Seven years ago Hunter Graham and Jordan Fust, formerly of RVA band Freaky J and the Bears, decided to throw a house party to celebrate their birthdays together in June of 2011.
Over the years that house party evolved into Everybody’s Birthday, a multi-day music and arts festival at rotating locations around Virginia celebrating everyone in attendance and beyond.
“Sharing one birthday allows us to give ownership of the festival to everyone who attends,” the event description reads. “It is customary to be greeted with a ‘happy birthday!’ and a hug.”
Everybody’s Birthday has music and camping like many other festivals, but there is something special about the energy at the yearly event that really brings out the kid in everyone. Folks at Everybody’s Birthday are equally stoked for reunion sets from favorite bands and playing tug of war or capture the flag.
Last year the event was held outside of Richmond for the first time on a farm in Greenville, Va. Along with the new location, over 15 bands played including Antiphons, Fat Spirit and Dollys, as well as reunion sets from Fight Cloud and Freaky J and the Bears.
To learn more about how it all comes together, we spoke with co-organizer Jordan Fust about the history of Everybody’s Birthday and what is in store for this year’s festival in Amherst, Va.
What is Everybody’s Birthday? How did the idea first come into being?
Everybody’s Birthday is everybody’s birthday! It’s a day to celebrate all of those birthdays that happen on a Tuesday and went overlooked. It’s an attempt to give everyone that feeling you get when it is your birthday and you want something really big to happen, like when you watched MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen and you wanted that to be your life and then you realized you might could make that happen. Hunter Graham and Jordan Fust are the core organizers, and the idea first came about because our birthdays are ten days apart (June 9th and June 19th respectively).
Were there any other events around Richmond that inspired Everybody’s Birthday?
When we first started, we were beginning to dive into the DIY show/art scene in Richmond, so that ethos played a big part in our development. Festivals around Virginia like MacRock, Stay Sweet Fest, Danksgiving, FarmFest, Sundown, Progress Fest and A Good Day in RVA have also been inspirational.
What were the early years of EB like? What bands played? Where did you host the event?
The early years of Everybody’s Birthday took on the form of a traditional house party. The first two years we held the party at Jeremy Biby’s house. We built a bike jump next to a sick inflatable palm tree the first year and played a game called pizza box the next. After that we moved to the B+B and dressed in stage costumes provided by Maya Walters. We then ran a house show venue called the Carpet Palace, where we hosted the party for two years. The first year we had a slip‘n slide and raffled off birthday presents; this was also the first year we had music, hosting New Turks, Superlative and Brian Dove. The following year we held the Everybody’s Beautiful Everybody’s Birthday Beauty Pageant. Music was provided by 8t88, From Borealis, Manatree and Fight Cloud.
Everybody’s Birthday now has bands and camping like a traditional festival, but it also has family dinners, capture the flag and other group activities harkening back to the fashion show, slip’n slide and other events you’ve mentioned. How do you go about booking/planning? Has that process changed as the event has grown? And what is important to you about offering more than just camping and music?
We do not necessarily have a set process, but we have an understanding of what we want to achieve each year with the event, building upon lessons learned from past events. We rely a hell of a lot on our friends (thanks y’all). The past two years we’ve been allowed access to two uniquely beautiful properties in Virginia. We aim to create an event that explores the performative nature of gathering. Attendees are told it is their Birthday, giving them an entrance to being actors within a performance space. We’re tapping into a long history of human festivity and attempting to bring that to our communities.
When was the first EB celebrated outside of Richmond? What influenced you to change the location?
Last year was the first year we held the event outside of Richmond. We weren’t living in the city anymore. Our friend Drew Cook was living on a sweet farm in Greenville and offered us the opportunity to grow the party outside of the city and make it accessible to a larger audience.
In your seventh year, what has changed the most about EB over time? What was present in the early years that you still hope to preserve each year?
The party has grown into a festival, but the sentiment has remained the same. We are trying to build a day of community in which each individual is given the opportunity to take center stage.
How does the location in Amherst for this year’s event compare to years past? What made you decide to host it there?
The property this year is on a farm with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, similar to last year in Greenville. These events were big departures from what we organized in Richmond. We originally moved because it gave us the space to host more guests and hold events like capture the flag and this years Craft Fair. Traveling helps pull people out of their comfort zones and makes the journey a bit of a pilgrimage.
What are you looking forward to most about EB VII?
We’re excited to meet new people who come out and see old friends. Everybody’s Birthday is starting to become a tradition so it’s exciting to build on those things from the past that have made the event unique. We’re looking forward to the seeing our hard work pay off and learning for next year. Also this year with our location in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the proposed pipeline route, we’ve decided to hold the event as a fundraiser for Friends of Nelson. FoN is an organization working with partners to resist Dominion Energy’s proposal to scar our natural environment against the will of the people.
To find out more about Everybody’s Birthday VII, visit the event page here.