The fifth annual Thrival Innovation + Music Festival held in Pittsburgh started and ended on a high last weekend thanks to innovation guest speaker and music festival headliner Wiz Khalifa.
Khalifa, a Grammy-nominated rapper and Pittsburgh native, spoke earlier in the week during a Thrival innovation talk titled “High Road” about medical marijuana and closed the two-day festival with a special performance that marked his only stop in his home city for the year.
During the festival performance held Saturday evening at the historic Carrie Furnaces in Swissvale, Khalifa played a number of his hits including “Roll Up,” “We Dem Boyz” and “Work Hard, Play Hard” while strutting across the stage with his shades on and joint in his hand.
“I want the best for all of us, and weed is better for everyone. And it’s medicine,” Khalifa said as the beats of “Medication” began in the background and giant inflatable joints were tossed into the crowd.
Khalifa spoke frequently to the crowd during his performance, giving special shoutouts to his friends and family from Pittsburgh that supported him early in his career.
A highlight of the evening was the performance of the song “Black and Yellow,” the unofficial anthem for the city of Pittsburgh and for the festival.
Prior to Khalifa’s headlining set, Michigan- based DJ Griz drew a crowd and electrified the side stage with a set of electric remixes fused with funky live saxophone playing.
Rising pop star Kiiara also drew a decent crowd for her set earlier in the evening, and although she appeared to be lip-syncing for a majority of her set, her performance of “Heavy,” which was originally recorded with the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, created a sincerely moving moment.
Friday’s music festival evening featured the rapper Logic as the headlining act, with DJ act Carnage and indie-electronic group Two Door Cinema Club performing earlier in the evening.
It was apparent to festival goers that Logic was not in his normal performing state when the rapper broke down before performing his song “Anziety” — a song ironically about an anxiety attack he experienced two years ago during a stretch of exhaustion from touring.
“I’m tired, but I’m going to keep going and I’m going to continue to persevere,” he said.
“You deserve everything this world has to offer and that’s why I’m continuing in my weakest state I’ve ever been as an artist on this stage — it’s for you.”
Logic completed his full set, including his current hit “1-800-273-8255,” which shares the same message and number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Year five for the Thrival Music + Innovation Festival brought bigger headlining artists, and larger crowds than any previous year, perhaps due in part to the new collaboration with LiveNation Pittsburgh.
As word of Thrival begins to spread, it will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh’s favorite underground music festival adapts to more mainstream festival attention in the future.