7. Soul Sessions Series at the August Wilson Center: September 20
Downtown Pittsburgh is about to get an infusion of soul. Dubbed Soul Sessions, the first-of-its-kind series is bringing internationally acclaimed musicians to the August Wilson Center as part of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s latest performing arts initiative. For its inaugural edition, Soul Sessions will showcase soul, jazz and rhythm and blues by award-winning artists Gregory Porter, Marsha Ambrosius, Eric Roberson, Maysa Leak and Musiq.
Kicking off Soul Sessions on Sept. 20th is versatile vocalist, songwriter and actor Gregory Porter, who won a 2014 Grammy for best jazz vocal album for Liquid Spirit. Known for his booming baritone and powerful on-stage presence, Porter also starred in the original Broadway cast of It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues.
Headlining performances will be augmented by multidisciplinary programs featuring The Jones Family Singers gospel collective, the Pittsburgh Dance Council’s presentations of PHILADANCO and Ailey II and Sancho: An Act of Remembrance, a one-man show by celebrated Royal Shakespeare Company actor Paterson Joseph. View a complete Soul Sessions schedule.
8. Thrival Innovation + Music Festival: September 21 – 27
Ready to exercise your right and left brain over seven days? Thirty programs, 26 musical acts, 10 locations and one massive brownfield are part of what’s in store during Thrival. For its third annual edition, the confluence of entrepreneurs, innovators, creatives and business leaders is expanding its footprint—both in terms of programming and geography. In addition to getting a look at the city’s innovation corridors and the significant work being done at our universities, attendees will also explore city neighborhoods and sites that might not be traditionally associated with startup culture.
Packed with immersive innovation-focused events, interactive programs and a music festival, Thrival’s itinerary will span six “themes,” with weekday sessions focusing on everything from women in leadership and robotics, to city policy, education technology and clean energy. Dubbed “Thrival Marquee Events,” evening programs include guest speakers, pitch showcases, PIT Talks, a block party and more. On day four, Thrival returns to its old stomping grounds at Bakery Square for programs at UPMC Enterprises, Google and TechShop. Additional venues include the Heinz History Center, Wigle Whiskey, Work Hard PGH, City Theatre and the new Energy Innovation Center.
The action culminates with an all-ages outdoor concert at Hazelwood’s 178-acre Almono site—formerly home to LTV Coke Works—featuring 26 acts over two days. Headliners include Las Vegas-based pop-punk band Panic! at the Disco, legendary Wu-Tang rappers Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, Brooklyn ensemble San Fermin, indie rockers Manchester Orchestra and Timothy Showalter’s Strand of Oaks. Joining them are local bands including Grand Piano, Nevada Color and Beauty Slap. Read our Thrival music preview here.
9. VIA Music & New Media Festival: September 24 – October 3
There is truly nothing in Pittsburgh like VIA. Finely tuned to presenting adventurous music, art and culture, VIA’s weeklong format invites audiences to actively participate in the intersection of the studio, nightclub, gallery and laboratory. From an artist who recorded an entire album at an Apple Store (Prince Harvey) and one of UK dubstep’s top talents (Ikonika), to an all-day block party and multi-discipliary events at CMU with groundbreaking composer and artists Marina Rosenfeld, VIA truly has something for every pair of ears and eyes.
For its highly anticipated sixth installment, VIA is creating a campus-like setting in and around Sprit Lodge, which has been busy breathing new life into the Lawrenceville Moose since opening in May. Headliners not to miss include feminist hip-hop pioneer MC Lyte, electronic artist xxyyxx, Canadian producer and vocalist Jessy Lanza, indie pop band Lower Dens, dance music wunderkind RP Boo and the Discwoman DJ collective. Bookended by two jam-packed weekends, the thoughtfully curated festival also features plenty of smaller ticketed and free events including art exhibitions, film screenings, panel discussions, workshops, after-hours dance parties and more—all bringing together local, national and international artists who are pushing the boundaries of their fields.
New highlights for 2015 include a block party in Lawrenceville co-presented with Girls Rock! Pittsburgh and 1Hood Media, explorations of social justice movements and activism and a spotlight on local issues and projects. Each VIA brings brand new audio-visual content to Pittsburgh, and this year’s lineup underscores the festival’s deep commitment to diversity—in terms of artists’ ages, identities, voice and backgrounds, media explored and event formats—as well as its strong representation of women and artists of color. During hands-on workshops, immersive experiences and Q&As, festival-goers will also gain firsthand insight into emerging art forms, technology platforms and cutting-edge artists.