If you frequent events around town, you might have heard of a company called Touchfaster, a group of folks dedicated to unifying Pittsburgh’s diverse and rich music and art scene. They offer a variety of event coordination, artist management, marketing, multimedia and visual design and production services. They’re hosting one of their bi-annual events, Solstice, this Friday at the Shadow Lounge. We wanted to know a bit more about the reasons for their success and what they’re up to in the future so we decided to chat with Rachel, one of the pieces of the Touchfaster Team.
Kymbo Slice: Tell us more about what you’re directly involved with in terms of the company.
Rachel Vigliotti: My position is called “Director of Operations” because we weren’t sure what to call me (haha). I help with a bit of everything. I’d say my niche is booking and marketing communications. I book musicians generally on a weekly basis at various venues and events. Also, I’m in charge of our social media and help several musicians with theirs as well. I head up the work with the sponsors, partners, and media for events. Lastly, I love collaborating and am always down to work on new projects, so random ventures often come to me.
KS: You’ve had a few Solstices now. What have you learned since the first now and how do you improve upon each one?
RV: We started the Solstice/Equinox showcases, which are seasonal, in June of last year. So, this coming Friday will be our fifth of the series and the Solstice/Equinox Showcase One Year Anniversary! In the last year, our team has learned so much…everything from choosing the venues/bands/artists/organizations that fit with Touchfaster’s ideals to hitting the right price point with ticketing. Each time, I think we’ve stepped up our game by doing more research on who we ask to become a part of the shows. The most important thing I’ve learned is that there is a desire to collaborate and build relationships across seemingly unlike scenes in the city. There is a growing group of people in the city getting smart about the type of things they do in their free time and an increasingly expanding market who supports local music, art, and business, which is awesome.
KS: Who came up with the idea for Solstice and how does it serve Touchfaster’s mission?
RV: The idea to have a show last summer initially stemmed from revenue to finish our website. (Which in the end, our FANTASTIC web designer/webmaster did pro bono.) Pierce Marratto, our photographer and graphic designer had been envisioning a show that attempted to place equal importance on art and music for quite some time before our first Solstice. I believe he once said he wanted “a raging party that mixes the right amount of classy and weird”. Since then, the group who plans and works at the events has grown, but we’ve maintained the idea that these shows revolve around getting local artists together, as well as small businesses and organizations, that are doing positive things in the community to network and also have a kick-ass time.
KS: How do you determine the lineup for each Solstice?
RV: As far as music goes, I am kind of a stickler for involving as many different genres as possible and working with different musicians every time. There are few events in Pittsburgh I know of that in one night you can see the diversity of music that we try to showcase. We’ve had folk, country, power-pop, alternative rock, jazz, funk and electronic. We look for talent, energy, and drive. As far as the visual artists, Pierce is the recruiter there. I know he looks for artists whose styles won’t overlap to give variety like the music. And as always, we choose organizations to be involved with the shows that believe the same things we do about collaboration and positivity to strengthen and unite our city.
KS: How have you been throwing this event at Shadow Lounge?
RV: The last two shows (Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox) were also at Shadow Lounge and AVA. We like the space, particularly for the visual artists. It’s really hard to find somewhere that allows us to hang art all over like we do at Shadow as well as provide ample space for a band and a crowd. It’s also nice to keep the art and the music a bit separate to allow the artists to talk about their pieces. Justin Strong, the owner of Shadow/AVA, encourages what we do and is great to work with, so it’s a win-win.
KS: How does Solstice compare to your other events such as your open mic nights.
RV: This event series is different in that from beginning to end, we have the final say in everything. We are involved in a lot of events where we just add a piece of the pie, like booking musicians or helping promote. With these shows, it’s entirely our baby. This is one of the few projects the Solstice/Equinox team (Pierce Marratto, Brandon Martin, and Sean Howard) works on together from start to finish. We all have our own projects, so it’s nice to collaborate on these. As cheesy as it sounds, I genuinely feel the reason that we have these shows is entirely with good intentions. That’s not to say that we ever do anything with poor motives, but these shows are not at all money driven. We try to pay the artists as much as we possibly can. And for our most profitable show, which was Winter Solstice, we donated 100% of the proceeds to WYEP’s Music Education Program and Animal Friends.
KS: What’s in the works for Touchfaster? Any upcoming events we should know about?
RV: Right now, we are planning an Oktoberfest celebration with James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. It’s also going to be the debut of their music/banquet hall space upstairs (it’s been under renovation since before they opened). We’ve been talking with Obvious about doing a partner show in the next few weeks, so that will be something totally new to combine our crowd with theirs. Also, I’m way pumped about planning an outdoor event with Epic Developments, combining food and music/art, in the next few months. It doesn’t get much better for me than good music and good food.
Solstice begins at 8PM at Shadow Lounge this Friday, August 10th. Tickets can be purchased here.