Danielle Dorky covers Broccoli City, a new festival dedicated to celebrating art, practicing sustainability and fostering community.
It was hot when I arrived at Broccoli City Fest, unseasonably hot, even for Los Angeles in May. It was the sort of taunting, direct heat that makes the idea of sustainability and sacrificing temporary comfort in the interest of a healthier planet seem worth considering. As annoying as the sun’s glare was that day, it was almost fitting at this event centered around the idea of treating yourself, your community and your environment with more care.
Vendor booths were set up along the perimeter of the festival, and non-profits like the Center on Race, Poverty & The Environment (CRPE) were there, braving the heat with sincere smiles, eager to tell concert-goers their mission and how they could help. Keep A Breast/Non-Toxic Revolution (KABNTR) awarded me a wristband for answering a question about chemicals in sunscreen correctly (FYI: The best sunscreen ingredients to use to avoid burning and cancer risk are zinc oxide, avobenzone and ecamsule) and I picked up some organic chapstick from Bare Bones Body Care, who was sharing their booth.
In deep thought. I really wanted that free cookbook
Realizing that a lot of these booths probably brought swag to hand out to guests, and that as one of the first to arrive I’d have prime pick, I quickly began making the rounds. My next stop was Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI), who informed me that if I took their ten question quiz about health and got five or more answers correct, they’d give me a free cookbook. My primary motivations in life are getting free stuff and showing off how much I know so I was game. I answered eight out of the ten questions correctly (and I still feel the other two were worded misleadingly) and received a Healthy Southern Living cookbook in exchange.
My photographer, Kwithy, showed up around that time and we both contributed to SJLI’s “What I’m Willing To Do For A Healthy Life” board. Kwithy’s answer was, “Love myself.” I thought about mine carefully before writing, “Take time to reflect.”
Did I already mention how hot it was? Kwithy and I spotted crowds heading towards an indoor building and quickly joined their herd. Inside, we were greeted by two peppy young women in bright crop tops and matching flannels peddling a low-calorie flavored water drink called Pop Water. I’m normally against anti-water propaganda, but the heat and lack of price convinced me otherwise. I tried the green apple flavor, which turned out to be not too sweet and deliciously crisp. Spotting the bar behind me and with free things once again on my mind, I decided to see exactly how deep the advantages of my press pass ran. Apparently not deep enough because the good-natured bartender told me innocently that, “Nobody told me anything about free drinks.”
No matter, a mixed drink turned out to be a reasonable $6 so I treated Kwithy and myself to some early afternoon libations. The bartender mixed my green apple Pop Water, a splash of Sweet and Sour, and a healthy portion of vodka into a deliciously refreshing cocktail. After standing underneath the air conditioning vents for a few minutes, we began exploring the indoor space, which held art, a DJ booth and white sectional couches I didn’t dare go near.
Ready to brave the sun and in a slightly better (and buzzed) mood, we went back outside to check out the stage. There was only one, which made it fairly important to know when your preferred acts were playing, but simplified the festival experience in that you weren’t walking half a mile from one stage to another. Like Brokechella, Broccoli City Fest utilized a mobile app for revealing their set times. Also like Brokechella, I couldn’t access it to save my life, although instead of being too complicated like Brokechella’s DAQRI app, Split App didn’t even show up when I searched for it in my app store.
For the most part, the emcees did a good job of informing the crowd of upcoming performers, and the festival grounds were small enough that if you were outside, you could most likely hear whoever was onstage.
Backed by a full band, rapper Black Cobain was performing, and I have to give him credit for delivering energy and enthusiasm despite the still-paltry crowd. He plainly told the audience that he’d spent a lot of money on his outfit and he was there to party, dammit. As though summoned, a bored assistant came out of the wings to pour him a shot of Hennessey. He took a couple of shots, dismissing the rest of the bottle, which was then distributed amongst the crowd. Like his former tourmate Wale, Black Cobain projects that same unmistakable DC swagger, although in his case, it’s somewhat justified.
Twerk Out Broccoli City
My Unorthodox Tea Time gals arrived shortly after his set, and learning that a Twerk Out fitness class was getting ready to begin, we camped out under the exercise tent to observe. I have to give it to Lexy Panterra. She has a body that my 80-year-old grandmother would glance over her shoulder to get a second look at, yet was completely dismissive of the leering men who huddled around the tent. She had a bubbly personality and that, along with her walking advertisement of a figure, helped to corral a fair amount of girls into taking the class, despite the shameless voyeurs. I would have been one of them had I not chosen to wear my breeziest sundress that day. I did find out that Lexy teaches Twerk Out classes every day of the week and after seeing her insane workout, I definitely plan on attending one very soon.
After that, Kwithy and I stumbled into a mural-in-progress, and Latina street-artist Sand One was eager to greet us and invite us to participate. She painted borders sectioning off certain parts of the sketched mural and by that point probably a little sun-dizzy, I was quick to climb the ladder to fill in a portion of a sparkling brown eye.
Painting Sand One mural Broccoli City Fest
Scratch DJ Academy had a mobile turntable lab, and were decorating and giving away vinyl in promotion of their nationwide DJ certification program co-founded by Run DMC’s late Jam Master Jay. I had a little-known Jim Croce record spun and decorated in green, blue and pink paint. It was a good thing I stopped by earlier in the day because their booth had a constant line by late afternoon.
There was a fenced off area around the stage where artists could mingle, press could do interviews and photographers could get unobscured shots of the stage. As more popular acts came to the stage, it became clear that many of the squealing fans bopping beside me had no intention of covering the event and that some of the security guards were being bought off with flirtatious grins and hair flips.
The next act I caught was Tiron and Ayomari, a laidback hip-hop duo hailing from Los Angeles. The 90’s influence was clear, their style recalling De La Soul with clever lyrics that prove hip-hop can still be light-hearted without being completely ignorant. Their performance included their 2009-throwback hit “Hello Money,” during which they poured buckets of dollar bills into a greedy audience.
Tiron and Ayomari Broccoli City
Energy somewhat drained from the sun, my friends and I momentarily forgot our carefully selected festival duds and sat cross-legged in the dirt for the next couple of performances, zoning out to Low End Theory co-founder and resident Daddy Kev and rising DJ from Soulection label Joe Kay. Joe Kay brought out quick-witted DC wordsmith Gold Link for a memorable closing song that gave me just the boost I needed to stagger to my feet and seek out some grub.
By that point it was just after 7pm and pretty clear that set times were running late. JoJo was slated to close the festival at 8pm and Joe Kay had announced three more performers when he left the stage. As much as I wanted to stake out a seat for BJ the Chicago Kid, my grumbling stomach demanded sustenance.
I’ve figured out that my go-to festival food are french fries. Actually, french fries might just be my go-to guilty pleasure food in general. The Lime Truck, famous for winning Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, seemed like a good choice. They boasted carnitas fries, which came to me stacked with tender, slow-roasted pork, guacamole, chipotle honey slaw, and cojita cheese. Unfortunately, I was too busy savoring them to get stage side for BJ the Chicago Kid’s set, but heard the entire thing from the picnic tables in the back, including his distinction that, “I ain’t no rapper, man. I make R&B music.”
I was pretty excited for eccentric R&B producer JMSN’s performance. I enjoyed his latest EP Pllajë, his explicit vulnerability likening him to Canadian producer Weeknd. It’s the sort of music one might listen to after they’ve spent their Saturday night attempting to drown their sorrows at a seedy strip club.
JMSN Broccoli City
JMSN walked onstage barefoot, outfitted only in a pair of loose-fitting, ratty basketball shorts, his hair hanging in heavy waves past his shoulders. He tried his best to interact and deliver a passionate performance, but persisting sound issues dampened the effect, ultimately leading the audience’s attention to the drummer, who was playing with the gusto of a cranked-out Jason Statham. The set was decent enough that I’ll definitely try to catch another show to see how the multi-talented musician delivers when the sound tech is on his side.
Blame it on the sun or simply being on our feet all day, but after JMSN my friends and I found ourselves hungry once again. We enjoyed East Coast Jill-of-all-Trades Va$htie’s reggae-inspired tune selection from the picnic area, this time opting for a truck that sold mango-BBQ chicken wings with french fries.
I admit to not being the biggest or well-informed fan of the JoJo, who made music history as the youngest solo artist to have a number-one single in the US with her girl power anthem “Leave (Get Out)”, released when she was just thirteen years old. I was eighteen at the time, so while I found the song as mindlessly catchy as anything else on the radio, I was knee-deep in my revolutionary, conscious hip-hop phase and considered myself above such drivel.
JoJo Broccoli City
As with most things, my eighteen-year old assumption couldn’t have been more off-base and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that JoJo can sing. As she belted out and effortlessly hit high notes, nailing covers by musical greats like Anita Baker and Phil Collins, I wondered why and how she’d vanished from my radar ten years ago. JoJo has a voice that rivals almost every pop singer in radio rotation and her song “Demonstrate” proves she has song-writing capabilities on par with musicians like Katy Perry and Jessie J.
I also noticed that unlike most pop singers JoJo did not appear malnourished, was incredibly humble and down-to-earth, and was not adorned in lollipop lingerie. I suspect that her departure from the public eye has more to do with control over her image and an unwillingness to bend to label pressures.
Unorthodox Tea Time was given the opportunity to interview JoJo after the show, during which she revealed some of her upcoming projects, sustainable values and what sets her apart from “typical” pop stars. Stay tuned for that video interview soon!
Aside from the heat, Broccoli City Fest receives no complaints from me. The festival was more intimate than most and certain luxuries, such as air-conditioned tents were sacrificed, making me realize how pampered we’ve allowed ourselves to become and how unnecessary most of those comforts are when it comes to having fun.
I got home much later than I would have liked, almost midnight, but my reward was an armful of free gifts, new networking contacts and potential friends, and of course, an opportunity to experience and support Los Angeles without worrying that part of the proceeds were going to Chase Bank or some other such corporate entity. This was Broccoli City’s first festival in LA, and I have to say, I can’t wait to see how they’re able to improve an already amazing festival experience in the years to come.