by Joshua Robinson, ATL
I don’t think that anybody is ever truly ready for their first music festival. I thought I was. In fact, I was ecstatic when Broccoli City emailed me granting me access to not only cover my first festival but also attend my first festival. I just knew that I was ready to go cover every single set, interview the festival attendees, and do everything that I could do to make an amazing recap video.
I honestly tried. However, from the moment that I arrived at the festival, I realized that I was in over my head. “Why?” you may ask. Well in Washington DC, on May 6, 2017 at 11 am when I was supposed to arrive, it was raining. Keep in mind that it wasn’t the type of rain that you would be cool with. It was heavy enough to soak you without being too hard, but it was very consistent. With me being a noob to all of this festival stuff, I finally got to experience what “Rain or Shine” really feels like, and my Reebok windbreaker admittedly let me down.
Once, I arrive, I am redirected multiple times to the press tent, until somehow I arrive at the artist check in area. These people really thought that I was an artist. Apparently they had been waiting for whoever they thought I was for a while, so I felt kind of bad letting them know that I was just looking for the press tent. To be honest, I could tell that they weren’t really feeling me at that point, but they were good people so we began the hike to the press tent, which was on the opposite side of the festival. In fact, it was outside of the entry gate, so we had a while to walk. And guess what. When we started walking is when the rain decided to pick up. By the time that I received my credentials (or lack thereof), I had to wait in line with general admission for about 15 minutes until gates opened at noon. I bet you won’t guess how long I really waited to get in. Since the security team didn’t have any ticket scanners, all of general admission and the janky press like me had to wait patiently in the rain for another hour or so.
It was honestly pretty terrible; the cold weather paired with the fact that we could all hear someone starting their set (their set time was 12:30, so I really wonder who was in the crowd for that poor artist) only made it worse. But there really is a God somewhere because the rain came to a pause and we could finally enter the festival, making soon to come colds seem a little less important.
One thing that I can say about Broccoli City Festival is that is really beautiful for being in a not so good part of town. They had a little market set under an awning, where there were a million ways to spend your money, along with press lounge, which I was forbidden to enter, and a spot for a lot of graffiti artists to do their thing. The entire vibe was relaxed, and I felt like it was conquerable.
It really wasn’t. The festival wasn’t one of the country’s big festivals, and it was still a lot to handle for one person. The area around the City Stage, the stage for the smaller artists, featured the awning, food trucks, and sponsor tents while the Broccoli Stage area featured food tents, the merch tent, and the Tidal headquarters.
I’m going to go ahead and admit that I didn’t watch one set at the Broccoli Stage, so I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing 21 Savage, Nick Grant, Solange, and Rae Sremmurd. It was just way too much going on over there, so I got my merch and my free Tidal laminate because it made me look official. For the rest of the time while I was at the festival, I was dedicated to covering the City Stage, and I think I gave it an honest effort. In fact, I saw everyone scheduled to hit the City Stage other than One Love Massive, but blame Broccoli, not me.
First up was Sir the Baptist, an artist that I was going to interview later in the day, so I knew all of his music that he had put out up to that point. And then he does unreleased material, and I’m back to being regular like everybody else. With that said though, the way that he presented his unreleased songs “Second Line Ball” and “Heaven” were fun and tasteful, successfully getting the crowd to be a part of the songs’ respective performances. Throughout his set, he urged everyone hiding under the shelter of the awning to “COME CLOSER!” but it was raining, and you know niggas don’t play that shit. With that said, he kept making efforts, and I admired that immensely. His set, like pretty much everyone else’s, felt too short, but he made his 30 minutes work for him. Within his time slot, he made us dance and laugh, he brought a little kid on stage who knew all of the words to his songs, and he even gave us all his personal phone number. It was honestly some iconic stuff, especially from a guy whose debut album was dropping in a week. He started a trend on the City Stage that would hold true for most of the acts to grace it: make new fans by the time your set is over.
Next to grace the stage was Kevin Abstract, a talent that I had been hearing about for months now. A rapper that openly discusses his bisexuality, race, and awkwardness in 2017 had one of the most lit sets of the day and instantly made me a fan. His music dances on the line of being super pop-driven, but it makes the sets easier to move to. I enjoyed the message and the vibe that he was sending to the crowd at the City Stage, andhe became the second artist to make me a fan by the end of their set.
However, this is when the day started getting a little difficult. It was a little after 3:00, and it was cold as hell. The sun was nowhere to be seen, my clothes were still pretty damp, and the rain looked like it could come back at any moment. I was literally shivering, and almost immediately my warmth became my top priority. Thankfully, I found a coffee truck, and their two dollar coffee saved my fucking life and got me back in the game for a little while longer until Smino’s set started.
Smino didn’t really move me, but I honestly think it was because he couldn’t really move much. Don’t get me wrong, his music was nice enough, but his broken foot really put a damper on his stage presence. With that said, he still did an amazing job with his limitations. He had a two-woman choir backing him along with his band, so I could garner that he has an appreciation for live instrumentation. However, it kind of felt Chance-y, and I would have liked to really see Smino’s energy. After the majority of his set, I didn’t really have a grasp on who Smino is, and that’s the only gripe I have about his time slot. Sadly, I had to leave his performance early because I had an interview scheduled with Sir the Baptist at 4, and Smino still had 15 minutes or so to go.
Then the rain started again, and for once, I was thankful that it did. Because instead of doing the interview outside (remember that they didn’t think TRRATL was legit enough for press lounge access), Jay Cohen, Sir’s manager, snuck me into the press lounge to get all of us out of the rain. It was an awesome feeling to be inside a comfortably air conditioned area around actually professionals and tastemakers doing the stuff that I am dying to do. There were real media credentials around everyone’s neck, and it was a great source of motivation for me. And I can honestly say that after the George Mason student (who had legit media credentials) got their weak Q&A over with, I killed the interview with Sir the Baptist and made some great connections with his team.
It was a great feeling, and I was heading back towards the City Stage, but realized that my phone was dying, so I went to the top of the awning structure and charged my phone up there while Chaz French was performing. Fun fact, Joey Purp even popped up unannounced for a quick set as well. The talent that was booked for the City Stage was impressively compelling, and I’m glad that’s the angle that I decided to cover the festival from. That became even more apparent after stellar showcases of talent from NAO and 9-year-old DJ Kool Flash. City Stage was undeniably popping, and so was Broccoli City Festival for putting on a dope event in Washington, DC for the Black music community and letting a young journalist in the making from Atlanta, Georiga cover it.