Thrival Innovation + Music Fest: A Spectacular Collision of Art and Industry

Thrival Fest
(THRIVAL MUSIC at CARRIE FURNACES Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

Thrival Innovation + Music 2016

Welcomes 16,000 People,

Reactivating Historic Pittsburgh Spaces

in a Spectacular Collision of

Art and Industry

“Thrival Innovation and Music Festival, a four-day event that brings leaders from the business, technology, and entertainment industries together to teach Pittsburgh citizens how to take their ideas to the next level while showcasing incredible achievements they’ve already made.”
– Billboard

“It’s highly impressive to see a rabid group of upstarts sharing a common goal and putting on a smooth, differentiated and fascinating event.”
– Huffington Post

“Thrival is Thriving…. What’s more, you’ll wonder why your own city doesn’t have a Thrival.”
– Pollstar

“With the increase of more niche oriented festivals, Thrival is truly onto something big – a shift in culture that is part of an even bigger story when it comes to finding a musical identity as a city. The festival is refreshing and adds an inimitable element that you can only experience in Pittsburgh.”
– DJ Mag

“A creative synergy is crystalizing in Pittsburgh between industry, government, academic and the non-profit sectors. The city is home to numerous neighborhoods that are witnessing a renaissance as more homegrown talent returns home. Technology-oriented festivals like Thrival and conferences like Frontiers, which will be attended by Obama in October are indicative of this reality.”

“It’s virtually inevitable. As the likes of New York and LA continue to price out creative types, the artists, musicians, tech innovators are simply setting up shop elsewhere. Pittsburgh is one of those places, and its all the buzz right now.”
– Blackbook

“Whether Thrival returns to the converted brownfields in Hazelwood next year or if it remains at Carrie Furnaces, the beauty of the festival still lies in its ability to create art out of industry. Pittsburgh is no longer “hell with the lid taken off, but a haven of culture.”
– Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Pittsburgh, PA — This past week, 16,000 people descended upon Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the fourth annual Thrival Innovation + Music Festival — featuring three days of interdisciplinary, innovation-focused programming capped by a two-day outdoor live music experience headlined by chart-toppers the Chainsmokers, as well as CHVRCHES, Thievery Corporation, and Metric.

“The festival set a new attendance record, with 16,000 festival-goers over the five days, signifying a 45% increase over 2015. Festival organizers have determined this year’s Thrival a “major success.’

“When the dust settled, we’re able to strongly say that this year was a huge success. Thrival experienced an enormous upswell in attendance, welcomed an array of world-class speakers and thought leaders, and hosted the #1 music act in America in a first-time venue. It was a history-making endeavor. We’re all proud to be a part of it,” says Dan Law, Executive Producer of Thrival.

“Every year, Thrival has grown. This year has been no different. We’re excited to see the festival’s progress and evolution, and in 2016 we reached another level. The sky’s the limit in terms of Thrival’s potential moving forward,” says Bobby Zappala, CEO of Thrill Mill and co-founder of the festival.

Thrival Innovation – September 20-22

 (Councilwoman Marita Garret, Pulitzer Prize Winner Eugene Robinson, Political Commenator/Fox News Megan McCain Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

(Councilwoman Marita Garret, Pulitzer Prize Winner Eugene Robinson, Political Commenator/Fox News Megan McCain
Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

During the week, Thrival hosted 2,000 attendees and an array of world class speakers, panel participants, and exhibitors, including Dr. Bennet Omalu, discoverer of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and subject of the film Concussion; host of America Now and Fox News contributor, Meghan McCain; Pulitzer Prize-winner and nationally-syndicated columnist, Eugene Robinson; teenage inventor/wunderkind, Ann Makosinski; and Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit-based Rock Ventures, Josh McManus.

Hosted at Alloy 26 and Nova Place as well as the New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, Thrival Innovation week kicked-off on Tuesday, September 20 under the theme “Lost and Found,” an examination of “the valuable things that we once left behind, but are now rediscovering.” Programming included panel discussions on podcast communities, creative uses for smartphones, the future of multimedia artist troupes, and an exploration of technology and forensics focused on preventing human trafficking.

On Wednesday, September 21, Thrival presented a slate of programming with the theme “AuthentiCity” — a day dedicated to discussing culture, identity, and community psychology in Rust Belt America. Topics of accessibility, urban mobility, education reform, and community health were among the many that were covered throughout the day. The American Society of News Editors out of New York led a panel discussion on community storytelling, while the City of Pittsburgh’s Director of City Planning, Ray Gastil, led a conversation around innovation in neighborhoods, with Matthew Lister of Gehl (NYC), Janera Solomon of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, and Daniel Campo, professor at Morgan State University. Building off of Pittsburgh’s recent designation as America’s #1 Food City by Zagat, Thrival welcomed an array of restaurateurs, chefs, food policy advocates, and brewers for a discussion on the opportunities surrounding Pittsburgh’s food “scene,” but also the challenges and limitations of a local industry still looking for gaining lasting traction.

(Dr. Rasu Shrestha of UPMC Enterprises -Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

(Dr. Rasu Shrestha of UPMC Enterprises -Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

The final day of Thrival Innovation on September 22 — themed “The Ripple Effect” — was the most concentrated in terms of content. A full day of panels and presentations kicked off with a talk on sports analytics and the future of “Moneyball” with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Robert Morris University, and Arsenal F.C., followed by a conversation with the inventor of the hashtag, Chris Messina. Modular synth technology and virtual reality were all also on the docket.

UPMC Enterprises, the presenting sponsor of Thrival and the innovation arm of the region’s largest health care system, focused on forward-thinking analysis on machine learning in health care and precision medicine — down to treating medical conditions by reading DNA sequences.

(Owen Bush, Dennis Adamo, of Spaceout VR, Nate Mars Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

(Owen Bush, Dennis Adamo, of Spaceout VR, Nate Mars Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

Radiant Hall, the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit focused on collaborative workspace for artists, hosted a panel on “How to Build an Art Town” — with Eric Holowacz from the Sedona Arts Center (AZ) and Pittsburgh-based art leaders. The partner panel, “How to Build a Music Town,” featured Paxahau’s Sam Fotias (Detroit Movement Festival) as well as DJ/producers Tommie Sunshine and King Britt. Local radio host, Cindy Howes, moderated.

Cool Demos


(Joe Hilty of The Vandal and Brian Eaton Of Grist House Craft Brewery Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

(Joe Hilty of The Vandal and Brian Eaton Of Grist House Craft Brewery Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

  • Shutterstock Music, Spaceout VR, Novation, Roland, and Pittsburgh Modular all had set ups at this year’s festival — both at Thrival Innovation and at the weekend concert.
  • The social media phenomenon, Dancakes, kicked off the final day of Thrival Innovation and made pancake art of the concert site.
  • Conversant Labs launched their hands-free cooking assistant app, “Yes, Chef!,” on Wednesday during “AuthentiCity.”
  • Do you like beer? Well Pittsburgh has two entrepreneurs looking at building a “Beer Museum” in the Steel City, and they demo’d their idea at Thrival.

Keeping The Party Going

(Tommie Sunshine and Phil Hartnoll of Orbital Sam Fotias of Paxahau at Mattress Factory -Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

(Tommie Sunshine and Phil Hartnoll of Orbital Sam Fotias of Paxahau at Mattress Factory -Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

  • Thrival Innovation’s after party was hosted at the historic Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art, featuring live peformances by DJ/electronic/producer legends King Britt, Phil Hartnoll from Orbital, and Tommie Sunshine.
  • The Rex Theater, the home base of Thrival’s official promotional partner Grey Area Productions, hosted the festival after shows, featuring Buku and the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Thrival Music

(Chainsmokers - Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

(Chainsmokers – Photo Credit: Tony Piscitelli)

Over 14,000 people attended Thrival Music, setting a festival attendance record, a single-day attendance record (9,600 on Friday night), and illuminated a never-before-seen concert backdrop — the 125-foot-tall blast furnace “7.”
Daya, Lettuce, Sir the Baptist, CHVRCHES, and chart-topping, multi-platinum artists the Chainsmokers kicked off the weekend concert in full force. CHVRCHES played a 70-minute set including hits such as “Never Ending Circles,” “Recover,” “The Mother We Share,” and “Leave a Trace.” The Chainsmokers followed suit with a 90-minute set featuring an array of covers as well as their global hits “Roses,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “Closer” punctuated by bursts of CO2 and pyrotechnics to match each bass-thumping drop.
Saturday’s full-day lineup welcomed rising EDM and dance floor darlings, Cheat Codes, as well as critically-acclaimed DJ/producer, Hudson Mohawke. Opening acts Chalk Dinosaur, Balloon Ride Fantasy, Donora, Beauty Slap, and Brooke Annibale gave strong performances, and local hip-hop contingent the Wu-Lords collaborated with Wu-Tang Clan member Cappadonna and syndicate group, Killarmy.
Indie-folk act, Wild Child, and the ever-engaging fan favorite, Rubblebucket, bridged the afternoon sets with the top billed acts of the evening, Metric and Thievery Corporation. Metric’s penultimate performance charged up the audience with a powerful 70-minute performance marked by favorites “Help, I’m Alive,” “Gold Gun Girls,” and “Breathing Underwater.”
Playing in Pittsburgh for the first time in their storied 20-year career, Thievery Corporation brought a full 20-piece set to an enthusiastic and amped crowd that fully-celebrated the ensemble’s dynamic and widely-celebrated musical catalogue.