Federal Frenzy music, arts fest returns to Y'town

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Federal Frenzy is only in its fourth year, but the annual downtown music and arts festival has already established itself as one of the region’s best.

This event returns Saturday with two dozen bands, including headliner Smallpools, and more activities for kids and adults than ever. Admission is free, and the festival runs from 2 p.m. til 11 p.m.

The list of activities includes a rugby toss, which is probably not as painful as it sounds, face painting and hair braiding, slime making, a fossil hunt, a dance workshop, a swing dance performance and a session with local brewers.

Artists will include Chauncey Hay, Daniel Rauschenbach, David Tamulonis, DNA Studios, Kristy Hoard and Rachel Hritz. There will also be food trucks and a vendor market, all along Federal Street, which will be closed to traffic between South Hazel Street and Wick Avenue.

The main outdoor stage will be on Federal Street, near Wick, with Freshproduce, Carlos Jones and the PLUS Band and the Vindys going on before Smallpools. The second outdoor stage will be in the water department parking lot, with the Labra Brothers, Spy Convention and Spirit of the Bear.

Bands will also play between 2 and 8 p.m. in O’Donold’s Irish Pub, Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts, The Federal, McKelvey Gallery and the Lemon Grove. The latter two venues are in the Knox Building, as is the Federal.

In fact, the day will mark the first time in the history of the 109-year building that three floors will be open to the public at the same time, and with free admission, according to co-owner Jacob Harver.

Since the ownership team acquired the building in 2012, it has been steadily renovaing each of the five floors into a regional cultural destination.

“Our flagship first floor kitchen and bar The Federal is noted for stellar food, especially burgers, and nightlife,” said Harver.

In September, after extensive rehabilitation to the space, the second floor became a venue for concerts and special events. It was named the Lemon Grove, a nod to the bar-restaurant’s earliest iteration.

For most of its existence, the Knox Building was the location of a Woolworth five and dime store. “While Woolworth utilized the first and second floors for retail between 1912 and 1984, the third floor was stock space, kitchen and offices,” said Harver. The floor were transformed into the McKelvey Gallery in 2014 and has since hosted art exhibitions and has become the home of Youngstown Cinema.

Outdoors, Smallpools will take the stage at 9:30 p.m. and bring the night to close. The tight indie-pop band came out of the gate in 2013 with an effervescent electro-bounce sound that was somewhere between Passion Pit and Maroon 5.

The LA-based band toned down the “so exuberant we might burst” vibe on its latest release, 2017’s “The Science of Letting Go. The infectiousness is still there, but now it’s a bit more mature.

In an interview in Billboard last year, Sean Scanlon, the band’s frontman, said “there is a kind of calmness to [this album].”

Smallpools will launch a U.S. tour next month that will begin at the Cleveland’s House of Blues Cambridge Room on May 7 and finish at the massive Firefly Festival in Delaware in mid-June.

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