The fourth month of the year has served as muse to poet T.S. Eliot, singer-songwriters Simon & Garfunkel and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A time of rebirth—and plenty of rain—April kicks in with a day of foolishness, but follows with a month full of fantastic events—on a boat, inside empty warehouses, throughout Market Square and elsewhere. Grab that umbrella and head out to our top 9 Pittsburgh events not to miss in April. For more details, check out our events section each week.
1. Rosanne Cash with John Leventhal at The Byham Theater: April 8
Fresh off the heels of winning not one but three Grammys for her new album, The River & The Thread, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash rolls into town with her iconic rootsy-country sound for just one night. Released in 2014 via legendary Blue Note Records, Cash’s 13th studio album embodies a powerful collaboration with her husband of 20 years, the Grammy-winning musician and producer John Leventhal, who co-wrote and produced the material.
Drawing heavily from Americana and Roots music, the new collection of 11 songs reconnects Cash to the richness of her birthplace and ancestors. Born in Memphis in 1955, Cash—who has charted 21 Top 40 country singles—is also the famous eldest daughter of modern music icon Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian. In addition to her outstanding musical output—which spans everything from country and folk, to pop and blues—Cash is also an author, educator, supporter of numerous charities and board member of the Content Creators Coalition.
2. The Dirty Ball at 415 Bingham Street: April 11
Ready to dance this mess around in an empty warehouse? Forget good clean fun and indulge in a night of devilish debauchery at the inimitable Dirty Ball. Let spring fever take hold, rev up the Vespa and turn the clock back (or forward) for a homegrown bacchanalia on the South Side. Celebrating one decadent decade—the latest rendition of The Dirty Ball will feature Attack Theatre performances, throwback beats by TITLE TOWN Soul & Funk Party, space-age art installations, 21st-century fashion showdowns and old-school libations. What’s even better is that all of this dirty dancing supports Attack’s edgy site-specific performances, day-to-day operations and educational programs.
Kick off your night of time-warping revelry at the Ball’s signature Dirty Donor VIP pre-party featuring local food and drink from James Street Gastropub, Tender, Verde and more—situated within the sultry Velvet Lounge designed by Richard Parsakian. After that, it’s Spring’s most-anticipated dance party with 1,000 of your most eccentric friends. Fuel up with grub from the PGH Taco and Steer and Wheel food trucks. We suggest you start crafting those dirty duds now.
3. JFilm Festival: April 16 – 26
With more screenings than ever, the 22nd annual JFilm Festival is your hot ticket for independent and foreign cinema. Featuring 28 screenings from 8 countries over 11 days, JFilm showcases award-winning documentaries, dramas and comedies, special premieres, visiting artists and a short film competition. Setting up shop at five venues—The Manor Theatre, Carmike 10 (South Hills Village), Rodef Shalom, Waterworks Cinemas and Seton Hill University—the diverse festival explores and celebrates Jewish culture, independent filmmaking and cultural tolerance.
Don’t miss opening night on April 16th featuring the Pittsburgh premiere of Pierre Henry Salfati’s highly acclaimed film, The Last Mentsch. Equal parts road trip and buddy caper, the whimsical film stars German Academy Award winner Mario Adorf as Menachem Teitelbaum, a 70-year-old Auschwitz survivor who unexpectedly searches for his roots and comes to terms with his past. A post-show reception will be held at the JCC-Katz Theatre.
Additional highlights include premieres of Philippe de Chauveron’s provocative satirical comedy Serial (Bad) Weddings and John Goldschmidt’s British dramedy, Dough. Don’t miss a special appearance by visiting filmmaker Nancy Spielberg (a certain Steven’s sister), who will discuss her engaging film, Above and Beyond, which documents a group of Jewish American pilots who trained covertly and flew for Israel during its 1948 War of Independence.
4. Commonwealth Press Beer Barge: April 18
Plentiful local beer, dramatic sunset and skyline views, a floating dance party and the Gateway Clipper Fleet’s longest serving vessel. What’s not to love about Commonwealth Press‘ (CWP) Beer Barge? Well, maybe the fact that you snoozed on snagging tickets to one of spring’s best parties. Some 400 tickets sold in under 20 minutes, but don’t fret because CWP plans to make some more available, so pay close attention to your Instagram and Twitter feeds.
Setting sail for its fourth Beer Barge and sixth boat boarded in three years, CWP will bring together tasty libations from 10 local breweries, including GRIST House, East End, Hop Farm, The Brew Gentlemen and more. Providing the night’s soundtrack—for what is always a jubilant party vibe—will be Philly power pop band Restorations, local punk rockers Worlds Scariest Police Chases River Rescue and DJMB. Carrying attendees down all three rivers will be the 212-foot-long Empress, which has been sailing in Pittsburgh since 1966. (Little known fact: the craft is actually a barge that is pushed by a towboat.)
Started by Dan Rugh in his South Side basement in 2002, CWP offers design and screenprinting services, runs a retail shop at 1931 E. Carson St., hosts classes and sells its own line of Pittsburgh-centric merchandise.
5. EverPower Earth Day Festival: April 22
April is a time of renewal, and the best place to recharge your mind and body is at the inaugural EverPower Earth Day Festival. Animating Market Square from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., this free all-ages festival will showcase the city’s greener side, with hands-on activities, entertainment and displays focusing on the themes of air, earth and water. Pittsburgh is turning over a new leaf, with new bike lanes, the CityFit wellness project, healthier school lunch programs, yoga on bridges and expanded riverfront trails. Now you can spend an entire day celebrating the many environmentally conscious organizations and independent businesses that are helping to make the Burgh more livable and sustainable for residents. Festival sponsor EverPower, a developer and operator of utility scale wind projects, moved their HQ from NYC to Pittsburgh in 2012
Want to help protect the planet? Learn about composting, recycling and rain barrels with Pennsylvania Resources Council, get gardening tips and seedlings from Western PA Conservancy and balance your chakras with Pittsburgh Yoga Collective. Hear inspiring words from environmental advocate Robert Swan—the first man to walk unassisted to the North & South Poles, watch Baron Batch create live murals and visit four designated landmarks along the Riverlife’s Riverwalk Lunchtime Loop.
Also leading activities will be Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, Tree Pittsburgh, Bike PGH, Green Building Alliance, Grow Pittsburgh and Zero Fossil. Providing upbeat live music will be Donora, Nameless in August, DJ Detour and members of The Clarks. Don’t miss Sustainable Social in the Square, a happy hour with Women & Young Professionals in Energy.
Looking for more ways to celebrate Earth Day? Check out Pittsburgh Earth Day activities in Mellon Square Park and Schenley Plaza, and don’t miss the Sustainability Soiree and eco-fashion show at the Fairmont Hotel.
6. Pittsburgh Rock ‘N Roll Legends Awards at Hard Rock Café, April 23
Porky Chedwick, Donnie Iris, Lou Christie. Iconic names in the rock music canon, and not just because they hail from Pittsburgh. Come April 23, the forces behind phrases like “The Daddio of the Raddio,” Lightning is striking again” and “Ah! Leah!” will converge as three local music pioneers are inducted into the 2015 Pittsburgh Rock ‘N Roll Legends Awards. Rock out for a cause at the awards event, which benefits the Pittsburgh-based Cancer Caring Center.
Winning a spot in the non-performer/music professional category is one-and-only Pittsburgh radio guru Porky Chedwick, who passed away on March 2, 2104. A trailblazer who was the first white DJ to present racially diverse music, including spinning R&B, gospel and obscure local sounds, in a major city, the beloved “Platter Pushin’ Pappa’s” pioneering radio career spanned 1948 to 2011. Nabbing the Legacy Legends spot is million-selling singer-songwriter and Crescent Township native Lou Christie, known for his distinctive falsetto pipes and hit singles such as “Lightnin’ Strikes” and “Two Faces Have I.” The Modern Era Legend winner is gold record-winning artist Donnie Iris, who was born in New Castle. A member of Jaggerz, Wild Cherry and Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, the singer-guitarist is celebrated worldwide for his classic rock anthems such as “Ah Leah” and “Love is Like a Rock.”
Featured performers include Iris, Joe Grushecky, Billy Price, Johnny Angel, Hermie Granati, Art Nardini and Joffo Simmons. Attendees will receive a commemorative Hard Rock Cafe pin and can bid on auction items such as tickets, gift certificates and autographed items from music and sports legends like Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart and Mario Lemieux. Inductees were selected via a new and extensive nominations and voting process led by the Legends Nominating Committee, which includes local music industry experts, 1,000-plus members the public and the Pittsburgh Rock ‘N Roll Legends Awards Academy of Voters.
7. Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District: April 24
The best place to spring into art is at The Cultural Trust’s quarterly showcase of visual art, live music, performances, film screenings and hands-on activities. Did we mention it’s all free? Just hit the streets and look for the Cultural District Stop sidewalk signs identifying 30-plus participating venues.
What’s new downtown? Explore the vast cultural heritage of Jamaica at Tamara Natalie Madden’s exhibition, Out of Many, One People, opening at At 709 Penn. Step into the Sweetlix arcade at 820 Liberty to experience experimental games designed by local creators. Head to SPACE Gallery to see Unloaded, a group show that examines historical and social issues surrounding the availability, use and impact of guns in our culture. Programming includes a performance by award-winning Pittsburgh artist Vanessa German at 7 p.m., a screening of Chris Ivey’s In Unlivable Times and music by DJ SMI. Outside SPACE, check out the pop-up show by Easely, a Pittsburgh-based startup that rents ready-to-hang artwork to customers.
Katz Plaza will be a hotspot with Café con Leche’s Brisas del Caribe Caribbean celebration, featuring music and dance performances by Teanna Medina, Ibeji Ensemble, Latina Productions and Gena y Calle Bomba. Shop en plein air at the newly reopened Night Market located at the corner of 8th St. and Penn Ave. brimming with dozens of local independent vendors.
Celebrate Car Free Friday by walking, biking, hopping on the bus or carpooling to the Crawl.
8. Art All Night in Lawrenceville, April 25
In Lawrenceville, the last Saturday of April is synonymous with Art All Night. Staunchly unjuried and uncensored, the 24-hour art happening returns to Pittsburgh’s art and design hub for its 18th annual edition. What hatched in 1998 with 101 works of art and 200 all-nighters has now evolved into a cult showcase of 850-plus artists and some 8,000 attendees.
Transforming a sprawling warehouse at the corner of Willow and 40th St. into a showcase for both local art and community development, Art All Night features original artwork in every size, shape and genre imaginable, a hands-on children’s area, art auctions, participatory collaborative art-making and live music and performance. Embodying a populist aesthetic, the cornucopia includes work by veteran artists, senior citizens, long-term Lawrencevillians, youth, emerging artists, educators and students. And it’s always free to submit and attend.
Art All Night is heroically run by an all-volunteer committee, so if you’re inspired to help out, sign up here. Have artwork to show? Bring your piece to 97 40th St. between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 25 (artists must show a photo ID during both registration and pickup).
9. PERSAD’s Art for Change at the Wyndham Grand: April 27
Ready to enact change and find a conversation piece for that bare dining room wall? The best place to bid on work by internationally renowned artists such as Herb Ritts and Duane Michals and support a very worthy cause is at PERSAD‘s 27th annual Art for Change benefit. Some 1,000 art lovers are expected to flock to downtown’s Wyndham Grand, as the local creative community rallies to support PERSAD’s Free Card Fund. All proceeds from Art for Change will support the initiative, which serves the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV.
In addition to world-renowned photographers Herb Ritts and Duane Michals, the event’s impressive verbal and silent auctions will also feature art by Baron Batch, Robert Qualters, Nicole Kircher, Mark Perrott, Ashley Andrykovich, Dave Klug, Boris Bally, Ken Battista, among others. The vast selection of 150 works includes painting, photography, sculpture, furniture and jewelry—all donated by national and regional artists. While strolling the galleries, gala-goers will also enjoy delicious fare from top Pittsburgh restaurants including E2, Legume, Social at Bakery Square, The Commoner, Harris Grill and Mitchell’s Fish Market.
The night’s live auction will feature nearly 30 works of art, some likely to fetch up to $10,000. Silent auction pieces typically range from $50 to several thousand dollars. Also featured will be luxury gift baskets with vacation bundles, tickets to cultural events and autographed memorabilia. PERSAD’s goal for this year is $300,000, after raising $270,000 to support its Free Card Fund in 2014. VIP guests will enjoy a performances by Michele Benson and Max Leake, and members of Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12’s cast of Aida will perform at the launch of the night’s verbal auction.
Because all good lists must come to an end, we give you these 6 very honorable mentions for April:
Quantum Theatre’s world premiere of All the Names: April 10 – May 2
Aspie Seeks Love screening at The Harris Theater: April 25 – 29
Looking for family activities?
Check out our Top 10 Family Adventures this April in Pittsburgh feature.
Looking for more music?
Check out our 10 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in April feature.