Q&A: GW alumnus plans third annual D.C. music festival

Music lovers of all ages are sure to pack the third annual All Things Go Fall Classic at Yards Park this Saturday. Over three years the event has grown, and this year it will feature headliner Passion Pit.

But All Things Go wasn’t always the day-long music festival it is now: It was originally a music blog founded by Zack Friendly, an alumnus, and his friends. Here’s what Friendly had to say about his – and All Things Go’s – journey.

How did you get involved with All Things Go?

Zack Friendly: We started All Things Go almost about 11 years ago when I was a senior in high school, actually, here in D.C. with a few of my friends. About five years ago we expanded and added a few partners. There’s four All Things Go members: myself, Stephen, Adrian and Will. Adrian and I were there when we started the blog, and then Stephen and Will came on, and we started doing events here in D.C.

We did a monthly club night at U Street Music Hall, we did quarterly nights at 9:30 Club, we’ve done shows at the Howard Theatre, at the Fillmore, Black Cat and other places. We’ve also done a yearly event at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. We’ve really focused on, obviously, D.C. given that the four of us are native Washingtonians.

The website got started because I just loved sharing music with our friends, and then it just expanded to be much more widespread than I ever expected. I think we realized after a certain point in time that as fun as it was writing about music, putting on the shows here in D.C. was what was truly important to us. We felt that there was a market that was underserved for, you know, up and coming acts. That’s how we got into the music and production and promotion business.

How did All Things Go attract the artists that it did?
ZF: This is the third edition of the Fall Classic, our music festival. The first year we had Future Islands and Tove Lo at Union Market Dock5 Space. And then last year, we brought Norwegian producer Kygo here to D.C. also at Union Market, sold out that event.

It was kind of bursting at the seams in the space, so we decided to move to a larger venue – the space down at the Navy Yard a block from Nationals Park. We wanted our larger venue and venue change to be reflective of the talent. So we sort of, in our opinion, stepped it up quite a bit in landing legacy talents like Empire of the Sun and Passion Pit, but at the same time, we started as a music discovery website and a music discovery production house. We definitely wanted to place an emphasis on a well-rounded bill.

We were fortunate enough to book bands – like Christine and the Queens, Sylvan Esso, Bishop Briggs – and we wanted to catch them on their way up and kind of introduce them to the D.C. market. We are super excited to have them all on one stage one day here in D.C.

What makes All Things Go Fall Classic special, in your opinion?
ZF: Given that we are all from here, we made an effort that the festival stays within the city limits. Not to knock Merriweather or any other venue, we just love our city so much I actually ended up transferring and coming back – going to GW actually – which is sort of when we launched the live show element of the website.

For us, we’ve always placed an emphasis on keeping as much of the festival as local as we can. The first two years, we had at least three bands that were local artists from D.C. or Baltimore. This year we have a local rapper, Ace Cosgrove, who is going to be opening up the festival, and that was definitely something we wanted to place an emphasis on. We wanted to curate a lineup that really reflects the city and gets people excited, and I think that’s one of the things that sets our festival apart.

There’s an argument that festivals are becoming a bit oversaturated, and I think one of the ways you set yourself apart is by making the whole experience important rather than just what’s on stage. We wanted to build an environment at the festival that people could be entertained anywhere that they were. Whether they’re in the VIP or in the virtual reality tent, or they are sampling one of the restaurants they’ve never tried before, our mission is to make the whole experience great, and I think this year is going to be the best reflection of our efforts.

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