Trillectro grows from project, to festival, now a movement


A wheatpasted flyer for Trillectro 2014 is affixed to a lamppost at Connecticut and Florida Avenues NW. – Clinton Yates/The Washington Post

When Trillectro kicked off its inaugural EDM and hip-hop festival 3 years ago at the Fairgrounds outside of Nationals Park, it was a fun story about three local guys who wanted to make an event that they could enjoy with their friends.

First year: mission accomplished. The second time around, they struggled with the strains of popularity and separation, but still kept their unit solid to create another wildly successful day of music. Now, with bigger shoes to fill and a reputation to uphold, it’s official: Trillectro is a full-blown movement. Overall, the experience of what started with the hip-hop blog DC to BC  is now a full weekend of programming. Friday night is the official pre-party. Saturday is the full show, held at the RFK Stadium Fairgrounds, which is a huge step up from the first two years.

After that, the official after-party is at 9:30 Club, the best big room in America, according to me Rolling Stone. The next morning, there’s a six mile run, followed by a brunch party. In previous years, although they had help, much of the everyday grunt work was coordinated and executed by either Modi Oyewole, Marcel Marshall and Quinn Coleman, creators of the festival.

They were the faces of the festival and doing almost all of the work, with help from dedicated interns. Now, those fans and die-hard fans of their work are as big a part of the Trillectro family as ever. What’s most refreshing is that the family-style method is still there.

Two of the street team managers embody that mindset almost unbelievably. If I had to invent two people that were more appropriate for their roles with the Trillectro team, I don’t think I could. Monday night, I met them both. It was certainly no nightmare, but it began on Elm St. NW. Stephen Baiyewu, known as “Stevie,” is at his house in sweatpants. He’s helping organize the night’s wheatpasting trip.

Even though the festival is large and has major sponsors, some of the marketing is still done guerrilla-style with well-deployed street teams, some members of which don’t even meet each other until the nights they work together. Gathered at the house, Baiyewu is raving about the new technology he’s using to map out spots the teams will hit during that night’s middle of the night mission. “Are you guys aware of Chromecast?!” he says, referring to the technology that streams images from your computer to a TV screen via a USB stick. You’d think someone reinvented sliced bread. “Some days I’ll just be chillin’ in my bed. And I just want to play random ratchet videos. And they just appear on my TV. I literally didn’t know what life was before this,” Stephen says.

“It’s like a gift from God,” Nazuk Kochhar chimes in. She’s the other street team manager on duty that night. Baiyewu is half-Trinidadian, half-Nigerian. He met Modi while he attended Gonzaga High School in D.C. He was born in the city but grew up in Landover. His love for the culture of entertainment is what has him doing this today.

“I’m here right now because I love people, I love music, and I love D.C.,” he explained from the couch. “I’ve tried to fit in where I can help out and you know, utilizing some of my morals that I stand on and match what he’s trying to accomplish. I think it’s very noble trying to push music, push our culture and make everyone in our field, kind of work harder.”

He likes the way things are trending. “We see the fan base grow, we see demographics change and I think that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. To make sure there’s consistent change and these different cultures are converging. I think every year it becomes bigger and bigger, which means it becomes more diverse and more diverse, which is awesome,” Baiyewu, 23, said. The excitement in the room is palpable.

Although what they’re going out to do is technically/maybe/probably illegal – plastering flyers all over the city with a homemade adhesive of flour and water, no one is worried. It’s a wheatpaste mission and people are excited to get out and promote. The squad swells to about a dozen by midnight. They have to decide who’s going to go where. “I can lead the Dupont group,” Kochhar says. “Also, Future just dropped a new song.” Once we arrive to the spot, Kochhar, whom the organizers more casually refer to as “Naz” explains how she got to this point.

A 22-year-old graduate of University of Virginia of Indian descent, she read the old blog when she was still attending Herndon High. “I used to read the blog pretty religiously when I was in high school. Not an eventful place, the only thing they have is a bagel shop. I used to read the blog everyday,” she said. To call Naz enthusiastic would be a grave understatement.

As some might say, Kochhar is “bout that life:” She promotes music and uses it as a creative outlet and its something that’s she takes seriously. She linked up with the Trillectro trio through a mutual friend, and decided to be a part of things.

“I end up in D.C., interning at a PR firm, and I’m like, if I don’t keep doing something creative, I’m going to melt away. My main involvement at school was putting on hip-hop shows and events. I was the president of the student hip hop organization at UVa. So, it’s just like, what I did,” she said Monday night. “And I was like: I need to find a way to keep doing this. I was like, what the heck, let me hit her up and see if they need any help with anything. I don’t know how big the operation is, but I’m around.”

She’s looking forward to the new venue and the challenge it presents. She didn’t get to attend the second festival, but this time around, she’s all in. “Having the festival stay in D.C., is crucial. Of course it’s going to be kind of an experiment, you’re going to a new place, it’s different. And I guess when a project is so young, every year is an experiment,” Kochhar said. “I think it’s a testament to those guys for maintaining this sentiment…of it still being kind of all in the family, while expanding. I mean, look at all these people who are out here.”

As for Saturday, she could barely wait. Hours later she meets back up with the gang at Coleman’s house to go over the next day’s plan and report on the nights activities. Even at 4 a.m., the energy is still positive. She on vacation this week from her job, but was more than happy to be working late nights while off. At this point Trillectro is all that matters.

“My summer would have been a pile of boringness,” she says.

Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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