Jeff Tweedy and bluegrass carry the opening weekend of arts festival



Three Rivers Arts Festival director Veronica Corpuz says the goal of the music programming is to present a diverse mix while also staging performers who allow the artists around the perimeter "to have an opportunity to talk to patrons."

In other words, people don't want to sell their seaside paintings or eat their funnel cake with your metal or post-rock noise band carrying on in the background.

She also says that "given our relationship with WYEP there's kind of a lens toward the Triple-A format [Adult Album Alternative], but it's not the YEP music festival."

Still, it leans heavily toward Americana with Jeff Tweedy, Lucinda Williams, Trampled by Turtles and Amos Lee, not to mention the local bands booked during the afternoon.

For its biggest showcase of the week -- the second day of the festival -- TRAF goes with the ultimate Americana: wall-to-wall bluegrass, stacking 10 bands on three stages for nine hours. That's a lot of banjos in the heart of the city.

"The Colcom Foundation has been extremely supportive," Ms. Corpuz says.

The foundation, established by the late Mellon family heiress Cordelia Scaife May, has contributed to such projects as the Great Allegheny Passage and the Point State Park fountain, along with being a donor to anti-immigration groups.

"This is the third year we've done bluegrass day," she says. "It highlights the genre and celebrate a traditional format."

"Bluegrass has been under-programmed in this market considering how popular it is nationally," says Gary Hinston, who books the music. "It can be a hard ticket to sell. So in a free situation, it's an ideal program for the people who love bluegrass."

TWEEDY’S NEW LOOK

One of my favorite entries from a recent comments section was someone saying, "Personally, it's always been Jeff Tweedy that's stopped me from enjoying Wilco ..."

This presumed Jay Bennett or Nels Cline fan will likely steer clear of Point State Park on Friday or wherever else the Jeff Tweedy tour may land.

The founder and centerpiece of Wilco will open the Three Rivers Festival tour with a new band featuring his 18-year-old son Spencer on drums, guitarist Jim Elkington (The Horse's Ha, Eleventh Dream Day), bassist Darin Gray (Dazzling Killmen) and keyboardist Liam Cunningham.

Pittsburgh is the second night of a 16-date tour that opens tonight at Detroit's Masonic Temple and closes at the Newport Folk Festival. The band will hit the Wilco/Uncle Tupelo catalog and preview songs from a new album coming Sept. 16.

Titled "Sukierae" (sue-key-ray), it's a duo effort with Spencer under the moniker Tweedy that will feature 20 new songs written by the Wilco frontman. Supplying backing vocals will be Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the Brooklyn-based Lucius.

"When I set out to make this record, I imagined it being a solo thing, but not in the sense of one guy strumming an acoustic guitar and singing," Jeff said in a statement. "Solo to me meant that I would do everything -- write the songs, play all the instruments and sing. But Spencer's been with me from the very beginning demo sessions, playing drums and helping the songs take shape. In that sense, the record is kind of like a solo album performed by a duo."

Wilco fans will remember the band playing the wide open area of Point State Park back in 2003 and 2004 when Wilco was introducing more electronic noise-rock elements, with an assist from Jim O'Rourke, on "Yankee Foxtrot Hotel" and "A Ghost Is Born." It was a departure from the alt-country Wilco that debuted here at Graffiti in 1995 upon releasing "A.M."

What happens to Wilco now?

The frontman declined interviews, but Mr. Cline, who has turned up recently with Medeski, Martin & Wood and Phil Lesh and Friends, told the LA Times that the group plans to reconvene in the fall. He said, "I think that the Wilco guys are very smart in knowing that the other things that we do bring something back to the band. We come back maybe recharged or with a new kind of perspective on something. It's always going to add and never detract from Wilco."

 

ARTS FESTIVAL MUSIC SCHEDULE

FRIDAY

Gateway Center

5-5:50 p.m.: AppalAsia (Appalachian-Asian)

6-7 p.m.: The Weathered Road (Americana/folk-rock)

Point State Park (Dollar Bank Stage)

Noon-1 p.m.: Balloon Ride Fantasy (contemporary rock)

7:30-9 p.m.: Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco)

Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

4-4:45 p.m., 5-5:45 p.m.: Soundwaves Steelband (steelpan ensemble)

SATURDAY

Gateway Center

1-2 p.m.: Broke Stranded & Ugly (bluegrass)

3-4 p.m.: Corn Liquor Saints (modern bluegrass-style string band)

5-6 p.m.: Well Strung (country/rock/oldtime)

Stanwix Stage

Noon-1 p.m.: The Lone Pine String Band (traditional bluegrass/oldtime)

2-3 p.m.: The Unknown String Band (acoustic)

4-5 p.m.: The Shelf Life String Band (non-traditional bluegrass)

Point State Park (Dollar Bank Stage)

2-3 p.m.: The Allegheny Rhythm Rangers (swing/rockabilly)

4-5 p.m.: The Allegheny Drifters (traditional bluegrass)

6:30 - 7:15 p.m.: Gibson Brothers (International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2012 Entertainer of the Year)

7:30-9 p.m.: Sam Bush: Known as “The King of Newgrass,” the 62-year-old mandolinist started playing professionally in the ’60s and was a founding member of New Grass Revival in 1971. The band would later pair him with young banjo stud Bela Fleck. He made his solo debut in 1985 and released his seventh album, “Circles Around Me” in 1995. He’s also joined the likes of Emmylou Harris, Charlie Haden, Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks. Later this month the “King of Telluride” makes his 40th appearance at the 41st Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado.

Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

Noon-5 p.m. (performances on the hour): AcoustiKids: Local singer/songwriters performing original acoustic music

SUNDAY

Gateway Center

1-5 p.m.: AcoustiCafe (local singer/songwriters)

Stanwix Stage

Noon-1 p.m.: Kinetic (original jazz/Afropop)

2-3 p.m.: Stranger Convention (alternative modern jazz)

4-5 p.m.: Machete Kisumontao (Puerto Rican salsa/bomba/plena)

Point State Park (Dollar Bank Stage)

Noon-12:40 p.m.: Brooke Annibale (acoustic pop-folk)

1-1:45 p.m.: Townsppl (folk-pop)

2:15-3 p.m.: Colonizing the Cosmos (indie-rock)

6-7 p.m.: Kalob Griffin Band (country/Americana)

7:30-9 p.m.: Trampled by Turtles: Saturday is Bluegrass Day, but this band from Duluth, Minn., will keep it going albeit it in a more rocked-up mode. The band also plays Telluride, along with Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Music Festival. The Turtles have a new album, “Wild Animals,” coming July 15. Singer-guitarist Dave Simonett recently told Paste, “A lot of our reputation from even just a couple years ago was that we were this fast band, which we can do, and we do that. But this record focused a little bit more on other aspects of our playing together.”

Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

Noon-5:45 p.m.: WYEP’s Reimagination Showcase: Featuring Driven Lifeless, Swag Monkeys, Prinse Tay, Grace Tandon, Pachyderm, William Forrest

Information: www.3riversartsfest.org


Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.

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