VIA Festival brings world-class musical variety
As we all try to adapt to life in the shadow of the giant duck, it's possible to miss certain things. In particular, it's worth noting that there are not one, not two, but three world-class arts festivals going on in Pittsburgh this week.
Along with the Carnegie International and the Festival of Firsts, there's the VIA Festival, now in its fourth year. VIA narrows the distance between the gallery and the club to an almost-imperceptible sliver, bringing some of the world's most exciting, zeitgeist-shaping music to Pittsburgh, most of it for the first time. It's also considerably cheaper than just about anything similar you'll find in this hemisphere.
The VIA Festival began Oct. 1, but the bulk of events are yet to come. Here are just a few highlights:
VIA always finds a way to squeeze into strange and interesting spaces. In addition to Brillobox in Bloomfield and the Rex Theater on the South Side, the big “pop-up venue” this year is the old Family Resources building (5854 Baum Blvd., with the playground on the roof) in East Liberty on Oct. 4 and 5.
“It's kind of a labyrinth,” says VIA co-founder Lauren Goshinski. “One room is a chillout/screening room. One will be a playroom, playing ‘Joust,' which is like a video game of ‘tag.' ”
The last day of VIA, Oct. 6, features music by Slava, Shisa and Beggars of a New Land, in an afternoon family-friendly show at Bayardstown Social Club, an outdoor space in the Strip.
Where to start? There's the robotic future-funk of Jimmy Edgar, and the intricate, introverted electronic excursions of Actress (Oct. 3, Rex). Then, there's Montreal house-music giant and producer (The XX, Radiohead) Jacques Greene, the hip-hop subversion of Banjee Report, and the soulful, sample-driven music of Pittsburgh's Wise Blood (Oct. 4, Family Resources). Then, there's the ominous, brittle, alien dub of Vessel, the brainy Detroit electro goth of Adult, and the throwback Hunee from Berlin (Oct. 5, Family Resources).
VIA is providing performers for the opening party for the Carnegie International on Oct. 4 at the Carnegie Museum of Art, featuring Pittsburgh's Sharon Needles (“RuPaul's Drag Race” champion) and Total Freedom.
VIA events also are known for matching music with video/new media artists to create totally unique audio/visual experiences.
“I reached out to several VIA artists, CMU Drama, the Tech Shop, and basically wanted to create a super-team for the weekend,” Goshinski says. “We created this human-sized ‘Lazy Susan' that people will be able to step inside, and they can get their entire body scanned by a Microsoft Kinect — or their hands, their arms, their feet — and it will be sent to where the artists are crafting their visuals.
“As we physically populate the space, we'll be digitally populating the space with avatars, creating content using festivalgoers' bodies. It's a massive umbrella effort to create a space between the real world and a kind of fantasy version of what's going on.”
Music festivals are often all about the dudes, but not VIA. Here, ladies like pugnacious Chicago rapper Sasha Go Hard (Oct. 4), electronic producer Natasha Kmeto (Oct. 3), and absurdist video satirist/comedian Casey Jane Ellison (Oct. 4) get plenty of space to do their thing. (Actress, though, is actually a British guy.)
Also, the gay club scene — where so much innovative music, art and fashion originates — is quite well-represented, including an after-party hosted by Men's Room and Honcho on Oct. 5.
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .