Everyone’s Invited: Is Bang On Berlin’s Most Inclusive Festival?

Founder Eilis Frawley takes us behind the scenes of this year’s event

Words By Elise Shepley

Ahead of this weekend’s Bang On Festival, we spoke to its founder Eilis Frawley about the history of the project, how they centre diversity and inclusion at every turn, and which acts she’s looking forward to most in this year’s festival (spoiler: it’s all of them).

Established in 2016 in Berlin, Bang On is a gig series which seeks to platform diverse acts, focussing on FLTQI and BIPOC artists. It has grown from strength to strength over the past six years and has now expanded to become a two-day festival, with a line-up of twelve amazing artists and a whole range of genres. 

Beyond the line-up, the event itself is centred around being accessible, affordable, and welcoming for everyone. That means a physically accessible venue, an explicit zero-tolerance discrimination policy, and tickets at an affordable price. Read on to learn about how Eilis and the whole Bang On team have gone about creating this dreamy musical experience, and get yourself hyped for the most exciting Bang On event yet.

Hi Eilis! Can you tell us how Bang On got started, and what the main motivation was in the beginning?
Bang On started in 2016, when I moved to Berlin. Before moving, I spent a number of years living in Seoul, South Korea where bands put on shows for other bands, you made your own posters, you invited your friends and that was the extent of it. I didn’t know what a promoter was until I got to Berlin (whoops). It seemed so natural to start a DIY concert series when I arrived in Berlin, to invite bands, to build a community (particularly useful as a new Berliner), and there’s so much music to explore in this city. At the beginning, we held concerts every month for two years, through this we got to meet so many great musicians, many who I now call friends. We had a focus on FLINTA and local artists from the beginning because honestly the music world still needs to improve in diversity and equal opportunities for all. 

How was the experience of launching this project in Berlin? What kind of influence does the city have?
We were involved in a collective venue, so it seemed pretty straightforward, we didn’t have much to lose but a lot to offer. I absolutely LOVE live music, it’s so special. A room full of people sharing such an intimate experience, it’s bliss. The city definitely helped us keep a strong DIY and community feeling.

Who pays for culture? How can we make events affordable? If you don’t have much expendable income, are you priced out?

You expanded the focus of the project to encompass FLINTA+ and BIPOC communities, and are a barrier-free event. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
We’ve always tried to be as inclusive as possible with a strong focus on FLINTA artists. However this year we’ve upped our game with more direct efforts both on and off stage. 

We tried more actively to include BIPOC artists in our booking, because in short: it’s important. We want to be open and welcoming to everyone, and there is no better place to start than with a diverse line-up. 

In 2022, in a city of 4 million people, everyone should feel represented, welcome and safe at Bang On events. 

This year we’ve worked more closely with Initiative Barrierefrei Feiern, attended workshops, and hope that this is the beginning of a much more inclusive festival. 

Something else I’ve been thinking about more and more is, who pays for culture? How can we make events affordable? If you don’t have much expendable income, are you priced out? Everything’s getting more expensive, but no one’s getting paid more. Being affordable is crucial to being inclusive. We are so thankful to Musicboard for supporting our project and allowing this to be a reality. 

How did you manage to make it through the pandemic? Did it bring about any lasting changes for Bang On?
During the pandemic, we turned to much more intimate concerts. We held a Sunday concert series in both 2020 and 2021 focused on local artists. It was magical. It was outside in a garden, with a small stage and a capacity of 50 people. I think this series helped Bang On a lot with being more known around the city. However, as life goes, my own life got much busier, so out of necessity in 2021 our team grew to be a team of five (photography, graphic designer, social media, and two event curators). In 2022, we are now a core team of nine and four weekend helpers, it’s the best!

2022 Line-up Highlight: Baby Smith
2022 Line-up Highlight: Amigdala

This year the Bang On festival has expanded into a two-day affair. How were the acts selected, what was the process?
I do the booking with my colleague Kristina, this year we worked mostly remotely as I was touring a lot at the beginning of the year. We had the (great) challenge of needing to do the booking for one ‘band’ stage and a more ‘electronic’ stage. We always decide together but luckily, Kristina has great taste. 

We started with our dream line-up and went from there, Kristina brought in some great acts that I was unaware of (Odd Beholder, Amigdala, Mellie) and now I think we have a really interesting and fun line-up! Can’t wait for a dance.  

Are there any acts that you’re personally busting to see at the Festival?
I’m really excited to see TheOtherWithIn, it’s their first concert and I love first concerts! It’s so special to see what someone has made at home or at the studio and see it be transferred to the stage. Also very excited for Clear History and Liiek, a guaranteed good time. Zoom Zoom Rentals too 😉 The evil twin of one of my all time favorite artists, you’ll have to wait a few more days to find out who. AHHH who am I kidding, I’m in love with the full line-up.

Apart from the larger number of acts playing at the festival, is there anything else that makes this event different from previous Bang On events?
Previously we’ve only had single stage events, so that’s new, along with the view of the Spree at every concert (not bad). We’ll have two food options, and a bigger Bang On team to make sure everything runs smoothly. Oh and our first proper after party run by sonntagsinstitut!

2022 Line-up Highlight: Theyy
2022 Line-up Highlight: Drowning Dog and Malatesta

Fast forward to the end of the festival, what are you hoping some of the outcomes are? What does success look like to you?
That everyone who attends feels welcome, enjoys themselves, and maybe tells one friend about it who would then attend next year. It’s important that our artists are happy and well cared for, and that we keep this dialogue of diversity in the music scene going (at all levels). 

We’re not striving for commercial success, my idea of ‘success’ would be that we can keep doing what we do, inviting interesting acts and that we are able to reach an audience who might be interested in Bang On regardless of their background or lifestyle. 

And finally, you seem to have a lot of other stuff going on right now! What other bands or projects are you involved in and where can people find out about them?
Ha, you’re not wrong. I spent the last year touring with Anika, and also working with Laura Lee and the Jettes, now I’m taking some time to focus on my own band Kara Delik and my solo project Eilis Frawley. I also recently joined the collective at the music venue Ausland, so if I’m not on stage you can probably find me near one.

Grab your tickets for the festival this weekend! LOLA members get a special rate of €15, otherwise they’re €17 for those eligible for discounts, and €25 regular admission. And if you just can’t wait til September 30th, check out our Spotify playlist below for some highlights from the 2022 line-up.