Landmarks like Mr. Smalls and Attic Record Store have made Millvale a destination for music enthusiasts for years, but leaders in the borough and community members want to draw even more folks in. Last year was the first Millvale Music Festival, and this year the festival is returning to bring live music, libations and fanfare to the neighborhood.
To find out what’s new with the festival this year, City Paper chatted with Brian Crawford, one of Millvale Music Festival’s organizers and a founder of The River’s Edge, a Millvale-based internet radio station that showcases local talent.
Now in the second year of the festival, how has festival planning changed?
This year’s planning was in some ways easier, but in some ways not, because we decided to add on to the festival. We had a lot of connections from last year that we utilized for this year, and we were able to bring back a lot of the people and organizations we worked with, so we already had connections and they knew what we were getting into this year.
What’s different this year?
This year we decided to expand and add more stages, added an extra day, we’re doing an opening night at the food truck park. We also added an arts festival to this year’s event, which was a huge new addition, where we’re closing a street down and using visual artists on that street with a stage. We decided to take on a lot more.
It seems like music is a central part of Millvale developing as a borough and bringing people into that community. How did you get involved with MMF?
The Millvale Development Corporation was interested in having a music festival last year. They’re really committed to the arts community in Millvale and bringing arts in. Me and a couple other people own an online radio station called The River’s Edge, a radio station that streams online that’s all local, original music, so local music is central to my business.
So I thought, I really wanted to get involved in this festival in the early stages, and nobody had really jumped on board to start planning it. I thought it would make sense for me and my team to jump in and try and aid the community and get together, so we joined forces with community members under the Millvale Community Development Corp. to get the festival going.
How do you see MMF helping Millvale?
It’ll help the community at large because music brings people in. I think after the first year of the festival, the business owners really saw the potential that music has on their [industries]. I saw the number of music performances in different establishments really increase drastically throughout the year following the festival.
How do the organizers choose the lineup for the event?
We have a committee that is headed up by Jonathan Kielback that deals with the booking of music, and we put out submissions and he will find a band for each stage. Once he finds a band for each stage, he’ll build off of that band, so every stage is cohesive. You can take the map and go from stage to stage, which is something I’d like to do because I like seeing all different types of music, but you can also sit at a stage from start to end and the stage will flow in a way that the music all complements one another. He puts a ton of time into trying to match the bands up and make sure each thing makes sense.
Another thing we really try to do is make it a different festival every year, so if you went to last year’s festival, you’ll notice very few of the bands that performed last year will be back this year, and it’s not because we were unhappy with them. It’s because we have over 400 bands that apply every year, and we want to make sure that not only does every band get an opportunity to perform, but we also want to make sure that our guests coming in can see a different festival every year and get to experience a different feel. There’s a lot of time and planning that goes into the selection of the bands.
It’s important to know that we pay every artist that performs at the festival. The festival cares so much about the musicians, and we try to make it a great experience for the musicians. We do whatever we can to help support them on festival day.
What are you looking forward to this year?
This year, more so than last year, there are a lot of bands that I’ve never seen live before. I’m really excited to check some of them out!
Opening Night at the Pittsburgh Food Truck Park 5 p.m. Fri., May 11. 1923 River Front Dr., Millvale. Free. millvalemusic.org
Millvale Music Festival 11 a.m. Sat., May 12. Various locations in Millvale. Free. millvalemusic.org