What the Heck is Brokechella?
Don’t have the $400 to shell out for last-minute Coachella weekend two tickets on StubHub? Don’t trust that Craigslist ad that promises passes to you for $100 a pop? There’s an alternative and appropriately named festival to check out in downtown LA this Saturday: Brokechella.
Produced by cARTel Collaborative Arts LA, the event is a one-day celebration of music, art, and comedy. On any one of its four stages you can find up and coming acts from Moon Honey and the Red Board to comic Andrew Santino. Best of all, tickets at the door will only cost you $25 at most—a low price the collective is committed to keeping for the community.
Want to know more? We spoke to the festival’s artistic director, Negin Singh, to break down the details.
How did Brokechella originate?
We used to throw an event called Community Pool, which was an arts and music event that would happen every month. There’d be a lot of artists trying new material and gaining a new audience. The events were pretty low key, like they’d happen at coffee shops. When it started to grow a little bit, we moved to bigger spaces.
We accidentally booked it for the same weekend as Coachella five years ago, so we thought we should cancel ‘cause no one would be able to come. Then, later that night, I was thinking about like, Wait, all of the bands that we booked for this and all of the acts that we booked for this, none of them were going to Coachella, obviously, because they all said they could be here. And none of us were going, so there must be an audience out there not going either and wants to do something. So we just changed the name to Brokechella.
How does the process of putting the event together work?
For none of us is this our full time job. We work for pretty much nothing. There’s probably 30 of us who put in a lot of time to execute this, but in addition to that there’s a 100 people who give us five hours a week just to volunteer to help with something.
We’re completely submission based, meaning that anybody can apply. We listen to every single act. Our promise is that there will be at least 15 people that will listen to every single act. And we don’t like to call ourselves a headliner festival. If we’re missing a certain sound that we find is particularly relevant right now, then we’ll seek a couple acts that fit that sound. For the cARTel stage, which is generally focused on bands, we always have to look for certain types of genres, like punk. This year we tried really hard to get a Spanish band to help represent LA, so we did some outreach.
We like to think of acts that would be funny to have at Brokechella, like Smash Mouth or AfroMan for Brownies and Lemonade, the rap stage. But that’s not super serious; it’ll be an email that gets sent to their manager, who will then say, “No thanks,” and that’s it.
Have you featured artists who’ve broken out, and who are you most excited to put on this year?
Yeah, especially on the Shifty Rhythms stage, because the DJ scene works like this, where Gladiator and a lot of our acts will eventually go on to play Coachella the next year. We don’t think about Brokechella like, We’re going to make you break out, but rather, Wherever you are in life right now as an artist, this can be the next step.
We offer a lot of perks to our artists. It’s our mission to give them the respect and notoriety they deserve, as well as a new audience. We take professional photos of all of them and have them use them at all times, wherever they want. We provide video of their music and set up interviews for all of them. Basically, we act as their publicist for three months. Most alumni play over and over again, and this is the first year we decided we weren’t going to have alumni play only because we wanted to stretch ourselves and find new voices.
For the cARTel stage, I can’t stop listening to Figs Vision, and Hi Ho Silver Oh, who’s playing on the indoor stage. I’m obsessed with Tiffany Gouche, who’s playing the Brownies and Lemonade stage. We’ve got a lot of really amazing female artists, from female-fronted bands to hip-hop artists; we didn’t have to fish for them this year.
What sets Brokechella apart from every other festival?
The fact that we’re submissions-based and not really concerned with getting celebrities for the sake of getting celebrities at our events is a part of it. We welcome it, of course, but we really try to engage the community. So we’re working with the city, the LAPD, the LAFD, the council. We’re trying to show that you can do DIY in accordance with the law. And we fund everything we do; we are a bunch of 20, 30 somethings who love music and who love the idea of celebration.
For someone who hasn’t been to Brokechella, what can you expect the day of?
You can expect to want to stay for a really long time. The other thing that sets us apart is the diversity of music. A lot of times you go to festivals and you kind of get one sound and one type of person who would go to it, but because we committed ourselves to having hip-hop, alternative, acoustic, and comedy, you get this cool mix of people. People never stick to the stage they came to see. Come with an open mind to actually listen to new music, and to meet amazing LA craftspeople in our vendors market. You can bring your dog for "Puppychella"—we have a lounge with snacks and a doggie pool. Be ready to see a lot of what makes LA really, really special