Words by Brendan
It’s not technically summer time but it pretty much is, and the living may or not may be easy, but there’s one thing for sure: it’s summer concert/festival season! Start your summer right this weekend/next week with Pittsburgh’s annual 3 Rivers Arts Festival. You might be overwhelmed by the list of events on their website, you might be grumbling about the lineup of bands, or you might just have no idea what this event is about. Never fear, Draw Us Lines is here! What follows after the jump is our list of the musical sets you just have to see. This includes national acts and local bands (okay, they’re almost all local, to be honest!) of various genres. And by all means, don’t view this as an exhaustive list. We’re just singling these out as the ones we highly recommend, and the ones at which you’ll likely find us. There are all sorts of other acts playing, as well as an artists’ market (be sure to stroll through!), kids’ activities, and a whole lot more. Hope to see yinz out and about!
Donora / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 6:15-7:00
The best and most (deservedly) famous indie pop band from Pittsburgh will kick off the opening evening activities at the main stage. Surely, Casey and the Jakes will play an array of tunes from their latest EP Play Nice and LP Boyfriends, Girlfriends, with some of their well-known older hits, too. (“Shak’ida” will always be my favorite!) I just can’t think of a more fun local band to start the festivities.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 7:30-9:00
This folk-rock band’s third and self-titled album is due out next month, so hopefully their stop in Pittsburgh will include a lot of new tunes. Not that we’re all sick of hearing their catchy hits, like “Home”. But with such an interesting band back story and their musical inventiveness and seemingly endless energy, I’m curious to see where this band’s sound is going, and doubly curious to see it all played out on the big stage.
Sleep Experiments / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 3:00-4:00
Listening to Sleep Experiments‘s dreamy, ambient pop sounds (check Ricky’s review of their latest album here), you might think that they’re best suited for headphones. Oh how wrong you would be! This trio is amazing and totally captivating live, as well. Trust me. Admittedly, if you’re just walking down the street abutting the stage or wandering through the art market, then you might not be drawn in, but that’s your loss. For this set, you’ll want to bring a blanket, lay it out on the ground up near the stage, and sit back and let the sounds wash over you. Bring a picnic lunch, too. Couldn’t hurt.
Grand Piano / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 6:00-7:00
Here’s another solid Pittsburgh band playing on the main stage on this day. Grand Piano‘s set will be lively, with all sorts of honky-tonkin’ and rockin’ and horns and guitars. Explore the handful of EPs they have for streaming on their Bandcamp page (including a split LP with fellow locals The Red Western) to get a good idea of their sound. We’re sure you’ll dig it.
Steelesque / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 12:00-1:00
I’m recommending this local band on their Soundcloud page alone, having yet to see them live myself. But from the blues-rock stylings of the songs therein, I’m excited to make that live experience happen. It’s a little bit of The Black Keys, some Rolling Stones, and some Grateful Dead rolled into one. Good stuff.
Lisa Hannigan / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 6:30-7:15
This Irish folk singer/songwriter got her start with Damien Rice and, since 2007, now has a full-fledged and successful solo career. She plays guitar and banjo and has a gorgeous voice, and her wonderful 2009 album Sea Sew was nominated for the UK’s Mercury Prize. As far as I know, this is her first time in Pittsburgh (at least in the last few years) so let’s show her a good time and hope she comes back!
Karl Hendricks Trio / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 12:00-1:00
I always maintain that Karl Hendricks and friends are the city’s best rock band, and the one that really should have been famous. They released a stellar string of albums on Merge Records in the 90s, and they’re all indie rock classics. They’re still going strong now, and their 2012 LP The Adult Section was not only one of my fave albums of the year, but their track “The Whole Fucking Thing” was probably my absolute favorite Pittsburgh song of last year. Brush up on the solo session we did with Karl in our Echo Chamber series, and be sure to catch their set here on the main stage!
Machete Kisumontao / Second Stage at Gateway Center / 5:00-6:00
This is a 7-piece Puerto Rican music band, but they hail from Pittsburgh. They play the most incredibly catchy and dance-worthy music you’ll hear this side of the Allegheny, or any other river of your choosing. I caught them a while back (opening at 1,2,3‘s album release show) and it was incredible. They exude energy, elation, and infectious enthusiasm. If you show up for the first five minutes and aren’t totally hooked, I’ll let you punch me in the nose. Or, I’ll buy you a beverage of equal or lesser value. (Prices and participation may vary.)
The Grifters / Second Stage at Gateway Center / 1:30-2:30
A double-bass/acoustic guitar duo from Pittsburgh, these two can stir up a crowd, that’s for sure. Bluesy, folksy Americana is their specialty, and they’ll have your foot stompin’ along. Check out some tunes on their new-ish Bandcamp page in preparation. I caught them at last year’s Arts Fest; good times!
The Armadillos / Second Stage at Gateway Center / 4:30-5:30
This is another local band that I keep hearing so many great things about but haven’t yet managed to see live. This will be my chance to fix that, and hopefully you’ll join me. They’ve been voted “Best Alt-Folk/Alt-Country Band” via Pittsburgh City Paper’s readers’ poll for the last couple of years, so they’re certainly doing something right! Check out their solid album Better Off a Stranger, recorded at our pal’s j bird studio.
New Victorians / Dollar Bank (Main) Stage / 5:00-6:00
Ben Hardt is a talented Pittsburgh musician, and he’s partway through a trilogy of albums with his New Victorians group project. This concept album series tells the story of two lovers in WWIII (yes, three) and, although I’ve yet to explore the lyrics in-depth for this story, the cinematic rock sounds certainly belie this kind of ambition. What’s more, these songs sound amazing, regardless of the overarching story. They sweep you up and swirl you into another world. I can’t even imagine how good these will sound on the big stage. Guess we’ll find out!
There you have it! We highly recommend seeing these bands, amongst many of the other great acts scheduled. There’s also an ongoing “Acousticafe” series happening at the Second Stage at Gateway Center, but I have not yet seen an official schedule of bands for those events. Definitely check those out, though; you can see a lot of great local bands you might otherwise miss!
For a lot of these Pittsburgh locals, this festival is a chance to play a big stage and get their sound out to many new listeners, so be sure to support them while you can! Most of all, get out there and support local culture, be it arts or theatre or music or whatever it is you enjoy. It’s patrons like us that help (in our small way) to keep the artists and event organizers going year after year, making sure that we have wonderful events and festivals like this to support our city’s thriving culture. GO PGH!