Ten Nights of Can't-Miss Music
This year's class of Three Rivers Arts Festival music headliners share little in common — besides consistently delivering stellar performances.
If one of your favorite bands is playing at this year’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, you’re already pumped. There are few better environments to take in a beloved artist than the sun-soaked grass of Point State Park in the midst of a world-class festival celebrating artists from near and far.
But that environment isn’t only suited for connecting — free of charge, by the way — with music you already love. It’s also an excellent opportunity for discovery; with no cash on the line and an unquestionably lovely evening on tap, the circumstances are right for finding a new favorite. And you needn’t worry about the quality of performance being presented: There’s never a dud to be found among the festival’s music headliners.
Beginning Friday and running through June 12, each night brings a great headliner to the Point. All events are free, and all of the following performers are set to take the stage from 7:30-9 p.m.
Friday, June 3 — Michael Franti and Spearhead
Franti has been performing in genre-blending (and style-creating) groups since 1986 and with his current outfit for more than 20 years. He’s lauded for his socially conscious and politically charged lyrics and activism, but his concerts have become irresistible for their undeniable party atmosphere and infectious rhythms.
Saturday, June 4 — David Grisman Sextet
Acoustic and roots music are always well-represented in the Arts Fest lineup, but few groups provide as much virtuosity as the David Grisman Sextet. Known for layered sounds that span from classical to jazz (with several stops on the way), mandolinist Grisman — a protege of the late Jerry Garcia — has been performing worldwide since the late 1970s.
Sunday, June 5 — Ibeyi
At each year’s Arts Festival, you’re likely to encounter at least one group so cutting-edge that you’ll be an instant fan (and frantically search out other acts with similar sounds). This year, that sonic wake-up call may well be provided by Ibeyi, a jazz and world-music duo consisting of a pair of twin sisters with roots in France and Cuba.
Monday, June 6 — Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh with Conductor Steven Hackman
Elegant, angelic music will float through the Downtown air on Monday night, courtesy of the acclaimed Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. But while some traditional choral pieces are to be expected, Hackman is also bringing original arrangements of tracks by the likes of U2, Coldplay, Radiohead and Leonard Cohen to the festival.
Tuesday, June 7 — Leftover Salmon
Many a summer festival has been stolen by 27-year veterans Leftover Salmon, who coined the term “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass” to describe their singular genre. Fans of country music will be as welcome as devotees of bluegrass, zydeco and jam-band sounds.
Wednesday, June 8 — Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires
Paste Magazine called Bradley, “the screaming eagle of soul,” the top live act of 2015. The 67-year old singer has been compared to Otis Redding for his throwback funk/soul style; the title track of his most recent album, “Changes,” is a breathtaking reinvention of the Black Sabbath song of the same name. Listen to it (click the video above) and you’ll have a tough time staying away from Point State Park next Wednesday night.
Thursday, June 9 — Beth Orton
Devotees know every song of Orton’s extensive catalog, but even those who don’t know they’ve heard the singer-songwriter’s music certainly have — her stuff has been a staple of soundtracks, forward-thinking radio stations and your cool friend’s playlists for more than 20 years. Her recent releases have tended away from the electronically influenced sounds of her first few albums, but her songwriting chops are second to none.
Friday, June 10 — Guster
The pop-infused rock band Guster’s most famous Pittsburgh appearance occurred quite unexpectedly this January. Stuck in the city due to a snowstorm, the group performed an acoustic set in a North Side alley for fewer than 20 fans — but video of the set went viral, netting more than 150,000 views. You probably missed that magic moment, but another headlining set at the festival (they appeared in 2010) is a nice consolation prize.
Saturday, June 11 — Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
There’s no better deal than a chance to see the lauded PSO free of charge (and with no pressure to put on your symphony attire, too). Composer Manfred Honeck leads the symphony into Point State Park on the penultimate night of the festival.
Sunday, June 12 – Lake Street Dive
If you’ve spent any time looking at the Wikipedia write-ups of musicians, you’ll know that the site’s standard format requires the genre of the artist to be stated right up top. That can lead to some unwieldy word combinations, occasionally listing a litany of styles, but I’ve never seen it ignored. Except on the page for Lake Street Dive, which simply lists the Boston-based group’s sound as “multi-genre.” Sort the pop from the rock from everything else in Lake Street Dive’s sonic blender on the fest’s final night.