A self-proclaimed “music festival junkie,” Joseph Pirtz has been passionate about keeping it weird for almost his whole life. He lets his love for the music and carefree attitude carry him in his travels, all while unabashedly and almost aggressively being true to himself. This mindset has created the perfect creative environment for him to build a music festival utopia. Though he went from organizing multiple festivals a year to organizing only one, Pyro is his “fire baby” and filled to the brim with passion and love. We wanted to delve into the imaginative mind of Joe, which proved to be more expansive than we even expected–experience the merry multi-dimensional, music festival maniac mind of Joseph Pirtz and get excited for Pyro Music Festival this June 6-9, 2019 at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Warren, OH.
Hey Joe! Where are based out of? Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I am based out of the star galaxy where our Earthship floats through the universe and occasionally step through multi-dimensional vortexes to inhabit our star bodies, but mainly I am based out of Ohio. I travel East to West coast for music and have taken Hammond organs from Astoria, Oregon, to New Orleans, Louisiana, as a musical money maker. I also delivered one to Rob Borracco in New York and one to Rich Vogel’s (Galactic) living room. I have a deep love for all aspects of the music industry but mainly inhabit the outside realms of the world we all create together.
My grandparents built a roller rink in the 1950’s and I grew up in an environment that involved soul skates, live music, a disco ball and groovy lights, with people spinning around in circles under the mirrored ball, chasing light orbs with laughter and physical displays of their skating skills! My mom had a printer in our living room and was forever making flyers that had the skating party schedules on them with coupons. We then took them to the surrounding schools with me and my sister helping her pass them out. That really grew into to me making flyers and taking them to music festivals and handling them out everywhere. One year I gave out 250,000 flyers and went to as many as three festivals in one weekend in the late 90’s–when sleep wasn’t needed and music was my food… good times that now 23 years later feeds my family!
What was the first event you promoted or organized? What was that like?
The first festival I put together was in 1996 on my grandparents farm called “The Enchanted Forest,” also known as “Mud Fest” because it rained for 7 days before and all through the festival! It was a lot of work pulling this off with the health department on an undeveloped farm, and a true gift from my grandfather who was on the tractor with me around the clock to get compliant. My grandpa passed that fall at the age of 84, and this then led me to Nelson Ledges to meet the new owner who I made a deal with and pulled off festivals in 1997/1998 as partners. I threw the two festivals that pushed the season before Memorial Day which was 420 fest and past Labor Day known as Gory at the Quarry! Then I became part of the team booking Mickey Hart, Willie Nelson who took me five years to book, Slightly Stoopid who took me four years of begging to book and many others through the crazy ride that ended for me sadly in 2018. I am now renting the park to throw Pyro Art and Music Festival which is my fire baby!
How has Pyro Music Festival evolved over the years? What, at its core, has always stayed the same?
Pyro is my collective festival community that I have helped establish as young artists, and in return they have helped me expand the experience beyond just the music through the years.
Pyro’s lineup is medicine music. Music not on the radio but in the hearts of musicians who are putting good vibes into the world and inspiring people to be better versions of themselves without shame of their faults. Pyro is mysterious and mystical and at its core is love and that love has touched so many lives. I hope love stays at the center of this gathering.
What do you keep in mind when curating the lineup? Who is your personal favorite artist on the lineup? Who is lesser known artist that we must not miss?
Music festivals are a big risk, and Pyro being my coin I have to believe in the music so if I lose my ass, at least it was for something I believed in. I believe in all the music at Pyro and they are all my favorites. I have more favorites, too, but there was not enough stage time to get them on. There will be a stage built on the island at the quarry, and Dixon’s Violin will play a “Solar Ascension Set” waking everyone up to his magical violin on Saturday morning. I would say you will definitely want to gather on the cliffs to enjoy that set. Yaima is flying in from Seattle and has an ethereal sound that you will want to check out. See their set from the main stage and then Sunday morning for their solar ascension set too!
Any insider tips?
Let the chaos lead you, bring your gear to make it four days in the woods, bring your bathing suit and a nice tent. Nelson Ledges is beautiful and will embrace you so just get here June 6-9, 2019! Artists generally get into the woods to check out the installations which include the jellydome, the mobile porch, the thought bubble dome, the propane dance floor…and oh yeah! Impromptu island sets will be going down, so bring a raft to float out to what I dubbed the “Aqua Theatre” as some magical jams will be going down. A mobile stage will be getting prepped backstage and rolling through the woods with who-knows-who, and a couple of dragon parades will be bringing us all through the woods.
What is it about festivals that makes you want to keep organizing them and going to them? What is it that makes them magical?
I love festivals because I am an outsider to society and my people are the ones who make their own paths in life. We kind of like to gather around music and the woods, so I love to create a space for us all to come together and grow together. I have faced some major challenges in the festival industry, and when I ask myself “Why do I subject myself to such torture?” the answer comes back to my lips, that I am a music festival junkie!
The magic of music festivals comes from our ability to connect, to find love, to spin around and dance with one another, tell rowdy jokes with our sweat-dripped faces, and hear our bowls of laughter echoing through the trees, finding an art piece that captures what the gathering meant to us…there is so much magic in a music festival. As long as we follow a couple of simple rules of: do not die, do not steal, bring love and leave love, clean up our messes, help when you can and keep a positive mindset, then the festival space will open up and show you the magic it holds when we return to our festival family. That is why I love to throw music festivals and hope to for another 23 years with the love that has been given to me by all of you at large. I hope to give it back to you, so thank you!
How much are tickets for Pyro currently and when do the prices go up?
Weekend passes are $120 and go up to $150 at the gate… there are also day passes for $75 and all are on www.PyrodeMayo.com.