Danger Collective with &? Productions' Michael Morin (2nd from the left), photos courtesy of Danger Collective
Downtown L.A. DIY venue the Smell is known as "The House That No Age Built." Ever since the noise-punk duo baptized the Smell in the mid-2000s, its brick walls have housed an army of teenage graphic designers, musicians, show bookers, and quasi-entrepreneurs looking to start their own mini SST Records. 17-year-old Smell regulars Dylan Thinnes, Franky Newby, Austin Feinstein, and 19-year-old Reed Kanter formed Danger Collective Records in 2014 using the Smell as their DIY blueprint. Other than Kanter (who now lives in New York), each of Danger Collective's founders attend local L.A. high schools.
UPDATE: Due to "severe complications with the venue," the festival has been moved to Los Globos in Silverlake, Los Angeles.
After spending a year growing their fledgling label, Danger Collective's latest venture includes a festival that feels like FYF Fest before it got big. The first-ever Runaway festival will take place on July 11 on three difference stages at Jewel's Catch One, a venue located five miles away from the Smell, and about three times the size. Headliners include No Age, prolific rapper Kool A.D. (formerly of Das Racist), punk twins the Garden, and a wild assortment of misfits including weirdo rapper Antwon. The all-ages festival highlights ultra-creative side projects by everyone from No Age's Randy Randall to Spencer Moody of Murder City Devils. The rest is a combination of local punk bands like No Parents, reunions of former Smell bands like Heller Keller, and bands from Danger Collective's diverse roster of talent – including Slow Hollows and Franky Flowers – each of which includes one of Danger Collective's teenage founders.
Runaway is the mutated byproduct of Insidelands festival from last year, which according to L.A. Weekly, felt like "a high school party." With no sponsors or parents involved, the only funding comes from the record label's tiny cash stash; a group text acts as their own private chat room. The only grown-up involved is 34-year-old former FIDLAR tour manager Michael Morin (&? Productions). He goes by "FuckYouMike."
"Fuck adults. They don't support the bands or buy the records," he says. "They're not the ones losing their shit over a band. All-ages is everything." A couple of the bands playing Runaway aren't even old enough to drink. As a mentor to the teenage collective, Morin admits giving teenagers the control involves some growing pains. "They never stop. They don't want to stop, they want to keep going and going…they make me feel so fucking old!"
Morin's DIY ethos is rooted in Orange County's infamous Koos Café scene – which helped nurture OC garage-punk label Burger Records. "When I was their age, I didn't give a fuck. These kids [Danger Collective] wanted to book Brian Wilson!" Morin also realizes the absurdity of trying to book the Beach Boys' bandleader, but also credits the teenagers for their indefatigable drive. "Their ambition and work ethic is unbelievable." For Morin, working with Danger Collective is his way of giving back to the DIY community. For Dylan Thinnes of the band Slow Hollows, referred to as the "mad scientist" by Morin, the reasoning is less altruistic. "I'm really excited because not only is everyone gonna have a good time, but I'm also gonna be able to see a bunch of my favorite bands for free!"
Danger Collective's crew of madcap visionaries are already making big plans for next year. "I just have to remind them to focus," says Morin, whose role is limited to helping Runaway stay organized. Beyond that, he's just trying to support a festival that showcases DIY culture, the formula of FYF's early success."I was there when FYF started. I was helping Sean Carlson [FYF's founder]. Since then I've been waiting for FYF to book bands like Jawbreaker and Drive Like Jehu, but guess what… Coachella did it first!" Runaway's lineup also includes long-running DIY punk band Toys That Kill – a band FYF would have booked if it wasn't charging $175 for tickets and relying on Morrissey and Frank Ocean to sell tickets. By contrast, Runaway is a bargain: $35 dollars to see nearly 40 bands that are all there because a couple teenagers from Cleveland Humanities Magnet and Hamilton High thought it would be cool.
"I don't know how they do it," says Morin. "We have to meet on the weekend because they're all in high school. Our first official meeting was at Pinkberry." Morin first met Danger Collective when they approached him to book a show at the Church on York in 2014. At the time, Morin was production manager of the now defunct Highland Park DIY venue. "One of their moms came out to the show to make sure we weren't ripping them off," says Morin. "It turned out to be a sellout." The show was headlined by teenage garage rockers Cherry Glazerr, another byproduct of the Smell's teenage takeover of L.A.
"A few months ago were driving around in Franky's mom's van looking for a venue," says Morin. "And now we have a full-blown festival, which just goes to show you don't need anyone but yourself. Kids can do whatever they want, if they just do it. That's what DIY is all about."