June 20-23: Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Downtown Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is one of the greatest cities in the history of jazz, something often forgotten today. The music itself is often referred to in the past tense but it’s as vital and exciting as ever. The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival interprets jazz as broadly as possible, encompassing a living link to the days when giants walked the Earth, like saxophonist Charles Lloyd, as well as legendary “Godmother of Soul” Patti LaBelle, funky Latin-rock titans WAR (“The World is a Ghetto”), the Black Women Rock Coalition’s tribute to Pittsburgh’s own funk goddess Betty Davis and virtuosic funk/fusion bassist Stanley Clarke. Don’t sleep on the young giants of the genre, either, like London saxophonist/composer Nubya Garcia, ‘70s prog-jazz throwback Butcher Brown and Orrin Evans’ muscular, brass-heavy Captain Black Big Band. Some shows are free and outdoors, others (like Patti LaBelle) are ticketed and take place at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center.
June 29: WYEP Summer Music Festival, Schenley Plaza
This all-ages, free festival in Oakland is headlined by Colorado’s DeVotchKa, a cinematic indie-pop band drawing in influences as disparate as Spaghetti Western soundtracks, Eastern European folk music and cabaret. Also sharing the stage will be the soulful acts Cautious Clay and Clara Kent. Look for the beer garden hosted by The Porch in the big white tent and vendors from I Made It! Market selling handmade crafts.
July 12-13: Deutschtown Music Festival, North Side
This year’s edition of the free Deutschtown Music Festival showcases more than 300 bands across 35 stages, indoors and outdoors, taking over the entire Northside neighborhood. Local music is the heartbeat of this epic festival — everything from singer-songwriters to rock bands, jazz musicians and rappers. This is as good a survey of Pittsburgh’s many music scenes as you’re likely to get in one place. Plus, you’ll find more than 20 food trucks, lots of vendors and family-friendly activities.
July 27-28, Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival, Syria Shrine Center, Cheswick
Once an outdoors festival, this gathering of blues bands (broadly defined) and their fans now takes place at the vast Syria Shrine Center off Route 28. Headliners this year include Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band, Joe Grushecky & The House Rockers, and a “Tribute to the Legendary Women of the Blues.” Proceeds benefit the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Band Together Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that uses the power of music to enrich the lives of those on the autism spectrum, and their families.
Aug. 15-18, Skull Fest, various locations
Every city’s underground culture has its own vibe: Pittsburgh has long remained a stalwart bastion of punk rock and its many mutations. Skull Fest unites all the tribes of punk — the mohawked crusties, the hardcore punks, the noise merchants, the garage-rockers, even the metalheads — for a few days of skull-splitting volumes and anti-everything attitude. Legends like Poison Idea are joined by notorious names including The Lewd, Caustic Christ, Swordwielder, Behind Enemy Lines, Rubella Ballet, Geiger Counter, Loose Nukes and dozens more.
Aug. 24-25, Rock, Reggae & Relief 2019, Market Square, Downtown
A benefit concert for cancer research, with Gavin DeGraw headlining on Aug. 24, supported by The Expendables, Roots of Creation and Ras Prophet. Aug. 25 features Michael Franti & Spearhead, Magic!, Roots of Creation and Flow Band.
Sept. 20, Thrival Festival with Buku, Beauty Slap, Title Town: Schenley Plaza, Oakland
A festival of cutting-edge technology and music, headlined by the Pittsburgh-based festival-hopping DJ, Buku. Come early for the all-vinyl soul and funk dance party Title Town. The big difference is that it’s going to be free this year and in Schenley Plaza, a nice big open space in the heart of Oakland. Satellite events will take place within walking distance at venues like the Oaklander Hotel and Carnegie Museum of Art.