"Three days of Celtic camaraderie."
That is the promise of the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, and 22 years into the event, they know how to deliver, rain or shine.
The festival opens Friday in its usual spot at Riverplex at Sandcastle with a full weekend of Irish culture, topped with beer and music, but including a marketplace, storytelling, children's activities and workshops.
Gaelic Storm, the hull band from "Titanic," is making its yearly visit, as is Makem and Spain Brothers. Beyond that, there's an international flair to the festival.
From the tiny Isle of Tiree in Scotland comes Skerryvore (Scottish for "lighthouse"), which has been dubbed "the boy band of traditional Scottish music." Unlike Big Time Rush or One Direction, the sound is driven by bagpipes, accordions and fiddle, along with guitar and drums.
"I saw them at the Milwaukee Irish Festival and after the third song I said, 'I gotta have this band,'" says Nan Krushinski, executive director of the festival. "They're really dynamic, a lot of fun. I just knew our audience was going to love them. I also wanted to reach out to our Scottish cousins."
From Poland comes Beltaine (not to be confused with the Irish folk or pagan metal band), which mixes traditional Irish, Scottish and Breton music with contemporary, while using fiddle, bouzuki, mandolin, whistles, bodhran, bombard, accordion, gaita pipes and rare percussion instruments.
"It's their first visit to the U.S.," Ms. Krushinski says. "They sent me an electronic press kit and when I heard them, I thought 'how fun!' The fact that the Irish music extends to other countries really speaks volumes. It's nice to educate the crowd that there's a lot of diversity within the Irish music scene."
Part of the Irish contingent is the return of Screaming Orphans, four sisters from Donegal who performed as Sinead O'Connor's backup singers and have been compared to the Cranberries and The Corrs.
Music aside, new this year is a beverage tasting, where visitors can sample Irish beers and Irish whiskeys, which should be a popular area at Riverplex.
Animal lovers can visit with rare breeds, including the Irish Kerry and Dexter Cattle and Kerry Bog Pony. Other highlights include the Irish dogs tent, musical instrument demos, the Irish in Film travelling exhibit and Blarney Bingo.
Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $10 advance; $12 at the gate; $8 senior (60+) and students with ID; $5 military active/retired and public safety officers with ID, children 12 years and younger free. $3 admission Friday 4 to 6 p.m. ages 13+; $5 admission Friday 6 to 8 p.m. with college ID. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or in advance at www.pghirishfest.org. Call 412-422-1113.
4:15 p.m.: Macdonald Pipe Band
5 p.m.: Liam O'Toole
5:45 p.m.: Beltaine
7 p.m.: Screaming Orphans
8:15 p.m.: Skerryvore
9:30 p.m.: Gaelic Storm
Celtic Spirit Stage:
6 p.m.: Evans & Doherty
7:15 p.m.: Two2Many
8:30 p.m.: Red Hand Paddy
9:45 p.m.: Bastard Bearded Irishmen
12:15 p.m.: Two2Many
1:30 p.m.: Matthew Craig and the Kerry Tipper
2:30 p.m.: Burke-Conroy School of Irish Dance
3:30 p.m.: Ballad Combo: Tom Sweeney, Evans & Doherty, Makem & Spain Bros.
4:45 p.m.: Skerryvore
6 p.m.: Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance
7 p.m.: Makem and Spain Brothers
8:15 p.m.: Beltaine
9:30 p.m.: Gaelic Storm
Celtic Spirit Stage:
11:15 a.m.: Children's Irish Dance Matinee
1 p.m.: Tom Sweeney
2:30 p.m.: Screaming Orphans
4 p.m.: Girsa
5:15 p.m.: Bell School of Irish Dance
6:15 p.m.: Corned Beef & Curry
7:30 p.m.: Screaming Orphans
1 p.m.: Pittsburgh Irish Reelers
1:30 p.m.: Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh
1:45 p.m.: Pittsburgh Ceili Club
3 p.m.: Beltaine
4:15 p.m.: Skerryvore
Celtic Spirit Stage:
10 a.m.: Mass in the Irish language
11:30 a.m.: Patrick Regan
12:30 p.m.: Cahal Dunne
2 p.m.: Evans & Doherty
2:30 p.m.: Tom Sweeney
3 p.m.: Makem and Spain Brothers
3:30 p.m.: Tom Sweeney, Makem and Spain Brothers, and Evans & Doherty
4:45 p.m.: Homeland
ALSO ALL WEEKEND
A Fair with Squonk
Mellon Park is once again the idyllic scene for the 43rd annual A Fair in the Park, the contemporary craft festival presented by The Craftsmen's Guild of Pittsburgh. It features fine art and craft vendors and demonstrations, children's activities, food concessions and live music.
The musical highlight is performance-art troupe Squonk Opera performing its "Go Roadshow" at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Friday; and noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The fair also features a performance by alternative rock band Lovebettie at 6 p.m. Saturday, and strolling performances by the Ray Ryans New Orleans River City Band Friday and Saturday, and MeanMary Sunday.
Admission is free. Festival hours are 1 to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Go to www.afairinthepark.org
Don't be a drag this election season -- check out the Kinsey Sicks, the first "Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet" to set their eyes on the White House. "Electile Dysfunction: The Kinsey Sicks for President" is a musical parody at City Theatre, South Side, where they'll be electioneering for the big office all weekend.
The Kinsey Sicks -- Irwin Keller (Winnie), Ben Schatz (Rachel), Jeff Manabat (Trixie) and Spencer Brown (Trampolina) -- have taken their award-winning a cappella harmony from off-Broadway to Las Vegas, Canada to Australia, while appearing in two feature films and recording seven albums.
The City Events show is recommended for ages 16 and older and runs at 8 p.m. today and Friday; 5:30 and 9 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $40 at 412-431-CITY (2489) or citytheatrecompany.org.
'Drowsy' in McKeesport
Cory McCaffery Sigler makes an acting comeback in the musical comedy "The Drowsy Chaperone," energizing the McKeesport Little Theater this weekend.
As the theater fan known only as Man in Chair, Mr. Sigler listens to a recording of a forgotten 1920s musical. While he tells little stories about the production and the actors, the characters come to life in his apartment. Mr. Sigler was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, and has since been working as a director and running McCaffery Mysteries, Inc.
"The Drowsy Chaperone" runs Friday through Sept. 23, with weekend performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 ($7 for students and seniors) at 412-673-1100 or mckeesportlittletheater.com.
Grammy-winning guitar wizard Steve Vai arrives at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg tonight with his first album in seven years, "The Story of Light."
The largely instrumental record -- which follows "the cosmic journey of a man driven mad by grief, intertwining tragedy, revelation, enlightenment, and redemption" -- features guest spots from Aimee Mann and Beverly McClellan (of "The Voice"). She is the opening act on the tour and will join him for the song "John the Revelator."
The guitarist, who started his career with Frank Zappa, has toured with Joe Satriani, Whitesnake and David Lee Roth.
The concert is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35-$40; 724-836-8000.
To support the planned Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II Memorial, the River City Swing Band will perform at a USO-style social gathering at the Market Square Farmers Market Lunchtime Concert Series from noon to 2 p.m. today.
The performance will include WWII-era songs and swing dancers courtesy of Arthur Murray Downtown Pittsburgh. A living statue, popularized in Paris and Las Vegas, will serve as a temporary memorial and provide more information on plans for the permanent memorial.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.swpawwii.org.
Pittsburgh natives Allison Kole and Devin Gallagher will be at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont Friday to premiere their documentary "Married in Spandex," which "explores love and relationships, along with nuanced perspectives on marriage equality and yes, gold lame spandex" and features the music and mayhem of lady rapper Leslie Hall.
The premiere will start with live music by Heather Kropf & Eve Goodman at 7 p.m. and also include basket raffles and a short film. A Q&A with the filmmakers will follow the screening. EqualityPA will have an information table and will participate in the Q&A segment. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door (students with ID, $7). For more information, visit www.marriedinspandex.com.
Citiparks' 13th annual Alphabet Trail and Tales returns to Frick Park, Blue Slide entrance, Squirrel Hill, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with literary fun for the family.
On hand will be Noel MacNeal, who's worked for "Sesame Street" and has a new book called "10 Minute Puppets," which includes instructions on how to make 30 different puppets out of everyday objects.
He is joined by illustrator John Manders, with his life-sized pirate ship "The Salty Carrot"; KDKA-TV's Dave Crawley reading poems from his book, "Reading, Rhyming and 'Rithmetic"; Tina Field Howe, with her book "Snailsworth"; and author-musician Mark Weakland.
Local visual artists will lead art activities and games celebrating the alphabet. Admission is free. Call 412-665-3665 or visit www.Citiparks.net.
NEED 2 KNOW
• Karl Wallinger, leader of the band World Party and formerly of the Waterboys, comes to Altar Bar at 8 tonight on his first U.S. tour since he suffered an aneurism in 2001 that left him unable to speak or walk and in rehab for five years. He'll be playing a stripped-down set of songs from throughout his 25-year career, including the recent album, "Arkeology." The show is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$17. 1-866-468-3401.
• Blue-eyed soul legend Michael McDonald, of Doobie Brothers fame, performs at Meadows Casino at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $45-$62. 1-800-745-3000.
• OvreArts premieres two ballets at 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday at CAPA, Downtown: "Infinity," composed by Blake Ragghianti, and "The Alkonost," composed by Luke Mayernik. Choreography by Texture Contemporary Ballet and Pearlann Porter with the Pillow Project. Alejandro Pinzon and Ryan Keeling conduct. $28-$40; 412-294-8071 and www.ovrearts.org.
Guide to a plentiful season of music, performing and visual arts.
Local Scene: The Harlan Twins, Weird Paul, Wiz Khalifa.
Movie theater listings.
Review of Teppanyaki Kyoto; Munch goes to brunch at 720 Music.
Interview with the director of The Rep's "August: Osage County."