Photos and article by Randy Jarosz
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Deutschtown Music Festival, in its third year has grown into one of the best outings of the summer. The entire festival is made possible by volunteers and the love of music, especially local music, where the talent is abundant. Musicians have donated their time, along with fest organizers, that have to treat it like a business, but make no profit in the end. Festival co-founder Ben Soltesz along with three other organizers work countless hours. Soltesz has a full load, finding sponsors, filling out grant requests, applying for permits, putting the budget together and working on logistics. The festival has been growing in size each year since its inception in 2013. “I still remember getting back the initial responses from my favorite bands; The Harlan Twins, Meeting of Important People and Triggers, among others. When they said “Yes” I figured we’ve really got something here. That year (2013) we had over 50 bands. Last year it was just over 100. This year over 180 bands submitted to play,” says Soltesz.
Pittsburghers have been a bit spoiled over the past few years getting a well run festival with top local musicians for free, with bands making absolutely nothing. Buffalo, NY has a similar festival in its 2nd year, called Herd Music Festival. The 2 day fest is expanding to 4 days this year starting at 8pm each day. Their festival features 60 bands, mostly local, and touring acts like The Real Estate and A Place to Bury Strangers. This festival is $20 for the early bird special, attracting around 1,000 attendees in 2014. DMF wants to avoid this type of fee but want to pay the bands that make the day possible. Festival organizers decided to create an Indigogo crowdfunding page to raise $10,000. All of this money would go toward paying the bands.
Soltesz explains, “I think by going the crowdfunding route, we’re not really asking people to pay for a festival that is free. We’re just giving them a chance to support the musicians and a festival that are making our city a more vibrant place. When somebody donates $25 or $100, they may be getting a t-shirt or something but they are giving money because they believe in what we are doing. Whether they are friends and family of a band that is paying, a Northside community member that likes how the festival is elevating their neighborhood, or just a resident of Allegheny county that wants to recognize the hours of effort it takes to do this by throwing a few bucks our way.”
DMF is adding new attractions also. This year there will be additional venues, including a total of three stages at Penn Brewery, Arnold’s Tea on E. Ohio Street, The Modern Café on Western Avenue and The New Bohemian on Progress Street. “Local musician Chad Sipes is helping sponsor the fest through his business Sipes & Son General Contractors. I think that is pretty cool and he’s also playing with his band, The Chad Sipes Stereo. Bike Pittsburgh is going to provide bike parking. PCTV is going to be filming a lot of performances. WYEP is a media sponsor again and we are going to have a week’s worth of bands on the WDVE Coffeehouse every morning leading up to the festival,” tells Soltesz
With two weeks remaining on the campaign, only $1,195 has been raised. “Well, we’re off to a slow start. Hopefully we can pick it up in the last few weeks. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. We figure that if every band that is playing gets just a few friends and family to pitch in then we can get close to our goal.” Soltesz continues, “of course we want everybody to help out on Indiegogo. I think people will be presently surprised with how good they feel once they do that.”