Berserktown Fest Forges Ahead at Its New Home in Orange County

Dead Moon at the first Berserktown
Dead Moon at the first Berserktown
Courtesy of Graeme Flegenheimer

As one of the brains behind local L.A. DIY venue The Church on York, Graeme Flegenheimer knows a thing or two about putting on shows. After last year's inaugural Berserktown Festival, Flegenheimer had high hopes for expanding his brand. Taking place at Los Globos in Silver Lake, Flegenheimer had grander plans for Berserktown's second edition. However, logistical and financial differences with his venue of choice, The Regent Theater, caused the Highland Park-dweller to find a new host for the event.

After tossing around ideas, Flegenheimer moved the festival from L.A. to The Observatory, a space that he says allow him build his brand and allow the event to grow properly.

"I heard about Jeff from Lee and Sean from Burger Records and told him about my situation and asked him if he'd be down to do this," he says. "He was super accommodating. Everyone in L.A. called me an idiot for moving it there, but I'm really excited. We're trying to bring a lot of fun to the space."

Inspired by the Bonnaroo community, Flegenheimer wants the people to attend his event to have a sense of belonging and loyalty to one another. This year's edition will have a slew of food trucks (including Kogi), clothing, jewelry, book and record vendors, on top of a dance town in the back of the Observatory. But for the organizer, the strength of this year's lineup is a sign that the event is on the rise. A former publicist, Flegenheimer used his connections to enlist bands he thought would accurately convey the direction of his brand.

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Many of the bands who are performing don't tour often and Berserktown Fest provides them a home and a bill that's far enough from the mainstream to foster an environment of discovery. He says he'd rather book non-traditional musicians, which this year led to a bigger lineup than originally anticipated.

"I got carried away booking it," he explains. "It kind of just snowballed because there were certain bands that I wanted that I didn't get then different doors opened. It was just supposed to be No Hope For the Kids and two or three U.S. bands. They're reuniting for this and then Total Control was supposed to come and John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees) is a huge fan and toured with them, so he wanted to play."

The big get for Flegenheimer was Royal Trux. The alternative rock outfit had a 14-year run that ended in 2001, but after a solo show for Neil Hagerty at another DIY location got broken up by the cops, he mentioned in passing the idea of a reunion, which on the surface was a long shot since his noise rock band was already on the bill. Initially Hagerty declined, but after obtaining his phone number and speaking with Jennifer Herrema, Flegenheimer sealed the deal.

"I feel that's how shit like that always happens," Flegenheimer explains. "You really can't try to think about it too much. I figured what's the worst he's going to say since he's already going to be there, and if he says no, then it's cool."

For Flegenheimer, Berserktown Fest is a labor of love. He has plans for a third edition, but won't reveal too much besides his desire to book Swans. He's aware that critics will say that the event is pricey and that he's paying bands generous fees to play, but he says he's not doing it to break even, though that wouldn't hurt his coffers. Flegenheimer says it's more important to him to book bands who refelct his tastes than those who are currently on the festival circuit.

"It's more about creating a legacy," he says. "Royal Trux and Dead Moon are pretty much the only older, reunion-type band, and everyone else is new. It's about fostering a community of the underground and making sure it has a home."

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