No covers: Millvale Music Festival focuses on original tunes

The classic rock cover band is a staple at community festivals, especially in the Pittsburgh area. And looking at the event calendars of a number of venues, it’s clear that local music lovers aren’t shy about digging into the nostalgia the genre provides.

But even with more than 160 bands performing on May 20 and 21 at the Millvale Music Festival, no one will sing Bon Jovi or do their best impression of Eddie Van Halen’s solo ‘Eruption’.

The borough street festival will feature bands performing all original music on indoor and outdoor stages throughout the weekend.

“Pittsburgh is a melting pot of great original music in many genres,” said Dennis McGrath, 37, of Pittsburgh, who performs under the stage name Venus flytrap. “Cover bands are cool, but original music pushes the boundaries of artistic expression and we’re able to create something unique to Pittsburgh and its communities.”

McGrath will release their latest album, a concept album titled “2024 Side A,” in July, and debut new tracks from the album during their performance at the festival on May 20.

The record, which fuses edgy pop with hip-hop, is a concept album designed as a dark comedic commentary on the current socio-political climate, McGrath said.

“It’s influenced by futuristic movies like ‘The Matrix’, ‘Blade Runner’, pop culture, and it incorporates elements of conspiracy theory,” he said. “I call it the mythology of the modern age.”

After releasing 22 singles between March and October 2021, McGrath recorded a limited-release concept album last fall, “Vampire Outbreak,” which set him on the road to new recording.

“The concept album contributed to a more engaged and interactive fanbase, a better storytelling experience, and a more fulfilling role for me as a creator,” he said.

In Westmoreland County, the reggae band Fubarfrom Irwin, prepares for their festival appearance as they kick off performances to promote their new record, ‘State of Mind,’ out April 29.

“We started in 2011 as a punk rock band,” said vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jake Hursh. “Then we kind of mellowed over the years.”

Hursh grew up listening to the raucous sounds of bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise, while lead guitarist Dave Cochran was immersed in the reggae-influenced style of bands like Sublime.

When the band members came together after attending college, Fubar found the sound that defines them today: reggae with a heavy rock influence and no qualms about occasionally hitting the distortion pedal.

Keyboardist and saxophonist Sam Wtorkowski said he loved the whole atmosphere of the Millvale Music Festival.

“I like the way it’s set up, like a walkable festival with a ton of different venues,” he said. “They’re also very good at putting bands together, so if you find a scene you like, you can hang around and hear a lot of that same type of music for most of the day.”

The Millvale Music Festival is free. For more information, including a list of venues and artists, see and the festival Twitter page.

Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .