HARRISONBURG — Approaching its 22nd year, MACROCK, Harrisonburg’s annual DIY music festival, will place a greater emphasis on spotlighting local talent.
This year’s two-day festival on April 5-6, spans across venues in downtown Harrisonburg, featuring several showcases representing a diversity of genres.
“Artists from Harrisonburg will be featured in their own showcase at Brothers Craft Brewery,” said Alberto Sifuentes, one of the four head coordinators of MACROCK’s organizing committee. “[We have] all different kinds of showcases — a folk showcase, a loud rock showcase, a pop showcase and a hip-hop showcase.”
MACROCK’s organizing committee created the local showcase this year to recognize the acts around Harrisonburg and the surrounding Shenandoah Valley who have helped contribute to the vibrance of the local music scene.
“We feel it’s important that in order to have this festival, we have to show people the bands that are here all year playing shows, that make it possible for us to have shows at all,” said Chelsea Goodspeed, a head coordinator of MACROCK’s committee for the last two years.
The festival, which draws 700 to 800 attendees annually, has a lineup of 75 bands this year. The headliners include rapper Cities Aviv, feminist hardcore punk group War on Women, electronic artist Hommeboy, art rock band Guerilla Toss, experimental duo LEYA, punk outfit Wild Rose, noise band Empath, Ilsa, a metal band, as well as Escuela Grind, Persons and U.S. of Deathrattle.
MACROCK, which stands for the Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference, was founded in 1996 and was initially run by James Madison University’s student radio station, WXJM 88.7 FM, until 2006. The music festival is now independently organized by a group of volunteers.
Over the last two decades, MACROCK has brought in many well-known indie, punk and underground artists, including Animal Collective, Dashboard Confessional, Fugazi, Best Coast, Saves the Day and War on Drugs.
The MACROCK committee selects the bands each year through a “blind listening” in which members hear the music submissions and give each a score prior to viewing the applications. The committee also reaches out to certain bands it wants to book.
Goodspeed said the artists whose submissions scored the highest this year were mostly homegrown groups.
“All of the local bands got a pretty good score, better than [the groups from out of the area],” she said. “We felt it only right to give the locals a showcase.”
The shows will be held throughout the day at The Golden Pony, Clementine Cafe, The Little Grill Collective, Brothers Craft Brewery, Restless Moons Brewing, Court Square Theater and Pale Fire Brewing.
The first day will showcase loud rock, experimental, pop, indie, hardcore and singer-songwriter groups. The second day highlights local, folk, punk, hip-hop and indie bands.
Some of the local acts include Tucker Riggleman and the Cheap Dates, Walkie Talkie, Bat Motel and Dogwood Tales, who may perform in other showcases.
Since its inception, MACROCK historically concentrated on indie, punk and metal music, but in 2016, the festival booked its first hip-hop and electronic set, according to a previous DN-R article. Goodspeed said hip-hop continues to grow its presence in the festival’s lineup.
“Hip-hop always has a really big draw in Harrisonburg,” she said.
The label expo, which takes place at The Golden Pony from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 6, features independent record labels, booking agencies, zines and local businesses who will showcase their products and services.
MACROCK always features panel discussions on topics relating to DIY music and culture. This year, a panel will take place at Court Square Theater on April 6 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. titled “The State of College Radio.” Goodspeed said the discussion will focus on the role college radio plays in independent music and its importance today. The other panel, “Accountability in DIY Culture and Music” will be a discussion on ways to address bigotry and sexual misconduct in the scene from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
MACROCK hosts various events throughout the year to fund the festival, such as Macrocktober, which included a pop-up art sale, a yard sale, a Halloween cover show and a horror movie marathon in the fall, and in March, Rock Lotto, where musicians were randomly placed into bands and had just a few weeks to write and perform original music.
“This year we’ve been really focused on continuing to foster a music community in Harrisonburg and we’ve been doing that through different fundraisers,” Goodspeed said.
Standing true to its do-it-yourself ethos, the festival prides itself in accepting no corporate sponsorships. MACROCK is funded through fundraising events, sponsorships from small local businesses and grants.
MACROCK is a unique event for a small city like Harrisonburg to have 75 bands playing all in one weekend, she said.
“Beyond that, it’s a great opportunity for artists and festival goers alike to meet up with a community that still exists, in terms of DIY music,” Goodspeed said. “It’s cool to have people who used to live here, MACROCK alum, come back to town. That’s a big reason people love it so much.”
Pre-sale tickets are $25 for the entire weekend or $30 the day of. One-day tickets are also available for $20. Tickets can be purchased at Court Square Theater’s box office. For a full schedule, visit www.macrockva.org.