Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on June 21, 2019.
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The Pittsburgh Jazz Festival is a stellar event that occurs in downtown Pittsburgh each June with three stages, three days of music, and extra performances going on nearby at the August Wilson Center!
If you like live jazz, or even simply live music, this free event is an absolute must.
The Pittsburgh Jazz Festival Has an Interesting Setup
One of the things we love most about the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival is its setup. Most of the performances take place across three stages at the intersection of Smithfield Street and Liberty Avenue, and bands alternate between the three stages during the Saturday and Sunday performances (typically starting between 12pm and 1pm and ending between 8pm and 9pm, although Friday night shows also occur on a single stage).
As soon as one performance is over, just a few minutes later another one begins at the next stage. This cycles over and over again throughout the day, meaning the biggest downtime between acts is only about 10 minutes if all goes well (in some cases there is even overlap if an act runs late- which does happen!).
As such, you'll often see people rushing from one set to the next and enjoying a marathon of live jazz during the weekend performances.
During our visit, we also saw others taking a bit more strategic approach of arriving to the next stage about 15 minutes before the last set is over, setting up folding chairs, and getting a prime spot. They'd stay until the set was a few minutes from being over and repeat the process to ensure great views at every show- a genius idea if there ever was one.
However, as we are not diehard festival-goers, our preferred method of tackling the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival is a little less strategic. It is simply showing up towards the end of a set, listening to a few songs, waiting for the start of the next set, listening to a few songs, and then going to dinner. After dinner we return, listen to a few songs from the next set and a few more from the set after that in order to enjoy many different performers.
Going beyond the music, the festival has a number of vendors set up between the stages; however, compared to other events the available eating, drinking, and shopping opportunities are quite minimal. Thankfully, you're a quick walk to many restaurants and bars in the Cultural District to round out your visit (hence our strategy from above!).
Check Out Premium Performances at the August Wilson Center
When taking in the jazz festival, be sure to watch out for premium performances (paid tickets required) around the area. Many shows often take place at the August Wilson Center beyond the free jazz out in the streets, and in 2019 featured the likes of Patti Labelle, Tamara Tunie, and the Paul Jost Quartet to name a few.
But when looking to grab a ticket to these extra performances, act fast. Well-known performers like Patti Labelle sell out fast!
Overall, the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival is a great event downtown. While we don't necessarily believe you'll be spending all weekend down enjoying the acts, you certainly can. Whether you visit for a few acts or all of them, well, plenty of live jazz should be on your radar during this event!
The Pittsburgh Jazz Festival typically occurs in June each year at the intersection of Liberty and Smithfield in downtown Pittsburgh. For places to eat and drink downtown while at the festival, click the previous link!
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