VIA Festival 2014

Just over a month ago, Pittsburgh was home to its 5th annual VIA showcase. VIA is a music and arts festival which began in Pittsburgh in 2010 and has since spread to Chicago as well. The majority of the events held are live performances by a plethora of underground music artists, but also include visual craft, experiential artistry, and workshops. Near its inception, VIA mostly promoted electronic artists, but has been taking strides towards diversifying its lineup; the most notable variations this year being indie rock band Real Estate, the hardcore punk workings of Code Orange, and black metal bands Liturgy and Deafheaven.

The main showcases began on Friday, October 3rd at the recently refurbished Hot Mass. Pittsburgh’s very own DJ collective and record label Detour collaborated with VIA to put on one stomping all-nighter. Featuring an impressive index of performers, VIA and Detour doused Pittsburgh’s cultural scene with a shower of deep techno and acid house. (The exposition even came complete with a live web stream to add a little Boiler Room flavor.) Certainly one of the most noteworthy acts of the night however, was TIN MAN’s set. Hailing from Vienna by way of California, Johannes Auvinen has been releasing dance records and mixing tracks since the mid-2000s. For this years VIA however, he opted out of the usual DJ layouts: CDJs, Laptop running Traktor, turntables and a mixer, etc; and instead set up several drum machines and a 303 bass synthesizer to create his tracks live as his set progressed. What resulted was an hour+ array of violent, primal techno that sequenced in much the same way as a continuous stream of consciousness; ever present and constantly evolving. Low ends rolled under pounding bass drums and splintering snares. The presence of subtle melodies from the 303 synthesizer added a cold mechanical touch to clash with the arrangements animalistic tendency. All in all, Fridays assembly produced a hearty night of body-jacking good times, a healthy start to a jam-packed weekend.

With Detour’s Friday presentation being the niche display of house and techno that it was, Saturday’s showcase answered with a rich selection of diverse electronic artists. Running through the roster, there was: the psychedelic soloist Troxum, chiptune artist Diode Milliampere, ‘punk-rocker turned alternative-rapper’ Cities Aviv, Canadian synth-pop duo Blue Hawaii, LGBT hip-hop artists Cakes Da Killa and Zebra Katz, and a back to back performance by Night Slugs co-founder L-Vis 1990 and Geto DJz co-founder Traxman. The music was outstanding with radical optics fabricated by numerous visual artists, one specific to each audio set. The event was held in the basement of Pittsburgh’s Union Trust Building, a grand structure with a bright ascending main hall. Underground however, the setting changed drastically upon entering VIA’s allocated space. Large structural columns ran throughout the expansive room, rising from the slab-like cement floor, which gave the area that classic isolated, hemi-industrial feel, not unlike VIA’s last venue in 2013.

Two of the most memorable acts of the night were those of Zebra Katz, along with L-Vis 1990 and Traxman’s duo set. As is common with performances within the LGBT rap scene, Zebra brought an appreciable amount of energy and showmanship to the stage. His music bears a sort of contained sexuality, locked behind his placid emphatic expression. On stage this carnality is present in his movements and actions, from pouring champagne into spectator’s mouths to climbing and hanging from the scaffolding. Following his spirited performance, came a thumping spread of eclectic bass music; L-Vis 1990 and Traxman certainly put on a good show together. Mixing one track after another, the two progressed through a wide variety of genres, ranging from club to UK to juke and trap, but always in possession of a quintessential kineticism.

Here’s to looking forward to VIA 2015.

Post by Joe Reilly.