Downtown Gainesville might give New Orleans a run for its money Thursday and Friday.
Changeville Music and Arts Festival, an annual collection of artists performing for social change downtown, is just in time for Mardi Gras weekend this year.
“If you can’t go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, then, you know, it’s kind of like the next best thing if you’re in Gainesville,” Pat Lavery, music and productions director for Changeville, said.
The festival, which began in 2016, has grown into a two-day event across multiple venues downtown featuring dozens of artists. These include Dirty Dozen Brass Band, an authentic New Orleans group; Princess Nokia, an “Afro-Nuyorican” female rapper; and Benjamin Booker, the headlining songwriter and UF alumnus, among several other local musicians and performers. The full schedule is available at www.changeville.us/schedule.com.
“Every year we’ve been growing it and growing it,” Lavery said.
Lavery said what began as a collaboration in 2015 for an “after party” in front of the Hippodrome Theatre for the frank conference has evolved into Changeville, a separate music event, the past few years.
He said the festival continues to grow, and he expects roughly 4,000 people to turnout this year.
“Come support something local, you know, bringing a really high-quality, high-caliber music festival into Gainesville,” he said.
Single-show and multi-venue tickets can be purchased online, but wristbands for admission will be picked up at the Hampton Inn and Suites downtown Thursday from 3-9 p.m. and Friday 2-8 p.m.
Discounted admission to Benjamin Booker and Dirty Dozen Brass Band is also available in exchange for donations brought Friday to Bo Diddley Community Plaza for GRACE marketplace or Peaceful Paths. More information is available at http://changeville.us/tickets/.
For more information about the festival’s many musicians, interactive activities and more, here’s Avenue Staff’s guide to Changeville 2018.
Benjamin Booker, a raspy-voiced powerhouse singer from Virginia, is headlining Changeville 2018.
Booker’s music is deeply emotional and at times very personal, as he shares moments from difficult phases of his life and tackles sensitive topics of social dialogue. While Booker shies away from a “soul” musical branding, the influences are felt, particularly on tracks from his most recent album.
Booker has branded himself a “witness” with this release. As the title of his 2017 album, “Witness” tracks Booker’s experience in a world where the pain of inequality hits too close to home. Booker told NPR that like a biblical “witness to the truth,” he needed to bear witness to the truth of the racism and violence that he was seeing on the news and in the world around him.
Changeville marks a return to Gainesville for Booker, a graduate of the University of Florida journalism program. Booker will perform Friday night on the stage on Bo Diddley in downtown Gainesville. Booker’s performance will be opened by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and local band, The Savants of Soul. The show will begin at 5:30 p.m. and end at 9:30 p.m.
“Benjamin Booker has been doing some really cool stuff, and he’s got this, like, just awesome bluesy, soulful, rock ‘n’ roll sound, and he does a great balance of all of those things,” Savants of Soul’s Alex Klausner said. “That’s an artist, that’s a guy I’ve always wanted our band to play alongside… This guy rips!”
Princess Nokia, Hugo $anchez & more:
Princess Nokia, a New York-based rapper and strong supporter of feminism, will also headline Changeville. She’ll perform at High Dive on Thursday with local acts Retrolux, Hugo $anchez and Azazus. Tickets are $17 in advance, $20 at the door or free with a Changeville multi-venue pass. Tickets are available at www.changeville.us and Hear Again Records.
It’s been roughly two years since Jorge Hugo Sanchez, who goes by the name of Hugo $anchez onstage, opened for New Orleans rapper Curren$y.
Sanchez has learned a lot in the two years since this performance. In fact, being onstage is where he feels most at home.
“I personally try to give it my all when I do performances, so people can expect a very energetic, sweaty, passionate, scary performance from me,” he said.
Sanchez’s stage presence is gritty, energetic and unapologetic. He’s a spitball of emotion, using his rap as a gateway to talk about relevant political topics that relate to him as well as his audience.
His most recent album, “Bad Hombres,” was released Jan. 21 and includes a variety of tracks that discuss problems marginalized people are currently experiencing.
Sanchez wanted to get involved with Changeville because of his passion for social change. He credits Princess Nokia, who is known for using her music to promote intersectional feminism and acceptance for women of color, as being one of his biggest current inspirations.
“Just her talking about where she comes from and how she is an amalgam of all the things she was surrounded by in her environment, in my opinion, to me, that’s America,” Sanchez said. “When I look at her, watch her videos and listen to her music, that’s America to me. It’s culturally diverse, it’s beautiful, it’s accepting, it’s courageous and it thinks without borders.”
As for himself, Sanchez said he’s been working on his own set for the past few months, comprising his act with material from two of his past albums, “Lil Tony Danza” and “Bad Hombres.” He said he’s most looking forward to perform his song “Brown Privilege,” which was recently highlighted by Bandcamp on a feature about the best hip-hop records from 2018. Sanchez added that fans can also expect a personal performance that is different than his albums.
“I just take it back to the basics, and I do a loud voice over some dirty grinding beats, and at the end of the day, that’s what hip-hop is really about. It’s about a DJ spinning dope beats and a dude spreading dangerous ideas,” Sanchez said.
Changeville is a festival that brings talent from all over the world. Just behind these headliners, however, is a slew of local artists who you can catch at Gainesville venues even after Changeville has its curtain call.
Changeville’s lineup is stacked with Gainesville musicians that represent a cross-genre melting pot of talent. Here’s a list of some of the local performers and where to find them.
The Savants of Soul:
The Savants of Soul are Gainesville’s powerhouse of soul music. The 10-piece ensemble will be performing on the stage on Bo Diddley alongside headliner Benjamin Booker. Currently, The Savants of Soul are preparing for the release of their next single, “Dead Man Running.” They will also be competing in the battle of the bands at High Dive next Thursday for a spot on the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival lineup.
Flipturn, an indie rock band who burst onto the Gainesville music scene with their debut EP in 2017, will be performing on the High Dive stage Friday night. Flipturn will also be performing at the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival and the Student Government Wetlands Music Festival. Flipturn is preparing to release the first single, “Churches,” off their upcoming album later this month.
“I know all these bands were picked to play at Changeville because they believe in social change, too, so that will be cool to play with likeminded people and be surrounded by positive energy,” said flipturn bassist Madeline Jarman.
Sooza is a brass instrument-based band made up of predominantly UF music majors. Sooza will be rolling out their first original track at Changeville this year, and they plan to release a full original EP this year. Sooza will also be performing at Feb. 24 on Flavet Field.
“In the end, it’s all just about high-energy music, but also having, like, a lot of different textures within that music,” said Sooza tenner saxophone player Ryan Gamberino.
DJ Robzilla & Marley the Messenger:
DJ Robzilla & Marley the Messenger will be performing together Friday at The Wooly. DJ Robzilla is featured on Hugo Sanchez’s, another Changeville performer, new album. The album, “Bad Hombres,” was featured on Bandcamp’s “Best Albums of January.” DJ Robzilla is also planning to release a new beat tape in the coming months.
Pearl and the Oysters:
Pearl and the Oysters is a Gainesville-based alternative pop group originating out of France. They released their first self-titled album in 2017, debuting a truly unique sound that has landed them a spot on the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival lineup. They will also be performing at the Heartwood Soundstage anniversary show Feb. 24.
“We haven’t played in Gainesville in the longest since we started playing, so we’re really excited to go back on stage,” said Juliette Davis of Pearl and the Oysters. “We feel that this is the beginning of a musical touring session... It’s great to start with Changeville.”
In Bed by Ten:
In Bed by Ten is a Gainesville indie rock pair. The band released their first album to Bandcamp.com last week and promises a dynamic performance on the Changeville stage. In Bed by Ten’s Kathy Sohar is a mentor at Gainesville Girls Rock Camp, teaching empowerment through musical instruction.
“I love the Gainesville music community. It’s supportive and it’s amazing, and there’s so many great opportunities to really access it and be involved in it,” Sohar said.
Other local artists performing at Changeville include Retrolux, Hugo $anchez, Aquanova, GUTS, Wester Joseph’s Stereo Vudu, Mike Llerena & The Nerve, and Azazus. More information is available at changeville.us.
Beyond music: Workshops, virtual reality, comedy and more
Changeville is so much more than just music, an idea showcased with their diverse 2018 lineup of events. The festival will also feature comedy, film, virtual reality, poetry, panels and workshops and much more, all pursuing the goal of social change through each art form. For more information on other non-music events, check out changeville.us.