Rain couldn't dampen spirits at Pittonkatonk 2017 | FFW>>
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rain couldn't dampen spirits at Pittonkatonk 2017

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 10:59 AM

click to enlarge Pittonkatonk 2017 - CP PHOTO BY KRISTA JOHNSON
  • CP photo by Krista Johnson
  • Pittonkatonk 2017

The weather on Saturday was supremely shitty, but that didn’t stop the legions of loyal and new Pittonkatonk celebrators from coming together at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Pavilion in Schenley Park for a raucous celebration of humanity, music and workers' rights.
click to enlarge Afro Yaqui Music Collective - CP PHOTO BY KRISTA JOHNSON
  • CP photo by Krista Johnson
  • Afro Yaqui Music Collective

Among the revelers were families, hordes of friends, kids running around and playing in the rain, and students on a field trip from the schools Pittonkatonk performers, like Afro Yaqui Music Collective, educate and workshop with throughout the year. Delighted members of performing bands and a team of hardworking volunteers ran around with donations buckets, manned the beer and food distribution tables, and slung Pittonkatonk merchandise.

At Pittonkatonk, the lines between audience and band are nearly nonexistent. As the Extraordinary Rendition Band ripped into a rendition of “Killing Me Softly,” three young girls weaved in and out of the crowd of performers as they grooved to the music. Black Bear Combo moved from one end of the pavilion to the center during their performance, and members of the What Cheer? Brigade ran through the crowd throughout the set.

The May Day celebration feels like a jubilant protest. The Extraordinary Rendition Band led a “This is what democracy looks like!” chant as members of the crowd thrust fists into the air and jumped around. The merch table also served as a collection spot for a toiletry drive, and the air of communal comfort permeated through the pavilion and surrounding tents. With donated food, all could fill their bellies with good food, and their ears with good music, regardless of class or circumstance.
click to enlarge Timbeleza dancers and drummers - CP PHOTO BY KRISTA JOHNSON
  • CP photo by Krista Johnson
  • Timbeleza dancers and drummers

Even as the evening cooled and the sun disappeared, the crowd only grew in that pocket of Schenley Park. By the time Pittonkatonk favorite What Cheer? Brigade assembled on one side of the pavilion, folks were cramming into the space, making new friends with the people surrounding them.

As What Cheer? Brigade launched into its performance, the crowd jumped around and danced, hollering and cheering joyfully as the high-energy ensemble from Providence, R.I. At one point, the bass drum was hoisted into the air making a tunnel, and a trumpet player led a speeding human train through it and around the crowd.

La Misa Negra, a celebratory cumbia-meets-Afro-Colomobian dance-music outfit, set up for its performance on the other side of the pavilion. The band kicked into its performance, and the entire crowd began dancing with fervor. At one point, the outfit covered “Electric Funeral” by Black Sabbath, and as they did, a giant Pittonkatonk cake was surfed around the crowd. Handfuls of cake were grabbed and thrown, and people smeared cake on their own faces and the faces of their friends. It was wild and carefree from start to finish.

As the Detroit Party Marching Band descended upon the pavilion to close out the night, the crowd was still buzzing with the energy of the last two sets. Donned in gold and black attire, glitter and general badassery, the members of DPMB burst to life. The crowd went wild, especially as the band kicked into a rendition of “Fitzpleasure” by Alt-J. Folks of all ages crowd surfed across a room of bodies swaying, pushing, cheering and dancing to the music. 
click to enlarge Revelers take a break from the music to grab some food. - CP PHOTO BY KRISTA JOHNSON
  • CP photo by Krista Johnson
  • Revelers take a break from the music to grab some food.


It’s hard to explain the feeling that moments like these at Pittonkatonk evoke. It’s like a perfect second in time where everything feels incredibly blissful and fun. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’re wearing, or how much money you grew up with, or who your favorite band is. You’re part of something bigger, something magical. You’re part of something where everyone values you for who you are. And in that moment, you can totally let loose and be free.

As DPMB finished and the crowd burst into cheering, the group effort to clean up was already under way. Even after the pavilion lights shut off, the crowd immediately responded by turning on phone flashlights. Attendees, alongside designated volunteers, picked up trash and moved picnic tables back into the pavilion. The space was tidied up in a team effort that reminded everyone what the real root of Pittonkatonk is — a community. One that feels responsibility for itself, with a desire to educate and create, and one that will come together, rain or shine, for a celebration of existence.

I’m already counting down the days until Pittonkatonk 2018.

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