June 3-12, Point State Park. Free.
The unofficial start to summer in Pittsburgh, this year’s Arts Fest lineup falls in the same mold as years past—heavy on folk, bluegrass and soul; light on hip-hop, heavy metal, or rock that’s any harder than Guster (see them June 10). Some of this year’s standout headliners include Parisian twin sister duo Ibeyi (June 5), retro jazz/soul outfit Lake Street Dive (June 12), and “the screaming eagle of soul,” Charles Bradley (June 8). Check out NEXT’s full-length TRAF preview for more information on the headliners, and visit the Arts Fest website for full festival details.
Allegheny County Parks Summer Concert Series
Fridays, June 3-September 4 (South Park); Sundays, June 5-September 6 (Hartwood Acres). Free.
With free concerts running every week from June through September, there are bound to be both hits and misses when it comes to the Summer Concert Series at South Park and Hartwood Acres. Some standouts include The Ohio Players (7/17, Hartwood), Booker T’s Stax Revue (8/14, Hartwood), a pair of performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (6/3 South Park; 7/3 Hartwood), as well as Randy Baumann’s Ramble (7/31 Hartwood), an all-star local rock band revue. Each concert is free, except for the Allegheny County Music Festival, September 4, featuring Rusted Root with Nevada Color, Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors ($20 suggested donation). See the entire summer concert series lineup at the Allegheny County website.
Pittsburgh JazzLive International Jazz Festival presented by Citizens Bank
June 24-26, Downtown. Pricing Varies.
Of course the city that gave the world Stanley Turrentine, Ahmad Jamal, Errol Garner and Billy Eckstine would have a top-notch international jazz festival representative of all types of jazz. Taking place in the Cultural District, this year’s JazzLive spans three days and is headlined by former Miles Davis pianist, Chick Corea, alongside drummer Brian Blade and bassist Christian McBride. Also appearing: the Eddie Palmieri Big Salsa Orchestra, and Pittsburgh’s own, Jeff “Tain” Watts. Outdoor performances are free; indoor performances will be ticketed. Keep an eye on the Pittsburgh JazzLive website for schedules and ticket prices as they are made available.
WYEP Summer Music Festival 2016
June 25; Schenley Plaza, Oakland. Free.
This year’s lineup is solid: opener Margaret Glaspy’s debut album comes out in June on ATO Records (home to Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket), and headliner Lucius is one of the more innovative indie pop bands to emerge from Brooklyn in recent memory. And while Summer Music Fest is one of the best local festivals at providing equal headlining space to female-fronted musical acts, since 2008, when the festival first moved to Schenley Plaza, there has been but a single minority musical performer on the bill. There is also a kid-friendly Reimagination Showcase in the afternoon, which itself features a very diverse lineup, including the East Liberty Presbyterian Church’s Hope Academy Teen Theater Company, as well as the Funky Fly Project (ages 10-14). More info at the WYEP website.
Jam On Walnut
June 25; July 23; August 20. 5442 Walnut Street. Free.
However you felt about the 2015 Jam on Walnut, you’ll feel the same about it this year, too: all three headliners are repeats from last year, including “Pittsburgh’s Premier Disco Party Band,” Dancing Queen (June 25); country singer/fiddler, Chris Higbee (July 23); and local cover band, Radio Tokyo (August 20). (They could have at least brought back Bon Journey.)Happy Hour is from 7-8:30; proceeds from the event benefit Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Western PA Chapter. This is the block party’s 20th anniversary. More information on the Jam on Walnut Facebook page.
Vine Rewind: A Penn Avenue Picnic
June 26, 2800 Block Penn Ave. Free.
The inaugural Vine Rewind, an initiative of the Pittsburgh Winery, takes place the day of OpenStreetsPGH. Beginning in the morning, at 10 a.m., the 2800 block of Penn Avenue will remain closed to traffic all day, even after OpenStreets ends. The free block party features local food, beer, and a pair of outdoor stages. Clinton Clegg’s The Commonheart headlines, while over a dozen Pittsburgh heavy-hitters take to the stage throughout the day, including Joy Ike, Nevada Color, and Morgan Erina. There’ll even be a performance by the Buzz Poets. Set times and more information on the Vine Rewind Facebook page.
Deutschtown Music Festival
July 8-9, Deutschtown (multiple venues). Free.
Deutschtown is essentially the Northside version of Lawrenceville’s Rock All Night Tour: take a couple dozen venues, open them to the public and let local bands play sets inside, free of charge, all day (and all night) long. Now in its fourth year, Deutschtown has expanded into a two-day festival, both Friday and Saturday, complete with food trucks, outdoor stages, and over 180(!) local performers. There’s no better crash course to Pittsburgh’s local music. More information is available at the Deutschtown website.