A Little Less Broken

Posted: by Tommy

Words by Tommy McPhail, Photos by Brooke Marsh

Disclaimer: Broken World Media is currently doing Very Important Shit™.

Obligatory elaboration – if you haven’t yet heard of the name “Broken World Media” or any artist on their roster, please start paying attention.

Since the label launched in 2012, Broken World Media has cultivated a wonderful, rapidly growing community around the art they choose to support & the people they surround themselves with. Led by Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak, the label achieves exactly what many spend their entire lives chasing – tangibly making the world a little less shittier of a place to be. How? By taking a selfish approach to supporting music.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the 2nd incarnation of Broken World Fest, a two-day emo celebration at Spirit in Pittsburgh, PA. Not only is that sentence in the running for “most journalistic use of the word emo” I’ll ever write, but for good reason – the festival was far more than another whirlwind of bands playing to bands, as DIY “festivals” tend to be. For many, the weekend was home manifested in a physical space, some for the first time, cemented by mind-blowing music and positive energy.  There were so many reminders of why I fell in love with music in the first place – a brilliant testament of the label’s collective efforts and taste.

I’m anxiously awaiting the chance to get passes for next year.

Why this did this fest rise above a sea of others in current underground D.I.Y.? B.W.F. was executed flawlessly from an attendee standpoint. Think of what you wanted out of any festival you’ve ever been to. Great bands? Check — almost the entire label’s roster, Pinegrove, JANK, and even a Snowing reunion of all things. Great location? Check — Pittsburgh rules. Affordable prices on tickets, food, & booze? Check. Fest-wide ban on memes? Check (thanks Tyler). Not-so-secret extra shows? Check. Great vibes? Check-fucking-mate.

If overdelivering on festival basics isn’t enough, look no further than the fact that BWF managed to almost kill punk time. In a stunning feat, the fest staff kept 29 bands on schedule almost the entire weekend, with 20 minute back-to-back sets and brisk 10 minute changeovers. That’s unheard of. That’s a downright miracle. For many, BWF was easily one of the smoothest-run shows they’d attended, making chumps out of late-running 3 band early gigs everywhere.

At one point, even the manager of the nearby Sunoco was hype enough to walk over & buy a t-shirt as a way of saying thanks for the business of showgoers in the store all weekend. When was the last time you caught local businesses repping your favorite band?

Don’t just take it from me though. Here’s what other attendees had to say:

“BWF made a huge scene seem small. There were so many incredible bands and people I have met through this scene and they have contributed greatly to both of those things. Bringing all of those people and artists together for one weekend to celebrate music was so wonderful, and being surrounded by people that are technically strangers (even though I may have known them for what feels like years online) gave me less anxiety than most social gatherings because of the connection I share with all of them.” – Josh Cowdrey

“I hate going to larger music fests most of the time because I feel like most of the people are not there to celebrate or enjoy the music – they’re just there to socialize or get drunk or whatever. BWF was the opposite of that, and every person seemed to care a lot about the music. That’s so sick and I love to see it.” – Kayla Bates

“I went to last year’s BWF and it pretty much cemented my love for DIY music, definitely one of the most memorable weekends of my life. I met a lot of people there that I’ve stayed in touch with, along with discovering a lot of bands I’ve since fallen in love with. I find myself talking about that weekend so often.” – Sean Thomas

There was a heartfelt speech (Derrick) gave the first night during a set they were playing and I felt it to my very core. I was validated in my experiences with DIY and chasing my dreams. It felt like home to hear some of their stories because if they can achieve this major of an event after starting in a bedroom years before, why can’t I?” – Blade Brown

Personally, my favorite moment happened right at the end of night 2, after the last note rang out. As I made my way out, Derrick hugged me close and said “thank you for giving a shit”. I was stunned. They were thanking me, but as the entire weekend so clearly showed, they give the biggest shit of all.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after more than a decade of pursuing this brilliantly scary-yet-exciting idea of making a life in music, it’s that people who truly give a shit are rarer and rarer to come by. Beyond the sea of musical apathy & seldom-clicked Bandcamps are some of the most honest, sincere people ever to exist, working tirelessly to create and uplift art that cares enough to combat the worst of the world. Where many bands, labels, and artists take a “we do this for you – the fans!” approach, Broken World Media makes/supports art for themselves first. This distinction is important.

The biggest reason why this particular festival felt so magical is because Broken World cultivated an entire scene around what they needed out of art. They put enough care and love into the world to support an whole community of others who resonate with their ideal of the world around them. Leaving the fest, I honestly felt like we’ll get to see that world one day – a world so many talk about, but few care enough to help create. A world without the violence of misogyny, sexism, homophobia, a world a little less broken than when we got here.

So no, thank you, Derrick. Thank you for giving a shit.