Xavier Veccia, Staff Writer
One of the worst things about being a music fan and a broke college student is “festival watching.” It's when you not only look at, but look forward to, the announcement of festival lineups. You might camp out on Twitter, reading every single Pitchfork tweet as the announcements come in. Or maybe you'll watch Weird Al Yankovic do Weird Al Yankovic things for three hours as he slowly reveals the lineup. Or maybe you'll just wait for your hipster friend to post a link on Facebook as he complains that this year's lineup is too mainstream. But no matter what, you'll see them all. And with each one, you'll get thrown into a deeper and deeper state of depression.
But for what? For not being able to go to some festival in the middle of nowhere that costs hundreds of dollars? What makes that festival so special? So what if they might raise Tupac from the dead or have Kanye West andArcade Fire spontaneously start performing the soundtrack from The Graduate? Before you saw it was even a possibility, you didn't even know you wanted to see it. You were better than this. You deserved better than being let down by festivals and your wallet.
That's when I came up with an idea to cure myself of these blues. As a music lover, I just want music. I don't need stars of old or stars of new to provide that for me. I don't need some festival to bring them all together for me. I just want music. And I can do that right in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
Enter: “Brokechella.” It's a creation of my own mind, so it's probably pretty dangerous. It's basically my homemade version of a festival. It requires me spending a week of my spring break doing nothing but going to concerts, in all different forms. I'll go to some big and some small, some wild and some tame. But to me, it doesn't matter. I just want music. And this will give it to me.
Brokechella wouldn't be easy. I knew that from the get-go. I've only ever gone to two shows within a week. How am I going to deal with seven? And there was no guarantee that I could go to a concert every single day. Some days were just less busy than others. But I would do everything in my power to get this done. Brokechella was my brainchild and I would do anything to make it come to fruition.
Day One: Sunday, March 3 – Major Lazer
When the idea of Brokechella first sprouted in my head, I went to a few of my friends and asked if they would be willing to accompany me to a concert or two. Among them was my friend Will. When I asked him, he didn't reply with an answer, but a plea. That plea was to see Major Lazer up in Cleveland.
I was hesitant at first. For one, it was two hours away from Columbus. Also, it cost more money than what I was planning to pay for an event dedicated to being broke. But I quickly realized that it was too good to pass up. This would be my headliner, and I needed to go.
Up until a few days ago before the show, I was psyched. But that was when it was just an idea. When it became a reality, problems started to pop up.
Will found out he couldn't go. Not only was this his idea, but he also offered to drive. Now I was without both a companion and transportation.
I tried to fix this by going to anyone I could think of that could possibly want to go with me. They all declined. Turns out not many people want to travel two hours to a concert on Sunday when they have school in the morning.
I finally found someone in my friend Dana. His quick decision to my request made me regret not asking him earlier, instead of waiting until a couple hours before I was planning on leaving.
I was too busy trying to figure out how I could get to Cleveland. At first, I ruled out driving up myself because I didn't have a car that was reliable enough to make that trip. My mom offered to drive, and while I would normally try to fight it, I decided to accept her gracious offer. However, after I found out that my friends didn't really want to be driven to a concert by a parent like they were 14, I convinced her to let me drive alone.
With all the potential issues fixed, Dana and I hit the road at around 6:30 p.m. We didn't get back until four in the morning.
Read that again. Four in the morning. That alone should be a sign of just how crazy the show was. We got to the show a little after 9 p.m., just as opening act Gent & Jaws finished their set. The half of a song I heard of them sounded pretty decent, though.
Next came Dragonette. At first, I felt they didn't really fit the mood. They were good, but an electropop band opening for Major Lazer seemed odd. But then they played that “I Just Came to Say Hello” song from those Trident commercials that I wasn't aware they did and the House of Blues went crazy. From that point on, the show just got more and more raucous.
The moment when I realized that Major Lazer was going to be one of the most insane experiences of my life was before they came out. The whole venue was more packed together than any concert I've been to before. I literally could not move any part of my body below my neck other than my right arm.
But once Diplo & Co. came on stage, all hell broke loose. I don't really know how to describe it. “Hundreds of viewers becoming brethren of the beat?” “A sea of belligerent folk with Diplo acting as the moon controlling the tide?” “The only time when vuvuzelas were cool?” All of those work, but there's one moment that stood out above all others.
During Major Lazer's first song (I forget what it was, but give me a break) Walshy Fire pulled all the typical antics to hype up the crowd. He made sure to shout out the city, say how happy they were to be there--all of that bullshit you choose to accept because it gets you pumped. And then he asked the crowd to jump. Like everyone always does. He counted down. Three. Two. Jump. And in that moment, I am almost positive that all of the people that had come to see Major Lazer were in the air at the same time. We were all so smashed together that we became one. It was beautiful, but in the craziest way possible.
Sure, there are other memories from Major Lazer. Diplo crowd surfed in a hampster ball, I lost a hat without really caring and I got Diplo to sign the vuvuzela that I managed to catch. And sure, I'm underwent physical pain and received a massive headache, but that moment when everyone in the venue became one stood above it all, and that's how I'm going to remember the night.
Day Two: Monday, March 4 – Ex Cops, Tin Armor and Kid Runner
After just one show, I'm already realizing how difficult this is going to be. I'm already sore and exhausted from last night and I still have six nights left.
Tonight will be my first of what I expect to be many bar shows. While I prefer massive shows like the one I went to last night, I do still enjoy bar shows. Plus, it'll provide a more mellow break in between the Major Lazer show and my other headlining concert tomorrow. Is it bad that I've already gotten to the point where going to a bar to watch bands play is considered mellow after only one day? I'm going to say “no” and hope I'm not about to get destroyed.
I convinced Dana to come with me. We left around 8:30 p.m. and headed to downtown Columbus to Kobo, a bar not too far from Ohio State's campus.
The show turned out to be just what I needed in between the two biggest shows on my agenda. The atmosphere of Kobo reminded me a bit of Athens. And while I didn't necessarily need to be reminded about Athens, it certainly didn't hurt.
We got there halfway through Tin Armor's set, but it was still good. They had an old-school rock feel, reminding me a little of Foxygen, a band that I enjoy. So their set was a good way to kick off the show.
Ex Cops was next. I really enjoyed their set. They definitely got the most attention. They proved to be a fun indie outfit and the chemistry and harmony between the lead singers (one girl, one guy) was amazing.
Kid Runner was at the rear, but we didn't get to see much of them. What we did see were a couple of entertaining and danceable songs. They were gracious enough to hand out free EPs, giving me plenty of time to listen to more of their material.
The real drama came after we left. As I was driving home on the highway, my car (her name is Tracy) started to dangerously heat up. We got off the highway, pulling off only to find out that the engine was smoking.
Dana and I stepped out of the car and waited for at least a good 15 minutes before the smoke went down. And even after the smoke disappeared, it still took four or five tries to get Tracy started again.
She behaved the rest of the ride, but with Tracy being my main source of transportation for the rest of the week, it put the remainder of Brokechella up in the air.
Day Three: Tuesday, March 5 – Machine Gun Kelly
The beginning of Brokechella marked the first time I went to shows on back-to-back nights--and it starting to show. I'm slowly wearing down and it's not going to get any better.
It didn't help that I had to get up at 10 a.m. this morning, which is the earliest I've woken up in a few weeks now. But I had to get myself out of bed if I wanted to get Tracy to the mechanic in hopes that she would still be available for the rest of Brokechella.
Luckily, it all worked out, and she’s all better now. But that's just the icing on the cake that is today. The cake, if you haven't guessed already, is going to see Machine Gun Kelly.
I'll be honest, I didn't like Machine Gun Kelly before today. At least not as musician. I respect him as an artist, especially after hearing of his concert/riot at Memorial Auditorium at Ohio University. But as a musician, I just see him as one of the stereotypical rappers that doubters point to when talking smack about the genre.
I didn't go to his concert in Athens, so I felt I needed to see for myself just how crazy the wild boy's shows are. I'm hoping this one will be even crazier due to the fact that this show is held at the Newport Music Hall down by the Ohio State campus--a venue that doesn't just allow, but encourages moshing.
I got to go for free, due to the fact that Will was also going and he was gracious enough to give me a free ticket because he felt sorry for leaving me hanging on Sunday.
But I would've easily paid a hefty amount for that show.
We arrived at the venue a bit early because Will got us to the front. So we showed up at the Newport around 6:45 p.m. The line was already a few blocks back, so we were psyched that Will could get us in before everyone else.
We got to the front row, and I wasn't aware until the show started just how much of a luxury it was. As soon as the doors opened, the Newport was packed. The show hadn't even started, and people were already pushing. It was ridiculous.
It became increasingly more ridiculous from that point on. To be honest, I don't remember his openers. Both of them were just a part of MGK’s clique and they really just put the crowd in more of a mood to rage with the headliner.
But nothing could quite prepare me for his actual performance. Not the stories. Not his clique. Not a line of cops with riot shields. Because as soon as he came out with his bottle of yeager in hand and stepped up to the mic stand with a bandana already tied to it, all hell broke loose. Men and women alike took their tops off. Elbows were thrown. Joints were lit. Anything went.
This concert completely changed my perspective of MGK. The moment I was aware of just how wrong I was coming into tonight was when he jumped into the crowd and began crowd surfing. And it wasn't just a fall-on-the-crowd-and-immediately-head-back type of crowd surf. He stayed in the crowd for a good length of time. I even shook his hand. He was just as wreckless as the crowd beneath him.
It was then that I realized MGK is a modern rock star. Sure, he doesn't come onstage and shred a guitar with his teeth or break amps or anything like that. But he does whatever he wants.
He'll point to any girl, tell her to take off her shirt, and she does it.
Or he'll bring girls onstage and dive under their legs.
Or he'll go down into the area reserved for the bouncers to take crowd surfers away from their habitat just so he can stand closer to his fans, letting them claw at him like he's the most important person in the world. When you're in a crowd that size, every single person chanting his name, it's easy to think he is the most important person in the world.
I'm already sore from having to fight to stay up close, I'm practically deaf in my right ear and we drove back in some of the worst snow I've seen in awhile. But it was all worth it to see this modern-day rock star.
Day Four: Wednesay, March 6 – Cold Fronts
I woke up today exhausted from the past three days. The soreness is piling up and I'm really starting to regret this decision. I'm not even halfway through and I'm ready to go into hibernation for the rest of break.
Luckily, my two craziest shows are behind me. On the downside, I'm not really looking forward to any of the upcoming shows as much as I was Major Lazer and Machine Gun Kelly. But I think that means I should be graced with some more mellow bar shows.
The first of the four left is Cold Fronts at Rumba Cafe. I haven't listened to a ton of their music, but what I have heard is pretty good. They're an indie band with a great lead singer, and that's something I could get behind.
The thing that I love about bar shows is that they always start so late. If I went to a show at say, Nationwide Arena, doors would open at 7 p.m. and I would feel obligated to get there around that time. But with bar shows, doors don't open until 9 p.m., so that means I don't need to get there until nine. And as Brokechella continues, those couple extra hours that I get to stay home make all the difference.
I got to Rumba Cafe and there weren't too many people there. It was about an hour until Cold Fronts were supposed to go on, so I didn't think anything of it. I had missed the first opener, but the second opener, Stiletto, was setting up.
Stiletto is an indie-rock band from Akron that definitely leans more towards rock than indie. They also seemed to be a bit punk, too. On paper, this sounds good, but I struggled to get into them. They seemed like they were a band that just wasn't quite a band. Every member looked like they were in a band, but something about the band just seemed incomplete.
After their set, my friend and I went to the patio to socialize and such. There, I overheard someone's conversation about how the Cold Fronts were going to play at another bar. For some reason, probably because I was involved in a discussion about “the best rappers under the age of 25,” I didn't think anything of it. I assumed that as soon as I went back inside, they would be starting their set and there would be more people there, moving and grooving to upbeat indie songs.
But when I went inside, Rumba was almost empty. It was then that I realized Cold Fronts wasn't going to play and that the bar was closing shop early because of it. It was a very anti-climactic ending to the night, but it was definitely much more mellow than the previous night, so I couldn't complain too much.
Day Five: Thursday, March 7 – Wooden Wand
When I first put my tentative schedule together for Brokechella, the only show that I could find that was within my price range was the Ohio State University School of Music concert. Sure, Brit Floyd, a Pink Floyd cover band, was playing at the LC (the biggest general admission venue in Columbus), and that sounded pretty awesome. But it was way too much. Considering the whole point of Brokechella was to prevent me from spending much money, I wasn't about to fork up 40 bucks to see it.
So when I woke up Thursday, the first thing I did was go to my computer in hopes of finding a more affordable show that fit the theme of Brokechella.
Enter: Wooden Wand. It was in the single digits pricewise and took place at a Chinese-themed bar and restaurant called Double Happiness, so it fit right in.
I've been to shows alone before. I used to be all awkward about it and stand around not really doing anything. When I decided to do Brokechella, though, I assumed that I would have to go to a couple shows all by my lonesome, but I also assumed I would be less awkward about it. So when I came to the conclusion that I would be heading to Double Happiness alone, I figured it wouldn't be so bad.
I quickly found out that it's a lot easier to not be awkward when everyone is just standing around and doing nothing as opposed to the Foster the People show I went to alone. That's what I enjoy about bar shows. It becomes more about the music and less about the crowd's reaction. And when everyone is focusing on the music instead of each other, it's more enjoyable when you're alone.
My biggest regret with this show was not getting the opener's names. I'm assuming they both were local, but I really liked both of them.
The first opener was just a guy and his guitar playing folk music. He had a bit of a Bob Dylan feel to him and I love Dylan, so it wasn't hard for me to get into him.
The second opener was a four-piece band, with the classic components of guitar, bass and drums along with a flute. The female flautist really helped the band stand out, both with her flute and her harmonies with the lead singer.
Finally came Wooden Wand. With influences from folk, blues and indie, the band was very well rounded. The only issue I had with them was that this is when it became less about the music and more about the crowd. The crowd got larger and started talking, distracting from the music. But if the only issue I have with a show is the crowd, than the band must have been pretty good.
Day Six: Friday, March 8 – The Freestylers
After two straight bar shows, I'm finally starting to get back to full health. I'm in hopes that tonight will be different, though.
The Freestylers are an electronic trio hailing from the U.K. and were playing a show at Skully's. Skully's is like half-bar, half-legitimate venue. I went there once before for a Crizzly show and it was absolutely bonkers, so I have high hopes.
It ended up being my second night in a row flying solo. Sure, the Ohio State kids are off now, but none of them want to go to a show put on by an artist that they don't know. I don't blame them. I just wish someone would have come with me.
I'm hoping I'll just be able to slink into the crowd and rave with everyone else. Hell, I usually lose track of my companions at electronic shows anyway. So this wouldn't be too bad.
But it was.
Before I left, I went onto the Skully's Facebook page and saw that The Freestylers were no longer playing tonight. I wasn't too broken up about it, but I was worried that less people would come. The artist taking over for him was some guy named Leo Coombs, who is apparently from the same label. I didn't listen to him at all, but I assumed he is part of the same genre.
When I arrived there were less than ten people there just chilling on the dance floor. And then there was just as many people at the bar. If this was one of the bars I went to over the past few days, that would have been fine. But this wasn't even close to that.
The dance floor was too empty. The music was good, I guess, but with electronic shows it's all about the atmosphere. I don't go to electronic shows to just stand around and listen. I go to electronic shows to go hard.
It would have been better if I could just go to the bar and drink with some friends because that's what people do. But all I could do was just stand and wait.
The only thing I did was try to figure out why Skully's was so empty. At first, I just kind of assumed it was too early. It was only 10 p.m., and if Athens has taught me anything, things don't get popping until around 11.
But as time passed and the traffic didn't increase, that theory became invalid. My next theory was that the lineup change messed with people's schedule. This theory was more plausible. Other theories included an alien invasion, Jay-Z doing a surprise concert across the street and the Mayans being two months off.
I'm sure the music was fine. I'm not going to pretend to be an EDM expert. But the music was irrelevant for the time being. Because all I could focus on was the crowd, or the lack thereof.
Day Seven: Saturday, March 9 – Southside Chiefs, The Weight of Whales, Dead Girlfriends and Costanza.
This was it. After tonight, Brokechella would be over. I needed tonight to be perfect.
The show I was planning to go to today was at Skully's, and after last night's experience, I refused to go back unless I was positive it would be packed, because I didn't want to risk it being a failure.
So once again, I went to the Columbus events page and scoured for a new show to attend. And what do you know, but a show at Kobo Live pops up. I liked the venue so much the first time, that I figured I might as well go back for more.
I refused to go alone for the final show of Brokechella, so I convinced my friend Garrett to come with me.
I actually decided to research the bands for a change. I found out that it was a largely indie show with some hints of blues. This got me excited and I couldn't wait to finish off Brokechella with a bang.
It ended up being my favorite non-headlining show of the extravaganza.
We just barely missed the first opener, Costanza. But considering that there were still three more acts to come, we weren't too upset.
Dead Girlfriends was the first band we saw. Just from the look of them, I could tell we were in for a show. They were composed of a female vocalist, a female drummer and a male guitar player. What was awesome about them, though, was the tattoos on the drummer and the height difference between the frail vocalist and the burly, bearded guitarist.
Their sound backed up their look, too. It was heavy, but not too heavy. The real strength was the vocalist. She stared off into the distance as she sang, almost as if she was throwing her voice into the crowd, to mingle and interact with her fans. And we embraced her voice as her voice embraced us.
After that was The Weight of Whales. They were the band I came into it with the most hope. They proved to be really likable, adding humor in between songs. And their songs were just as good as their jokes.
Once again, the lead singer stood out the most amongst the band members. He had quite the range, with the ability to go from low note to falsetto in almost no time at all.
The Southside Chiefs, being the closers, actually were my least favorite. The music they played was much more traditional rock than the other acts, but they just didn't seem to have anything special about them like the previous bands. They were kind of boring, from their music to their performance, which was really just four guys standing onstage barely moving. I'm not asking for anything too flashy, but it doesn't hurt to stand out a little more.
And just like that, Brokechella was over. It didn't go out with a bang, like I would've liked. But that's the beauty of Brokechella. It's not about a single moment that stands above the rest.
Brokechella is about the music--the music that we all hear on a daily basis. Whether it's created by a multi-million dollar recording artist who tours around the country nonstop or by a local band, struggling just to fuel their passion.
Just like how music teaches us so much about ourselves and the world around us, so does Brokechella.
Throughout the week, I was thrown into situations I couldn't imagine myself in a mere few months ago. Whether that was at a Machine Gun Kelly concert, using every bit of my elbow grease trying to defend a spot that really didn't matter that much, or at a bar where the band was the most popular item on the menu.
Brokechella did something that I thought was impossible at the beginning of spring break. It made me love music more than I already did. And that alone made it all worthwhile.