Summer might be 56 days away (yes we’re counting), but May officially kicks off the outdoor event season in our book. Named for the Roman goddess Maia—who oversaw the growth of plants—the Merry Month of May is packed with spring happenings and festivals spanning Bayardstown to Braddock. In between celebrating May Day, Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day—not to mention honoring all of the mothers out there—we direct you to this month’s top events list, which was nearly impossible to whittle down to 10.
1. Pittonkatonk Festival: May 2, Vietnam Veterans Pavilion, Schenley Park
Honk, stomp and cheer your way into May at the authentically Pittsburgh first-of-its-kind Pittonkatonk Brass Festival. Quickly garnering “coolest event of 2014” praise among local music lovers after its 2014 debut, the highly anticipated second edition of the free family-friendly celebration will bring feel-good vibes to the outdoor pavilion.
Nationally touring acts headlining Pittonk this year are Providence, RI-based 18-piece brass punk band What Cheer? Brigade, NYC’s Pitchblak Brass Band, prolific Balkan brass ensemble Black Bear Combo from Chicagoland and the funky 27-member Detroit Party Marching Band. Rounding out the roster are local ensembles Beauty Slap, May Day Marching Band, Colonel Eagleburger’s Goodtime Highstepping Band, Slide Worldwide Brass Band and more. New this year is the addition of two local high school marching bands and an educational partnership and collaborative performance featuring students from the UPrep High School Band and What Cheer.
Last year some 700 people gathered (many with homemade sausage and Slivovitz in hand) to enjoy the electrifying brass music, celebrate May Day and International Workers’ Day and take in the bucolic surroundings. Equal parts music festival and family potluck, Pittonkatonk is a labor of love presented by local DJ, promoter and event producer Pete Spynda along with Rich Randall and the Listening Spaces Project. Help make it happen by donating to their Indiegogo campaign or volunteering.
2. Bayardstown Social Club Opening Night: May 8, 3008 Penn Avenue, Strip District
Where can you sit around a campfire with the city’s skyline at your back? No it’s not the name of Pittsburgh’s newest rugby club, nor is it a new musical opening at the Pittsburgh CLO. If you’ve heard the buzz about Bayardstown Social Club but still don’t know what the heck it is, you don’t want to miss its season opener. What began as a summer experiment in 2013, has become Pittsburgh’s most talked about outdoor venue with 1,000-plus members and counting.
Social clubbers will be treated to live music under the stars by good-time country and swing band The Turpentiners and funky soul by DJ Gordy G of the Title Town, movies and seasonal treats. Test your skills at outdoor games, including—if you dare—rounds of Stump (read: a game involving a hammer, nails, a tree stump and beer). Fuel up with grub at local food trucks and wash it all down with Rock Bottom brews.
Along with your membership ($40), you’ll want to snag some BSC merch, such as t-shirts, patches and koozies featuring the club’s logo—a tribute to the 19th-century street gang the Bayardstown Rats and the Strip’s former name. The brainchild of Pittsburgh-based innovation studio Deeplocal, the communal BYOB spot is equipped with picnic tables, grills, fire pits, tape decks, boom boxes, shade and rain cover and a stage.
Looking for another winning combo of outdoor fun, live music and beer? Don’t miss the kick-off of Weather Permitting‘s 2015 season on Sunday, May 31st at Shadyside Nursery, which is open to all ages and will feature music by Slim Forsyth and The Hills and The Rivers.
3. Pittsburgh Fringe Festival: May 8 – 10, Northside
Where can you see edgy productions in a German tavern or an art-house? What began in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland—and is now the world’s largest arts festival—has gone on to spawn a movement in 200-plus cities worldwide. For its second annual installment, the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival is presenting a weekend of experimental theatre in unconventional Northside-based venues, including restaurants Bistro to Go and Max’s Allegheny Tavern and eclectic house installation Randyland.
How does Fringe work? Participants produce, market and present original shows during a Pittsburgh or world premiere. Artists and companies may perform in designated Northside venues, on city sidewalks or in self-selected site-specific spaces. The lineup of 25 edgy acts includes Pittsburghers as well as artists from Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York. Underscoring Fringe’s staunchly grassroots spirit, performers were selected by festival staffers at random during an online party.