Michael Devine, also known in these parts simply as Zombo, had a notion last year to do a music festival in the streets, bars and cemetery of trendy Lawrenceville.
RANT: The Rock All Night Tour ended up being a hit, drawing more than 5,000 people for a diverse local music lineup and car show.
"They mis-underestimated us," laughs Mr. Devine, an Akron/Canton, Ohio, native now Lawrenceville mover and shaker who owned and operated Zombo Gallery, originated Arsenal Lanes' Rock 'n' Bowl night, booked Art All Night entertainment, spins records as DJ Zombo, screenprints T-shirts and plays in the Turkish-flavored band King Fez.
"We were surprised ourselves that it ended up that way, that everything went off like clockwork."
"Places like the Thunderbird, they ran out of CO2 for the beer. Stinky's ran out of food. They were all like, 'Hey, by the way, when you are doing this again?"
Organizers are doing it again this Saturday with a 16-hour free festival featuring more than 70 acts at double the venues (20). The goal of actually rocking all night hasn't panned out yet -- they're still looking for a place where they can do a rock 'n' roll breakfast from 2 to 6 a.m. -- but they're starting earlier with unlikely venues such as the Dozen Bake Shop, Embody Juice Bar and Wild Purveyors Market playing host to acoustic music at 10 a.m.
They've moved the family-friendly lawn show from Allegheny Cemetery to Arsenal Park so they can start at noon, rather than 4 p.m., and go until 8. There also will be outdoor music at Nied's Hotel and Stinky's, site of the car cruise.
They've also expanded the music palate. "Last year," Mr. Devine says, "we heard from people like, 'Oh, you don't have the blues represented.'"
This year, there's blues at Stinky's and they've added jazz/R&B at 720 Records and electronic/world music at Eclipse Lounge to go with punk/metal at Cattivo, classic rock at Nied's, garage/retro at Arsenal Lanes, bluegrass at Hambone's, etc.
"I didn't want anyone to feel like they were being left out," Mr. Devine adds, "so we're having busking zones at Rather Ripped Records, Unifaun Records and in the park, so people can show up with a guitar and play."
The promoter thinks a big part of the success is the date.
"It is a total sweet spot time of the year. It's just the tip of fall. I don't have to worry about the marathon or any other big festivals."
The RANT model inspired the inaugural Deutschtown Festival in July on the North Side, which Mr. Devine didn't mind seeing at all. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," he says.
For Mr. Devine and fellow booker Mary Jo Coll (of Howlers), RANT is still very much a labor of love -- for the music and the neighborhood.
Last year, Mr. Devine put up a couple thousand dollars of his own money and ended up losing only $400.
For 2013, he says, "We managed to get Yuengling and Absolut on board. I had the idea to presale T-shirts to the venues at cost. We're a whopping $200 in the black!"
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. First Published August 8, 2013 4:00 AM