Thrival Festival rocks Bakery Square

Last weekend’s music festival in Bakery Square represented much more than welcoming popular musicians. It introduced locals responsible for the cultural renaissance that is occurring in Pittsburgh.

The second annual Thrival Innovation and Music Festival welcomed food trucks, retail outlets and artistic creativity while well-known musicians performed throughout the day.

Thrival was started by nonprofit organization Thrill Mill, which helps to fund, guide and invest in local entrepreneurs. The Festival served as the platform to have these businesses around Pittsburgh and promote first-class workspaces and commerce.

Clothing manufacturers such as Steel City Cotton Works, Daily Bread and Fygment set up merchandise tents to sell apparel and food vendors like the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, BRGR and Leona’s Ice Cream brought along treats for festival-goers in between sets.

Motion City Soundtrack
The first headliner of the evening, Motion City Soundtrack, made Thrival sound more like Warped Tour.

The five-piece pop rock outfit, hailing from Minnesota, cycled through a number of drum heavy anthems from their five studio albums. Frontman Justin Pierre, donning a black Descendants T-shirt, channeled his inner New Found Glory while shouting lyrics like “I fell asleep watching Veronica Mars again” over palm-muted power chords.

Pierre and his band of wild-haired rockers sprinkled in hits like “Disappear” and “A Lifeless Ordinary” to a set that also featured a new jam from an album they are releasing soon. At the end of their hour-long set, the group played crowd favorites “L.G. FUAD” and “Everything is Alright.” The lyrics “Let’s get f$%ked up and die” echoed through Bakery Square as the audience sang along with Pierre.

It wasn’t your grandmother’s favorite performance, but Thrival-goers enjoyed it. -JR

Talib Kweli
It was quite the change of pace transitioning from Motion City Soundtrack’s pop-punk set to hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, but the Brooklyn MC managed to channel the crowd’s excitement effortlessly and continued to draw fans’ attention towards the Thrival stage.

Kweli made his presence known from the first track of the set to the last. He began with songs that were released on his 2013 LPs Prisoner of Conscious and Gravitas, which received meager reactions by a select group of fans who were vocally requesting older tracks from his critically acclaimed compilation album, Black Star.

As a response to the hecklers, Kweli stopped mid-song to address the audience, reassuring them that the classics were soon on the way. Sure enough, Black Star began to blare through the speakers minutes later, causing the crowd to erupt and wave their arms to the beat.

Kweli concluded his performance with arguably his most successful song, “Get By,” which featured guest vocalist and Pittsburgh native, Kendra Ross to be warmly welcomed back home. -SF

Phosphorescent
There was no better act to play between Talib Kweli and Portugal, The Man than Phosphorescent, the brainchild of Brooklyn singer-songwriter Matthew Houck.

Phosphorescent’s beautiful indie folk sound gave the audience a chance to relax after Kweli’s bass-heavy rap set, and perfectly set the stage for the final act of the night. From the first note of “Terror in the Canyons,” Houck navigated through a set list that had something for everybody. It had slow, melodic ballads like “Tell Me Baby (Have You Had Enough),” where the pain in Houck’s voice overcame any sense of comfort in the air. It had fun, rebellious rock sing-alongs like “Ride On/Right On,” which built on itself until it was nearly impossible not to dance.

The set had a synth-laden hit, too, in “Song for Zula,” one of the best live songs in the universe. During “Zula,” Houck put down his Fender Stratocaster and walked around the stage with only a microphone, telling his touching musical story to an audience of captivated festival-goers. He only stopped his set to sip from a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, which got a cheer from the crowd.

In one final act of rock n’ roll, Houck dropped to his knees in front of his amp during “The Quotidian Beasts,” strumming his Strat with fierce emotion until the final note. Then, he tipped his pink Miami Beach ball cap and exited the stage, making way for the main event. -JR

Portugal, the Man
As the temperature began to dramatically drop in the latter evening at Bakery Square, anticipation for Portugal, the Man rose in a similar fashion.

It was 9 p.m. and the crowd was bustling, waiting for just a glimpse of the Alaskan psychedelic outfit to grace the stage. Moments later, a haze of smoke was slowly dispersed over the audience as an indicator of what was soon to come.

As voices began to rise in volume and photographers filled the pit, lead singer John Gourley and his band mates entered the stage in wash of red tinted light and donning hats that gave homage to Pittsburgh sports teams or had the letter “P” etched on the front. The initial image of the band took the crowd’s reaction to an entirely different level; ecstatic would be an understatement.

Gourley then placed the strap of his white Gretsch guitar, which featured a number of quotes written in neon and glow-in-the-dark paint, over his shoulder and the set was underway with a surprising Pink Floyd cover of “Another Brick in the Wall.”

Portugal, the Man then continued on with tracks from their 2013 album, Evil Friends and their 2011 LP In the Mountain in the Cloud, getting positive feedback from each track they played.

After supposedly finishing their set though, bassist Zachary Corothers jogged back onto the stage, saying that they would play one more song because they were “out of whiskey.”

The quartet finished with near seven-minute fan-favorite “Sleep Forever,” where the interaction between artist and audience reached an all-time high that day. –SF

Moby
The second day of Thrival Innovation Music Festival had a more electronic feel to it, headlined by Moby with performances throughout the day by Z-Trip and local DJ and Duquesne-grad Buku.

The now 49-year-old artist took the stage as the last performer of the festival and gave those in the Bakery Square crowd an hour-long DJ set. Clad in a Bad Brains tee, jeans and hiking boats, Moby kept the crowd grooving, with well-placed build-ups leading to subsequent drops, when the music became more intense.

The acclaimed New York DJ took the stage when the sun was setting and left into the cool September night. –ZB

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