2016 Strip District Music Fest Preview + Artist Q&A

Published On January 5, 2016 | By Leah Kennedy | Interviews, Music

Photo Creds: SDMF (#1-4)

We talk a lot about our city’s thriving music scene, mainly, to appreciate the emerging and established artists who’ve come forth to create it.

Thanks to dozens of diehard creatives and dedicated local leaders, our talent pool continues to evolve each year. And at the top of this year, our artist community will once again prove it’s a force to be reckoned with…

sdmf2January 16 marks the annual Strip District Music Festival–a day-long, immersive local gathering that’ll saturate the Strip with a diverse mix of talent from across the music spectrum. With 150+ acts spanning throughout more than a dozen venues and various outdoor spaces, festival-goers will have the option to migrate between establishments and SDMF’s curated music stages.

Consistent collaborations between locals, creatives and business leaders have established citywide camaraderie; and these efforts have allowed artists to gain visibility, connect with their fanbase, and branch out to new audiences.

sdmf7“The art and music scene in Pittsburgh is flooded with young talent putting out top quality work for every ingredient–from the producers creating beats, to the photographers and filmmakers for media needs, to the graphic designers for album artwork,” stated Brian Green (aka Beedie), an SDMF performer and leading lyricist in Pittsburgh’s hip hop circuit. “You don’t have to look far to find the collaborators you may need in order to bring your fans great content.”

“Our fanbase is the reason we can continue to make music,” Nevada Color’s Max Kovalchuck, added. “Having support at a show from fans is an experience like no other and we are grateful.”

sdmf8In addition, Kovalchuk provided attributes to many PGH organizations:

“Promoters like Drusky and PromoWest have also been incredibly supportive by pushing for us to have a slot on a bill opening for national acts … They’ve helped us build our careers as musicians by giving insight as to how we can improve our live shows, and connecting us with some wonderful people in the music industry. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has also been crucial to our growth … Through them, we’ve been lucky enough to play at some of Pittsburgh’s coolest locations, like the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the Rachel Carson Bridge, and the [PDP] Rooftop [Party] downtown.”

We caught up with Beedie, Kovalchuk and other performers–including blue-sy jazz-rock outfit, Grand Piano, and Jake Hanner of indie-pop trio, Donora–to chat more about their locally grown come-ups.

Check out the responses they shared in our Artist Q&A below:


Nevada Color; Photo Cred: Emily Kovacik

Q1: Describe your music-writing/recording process in 10-15 choice words (or less):

Donora: We try to write music that will have a positive influence on people. 
Grand Piano: Exhilarating, shimmering, painstaking, fun, and well-fed.
Nevada Color: An honest and constant collaborative effort, pulled from everyday experiences about everyday things.
Beedie: I like to just vibe out and keep the process natural. Minimal people in the studio.
Q2: Name an artist (or artists) whose sound has influenced the music you create today?
D: Dave Hanner from the Corbin Hanner band.
GP: Prince & Queen.
NC: Jacks Mannequin, The Killers, & Vampire Weekend.
B: Rick Astley

Q3: In your opinion, what was your most pivotal track released thus far, & how does it embody your individuality as an artist/band?

donoraD: I’d say “Boom Boom.” It has the energy and vibe I think we’re good at creating.
GP: “Army Ants”: our first take at our late-night-variety-show approach. We think it worked.
NC: “New Mexico”: Pittsburgh has given us a lot of love with it… I wrote the song on a plane while flying to the West Coast. As we were nearing the end, the captain dismally said, “We’re now flying above New Mexico,” which got me thinking about why he chose that profession and how many places he’s seen but never really experienced. The song is about adventure, not second guessing decisions you’ve made, and making decisions to do something you’re passionate about.

B: My most recent song.

Q4: Name another artist or band on the lineup who’s performance we shouldn’t miss at this year’s SDMF?
D: Brooke Annibale, if you’re in the mood for a great singer/songwriter, and Pet Clinic if you want to see a band play some very inspired/creative rock n’ roll.
GP: World’s Scariest Police Chases.
NC: Emerson Jay… That dude is incredible.

Q5: In 3-5 words, describe your take on Pittsburgh’s music scene & culture:

D: [It’s] very supportive.
GP: It’s a ‘kick butts’ scene.
NC: Growing rapidly, promising, diverse.
B: Eclectic, historic, prospective.
Q6: What advice would you give to aspiring local artists about getting involved in the scene, growing their fanbase, improving as writers/performers, or achieving personal successes?
grand piano

Grand Piano

D: Remember that no one can do what you do–that’s what makes your music special. If you start trying to chase a sound, or chase an idea of who you are as an artist, you’ll just end up going in circles. Usually, people take for granted the things that make them special as an artist because they are always the things that come most easily to them… Identify those special traits that come out naturally in your art or music, and work to grow and evolve them early on.”

NC: Strive to write honest, moving, great songs. The core of being a musician will always be having great songs that come from a real place. Trying to mimic another act will never bring you satisfaction or real success. As a writer, you have to write for yourself, first and foremost, and practice your craft daily… Also, going to local shows, meeting people in the scene, and connecting with them will bring opportunities to play more shows and gain advice from people.


Nevada Color plays Altar Bar (1620 Penn Ave) on the TicketFly Stage at 1:15AM; Grand Piano goes on at Framezilla (2716 Penn Ave) at 11PM; Donora hits the Edge of the X Stage in the Plantscape Warehouse (31st & Penn) at 10PM; and Beedie performs at the Daily Bread/Taylor Gang Beats Stage in front of the Altar Bar at 7PM.

Be sure to swing by their sets throughout the day’s festivities!

Strip District Music Fest will take place on Saturday, January 16. The festival kicks off at noon and runs well past midnight, offering plenty of time to jump around and catch choice acts or future favorites.

In lieu of a traditional ticketing process, a donation-based, pay-what-you-want system will be in place (along with VIP Package options). Those wanting to support their favorite artists can make monetary contributions through the website.

For the full SDMF lineup–including venues, artists and set times–you can peep the schedule on their webpage and visit the Facebook page for updates.

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