Can't afford ACL? Ditch the fest. By Bryan Rolli
Over the next two weekends, Austin City Limits will take the city by storm, transforming it into a swirling frenzy of hyped-up music enthusiasts looking to head-bang to Muse, groove to Lionel Richie, and do whatever it is people do at a Kendrick Lamar show. Those who can’t cough up the steep price of admission need not fear. In typical “Keep Austin Weird” fashion, the historic Scoot Inn at 1308 East 4th St. will offer avid music fanatics the chance to buck societal trends at Ditch The Fest Fest 4 & 5 (DTF).
DTF will unite dozens of local and regional artists under one roof to celebrate the expression and camaraderie — the two characteristics that make the Austin scene so enviable — for $5 a day. Austin-based zine Raw Paw took the reins for DTF this year, a move that guarantees the festival emphasizes local and homegrown talent. The zine’s literary arts editor, Montsho Jarreau Thoth, defines Raw Paw as a “creative platform” that focuses on “helping artists that we know and that we love and that we recognize within the community get their work out there and help them be productive."
The invasion of monstrous festivals like ACL and South By Southwest, with chart-topping headliners and astronomical ticket prices, makes it easy for local talent to get lost in the mix. But, as Thoth explains, “One of the things that Raw Paw is about is preventing Austin from becoming this sort of yuppie cesspool.” Ryan Graham, sound technician for Austin band Mother Falcon and Raw Paw proponent, echoes this sentiment: “We have our own scene, there’s no point in letting it get diluted by all these people getting into it. We’ve got to establish our scene here so that it’s there for these people who are coming to enjoy, not so it gets diluted by all these other people.”
With the exception of a few bands from New Orleans who are affiliated with Raw Paw, all of the artists performing over the next two weekends are local to the scene. This obviously contributes to a much lower ticket price compared to ACL and SXSW (several hundred dollars lower), which Thoth says gives music aficionados on even the tightest budget an opportunity to explore Austin’s musical spectrum. “One of the things that really draws people, or what will really draw people, is that true, just like, ‘yeah, we appreciate it, we’re coming out for it,’” he adds.
In a society where defying trends is gradually becoming the trend, Thoth recognizes the festival’s nonconformist appeal as well. “Who doesn’t like to ditch what’s popular… it’s just a wonderful feeling. ‘Yeah, I’m not gonna pay $300, I paid $5 to have just as good of stuff.’”
One local performer looking forward to DTF’s supportive community is hip-hop/R&B artist Eric Mikulak, also known as Click-Clack, who previously drew an older crowd when he shared the stage with rap legend Coolio. “At least for me, it’s exciting to play something where I know there’s going to be a built-in crowd of a lot of people that I know. And it’ll be a similar environment to that of a huge headliner show, but it’s crazy to think that it’s just a bunch of kids doing it right,” he says.
If Raw Paw’s past shows are any indication, Mikulak has high hopes for DTF’s turnout. Mikulak says that the zine’s album release party for SIP SIP, another Austin band, was one of the biggest shows he’d ever seen, “besides during South By Southwest with mainstream headliners.” “So, I mean, I’m looking forward to it [DTF], ‘cause it’s a local crowd and a bunch of people I’m friends with ready to have a good time,” he adds.
For Thoth, shining the spotlight on talented, hard-working locals is the primary focus of this year’s Ditch the Fest Fest. “There are people here who have been working so hard for so long, and they need their chance. We’re trying to be that chance,” he says.