It's unstructured, chaotic, respectful, safe and family-friendly. Festival co-directors Spynda and Randall sigh in unison over last year's festival being "magical" and a little "hippie-dippie." They reference 1960s "happenings" and Eastern European social clubs. They talk about disrupting the political economy of "musician" and "audience."
But the magic doesn't come without effort — this year's Pittonkatonk is the fruit of many folks' labor. Planning has been underway since October, and the co-directors' gratitude is flowing for everyone who's helped, including the mayor's office and Citiparks. Then there are the individuals who are: making food; housing musicians overnight; lending parking permits for bands' vans; and donating to the festival's IndieGoGo campaign, which runs through May 6.
"We're trying to restore the social and community aspect to music-making," explains Randall. "The idea that music doesn't happen unless a bunch of people come together and allow it to happen. ... Music, it's not something we buy — it's not something we go to see. It's something we do."
When it comes to Pittonkatonk, there's a lot to be excited about — from plum brandy and impromptu crowd-surfing to activities hosted by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. What Spynda and Randall are most excited about, though, is the educational program that's new to this year's lineup.
"We want to show kids there's life outside of the high school marching band," says Spynda, who hopes he can melt today's teens' minds with music the same way his was.
Headliner What Cheer? Brigade will be in to town early for a three-day workshop with the Hill District's University Prep Junior and Senior High Marching Bands. The program will provide students with insights into the business of touring and working as a full-time musician, while exploring the role of music in activism and change. The partnership will culminate in a collaborative performance at Saturday's festival.
Spynda and Randall have applied for a grant through the Sprout Fund's Hive Fund for Connected Learning, and hope to turn this pilot program into an even bigger outreach effort next year.
"It's very different from what students are normally taught about what it means to be a musician after you graduate high school," says Randall. "We're not trying to change how the kids play. We're just trying to say you can do different things with music, and you can do these things that have a positive impact in your immediate community."