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Interview: Breakin’ Even Fest Organizers on What it Takes to Pull Off a Successful Music Festival

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The sheer diversity of D.C.’s music scene is reflected in the number of homegrown festivals that exist in the city. There’s practically a festival for every type of musical genre, but there was one particular group that Bryan Flowers and Steven Rovery noticed was underrepresented.  With their efforts, the more melodic side of D.C. punk now has its own music festival: Breakin’ Even Fest. 

Last year’s inaugural show brought in over 200 people for two-days’ worth of music at Songbyrd. This year’s festival is expected to draw an even bigger crowd, with over a dozen acts playing Songbyrd this Friday and Saturday night. Touring bands like headliners The Sidekicks, Worriers and Restorations will perform alongside locals acts like American Television, Boardroom Heroes, Flowerbomb and Dot Dash.

On top of holding down day jobs and being in a band, Flowers and Rovery manage all the inner workings of the festival themselves. From handling the music bookings to creating the festival’s distinctive graphic designs, they internalize a DIY ethos that reflects the music and vibe you’ll experience at this weekend’s Breakin’ Even Fest. Before the show, I spoke with Flowers and Rovery on how they’ve turned their idea into a successful music festival.

D.C. Music Download: How did Breakin’ Even Fest get started? 

Bryan Flowers: Steve and I play together in American Television. Between us, we have booked countless shows, and attended even more shows and festivals. We wanted to challenge ourselves to do something bigger and bring touring bands we like together with the best representation of what D.C. has to offer in the way of melodic punk.

When did you decide to bring Breakin’ Even Fest back for a second year, and why?

BF: After the first one ended, I was pretty sure we were going to do it again. We put a show together in the fall of 2016 for Somnia and Amanda X under the banner of “Breakin’ Even Presents,” and that really solidified that we were going to keep moving forward.

What sort of things did you learn about planning a festival after last year’s event? How did that help with the planning of this year’s fest?

Steve Rovery: In year one, I’d have to say we got lucky. Everything seemed to fall into place come the festival weekend. Leading up to that, we learned about communication with agents, press outlets, sponsors, venue staff, and each other. It’s great that even with all those relationships, this still feels like a DIY operation. So I think the biggest takeaway is being in contact with everyone to show we’re serious about what we’re doing, even though we’re managing this thing from 5-9 outside of our full-time jobs.

Tell us about some of the people involved in the festival and how you are able to make this event possible.

BF: There’s really only two of us doing the heavy lifting. We did all the booking, Steve does all the graphic design and promotion. With just the two of us, we are really only able to make it possible with the support of the bands, the staff at Songbyrd, the local music media outlets, and our sponsors, including local companies Furnace Manufacturing and CD Cellar.

SR: While we’re busy coordinating everything, I think it’s important to mention the people who helped us flyer and poster from Richmond to Philly. Also, the record labels for their donations to the merch raffle and blogs and local writers for helping us spread the word. And our sponsors’ generosity and excitement about being part of this grassroots event help us keep our ticket prices affordable. So, to add to Bryan’s local sponsor mentions, I’d like to thank Live From The Rock Room, Noise Kick FX, PBR, and Lehigh Valley Apparel Creations. Their sponsorships prove that there are people who care about the arts and want to keep them alive.

How did you go about booking acts?

BF: Through constant discussion about bands we like, combined with the obvious budget restraints. We had some submissions that we couldn’t squeeze in. We had some no’s from bands we asked, but the final lineup is pretty stacked, in my opinion.

What can attendees expect at the festival this year? What will be different and/or the same?

SR: I think we’ve diversified the sound and lineup a bit. Pulling in some indie and grunge, and multiple bands fronted by women.

Still 13 bands. Still doing two massive merch raffles. And we’ll be selling festival merch again (shirts and totes). This year, the proceeds from merch sales will go to Girls Rock! DC.

I think the biggest difference is we’re truly all-ages. Anyone can come in and experience the weekend. Last year, if you were under 18, you needed a chaperone and that isn’t really fun when you’re seeing your favorite bands in a basement rock club.

How does Breakin’ Even differ from other festivals in town?

SR: I think we’re helping to shine a light on some of the melodic punk rock coming out of the D.C. region. Damaged City is the place to be for D.C. and international hardcore. DCMD’s own Sounds of The City Fest connects the musicians to the people in the industry, and In It Together is spread across the city and across genres.

We like that Breakin’ Even is under 10 bands per night, so it doesn’t wear out the crowd. And it’s all in one place that offers coffee, food, records, and live music. It gives people other things to try between bands.

What do you think about the D.C. music scene? What makes is unique?

BF: I love the D.C. music scene! I think what makes it unique is that are several genres that are “from” here. D.C. hardcore, go-go, indie rock with a “Dischord sound.” And you can see bands from any of those scenes playing together on any given night.

What excites you the most about the upcoming event?

SR: I was checking out ticket sales last week and we have people coming from New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Tennessee. To think someone traveled in to check out our fest is really an awesome feeling. Definitely hoping to meet some of them at the shows.

Anything else you would like readers to know?

BF and SR: We are really looking forward to sharing our event with everyone this weekend. And we especially encourage you to support the local acts playing as well. Trust us, we like the headliners as much as you do, but this would not be possible without all the D.C.-area acts. Doors are at 7 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday, so come on time!

Breakin’ Even Fest will take place Friday, May 5-Saturday, May 6 at Songbyrd. Visit the festival’s website for tickets, schedule and show times.