After construction doomed it to the cramped purgatory of Stanwix Triangle, the Three Rivers Arts Festival will return to Point State Park for its 50th anniversary. The schedule for the festival's free concerts, to be presented June 5-14, was announced earlier this week.
"The big news is, we're really happy to be back in the park," says J. Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which is now managing the TRAF. With the park's larger space again available, "part of what we've attempted to do is bring back some bigger names, and we're hoping that will, of course, continue to attract large crowds."
TRAF starts with a bang on Fri., June 5, with the Rust Belt blues of indie stars The Black Keys, followed the next day by groovemeisters Medeski, Martin & Wood (June 6). Also performing: New Orleans' Trombone Shorty (June 7); acclaimed Afro-fusion band Toubab Krewe (June 10); soul legend Booker T. (June 11); "sacred steel" man Robert Randolph and the Family Band (June 12); and young blues singer Shemekia Copeland (June 13).
Two nights are headlined by local acts. On June 8, live hip-hop band Formula412 returns to TRAF with The Boogie Hustlers; the next night, indie-pop trio Donora headlines, with Meeting of Important People and Apostle of Hustle opening. TRAF concludes June 14 with the current incarnation of reggae superstars The Wailers (sorry, Bob not included).
As in years past, the schedule was largely assembled by Gary Hinston. While no lineup for an event like this is immune to criticism, McMahon says the TRAF's philosophy is basically to "get our best bang for the buck" while also representing "diversity, all across the board -- ages, racial, interests, ethnic. We want to try to have a little bit of everything. We also try to push the envelope -- a little bit."
The most distinguishing feature of this year's festival, though, is how short it is -- a mere 10 days.
"When the Cultural Trust took on the Three Rivers Arts Festival in January, a convergence of things began to happen" -- including the economic slump and the short timeframe for organizing the TRAF, McMahon says. With alternatives like booking cheaper acts, or charging admission to the traditionally free event, "we just felt it was responsible to do whatever we do well, and if that meant we needed to do just a little less of it, that was OK."
"This is going to be a learning year for us -- there's no question," McMahon adds. "We're going to be doing a lot of investigation, we're going to be doing some surveying of the Arts Festival patrons and attendees."
For more information, call 412-456-6666 or visit artsfestival.net.