Oh, there’s something super exciting going down this weekend over there in this fine nation’s capital. The Breakin’ Even Fest. American Television. Brick Top. Collider. Curse Words. Iron Chic. Lilac Daze. Loud Boyz. The Mauls. Oklahoma Car Crash. Railsplitter. Rememberables. Timeshares. Slingshot Dakota. It goes down Friday and Saturday at Songbyrd in D.C. We recently caught up with Steve and Bryan, the co-organizers of the event, talk about how they picked the bands, if there will be a second installment in 2017, and, of course, what we can expect from this weekend’s event. Tickets are still on sale, for those still wondering, and they are available in both single-day form, and weekend passes. Lilac Daze will be doin’ Frederick proud. You ought to check it out. Honestly.
So, how did the idea for the Breakin’ Even Fest come about? What led to you guys to this point?
Steve: We both have played in bands and booked shows over the years. When we started playing together in American Television, we realized we had a shared passion for booking. The idea of a festival came up when we had a “what’s next” moment. We’re not a heavily touring band so we figured, why not bring what we want to be part of to us!
What are some of your primary goals with this first installment (outside of, presumably at least, breaking even)?
Bryan: Sounds corny, but just to have a good time, and put on an awesome event for the bands. We picked all the bands, and are huge fans of all of them. I am looking forward to each set, and hope I am able to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
How did the selection process go for the bands? What led to this being the lineup?
Bryan: All of the bands were invited by us. We had some bands that we asked that were unable to play. And once we started spreading the word, we did have some really great bands ask to play, but we had to turn them down due to time constraints. Hopefully, we do this again and can get some of them in. But I could not be more excited with how the final lineup looks.
How did you land on Songbyrd as a venue? Were there any other places you targeted to collaborate with?
Bryan: Honestly, just by asking around at various places around town. The Songbyrd crew has been very supportive, collaborative, and responsive since we first reached out. We could not have asked for a more appropriate venue. That said, the Friday night kick-off show was originally scheduled to be held at the CD Cellar in Arlington. They closed that location in mid-January and consolidated into a bigger Falls Church store. CD Cellar has always been an amazing resource for music performers and music lovers, they just aren’t sure about having shows at the new store yet.
I noticed that you have sponsors – how did obtaining those sponsors work out? I know it can be hard to get other businesses to believe in something for the first year, so what did you have to go through to line everyone – especially PBR – up?
Bryan: The bulk of our sponsors are local businesses, mostly related to independent music, so they got what we were trying to do right away. Mobius Records is an awesome, newer record store in Fairfax, Furnace has been manufacturing CDs and vinyl for bands large and small for years, and Tattoo Paradise is a great local shop located right across the street from Songbyrd. PBR was identified by the crew at Songbyrd as a potential sponsor based on prior relationships, but they’ve been super cool to work with as well. I think we’re going to have some cool little surprises from them at the fest.
What are some hurdles you’ve experienced? Is there anyone you have attempted to book in the past that didn’t go your way?
Steve: As Bryan mentioned, we had a different venue (two, actually!) at the start of all this. The whole thing was going to be in Virginia. So when the news of CD Cellar’s move to Falls Church broke, we decided to pull up our roots and move it to DC. That was a hurdle. Then Songbyrd’s booking director suggested making night one “bigger,” so we reached out to Loud Boyz and added them to the bill with Lilac Daze — an unlikely pairing, but both bands are amazing live, so we’re happy to have them on the same night.
Bands we wanted to book but haven’t – the list is extensive, especially when we consider shows other than Breakin’ Even, but to name a few: Cayetana, Big Eyes, Beach Slang, Bigwig, Great Cynics. I always think of it this way: Every punk rock band is trying to organize three to five people’s schedules and most bands are not particularly organized, and here we are trying to organize four bands for a bill … so that’s a possibility of 20 people’s schedules being in complete sync.
You can’t get beat up over the shows you missed; you have to revel in the ones you get to do. Luckily, we’ve got 365 days a year to try and book the bands we want to come through DC.
What would your dream Breakin’ Even Fest look like in terms of artists?
Bryan: Would probably involve a Fugazi reunion.
Steve: I’m just going to pick three bands and imagine they are playing three different venues along one street (because that’s part of the dream): The Violent Femmes, Phantom Planet reunion, and PUP.
Are there acts this year you are looking forward to seeing more than others? If so, which ones and why?
Bryan: Asking us to play favorites?! Of course, I am excited for all of the bands. We see the local bands pretty regularly, so honestly, Lilac Daze, Slingshot Dakota, and Iron Chic top my list. And the new Brick Top songs are great. You know, all the bands!
Steve: Timeshares is one of my favorite bands, so I’d be lying if I didn’t mention them.
What would it take for there to be a Breakin’ Even Fest in 2017?
Bryan: Steve and I having some fun with this one. We’ve been working really hard to get this put together, so as long as the energy is there at the end of Saturday night’s show, I think we’ll be pumped to do another. We’ve certainly already talked about it a little.
And finally, what can we expect from this year’s Breakin’ Even Fest?
Steve: First, the music. Every band on the bill is bursting with talent. Even though you can lump them all under the punk rock genre, the landscape of Breakin’ Even is covering the genre end to end.
Second, Songbyrd is a fairly new space. Many people may have never been there before. It’s eclectic – a bar/restaurant, coffee shop, record shop upstairs and a venue downstairs. So if you want to take a breather between bands, there’s plenty to do.
Third, we’ve been working with record labels to feed our mystery merch raffles, so they’ll be some cool things to win through both days. It’s a healthy amount of stuff too.
I say, just pull your friends together, drive to the show, and be part of the experience.