By Anna Walsh
On sold out night 2 of the 3rd annual Breakin’ Even Fest, 100 people streamed into the second floor of, as the neon lights at the back told, a pie shop. The festival is called Breakin’ Even because that’s the goal – to break even, and give everything else to a worthy cause. This year’s was Girls Rock DC, a nonprofit that uses music to encourage girls, trans, and non-binary youth to develop their talents and identities. The Pie Shop venue is outfitted with a wide stage and impressive sound system. An efficient use of space allows for a bar and back outdoor patio, with room still for several merch tables.
The ambitious Saturday bill had 5 bands on it, with 13 bands playing over the whole weekend. The crowd was congenial, with a familiarity amongst friends and strangers alike, and the Pie Shop was mostly full by the time
Subtastics, the first up, came on. They played a buoyant set of pop-punk in the vein of the best California 90s punk bands, with a strong sense of humor to match their strong musical ability. Up next was Night Surf, a Brooklyn outfit who brought a blistering set of straight-up punk, with a frontman whose voice could compete with Chuck Ragan or Tom Morello.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the night was the feeling of camaraderie. Festival organizers (DC band American Television) were seemingly onstage, dancing around the floor, and selling merch all at once. Night Surf even passed a bag of beer around the crowd.
This feeling was perfectly exemplified by Trash Boy’s performance. When the band launched into the anthemic “Fuck New York”, the Philly band and DC crowd fed off each other for a frenzied mid-set mosh. Trash Boy is a band very in tune with each other – boisterous drumming, driving basslines, and dual singer/guitarists combine to deliver a sound like the best possible punch in the face. Their songs have a more political and personal bend, a fitting commentary for a group of 20-somethings navigating our current national landscape.
Up 4th in the 5 band lineup was Proper., an Afro-punk group with a softer sound than the rest of the bill, but lyrical content and a performance that was no less hard-hitting than any of the louder bands. By the end of their set, the Pie Shop was fully packed and the crowd was ready for headliner World’s Scariest Police Chases.
More hardcore than any of the other bands on the bill, World’s Scariest Police Chases delivered a rousing set of old and new songs, all which the crowd loved. The band’s songs expertly pace the line of jubilance and fury that only a seasoned punk band can.
While I can’t personally speak to the other nights at Breakin’ Even, if they were anything like Saturday, a hell-raising, fun fueled, quality-band-filled ode to the DC punk scene was witnessed by all. Here’s hoping this festival sticks around for years to come.