“I grew up with a DIY ethic,” explains Mike “Zombo” Divine, Pittsburgh event coordinator, musician and all-around mastermind behind the 4th Annual R.A.N.T. – Rock All Night Tour.
“If you want something done, and it’s not easy to get done, you have to do it yourself,” he says matter-of-factly. “Or you can complain that there’s nothing going on.”
Divine grew up in Canton, Ohio, where he says bands that played anything other than Top 40 hits couldn’t land gigs. So he and his friends – anyone connected with the underground scene – would secure halls for free through the local park service and put on showcases.
Years later, in Pittsburgh, Divine began to do much of the same in his role as booking agent for Lawrenceville’s Art All Night.
“One person came up to me and said, ‘You’re bringing in too much music! It’s Art All Night, not Rock All Night,’” he remembers with a laugh.
Cue the lightbulb.
“Zombo called me up one day five years ago,” says Mary Jo Coll, booking manager for Howler’s Coyote Cafe and self-professed “band mom” to countless local acts. “He said, ‘Hey, I have this crazy idea for an all-day/all-night festival of music, spanning all the generations of music. You think you can help?'”
“Crazy woman that I am, I said sure.”
“At first it was supposed to be done all in one place – in the empty pool in Lawrenceville. But as we looked at the logistics of it, we started looking at other options. Just when we thought we might be dead in the water, we thought let’s use the model of the Cookie Tour and just go into all the venues.”
“That first year, it took some convincing to all the venue managers to let us do it, waive their normal fees and trust us to make it work,” says Coll. “But we pulled it off. And the second year, all the places in Lawrenceville were asking us [to participate].”
“It’s this unusual hybrid of the Cookie Tour, a family-friendly event and SXSW with no cover charges,” says Devine.
As NEXT has already written in our RANT event preview, this year’s installment boasts over 120 acts performing over a 14-hour span at 21 separate venues spread across Lawrenceville.
“It’s a true showcase of what this city has to offer in the world of live music,” says Coll. “It’s not [WDVE]-friendly; it’s not just [WYEP]-friendly. Everything from singer-songwriters and bluegrass, to metal and hip-hop are invited in.”
“We always like to reinvent the event,” says Devine, citing this year’s youth stage at the Boys and Girls Club as just one example.
Despite this being the event’s fourth year, and in many ways serving as the inspiration and model for the more recent local music festivals, the event still lacks any major corporate sponsors, a situation that has led the event to become an annual “financial white knuckle ride,” according to Devine.
“[Deustchtown Music Festival and Strip District Music Festival] have the missing piece of huge corporate sponsorship. [RANT] is done all on a ridiculously small shoestring budget,” says Devine, who puts in his own money as well as equipment to make sure the event happens.
“From the beginning Yuengling gave us some money for posters and such,” says Coll. “The bar venues paid in a little, and we raised barely enough to pay for all the fees, permits, port-a-potties and whatever, but every year it’s a nail-biter to the end.”
“Me and Mary Jo would be dangerous if we had a huge budget,” Devine laughs.
In the meantime, the event will continue to be a labor of love for both the organizers and performers.
“We keep hoping we’ll get some big financing and be able to pay [the bands],” says Coll. “But for now, if we do manage to come up with a few extra hundred dollars at the end of the day, we’ll buy them some pizza, beer and a game at Arsenal Lanes.”
“We have an amazing amount of talent in this city. And this is their party.”
Not sure where to start when attending RANT 2015? Take some suggestions from some of the event hosts and promoters, who were asked which event they are most looking forward to (that wasn’t their own).