Sound the alarm: Audio festival will feature an immersive murder mystery

Crime bosses: Podcaster Zac Stuart-Pontier (left), festival host Scott Newman (center), and actor Edgar Oliver collaborated on an immersive crime story set and performed at the Wythe Hotel.
Photo courtesy of On Air Festival

This murder is made possible by listeners like you! 

A three-day podcast festival will take over Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel next weekend, featuring live recordings, networking sessions, and a murder mystery! On Air Fest, happening on March 6-8, will host an immersive audio crime story that will send visitors scrambling through multiple rooms of the historic building to follow a murderous plot, according to the podcast host who wrote it. 

“As this story is unfolding, you are going to get a look into some of the really interesting spaces of the hotel,” said Zac Stuart-Pontier of Crimetown, a podcast that looks at organized crime. 

“The Con” begins in the lobby, where participants can use a pair of headphones to listen to audio clues that will guide them to other spots in the hotel, said Stuart-Pontier. 

“It is going to be triggered by the spaces themselves,” he said. “There is going to be a code on the wall that you scan with your phone and will trigger the next act of the story.”

The mystery story was entirely recorded within the confines of the hotel, which will help to immerse listeners in the story, said Stuart-Pontier.

“We did a lot of recording in the hotel itself, so you are going to hear sounds from the spaces that you are in,” Stuart-Pontier said. “For the stairwell, for example, you’ll be listening to two people climb the stairs and hear someone coming from below, all of which we will have actually recorded in the hotel.” 

The story’s narrator, actor Edgar Oliver, also elevated the material, said the podcast host. 

“He has a way about him that is pretty indescribable, he never really comes out of character,” said Stuart-Pontier. “He just really embodied this character and brought it to the next level.”

The three-day festival will also feature intimate talks, live music, art exhibitions, and live recordings of podcasts from big names, including Bon Appetit’s Adam Rappaport and the Daily’s Michael Barbaro.

The fourth annual festival will host its first award ceremony this year, giving the Audio Vanguard Award to “This American Life” host Ira Glass. The groundbreaking radio host was an obvious choice, said the fest’s founder. 

“He is very deserving for all of the obvious reason: mastery of the craft, storytelling, pioneering a new space,” said Scott Newman. “He inspired people to this day to want to report stories and tell stories and make audio work.”

“On Air Festival” at the Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Ave. at N. 11th Street in Williamsburg, (718) 460-8000, www.onairfest.com). March 6–8 from 9 am–7 pm. $149 per day, $375 three-day pass.