Argenis Garcia-Sevilla started the All My Friends festival as a personal project in Tijuana, Mexico in 2011. Now, the project that took years to grow is being overshadowed. Garcia owns the rights to the name in Mexico. Respectively, Gary Richards — famous for Hard Events — owns the All My Friends name in the U.S. According to Garcia’s Facebook post, its already caused him issues: its caused Garcia’s sponsors to pull out.
Although Garcia was promoting shows since 2002, All My Friends Festival started in 2011 when Garcia had the idea to throw a house party to raise money for his sister who was traveling to Barcelona, Spain to study to become a chef. “I was driving back from Coachella and I was dead broke,” says Garcia. As he was driving through the desert, the idea to throw a show to raise money came to mind.
Garcia started the company from nothing along with Ruben Ascencio, Marty Preciado and Pablo Dodero, slowly building a festival brand in Tijuana. For Garcia, it was never about money. It was about creating exposure for the local music scene in TJ. The first year he threw the festival, Garcia asked all his friends from the local Tijuana scene to perform for free. He had cultivated a network through his internet radio show and his involvement in the T.J music scene. Because bands from Tijuana have easy access to music from San Diego and L.A, Garcia wanted to showcase that unique cultural exchange through his festival.
AMF almost didn’t happen its second year. Garcia had to actually scrounge together his birthday money to pay for a venue in downtown TJ. “I got money for my birthday in July and paid for the venue,” says Garcia. He booked a venue in the heart of downtown Tijuana called the Millionaire House — which was a house with a patio, a pool, a tennis court. It was already known for being used to throw huge parties. “That’s when we started getting a lot press from Vice and Rolling Stone.”
It wasn’t a huge monetary success that year. However, they began to grow a buzz. A lot of people began to ask if the festival would continue on. NYC-based promoter Todd Patrick even contacted them to work together. This is when they decided they wanted to move their festival to the beach. This proved to be difficult because, according to Garcia, a lot of the beach spots weren’t legit and were somewhat shady. So they decided to move the festival to Casa De la Cultura, a historical venue in downtown Tijuana instead.
Around 2012 they started a working relationship with Viva Pomona. This is when they started booking bands from L.A. They shifted focus to bigger U.S acts like Helado Negro — who played this past Coachella– as well as Crystal Antlers, and Chelsea Wolfe to headline while still leaving the stage open for up and coming local Mexican bands. However that year wasn’t without its complications. A bunch of sponsors pulled out, and since they had a bank loan out from a previous festival, they weren’t able to take out another loan. At the zero hour, the Monterrey–based collective Norte Sonoro stepped in and saved them.
Around 2013 Marty Preciado decided to leave the festival to move to Mexico City. “We didn’t have the manpower, so it became difficult,” says Garcia. “It didn’t grow that year, so we began to think this was it for AMF.”Although under staffed, they managed to continue running the festival.
In 2014 Garcia met an owner of a Rosarito beach property at a convention in Tijuana. Because of the fortuitous meet, they created a partnership and moved was able to move the festival to Rosarito. They wanted AMF to be more about Baja than TJ. The festival completely turned around for them that year, too. “It was the first year we were in the green financially,” says Garcia. He was running the festival full-time. However, the stress culminated into an unavoidable eruption.
“It basically got in my head, with all the stress and euphoria, I had a nervous breakdown,” he says. “It was basically like being on all the drugs at the same time.” He described it has the most terrifying experience of his life. He also found out he was going to become a father. “This changed my whole perspective on things,” says Sevilla. He started thinking about the All My Friends festival in the long-term. Especially now that he had to provide for his daughter who was born with a disability.
The festival, the mental breakdown, and his expected child, were all tearing him in different directions. The festival wasn’t a thing that could pay his bills. So he left to work in a more stable job and took a more minor role at AMF. His partner took over the festival in 2015 to keep it going. Even though they had solid headliners like Princess Nokia and King Tuff, All My Friends didn’t do well that year. In fact, it was one of the worst years financially. However, Garcia still met with his partner and they immediately pushed on for next year’s festival.
Everything was on track for AMF for 2016. They had sponsorship to pay for the festival and everything was coming together great. But right in the middle of preparing for the festival, the beer company who sponsored them decided to pull out, leaving the festival in dire financial stress. Unable to find any financial support, they cancelled the the event that year. Although they went on a hiatus, they continued to promote shows under the AMF name in L.A. They worked with Goldenvoice and Viva Pomona creating tours with co-headlining bands from Mexico and the U.S. And they would help each other cross-promote them in the U.S and Mexico. One of the bands they helped promote was the Mexico based Los Blenders, who would go on to perform at Coachella in 2017.
When he saw the Blenders play Coachella, Garcia realized the full potential of what he created with his friends: a festival and company that can help bands achieve access to one of the biggest festivals and stages in the world.
Garcia was working this year on a new AMF festival with Paty Torres, Violeta Jiménez and David Bravo. When Gary Richards announced he was creating his own festival this year with the same name, it caused sponsors to pull out of Garcia’s own festival. Stunned, Garcia reached out to Richards to see if they could come to a resolution. He explained to them that he also had a festival by the same name and that they didn’t have the resources to fight him on it. According to Garcia, Richards knew about his festival. “He said he knew, but it was in Mexico,” says Garcia. However, the Richards’ didn’t see a problem with the similarities.
Gary Richards office corroborated this story: “Prior to launching our festival, LiveStyle/AMFAMFAMF searched for any conflicting trademarks registered in the U.S., and, as no other mark was found, we moved forward with the name All My Friends Music Festival. While we are now aware of the Mexican festival, we believe that as the two festivals serve completely different consumers in their respective countries, we should be able to coexist without confusion and, perhaps, help each other with our individual brands.”
However, Garcia doesn’t feel the same way. Instead he feels like his company is being overshadowed. “It really sucks having something taken away from you” says Garcia. “It’s not right.”
Garcia responded with this statement: “I asked Mr. Richards, through Instagram, asking him to stop pursuing the registration of the brand we’ve been creating for more than 7 years, after that we had a phone call and he told me that because the festival was a in different country, he thought it didn’t matter.”
Garcia added: “But the fact is Tijuana is closer to L.A. than Las Vegas, and I don’t expect Mr. Richards or Livestyle being experts in border dynamics, but with his experience running Hard, he should know that a festival not only depends on the relationship with their consumers, but with talent, sponsorships, media, investors, and by the way “different consumers” is just an opinion not a fact, and for us being so far from Mexico City those relationships were found in the US, were we promoted, co-promoted, booked talent, sold tickets, and were covered by the media in the US, as the All My Friends Music Festival, way before they did.
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.