Archive

ShareThis Page
VIA Festival in Pittsburgh stays on cutting-edge for music, visual/video art | TribLIVE.com
More A&E

VIA Festival in Pittsburgh stays on cutting-edge for music, visual/video art

ptrtkVIABee100214
Aggraveire Music
Jazz-improv band Bee Vs. Moth
ptrtkVIABlueHaw100214
Arbutus Records
Electro-pop group Blue Hawaii from Montreal
ptrtkVIAZebra2100214
Zebra Katz
American rapper Zebra Katz
ptrtkVIADeafheaven100214
Deafheaven
The rock band Deafheaven will perform as part of the VIA Festival in Pittsburgh.
ptrtkVIAZebra100214
Alison Brady
American rapper Zebra Katz
ptrtkVIADevine100214
VIA Festival
Richard Devine

For a music festival whose first year utilized a massive abandoned steel-mill-turned-movie studio in the Strip District, thinking too small was never a problem.

From the start, the VIA Festival was always going to be growing, changing, searching, feeding on cutting-edge music and visual/video art, and whatever was just a step beyond.

Somehow, VIA also fit Pittsburgh like a (virtual-reality-interfacing) glove, complementing the transfusion of new noise, new art and new thinking that had begun trickling into the city’s bloodstream.

Every city and its brother has a music festival now, it seems, but this was clearly built for Pittsburgh.

However, other cities began to want a piece of it. This year, they got one — there’s now a VIA Festival in Chicago, going on simultaneously to the Pittsburgh festival, through Oct. 5.

“We challenge ourselves every year to do it differently, and to expand,” says Lauren Goshinski, who organizes VIA with Quinn Leonowicz and a small crew of volunteers. “Just because you like a ton of music doesn’t mean you can book a ton of music. We don’t have that money, for one. You have to figure out the people who want to work and are invested in it.”

In Pittsburgh, it seems to suddenly be everywhere at once — from unfinished spaces in Bloomfield, to an architectural masterpiece Downtown, the Union Trust Building. Yes, the massive Flemish-Gothic former shopping arcade on Grant Street, the one that looks like it’s wearing a cathedral for a hat, is going to be a venue.

Musically, the old categories don’t seem to apply anymore. VIA has always veered between up-to-the-second developments in dance music and the more experimental electronic-music world, with a nod to history and context. That’s still there, from pioneering sound engineer Richard Devine (Oct. 3, CMU), to young Parisian techno giant Bambounou (Oct. 3, Hot Mass, Strip District), to Chicago juke/footwork giant Traxman (Oct. 4, Union Trust).

Now, however, its scope has expanded to include everything from the noise-encrusted metal of Liturgy (Oct. 2, Rex Theater, South Side) to the jazz-improv mischief of Austin’s Bee Vs. Moth (Oct. 3, Thunderbird Cafe, Lawrenceville).

The music is one thing, but it’s the extra-musical layers of VIA that separate it from other festivals, particularly the visual/video artists picked to collaborate with the musicians.

This year, experimental video art “label” Undervolt & Co. is getting a showcase (Oct. 4, Union Trust). This brings together video artists from Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and elsewhere — who have never been in the same room before — to create visual parallels to the music.

Visual artist and media designer Kevin Ramser is helping to coordinate the art for the show at the Union Trust and is combining his work with that of rapper Zebra Katz.

“I’m using content from his music videos and putting it onto 3-D objects — a lot of floral imagery, a lot of organic shapes and forms,” Ramser says.

VIA also involves a certain amount of audio-visual experiments that don’t fall into any neat category. There are projects involving Oculus Rift’s virtual-reality platform, group video games and a peculiar one involving the Internet culture of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response).

“We’ll see how it goes. The festival is a chance to pilot stuff,” Goshinski says. “We’re not just (bringing) touring stuff, we’re making it. That’s what I mean by ‘festival as laboratory.’ ”

There also will be a free music conference Oct. 3 at Carnegie Mellon for anyone who wants to dip their toes into VIA. It includes talks, workshops, demonstrations and performances from Richard Devine, Ellie Herring and others, and a chance to play around with the music software Ableton.

For the rest of VIA’s lineup of concerts, film screenings, video games, lectures, workshops, after-parties, experiments and other stuff, see via2014.com.

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7901 or [email protected].

Deafheaven

Oct. 2, Rex Theater, $17-20, via2014.com

One of VIA Festival’s headliners, Deafheaven can be described a lot of ways. But if you want to be blunt about it, they’re sort of a clash between irresistible force and immovable object.

The immovable object is metal. In particular, the “black” variety — bred in the bleak, cold nights of Scandinavian winters, its sheer sonic harshness transforms guitar-based rock into something dark and strange.

The irresistible force is the relentless experimentation at the edge of rock’s avant-garde, in the vein of Sonic Youth, Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

These things rarely come together; their fans typically hate each other. The one thing they have in common is volume.

“I don’t consider us a black-metal band, but we definitely have the influence,” says Deafheaven vocalist George Clarke. “It’s the type of music I’ve always been interested in. It’s striking. I think they have a great sense of melody. The vocal style really appealed to me.”

Deafheaven’s latest record, “Sunbather,” has gathered almost universal acclaim for its tension-and-release dynamics and epic ambition.

Clarke’s screamed/strangled-sounding vocals, though, are another story. Somehow, he hasn’t destroyed his vocal cords (yet). “I think it’s just about knowing what you are doing,” he says. “Vocal control. … It’s not that different from any other kind of singing. It’s about being smart, controlling your diaphragm and not going overboard.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.