Why doesn’t RVA have a mid-sized, big name music festival?

by | May 25, 2017 | MUSIC

Tis’ the season! Festivals are on everyone’s mind, and after Dominion Riverrock this past weekend, I’m sure Richmond cannot wait until the next three-day festival. Up next is the continuation of the Friday Cheers series, Richmond’s Greek Festival, Broad Appetite, Jazz Fest, Bacon Fest, and we even have the Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ fest to look forward to.

Our assortment of food festivals are fantastic and something we should all be thankful for, but where are the rest of our music festivals? For a town that’s inhabited by such a large and diverse collection of music fanatics, we should probably hold more music festivals than we do.

Big headliners, strong sponsors, industrial railings, metal detectors, RFID wristbands, options of one day passes or a weekend pass- it seems like a large organized festival might be a shit show and something that Richmond doesn’t need to welcome into our cozy town, but a lot of good might come from it, especially if it means welcoming an array of new music genres to the area.

To scope out some “inner city,” yet very compact and manageable festivals, a friend and I took a trip down to Shaky Beats in Atlanta Georgia. Shaky Beats is a sister festival of the more commonly know Shaky Knees Festival (the name originating from the song “Steam Engine” by My Morning Jacket) that is held at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.

C.O. Park also hosts Sweetwater 420 fest and, prior to 2011, Music Midtown, both which have incredible, recurring lineups. Shaky Knees originated to bring more indie music to the city, while Shaky Beats had a similar motive with electronic music artists in mind. Is this an idea that Richmond should entertain?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, Skrillex and Dillon Francis played Brown’s Island. Anyone remember that? Seemed to be a success and considering Brown’s Island’s location and size, it’ll most likely be the venue for any future and potential music festival. There obviously needs to be some sort of booking agency to establish a relationship with and to coordinate an idea with the venue owners. But, most importantly, a larger festival will need more structure, security, and volunteers, which may not be difficult to find in a town full of university students.

Richmond, being the cuisine capital of Virginia, will also guarantee an awesome display of vendors, and needless to say, the view at Brown’s Island is a hell of a lot prettier than Centennial Olympic Park’s surrounding view of skyscrapers, especially with the James river running alongside it.

Centennial Olympic Park is 21 square acres, while Brown’s Island is 23.04 square acres. So, if Richmond really wanted to, it can easily host a music festival at the same magnitude and having similar qualities as Shaky Knees and Shaky Beats. But the question is, is Richmond up for the task?

A lineup like Shaky Knees will suit the average Richmonder, while something similar to the Shaky Beats lineup maybe more suiting for the the average heady millennial who inhabits much of the Fan.

While at Shaky Beats the other weekend, we had a chance to chat with Americo Garcia of Boombox Cartel, who put out the track ‘B2U’ feat. Ian Everson last year, which became one of the top played festival songs of 2016.

Boombox Cartel is a younger duo from Mexico who’ve been touring the nation and hitting high-profile festivals such as EDC Las Vegas and Moonrise festival in Baltimore. I was glad to speak with Americo because he has a lot of qualities that remind me of music fanatics and low-profile music producers in Richmond. One of these qualities is being a small-town college student who was just messing around on his laptop and putting his beats on Soundcloud when he began gaining recognition.

“…The first artist who supported our music: Adventure Club. They literally went on our Soundcloud, we had like 300 followers. We checked the stats on our Soundcloud and we see ‘Played by Adventure Club’ twice, and just all of these other usernames…Then we get a follow from them on Twitter and then we tweeted at them, ‘Guys, we’ll send you this new track we have,’ and they’re like ‘Oh, we already played it out.’ And we’re like, ‘What…’”

“We didn’t even have the download available, so they ripped our song. They literally ripped our song and played it at this massive festival and it was online. And it was like, ‘damn, that’s so sick.’ So it’s just little things like that: more support from other artists, more support from fans, more blogs. It just started to snowball.”

Americo, much like many local RVA acts, was just waiting for a fest – large or small – to help attract the attention they need to blow up.

We need some new ideas for potential Richmond festivals. Emerging RVA musicians mixed with larger headliners? A wider array of genres and a larger lineup with multiple stages? More indie rock? More EDM? The possibilities are large and why not take advantage of our 23 acre patch of land that outplays many of the outdoor venues in much larger cities.

photos by Sam Brazil

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram was with RVA Mag in the Summer of 2015 and has continued writing for RVAMag.com and GayRVA.com ever since, mainly submitting festival coverage. She has recently relocated to Berlin, Germany where she works as a photo-journalist for a fashion photographer. She hopes that her B.S. in Economics from VCU and her international journalism experience will help her acquire a content manager position for VICE Video some day. Her interests include surf cinematography, gonzo journalism, and funky bass lines.




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