Four Chord Festival goes ‘wild’ in Washington for its 7th year

Jacob Yanosick | staff writer. Fans crowd surf during State Champs at Four Chord Music Festival in Washington, PA.

Zoe Stratos & Jacob Yanosick | opinions editor & staff writer

Sept. 23, 2021

In a sea of fans jumping and moshing — sharing sweat for the first time since the pandemic started — Patent Pending finished their opening song, chanting “the roof is on fire.” Joe Ragosta looked out at the crowd with tears in his eyes:

“To be here, to see this and to feel this.”

The lead singer shook his head, choked up, as the crowd cheered him on.

On Friday afternoon at Washington Wild Things Park, the Four Chord Music Festival returned for its 7th iteration after being postponed two times — once in 2020 and again earlier in the summer of 2021 because of Covid-19.

After all this time, fans, artists and vendors filled the stadium to celebrate Pittsburgh’s punk rock, alternative and emo scene.

With two stages, fittingly named the Revival stage and the Born Dead stage, the festival had performances by a large variety of artists, including Rise Against and The Used as headliners.

The venues also had performances by State Champs, Mayday Parade, The Menzingers — and Pittsburgh based bands — Eternal Boy and Look Out Loretta, among many others on both stages.

The venue also was an upgrade from the previous 6th iteration of the festival, moving from Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh out to the Wild Things Park in Washington. 

The larger field size allowed for more space for the merchandise booths and food stands that were available. The stadium was also operating its regular concession stands during the event. Fans formed huge lines across the back of the stadium to grab a bite and quench their thirst in the 80+ degree heat.

But none of the show was possible without the help of Eternal Boy’s frontman, Rishi Bahl, a Pittsburgh native and Duquesne graduate.

Starting as a passion project in 2014 to merge the local scene with the national scene, Bahl, 35, was aiming to give a bigger stage for bands often passed up when tours came through Pittsburgh. 

With Warped Tour coming to a close — and a finite number of festivals in the scene to begin with — Four Chord became a staple.

“The cool thing about Four Chord is that it’s not like Lollapalooza in the sense where there’s not 100,000 people at the festival and there’s never going to be. It’s going to be a 10,000 person festival where you can still see and touch and feel — I mean metaphorically — bands,” Bahl said. “It’s been able to grow, but it’s also been able to stay in the same kind of attainable realm that people will want to see in club shows.”

Since its origin, bands like Patent Pending, Look Out Loretta and Keep Flying — all Bahl self-proclaims as his close friends — play at the festival, which originally was located in the Strip District. But it all starts now with the headliner.

Originally, the Four Chord festival secured Blink-182 as the main event until their bassist, Mark Hoppus, announced his battle with cancer.

Being that Bahl’s ultimate goal was to score a Blink-182 headline, he was devastated but understood that Hoppus’s situation was much more important.

“I was contemplating just scrapping the show and giving everybody a refund. I was saying ‘there’s too much going on, there’s no way that this can be a success now.’ And then I had a conversation with one of the agents from one of the other bands who I’ve got a good relationship with and he was like ‘yo obviously it sucks about Blink but there are other options,’’’ Bahl said.

Soon enough — with a few date changes — Bahl was able to get in contact with Rise Against to perform as the headliner in between dates for their Nowhere Generation tour, and the festival ended up being a huge success.

And as Ragosta began the last song of Patent Pending’s set, the crowd joined in singing the anthem “Punk Rock Songs,” leaving their souls on stage for the love of the scene.

“You see that sense of community, and that is what Four Chord means to me. It’s all about community. It’s all about keeping something that is sacred like our music scene in the forefront of people’s minds, even if it is for one 12 hour day,” Bahl said.