It’s been more than a year since live music pretty much disappeared from the cultural landscape.
This summer, it’s starting to come back — at least outside. SouthSide Works is hosting the Music on the Mon series using a big, riverside green space (across from American Eagle’s headquarters and next to the Hyatt House) to program a summer filled with live music, movies, food trucks, local beer and cocktails. The series starts in July.
It’s easily one of the most diverse lineups ever assembled for a Pittsburgh concert series. Performers range from the seven-piece Ethiopian jazz/groove Anbessa Orchestra from Brooklyn to the funky Afrobeat of Kaleta & Super Yamba Band (Kaleta played with Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti) to the renowned Pittsburgh-based techno dance party Hot Mass.
Handling the programming on the music side is a DJ known by many as Pandemic Pete. Yes, Pete Spynda is aware of the irony of his nickname, which has nothing to do with the current pandemic. It comes from his Pandemic Dance Party, which brought the most infectious sounds from around the world — from Afrobeat to Balkan brass to Peruvian psychedelic cumbia — to Pittsburgh dance floors for more than a decade.
“Like, a month or two after I said ‘OK, I’m taking a break from this for a while — then it was like, ‘Oh, because you stopped doing your party, you know, we actually get a real pandemic!’” says Spynda.
One of the Music on the Mon shows Spynda is most excited about is Cimafunk from Cuba.
“Their music is like real upbeat, danceable — it mixes a little bit of Cuban salsa flavor but with a more contemporary funk and soul kind of sound,” he says.
Another highlight is the uncategorizable Mourning [A] BLKstar from Cleveland, featuring three distinctive singers, a DJ, guitar, a drummer and a brass section.
“I went and saw them open for another band like two years ago, and my jaw hit the ground when I saw them perform,” says Spynda. “They were just super energetic, but their music is just like soulful and poetic. It mixes like elements of hip-hop with funk and soul with kind of psychedelic experimental music, with elements of Sun Ra meets James Brown meets I don’t know.”
Wherever there’s a chance to do something different or unusual, Spynda is taking it.
“We’re talking to SoundGirls Pittsburgh about doing a night of where it’s going to be all female-fronted bands with a whole female sound crew.”
Expect a rotating cast of Pittsburgh food trucks for every concert.
“My friend Danielle Mashuda, who has her own company (Winslo6 Pgh) that does food truck roundups — and she also runs things like the Cocktail Classic and the Bloody Mary Festival — they basically approached both of us about collaborating on this,” says Spynda.
There’s also going to be an outdoor movie series, featuring movies made in Pittsburgh or with Pittsburgh as a setting, from Bruce Willis’ river cop action flick “Striking Distance” (1993) to the legendarily ridiculous “Sudden Death” (1995), which features Jean-Claude Van Damme fighting Iceburgh (the Pittsburgh Penguins mascot) and a helicopter crashing inside the Civic Arena. Movies will be screened on Wednesday nights starting on July 7 (the complete film lineup is coming soon).
Spynda also runs Weather Permitting, a family-friendly concert series situated in the bucolic confines of Shadyside Nursery and Pittonkatonk, the annual brass band festival that has become arguably Pittsburgh’s best music festival. And Pittonkatonk will return this year, just not at its usual time in May. Several great international bands have already been booked for the September event.
All Music on the Mon events are free and open to the public. Updates can be found at the SouthSide Works website.
Music on the Mon schedule (subject to change):
• Friday, July 2 – Ferdinand The Bull and Bill Deasy
• Friday, July 9 – Sound Girls presents: Ladybeast, Century III and more TBA
• Saturday, July 17 – Honky Tonk Jukebox w/ Jon Bindley and friends
• Friday, July 23 – Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomers & TBD
• Friday, July 30 – Misra Records Showcase (artists TBD)
• Friday, August 6 – Hot Mass
• Friday, August 13 – Anbessa Orchestra, Big Blitz
• Saturday, August 14 – Squonk Opera
• Friday, August 20 – Mourning [A] BLKstar, Brittney Chantele, Dj Arie Cole
• Friday, August 27 – Kaleta and Super Yamba Band, The Flow Band
• Saturday, September 4 – Cimafunk, Hugo Cruz & Caminos