Meet RISHI BAHL - Founder of Four Chord Music Festival
Chicago has the Riot Fest and Lollapalooza, Virginia has the Blue Ridge Rock Festival and Pittsburgh PA is home to none other than the Four Chord Music Festival.
From its humble beginnings of a single-day event at the Xtaza Nightclub to the now two-day punk rock show at the Washington Wild Things Stadium the Four Chord Music Fest has strolled throughout Pittsburgh, swallowing up venues slowly getting bigger and bigger by the year for nearly a decade.
The festival this year will take place at Wild Things Park, in Washington, PA, just a short 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, and is presented by Four Chord Music & Drusky Entertainment with the likes of All Time Low, Bad Religion, Descendents, Pennywise, Jimmy Eat World, The Maine, The Story So Far and more with sponsors from Smartpunk, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Deep Eddy Vodka, Wild Basin, Dancing Gnome Brewery and Strange Candy. The festival is also partnering with the following nonprofits: Hope For The Day, Punk Rock Saves Lives, Biggies Bullies, Pass The Bass, and will feature 5 food trucks each day.
I had a chance to chat with my good buddy Rishi Bahl, owner and founder of Four Chord Music Festival as well as lead guitarist and frontman of Pittsburgh pop-punk trio Eternal Boy.
*The Pop Punk Dad: How did the idea of 4CF come about?
Rishi Bahl: There are a lot of answers here, but mainly 2 ways:
1) Warped Tour seemed to be on the back half of its life and did not want that same spirit of punk rock and community to go away with it (especially in Pittsburgh).
2) I was noticing it was getting harder and harder for smaller bands to get on tours or on shows with larger bands and wanted to try to create an avenue for those smaller bands.
*TPPD: How do you feel about other bands starting festivals I.E. Anti-flag with ANTIFEST. Hawthorne Heights w Is For Lovers Fest?
RISHI: I think there are too many festivals. The oversaturation is causing festivals to self-cannibalize each other for potential concertgoers. We have 4-5 festivals of the same genre happening all on the same weekend as Four Chord. I am all for creating new opportunities for bands and fans, but there will come a point where the market will be too diluted and the market will shrink. I see it already happening. As a fan of punk music, I love these festivals. ANTifest in particular as it is a Pittsburgh-based festival is particularly important to the city.
*TPPD: A lot of bands have also taken the “cruise route” of festivals. Salty Dog Cruise w/ Flogging Molly, even Chris Jericho has one with wrestling and music. Would you ever do a Four Chord Fest Cruise?
RISHI: Punk rock and the ocean on a 100 million dollar cruiseliner just don't mix in my opinion.
*TPPD: So you’re known as Dr. Pop-Punk. You’re in a band. You’re a professor. You run this festival amidst a million other things. I wish I could bottle and sell your optimism and motivation. What keeps you going with all that’s on your plate?
RISHI: Oh it is tough. There are a lot, a lot, of reasons to just hang it up and live a "normal" life. But why? I've got one shot here and I am going to take every shot I can. I find the feeling of starting something from scratch and grinding to grow it an intoxicating feeling. I hope I never lose that feeling.
*TPPD: Being the head honcho of a music festival, you always seem to be looking for the best new acts as well as throwbacks. With that said, are there any new bands on your radar that you think people should listen to more of?
RISHI: Oh man, I wish I could put all of the bands I love on the fest. I will always love a band called Fortune Cover from Canada, they are always at the top for me. Also: Chlorine (grunge pop punk from Oregon), Long Gone (pop/rock from Chicago), and No Pressure (fast pop punk ft. lead singer from Story So Far).
*TPPD: Similarly, Allistar got back together to not only do a small run of shows but to play the festival as well. Are there any bands that broke up that you wish would at least cameo on a future Four Chord Fest?
RISHI: Yup, and I tried to get Homegrown and Rufio at one point but couldn't make it happen. Maybe next year will be the Drive-Thru Records Invasion Tour 2022?
*TPPD: Right as Covid started you had booked what would’ve been one of the sickest four chords to date, that being blink-182. Any plans to have them in the future?
RISHI: I would love to, but I can't tell how that will play out in the future. I hope I didn't lose my chance to make that happen.
*TPPD: Speaking of Covid. What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to tackle in the music biz in this post-pandemic world?
RISHI: I think the issue with live music post-COVID doesn't directly have to do with the virus, but rather the ancillary effects suck. People have WAY too many concerts to choose from and don't have the money to spend on every concert. Therefore, shows and fests are all facing a new reality (as mentioned above): the consumer can't attend every event they want to attend. Learning how to navigate through that will be a test for every promoter, venue, etc.
*TPPD: This is the first year Four Chord Fest is multiple days what was your decision to make it multiple days?
RISHI: I think it was a financial decision. Spreading out costs over 2 days can make it a bit easier, even though you increase your risk. Also, I love both sides of the Pop and Punk worlds. When I grew up, it was kind of ok to love Blink and Bad Religion. However, not everyone thinks that, so separating the days was an attempt to let the punk fans have their day, and the pop-punk/emo fans have theirs.
*TPPD: Do you have any plans to make future Four Chord Fests multiple days over multiple cities, similar to Warped Tour?
RISHI: I am the king of limping through situations, so let's limp through this year and see where it takes me.
*TPPD: Lastly, after Four Chord Fest 8 what’s next?
RISHI: Taking in my favorite month of the year, October. Watching all the horror movies, playing fantasy football, writing lots of new music with Eternal Boy, and maybe trying to make this work for year 9.
Four Chord Music Festival is set to kick off at Wild Things Stadium in Washington/Pittsburgh PA, on Friday, September 9th, 2022, and Saturday, September 10th, 2022. You can check out more details at: www.fourchordmusicfestival.com as well as in any of the links below. Tickets are on sale now!
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