Thrival Showcases Synth Pop Spectacle

The 4th annual Thrival Music Festival, held on September 23rd-24th in the Swissvale Carrie Furnaces concluded with an amazing moment: the band Metric performing an acoustic version of their hit “Breathing Underwater” as thousands of fans sang along under the cool September stars. It was a moment that symbolized a fantastic weekend of live performances.

This year’s 2-day music festival drew an estimated 14,000 fans to the Carrie Furnaces, which features a 125-foot-tall blast furnace as a unique one of a kind concert backdrop.  The lawn featured 2 stages, food trucks, beer garden, and a VIP Sky Vodka lounge.  

Fridays acts featured a diverse lineup of artists such as Daya, Chvrches, and the Chainsmokers. Daya, a Pittsburgh popstar who has risen to fame and dominated the charts with her catchy dance pop hits “Hideaway”, “Don’t let me Down”, and “Sit still, look pretty” took the stage to a packed crowd of excited high school/ college kids. At one point she amped up the crowd by waving a Steelers terrible towel. During the set she talked about her upcoming album, and the message behind her debut LP. “I believe you should go after what you are passionate about” she told the crowd. “The message is about youth empowerment and going after your dreams.” It is evident that Daya has done exactly that. In just a little over a year she has released three hit songs and staked her claim as the new rising star of the music industry. 

The crowd went into a frenzy when the opening notes of “Don’t let me Down” began to play. The hit song was a summer anthem this past summer, and the fans were singing every word. The show ended with her first hit “Hideaway”, a song that has a special meaning to the pop star, “This was the first song I recorded and released” she said to the crowd before kicking into the catchy dance jam. Throughout the show Daya commanded the crowd like a seasoned pro, walking to each side of the stage, pointing out her mic to the pumped up fans. Her new LP will be released in a few weeks, and judging by the new material, it’s going to be a huge year. Daya is not only going after her dreams, but achieving them.

Chvrches brought their dazzling array of electro synth pop to the fest on Friday night. I had the opportunity to be in the front row for this show, and it was glorious. Singer Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty make up the Glassgow act, whom are coming off the recent success of their LP “Every Open Eye”. It is clear that Mayberry has become an emphatic, confident lead frontwoman. Dawned in all black, she would stride to each end of the stage; raising her fists, mic in hand, staring into the crowd with conviction. The fans fed off her energy while black and white lights brilliantly lit up the stage. 

A standout point during the show was “Empty Threat” (an up-tempo burner with an undeniable chorus), in which Mayberry pounded away at the drums to the thrill of the fans. In between songs there was some funny banter between the band. Mayberry looked at bassist Iain Cook saying “You sneezed and still didn’t mess up. That must be hard to do playing bass.” Mayberry continued with her charming Scottish accent “One time I was driving and sneezed, and I looked up and noticed I was in the wrong lane.” She turned back to the crowd saying “Ever since joining this band I’ve learned that I’m not that funny. But I won’t quit.” The band continued their set playing material off of “Every Open Eye”, from the driving beat of “Bury It” to the bass building drop of “Clearest Blue”, in which the crowd responded by jumping in unison; Mayberry whirling around in the frantic flashing lights. The show ended with “Mother we Share”, a song that launched the band into headline spots across the world. It was a solid performance that showcased how great they are live. Chvrches gave a beautifully intense rock show.

The Chainsmokers were the last act of the night; playing to an amped up capacity crowd, complete with glow sticks galore. The act has had an incredible year, and they are clearly on top of the music industry. The show was filled with pyro, smoke, and heart pounding bass. From “Roses” to their new hit “Closer’, the crowd ate up every moment. The Chainsmokers loved the audience participation saying “We love playing in Pittsburgh. You guys make NYC look like a bunch of pussies.” There were even some covers in which they sampled MGMT and the Killers! By the end of the set everyone was dancing and yearning for more. The Chainsmokers could have played all night and the fans would have been right there along with them. It was a great way to close out the first night of Thrival.

The festival continued on Saturday with a bevy of local Pittsburgh artists. From indie pop outfit Ballon Ride Fantasy to singer songwriter Brooke Annibale. It was refreshing to see Thrival give local artists a spot to showcase their talent on a big stage. There was some great talent; I hope Thrival continues this trend for next year’s fest.

As the evening winded down there were noticeable amounts of Frisbee, hula hoops, and wind pouches. Yes, wind pouches. They are a new growing trend on the festival scene. Wind Pouches, which can be bought at the festival, are small inflatable hammocks. I’m not sure if this trend will take off, but I really don’t see Bonnaroo embracing the idea.

Saturday night ended with the crowd gathering in high anticipation for the band Metric. The Toronto based four-piece rock act hit the stage at 9:15, performing an illustrious set of face melting synth rock. Experiencing this against the front row guardrail was something. The show began with Metric breaking into the driving “Speed the Collapse” and “Help I’m Alive”, where the crowd passionately shouted the lyrics “beating like a hammer”, while singer Emily Haines reached out and leaned over the front row of the crowd, fist pumping the lyrics. And that was just the start of the show! The energy from the crowd was at an unbelievably high level. Everyone around me was jumping up and down which only added to the chaotically fun atmosphere. Metric reached deep into their catalog with the crowd pleasing “Dead Disco” and kept the energy alive with “Shade”, complete with some amazing guitar solos from James Shaw. Throughout the show Haines and Shaw would trade off the center of the stage; Haines displaying her amazing vocals, while Shaw shred his guitar to grinding synths which pierced through the strobing black lights. The crowd went unhinged when Shaw broke into the opening riff of “Gold Guns Girls”, a rocked out decibel raising anthem that took Thrival to new heights. 

Metric was grateful to the crowd and happy to be back in Pittsburgh saying “We love coming to Pittsburgh. We have family here.” The show ended with “Breathing Underwater” which was off of their 2012 LP “Synthetica”. After playing the rock ballad through, the band left the stage while the crowd shouted to hear one more song. Metric responded by walking back onto the stage with an acoustic guitar, playing the chords to “Breathing Underwater”. Haines pointed the microphone towards the crowd and let everyone sing the words. It was incredible to hear thousands of people singing the chorus to the song together. The four members of Metric stood together in the center of the stage and gazed out into the massive crowd of fans. It was a beautiful moment and fitting end to a magical weekend at Thrival.

Josh McCann- Thrival Music Festival Sept.23,24 2016-Pittsburgh,PA
















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