Laying the Groundwork

A simple Google search for the word “festival” returns 1,160,000,000 results in under a second. Adding the words “American music” before hand still leave you with 112,000,000 webpage results. Clearly, my search to explore American music festivals needed a bit more definition. My research seeks to examine the setting of a music festival as a site for the formation of youth identity, considering both the festival boom of the 60s and that recurring today. But with endless lists of events, one-off concerts, reunion tours, food fairs, and local carnivals, it was time to narrow my focus.

And so for the past week, I’ve aimed to define the sort of event I’ll be examining. I’ve spent time parsing through the larger history of festivals and festival-like activities in the United States, eliminating some criteria, like a cultural focus or the inclusion or religious elements, while keeping others, like the communal camping ground, or music genre diversity. The current difficult part is simplifying the list into something concise and workable.

The second task I have undertaken this week has been, frankly, much more fun: looking for festivals to attend and do some hands on fieldwork. In doing so I’ve reflected on my festival experiences thus far, looking back to remember any trends or interesting things I noticed when attending the first time. Following that I’ve made a list which, if all goes well, should result in me attending around 5 festivals over the course of the summer, which is really exciting. The first of these, though it doesn’t quite fit the definition I am moving toward, is happening right here in Pittsburgh for the next week.

The Three Rivers Arts Festival, is a ten-day arts fair, which includes performing arts and showcases the Pittsburgh Cultural District in Downtown. As a native “yinzer”, I’ve been going to the festival for years, and took this year as an opportunity to volunteer and learn more. Though the event doesn’t involve some of the elements I want to examine in my paper, it does offer me a great opportunity to observe and also have some fun. The vendors are all hugely talented, and it’s a really fun atmosphere with families and dogs everywhere. If you are in the Pittsburgh area, take a look at the TRAF website to learn more, and keep an eye out for yours truly!

My friends and I at last year's festival, posing down at the Point. You may not be able to see our faces, but check out that view!

My friends and I at last year’s festival, posing down at the Point. You may not be able to see our faces, but check out that view!

All in all, the past week has been very exciting with things getting underway, and finding my footing has been pretty fascinating. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the summer goes, and hope you’ll enjoy the ride with me!


About genevajackson

I am an aspiring music industry professional. I listen to a lot of music and it makes me feel a lot of things. Check out my spotify @geneva_jackson.