"Contact is about celebrating the cultural renaissance the city is experiencing right now. We want to bring together as many dope musicians, artists and activists as we possibly can. Like a massive spirit bomb of Orlando underground energy," says Phillip Santos, in response to Orlando Weekly's question about his motivations for creating the Contact Music Festival. Coming from most anyone else, a statement like this might come off as idealistic overreach, but Santos has put in his time in the DIY trenches.
Santos, as founder of the eclectic and successful Body//Talk club nights, has been putting on monthly events for several years running that combine adventurous local musicians with DJs and live art installations, all with fiercely independent and community-centric ethics. "When I was 13 I started going to shows. ... The way I found community was through music," says Santos about Body//Talk's genesis. "So I wanted to make sure when I started doing these events that there was no one off being awkward and lonely in the corner."
Contact is the next step in Body//Talk's evolution, their biggest and most ambitious event yet. The daylong (and nightlong) festival combines an incredible array of local music, local art, local goods and, intriguingly, local activism. "Logistically, we've been doing a monthly series of events that have been adding more and more complexity every month so it's been a natural progression," says Santos, when asked about the mechanics of an undertaking of this scale. "It's a learning curve as far as vendors and workshops and sponsorships. ... It's kind of like opening a venue for six hours and then tearing it down."
Santos states Contact's aim simply as "bringing the underground together," but there's more to it than that. It's almost a love letter to the creativity simmering in certain pockets of the local scene across disciplines and genres. Spread across two stages at the Henao Contemporary Center, Eugene Snowden and Millionyoung headline a multigenerational bill that takes in groups as diverse as downcast rockers RV to raging punk garage outfit Wet Nurse to indie dance ensemble Thrift House. Elsewhere, art installations by the likes of Halsi and John Alamo sit alongside a day market, food trucks, and representation from socially conscious groups from Planned Parenthood to Equality Florida, to say nothing of a series of workshops running throughout the day presented by local activist organizations and sundry creatives.
"The lineup was intentionally planned to hit as many scenes as possible," says Santos about the day's music. "We started, first and foremost, evaluating acts by the quality of their music and their live show, and then we tried to represent the different factions of Orlando music. I'm excited to see hip-hop kids wandering into a techno room, or some older fans stumbling across a nonviolent mosh pit."
Contact, much like last year's grass-roots Florida Is Loud Fest, aims to present the musical breadth of a festival, only on a more human scale. "I went to a festival recently ... the music and lighting can be incredible but if that human element isn't there then I'm not necessarily going to feel comfortable," posits Santos. "So we're not only going to pack Contact with amazing music and amazing production but also activities and lots of opportunities to engage directly with one another, instead of just engaging with some artistic experience at a distance."