Deutschtown music Festival has grown exponentially over its 4 year run on Pittsburgh’s North Side. From 50 bands in 2013 to over 180 this year through two days. With only a handful of venues in its first year, the fest is up to 23 this year including 5 outdoor stages.
One of Deutschtown’s marquee venues has grown along with the festival over the years, becoming a popular location in the Pittsburgh music community. One thing that makes this festival so special is the fact that aside from the great music, an area that may have been overlooked in the past is now the focal point for 2 days out of the year. However, the folks at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy located on the corner of Foreland Street and James Street figured out a way to keep fans coming all year round.
The establishment has a rich history just like the neighborhood in which it resides. Having been built in the late 1800’s, the three story building was a Swiss meeting hall made possible through membership. It later became Wiggins restaurant known for its incredible seafood menu and later Julian’s Restaurant. James Street Tavern closed in 2004 after being open for 18 years. The building couldn’t find a steady owner until December 2011 when Adam Johnston and Lisa Saftner opened as James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy.
During the restaurants early years, jazz music was the primary focus for the venue, it wasn’t until general manager Kevin Saftner took over event booking full time in March of 2015 that the format changed. “While I love Jazz it was obvious we needed to diversify our styles of music here. Fall of 2015 is when we really started to hit our stride by working with great people like Ziggy Sawdust, Kyle Henson and Dhruva Krishna of FoundSound, Grey Area Productions and all of the great local talent. We try to be easy to work with for local musicians,” says Saftner.
Safter is a co-founder of Deutschtown Music Festival along with Cody Walters, Ben Soltesz and Jessica Winghart. Saftner and Winghart are no longer involved with the planning of the fest, paving the way for long time Pittsburgh music blogger Hugh Twyman to step in. With James Street booking 30+ shows a month and not to mention private events Saftner has his hands full.
James Street will continue having a prominent role with the festival utilizing the ballroom on the third floor, the restaurant stage on the main level and the Speakeasy downstairs from the restaurant. All three spots boast an impressive line-up including Bill Jasper Acoustics, Jeremy Caywood, Nameless in August, Rat Tits, Nox Boys, Misaligned Mind and Grand Piano to name a few.
“DMF has helped James Street just like it has helped the rest of Deutschtown. People may have come to this neighborhood for the first time because of the festival. Hopefully people enjoy themselves and come back to James Street, or the Park House for Bluegrass Night or the Elks for Banjo Club. There are tons of great bars within walking distance and some people don’t realize that. But because of DMF eyes are starting to be opened,” says Saftner.
The festival runs Friday, July 8 starting at 4pm at Penn Brewery, formally the park stage. Festivities will resume at 11am Saturday morning and run through the night. Visit http://deutschtownmusicfestival.org/ for the complete schedule.