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Five Essential May Events in Pittsburgh

Prestigious puppeteers, paired pollo, public punk and other May attractions.

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The warm weather has barely started, to the consternation of warm-blooded creatures across the metropolitan area, and we are already facing a critical mass of stuff to do.

The embarrassment of riches is most notable in the concert scene; there’s a show I would gladly attend every day this month, it seems, and more than one day when I’ll have to choose between multiple alluring options. (Sorry, Lissie, but I’m not going to make it — I just can’t say no to ’90s punk and craft beer. More on that later.)

Even with some prominent annual events as-yet unannounced — we’re waiting, Allegheny County Summer Series — this is the best summer in years for live music in Pittsburgh.

And that’s just the music. Comedy! Festivals! Food! Movies! An adult film star known primarily for legally perilous entanglements with the leader of the free world making a local appearance that I certainly would not reference in this space! Amusement parks!

Let’s not dwell too much on any specifics in that last paragraph, okay? There’s a lot going on, is what I’m saying. Here are five of my favorites for May.


An Afternoon With Caroll Spinney
Carnegie Science Center,
May 12-13
Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer behind our childhood memories of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird, has made a number of local appearances in recent years — perhaps the town of Mister Rogers is a comfortable spot for the denizens of Sesame Street. Spinney is now on something of a de facto farewell tour, and he’ll be making what will likely be his final Pittsburgh appearance over two days at the Carnegie Science Center. He’ll be available for photos and autographs before screenings of “Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird” at the Rangos Giant Cinema.


Flight Night
May 16
Empanadas and beer. I’m tempted to stop the write-up there, because no more information is necessary, but let’s go through the motions anyway. The underrated taproom and bottle shop attached to Row House Cinema will pair a quartet of beers with four of the sublime empanadas from nearby Ki Pollo; a 6:30 p.m. seating is sold out, but there’s still some space left for 8:30. If you haven’t tried Ki Pollo’s fare yet, this is a great opportunity. Further complement the evening with a movie, if you’d like — Row House will be showcasing new documentaries during this week.


Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival
Highmark Stadium,
May 20
I am so into this concept: half mid-school punk festival, half craft-beer tasting. I’d be showing up for the lineup no matter what, headlined by bratty speed-punk godfathers NOFX and the seemingly immortal Bad Religion (and also featuring one of my favorite upstart punk acts, Bad Cop Bad Cop). This isn’t just a grown-up Warped Tour with a few brews, however; the 21-and-over event is billed as equal parts concert and beer tasting. And it’s actually in the city! In my day, we had to drive to Burgettstown for a full day of punk rock! The truly dedicated should note that a 3-day, campout version of the festival — featuring additional acts such as Rancid and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones — is taking place in the Columbus area.


Kennywood Ribs and Blues Festival
Kennywood Park,
May 27-28
Events like these are how you know Kennywood loves us. Do we need additional reasons to head to the iconic West Mifflin park every summer? No. Open the Potato Patch and the Jack Rabbit, and we’re in yinzer Valhalla. And yet, they’re always looking to punch up the offerings; this year, that includes the first ribs and blues fest, featuring five rib vendors and a half-dozen bands, featuring Jill West and Blues Attack, Jimbo and the Soupbones and more.


PHILLTER International Music Festival
Multiple Venues, May 30-June 3
The second PHILLTER International Music Festival features one-human bands. In this case, that doesn’t mean people standing with guitars; here, it means artists who create live sound loops, beatboxers (including reigning beatbox champ NAPOM) and much more. Plan for five days of “Wait, how is that person making those noises?”


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