The Three Rivers Arts Festival, which runs from June 1-10 this year, announced its music series headliners this afternoon. Here's a quick rundown:
Fri., June 1 — The Wailers
Sat., June 2 — Kathleen Edwards
Sun., June 3 — Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Tue., June 5 — Dawes
Fri., June 8 — Carolina Chocolate Drops
Sat., June 9 — "Bluegrass Day" feat. Del McCoury, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Greensky Bluegrass
Sun., June 10 — Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers
Every year, the TRAF music lineup is, of course, the subject of much heated debate. I certainly see the function of the series, and don't take umbrage at the fact that it's pretty family-friendly fare; that's what it should be. Sure, I'd like for the arts fest crowd to get a little challenge now and then in the name of art, or at least be subjected to some sort of semblance of a microcosm of the current music world. (Electronic music had its biggest year since the '90s last year, yet there will be at least one acoustic guitar onstage for each of these shows, aside from the PSO.)
But setting all that aside, here's my qualm: Literally every artist on this list played in Pittsburgh sometime within the 15 months prior to the festival. The most recent — Kathleen Edwards — played the Rex this past February. The most distant, Carolina Chocolate Drops, played the Sunstar Festival at the Kelly-Strayhorn on March 5, 2011. Every other act played a local venue sometime in between those dates.
Isn't there anyone we haven't seen in the past year who would be a good booking for this festival? In past years there's often been at least one act (Tom Tom Club, Sonic Youth, Wilco, the first time, obviously not when they booked them two years in a row) that hadn't played Pittsburgh in a while. It was a treat, something novel, something that made the festival a concert destination. Sure, I understand the big difference — that it's free this time around. But still. WHY CAN'T WE HAVE JUST ONE UNIQUE THING, GUYS?