Arts Desk

Forward Fest Shows Off World-Spanning Electronic Music, City-Spanning Venues

The Art Department

In its fourth and most ambitious year, the electronic music festival Forward is going all-city.

In Washington, dance music—globe-spanning though it may be—has historically been confined to a couple indispensable venues. But due to numerous socioeconomic trends I won’t attempt to untangle at the moment, D.C. now boasts several new and unique spaces, and this year’s Forward Festival is taking advantage. Three of the festival’s eight host venues opened in 2010 (U Street Music Hall, Sweet Spot, and Yards Park on the waterfront), and a few others are either DIY (Lost & Found), intentionally under-the-radar (Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club), or formerly illegal (Warehouse).

The product is a party that goes to great lengths to showcase both music and a city that have undergone drastic makeovers in recent years. Worldwide, electronic dance music has sprouted some interesting branches since the “electronica” of the 1990s, and D.C.’s scene has evolved beyond the huge Buzz party at Nation, which crumbled after a 1999 Fox News exposé revealed seemingly rampant drug use inside the club. (Buzz officially ended in 2006.) “We want to show off D.C.,” says festival organizer David Fogel, whose Silver Spring-based group EightyEight D.C. launched Forward as a three-day event in 2008. “We love this city.  Every time we bring people here, they’re impressed. They love the crowd, and they feel like the city is really gorgeous.” In the past, the event has drawn people from all over the country. This year, in an unusual case of reverse tourism, “We have a guy flying in from Bermuda," says Fogel.

But the draw of Forward is not its host city, but its multifarious lineup. Compared to 2010, this year's festival is especially big on bass (the genre) and all its eccentric family members (including dubstep, drum and bass, and garage), with a greater emphasis on audiovisuals. “The overall mission and theme has remained the same: an all-encompassing festival that focuses on electronic creative culture,” says Fogel. But “the biggest difference is our A/V showcase.” That event, with video artist and producer Frank Bretschneider, kicks off the festival tonight at the Letelier Theater in Georgetown, and is followed through the weekend by numerous showcases organized by genre or record label.

Confused? Overwhelmed? Psyched? Already cramming water bottles into your fanny pack? Here’s a critical guide to what to hit at Forward Fest 2011.

Sales have ended for all-festival passes, but individual tickets for Thursday-Sunday events are still available online. Tickets will also be sold at the door. For complete schedule information, visit


Australian synth-pop superstars Cut Copy DJ an after-party following their pair of sold-out shows at 9:30 Club. Originally booked by Fixed D.C., this is a pretty huge add-on to the festival.

Also tonight: Frank Bretscheider, Yann Novak, and several others officially open the festival at the Letelier Theater; Rockers International with See-I at Eighteenth Street Lounge.


Techno showcase with landmark Detroit duo Octave One (live), Daniel Bell (a DJ set from the guy formerly, and famously, known as DBX), and the Chicago and acid-loving Bulgarian KiNK (live) at U Street Music Hall.  This is a must-see for lovers of old and new.

Also tonight: The drum and bass-heavy Autonomic showcase with ASC and others at the Warehouse Loft.


Much-hyped Toronto duo Art Department headlines the massive house showcase at Warehouse. There is plenty of good stuff to see here. With Chicago tech-house producer Kate Simko headlining her record release party on the loft side of the venue, this is also the night to get the strongest sense of the festival in one place.

Also tonight: Fort Knox Five at Eighteenth Street Lounge; Dory, Annie, and Charles Martin at Jimmy Valentine's;  dub battle at Sweet Spot; Art For Progress benefit at Lost & Found; a vinyl-only DJ night with Sunshine Jones at UHall.


Drum and bass big-timers Total Science headline the dub-spanning showcase at Warehouse. This event will attempt to cover the timeline of dub music, from its Jamaican roots to its myriad incarnations in England.

Also tonight: Toddla T at UHall; '80s synth fiend Com Truise at Lost & Found; a Life & Death label showcase at Sweet Spot; a local hip-hop showcase, also at Warehouse; funky sounds from the Sol Power Allstars at Eighteenth Street Lounge; dubstep techno DJ Aaron Clark and many others at Jimmy Valentine's.


Let's hope the weather cooperates for the big outdoor party at Yards Park. If not, there's plenty to do afterward, from Sam "The Man" Burns's usual Sunday night house set at ESL (plus Thomas Blondet and Kiran Gandhi), to more partying with Aaron Sparks and several local DJs at Lost & Found, to High Contrast at UHall.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Legba Carrefour

    "Buzz party at Nation, which crumbled after a 1999 Fox News exposé revealed seemingly rampant drug use inside the club."

    This is a great awesometastic piece but this bit is definitely not accurate.

    If Buzz had crumbled in 1999, then I must have hallucinated that time the fire marshal shut down Firecracker in 2001 and there were exactly 12 billion and 3 ravers wandering around anacostia at 4am chasing ducks down to the river and blocking traffic and generally looking like St. Elizabeth's gone wrong.

    All that happened after the 99 bust was that they changed the name to Sting and raised the age to 19 for a hot minute. There was zero impact on actual attendance. The slow down in attendance at Buzz was still like 4-5 years away.

  • Dan Amitai

    That's cool Legba. p.s. everyone come to the DC INDIE HIP-HOP SHOWCASE on Saturday, catch dnb legend TOTAL SCIENCE at the same time. Ten bux, cheap.

  • The (Ben) Blackest

    No, you are wrong Legba. I went to the sold out Prodigy show at Nation in 2006 and it was definitely crumbling. I licked some of the crumbles. They made my mouth numb.

  • The Real DJ X

    Shut up, both of you. It's spelled "Nations" for one thing.

  • Furious Styles

    Legba, you are hallucinating, all the time.

    Dan, quit posting.

    Ben I was at that prodigy show too and it wasn't the crumbles that made your mouth numb.

    Damn tweak smoking crack head ravers. Put down the base pipe and get a job.

  • Ally Schweitzer

    This comments section is crazy. Thanks all. Legba, I knew this was gonna come up... your point is noted. However, the debate surrounding the "true end" of Buzz has been swirling for a while, long before the official end of Buzz in '06. The 1999 raid was, by many accounts, a symbolic end to an era. Whether or not attendance was affected is a point I don't make, because the size of the crowd at Buzz (and its latter form, Cubik) was only one---and not necessarily the most important---indicator of the party's success. -Ally S

  • Marion Barry’s Adrenal Gland

    So I heard Scott Henry got into a car wreck with Keoki and DIED

  • Legba Carrefour

    @Ally, I think my only problem is the word crumbling. 1999 was before even Tracks closed and that whole neighborhood was still batshit nuts.

    I miss the Edge most though. On the last big party night there, someone set fire to three cars outside. Everyone is standing around laughing until some kid starts screeching and tears off and opens the boot of a car with the front passenger seat in flames, she's digging through it, screaming at his friend "FUCK YOU! I SMUGGLED THAT ACID IN MY VAG AND I'M NOT GIVING UP ON IT!"

  • Static Sux

    The only wreck keoki's in are trainwrecks.

  • trigga fappy

    i heard art department is going to set up lines of k that lead up to piles of discarded futuristic sunglasses throughout the venue. upon snorting your nose into your winning prize, you promptly fall into a dissociative hole, future glasses on, and for 18 days thereafter, "without you" haunts straight through your skull on end as you drop between constellations, your safety net of a consciousness roughed up and fondled for a cheap laugh. at least, thats why i got my pass.

  • carn

    ..but will there be a gang bang? The last gang bang 88 through was a fucking RIP OFF, the girls were like all over 50.

  • Prosti-tot Hoard

    We're cumin down from one of the hardcore raves up north and wanted to kno if we could make some Kandi for David Fogel.

    We pay xtra close attn to making sure the namez are spl'd awesum on tha piecez so you can keep them in your own kollection! We also have these TOTALEE AWESUM light gloves to give him a wikkid light show with wif our hands!

    R there any dress codez down there? Im sayin, most of the time we don't have muCh on N E WAY but we're kinda hopin Fluffies and bikini's will get us in on tha CHEAP!

    Thx guise! ~+<3 -Bubbles.oO0

  • Lulz

    What time is Tiesto spinning?

  • The Ghost of DJ Aphrodite

    If you prefer a shit hole like Nation over a good club (like FUR) then I don't even know what to tell you. Enjoy your unemployment benefits I guess.

  • love/hate

    For the record:

    Saturday night at Jimmy Valentine's is all techno.

    Aaron Clark is not a dubstep DJ.

    Thx bai.

  • David Fogel

    This is an official announcement of the cancellation of Forward Fest. In its place will be a banjo competition in which all the music will be read off the wrinkles on my testicles.


  • Ally Schweitzer

    love/hate -- U right. Thanks for the catch! Correction coming.

  • Reactionary White Person

    Ally I think this is a terrible article that blatantly promotes the use of drugs and the melting of the faces of our youth, particularly by low end frequencies. I cannot believe City Paper has the audacity to publish information on how to attend these multiple dens of iniquity. Shame on you and shame on the City Paper. If I see you in my local dog park or frozen yogurt or cupcake place I will say passive aggresive things in your direction and hope that you feel uncomfortable.

    Yo but for real, y'all should come out...shit's gon' be karazy!

  • love/hate

    Oh one more thing, I actually love dubstep it's the best thing ever.

  • Brosef Palermo

    Dude, bro, no dude, I fuckin love dubstep

    Nah man just jay kayin on the brostep. I'mma be at Sweet Spot Friday night supportin my boys Tanc & Tiernan as they battle the formidable NYC posse in a furious battle of heavy pressure.

    Pull over

    Ya got a license for them dubs?

  • reactionary black peep

    efff dat get my kids off your knees, you nasty ass santa claus

    ps doc "faltydl" rivers is like a birthday cake

  • caitlin shmenache

    don't miss out on all the fun-but-educational workshops on Saturday!

  • barry manilow

    whatever mister shmenarche, this entire weekend in a workshop on how to get properly faced.

  • barry manilow


  • K8

    The typo "fix" on Aaron Clark kinda made the misnomer ok. It probably made all of your Pittsburgh readers laugh at least :)

  • The Ghost of DJ Aphrodite

    why does ally hate the rave so much

  • Steve Brown

    Since the time i have shifted to India for Teach English Abroad, I have not been to a single concert, but thankfully, I have been introduced to a whole new range of Music.