Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer
The Under the Bridge festival happening Saturday, Aug. 31 at 100 E 7th Ave. under the Homestead Grays Bridge is a chance to showcase the growth and character of the Homestead area.
Troy Johnson, one-third of the trio that constitutes Abstract Theory, an act performing at the festival, initiated the event with help from fellow members of the art collective Three Rivers Circus (TRC). However, this is far from the first event the group has ever hosted. In recent years, they have held the TRC Paint Jam at Color Park, the PopPunk PowerUp! and The TRC Meet and Greet.
However, Johnson wants to make clear that unlike many of the other events the collective has hosted, the overarching aim will not only be to promote Pittsburgh art, but to “bring some economic vitality into the area of Homestead.”
For those who have not visited the area, the need for more economic opportunity is clear. A quick drive around the neighborhood shows streets that are littered with potholes, the frequency of which is noticeable — even for the city of Pittsburgh. Furthermore, drivers can also see paint peeling off homes and more than a few boarded-up houses.
While all of these observations illustrate why a festival to showcase the neighborhood as more than meets the eye is understandable, the question of why Johnson cares still persists.
Johnson grew up in an affluent area in Long Island, New York, and remembered being part of a community that did not “uplift each other.” Since then, Reeves has become a part of Pittsburgh’s music community, which has only gotten stronger over the last couple of years because many members of the community did exactly that which his Long Island upbringing failed to demonstrate. A reflection of the unity in Pittsburgh music occurred when Mayor Bill Peduto announced Love Pittsburgh Music Month this past July.
From personal experience growing up in Munhall, an adjacent neighborhood to Homestead, until the age of five, I can say that the neighborhood does boast hidden gems like Nancy B’s bakery. Located near the West Homestead-Homestead border, it is home to Pittsburgh’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, according to WPXI’s award.
While that may seem small, it is just one example of the great things currently happening in the area. Businesses like Steel Valley Roasters bring in artists for various events like open mic night; Enix Brewery attracts those interested in beer, food or bowling, and the Live Fresh Cold Pressed Juice + Smoothie Bar offers an affordable option for health enthusiasts.
Still, as much goodwill as there appears to be for Homestead, people need to show up for the event so they can support the sometimes overlooked area, or all of this effort and wishful thinking will be in vain.
Johnson has 300 people expected to come to the event, not counting walk-ups. His hope is to get 500 people to attend the event. To help attract people, he got 10 of Pittsburgh’s best local bands together; Sierra Sellers, Back Alley Sound and the Summercamp are a few of those notable groups. Johnson also has six food trucks and more than 30 vendors plus sponsors confirmed to attend.
While there is plenty to offer, it is the location that makes the event special. As Cameron Schmidt, a TRC member and graphic designer explains, “Once we had that spot, we knew we had to make this the biggest event yet.”
Mariah Wild, a member of TRC, someone who helped organize the festival and photographer, still finds it hard to believe it is happening this Saturday.
“It’s crazy to think we were a group of friends sitting around talking about what could be a cool idea to then see how many people were eager to make it become a reality. Overall, I’m just looking forward to everyone having a great Saturday afternoon hanging out underneath a bridge like the little trolls we are.”