PLAYING THE BAY: Twin Peaks Promoters Expand Community With Two-Day Twin Shrieks Fest

Twin Peaks Sessions organizers Jonathan Abrams, Rianne Garrido and Michael Donnelly. Photo by Trevor Skinner.

While ascending the steps to the upper level at Twin Shrieks fest, I almost knocked over someone’s plate of watermelon. “Sorry!” I mouthed into the dark, settling down to watch the next set from on high.

The plate was fitting; day one of the the two-day fest was like a punk rock cookout, with merch, artwork, and food stacked in foil wraps lining the walls, the stands cupping the performance stage like splayed hands. It was very much a family affair, occasionally in the literal sense (organizer Rianne Garrido’s parents flew up from Southern California to provide snacks and support) but also in the sense that Twin Shrieks seemed its own sort of family, the kind that gets made in the quiet by those making art, who know those making art, who know those making art of a whole other sort…

Garrido told me it had all come together quite naturally; the warehouse space for day one is normally used for theater rehearsals, so it was prepared (at least somewhat) for the likes of an audience. Day two was hosted at a tried-and-true venue, the rooftop space where the fest’s organizers host the weekly acoustic Twin Peaks Sessions. Day two was all acoustic as well, and from what I saw on Garrido’s Instagram the next day, it was all very intimate, with sets ranging from spirited one-man-shows to tinkling full-band covers.

Day one, however, was all movement and noise, a bounce house of sweat and energy emanating from the bowls of a labyrinthine West Oakland warehouse. I emerged into the performance space mid-song, giggling with my friend after walking down a eerie and bizarrely long white hallway where I half-expected to meet El from Stranger Things. Onstage was Taking Meds, a New York band on tour to promote their latest full-length, I Hate Me. Their set is what compelled me to describe the night as a “bounce house” – it was hard not to immediately get caught up in the energy of the crowd as members of the crew and the other bands bounced up and down with feverish intensity, waving phones and Garrido’s somehow magically unscathed digital camera.

My friend was particularly astonished by bassist Jon Markson, who would twist his body and face into shapes heretofore unseen by man while offhandedly doing the splits despite standard-issue punk-band skinny jeans. My friend works in theater; I would be the first to tell her that if you are looking for some physics-defying theatricality, a punk show is the place to be.

Next up was Bay Area band Damper, ending their set with a crowd-chorus of “Never Truly Satisfied,” the closer of their latest EP, All We Have to Do. 

Rounding out the evening was Playing The Bay alum and Twin Shrieks headliner Kevin Nichols, who performed a handful of unreleased material, including “Disappointer” and “Barf.” “Disappointer” is a particular standout, and I look forward to comparing my live experiences of the song with the studio version. Nichols was, incidentally, also the first ever performer at Twin Peaks Sessions, so this evening was very full-circle for both him and the Festival’s organizers, who I spotted screaming his lyrics into the other side of the mike like they were collectively trying to summon a specter from the concrete ground between their feet. While I certainly expected this, it was almost (and I mean this in the best way possible) like watching a bunch of kids at a sleepover sing their favorite songs into a improvised mic — only this time, your favorite songs have been created by your friends.

No surprise to me why Nichols is still so happy he moved to the Bay.

I talked to Twin Shriek’s organizers – Mike Donnelly, Jon Abrams, and Rianne Garrido – for some more insights on the process, lessons learned, and what’s next for Twin Peaks Sessions.

Kevin Nichols plays Twin Shrieks Fest. Photo by Rianne Garrido.

AF: What was the inspiration for the fest?

MD: While we’ve been hosting our acoustic Twin Peaks house shows, we slowly began branching out to other venues that allow for full bands (amps, drums, and an actual PA!). In the back of my mind I always wanted to put on something bigger than your standard 2-3 band bill, involving diverse acts, local art vendors, and the most important of all — community. We love to bring people together.

We drew inspiration from major punk festival Riot Fest in Chicago, but more realistically, fests such as Fest in Gainesville, Florida, and the handful of day-long DIY fests Rianne and I attended during our visit to Austin’s “unofficial” SXSW shows. These DIY fests (put on by The Alternative, DIY Tour Postings, and more) ranged from taking over a dive bar to someone’s backyard. I’ve lately taken on the mindset of “anything can be turned into a music venue,” and my mind was racing as to what we could do with [the project we] dubbed as Twin Shrieks.

The approach going into this was to find a safe, all-ages and somewhat “underground” venue for day one where we would allow for full bands, knowing day two we would simply wind down acoustically at our usual Twin Peaks spot. When we stumbled upon a rad, safe, for-rent warehouse space in West Oakland, we went all in with planning.

The biggest inspiration for the fest was the musicians and artists we’ve met along the way in doing Twin Peaks Sessions. The amount of talent in the Bay Area is massive and we wanted to host an event that celebrates the creativity of our local community.

AF: What were your biggest challenges organizing the event and what do you wish you had known ahead of time?

MD: The biggest challenge was time management, and planning out an itinerary for a space we never used, a space that upon arrival would be totally empty and we’d have to set up from scratch (in a one hour window). I wish I mapped out everything ahead of time (vendor tables, more advanced stage plot) and also gave numerous people job responsibilities during setup. Setup, with the help of some KICK ASS volunteers, ended up going well, and music started right on time. The first two hours were the biggest stressors but we communicated and moved to get it all sorted out!

RG: None of us have had any prior experience in organizing an event of this scale so we went into planning with full caution and attention to detail. We quickly learned the importance of setting up an efficient ticket sales/RSVP system to a well-timed load in, consistent communication with all participants, recording expenses, food prep, and everything in between. We met every week to make sure we covered all bases and tracked everything in an all-encompassing spreadsheet. We’re huge fans of a good ‘ol spreadsheet!

JA: It wasn’t necessarily our intention to make any money from it, but we did want to have a sense of expenses versus profits to help plan for future events. We did a pretty good job keeping tabs on what we spent and what we made, but we’d make some changes in the future to streamline that process. The sustainability of events like this unfortunately can live and die by the money.

AF: What were your favorite parts about organizing?

MD: I love forming a bill — for Twin Shrieks, getting to form a nine-band bill day one, and seven bands day two… oh the joy!

RG: Seeing and experiencing the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to put on a festival really made me appreciate the hard work that went into previous festivals I’ve attended. We loved seeing the support on social media from all of the musicians and artists in the time leading up to the festival. Hosting this festival truly became a community effort and we’re really grateful to everyone who took part in it (bands, artists, volunteers and attendees) — you helped make it happen!

Damper plays Twin Shrieks. Photo by Rianne Garrido.

AF:What was your favorite part of the actual fest?

MD: My favorite part was once all was set up and things began to run themselves (shoutout to Gabe on sound, who totally ran the show between acts and during) it allowed us to really rock the heck out during sets! Getting to stop by each merch table, check in with vendors, and most importantly check in with the attendees who were having so much fun while discovering new music. I loved to see people getting merch from bands they did not know of a half hour prior.

RG: Shows have always had a special place in my heart for giving me a space to feel safe and welcome. Putting on this festival was a great reminder as to why I have such a big love for this community. The feeling of being surrounded by like-minded individuals who share a genuine appreciation for music and the arts gives me immense joy. The sense of camaraderie in the room was so tangible — I can’t even begin to describe it! I owe so much of my personal growth to the music scene, and to help host an event that aspires to provide the same inclusive space it did for me growing up was such a humbling and rewarding experience. The most memorable moment for me was having my parents there helping serve the food. They were gushing afterwards saying they felt so loved by everyone who came. My mom summed it up best when she used three words to describe everyone who took part in it — wholesome, humble and appreciative. I couldn’t agree more.

JA: Seeing everyone have such a great time! And seeing all these different people we had met in various different contexts all together in the same room, some who knew each other already, some meeting each other for the first time. Community! And also being able to play on the bill alongside a ton of amazing bands that we love and have a ton of respect for.

AF: What is a question you wish you were asked more often?

We wish our community would always feel comfortable reaching out to us for help in any regard. Whether it be music related/getting a venue situation sorted out, or even in other significant areas such as mental health, we’re happy to lend a hand and also be there to listen. The strength and longevity of this community depends on taking care of the people in it, and our aim is to support anyone the best we can.

AF: What’s next for Twin Peaks Sessions?

We will continue dropping recorded sessions on our YouTube page each Thursday, and host a couple house shows a month. We will continue branching out to other venues as well, getting exposure as bookers who help touring bands and locals pick up gigs and form bills. Oh, and Twin Shrieks 2020 planning has already begun!

Adult School plays day two of Twin Shrieks at the Twin Peaks Sessions usual rooftop spot. Photo by Rianne Garrido.

HIGH NOTES: How to Return to Your Life After a Wild Festival Weekend

A weekend of partying at a music festival may leave you feeling like the human equivalent of these overflowing Glastonbury trash cans.

Most people don’t spend music festivals worrying about how they’ll feel after all the shouting, head-banging, and (if you’re into that sort of thing) drug use is over. That’s something you can worry about on Monday. But while living in the moment can be liberating, it doesn’t feel as liberating when you’re nursing a nasty hangover, likely compounded by sleep deprivation and undernourishment. So, if you want to make Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) more bearable, here are some ways to minimize the damage as you return to real life.

During the festival…

Don’t forget to eat. If you’ve been using certain, ahem, substances to keep you going, food may feel superfluous. But don’t let stimulants’ appetite-suppressant properties fool you. Being deprived of food will have the same effect it always does — you may just not feel it until afterward, and it’ll make your hangovers that much worse. “Try to ‘graze,’ eating smaller, nutrient-rich foods throughout the day and night,” says James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center. “Fresh fruit, fruit and nut bars, and low-sodium jerky are all good, easy-to-pack-and-carry options.”

Take power naps. If the event goes late into the night (or early morning or afternoon), try to find some time to sleep, even for a short while. “Power napping (for 20-60 minutes) during the event can be helpful to avoid compounded effects of fatigue and periodically re-charge your system,” says Giordano. Plus, you may then feel less of a need to use stimulants to stay up.

Bring water. Hydration is essential if you’ll be out in the sun and/or dancing all day, especially if you’re using a drug like MDMA that dehydrates you. “There are a number of new hydration packs on the market that can make carrying and re-filling water at re-fill stations far quicker and easier,” says Giordano. The newly launched hydration pack Lunchbox also keeps your stuff secure so you don’t have to worry about theft. 

After the festival…

Take in electrolytes. Electrolyte-rich drinks like coconut water provide extra hydration to replenish you after a debaucherous weekend. You can even eat salty snacks to get electrolytes. Kellye Greene, President of New York DanceSafe, recommends doing this before you go to bed after the festival.

Supplement. B vitamins help flush out toxins, says Greene, so taking a B complex supplement during and after the festival might lessen the intensity of your hangover. A protein isolate like Isopure can also help you recover if you’ve been using drugs. Other supplements that may be helpful for hangovers include vitamin C, magnesium, acetyl L-carnitine, ginger root, N-acetyl-cysteine, milk thistle seed, and dandelion root, Greene adds.

Eat well. Ideally, you should be eating nutritious meals during the festival, but at the very least, eating well afterward can make your hangovers less hellish. Greene recommends green juice smoothies, bone broth, miso soup, asparagus, and Korean pear juice.

Listen to some chill music. This is not medical advice, but this playlist might help you relax and rejuvenate. Enjoy.

HIGH NOTES: Why Drug Testing Works — and Why More Festivals Don’t Do It

An at-home drug testing kit available via DanceSafe

If you grew up in the US, you probably heard “say no to drugs” in middle school health class, but you probably didn’t learn how to reduce harm if you did use drugs. And, chances are, you didn’t follow DARE’s advice. The majority of American adults have smoked weed at some point, according to a 2017 Marist College poll, and a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health survey found that over 17,000 Americans ages 12 and over had used MDMA, over 22,000 had used magic mushrooms, and 25,000 had used acid.

Music festivals in particular are popular sites for drug use; a March 2015 study of Instagram posts about 15 popular music festivals found that 25,605 mentioned MDMA, 9,705 mentioned weed, and 4,779 mentioned cocaine.

In order to reduce the risk of drug-taking at music festivals, some organizations like Energy Control and DanceSafe set up booths on festival grounds, where attendees can get their drugs checked for contaminants and receive information about harm reduction. These programs have garnered some pushback from people who believe they could encourage drug use.

Paul Komesaroff, Professor of Medicine at Monash University in Australia, President of Adult Medicine in the Royal Australian College of Physicians, and a practicing physician, is an advocate for drug-checking programs who has researched the analytical techniques they utilize. I asked him about how drug-checking works, what impact it has (and doesn’t have), and what obstacles are preventing it from becoming more widely available.

AF: Why are drug-checking programs at festivals important?

PK: I think it’s important for us to understand that drug-taking is something that’s here to stay, but drug-taking is not just one thing. There are different people who take all sorts drugs for different reasons. Homeless people who are on the street and shoot up heroin are very different from young university students who might go to dance parties or music festivals and take ecstasy, for example, or smoke marijuana. So it’s important not to think of drug-taking as one thing. For some people, it’s a deep attempt to escape reality. For some, it’s a lifestyle choice, or people may do it to alter their experience or perceptions of the world. There are different reasons, some more valid than others. When we’re thinking about the way in which society should respond to recreational drug-taking, it’s important to understand this variability and to focus on what particular risks people face in different settings and what their needs might be in recent years.

It’s well known, of course, that a major problem with illicit drugs that are obtained through dealers, illegal networks, is that the purity is very variable because you depend on the word of someone who is supplying it, and they’re often produced in risky circumstances. Some of the testing programs have shown that of substances that have been taken for testing, up to 50% don’t contain anything they refer to, or they have contaminants. Contaminants may be things to pad them out — there are powders, there might even be toothpaste to increase the bulk and the weight — there’s no limit to what those substances can be. There’s been a lot of unfortunate events at music festivals — people supply drugs of poor quality, and people are taking overdoses or dying or becoming critically ill because of the impurity of the substances.

So, in this setting, the possibility has arisen of giving somebody advice and guidance without judging them, still recognizing these behaviors are going to occur but with the purpose of minimizing the chance of experiencing serious harm. In the past, law enforcement or public policy approaches to drug taking have been very crude. It’s focused on large-scale messages: “say no to drugs.” We know those don’t reduce harm associated with drugs. They increase the harm by driving people into criminality and by insuring the substances supplied are of unknown composition and impurity, and they often have toxic, dangerous contaminants, and it’s in this setting that pill-testing has come out.

AF: How does drug-testing at festivals work?

PK: It’s been around in European countries for more than 20 years. We can offer people the opportunity to test for particulate contaminants, and we can test for the concentration of what they think they’re taking. We can test to determine the purity, and technologies have a pretty high level of reliability right now. But we can combine that with a process of counseling, information, and advice.

The programs operate a bit differently in different places, but typically, what would happen is, there’s a testing caravan set up in a corner of the venue, and the people will be invited to attend. There would have to be an arrangement with the local authorities and the police because you don’t want people who, in good faith, are coming to obtain advice, who are then accosted by law enforcement. The people in the testing center will be asked to sign a waiver recognizing there are limits to the information being given and there won’t be any legal consequences to the information or advice they receive. They would be assured of confidentiality, and then they’ll speak to a counselor, who will talk to them about what it is they’re planning to do and what the questions might be. They may be asked to fill out some forms, or it may be offered to them to fill out some forms. The data may be collected on who’s coming and what their needs are, and that’s important to prove that such programs do what we think here likely do.

Then, they’ll be given an identification code and they’ll go away, and the substance will be put through the testing machine. There are rather sophisticated technologies that can be used, and the result can usually be delivered in 40 or 60 minutes now. The results will be posted outside the compound, so there might be a board saying ‘the substance with this ID code number has dangerous substances, don’t take it” or some more specific information. People will provide a sample of what it is they’re planning to take — they might buy half a dozen pills and give one to be tested or something like that — so there’s no question of returning materials. So the choices are with the young people themselves of whether they take the advice, but the people running the testing programs have the opportunity to ask them if there are particular concerns they have, then to provide them with data from the scientific tests.

AF: What are the obstacles to these programs?

PK: There’s a lot of opposition to pill-testing programs. There are two main concerns, both of which have validity. The first is how accurate the testing can be, and the second is whether you’ll do more harm than good by luring people into a false sense of security. The reliability of the testing is good but not foolproof, and you can only find what you’re looking for. You can test for known toxic substances. It’s important that the information is not overstated or exaggerated and the people who are seeking the information are informed about what we can and can’t know.

What’s often found in pill testing is, the substance either doesn’t contain what’s being promised — it may not have any cocaine or MDMA — or they might have specific dangerous contaminants. As an additional potential benefit, if it looks like there’s something going around, then a warning can be issued to everyone around saying, “Be careful, we know there are substances of this sort going around.” So the reliability is reasonable, but it’s not perfect, so it has to be carefully stated so people are not misled into thinking they’re safer than they are.

The other question is more tricky, which is whether or not, if there’s pill testing, people will actually be encouraged to take dangerous drugs. And that’s the main reason for opposition, particularly from conservative critics. The evidence really doesn’t support that view, however. If someone actively seeks information about a substance — they come to a testing center and they speak with someone face to face and say “I want to make sure this doesn’t have some toxic ingredient” — it’s extremely unlikely that this will increase their activity. The emphasis is not on encouraging people to take drugs but to give them the information so they can make whatever choices they want to make themselves.

AF: Do these services actually prevent people from using dangerous drugs?

PK: There’s good evidence with the programs operating in Europe that with an approach like this, we can reduce the harm people are exposed to. It’s not a panacea for the drug-taking problem. It’s not a way to stop people taking drugs en mass. It doesn’t necessarily change any of the other programs in operation. But a certain group of people who are at risk who are actively seeking information about what it is that they can take, it will actually reduce the harm they’re exposed to.

It’s really difficult to collect reliable data in this area for some obvious reasons: people come anonymously, and we don’t follow them up because that’s part of being able to conduct these programs safely. So, it’s difficult to assess whether we’re saving lives by undertaking programs like this. That’s one of the major controversies about pill testing, so we need to be able to find ways to address that. I mentioned before that nowadays, people coming to these centers would be invited to fill in some forms about themselves. They might be asked to give some demographic information about their age or status or ethnicity so we can see who is using these centers or what sorts of concerns they might have.

What we do know is that when we ask people in general terms about how they would deal with information of this sort, about 80% of people say that if they are advised that there is something wrong with the the pills they provided for testing, they wouldn’t take them. That doesn’t mean that’s what people do in practice, but if someone comes to the center actually seeking advice and they give one of their pills to be tested and then are told its dangerous, it isn’t logical they’d ignore that advice if they’re going through all that trouble.

AF: Do you know why these programs seem more popular in Europe than the US?

PK: I think the obstacles are cultural and legal more than anything else. I think it’s fair to say the culture in the US is a bit more conservative than in some European countries like the Netherlands, which has led the way in drug policy. I think the broad cultural environment is probably the main thing, and the legal enforcement approach also will follow from that.

AF: Anything else you want to add?

PK: For a long time, in this area and others, the approach to potentially dangerous substance use — and that includes alcohol and tobacco as well as recreational drugs — the main social policies have focused on prevention and law enforcement, and the educational advice has just told people blindly not to use them, and we know that doesn’t work. We know that’s not effective in some areas, such as alcohol and tobacco use, and other areas associated with public safety, such as road safety.

We’ve got to have a range of more sophisticated approaches for the road. We have seat belts, air bags, and a range of educational programs about alcohol use and speeding. And we know, together, this array of approaches does have an effect on road safety. The same applies to alcohol: Telling people not to drink or to drink in moderation is not enough to reduce harm associated with alcohol use. You need a range of programs that includes education in schools, ways alcohol might be advertised or packaged or produced. The same applies to tobacco and other things. We know that simply telling people not to do things or punishing them for doing them doesn’t reduce the harm to society but may increase it.

The same applies to use of recreational drugs, and we do have the experience of safe needle programs, safe injecting rooms, and so on. There is good evidence that these programs reduce the transmission of HIV, AIDs, hepatitis C, or other communicable diseases like that, so we’ve got evidence from other areas to support the idea that carefully focused and modulated messages to particular groups of people who can hear what it is that they’re saying can have a beneficial effect on people’s behaviors.

NEWS ROUNDUP: St. Vincent Producing Sleater-Kinney LP, Woodstock Returns, & More

sleater-kinney and st. vincent, hollywood, ca, jan 2019. photograph by jonny cournoyer

New Year, New Music

By Lindsey Rhoades

Sleater-Kinney is in the Studio… Producing an Album with St. Vincent

If this tweet didn’t warm your riot grrl heart, we don’t know what will. Though details are scant (no official release date, no title, no tracklist, no leaked audio) Sleater-Kinney announced via Twitter that St. Vincent mastermind Annie Clark is producing their next record, the follow-up to their return-from-a-decade-long-hiatus-instant-classic No Cities To Love, released in 2015. The tweet came with a photo so amazing we thought we were dreaming: four of our favorite female musicians sitting at a mixing board, their expressions saying only one thing: Y’all are not even ready for this amazingness. Though it’s officially become our most anticipated release of the new year, other artists aren’t slouching – keep reading below for the veritable onslaught of recently released jams. But first…

Woodstock Will Return in 2019… Can it Compete With New Festival Lineups?

Break out the patchouli – Woodstock is coming back for its 50th anniversary. The original founder, Michael Lang, announced Wednesday that he’s planning to book multi-generational artists with an activist bent for a weekend-long festival in August at a racetrack called Watkins Glen; meanwhile, another Woodstock Anniversary fest helmed by LiveNation at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (the original site of the 1969 gathering) was already in the works. No artists or ticket prices for either fest have been announced, but our heads already ache at the thought of sorting out nightmare radius clauses.

Woodstock, of course, has already had some disastrous anniversaries – most recently Woodstock ’99, which ended in rapes, rioting, and violence. But perhaps the bigger challenge than putting that memory behind them will be simply competing for audience numbers in an over-saturated festival market. Coachella announced its lineup, including headliners Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, and Ariana Grande, onm January 2. This week, Bonnaroo announced they’d also be hosting Childish Gambino as a headliner, along with Post Malone and multiple sets from jam band stalwarts Phish (this prompted Forbes to beg the question: Why isn’t Cardi B’s billing higher?). New York’s own Governors Ball has once again invited The Strokes (who have played the fest before but not headlined), as well as Florence + The Machine and Lil Wayne to play their top spots, with Tyler, The Creator, Nas, Sza, Brockhampton and more rounding out the bill. And though it’s not strictly a festival in the same sense as those mentioned above, SXSW has begun hyping the first handful of buzzworthy acts who’ll play showcases all over Austin in March, including Amanda Palmer, Swervedriver, Ecko, The Beths, and Wyclef Jean.

That New New

Kehlani has a new song featuring Ty Dolla $ign; “Nights Like This” will appear on a mixtape due in February, which is itself a precursor to a new album due sometime this year.

Girlpool have a new album coming out February 1st, and have shared the title track, “What Chaos Is Imaginary.”

Ex Hex is finally releasing a follow-up to 2014’s Rips, called It’s Real (out March 22 via Merge). Their first single is “Cosmic Cave.”

Sharon Van Etten will release her first album in five years, Remind Me Tomorrow, on January 18. This week, she shared a video for “Seventeen,” after previously sharing “Comeback Kid” and the absolutely stunning “Jupiter 4.”


Mineral are releasing new music for the first time in 20 years, including this video for “Your Body Is The World.” The song appears (alongside “Aurora“) on a limited-edition 10” that comes with a hardcover book commemorating the Austin band’s 25th anniversary.

Beirut release Gallipoli on February 1; Game of Thrones actor Ian Beattie plays a kind of klutzy knight in the video for “Landslide.”

Pedro the Lion shared “Quietest Friend,” a companion video to “Yellow Bike.” Both singles appear on the group’s first record in over a decade, Phoenix, which you can stream now in full via NPR.

Priests have announced a new album, The Seduction of Kansas, and shared its title track. The LP comes out April 5 and they’re doing a huge tour around it.

FIDLAR ironically manages to Skype in their entire LA crew in a video for “By Myself,” from their forthcoming LP Almost Free (out January 25 on Mom + Pop).

Cherry Glazerr shares “Wasted Nun” from Stuffed & Ready, out February 1 via Secretly Canadian.

Deerhunter released the third single, “Plains,” from Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? but Bradford Cox is worried no one will listen to the record in its entirety when it comes out January 18.

Also releasing an album on January 18, experimental rock duo Buke & Gase premiered the title track from Scholars.

End Notes

  • Attention Brooklyn! Early aughts rap-rock one-hit-wonders Crazy Town are inexplicably playing Sunnyvale on February 23rd. Sorta wondering if it’ll just be one forty-five minute set of “Butterfly” played over and over.
  • If you’ve got kids, or have simply interacted with one in the last year, you’ve probably had “Baby Shark” stuck in your head at some point. But this week made it official – every toddler’s number one jam appeared for the first time on Billboard’s Hot 100, making it one of the few children’s songs to do so.
  • A documentary on Lifetime called Surviving R. Kelly aired the first week of January, and with it has come some new hope for victims seeking justice. The doc has prompted a kidnapping investigation in Georgia, more victims have come forward, and Phoenix, Lady Gaga, and Chance the Rapper have all recently released statements apologizing for working with R. Kelly in the past. Chance recently appeared on Sesame Street and admitted in an Instagram recap that he saved someone’s life by pulling them from a burning car last April, so we think his karma may be in the clear.
  • In a rare interview, Frank Ocean shared his very respectable skincare routine (and some other stuff) with GQ.
  • Risqué rap sensation CupcakKe (real name Elizabeth Harris) made some worrisome allusions to suicide on social media, prompting her hospitalization – but she seems to be on the mend, having released a single on Friday called “Squidward Nose.”
  • Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was a big winner at the Golden Globes last Sunday, taking home Best Picture and Best Actor for Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury – all in spite of its negative critical reception. Honors for Best Song went to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga duet “Shallow,” from A Star Is Born.

How the #MeToo Movement Could Make Music Festival Season Safer

When I was 16 my most essential possession was a small backpack. It was made of a simple worn-in cloth, the fabric comprised of a colorful rainbow of stripes. The colors weren’t overtly vibrant, instead dulled, to give the desired vintage effect. It was a small bag and would fit no more than a cell phone, smoking pipe – concealed in the secret pocket I had prepared in the side wall – a purse, and on beach-going days a small, portable stereo. I had a friend who poked fun at how I always looked ready for a grand adventure. Although adventure was the outward identity people perceived, the backpack was a tool of quite another design.

This small bag was my weapon of armor. It created an innocuous barrier between myself and anyone who might try to add some unwanted grinding to my experience at a show, backyard concert, or festival. The more unwanted and aggressive the attention, the more I would flail the bag from side to side, an effective tactic that kept strangers away, and kept these experiences centered on the music.

For women who attend live music events, it’s common knowledge that while entering into a venue or festival grounds comes with many highlights, there’s always the underlying threat of machismo aggression. Although women have known this (and far too many have experienced it first hand) for years, it has taken festivals and venues longer to wise up and take ownership over the responsibility they have to ensure a level of safety within these spaces.

As far back as 2015, Vice Media started taking notice of these violence at festivals, running an article on Broadly that detailed the extent of the problem, then revisiting the topic again in 2016 with an article in Noisey that outlined some basic steps toward alleviating it. Also in 2016, NBC News covered the growing aggression of sexual violence taking hold in festivals globally. And just last summer, The Guardian posed the question: “Are music festivals doing enough to tackle sexual assault?” Even as they praised grassroots efforts being implemented across Europe, they recognized that there’s still a long way to go.

Now, as we ease into our first festival season in the wake of the #MeToo movement, current efforts are coming into sharper focus. A TeenVogue article published after this year’s Coachella stated that, out of 54 women interviewed, every single one of them claimed they had, in some way or another, been sexually harassed. Instead of waiting for festival policies to change, fans and femmes are creating their own safe utopias, in hopes that mainstream festivals might catch up to grassroots consent training.

Sex educator Emma Kaywin has started to work with smaller festivals on the East Coast to create consent-based teachings for volunteers. Working closely with the consent programs at Brooklyn’s popular art and performance space House of Yes, Kaywin has seen first hand what effect teaching participants of musical experiences can have on the overall safety of an event.

Currently studying for her doctorate in health education, and previously working as the sexual health columnist for Bustle, Kaywin turned to working on consent programs when she began feeling unsafe at clubs in New York. “I stopped going to a lot of parties, because I would just go there, get groped, get triggered and leave,” explains Kaywin. “I just wanted to be in spaces that felt safer.”

In her work with festivals, Kaywin has organized a two-hour long training, which includes information about recognizing microaggressions and how to respond. The training also focuses on intervention – more specifically, how to identify consent violations on the dance floor and how to intervene in situations of violence and intoxication. Those who have taken the training become “space guardians” of the dance floor. It is the job of these guardians to work as professional bystanders, and their purpose is twofold – to act as watchdogs who can intervene before an assault occurs and potentially remove the offending party, and to make themselves available as a trustworthy advocate for someone who feels unsafe.

While these trainings, and the idea of “space guardians,” can be easily implemented on dance floors at smaller festivals, the issue still remains – how do organizers make larger festivals, like Coachella, safe for everyone?

One campaign working with staff and fans alike is Chicago-based advocacy campaign #OurMusicMyBody. The organizers of the campaign work in conjunction with Chicago-based festivals, including Lollapalooza, to address problematic relations between fans and security.

“No one should be told exactly what they should do,” says Kat Stuehrk, co-organizer of #OurMusicMyBody, when discussing what advice she might give to a survivor. #OurMusicMyBody focuses on teaching security staff to first, believe the victims who approach them, then ask before acting what it is the person wants to have done.

Many security guards who are not trained properly will oftentimes immediately call the police, or take other actions victims are uncomfortable with, without asking permission. These actions further extend misdirected power dynamics, heightening the sense of lack of control a victim feels after an assault. #OurMusicMyBody works directly with security to establish protocol to directly help survivors, and communicate with them openly about their needs and wishes.

“We have folks from domestic violence or sexual assault agencies come in and do trainings for the security and the staff, about crisis intervention and how to respond with empathy, and with options for folks who have had those experiences.” explains Stuehrk.  “Through no fault of their own, people don’t really know what to say or do.”

Another important component of the #OurMusicMyBody campaign is fan education. When given the opportunity by a festival organization, the campaign sets up a booth to teach practices of consent, and let others know it is okay to call out their friends who are being inappropriately aggressive.

Zero-tolerance policies posted on festival websites are the small first steps festivals can take to addressing the issues of sexual harassment. However, it doesn’t hold a lot of weight if fans themselves aren’t ready and educated with response tools, since even the most sensitive security staff can’t reliably watch over thousands of individuals. #OurMusicMyBody is working to addressing these levels of education, so that zero-tolerance policies can be upheld.

“As far as I’m concerned, every single person who is present at a festival, or works at that festival, needs to know what crisis intervention is and have a basic understanding of how to respond to a report of harassment,” says Stuehrk.

Overall, these various approaches are moving towards one thing; education. For a long time, festivals and festival-goers have refused to admit there was a problem – particularly men, who shockingly seem unaware that sexual harassment has been an ongoing issue for women at festivals. Along those lines, many festivals refuse to talk about how they are addressing these issues on their website or to attendees. It is this fear of recognizing the problem, and allowing those unaffected to stay in the dark, that allows violent behavior to proliferate. By the same token, those pushing for positive change must understand the sensitive, sometimes complicated nature of sexual violence, and take responsibility for their own actions in public spaces.

Writer Vera Papisova, who published the TeenVogue piece, also mentioned her little backpack. “This is why I usually wear a backpack in concert settings,” describes Papisova. “It forces distance between the stranger behind me and my body.” It won’t be the symbolic use of these backpacks that ends the abundance of sexual harassment at music festivals. In a post #MeToo age it is the responsibility of the masses to understand their personal role in maintaining spaces where violence towards women becomes unacceptable.

For more information on how to help prevent sexual assault, check out RAINN’s guidelines on bystander intervention.

HIGH NOTES: 6 Ways to Make a Music Festival Exciting Without Drugs

When I first started going to music festivals, drugs were among their main appeal. Then, my body started telling me it couldn’t handle drugs like it used to, so I had to get creative. Over several sober weekends, I developed methods to preserve festivals’ excitement without the illicit substances.

That’s not to say, “Don’t do drugs, kids.” But it’s always good to have alternatives, because most drugs will take back what you owe them (if not in the form of a comedown, then in the form of a hangover). If drugs have become too hard on your body, or you just don’t want to deal with any negative side effects, here are some ways to get high on life at your next festival.

  1. Talk to people who are on drugs.

Part of the fun of doing drugs in a group is socializing with people on drugs. But you don’t need to do drugs to get that! Talking to rolling people in particular is a joy in and of itself. They will say the nicest things and answer the most personal questions. Stoned people aren’t bad either. They’ve got some interesting theories about life. That’s doubly true if you find someone on psychedelics. Rolling people are the easiest to spot though. Just look for someone wearing sunglasses and chewing gum.

  1. Make out with someone.

You don’t need drugs or alcohol as an excuse for a make out sesh under the strobe lights. Just make sure the other person is also sober enough to consent.

  1. Wear a music-responsive sex toy.

I’m not even kidding — they make these. I can attest to that. I wore the OhMiBod Club Vibe 3.OH to Ultra Miami, and it was an adventure. It fits inside a pair of underwear and vibrates when it detects sound. Because the music is so loud, nobody will even hear the vibrations — or your moans. In all seriousness, though, there probably won’t be any moans, because the vibrations are quite weak and inconsistent. Nevertheless, the way they buzz in tandem with the beat definitely adds a little something.

  1. Eat a ton of delicious food.

I won’t deny that festival food is absurdly overpriced. But if you consider how much money you’d otherwise spend on drugs, it evens out. Some of the best festivals for food are Tomorrowland and Day for Night. Come for the music, stay for the taco trucks.

  1. Crowd surf.

Literally putting your fate in the hands of a crowd of drunk, high, dancing people will give you more adrenaline than a line of coke.

  1. Feel the incredible energy.

Nothing beats that moment when a song everyone loves comes on, the performer pauses right before the hook, then it gets fast and loud and everyone jumps up and down. Music festivals exist for those moments. Those moments will give you a rush of endorphins unlike any other drug. And yes, I mean “other” — because music itself is a drug.

HIGH NOTES: My Struggle to Get Through a Music Festival Drug-Free

“I’ve been microdosing Mali all day.” For some reason, when someone told me this at EDC Vegas last year, I pictured it spelled like the country. I only knew three things about pure MDMA, otherwise known as “Molly”: that it had been used to treat PTSD, that an OKCupid date in San Francisco who said stuff like “my body’s telling me not to put gluten in it today” was a fan of it, and that a college friend had warned me it would be at a party, knowing I was pretty straight-edge. Evidently, I’d changed since college, because I found myself asking my new EDC friend, “Can I try some?”    

On a rooftop overlooking the ferris wheel, she put a tiny amount of the drug in my hand and told me to lick it. It was just enough for me to text my best friend “I love you” and explain my struggles with workaholism to my new friend.

But it would change my life. That experience would embolden me to buy a pill in Ibiza (I know, like the song) two weeks later. The first half would lead me to approach the guy who’s now my boyfriend. And the second half would give me the courage to leave my New York City apartment behind and travel the world.

Two months later, I went to stay with my boyfriend in Germany, where ecstasy flows as freely as beer at festivals. Attendees with normal-sized pupils are a rare sight. Music festivals became my excuse to get high without being judged. My boyfriend and I would tell secrets and resolve fights. I’d leave the stages to write down insights, some of the best articles I’ve published, and even a framework for a book.

After several months of this, I began asking myself: Why was I doing this at music festivals? I could’ve done it anywhere — for free. After realizing my favorite part of Time Warp was not the world-class DJs but a talk with my boyfriend about how important my cats were to me, I decided to make a change: no more drugs at festivals. From now on, they’d be about the music.

At Belgium’s Tomorrowland in July, that resolution proved harder to stick to than expected — because I had the unluckiest weekend possible. I spent the first hour with my stuff trapped in a locker I didn’t know the code to, then once I finally got to the stages, my phone wouldn’t turn on. After three fruitless hours of trying to fix it in the media village, I walked back out, panicking. I needed my phone to take notes and pictures for the review I was writing. Maybe I should just enjoy it for now, I thought. But then I thought, I can’t. I’m too exhausted. I don’t know anyone. I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t move. There’s too many people. I miss my boyfriend. I miss my cats. Fuck, if only I were rolling right now.

To regain my composure, I sat down on a patch of grass by the water and took deep breaths. And cried. And just let myself cry some more. And after I cried, I felt opened up. I felt at peace with being sad in a place where everyone’s “supposed” to be smiling. I saw beauty in that vulnerability.

I wandered into an indoor stage and saw a man who had hugged me while I was freaking out over my locker. His friend told me, “I’ll take care of your phone.” He couldn’t, but in the process, we talked about maintaining independence in relationships and how it doesn’t make sense to have regrets. Later on, I met another fellow festival-goer from India, and we talked about past lives. We stared into each other’s eyes and tried to see the lives we spent together. He saw me dancing in a blue sari.

No, I was still not rolling, and neither were they. That was the magic of music festivals, I realized. Somewhere along the way, the open-heartedness MDMA induces became ingrained in festival culture, whether people were taking it or not.

I saw this culture in action again when I arrived late the next day, after four hours at the Apple store. A group of friends who saw me alone told me to tag along with them. Intellectually, I understood the beauty of this camaraderie and acceptance. Yet I couldn’t help but yearn to feel it. Despite what I was taught in health class as a kid, I knew I wouldn’t have as much fun without drugs. I think most people feel the same way, even if their drug of choice is alcohol. I’d already seen what a drug-free festival was like. So why was I depriving myself of the experience I loved so much I’d needed a rule to avoid it? So what if I got distracted from some of the music? If you try to catch every single note, you’ll miss what festivals are about.

That’s when I headed back to my locker, got half a pill from my wallet (I’d already had a feeling I might change my mind), and re-entered the field. I immediately got into a conversation with one of the DJs about how we’re all part-human, part-robot (still mostly sober!), and then I felt it hit. So I sat down on the same patch of grass where I’d cried and wrote another book outline, a personal essay, a pitch for a column, and some notes about my personal growth. Once the insights faded, I found the DJ again and danced and talked to his friends. Our conversation was imbued with that MDMA-specific sense that every word out of everyone’s mouth was full of meaning. And once my energy faded too, another new friend walked me back to my shuttle as I explained my book idea, and another talked me through my comedown on the ride home.

The next day, despite the fact that an ATM machine had eaten my only card and the new phone I had to buy wouldn’t even work, I felt rejuvenated. For the first time all weekend, I’d relaxed and lived fully in the moment, not to mention done some much-needed introspection.

I spent that last day sober, save one smoothie with vodka, but the spirit of the drug hadn’t left me. I finished the writing I’d started while high and stayed up until 4 a.m. with the friends I’d made after my cry, telling them they were my best friends of the weekend.

My mission to get through a music festival drug-free may have failed, but its ultimate goal — to rediscover why I loved festivals — succeeded. Whether I was wiping tears from my eyes or manically chewing on my tongue, I felt one thing all around me: love. 

NEWS ROUNDUP: Fyre Festival Debacle, Grandaddy Cancels Tour & More

  • This Fyre Festival Situation Keeps Getting Weirder

    First came the memes, then the first-hand accounts from attendees and former staff. Then came the offer to give guests VIP tickets for next year in lieu of a refund – an offer that people are actually taking them up on, even though the organizers have been banned from doing business in the Bahamas – plus the expected lawsuits against the festival. But there’s even more; an article for Vanity Fair reveals that Fyre is also a company that provides “talent” to businesses trying to advertise through the more-subtle product placement of products in a pretty person’s Instagram. They call these people Fyre Starters, and some are also being sued for promoting a model-filled Bahamas getaway of a festival that turned out to be a few tents and an inadequate water supply. These influencers allegedly failed to mark their posts as sponsored content, and were obviously a misrepresentation.

  • How Taking Away The ACA Affects Musicians

    The Chicago Reader reports that before the ACA, musicians were more than twice as likely to be uninsured, and a study conducted before the act passed “concluded that uninsured working-age adults have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured peers.” While a famous rockstar might not have it so bad, the article also stresses that the average musician is definitely not wealthy, getting their income from multiple, sometimes unreliable sources and may not be able to have a full-time job that provides insurance because they have to, you know, tour a lot. Read more about how the ACA can be crucial to keep your favorite struggling artists insured, including the stories of real Chicago musicians, here.

  • RIP Col. Bruce Hampton & Kevin Garcia

    Bruce Hampton was considered the “grandaddy of the jam band scene,” regarded for his surrealist music and for mentoring many musicians. He collapsed onstage during a concert celebrating his own 70th birthday, on April 30th. Read his full obituary here.

    Kevin Garcia was a founding member of the band Grandaddy, who died on Tuesday after suffering a stroke. The band has cancelled their upcoming tour for March’s Last Place, and wrote a heartfelt message about the bassist you can read here.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Music Festivals, YACHT, & Other Music Closure


  • [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Insert Joke About YACHT’s PR Stunt Sinking Like The Titanic]

    Earlier this week, you may have seen some hasty news reports about YACHT taking to Facebook to ask fans not to watch a sex tape of the couple that was leaked by a third party. They received an outpouring of sympathy, and a few hours later, stated they would be selling the sex tape as a way to take control of the situation. Some of their celebrity friends had tweeted about it, but no parts of the video could be found online, and the website selling it appeared to have crashed. Then the truth came out: it was all a hoax. Last month, the band had pitched the terrible marketing ploy to the publication Jezebel. In an email, the band stated, “In the days leading up to the video’s release, we’re going to pretend we were hacked…then try to “get out in front of it” and sell the sex tape, fake a server crash, etc.” When the it became widely known that the whole thing was a way to hock a new music video, the sympathy they received quickly turned to outrage. Even their PR company distanced themselves from the band. Nice try, YACHT.

  • NYC Record Store ‘Other Music’ Is Closing

    The East Village record, which regularly hosted live performances, announced this week that it would be closing on 6/25. The store opened it 1995 and outlived the chain music store Tower Records. The label associated with the store, however, will continue. Check out a video of Frankie Cosmos playing at the store last week:

  • Music Festival Announcements

    Summer is almost here! Don’t miss out on some great music, in the great outdoors in New York and beyond. Here are some festivals that recently released their lineups:

    • Hopscotch Music Festival – From 9/8-9/10, Raleigh, N.C., will host such acts as Erykah Badu, Beach House, Andrew Bird, Television, Converge, Big Freedia, Kelela, Baroness, Twin Peaks, Beach Slang, Julien Baker, Lavender Country, and many, many more. One day tickets will go on sale this summer; three day passes are already available.

    • Destination Moon – Its website describes the event as “dedicated to providing an immersive artistic experience with the smallest possible ecological footprint.” The event takes place 6/17-6/19 in Wurtsboro, NY and attendees have the chance to see artists including Antibalas, Delicate Steve, Porches, Moon Hooch, Sam Evian, You Bred Raptors? and more TBA.

    • Roots Picnic – Rolling Stone describes The Roots as “the hardest working band in hip-hop,” and if you feeling like going slightly out of state you can catch them in action. They’ll be backing Usher and hosting Future, Leon Bridges, Kelhani, Lolawolf and more at the Festival Pier in Philadelphia on 6/4.

  • Speedy Ortiz Announce New EP & Single

    “Death Note” is the latest Speedy Ortiz single, from their upcoming EP Foiled Again (Out 6/3 via Carpark Records). The song is named after an anime series, and its plot revolves around a notebook that kills anyone who has their name written in it.  Frontwoman Sadie Dupuis notes: “The song is about writing through your depression as a way to get better, and how in that way a death note can be kind of love letter to yourself.” Check it out:[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PREVIEW: Who to Catch at Governor’s Ball


Governor’s Ball is New York’s rain or shine music festival that is the official kick off of the summer. We all love to hate it, and hate to love it. There’s twelve dollar Foster beers, long-ass ferry lines, and kids on weird drugs. Most importantly though, there is always an awesome bill . I think the thing I enjoy most about the Governor’s Ball lineups, is how perfectly curated they are to hit every type listener. Here’s AF’s picks on who to make sure NOT to miss this year. It’s two weeks away, who are you excited to see?

Diarrhea Planet

These Nashville boys are playing the festival on Saturday. Diarrhea Planet definitely fits in the mold of what’s happening in Brooklyn right now. The grungy catchy punk-rock sound that is both serious (in the sound department) yet fun party music at the same time. This set is bound to get rowdy. Here’s a track called “Hot Spit” from their new EP Tama-Uba.


Deafheaven is black metal band based in San Francisco. Most people wouldn’t place theatrical and metal in the same sentence, but that’s exactly what they encapsualte. If you like hard hitting music, as well as fast-paced and engaging sets, you’re going to kick yourself if you miss their set on Saturday. Below is their most popular track  “Dream House.”


The femmes are most definitely fans of local boys, SKATERS. Their new album, MANHATTAN, has been on repeat on my Spotify since it’s release in February. Below is their video “Miss Teen Massachusetts,” where the boys are basically trapped in, working at, and patients of a mental institution. Their set on Sunday will definitely be a dance party.

The Strokes

What new and sassy thing can I possibly say about the Strokes that hasn’t already been written on a music blog? I’m not sure. But I love them, a lot. They’re one of the headliners for Saturday. Find me in the crowd during their set, we can dance to Last Nite together. This is my favorite track off their first record.


I first discovered Spoon in my Freshman year of High School from one of The O.C. Mixes. Yup, the truth comes out 8 years later, but I’m not ashamed. Formed in 1993, with 7 albums and 11 years under their belt, Spoon cannot be tamed. They’re one of the main Saturday acts, and I definitely think you’re going to want to be up close for this one, folks.


Similar to Spoon, Interpol has been around for a long ass time as well. Adding to the Sunday bill a long list of gut punching sing a longs. Out Love To Admire from 2007 is definitely on the list of albums I have completely overplayed. Here’s my favorite song off of it:


NYC based heartthrobs with a sprinkling of Brits, yeah yeah yeah we get it. Their lyrics are emotional (wannabe Morissey in the best way possible), and your songs are catchy and pop goodness. Playing around the boroughs often in little venues and bars, I am extremely curious to see how The Drowner’s sound will translate on Friday. My guess, is smashingly. Their video for Luv, Hold Me Down is perfect representation of what I’m talking about. Enjoy.

Washed Out

This band never fails to make me feel ALL of the feels. Their songs all mesh into one long performance of swaying with your eyes closed. Although all possess a different type of sound, when heard, each album screams “this is a Washed Out album.” Their set will be one filled with every type of music listener. Below is my favorite video of theirs, but I am warning you not to watch it if you are emotionally unstable. Seriously.


Although their set at Coachella didn’t receive the best reviews, I honestly do not care. I really just want to sing a long every word of Roses, ok? I also strongly believe that seeing Outkast live is one of those things you’re supposed to write on your bucket list. This video is still golden 11 years later.