There are music festivals that occur all over the globe but there are few that feature underground artists exclusively. Richmond is home to Epic Fest, which is an annual music festival hosted by Slapdash, a local music promotion agency. Among the performing artists this year were Virginia Commonwealth University students Marques “M.arques B.erry” Berry and Jake Barkley.
Berry, a senior English major, and Barkley, a sophomore creative advertising major, took the stage for the first time at Epic Fest this year. Both agreed the entire experience was a blast.
“I loved the energy that was there. You could really feel the vibe that something special was going on,” Barkley said.
The duo recalled the emphatic crowds at the venues and also the uniqueness and talent of other graphic and performing artists. They also appreciated Slapdash’s hard work in organizing the festival and making sure it ran smoothly.
Slapdash was founded in 2009 by Richmond natives Derail “Cain McCoy” Hampton and Robert “Octavion X” Markum. Hampton, a VCU alumnus, and Markum had been exposed to the Richmond underground music scene for several years — both having stints as performing artists. However, the duo saw there were flaws in the music scene. This is where Slapdash stepped in to provide venues for local artists to perform.
“We are just helping [artists] bring their vision to life,” Markum said. “We are just giving them our insight, our connections, our options to the table to help bring cats out the city the right way.”
Slapdash founders, Robert "Octavion X" Markum and Derail "Cain McCoy" Hampton
Epic Fest was introduced in 2010 and originally consisted of a single-day event in which artists performed at a local venue. Now in its fifth year, the festival lasted an entire week, from June 23-27, taking place at various venues. This year’s Epic Fest featured more than 50 graphic and performing artists from the city and beyond.
“All of the artists on the bill are bubbling—so essentially we are breaking artists to you guys that you normally wouldn’t hear about,” Hampton said.
The first event, Epic Art Battle, took place at Gallery 5. The event featured performances from local musicians and also showcases from graphic artists such as Paper Frank and Jay Bordeaux. The following events were exclusively performing artists. Following the Epic Art Battle there were events at The Top, Strange Matter, The Camel and The Broadberry respectively. The festival concluded with the Epic Fest Cookout at the EMBU Warehouse.
Barkley and Berry performed a set together at the Epic Art Battle event. Despite the artists’ disparity in rap flows, the duo felt that they had one of the best sets of the evening.
“I feel we stood out from the rest of the performers — our set meshed really well,” Barkley said.
The duo agree that the Slapdash has been pivotal to the music scene here in Richmond. But, Berry feels more can be done for the music scene in the city.
“Unity man—it seems like everybody is in a race,” Berry said. “Places like Atlanta and New York all work together. If we’re doing the same thing, let’s work together to achieve our goals.”
- Sterling Giles