Music festivals have always been a staple in popular culture for as long as we can remember. From Woodstock to Coachella and everything in between, the idea of assembling large groups of people together in one space for the sole purpose of listening to live music collectively has been around since forever. But as of recent, more and more festivals have been created by the people, for the people.
Whether it’s the diverse group of musical acts selected, or the surge of gourmet food trucks providing nourishment to festivalgoers, the newer festivals provide a sense of familiarity to the people. Lately, it seems the Washington, D.C. area has become ground zero for those looking to revolutionize how music festivals are created and run.
Enter the Broccoli City Festival. The brainchild of the Broccoli City Lifestyle Group—a collective of young, Black creatives focused on making and creating positive change in this world—the Broccoli City Festival blends great music with health and environmental awareness. Founded in 2013 by Brandon McEachern, Marcus Allen, Darryl Perkins and Jermon Williams, Broccoli City revolves around Earth Day (the annual event created in the ’70s to generate support for environmental protection.)
After throwing small Earth Day socials in L.A. in 2010 and 2011, the quartet of entrepreneurs took things a step further, creating a platform that provides great music from both local and international acts, with yoga instructors, visual artists, environmental health seminars and more—all under one roof and targeting multicultural millennials. Last year, they took the festival bi-coastal, with shows in D.C. and L.A. featuring Cam’ron, Just Blaze and more.
This year, the festival returns with what might be its biggest line up yet. Erykah Badu will be headlining as DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown, accompanied by rising talent like Kaytranada and Tink (both featured in EBONY.com’s “5 Artists to Look For in 2015” list), Joey Bada$$, Jaden and Willow Smith, Thundercat, and more.
EBONY.com had the chance to sit with Broccoli City co-founder Brandon McEachern, discussing the event’s origins, the artist selection process, and where he sees it progressing in the future.
EBONY: How did the idea of Broccoli City come to fruition?
Brandon McEachern: I founded Broccoli City as an organic T-shirt company in 2008. The current concept didn’t take shape until I moved to Los Angeles shortly after. For the first few months, I was living in Santa Monica and traveling to the South Central (Crenshaw District) for my haircuts. During those trips, I’d observe the contrast between the way in which residents of Santa Monica and Compton engaged health and social responsibility. At that point, I realized that Broccoli City had more to offer the world than just organic T-shirts. We needed to leverage our platform to build healthier communities of color.
EBONY: With everyone from Erykah Badu to Joey Bada$$, what goes into play when selecting the performers involved?
BM: It’s an extensive process that requires sound insight. We spend a lot of time researching and analyzing markets as it relates to multicultural millennial and music trends. We then take a deep dive into the popular culture of our host city to better understand the music influences and how they align with our brand. From there, we continue honing our understanding of the festival experience as we begin building our wish list.
EBONY: The D.C. metro area is steadily on the rise with its music festival scene. What’s so special in the area that brings this special aura about it?
BM: What makes BC Fest special is that it not only embodies the intangibles, but the tangibles that matter most to people. Aside from the music, you’ll see some incredible artwork produced by renowned artists such Demont Peekaso, Mas Paz and One Love Massive. You’ll get to hear from community and government leaders while enjoying a variety of food options that are actually good for you. If fitness is your thing, you can participate in live yoga sessions led by some of D.C.’s finest trainers. When it’s all said and done, we want attendees to leave BC Fest feeling empowered to make a positive impact within their own lives and community.
EBONY: What challenges have you faced in creating a festival that blends music and culture with awareness of our environment and saving our Earth?
BM: There’s always the concern that our message of sustainability will get lost behind the shadows of the music. Anytime there’s music involved, it will dictate the attention. Accepting this reality, we were able to focus on converting best practices from the lessons learned over the yeas into fully integrated healthy living concepts and activations that complimented the music.
EBONY: With the festival being bicoastal, where do you see BC Fest in the next five years?
BM: I anticipate the next five years to be exciting times for BC Fest. We’ve been able to sow seeds and cultivate fruitful relationships that will help us continue the progress of developing sustainable communities of color worldwide. Stay tuned. Five years from now, you just may catch BC Fest somewhere in London, after hitting cities like Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Oakland, of course.
For more information on tickets and anything else Broccoli City-related, visit bcfestival.com.
Cory Townes was born and raised in Philadelphia, and currently lives in Brooklyn. A devout Philly sports fan, Townes is the Social Media Manager for EBONY.com. When he’s not looking for the plug or praising cheesesteaks from Ishkabibbles, you can reach him on Twitter @CoryTownes.