Words by Marcus Dowling, Photos by Maya Moore
The three days of diverse entertainment known as the All Things Go Fall Classic closed on Sunday afternoon with a performance by indie-to-mainstream pop favorites Foster the People. More so than anything else, the festival showcased the culture of the Nation’s Capital in 2017 in which it was held. Only in an era and a city wherein America’s most hotly anticipated performance venue can sit under a nearly 700 unit and 500,000 square foot residential space, a boutique and hand-crafted music festival can occur for three days behind the self-branded “epicenter of culinary creativity in DC.”
Partnering for the first time with taste making talent bookers like the Nu Androids and Broccoli City collectives, ATG’s Fall Classic showcased to an estimated crowd of 10,000 total people over three days, the brawn of our city’s collective music industry business acumen. While in many ways the three-headed hydra conquered #newDC, they did not over-deliver insofar the festival’s live musical presentation. As D.C. evolves, a good-to-great — and not gobsmackingly astounding — event is ultimately okay. As the city continues to redevelop, the Fall Classic will also likely continue to expand. Thus, what was presented this past weekend should be best regarded as a great blueprint of what’s to come.
One day of dance, one day of rap, one day of indie pop, All Things Go’s very democratic sense of how to divide the load insofar as presentation was a benefit. It allowed for acts like day one headliner Galantis to be placed in the proper context as ascendant to superstar level hitmakers, and for their massive tracks like “Peanut Butter Jelly,” “Runaway (U & I),” and “No Money” to have the proper resonance. What’s always fascinating about their live show and proven here yet again is that Galantis’ tracks have a jangly pop sensibility that makes one think of say, a literal post-teen like Martin Garrix. But, when you realize that the tandem have 20 years of experience and encompass everything from indie heatmakers Miike Snow to Linus Eklöw’s heavyweight Europop production catalog as Style of Eye, hearing them drop an edit of A-Trak’s seminal remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” just makes sense. Overall, their set was 90 minutes of rollicking good time.
Other exciting performances of the weekend included Big Fish Theory album-maker Vince Staples pre-Young Thug headlining performance on Day Two. For as much as Thugger is a millennial pop culture icon, Staples in many ways handled the heavy lifting of day two from a nuts and bolts “DOPE RAPPER” standpoint. Staples is a “road dog” as of late, and possibly presented the most self-assured live performance of the weekend. Since its inception, part of the bizarre fun of All Things Go has been the “Gong Show”-style sense that we’re watching sophomoric blogosphere-beloved neophytes futz around onstage to discover their best selves with varying levels of success. In that sense, Staples was a much needed injection of pure superstar swagger.
Intriguing as well to consider is the fact that reflected early in the day were local heavy hitters with growing national acclaim like April+Vista, Innanet James, and IDK. There’s something in the idea that soul music and less festival-ready rap isn’t necessarily a great fit for thousands of people on an unseasonably steamy fall afternoon. However, there’s something of a necessity. If we’re going to place-locate festivals in spaces using music to highlight themselves as destination locales that exist in urban communities, then it behooves said festivals to also not have local musicians playing to 50 people at a festival that THOUSANDS ultimately attend. Whatever corporate backing is necessary to bracket higher placement on the All Things Go festival lineup for local artists must be found. This must occur if for no other reason than to be able to drive hits and visitors to and maybe engage festival patrons and showcased acts as brand ambassadors on the ground in the city that drives traffic to the blog and market themselves.
However, at its best, awkward, yet engaging rocking and rolling is what All Things Go’s Fall Classic is best known. The rain-soaked 2016 Yards Park Mud-Fest yielded Sylvan Esso and Passion Pit performing two of the best live sets seen anywhere in Washington, D.C. that year. Betty Who, Bleachers, and headliners Foster the People didn’t necessarily exceed 2016’s standard, but they were absolutely dynamic. Betty Who’s slick and artsy Aussie electropop hearkens back much to All Things Go’s early days as a blog in 2006. There’s something joyous and unrestrained in her delivery that’s instantaneously connective.
As well, there’s Bleacher’s fronted by one-hit wonder blogosphere icons Fun.’s Jack Antonoff. As a Bleachers’ frontman, Antonoff wanted the thousands in attendance at Union Market’s Dock 5 to, “Scream so loud they can hear you in…Maryland?!?!?” which was so awkwardly lovely and gentrifier-like unaware that this statement, more than anything, could’ve easily been the great “this is who, what, and where we are” moment of the weekend.
Foster the People’s closing set wasn’t terrible, but it lacked say, the captivating verve of say, Future Islands and front man Samuel T. Herring in 2014.
11 years after starting as a blog posting a Passion Pit album for free, Zack Friendly and the team at All Things Go threw a three-day festival. Friendly noted, “We’re doing well here at Union Market — and we love it — but we’d love to be able to hold a multi-stage festival and host 20,000 people a day. I think we can. All Things Go never set out to be a 100,000 person Lollapalooza. We want to grow organically, take comfortable steps, and continue to grow.” During day two of three, I drank organic Ethiopian coffee inside of the culinary epicenter of my hometown, then walked outside and ate a sushi burrito while Kweku Collins held a daisy and flowered as a rapper worthy of appreciation in front of me onstage. Not exactly Dillon Francis at the Desert Tent in Coachella, but also not terrible, and like, one of three nice days worth of events in a city on the rise. Here’s to knowing that bigger, better, and yes, more of still quite delicious things to come.