Since its inception in 2013, JORTSFEST has become more than just one of Atlanta’s most important local music events, bringing together artists and community in a spirit of DIY cooperation and collaboration. The festival’s motto — “Always free, always all ages, always accessible” — has become both a model and rallying cry for greater accessibility and inclusivity, spurring critical conversations about how the scene can be more diverse, welcoming, and accommodating to marginalized voices and people.
Tomorrow night, JORTSFEST, in cooperation with ELEVATE: Microcosm and the Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, is presenting an “auditory tour of the city” on the rooftop of the Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery. For festival founder Maria Sotnikova and her partner Carter Sutherland (Sea Ghost), it’s the first JORTSFEST associated event they’ve curated outside of their annual concert. And although they’re excited for the opportunity, organizing new events under the festival banner wasn’t something they were actively seeking to do. “We were definitely open to the idea,” Sotnikova says, “but no definitive plans existed before we were asked by ELEVATE.”
In fact, the partnership with ELEVATE Atlanta emerged as result of Sotnikova’s work with another forward-thinking music organization, Sofar Sounds Atlanta. Over the summer, she organized a Sofar performance at Goat Farm. Impressed by the event, former Goat Farm employee Mercer West connected Sotnikova with Allie Bashuk and Mark DiNatale, two Goat Farm staff members on the curatorial team for ELEVATE: Microcosm, who later approached her about partnering with the public arts festival. “It went really well, so I was asked if I wanted to curate a set of performances with some funding that had become available at the last minute,” Sotnikova explains.
One of the defining features of every JORTFEST has been the commitment to bringing diverse acts together from different sections of the city. As Sotnikova and Sutherland brainstormed ideas for their event, they figured it was only natural to embrace that same spirit of inclusivity, and began asking friends and colleagues what performers reminded them of different parts of Atlanta. “When we were curating the annual festival, Carter and I made an intentional effort to reach out to and book performers from around the metro Atlanta area, not just neighborhoods known for live music,” Sotnikova says. “Since the theme of this upcoming ELEVATE event is microcosm, we decided to focus in on that booking strategy and create a sonic tour of four microcosms of Atlanta music. We split the city into four geographic regions (NE, SE, SW, NW) and picked our favorite performers from each area to reach out to.”
Fittingly, the final lineup not only brings artists together from various Atlanta neighborhoods, but also reflects the vast range of sounds and styles currently being embraced by the DIY scene. Whether it’s Pop Weirdos’ (NE) clever pop deconstructions, Fantasy Guys’ (SE) playful tropical jams, Blue Tower’s (SW) grimy punk, or Yani Mo’s (NW) soulful hip-hop, the event is built to showcase an Atlanta music that celebrates our diversity and differences and challenges creative and cultural norms.
“The goal of the event is continue the mission of JORTSFEST of providing free, all ages, accessible entertainment that is also reflective of what Atlanta music has to offer while continuing the conversation we started this year at the annual festival,” Sotnikova declares. It’s a lot to live up to, but through words and through actions, JORTSFEST has proven its ready to lead.
JORTFEST at ELEVATE: Microcosm goes down tomorrow night, October 15, on the rooftop of the Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and the event is all ages.