Tri Town Get Down and Battle Vest Fest

We’ve done a lot of coverage of bands involved in Uptown Get Down last year and Tri Town Get Down this year. We’ve also done a lot of local music coverage over the lifetime of the paper, much of which is centralized at Ray’s Golden Lion and the Emerald of Siam, two of the most important music stages in the Tri-Cities.

On June 7–9, 2024, Richland, Washington held two music festivals: Battle Vest Fest (BVF) at Ray’s Golden Lion, and Tri Town Get Down (TTGD) at various stages in the city.

Our intention with this coverage is to support and uplift local and touring bands, along with music venues and other small businesses in the area that enrich the music scene.

What is Battle Vest Fest?

Battle Vest Fest (BVF) is an ad hoc festival that was put on by Ray’s Golden Lion, largely organized by Stephanie Hazard, Callie Denning, and Justin Denning, who worked with Bobby Mansfield, Ray’s booker, to feature over thirty metal, punk, and rock bands. It was an all ages event, and very affordable at $15 per day (or $40 for all three days).

Local artists like The Filthy, The Ashamed, Pazzi Pazzi, Robbers Roost, and House of B were joined by other musicians from around the Pacific Northwest like The Scoffs, Vicious Cycle, Rotting In Place, The Disorderlies, and Hayes Noble. “They put on a hell of a show,” said Callie Denning. “It was so good.” 

One of the owners of Ray’s Golden Lion, Talon Yager, said, “I like doing these things. Anything for the community. This is the music scene that raised me.”

Why two festivals?

You might be wondering why there was a music festival at Ray’s the same weekend that Tri Town Get Down (TTGD) was happening. To answer that, we need to go back in time and provide some much needed context.

Uptown Get Down

TTGD was actually the second iteration of the music festival. Last year, Caleb Brown and the other organizers called it Uptown Get Down, and it was fairly successful. One of the venues was the Emerald of Siam, owned by Dara Quinn with Justin Chapman as stage manager. 

“Last year, he asked me to be the stage manager for the Emerald stage,” said Stephanie Hazard. “Me and Justin and Dara all worked together in perfect harmony. We had the place packed almost all night, and it was a fun event.” 

There were over 40 performers on three stages at last year’s festival, all within the Uptown Shopping Center. “We participated last year, and just being at The Uptown, it was wonderful. We loved it,” said Sarah Skagerberg, one of the attendees.

So when ‘early bird’ tickets for TTGD went on sale in October, Skagerberg said she and her husband immediately decided: “We're gonna get those! We already know we're gonna like it.” They also decided to spend an extra $20 each for the after-party.

Tri Town Get Down

For this year’s Get Down, organizer Caleb Brown had a lot of big ideas. “The goal was never to just stay in the Uptown, but always to expand to John Dam Plaza, the Parkway, and into Kennewick and Pasco, all while keeping the festival’s heart in Richland,” Brown told Tumbleweird after last year’s festival. 

Many of the other organizers were concerned about Brown’s plans for the future of the festival.

“I told him, ‘Maybe you should keep it at the Uptown for a few years, get a reputation, and then expand out,’” said Hazard. “And he didn't want to do that.” They were also concerned that spreading out the music stages too much would lead to accidents. “I warned him about it. I told him, ‘It sounds like a safety issue for me, because of all the drinking and driving and the partying people are going to do,’” said Hazard.

The cost of implementing all of Brown’s plans for TTGD was a consideration for others on the festival committee, as well. “When [Caleb] met with me, I said, “This isn't practical; you're expanding too much too soon. You're making promises that you can't deliver on,’” said Talon Yager, one of the owners of Ray’s Golden Lion. “None of it made sense to me.” 

Another element of TTGD that was “over-promised, under-delivered,” according to Karlee Van de Venter’s article in the Herald, was the ‘fusion’ idea. “The six fusions, or mini-festivals within Get Down meant to represent elements of Tri-Cities culture, came with big promises,” Van de Venter wrote. 

Brown even talked about possibly getting “a ferris wheel with his face on it so everyone could see,” Hazard told Tumbleweird. “Yeah… really narcissistic.

“He seemed delusional about a lot of it,” said Justin Denning. “It's a bummer. I've booked shows now for almost 14 years. The booker isn't that important. Like, you don't need to be the face of everything and be up front like the bands are.”

Meanwhile, multiple people involved in organizing TTGD voiced their concerns about the cost of the event and whether or not they could sell enough tickets to cover it.

Hazard said that on top of the worries about venue locations, costs, and other feasibility concerns, Brown also began booking acts on his own.

“The point of us having these meetings is since we were all on the team, we were supposed to vote on bands together… then Caleb just booked his own people without consulting us,” said Hazard. 

The post heard ‘round the Tri

Things only got worse after Brown made a Facebook post that seemed to mock musical artists with only a few followers. It read:

I always laugh when bands have 2 monthly listeners more than 2 members. Like even your whole band isn’t listening to you? Your moms havnt [sic] even listened?
Caleb Brown’s Facebook post about not booking bands unless they have enough listeners

Almost every one of the people who spoke to Tumbleweird about the festival mentioned that post, specifically. “My response was, ‘Yo, that's gatekeeping,’” said Hazard. “‘You might want to give that person a chance, because you might discover them. They might be fantastic. But you're basically cutting them off before they begin.’” 

Callie Denning echoed that sentiment, urging Brown to “lift these people up” instead of refusing them outright. Others seemed to agree as more comments came in, but Brown doubled down in his response:

This is the most Tri Cities comment section I’ve ever seen. Go to Seattle, LA, New York, or anywhere with a large music scene with 2 monthly listeners and show me how well you do. Artist [sic] with 100,000 streams are begging for a shot and you think I should give you $1000 when you can’t even sell 10 tickets?

It wasn’t just co-organizers and possible attendees who felt that the post was disrespectful; some of the bands were offended by it, too. “One band, Pazzi Pazzi, made a stink about him making fun of bands about how many views they had,” said Callie Denning. “They're the most popular punk band in the Tri-Cities, but they had no recorded music. They had no YouTube videos. They never had anything on Spotify.”

Then, Brown sent contracts out to all the musical acts.

Contract contention

The contracts specified that bands had to agree to a non-compete clause barring them from performing within 60 miles of the festival for up to 45 days. None of the performers would get a pass to attend TTGD in its entirety, and would only be let in free on the day they performed. 

They also had to agree to hand over 20% of merchandise sales (or a $200 flat fee).

Part of the communication from Caleb Brown to musicians in which he lays out terms

“There’s a group chat with all the organizers telling Caleb, ‘Dude, you need to drop the merch cut. This isn't cool,’” Justin Denning told Tumbleweird. “And all [Caleb] did was defend it, saying, ‘This is how I make money.’” Callie Denning added that Caleb’s take on this matter was ironic, since he ended up giving away free tickets “to make his crowd pull look good.”

“I stand against merch cuts entirely,” said Justin Denning. “There's not much of a profit margin with a lot of merch. So if you're taking 20% of it, depending on the band and how much merch they sell, they could lose money to play the show.”

“It doesn't make any sense, especially when you're a struggling musician,” said Yager. Brown tried to compromise, saying that bands performing at the Emerald and Ray’s wouldn’t have to pay the merch fees, but a lot of people thought that would be unfair to the rest of the musicians.

Hazard said one of their meetings turned into an “intervention” for Brown. “Every single person at the Get Down [TTGD] meeting told Caleb that he was wrong, but all he kept doing was trying to blame all the problems on the punk community,” she said. “He told us to fuck off, that he was never gonna work with us again.”

Brown was insistent, telling Hazard that he wanted merch cuts because Bumbershoot and Coachella do it. “When I told him it's not gonna happen, he goes, ‘This is why Tri-Cities doesn't get good things — because you guys don't deserve it. You guys are always gonna be a Tri-Cities and never a Seattle.’” 

The other organizers did not react well to the implications. “We like Tri-Cities,” said Hazard. “We actually give love to smaller bands instead of being oversaturated with too many bands like a big city.”

Screenshots from Facebook Messenger between Caleb Brown and Stephanie Hazard

From here, the messenger chats between organizers grew even more inflammatory. When Justin Denning commented on Brown’s post about the merch cuts, Brown responded by sending a string of messages, saying things like, “This punk scene is a fucking joke and I am absolutely sick of it.” 

“That’s when Stephanie, Callie, and I decided: Let’s do something else, then. Even if we just do a backyard show,” said Justin Denning.

Hazard said that when things got really bad at the planning meetings, she had spoken with Dara Quinn about holding a separate event, and Quinn gave BVF her blessing. “[Dara] said she hoped we do well. She said, ‘All I care about is getting more people to the Uptown and more music in town.’”

Talon Yager offered Ray’s Golden Lion as a possible venue to host BVF. He no longer wanted Ray’s to participate in TTGD. Justin Denning said he thought Ray’s was the perfect venue. He even has a Ray’s Golden Lion tattoo. “I've been attending shows there since I was twelve,” he said. 

“Talon has a ton of background in the music field,” Callie Denning said. “Ray’s was supposed to be one of the venues for TTGD, but when he saw all of this mess, and I told him I was gonna make this show happen any way I can, Talon said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Thus, Battle Vest Fest began to take shape. 


At the same time the organizing committee was falling apart, more and more bands were also dropping out of TTGD. The lineup kept changing. 

One of the sub-headliners, Nathan James, pulled out of the festival. “I knew people who were just going to go see Nathan James, and were pretty disappointed that he wasn't on the lineup anymore,” said Hazard. Karma Knows, another sub-headliner, had been one of the earliest of Brown’s supporters, and had been excited about the festival until he saw the damage Brown was doing to the music scene.

“The amount of people [Caleb has] hurt is mind-blowing,” said Karma. “But I’m glad I gave him a chance, so I know who he is. And now I don't have to give him a chance again.”

Justin Denning talked it over with his band, The Filthy, and they all decided to drop out, also. “And I reached out to a bunch of other bands on [the TTGD list] because a lot of the punk bands that were on there were people I've known for years. I told them, ‘Make sure you read your contract.’” Many bands declined to sign the contract after reading the terms.


As the list of performers dwindled, so did ticket sales. Sarah Skagerberg said that she and her husband kept seeing posts about last-minute changes to TTGD that made them sad. Then, just a few days before the event, they saw a post about “free entry” to the after-party. She messaged TTGD asking if the after-party tickets she had purchased were for a different after-party.

“Caleb emailed me back letting me know that a sponsor had come in to pay, to make it free for everybody,” Skagerberg said. “But he said I had to contact V-tix myself, and they would give me a full refund.” 

When Skagerberg called V-tix, they had no idea what she was talking about. After more phone calls, emails, and a visit to the bank, Skagerberg finally had the price of her tickets refunded, but not the fees included in the final cost. “We should have been told about the sponsor and just gotten our refund,” she said.

Skagerberg and her husband also had problems getting their wristbands. They had originally been told the wristbands would be mailed out by May 7. On May 20, when they still had not arrived, Skagergerg sent another email asking about them. “And [TTGD] messaged me back that they were having problems getting them shipped out and it was gonna be will-call… but we had already paid for shipping and handling.”

At this point, so many bands had decided to play at BVF instead of TTGD that Skagerberg and her husband bought tickets to the second festival, too. “All of those [bands] were the reason that we bought TTGD tickets to begin with,” she said. They didn’t visit any of the stages that weren’t at the Uptown because TTGD was so spread out, and it was hot that weekend, Skagerberg told Tumbleweird

“We wanted to support Dara and the Emerald, so we just bounced back and forth between the Emerald and Ray's,” Skagerberg said. “It was a good time!” 

Justin Denning said he couldn’t help but feel bummed out about how TTGD turned out. “Originally, I was thinking, ‘Cool, this is something awesome for Tri-Cities outside of the Tumbleweed Music Festival.’ It was something I was excited about and I wanted to be very supportive of them.” 

“None of us wanted it to be this way,” Callie Denning added. “We begged [Caleb] to see reason before all of this happened, and you couldn't talk to him anymore.” 

Despite the difficulties, the community came together to make BVF happen. Stephanie said that last year, some of the bands had been paid “less than 50 bucks for dead stages.” So she reached out, inviting them to come to BVF “to give them the chance that they never got last year.”

Low attendance and other issues at the Get Down

When our reporter contacted Brown for comment, he replied in part: 

“I'm no longer taking interviews,but here is some feedback you can quote: 

It was the biggest concert Tri Cities has ever seen. We covered a whole mile of Tri Cities with not one person removed, no fights, and didnt even have to refund a ticket!” 

Sarah Skagerberg’s ticket receipt
Communication from V-tix regarding the refund Sarah Skagerberg received on June 7

Many reporters and attendees say they saw few people engaging with the TTGD fusions, and some of the TTGD shows were very poorly attended. 

Yager said that as a food truck owner himself, he feels bad for the vendors that were out at The Fingernail, one of the stages farthest from the Uptown, and reportedly one with very sparse attendance. “That's people's livelihoods. He lost a lot of people money, not just himself,” Yager said.

There were also complaints about photographers not being properly attributed (a problem that the original Uptown Get Down had also, as Hazard told interviewers), and photos being used without consent. And some of the traveling musicians did not receive accommodations that they said they had been promised.

Stories from some of the volunteers highlight other big issues at various venues. Jaime Torres, who was asked to volunteer for the Latin Fusion, found that nothing was at all what he had been told to expect. 

“Nobody knew we were there,” he said. “I hated that we were so far away from the other venues.” No one at the restaurant where Torres had been asked to host a lotería had been told what was happening; they didn’t even know if the lotería was being held inside or outside of the restaurant.

In the email Caleb had sent Torres on May 9, he had promised that volunteers “would be provided with water and access to volunteer catering.” There was no catering, said Torres. “At least they had water for us outside,” said Torres. But the bottles of water were so hot, the volunteers had to go buy bags of ice to cool them down. When Torres started preparing to host his game, he realized a bigger problem: “There were no tables or chairs for anybody to sit down and play lotería.”

A lot of concert-goers on Reddit shared their own frustrations with TTGD and quite a few also spoke glowingly about BVF. User daisychain0606 said: “Everyone who attended BVF enjoyed it. They were packed all weekend! I guess saying BVF wouldn’t have happened if not for TTGD is a silver lining. Sometimes it takes a villain to make heroes.”

But Karma said he doesn’t want the takeaway to be the story of a supposed villain. “[Caleb] did a lot of dope shit: creating the festival, people coming together, all that,” he said. “But wanting the fame, or wanting to be rich, or wanting some type of ego thing can literally make you just not care about other people.”

Karma was happy to hear that BVF had found a home for so many musicians that weekend, and that the stage at the Emerald did well. “Ray’s and the Emerald are the OGs that put me on back in the day,” he said. 

“We ended up with almost 40 bands at BVF,” Callie Denning said. “At least 20 of them were bands from the Get Down that all dropped either in solidarity against merch cuts or because [Caleb] was being a jerk to them.” There were also additional bands who played in both festivals, coming to Ray’s to play pop-up sets after their sets at TTGD.

As Karma says: “Let’s extract the gift — let’s extract something positive.”

Musicians that stuck with TTGD put on great shows! Torres was happy he got to see both Los Caiprihnos and Ruido Instinto perform. And a number of people, including Hazard, went to the Emerald to see some of their favorite performers.

One of the TTGD artists, JOSIAHDAVIS., holds a special place in Karma’s heart. The young rapper’s father got Karma his first show at Ray’s, years ago. “I was so nervous! But he gave me so much love, and it just motivated me… more than he knows, to this day,” said Karma. “I'm so happy to see his son’s killing it right now. My God, he's killing it, dude!” 

“Everything [at Ray’s] stayed on schedule because of how well everybody acted, how good the venue was, and just every one of the volunteers,” Callie Denning said. “No band that joined BVF was left blinded to what our main purpose was — it's a festival about treating small and big musicians appropriately, professionally, and making sure that they get respect for their art. And we're going to do it again.”

She added that another big win was the merch sales at BVF. “Most of these bands that came through here had some of the best merch sales that they've ever had at any show,” she said. “Some of them have been doing this for years and years. Some of them are bands I saw when I was first getting into punk rock.”

Sarah Skagerberg said, “I loved how many people were there in Tri-Cities for the festivals. It was cool… and the whole time, Ray’s was nice and full. I loved it!” Since Ray’s is an all-ages venue, there were families in there all weekend, too. “It was just good people,” said Skagerberg. “It was so cute to see the little kids out there moshing!”

Justin Denning was happy about the success of BVF, saying, “I’ve done this for a long time but this is the biggest thing I've ever helped put on.” He said he also wants the best for everyone who participated in TTGD. “I want all the bands who went to [TTGD] to succeed,” he said. “I hope they all got paid well enough. I hope the people who did show up and buy tickets had a great time.”

And as Van de Venter said in her Herald article, there were other positive notes at the festival, such as Narcan being given out, the fact that a lot of musicians had a chance to network with others in the industry, and just the fact that Tri-Cities had a lot of wonderful live music acts all weekend long. 

“There are positives that came out of it,” Karma said. “All the people have been connected in a closer way. The scene is literally closer. There's great things gonna happen for our city.”

Sara Quinn is the Editor in Chief at Tumbleweird and serves on the board of Tri-City Area Gaming. She lives with her amazing spouse (Brendan), and her doggos (Jewel and Ruby). Sara makes art, writes stuff, reads A TON, and plays a lot of video games. 💜