DIY in vibe – an interview with Damaged City Fest

Nick Candela, the vocalist of COKE BUST and one of the co-organizers of the fourth annual Damaged City Fest from Washington, D.C., tells the story of the festival, its evolutions and many aspects of arranging this exceptional gathering.
DAMAGED CITY
Recently moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nick Candela, one of the organizers of Damaged City Fest (alongside Chris Moore) and member of DC hardcore band COKE BUST, SEM HASTRO and SECTARIAN VIOLENCE, sat down with IDIOTEQ to talk about his ideas, the organization process, some noteworthy artists and other DIY festivals and a lot lot more. Highlighting some of the most exciting hardcore and punk from around the world over the course of four days on the weekend of April 7-10th, DC’s Damaged City Fest is meant to bring together and spread more community awareness about independent nusicians, artists and participants from around the world and valuable DIY ethics among young people. The organizers have lined up a special exclusive show by Japanese punk legends SYSTEMATIC DEATH, ZERO BOYS, the iconic 80’s Bay Area AVENGERS and more recent favorite SHEER MAG. See the full line up below and scroll down to see the full interview with Nick Candela.

The fourth annual Damaged City Fest (all ages, grab your tickets HERE!) will occur on April 7th – 10th, 2016 and will feature the following bands: ZERO BOYS (IN), SYSTEMATIC DEATH (JAPAN), THE AVENGERS (CA), SHEER MAG (PA), TAU CROSS (UK), YOUTH AVOIDERS (FRANCE), DISGUISE (IRE), LA URSS (SPAIN), S.H.I.T. (CAN), BLOOD PRESSURE (PA), COKE BUST (DC), THE GOONS (DC), EEL (PA), CAUGHT IN A CROWD (MA), DAME (MA), TORSO (CA), POST TEENS (FL), RUBBISH (FL), STALLED MINDS (FRANCE), BUSTED OUTLOOK (CA), GENOCIDE PACT (DC), THE PESSIMISTS (BRAZIL), SEM HASTRO (BRAZIL/USA), GAUCHO (CAN), TRIAGE (CAN), HOLDERS SCAR (NC), DIGITAL OCTOPUS (FR), FIRING SQUAD (VA), PROTESTER (DC), DEPTHS OF REALITY (MA), FIREWALKER (MA), DRUG CONTROL (CA), ODD MAN OUT (WA), BRICKLAYER (WA), STAND OFF (DC), HOMOSUPERIOR (DC), RADIATION RISKS (NY), BUST OFF (DC), KOMBAT (DC), and COLLUSION (DC). The festival prides itself in its do-it-yourself ethics and venues, taking place in mostly non-conventional locations: various NW churches and small bars for the after shows.

Photo by Angela Owens.

DAMAGED CITY fest!

Hey Nick! Thanks so much for your time! How are you? How’s the capitol doing?

Well I’m actually down in Sao Paulo, Brazil where I live so I have no idea how D.C. is! Chris, who does the fest with me, says everything is good (and cold) though!

Lucky you! The four edition of Damaged City Fest is approaching and I guess you’re quite busy now. How tough is the organization process?

Even though it’s just been four years, it feels like an eternity now and I can’t manage March and April feeling any different than this! It’s stressful as hell trying to get all the loose ends taken care of, but as long as Chris and I stay organized in our astronomically large Google document everything should be cool! We have so many simultaneous lists running… it’s crazy. Every year feels like a religious journey, you know. It’s intense.

How big is the DC Fest team? Tell us a little about the people behind this amazing event.

Well, Chris and I are the main organizers of the fest but when the actual weekend arrives it’s a total team effort with way more people from all over than can be individually acknowledged. It’s really pretty inspiring to see how many people really believe in this and actually want to be a part of it. There are so many people that help with the door, setting up on the stage, cooking food for the bands playing, helping us get the word out in advance, booking the venues…. a large portion of the D.C. scene is involved in one way, shape or form.

Going back to the very beginnings of this journey, what was the reason and motivation behind Damaged City?

We actually came up with the idea of doing this fest together when our band, COKE BUST, was on a big tour in Europe in 2012. We were on “the summer punk festival circuit” you could say and we played a bunch of events. This sparked a conversation that we had on an overnight drive between Switzerland and Belgium while we were driving and we actually outlined everything that night. It was sick… we were riffing with our minds.

Continued below…

Looking back at the previous 3 editions of the fest, which aspects of this event and which musicians surprised you the most and why?

I think the scale and magnitude of it all surprises me the most. I couldn’t believe that on the first year people actually trusted us to book plane tickets and vacations from Europe, South America, Canada, etc revolving around our fest that took place at a DIY spot in a church, you know? That’s crazy. That’s not what I expected at all. I just thought it would be a “slightly bigger show.” Then it quickly turned into something that international bands booked their tours around. Then people began traveling more and more. The enthusiasm of the bands playing, the people volunteering, and the folks who come out and support it continue to blow me away. I’ve never been a part of something so big, you know? It’s still wild.

The fest is all ages. Was it important to make it more acceptable for the masses? What are your thoughts on age restrictions? Are they troubling?

This is an incredibly important value and to be honest I/we have never even considered a festival or show that wasn’t all ages. Hardcore and punk is intrinsically something for the youth. So a 18+/21+ hardcore punk show is kind of a contradiction. It’s whack.

Continued below…

There are so many aspects of a respected independent music festival. Fluff Fest, Ieperfest, Cry Me A River Fest and more European hardcore festivals are building almost cult followings thanks to their unique atmospheres and specific mixture of people, sceneries and sounds. What do you think that makes a fine independent festival?

Every fest has its own culture, vibe, demographic and feel you know? I think that’s interesting. It’s just like a show but on a larger scale. I think it’s important to be conscious of this element and to try to make it as cool / good / healthy as possible. You can have a killer lineup, super cool people, and a good turnout…. but if the venue sucks that can totally kill the whole buzz you know? So there are a lot of pieces that sorta need to come together.

What is the feedback you have from the local community? Is the city helpful?

The city is super helpful and directly involved in so many aspects of the fest. Our friends all help out, bring the backline, help at the door, help us book the venues, etc etc. Like I said earlier, it’s a total city-wide effort it seems.

Continued below…

What does DC Fest actually mean to you personally and how has your understanding of this gathering evolved over the years? Can you describe what makes it so special for you?

To me, the element I most like about the fest now is something that I came to discover around the second year of its existence… and that’s the aspect of all the people from different backgrounds/cultures/locations/orientations coming together and really being a part of something together. A few years ago I looked in my living room and there were people from England, Germany, Amsterdam, Australia, Argentina and Brazil. I had to take a minute to realize how wild that was. It was like the United Nations and that is seriously cool that D.C. became their meeting point.

How does DC fit into an increasingly competitive festival scene?

Ahh, to be honest I don’t see any competition at all in our universe. We have no wish to compete with anyone or to even really “grow.” We just do this festival because it’s fun and we like being able to help our friends from other places with a cool place to play and potentially book their tours around. I don’t view other punk festivals as competition at all. If people want to come, that’s sick. If not and they prefer to go somewhere else…man… totally cool. This isn’t my job, haha.

Continued below…

What other noteworthy music fests do you have in Washington?

Hmm… I prefer to think of it more as a DIY show on a bigger scale. And DC has absolutely no shortage of awesome shows happening all the time. There are a ton of sick new bands in the city and they’ve been keeping things alive and fresh.

Ok Nick, so let’s dive into the details of this year’s lineup. Could you let us know a little bit about this programme and what names excites you most this year?

POST TEENS are my favorite currently active band, I think. So I’m extremely stoked to see them. I love THE AVENGERS. I love ZERO BOYS, I really wanted to see SYSTEMATIC DEATH when we toured Japan but that didn’t happen so I’m happy it’s a reality now. BLOOD PRESSURE is incredible. THE PESSIMISTS from Brazil are rad as fuck and I’m excited that Americans can see them. My favorite local band playing is KOMBAT.

Continued below…

DAMAGED CITY promo

There’s a specific musical slant to your line-ups, no doubt. Would you say the festival fits more into one or more styles, moods of punk or maybe some artistic approaches than others?

Hmm… I think that as the festival has aged our interests and willingness to book other types of bands has also expanded. We’re no longer married to Damaged City being a festival of strictly blistering hardcore punk. Of course we live and love that shit, but there are no rules you know. I love Sheer Mag and I really wanted to do a show for them, so why not? I think it’s also important to keep the lineups diverse in all ways to send a strong message that this community and this music should not be homogeneous.

How about some non-music activities? Is Damaged City spiced up with some discussion panels, workshops, presentations, screenings, etc.?

This year we are going to also have an art show on the Sunday afternoon. This will be super cool and it’s the first year we’re doing it. It seemed like a logical choice given the number of artists that were involved with the fest directly and how many people we knew.

Continued below…

DAMAGD CITY art show

Was there any particular motive behind the choice of location?

Yes…. very much so. We insisted on the main venues being all ages, convenient, DIY in vibe and chill. This is one of the main motivations behind the fest: having an atmosphere that doesn’t feel “pro.” We have ins and outs and you can feel free to bring your own food, haha.

Ok Nick. What would you hope to do next with DC Fest?

Let us make our mistakes this year before asking this question :). No but in all seriousness…. I really want GENERACION SUICIDA to play.

Cool. Thank you so much for your time and insightful answers. Feel free to wrap it up with your final words and good luck with DC #4!

Thanks to everyone who has supported this shit. It’s awesome to be a part of.

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DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels. Contact via www.idioteq.com@gmail.com
  • ChopperDave

    The lineup this year blows.

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