Music & Beer: Pitchfork’s OctFest Comes to The Knockdown Center

Andrew Karpan 


For a third year in a row, the Pitchfork brand is putting on a fall-themed music and beer festival in New York City. OctFest arrives this time on October 19 at the Knockdown Center, the local erstwhile glass factory a mile north of the Jefferson L. 

Tickets are currently $45 bundled with a bottle and a half of samples from a number of breweries, that include vaguely local fare like the Long Island Beer Project, fashionable indies like New Belgium and a variety of Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned properties like Goose Island, Blue Point and the recently launched Bocanegra.  

The festival’s origins hail from 2017, as a bid to synergize the music reviewing website that Condé Nast had just bought with the beer-promoting website that Condé Nast had just started at the time with a sizable investment by AB InBev, the Belgian beer conglomerate most recognizable for its ownership of the Budweiser brand. 

This took place at the Brooklyn Hangar in Sunset Park and a ticket back then bought endless refills at a collection of the beer stalls stationed in the basement’s space. Bands like Okkervil River and Built To Spill, not to be confused with the indie IPA of the same name, played on a single main stage. Adam Krefman, the Executive Director, Festivals & Activations at Pitchfork, tells Bushwick Daily that the latest rendition of OctFest aims to return to these roots.

“We figure bringing it back into the Brooklyn-Queens and making it a one day thing will make people think of it as a low-key, easy kind of decision to make,” Krefman says. 

This is a nod to last year’s festival, which took place over a damp weekend on Governor’s Island and was headlined by recognizable festival draws like Vince Staples and the Flaming Lips. Krefman reflects: “One of our conclusions coming out of that was that I’m not even sure New York needs a big festival from the get-go, and they certainly didn’t need another one.”

In contrast, next month’s event at the Knockdown (where the likes of M.I.A. have once played intimate shows) is one day with two stages. It will center on performances by post-rock mainstays Mogwai and the once-hyped Texas-by-way-of-Brooklyn band Parquet Courts. The latter selection is curiously fitting, as their biggest indie radio hit, 2012’s “Stoned and Starving” begins “I was walking through Ridgewood, Queens/I was flipping through magazines.”

Lower on the bill are the Screaming Females, Lower Dens, Priests, Metz, Priests, Empath and Control Top as well as Duster and Dungen on nostalgia runs. 

The brand wanted to run the OctFest idea as more of big indie rock, and sort of punk and noise rock kind of event this year, Krefman says. Their study of last year’s ticket-buyer data indicated that most had made the trek from Brooklyn and Queens to begin with. 

Big tent music festivals have had mixed fortunes in New York these days, with AEG’s short-lived Panorama shuttering down this year and Live Nation’s Meadows calling it quits last year. Krefman describes the one-day show at the Knockdown as more DIY. 

He hopes the move away from big tent acts will make the show feel more niche. One of the bands on the second tier of the line-up, the Swedish rock band Dungen, will be playing a rendition of their third record Ta det lugnt, which translates to “Take It Easy” and which the music writer Jeff Weiss recently called “a paradise of sunshine hallucinogens” that “reinvented psychedelic music for the new millennium.” It’s no Flaming Lips but, like a beer with a lengthy and flowey backstory, there is the promise of intrigue. 

Newer bands on the lineup, like Philly units Empath and Control Top come with the aura of hard thinking and critical approval, well-selected as the latest emissaries of a city whose rock scene has long eclipsed Brooklyn in maintaining the interest of sophisticated listeners. A “mix of new age aesthetics and winking pop sensibilities,” is how an associate editor at FADER describes Empath, notable for featuring the drummer of Meredith Graves’ old band Perfect Pussy, “They pummel their way through the listener’s skull to open up space for a third eye.”

As Woodstock organizer Michael Lang once said, “the point is that it’s happening.” And now, it’s happening near you.  

Buy tickets here

Cover photo courtesy of @Pitchfork.

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