Thrival Music Festival 2016
Sept 23-24, 2016, Pittsburgh, PA
Photos by Pat Bruener
Written by Tyler Schrenker
Thrival Innovation + Music Festival took place this past September 20-24, 2016, and offered a completely unique festival experience. Starting off Sept 20-22, the “Thrival Innovation” portion of the festival offered workshops, lectures, and speeches on themes from “technology to community development,” then ended with a two day music festival at the historic industrial landmark of Carrie Furnaces. The music event itself was a creative blend of genres ranging from jam, indie, and electronic, and the landscape paired with the top-notch acts created a spectacle of both sounds and sights.
The first day of Thrival had its hiccups, with a crowd of over 10,000 you can’t blame them, but aided by some fantastic artists and the awe inspiring view of two towering blast furnaces omnipresent and nestled between the two stages, it was a fantastic experience. Early Friday started slow and hot, over 80 degrees, but that didn’t stop the music from playing and the people from dancing. From the showing of the two Pittsburgh openers, The Bastard Bearded Irishman really know how to have fun, sporting kilts, mandolins, and fiddles, surely a beer around somewhere, and everyone dancing a little jig. As the night moved on, and the crowd started packing in, and with no water stations for filling water bottles, the lines started running 30 minutes or longer in some cases. Lettuce played what was one of the best sets of the weekend, leading the crowd through a what felt like funky carnival ride. Closing the night out CVRCHES and Chainsmokers brought their respective electro-pop and dub to the table. CVRCHES had a particularly enjoyable set, keeping the people afloat on a cloud from start to finish, accompanied by a magnificent light show. Closing the first night, The Chainsmokers were a pretty big disappointment for the sheer number of people that came almost exclusively for the duo from New York. I spoke with a group of 5 people who traveled from New Jersey solely to see The Chainsmokers, who seemed less than thrilled about the performance, and I can imagine this wasn’t a sentiment held solely by those folks.
Barring a few technical difficulties early in the day, the sound quality and production was phenomenal, a special thanks to Beckline and Grey Area Productions for making the music happen. As well a shout out to LUXE Creative, the masterminds behind the amazing stage and venue design, for providing one of the most unique and inspired stage designs I have seen.
Littered throughout the venue were art installations indicative of Pittsburgh’s industrious past, huge metallic sculptures, and some allowing room more the future, with live painting, and Squonks mobile music machine. Straddled upon the back edge of the festival grounds local East End Brewery was accompanied by beer selections from Voodoo and Sweetwater Brewing companies, and food provided by local food trucks, Wicked Ribs n’At in particular blessed my pallet with some wonderful ribs.
With the rising of the noon time sun on Saturday the glaring hydration problems fixed, and a crowd not nearly as packed as the previous evening, day two of Thrival was much calmer, but a more enjoyable time. Chalk Dinosaur, Pittsburgh local, gave a great showing of his talents, carefully layering his songs to please a not yet full crowd, but well on its way for the night. Wild Child brought a powerful bit of folk music, with accents of a small horn section that really added a special something that made the set incredibly interesting, which made perfect way for Rubble Bucket’s blaring trumpets and saxophones, and soulful vocals. Unfortunately due to a death in the family, Ty Dolla $ign was unable to appear for his performance, understandably so. So after a little longer than a short intermission between sets, Hudson Mohawke didn’t miss a beat as he dropped his particular brand of heavy bass, showing everyone back to the dance floor recharging the energy lost in the long set break. Thievery Corporation could not have been a better choice to end this weekend of music, blissfully ushering all the movers and shakers left into the night.
As the festival continues to grow every year, they will need to learn from mistakes and improve a few logistical issues — most notably in terms of supplies. For the next Thrival I would love to see a larger merchants row with local clothing and arts for sale, seeing as though almost none was represented at this years event. However, the music was spot on in all categories of sound quality, lighting, talented artists from a wide variety of genres, and the tens of thousands of fans who came out to support. From here, Thrival can only get bigger and better as it continues to make a name for itself as the premier Music and Innovation Festival in all of Western PA.