Photo by Tony Piscitelli, Thrival photography.

The Carrie Furnace will serve as a striking backdrop to the fourth Thrival Innovation + Music Festival, September 23 and 24 in its new location in Rankin.

Thrival Music 2016 First Announce Poster

Sleek Scottish synth-pop band Chvrches, Canadian indie rock band Metric, and Washington, DC-based DJ collective Thievery Corporation are some of the early headliners confirmed for this year’s event.

The two-day music festival will be preceded by three days of innovation events, September 20-22, at a location to be determined.

“We took a philosophy of ‘less is more’ this year,” says Dan Law, executive producer of Thrival.  The three days of innovation events—down from five last year—each revolve around a different theme.

According to Law, Day One’s theme, “Ripple Effect,” is an exploration of small ideas with big impacts. Day Two, “AuthentiCity,” discusses the opportunity costs of Pittsburgh’s turn as America’s sweetheart city, while Day Three, “Lost and Found,” delves into the reemergence of maker industries and advanced manufacturing in the region.

The “less is more” philosophy carries over to other side of the festival as well. Last year, 40 musical acts performed. This year, the total will be around 20.

“We’re investing in bigger acts,” says Law, “and we’re trying to bring more diversity and a little bit more of an exploratory sound to Thrival this year.” He also mentions that, with Chvrches, Thrival has its first female-fronted musical headliner.

Rounding out the first round of band announcements are New York funk outfit Lettuce, Brooklyn indie dance-pop band Rubblebucket, Chicago singer/rapper Sir the Baptist, folksy Austin indie pop band Wild Child, and Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Brooke Annibale.

“It has been really great to see what the Thrival Festival has been able to accomplish in the first few years of its existence,” says Annibale, the only local musician confirmed on the bill so far. “They’ve brought great talent to Pittsburgh and started something really incredible that our city can be proud of.”

The Thrival Innovation + Music Festival is an initiative of Thrill Mill, Inc.—a Pittsburgh-based 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting early-stage startups and regional entrepreneurial growth. Last year’s festival had over 11,000 attendees.

“We’re always looking for new opportunities,” says Law. “Last year was a challenge in that we were holding a festival on an active development site. So very reasonably, we were not the priority of our partners. So while we’re bummed that we have to leave Hazelwood — the community was so fantastic and responsive and care so deeply about their neighborhood — but, we’re so excited to get down to Swissvale and Rankin”

Grey Area Productions are talent buyers for the festival and consulting with Thrival on the festival lineup.

“The one thing that we never really had over the last couple years was a local promotional partner,” says Law. “They’ve brought a unique perspective to the festival lineup and the lineup diversity, but they’ve also presented a lot of industry insight and advice that is going to greatly improve the experience of Thrival overall.”

“In Thrival, we saw a great opportunity for Pittsburgh to have a festival worthy of the city,” says Ben Penigar, owner of Grey Area. “A two-day festival that brings cutting-edge music, that caps off a week of innovation events, is going to be nothing but good for the city.”

Penigar says that the festival location has “great potential” and he cannot wait to see the historic blast furnaces transformed for a music festival.

“They’ve given us permission to climb all over the furnaces and light everything up,” says Penigar. “And LUXE, who did the lighting last year, they did an incredible job on that warehouse, so I can only imagine what they’re going to do this year.”

Early bird tickets for the two-day music festival are currently on sale for $49 at

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.