FMLY Fest assembles dozens of musicians for DIY weekend
The festive scene set at FMLY Fest in Los Angeles in 2011
Andrew Todryk remembers setting up a PA system outside of a parking structure in Los Angeles at three in the morning, wondering where everyone was. He was on tour with his band Vacation Dad and was about to play a show for FMLY Ride, the event from which FMLY Fest blossomed.
Minutes later, he got a call from a friend who said the ride was about to come by, referring to the estimated 800 bikers who soon swarmed the parking structure. The party was on.
Todryk was so inspired by FMLY Fest that in 2010, he moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Los Angeles to further involve himself as an organizer. By the time he arrived in the smog-soaked city, the series of unfortunate events that followed him there had made him something of a local legend.
His move westward to L.A. was rough. On a stop in Albuquerque, his girlfriend broke up with him. The next morning, he woke up to find his van had been burglarized.
"Someone stole our clothes, our computers, all my music gear, everything we owned in the entire world, and most of our money, too," Todryk says.
With virtually nothing left, Todryk and his friend Charlie decided to spend some time living out of the van. But it wasn't long before disaster struck again. On his way to a job interview, Todryk was hit by a U-Haul truck and left to writhe in the street like an inconvenient roadblock.
"So [I was] living in a van in a neck brace and crutches, no money," he says. "At the same time, I started throwing parties basically to make a living."
Todryk found solace in the form of FMLY Fest, a community centered on principles of inclusivity and openness.
"FMLY Fest is different because it says anyone who wants to do it will be a part of it. It's a practice in group autonomy, essentially," he says. "At its core, it's the dopest fuckin' thing you've ever heard of."
FMLY Fest was born from a now-defunct music blog started by a group of friends who were looking for a way to keep in touch and share music with each other after leaving for college. Over the years, the site increased in popularity, gaining readership across the U.S. and abroad, and serving as a mecca for lovers of DIY music and outside-the-box politics. The first FMLY Fest, which was more of a "glorified house show," was held in Los Angeles in December 2009. Since then, nine additional FMLY Fests have taken place in various cities.
This week, Todryk is bringing FMLY Fest to Minneapolis for the first time ever. The week-long event will feature activities on the weekdays, including a house party, a backyard play, a guitar pedal and synth-building workshop at the White Page Gallery, and a block party complete with live music, a movie, and a Super Smash Brothers tournament.
But the weekend is where it's at. Todryk booked 11 touring bands — including Baltimore's electronic dance duo Chiffon and Nashville's Meth Dad — and 23 local bands, like Fort Wilson Riot, Pony Bwoy, Tender Meat, Sativa Flats, and Frankie Teardrop.
"What I really envisioned for this was a unity festival. I wanted to help destroy the cliquey shit that's going on in Minneapolis. The bill is obviously eclectic — there's metal, there's no wave, there's funk," Todryk says. "It's really about bringing a city together to see what the fuck we're made of."
Each band will play between 20- and 30-minute sets at In the Heart of the Beast Theater in south Minneapolis starting on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. After numerous visits to City Hall, Todryk has finally obtained a liquor license.
"We've been having a hard time with the city because they're like, 'Who's getting all the money?'" Todryk says. "This is not about money. This is not about advertising. This is not about selling a brand."
FMLY Fest is horizontally structured, meaning anyone and everyone can help organize, attend public working meetings, and share ideas. Each FMLY Fest starts with people coming together and contributing ideas about what they want to see and experience during the fest. With time, the group hones in on the most practical ideas — which, in the past, have included a 60-foot backdrop shaped like a vagina, a forest of Christmas trees, and massive group bike rides from show to show. Todryk says the initial plans for Minneapolis included a marijuana scavenger hunt, but alas, they'll have to wait until next year.
Though Minneapolis has no shortage of cheap, DIY music events, FMLY Fest is a step toward severing the lines that divide specific scenes, obliterating subcultural hierarchies, and putting the emphasis back on the wider community.
"You can come [and] say what you want, as long as you put the work into it and make it happen," Todryk says. "It's completely democratic — like in the purest form — but for a party."
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