The Deutschtown Music Festival is Pittsburgh's largest free, standalone music festival, and in its seventh year, it’s still growing.
The 2018 version, with 365 acts on 40 stages, drew 30,000 or more over two days, organizers estimated. This year’s festival, this weekend, promises about 400 bands on 42 indoor and outdoor stages. It’s even adding a third day – Sunday, with a Gospel Brunch modeled on similar events in famed music town Austin, Texas. The brunch is organized with the festival’s North Side neighbor, Allegheny Center Alliance Church.
“Gospel music is something that hasn’t typically been a big part of the festival, so with this year the church has actually two stages on Saturday as well, doing different gospel music. So we’re really excited about that,” says Cody Walters, who co-founded the festival with Ben Soltesz.
As always, the festival ranges across genres, from punk rock, jazz, and folk to hip hop, R & B, and heavy metal. Most of the bands are local, drawn from about 500 submissions, says band curator Hugh Twyman.
Highlights include a kind of virtual reunion: Friday night, four bands, each featuring former members of the group Rusted Root, will play consecutive sets on the HughShows Stage at Foreland. It’s surely the first time that’s happened since the band’s original line-up, of “Send Me On My Way” fame, dissolved two decades ago. (The acts are Jenn Wertz, The Borstal Boys, Drowning Clowns, and Jim Donovan and Sun King Warriors.)
The festival’s Friday and Saturday line-ups also include about 30 national acts, drawn from about 2,600 bands who applied via the ReverbNation website, Twyman said.
Touring acts include Rae Lynn Nelson, granddaughter of Willie Nelson.
The festival has grown enormously, Walters said, from its first-year total of 47 acts on 10 stages. But he said that logistically, the event will be much the same as in recent years. Most venues will be in Deutschtown proper, with the festival’s heart at Middle and Foreland streets, home to a main stage, a line-up of food vendors, and a beer tent. (Wristbands to purchase beer are $5, with proceeds going toward paying the bands, said Walters.)
New venues this year include: The Government Center record store; the Grand Hall at the Priory; indoors at the Teutonia Mannerchor; and outdoors at the newly rebuilt Northeast Fountain, at the corner of Cedar and West North avenues.
Many venues are all-ages. As usual, several are outside Deutschtown. And as the festival tests the neighborhood’s holding capacity, it’s utilizing some raw spaces, Walters said. One venue, at 1000 Constance Street, is “just a giant garage with all this welding you know stuff, so that’s going to be fun as well.”