The VIA Festival occurs annually in October between the great cities of Chicago and Pittsburgh but, somehow, is little known outside of those regions. The underground feel of this arts and music festival provides unique access to interactive installations and intimate music performances. Celebrating its 5th year, the originally Pittsburgh-based festival was granted a home base by the City at the historic Union Trust building in the newly redeveloped downtown district.
Access to the event ranges from $15 student tickets (with valid ID) to $25 general admission to the Union Trust building main hub as well as $100 weekend passes giving access to the plethora of performances spanning across almost every available venue in the city. As leading festivals, such as SXSW and Coachella increasingly attract a global audience of attendees and grow in pop culture influence, major consumer brands (such as the much-hyped Doritos and their partnership with Lady Gaga at SXSW 2014) are capitalizing on injecting their presence causing a steady increase in commercialization in the music space.
VIA offers the opportunity to engage in the festival experience and identify with brand sponsors that are integrated into offering unique seminars (such as Ableton’s new products seminar) and showcasing support from locally-based businesses such as Round the Corner Cantina restaurant and Carnegie Mellon University. But the festival is starting to get attention from internationally recognized media partners like VICE who live streamed performances at the nightly HOT MASS parties in a former bath house-turned BYOB club den and Red Bull radio who broadcast performances and helped to promote the festival.
Highlights from the festival in Pittsburgh included video game competition art installations, a giant ceiling-sized egg for lounging and popular performances by artists such as Cakes da killa, DJ Ellie Herring and a video projection and electronic music performance (by the award-winning Projectile Objects and Little Peoples respectively) at the Rex Theater on the South Side. Dancing was had and Magic Hat was consumed by a crowd coming from nearby states such as Ohio and West Virginia. But the piece de la resistance was certainly the VIP room at the Union Trust where music artists and their reps mingled in the actual money vault room Ocean’s 11 style.
Pittsburgh makes for a perfect backdrop to this festival as it gains in popularity as a laid back yet leading cultural destination. One is hard pressed to find anything but a friendly face whether you’re a native or a tourist and the city prides itself on producing authentic experiences that showcase the best in up and coming music and arts.