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Hundreds of bands perform at annual Pittsburgh music festival

July 15, 2018

A band performs on Foreland Street in Pittsburgh’s North Side on Saturday during the annual Deutschtown Music Festival.(Credit: Deutschtown Music Festival)

The popular James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy shuttered last year because of noise complaints was rocking again over the weekend during the annual Deutschtown Music Festival in Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Jonathan Iams, 49, of Pine Township bought the building in May and said he partnered with the Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip District to open the establishment for music, beer and wine on Friday and Saturday.

Iams said he’s planning to renovate the historic three-story building, move his engineering consulting firm from the South Side to the top floor and either lease or find a partner to reopen the other two floors and basement as a restaurant and music venue.

“I was excited to become a part of the music festival because I wanted to make a statement and say, ‘Hey, we want this back,’” Iams said said of the establishment that served for decades as one of Pittsburgh’s premier spots for jazz and blues. “It just seems appropriate that when you have a music festival on Foreland Street that the James Street should be part of that.”

Thousands attended the festival, which stretched about 10 blocks from the 16th Street Bridge to Nova Place near Allegheny Commons Park.

The event was one of many on one of the city’s busiest summer weekends, including a Pirates doubleheader and a beer festival at Stage AE in the North Shore, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Oakland’s Schenley Park and the American Federation of Teacher’s convention featuring national politicians at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

Ben Soltesz of Spring Hill, a founder of the music festival, said 369 bands were scheduled to perform Friday and Saturday at nearly 40 venues, including outside stages, local taprooms and restaurants. The event also featured more than 30 food trucks, arts and craft stands and activities for children.

“They love it,” said Rebecca Kirkpatrick, 40, of the Mexican War Streets, who brought her two young children, Annie, 4, and Ellie, 4 months. “They get to dance and we saw puppets. “It’s a great way to bring the neighborhood together. There’s something for everybody, the music especially.”

Hugh Twyman, the festival’s band coordinator, said 520 bands applied for the event. He listened to audio submitted by each of them and pared the list down to 369. Musicians receive a stipend based on the amount organizers receive in sponsorships and merchandise sales.

Andre Costello of Brookline said it’s amounted to $100 to $150 per band in past years.

“You split that between four or five guys, but it helps,” said Costello, leader of the band Andre Costello and the Cool Minors.

Streets were packed with visitors and city residents enjoying a steamy summer day with temperatures in the 80s and high humidity. Mimes mingled with musicians that ranged from rock n’ rollers like Costello to German polka bands and street violinists.

“It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year,” said Annie Clough, 32, of Shadyside, who was enjoying a beer in the festival’s outdoor biergarten. “Good beer, good food and you meet new people.”

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