By Jacob Guerra | The Duquesne Duke
An estimated 18,000 showed up to the Hartwood Acres Park Amphitheatre on Saturday for the 16th Annual Allegheny County Music Festival.
For a $20 per car donation in support of the Allegheny County Music Festival Fund, guests were able to enjoy a diverse lineup of local acts including Rusted Root, Beauty Slap, JD Eicher & The Goodnights and Donora.
The bands were also strumming for a good cause. Proceeds of the fund are processed through the Allegheny County Department of Human Services or Allegheny County Juvenile Probation to assist underprivileged children and youth with materials and opportunities for better living.
It all kicked off under the heat of the 5 p.m. sun when Donora took the stage. The lawn wasn’t close to being filled to capacity yet, but the band didn’t let that inhibit their energy.
They began the set with the optimistic “Take My Heart,” immediately showcasing their indie-pop/indie-rock sound. Then they boomed from one song to the next, sounding as alternative as the lead singer’s skinny jeans. If all that booming wasn’t enough, they ended with a song best described by its name. It was “Boom Boom,” a noticeable number from their 2011 album, “Boyfriends, Girlfriends.”
JD Eicher & The Goodnights were up next. They began with “Two Weeks Back,” a pop rock tune with slight country undertones. Fans of John Mayer’s pop-oriented tracks would find the sound familiar, especially with the addition of the pentatonic guitar licks plucked by JD Eicher himself. Later in the set, Bill Deasy, a singer-songwriter from Pittsburgh and the event’s coordinator, sang with the group for a cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic, “Beast of Burden.”
With the conclusion of Eicher’s set, Bill Deasy, who’s been coordinating the festival for five years, shared his views on the day.
“This kind of thing affirms for me the good of human nature,” he said. “It’s just so fun for people to kind of be unified by music for a good purpose. You know, it’s sort of just reassuring for me to see such a good thing consistently. So, I feel lucky that I get to put on these concerts and just kind of get that affirmation week after week that music gives.”
With 7 p.m. came Beauty Slap, who are self-described as “electro.brass.thunder.funk.” The entire vibe of the show shifted — the band started with a funk jam, causing a mass of people to move up to the front to dance. The band’s set consisted of a number of jams, including one of their most popular songs “Tasty.” The audience’s interest in the performance never faltered, and people of all ages stayed dancing at the front until the music stopped.
Finally, after 8 p.m., Rusted Root began their set. They played a number of songs from their catalogue, from newer “Monkey Pants” to the older “Blue Diamonds.” They jammed fluidly from song to song with a sound similar to a hype Dave Matthews Band show. The climax of the festival occurred when they finished with their hit, “Send Me On My Way.” People of all ages crowded onstage to sing along. It was a final union between performer and audience that reflected the theme of the day: coming together through music to achieve something greater.