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Best of the 'Burgh 2018: Arts & Entertainment

From waking the dead to a jazz conspiracy to an act of grand larceny –– discover what our editors chose for the Best of the 'Burgh in arts and entertainment.



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photo by chris litherland
 

Chris Litherland grew up in Texas, but when a buddy invited him to visit — and consider moving to — Pittsburgh five years ago, his mind was made up within days. The history of western Pennsylvania intrigued the photographer, and since then, he’s filled his spare time with documenting the region: its amusement parks, its waterfalls, the skyscrapers Downtown, and, most of all, its churches. “I’ve been to pretty much every single church on this side of the state,” he says. “People don’t really realize how many beautiful churches are here.” With more and more churches closing, Litherland says he’s welcomed warmly into the sanctuaries to document the interiors, which often are not as widely photographed as the outside. He regularly chronicles his travels on his Facebook page and has plans for a book as well. (chrislitherlandphotography.zenfolio.com) —LD
 


photo courtesy beauty slap
 

The genre “Future-Brass-Thunder-Funk” may seem like a bit of a jumble, but for local band Beauty Slap, the label is a perfect fit. Known for its energetic, multi-faceted shows, Beauty Slap has made a name for itself as one of Pittsburgh’s freshest, funkiest dance bands. This year promises to be the biggest yet: in addition to their usual touring and local shows, they performed at the mainstage of the Indy 500 during Memorial Day weekend. (thebeautyslap.com) —CG
 


photo: shutterstock
 

WYEP Morning Mix Host Joey Spehar believes there are two camps of people: those who hate the Grateful Dead and those who love them. He’s in the latter group, which is why, a few minutes after 6 a.m. every morning, he plays something related to the band, whether from a live recording or a spin-off group. “It’s a nice way to ease into the morning, and there’s so much recorded material. I almost did the math — I felt like I could go seven years without repeating something,” he says. From those in the former camp, he’s heard fewer complaints than he expected since he started kicking off the mornings this way last July. “One guy said to me, ‘Look it’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I don’t have 10 minutes to devote to a song in the morning’,” Spehar says. “I like the shorter ones. It’s a lot of fun.” (wyep.org/joey-spehar) —LD
 


photo by audrey gatewood
 

Fractured landscapes and fragmented memories stimulate slowdanger’s imagination, yielding enigmatic performance installations and music videos referenced with archetypal imagery and accompanied by atmospheric electronic scores. With extensive dance training evident in the quality of their movement, the multidisciplinary performance duo — Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, Maryland and Texas transplants, respectively — reaches beyond choreography to experiment with improvisation. Since 2014, they have performed locally in galleries, museums and on a floating platform. Look for them at the Carnegie Museum of Art in August as part of a Third Thursday event within “Intimate Subjects,” an evening of performances, games and immersive experiences curated and performed by slowdanger and City of Play. (slowdangerslowdanger.com) —KD
 


photo courtesy kelly strayhorn theater
 

Tickets for cultural events can take a toll on your wallet. But they don’t have to. The Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty allows you to “Pay What Makes You Happy” for KST Presents performances. The subsidized tickets allow you to name your price — even nothing. Now anyone can afford to be a culture vulture without being dead broke. (Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty; 412/363-3000, kelly-strayhorn.org) —BH
 


photo courtesy the Jazz conspiracy
 

Swing is the thing for The Jazz Conspiracy. The band is not only concerned with putting on a good show, but the 16-piece ensemble is also the only group in Pittsburgh playing authentic Big Band swing dance music from the 1930s and beyond, and they’re doing it with flair. Every first and third Thursday at 8 p.m., the group takes the stage at the Elks Lodge on the North Side for an evening of danceable nostalgia. For those a little nervous about cutting a rug, a dance lesson with local instructor Mark Peters begins at 7:15. (thejazzconspiracy.com) —CG
 

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