Photo Credit: Chris Bulbulia, Clarissa Villondo, Caroline J. Angelo, Jon Nelson
A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran a piece on the current state of big-ticket music festivals and how unimaginative they’ve inevitably become with their lineups. Aside from a select few, most of them have boasted the same excessively-expensive ticket prices and identical bands year after year. That’s not to say that I haven’t discovered some good new bands while attending a large-scale festival like Bonnaroo, but no matter which one you go to–Coachella, Gov Ball, Firefly, Sweetlife or others–they all just end up blending together.
There are some events outside of D.C. looking to switch up the festival experience–a la Don Giovanni Records’ inaugural The New Alternative Music Festival–and then there are the ones closer to home. These festivals curate a unique experience that make them refreshing and fun to go to, and what’s great about living in D.C. is that there are several events like this happening around town this spring. Here are the ones you should know.
In four years, Damaged City Fest has grown from a budding local event to one of the country’s best music festival. This year’s lineup is bigger than it ever has been, with four days of music from local, national and international hardcore and punk acts. Some of the standouts on the lineup include Systematic Death from Japan, Philly’s Sheer Mag, Youth Avoiders from Paris and California punk vets The Avengers. Also on the schedule is an art exhibition at Open Studio DC that’ll feature work from over two dozen artists in various mediums. Once again, Damaged City Fest has proven itself to be the premier music festival in D.C. that just keeps getting bigger and better each year. Ticket prices start at $15.
Saturday, April 16
Rhode Island Ave. NE
Compared to the other festivals on this list, this one is a little more casual. There’s no specific lineup of acts or major headliners, but that is sort of the point–to walk around aimlessly and discover some bands that are in your own backyard (or in this case, front porch). It’s a great way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon enjoying live music, and it’s free to attend.
Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival is one of the first chances of the year to experience live music outdoors. The beautiful landscape of Kingman Island is incomparable to other festival venues, and it’s the kind of event where you can really take advantage of your surroundings. Last year’s show had free kayaking, a bike trail and other outdoor activities to take advantage of. But, just solely focusing on the music, this year’s lineup is strong–touring bands like Spirit Family Reunion, Magic Giant and Forlorn Strangers will headline the show. Local favorites like Bumper Jacksons, Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray, Near Northeast, Second String Band, The Delafield String Band and Atoka Chase are a few standouts to see while you’re there. All the early bird tickets are gone, but you can still grab general admission tickets for 20 bucks.
Broccoli City Fest has a stacked lineup booked this year that’ll bring together the best in R&B and hip hop to D.C. Headlining the April 30 show is Future, Anderson Paak., The Internet, Jhené Aiko, BJ the Chicago Kid and Sango. There’ll be two stages-worth of music, plus a pop-up market featuring food vendors and merchants curated by A Creative DC. Aside from the entertainment, Broccoli City Fest also offers fitness and environmental classes onsite to promote its message of sustainable, healthy living.
At this point, only general admission tickets are left, and they go for 59 bucks a pop.
Saturday, May 7
One of the best times I had last year was from Funk Parade, a free outdoor music festival that takes place on U Street every May. Several blocks of the street are filled with live music, visual art, dancers and other performers– you can spend the entire day taking in everything and not even realize it until it turns dark out. By then, it’ll be time to catch all the bands playing at the indoor venues on U Street. The long list of acts that performed last year featured legendary go-go band Junkyard Band, neo-soul rock outfit Black Alley, See-I and a ton of other local bands that played from noon until the early morning hours. Headlining this year’s festival is veteran go-go band Rare Essence, who set a milestone last year for being the first go-go act to play an official SXSW showcase.
Funk Parade is looking to raise more money for this year’s festival through Indiegogo, which you can donate to here. Rare Essence is also teaming up with Funk Parade to sell pre-orders of their first studio album in over a decade via the campaign. There’s also a Sounds of the City project that Funk Parade launched last week with Grammy-nominated D.C. artist Kokayi, where you can upload found sounds to make a new city-wide anthem.