Adult Swim Festival to Flow Between Comedy & Music 'Like an On-Air Grid'

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Courtesy of Adult Swim
Jason DeMarco

Festival producer talks turning Adult Swim’s prolific relationships with musicians into a must-see event.

Cartoon Network’s late-night programming, Adult Swim, is no stranger to music collaborations and plans to bring those bountiful relationships to Los Angeles for the first-ever Adult Swim Festival. From Oct. 5-7, Adult Swim will take over Row in Downtown Los Angeles for three days of comedy, music and immersive activations for lovers of hit shows like Rick and Morty, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and more.

"This is our first time doing a festival and we really wanted it to represent how Adult Swim feels on the air. The fact is, music and comedy are both the things that people identify with Adult Swim," svp/creative director for Adult Swim On-Air, Jason DeMarco, tells Billboard.

The Adult Swim Festival lineup weaves together comedy and musical headliners with top spots going to Broad City’s Hannibal Buress, hip-hop group Run The Jewels, standup comedian Jena Friedman, and rapper T-Pain.

Other headliners include Neko Case, Mastodon, Zola Jesus, Thundercat, Big Freedia and Code Orange. Comedians Jo Firestone, Joe Para, Ahmed Bharoocha and Nick Rutherford are also set to perform.

"A lot of the bands that we work with are huge comedy fans and they are already kind of working together, whether it is through us or on their own. For us, it felt like we could do it in a more organic way than it has ever been done," DeMarco adds.

Neko Case has worked with Adult Swim since 2010 when she voiced the titular character of animated series Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge.

Back in 2010, co-creator “Dave Willis got in touch with me to see if I would do the voice for Cheyenne. I screamed ‘yes!’ I went to Williams St. in Atlanta and had the best time despite the fact that I had just broken my ankle and had to leave a tour,” Case tells Billboard. “We are all music and TV nerds, so we keep in touch.”

Case went on to create the theme song for Adult Swim series Squidbillies and tells Billboard it was no-brainer signing up to be part of the Adult Swim Festival.

“Who doesn't love to see the artists they love from different mediums and genres cross over?! And right in front of you at a special, local event!?” Case tells Billboard. “It’s the best of everything and I’m so thrilled Adult Swim are doing it. I hope other people get inspired by this because if I trust anyone to make it fun and joyous, it’s them.”

“We really wanted our first year to be a family affair,” DeMarco says. “We reached out to artists that we had a very comfortable, long-term working relationship with. Virtually everyone on the bill, whether it is a comedian or a band or musician, are people that we’ve worked with extensively or have some sort of simpatico with already.”

T-Pain produced a musical special for Adult Swim called Freaknick: The Musical. Flying Lotus has produced much of the bumper music, or music clips used between programming, for Adult Swim.

DeMarco introduced Jaime “El-P” Meline and Michael “Killer Mike” Render, who make up rap duo Run The Jewels in 2011 and the pair have contributed several singles to Adult Swim Singles Program, which releases curated free music every year. The Adult Swim Singles Program has also premiered music from Mastodon.

“For the first couple of months of the Adult Swim singles this year (it runs for 52 weeks), the artists are all artists that are part of the festival,” says DeMarco. “We’re really tying the two together just because over the last eight years the Adult Swim singles have gotten 20 million SoundCloud streams. The average song gets streamed about 2 ½ million times a week. It has been good for everybody on board.”

In addition to the two stages vacillating between comedy and music, the festival will feature curated experiences for Adult Swim fans. The Rick and Morty Musical Ricksperience, featuring a live 37-piece orchestra where, Ryan Elder, the composer behind Rick and Morty's music will team up with a series of special guests to present fan-favorite tracks from the show played live in sync with an episode.

The Meatwad Dome will be in roughly 10-minute ride where the Aqua Teen Hunger Force character takes fans through a candy world. Festivalgoers can step away from the stages to ride a giant hotdog like a mechanical bull or participate in the Dream Corp VR experience, which is a VR game based on show, Dream Corp, LLC.

“We want it to feel like a big fun carnival as opposed to just another giant music festival where you’re either eating or looking at music and that’s it,” DeMarco says. “The lines are going to be blurrier than you would normally see at another festival which I think is perfectly on brand for Adult Swim.”

For more information on the Adult Swim Festival, head here. Check out the Adult Swim Festival playlist here.