DC to BC’s Trillectro festival: Taking a Venn diagram approach to music


Modele "Modi" Oyewole, right, Quinn Coleman, center, and Marcel Marshall, creators of the upcoming Trillectro Festival. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
August 10, 2012

When a typical group of 20-somethings travels to the annual Coachella music festival in California, they don’t necessarily return with their brain cells intact, never mind with an innovative idea worth executing. But for three young Washingtonians, the California festival was motivating in ways they hadn’t expected. They’re still wearing their wristbands months later.

Modele “Modi” Oyewole, Marcel Marshall and Quinn Coleman — a trio of young promoters known collectively as DC to BC — were so inspired by their Coachella experience in April that they decided to launch their own day-long concert in the District. The event, which they’ve dubbed Trillectro, is an electronic and hip-hop festival set for Saturday at Fairgrounds, adjacent to Nationals Park.

Trillectro is designed to be one big mash-up of EDM (electronic dance music) and urban music. The line between the forms has been blurred by the boom of relatively crude DJ mixes that have melded the two, a trend popularized by the likes of Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley) and Girl Talk. Mega R&B star Usher’s most recent hit, “Climax,” was produced by Diplo, a DJ with roots in electro, house and dubstep.

The bill of more than 20 groups at Saturday’s event reflects that blended musical outlook. There are nationally known rappers like Schoolboy Q and Casey Veggies, along with such dance music groups as Body Language and Flosstradamus. Local interests are represented by artists including Tabi Bonney and Oddisee, as well as Nouveau Riche DJs and Rock Creek Social Club.

The lineup also reflects the eclectic tastes of the festival’s founders and their desire to bring different groups of musicians and fans together.

“I always think about it like a Venn diagram. That little middle section. That’s what all these people are,” Oyewole said. “Nothing like [Trillectro] exists. Combining these two worlds in a festival format, especially in D.C. . . . makes sense, because we’re doing it already naturally. That’s the future of music, in our opinion.”

Oyewole and Coleman are childhood friends who attended Sidwell Friends School. They met Marshall, who attended Gonzaga, while they were in high school. All three went on to Boston College — hence their DC to BC moniker — where they began a college radio show in 2007. The show evolved into a blog, and the blog into a Web site. When the three returned to the District after finishing college, they worked to carve out a space as party promoters.

The festival has come about as a natural progression of who the organizers are in their daily lives.

Oyewole, 25, who has worked as an intern at Def Jam Recordings, keeps his ear to the streets via his blog and has always had an open music mind. “I grew up listening to my parents’ music: Paul Simon, Michael Franks, Wynton Marsalis, all different types of stuff. Our ears are polished,” he said.

Coleman, 23, who works at Sirius XM as a programmer in the electronic music department and whose mother works for BET, has always had an interest in productions. The Coachella trip helped him crystallize his concept of what a show should be.

“My introduction to electronic music through my job has led me to more places where I can find that same energy,” Coleman said. “The experience that I’ve had since I started working have led me to a point where I know how I want things to look. I want it to be sweaty out there” at Trillectro.

Marshall, 24, the man who signs the checks and handles a lot of the finances, says he was just lucky enough to be “a guy in the room” when the whole thing started. By day, he makes personnel decisions for D.C. public schools. By night, his side gig is the focus.

Bianca Holman, 26, who’s been working with DC to BC as a volunteer with ticket operations, thinks the trio’s approach to business is a strong one.

“They’re the new face of entrepreneurship, in terms of taking something and finding a niche, and finding those supporters,” Holman said. “From being childhood friends to now working together as men, it attests to not only their friendship, but their work ethic.”

And in a city with ever-evolving artistic tastes, DC to BC is emerging as the cool kids. The no-judgment, all-inclusive feel is genuine. And the diverse crowds that show up when the group throws a party prove it.

“I think there was a yearning to be a part of it. Instead of just writing it down or talking about it after the fact,” Marshall said. “We want to be the ones who are actually showing it.”

For DC to BC, Trillectro is a step in the right direction, Coleman says. “This will be our biggest event and our biggest learning experience.”

Trillectro

Starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at Fairgrounds, 1299 Half St. SE. www.trillectro.com. Tickets $30-$100.

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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