Shelter Fest: An Online Music Festival Celebrating Black Artists and Local Restaurants

by M. Anthony Davis

Fall is here. And with it comes rain, gloom, and days that turn to night in the blink of an eye, as well as a never-ending news cycle that circulates between Trump administration shenanigans (so glad he’s almost gone!) to constant reminders that not only is COVID still a problem, but numbers across the country — including King County —are higher than ever. You know what would be amazing right now? A free music festival!

And lucky for us, Bad Habit Media has announced Shelter Fest, a new online music festival created in response to the shelter-in-place mandate and how it has disproportionately impacted the arts and service industries, as well as communities of color. All day this weekend, Saturday November 14 and Sunday November 15, Shelter Fest will provide direct support to local artists, businesses, and restaurants by fostering a creatively designed music festival that is both socially distant and surprisingly intimate. 

“When the pandemic hit, we had just started to get some momentum and start getting embedded in the scene, working mainly with artists and small businesses,” says Lorenzo Rossi, one of the founders of Bad Habit Media. “Then as soon as COVID shut everything down, it was like all of our friends and community members were hit some of the hardest. People that rely on physical interaction for their livelihood.”

Lorenzo, along with his brother and Bad Habit Media co-founder Cosmo Rossi, went to work to create a space where not only musicians could perform and get support, but also restaurant owners. During Shelter Fest, there will be virtual food trucks where viewers can engage with local chefs and restaurants. The livestream festival will also include interviews with prominent local restaurant owners like Edouardo Jordan of JuneBaby and Trey Lamont of Jerk Shack (just to name a few). 

“You tune into”, Lorenzo explains (we’re also streaming live on the South Seattle Emerald’s Facebook). “You can see the performances and see the interviews. Then while you’re watching, you can go to these virtual food trucks, which are basically an icon of a food truck. You can easily order pickup, or delivery, or support in any way that you find appropriate. Maybe it’s just sending them a fat tip and saying, ‘I support you’. The goal is to get people connected to the restaurants.”

One element of the Shelter Fest experience that takes audience members closer to the event than typical music festivals can is the possibility for live engagement. While the performances themselves are pre-recorded, the hosts will be live. Cosmo explained that if you tune in, you’ll be able to live chat or tweet with hosts Nikkita Oliver and Jace ECAj, and you’ll also be able to enter live giveaways during the event (and some fans will get a chance to get on the livestream).. 

“That’s part of the way that we wanted to make you feel more like you were at a real festival,” Cosmo says. “You have that connection to the hosts that you wouldn’t necessarily have with just a pre-recorded show.”

The Rossi brothers decided to pre-record the actual performances so they could provide the highest quality of audio and visuals possible. They also wanted the artists to be able to perform in places that were significant to themselves or their communities. 

“So Shelter Fest, based on the shelter-in-place mandate, is also tying into this theme of community,” Lorenzo says. “So we asked artists to select a location either in their home or a place that represented home to them to do their set. For some that was their literal house, you know, but others are in unique locations that mean a lot to them. So Gifted Gab [performed] right in the Central District at Medgar Evers pool by Garfield and Da Qween right in Youngstown Cultural Art Center, a place that was really crucial to their development as an artist.”

Shelter Fest will have great music, great food, two amazing hosts that will interact with the audience, and it’s all a way to support local artists and businesses. If you want to add some much-needed fun (and an amazing meal) to your weekend, be sure to tune in.

Register for free on Eventbrite

For a lineup of performances and three ways to support local artists and restaurants, visit

Get a sneak peek at Shelter Fest:

M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.

Featured image courtesy of Shelter Fest.

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