June is this writer’s favorite month, with its lush greens, idyllic temps and promise of summer. As we make the most of long daylight hours, welcome the summer solstice and celebrate all of the dedicated dads out there, June is also the perfect time to rediscover the city’s communal spaces, recreational amenities and cultural gems. This month’s Top 10 is all about all things outdoors(y)—with festivals aplenty—so we hope to see you out there.
1. First Niagara Presents First Fridays at the Frick: June 5, 7 p.m.
Pack a picnic, grab friends and spread a blanket on the Great Lawn at the Frick Art & Historical Center. Toss in free live music under the stars and let that magical summer feeling take hold. For urban dwellers, securing a coveted spot for the highly popular series is a cherished summertime tradition. Kicking off the 2015 season is Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo player Old Man Luedecke. Hailing from Chester, Nova Scotia the two-time Juno Award winner released his latest album, I Never Sang Before I Met You, in 2014.
Mark your calendars now for the entire season: Carpe Diem Quartet on July 3rd, singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger on August 7th and Opek Plays Strayhorn on on September 4th.
Suggested donation: $5 per adult. Attendees are invited to arrive early and create a gourmet picnic with selections from The Café at the Frick.
Looking for more First Fridays fun? Mt. Lebanon kicks off their free series on June 5th and Brookline‘s Bash on the Blvd. continues on June 26th.
2. A (micro) history of world economics, danced at the New Hazlett Theater, June 5 & 6, 7 p.m.
Dance, theater and economics will converge at this one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh premiere. Working in close collaboration with 15 Pittsburghers with disabilities—along with 30 of their family members, friends and caregivers and 15 singers from the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, professional actors and an economic philosopher played by artist/activist John Malpede—world-renowned French director Pascal Rambert is creating the work as part of a residency with City of Asylum.
Conceived by Rambert at the peak of the European economic crisis, the production explores a collective economic history via movement, theater and personal stories of diverse community participants—ultimately conveying how it has impacted people’s lives worldwide.
The free production coincides with the 25th anniversary celebration of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Created for select international cities, the insightful work explores timeless questions about how economic value is created during times of great income disparity. Part of City of Asylum’s artist-in-the-community residency, the show strives to give voice to disenfranchised individuals and communities, create opportunities for civic engagement and empower the creative potential of Pittsburgh and its residents.
The event is free but an RSVP is required.
3. Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival: June 5 – 14
Where can you experience art as psychic healing and catch a free concert by L.A. songstress Jenny Lewis? Recently nominated by USA Today as one of the country’s Best Art Festivals, the 56th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival (TRAF) fills downtown with world-class multi-disciplinary arts programming—including a signature artist market with 300+ vendors, children’s activities and plenty of festival food.
Festival-goers can experience public art as psychic healing while viewing Rudy Shepherd’s Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber, visit Michelle Illuminato’s Lost & Found Factory to watch artists recreate and return missing items to their owners and learn about Native Americans who perished between 1492 and 1600 in Fernando Orellana’s Confluence.
This year’s multiple stages feature everything from guitar god Richard Thompson and folk-rockers The Felice Brothers, to bluesy singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker and Alynda Lee Segarra’s Nola ensemble, Hurray for the Riff Raff.
Stroll down Liberty Ave. to see how artists activate downtown storefronts, including Community Supported Art’s Small Mall Pop-up Store and Matt Forrest’s Trophy Cam projections of the mystical Pennsylvania wilderness.
What else is new? For the first time in two decades, TRAF opened its juried visual art exhibition to artists living outside Pittsburgh, and the result is a multimedia group show featuring 41 works by 31 artists. Also new is a focus on literary arts, with programs featuring Jasiri X, Tameka Cage Conley, Dreams of Hope and others.And to mark its 50th anniversary, Pittsburgh Society of Artists will present Intr(au)spective, featuring 34 pieces juried by Freya Spira of the Met.
During TRAF’s closing weekend, don’t miss exciting B-boy style breakdance battles between the Hidden Characters and Get Down Gang.
Since this just a taste, be sure to check our events section for more details. View a complete TRAF schedule with maps and directions.
4. Full Bloom at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: June 6, 7 p.m.
Your passport to a spring fling with global flair is the Full Bloom Dance Party. Featuring cuisine, sounds and activities paying tribute to the artists of the Kelly Strayhorn’s World Stage, the benefit bash showcases the artistic vision and international companies the theater has introduced to Pittsburgh audiences.
Full Bloom is also a party with a purpose: all proceeds support the theater’s programming for families and youth in East Liberty.
Dress up or dress down, but come ready to dance. Ramping up the seventh annual edition will be the event’s first on-stage dance party. Get a colorful henna tattoo and then jump on stage as DJ Pandemic spins world beats. More of a wallflower? Have your fortune told in the Moroccan lounge, create a keepsake in the interactive photo booth and bid on cool packages from local businesses during the auction. In between grooves, savor refreshing Rock Bottom brews in the Bavarian Beer Garden and enjoy treats from Greek Gourmet, East End Food Co-op, Everyday’s a Sundae and Livermore.
5. PRIDE Week: June 5 -14
Pride Week festivities across the state will be celebrated fresh on the heels of the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in Pennsylvania. From large festivals to after-hours clubs, here are just a few of the many Pride Week highlights:
June 5 & 6: Cafe Con Leche presents Orgullo! Pittsburgh Latin@ LGBTQ Pride at Bricolage Production Company. Pittsburgh’s first Latin Pride celebration will feature film screenings, workshops, music, food, community resources and more. Don’t miss the Pittsburgh premiere of the storytelling project and documentary The Gran Varones and a presentation by keynote speaker Bamby Salcedo.
June 12: Pgh Bro Club presents Ready. Set. Riot! at Cruze Bar. Celebrating the riotous, punk beginnings of contemporary queer culture, Sharon Needles’ Black Rainbow bash boasts “deranged performances by a coterie of marvelous and bizarre guests,” notably the not-to-miss winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4. Open to ages 21 & up. 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. $12 advance ($15 at the door).
June 12 – 14: Honchothon’s Pittsburgh Pride Weekend. Looking for more ways to spice up your Pride with an underground vibe? Honcho’s edgy three-day fest includes a men-only party at Club Pittsburgh and Hot Mass, a headlining event featuring Detroit’s DJ Minx and Chicago’s Steve Mizek at Hot Mass, the return of the Sunday boat cruise with disco DJs, and a Sunday night movie and pizza party at Spirit.
June 13 & 14: Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh presents Pittsburgh Pride in the Street, March for Equality and PrideFest. Commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City and reflecting the theme of “All You Need is Love,” Pride in the Street features Grammy-nominated songwriter and rapper Iggy Azalea on June 13th, and the March for Equality and PrideFest on June 14th. Free and family-friendly, the daylong PrideFest features 150-plus street performers, dance companies, drag queens and kings, musicians, food purveyors, and games and attractions.
The Delta Foundation’s choice to book Iggy Azalea has sparked controversy locally, leading to the creation of a Facebook page with 850-plus supporters who are criticizing and protesting the decision. Many in the LGBTQ community believe that prior statements made by the rapper are racist and homophobic. Learn more about these protest activities, as well as additional new Pride Week events, here and on the Facebook pages and websites for the Garden of Peace Project, Roots Pride Pittsburgh and Dreams of Hope.
Mark your calendars now for Pittsburgh Black Pride taking place July 20 – 31.
6. CREATE 2015: Pittsburgh’s Art + Technology Festival: June 10 – 12, Wyndham Grand Hotel
We should dub June the Cultural District month, given the array of festivals, farmers markets and concerts taking place throughout the arts hub over the next 30 days. A first-of-its-kind art and tech mashup to add to your list is the much-buzzed-about CREATE 2015: Pittsburgh’s Art + Technology Festival, which boasts more than 50 events, workshops, exhibits, talks and interactive sessions.
Teaming up with the Three Rivers Arts Festival, CREATE will showcase regional innovation and connect Pittsburgh with global creative leaders. For the first time this year, national heavy-hitters will showcase their innovative products such as AT&T’s Virtual Reality Goggles and Hewlett-Packard’s Sprout, the world’s first immersive computer.
Featured presenters from Silicon Valley and beyond include Denise Jacob of Creativity Revolution, and Miki Agrawal, author of Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After.
Representing Pittsburgh will be top creatives from local art, tech and community scenes. Festival-goers can experience a 22-foot immersive dome created by artist Ian Brill, attend Heather Knight’s robot comedy, take a maker workshop led by TechShop, watch game jams and much more.
View a full CREATE Festival schedule.
7. Mattress Factory Urban Garden Party, June 19, 7 p.m.
One year they built a half-pipe in the middle of the dance floor. Another year it was models who performed in a tub of milk. What’s in store for this year’s Urban Garden Party?
On one of the longest nights of the year, the anything-goes benefit bash salutes the 13th letter of the alphabet. Read: calling all magicians, mermaids and martians to the MF for music and mayhem. Dubbed M is for Mattress Factory, the shindig boasts a Michael Jackson tribute, magic shows by Baffling Bob, a Selfie Studios photo booth and performances by Meeting of Important People, Machete Kisumontao, DJs Orquidea and Mad Maxx and Tierra Darshell’s Divas of Drag.
Walking into the room-sized art installations at the Mattress Factory is akin to stepping into other realms, and the same can be said for its signature fundraiser—a place for where you and 1,400 other art lovers will commune for a night of stimulating arts entertainment and fare from a staggering lineup of 40-plus food vendors.
If you’re still standing on Sunday, June 21st, head back to the MF for the Community Garden Party, a free family-friendly celebration featuring hands-on activities and performances.
8. Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival: June 19 – 21, Cultural District
Come late June, jazz sounds from around world will be heard throughout the streets, clubs and cafes of the Cultural District. From Afro-Caribbean rhythms and soaring vocals, to soul, funk and symphonic sounds—the 5th annual JazzLive Festival will showcase the breadth, depth and diversity of the genre.
While JazzLive is a major festival—some 15,000 fans attended last year—it still manages to retain a laid-back, intimate vibe. Presenting established and emerging acts in a variety of settings, this year’s festival focuses on artists with both international reputations and musical origins.
Featured performers include Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion, Average White Band, Christian McBride Trio, Bebel Gilberto, Somi, Etienne Charles Calypso Review, Camila Meza, Sammy Figueroa’s Latin Jazz Explosion, Joey DeFrancesco, Aaron Abernathy & the Nat Turner Band, Craig Handy & Second Line Smith and more. Also not to miss is Song for My Father Reimagined featuring acclaimed drummer Roger Humphries and trumpeter Sean Jones interpreting the music of legendary jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver.
The free Jazz Crawl boasts 150 musicians, late-night club performances and spontaneous jam sessions. Festival-goers can also shop at the Showcase Noir African American Designer Market, pop-up Trust Vinyl record store and outdoor Night Market.
View a complete JazzLive schedule.
9. Make Music Pittsburgh: June 21, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
In 1971 Cat Stevens sang jubilantly, “if you want to sing out, sing out,” which became the beloved theme song for Hal Ashby’s cult film Harold and Maude. The catchy tune could serve as the perfect call to action for a new initiative debuting in Pittsburgh on June 21st. Launching its first annual event throughout the city, Make Music Pittsburgh will showcase homegrown musical talents while inspiring one and all to play, sing and create together.
From hip hop in Lawrenceville and gospel in Highland Park, to bluegrass in Squirrel Hill and jazz in the Hill District—or kids playing the harmonica in Bloomfield—Make Music will create a live soundtracks for the Burgh’s sidewalks, parks and alleys. Organizer Jasmine Kurjakovic says that the day will also include performances by The Steel City Ukuleles, a mass harmonica ensemble, a documentary film project, collaborations with local music and neighborhood groups and more.
How does it work? Anyone can participate by either playing music outside, providing an outdoor space, volunteering or simply walking around and listening to concerts. Performers of all ages, levels and styles of music are welcome. Musicians can sign up to play and businesses and homes can sign up to host musicians outside of their locations. All the festival organizers ask is that the music is kept outdoors so everyone can enjoy it for free.
First held in France in 1982, Make Music will occur in some 750 cities around the globe on June 21, 2015. Ready to pick up a guitar or clarinet or host musicians? Sign up today and learn more here.
10. WYEP Summer Music Festival: June 27, 3 – 11 p.m.
Just 28 more days. Can we agree that summer is all about music under the stars? Good, then grab a blanket and your entire crew and head to Schenley Plaza for WYEP’s 18th annual Summer Music Festival.
Headlining this year’s free festival is American singer-songwriter and producer Martin Sexton. Winner of the 1994 National Academy of Songwriters’ Artist of the Year Award, Sexton has toured with Art Garfunkel, Jackson Browne and John Hiatt. His latest album, Mixtape of the Open Road, was released in 2015. Acclaimed for his wide vocal range and improvisational techniques, Sexton’s expressive music blends elements of soul, gospel, country, rock, blues and R&B.
Also featured will be The Lone Bellow, an Americana trio featuring guitars, mandolin and vocals, and Nashville indie-rock band Kopecky. Underscoring WYEP’s commitment to pairing local and emerging talent with internationally known artists, the festival will also feature a set by Pittsburgh-based pop band Brightside.
Kicking off the festival at 3 p.m. will be local teen bands from WYEP’s Reimagination CD project. Families can also pop into the plaza tent to participate in hands-on children’s activities. Music starts at 6 p.m.
Because all good lists must come to an end, we give you our 6 very honorable mentions for June:
RAW Pittsburgh presents Splendor at Mr. Smalls: June 4
City Theatre Company’s Momentum 15 Festival: June 5 & 6
Open House events at The Clemente Museum: June 12 & 13
Vincent, A Special CMOA Theatrical Presentation at Carnegie Lecture Hall: June 13 & 14
Awesome Pittsburgh Foundation‘s “Awesome in Braddock” event at The Brew Gentlemen: June 15
London/Pittsburgh: Mark Neville at Silver Eye Center for Photography: June 26
Looking for events for families and children?
Be sure to read our Top 10 Family Adventures this June in Pittsburgh feature.
Looking for live music?
Check out our Sound Picks: 10 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in June feature.