By Audrey Wilson
A few days ago I had the opportunity to sit down with two close friends of mine, Dylan Harley and Jake Woodard. Dylan and Jake have been hard at work with their brand “Welcome To The Family putting on shows and a festival in the Charlotte, NC area, with some shows branching out to Greenville, SC in the near future. Dylan, Jake, and I talked about how WTTF came to be what it is now and how the Charlotte, NC music scene is growing and improving with every show they put on.
A: Hey guys! Super excited to do this with y’all. Wish we could do it in person but this will have to do with the distance between us. To start things off, go over with me how you guys started Welcome to the Family and how you guys decided y’all wanted to work on stuff together?
D: So we became friends on Reddit over Warped Tour back in like 2015 or 2016 and became glorified acquaintances for like three years. Then, I think at one point Jake had posted on Facebook about starting a podcast. We ended up getting together on that and a few months later, we decided that we should do a local music festival because the only thing in Charlotte at the time was Queen City Music Fest. There were only a couple of the bands that we were interviewing that were involved in stuff like that. At that point, we had a third partner who parted ways with the group and after he left, we were basically left to our own resources to figure it out because we had no idea what we were doing.
J: It was very much trial and error in 2019 when we started this festival. Working with the fallout of the third person leaving and trying to figure out “How do we run a show, much less a festival?” was tough. I put together a couple of shows prior in that year and that was the first time I’ve ever done that. Outside of that, there was virtually zero booking experience. We were just friends with some of the bands that agreed to play this festival. We had a venue change and it originally got pushed back. It was supposed to be in the summer and we pushed it back to the fall just because of logistics and The Milestone was gracious enough to take it. Buck took a very big risk taking a three day festival but even if it was a one day show, it would’ve been a risk.
D: I wanna say, Jake, after the fallout of the original lineup we had what, two months to organize and promote?
J: Yes, if I’m not mistaken. We were supposed to have the festival in August and got pushed back to November. We put out the revised lineup in August. Then with the success we had in the first one in 2019, Dylan and I kind of realized it was a no brainer to do it again, but this time we would have twelve months of planning rather than two so we felt confident enough to have it become a yearly thing.
A: So what was the turnout for the festival that you did in two months compared to the one where you had a year?
D: It was surprisingly good. I’d say the average was in the eighties. Our first day was super light, we’re talking maybe fifty something people. The second day was super stacked and there was like over a hundred people there because it was Never I and Reason Define playing back to back. For us to have basically no time and no experience to figure this out, we were ecstatic with it.
A: That’s wild for sure.
D: It was very shocking. At that point, Milestone had not been renovated at all, so there was no outside space at all, load in was horrible, and we had barely sufficient bathrooms so we were just hoping and praying anyone would show up and it was awesome.
A: Are there people that y’all know in the music scene that has helped y’all with this whole thing and booking shows/running a fest?
D: For me the biggest resource I’ve used has been Savannah Ruff from Reason Define. She has just been a complete open resource for when we need to ask dumb questions. When we were starting, she was available at any time.
J: We have what I like to think of as the auxiliary team just because we call on several people for advice and questions we need answers to such as “What do you think this would benefit? What do you think about this?”. Buck Boswell from the Milestone, I’ve developed a very good friendship with him over the past six months. Like Dylan said, Sav has been incredible as far as when we have questions about gear and how a proper load in is supposed to work and anything about sound checks, and music stuff in general.
A: As far as bands go, are there any that are like those influences on y’all too?
D: Definitely Den of Wolves just cause they’ve been there since we started this podcast and they were the first interview we ever did. They have been on every single Welcome to the Family and Khalil England has been helping with photography the last couple years. Obviously Jake has such a deep relationship with them and we bounce ideas off of them. Also, Discoveries has been involved basically every year and Chris Winterholler has been super supportive. Wiltwither too, they have been here since day one.
J: I’d like to throw Seneca Burns in there as well. Even prior to Welcome to the Family, Atticus Lane and Christian Whittington have been really big in not just adding to Welcome to the Family, but the Charlotte scene in general.
A: What changes have you seen in the Charlotte music scene?
D: When we started, I feel like everyone was very supportive but was definitely in the mindset that this scene has already died. There were not a lot of venues but now I would say that that scene has definitely grown and thrived a lot, especially now that Jake has put so much effort into these non-festival shows with the Milestone and Bart’s and a couple other future venues.
A: Did you always have the intentions of booking other shows here and there too in addition to the fest?
J: We’ve talked about it from time to time. It really boils down to Dylan and I both being busy. We both work nine to fives. He lives in Greenville and I am an hour from Charlotte so we’re pretty far apart. We focus a lot on the festival and I think the decision to go headfirst into booking other shows actually came from Chris Winterholler of Discoveries because he reached out to me and wanted me to book the Charlotte stop of the Masochist tour. I did that and moved forward from there. John White from Severed by Dawn reached out to me shortly after that when I had the first show booked and I said “it’s not gonna make sense just to do two, so might as well try and do more”.
D: Yeah, I am hoping to catch up to Jake here soon. I’ll be announcing my first Greenville show next week and then I am working on two more after that.
A: What is your biggest advice to aspiring promoters?
D: Learn to accept rejection and learn to understand that absolutely nothing will go the way you plan ever and that’s okay. You cannot be a perfectionist in the booking and promoting business because it’s impossible. We’re all people with day jobs trying to help local music grow and local music is a very chaotic market to deal with. You’re dealing with a lot of different people who do different things in different places and they all do it differently. Just try and get by as best you can and understand that you’re probably gonna get ignored 90% of the time that you reach out to people and that’s fine.
J: Yeah, Dylan hit the nail on the head with that one.
D: Always shoot your shot and reach out.
J: The answer will always be no until you ask.
D: I took a shot in the dark last year to get a Monster Energy sponsorship for Welcome to the Family. I said “there is no way in hell these people are gonna respond to me” and we got it. They came and gave us like, 200 cans of Monster for free to give out to people.
A: Wow, super cool.
J: We’re reaching out to more places and we’re reaching out to other brands trying to see who wants to be a part of something that we’re trying to make. It’s a niche market and it’s always going to be a niche market because local music has a cap as far as people who are gonna be interested in it. The thing is, we don’t know what that cap is until we continue to grow it.
A: Very good, Jake has a way with words haha. Do you guys have a favorite Welcome to the Family show that y’all have done?
J: The Masochist show that we had last month was great. A sold out Milestone crowd on five local bands. It’s wild to even know that there’s 170 people out there that want to come and see these bands, you know? You think “oh, it’s a local band, you can see them the next time, you know, blah blah blah” but just the passion that people seem to have, kind of like what Dylan was talking about earlier about how the scene seems to be rejuvenating compared to when we entered it in 2018-2019 and how these bands are hungrier than ever before so people are wanting to support it. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at Welcome to the Family was last year when Brave New World played on Saturday. I’m gonna shout out Cameron Toups, I’m gonna shout out Chris Eubanks, and I’m gonna shout out the rest of the band. Brave New World came up from Pensacola, Florida and they’ve never played a show in Charlotte before. I don’t think they’ve ever played a show in North Carolina before. Brave New World is very post hardcore, very “not heavy” like what the local market is here in Charlotte and really here in the Carolinas in general. Seeing the reception that everybody had was a heel turn as far as, we just had Regions play who’s beatdown/down-tempo, whatever you wanna call them. Discoveries played, they’re real heavy. Then Brave New World comes in, they start singing and people are giving them the same amount of passion as every one of the other bands. They felt very welcomed and they want to come back. It was really cool to see the amount of support that everybody gives everybody.
D: Seeing Tyler Syphertt’s face when Brave New World started and just how happy he was made my day so much better. It was amazing.
J: I had chest pains after that set from how hard I screamed.
D: I would say my favorite one because I have not been to any of Jake’s Charlotte shows yet, would be the first Welcome to the Family – when I think I had gone to check what our door numbers right before or in the middle of maybe Reason Define or Never I, and then walking back seeing a full room with one of the vocalists or someone from a band crowd surfing. That image is just engrained in my memory forever because it was something that we did not expect to succeed in any way, shape or form.
A: What shows are you two going to coming up that you are excited about?
D: Personally, The Acacia Strain and that MyChildren MyBride/No Cure/Your Spirit Dies tour coming through The Radio Room in Greenville.
A: Do y’all hope to start doing more in Greenville?
D: That is the plan. I’ve got one booked. I had another mostly booked and then it basically unbooked itself in like a matter of 24 hours, unfortunately. Then I’m working on two more now if the venues start responding. I’m hoping to work with Gavin James from Cleansing of the Temple a lot. He seems to be pretty interested in investing some time into the Greenville scene.
J: Tourneforte from Myrtle Beach is coming up to Charlotte. They’re playing Bart’s and I’m really stoked to see them again. I think Kerosene Heights from Asheville is playing too and that’s gonna be a real fun show to go to just because it’s so different than what we typically have here. When you see the shows in Charlotte get posted, you know, it’s gonna be five deathcore/downtempo/beatdown bands playing at Skylark. I love heavy music, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s exhausting. It’s nice to go to a show where it’s gonna be four bands playing some upbeat but chill music and just vibe and have a beer and stuff like that.
A: Yeah I can agree, it really can be exhausting. I get into little phases where its heavy show after heavy show and then I need to decompress with something else.
J: In April, we have the Attend Your Own Funeral tour and that is gonna be great because Dead Senate, Circle Back from Charleston, and Shanked are local support and the touring bands Kaizo and Eyas/Luna are coming from Seattle.
A: Dead Senate is so good, I had so much fun seeing them last weekend.
D: I am planning on going to that 4/15 show because Charlotte needs hardcore and they don’t have it.
J: That’s also gonna be one of the last all ages shows. Oh, I’ll talk about that real quick. That’s one of the last all ages shows that’s probably gonna be in Charlotte for a long time because The Spoke Easy is moving to 21+. Because this was already locked in before they made that change, they’re keeping it all ages. I feel like that’s gonna be extremely detrimental to Charlotte because all of our venues are either 18+ or 21+ and a lot of what the scene is starting to grow is a lot of people in the 16-20 range.
D: The show will hopefully show them that it is worth it to do all ages.
J: I am gonna hope so.
A: Sweet, sounds like you guys are doing big things and staying busy with everything. I am hoping to get to more Welcome to the Family shows and start shooting more for you guys. I am happy to have y’all as close friends of mine and be able to work together in all aspects.