PGH’s Second Annual Pittonkatonk Brass BBQ

Published On April 29, 2015 | By Zoe Hannah | Music
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Photo Credits: Pittonkatonk

At last year’s Pittonkatonk Festival, the brainchild of local DJ Pandemic Pete and Rich Randall, over 700 of Pittsburgh’s brass-lovers gathered at Schenley Park to picnic and dance with spectators and musicians alike. The festival is designed to dissolve the barrier between musician and festival-goer, with its lack of a main stage catalyzing a deeper, closer knit performance. To this end, attendees are asked to lend a hand in order to keep this event transparent, community-oriented, and, of course, economically possible.

First thing’s first – the festival’s IndieGoGo campaign is finally past their $5,000 goal that keeps this event free for all spectators. But they could still use the extra cash, which goes towards paying the musicians, promoting the event, renting Port-a-Potties, etc. If you don’t have money to donate but still see this as an event that Pittsburgh needs, you can support the event by volunteering to help set up, clean up, bring food, or whatever else you’re capable of doing.

In order for this festival to facilitate the community’s relationship with brass music, the organizers felt that it was impossible to ignore such a huge facet of the Pittsburgh population: students. The Hill District’s University Prep junior and senior marching bands were selected by Pittonkatonk to work with headliners What Cheer? Brigade in the weeks preceding the event. The program is educational, offering UPrep’s young musicians the opportunity to learn new music, teach their own music, and (this is the best part) record a limited edition, 7″ vinyl with the band. The students have been working to become knowledgeable on what it’s like to make brass music into a career through the lens of WC?B’s career.whatcheer

What Cheer? Brigade, first-time Pittonkatonk headliners, is a Providence, RI brass group that consists of 19 instruments and an intensity unmatched by many fellow brass musicians. The group has performed with Wolf Parade, Dan Deacon, and at Lollapalooza – they’re kind of a big deal. They’re all about community, having played venues ranging from weddings to community benefits to night clubs, so it’s no surprise that they’re teaming up with a high school marching band to spread their love for music. UPrep is even performing live with WC?B at Pittonkatonk – don’t miss it!

In addition to What Cheer? Brigade, other touring bands that’ll be at Pittonkatonk include Pitchblak Brass Band, Black Bear Combo, and Detroit Party Marching Band. Pitchblak is a 10-piece hip hop group that explores sounds from the 80s to today. The NYC-based group is immensely talented, featuring multiple brass musicians that double as emcees for the group. There are no limits when it comes to Pitchblak’s performances – they sing, rap, and generally kick major brass.

Black Bear Combo has played at the White House, dressed as skeletons, nonetheless. That’s really all that needs to be said in order to understand how cool they are, but here’s some more info: they’re a Balkans-inspired, five-member group from Chicago. Their performance will have you believing you’re at a funky, European/Balkans-esque party.

Detroit Party Marching Band is vastly different – they’re a guerilla brass group from Detroit that’s known for showing up at venues seemingly unannounced.

Domay day marchingn’t worry – Pittonkatonk is all about the ‘Burgh, and they haven’t forgotten about the talent that lies right here in our city. Beauty Slap, comprised of six men, their instruments, and a computer, have been playing Pittsburgh’s venues incessantly this year, including Mr. Smalls, Club Cafe, and many others. They’ll have you dancing seemingly involuntarily, as they’re famous for their cathartic, deep, thundery brass. Additionally, local groups May Day Marching Band (similar to Black Bear Combo), Col. Eagleburger’s Highstepping Goodtime Band, and more will be performing.

If all of this incredible music isn’t enough to get you to Pittonkatonk, do it for the food! There will be refreshments provided by the festival in addition to whatever potluck dinners are brought to the event, further making Pittonkatonk a community event with as little barrier between organizer and attendee as possible. You can also help out by hosting a band for the night, bringing a tent, or sharing this article and the IndieGoGo campaign.

This year’s Pittonkatonk Festival will be at the Vietnam Veterans Pavilion in Schenley Park. The May 2 picnic/festival will begin at 1PM and conclude at 9PM. Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to party with these best-in-class brass performers.

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