Festival season is upon us, and although New York’s highly publicized Governor’s Ball wrapped this past weekend, Northside Festival, crowned Brooklyn’s answer to SXSW by The New York Times, is just beginning. Now in its ninth year running, Northside spans over 30 venues across Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick, spotlighting hundreds of rising creatives—not only in the music scene, but also the latest innovations.

Northside Innovation is a carefully curated three-day stint of keynotes, workshops, interviews, and discussion panels where politics, media, entertainment, entrepreneurship, and tech intersect. Past speakers have included Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, New York Times’ Seb Tomich, Rebecca and Uri Minkoff, and hundreds of local influencers.

This year’s 100+ panels, held throughout North Williamsburg, return with the same spread of variety. No matter your particular industry or interest, there’s sure to be something for you. Here’s a sampling of what you can expect to find at 2017’s Northside Innovation.

Buzzfeed‘s Ben Smith


This year’s festival offers a special two-day deep dive into the hellscape of today’s political reporting. Northside Report: “You Are Fake News”: Truth, Lies, and Politics in the Age of Trump is a 19-event track at The William Vale featuring conversations with journalists from The Intercept, The New York Times, Vox, ABC News, The Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed News (AKA the OG Fake News) exploring the relationship of news and feminism, surveillance, social media, and more. Programming will also include live podcast tapings, an on-stage interview with Mayor Bill de Blasio, and a performance by Himanshu “Heems” Suri.


Northside Report’s programming inherently injects politicism into this year’s festival, but there are other standalone events you’ll certainly want to catch, such as VICE’s sit-down with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Taking place Friday at the Wythe Hotel, this conversation will pick the brain of one of Donald Trump’s most outspoken opponents. Although the New York congresswoman has shut down speculation of a 2020 presidential run, she’s been a figure to watch since January 20, and is sure to draw one of the bigger crowds of the week.


By now, we’ve all seen people doing those live VR demonstrations at the mall. Virtual reality is a central theme at this year’s Northside Innovation, garnering three separate panel discussions and a two-day Immersive Reality Playground at The Brooklyn Brewery. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the impact and implications of VR for brands, businesses, and product development, as well as test out the technology for themselves.


Presented over three days on the Wythe Hotel’s FORTUNE VENTURE Stage, many of this year’s business-focused panels meet at the intersection of entrepreneurship and technology. From getting to know your customers and raising early stage venture capital to implementing better UX and developing products with nanotronics, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, these panels will broaden attendees’ perspectives on modern career paths and let them try their entrepreneurial hand at the German Startup Innovation Pitch Competition.


One of the most definitively SXSW-y aspects of Northside Innovation is its diverse content lineup. Featuring a jam-packed schedule of interactive talks, demonstrations, and an ongoing immersive light installation, The Williamsburg Hotel will be home base for content creators of every kind. Highlights include women-led panels on diverse representation in mainstream narratives, the widespread transition to streaming services, execution of shortform video and GIF-cutting, and out of the box strategies for compelling storytelling. Attendees interested in more visually driven innovation can head over to the Shutterstock Masterclass Stage at The William Vale, where panelists will discuss a variety of business-related topics through the lens of art and design.


Woven throughout each of the major themes of Northside Innovation—from politics, to business, to content—are panels addressing their respective impacts on culture. Throughout the week, a diverse group of speakers will provide context for topics spanning what it means to be Muslim in America, the visibility of women in prison through popular shows like Orange Is the New Black, sexism in the media, diversity in storytelling, and TV’s depictions of family, workplace, and friendship.

Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit

Music and Entertainment

Okay, so technically he’s speaking on an entrepreneurship-focused panel, but how could I not fan girl about breathing the same air as Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos? He’ll sit down Friday at the Wythe Hotel with Deep Focus Founder and CEO Ian Schafer to discuss the growing trend of creating compelling branded content and reaching consumers through music and events.

If you’re looking for some new tunes or live performance art, however, you’ve come to the right borough. In addition to the 300+ bands playing across nearly 40 venues this week, Northside attendees can hit up TNT Backstory Studio at Kinfolk 90 for an emerging bands showcase curated by Brooklyn Magazine, as well as vibrant storytelling shows and interactive workshops.

The complete Northside Innovation lineup and schedule can be found on Northside Festival’s website. Panels kick off this morning and run through Friday, June 9 so get out and grab your badge today!


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