At #YesFest, A Youth-Powered Music Festival, Teens Run The Show

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Enter Yes Fest, a new music and arts festival for teens by teens, which debuts Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Brookline Teen Center. The idea originated with Wes Kaplan, a staff member who works in the center’s music program. Kaplan, 29, got his start playing in bands as a high schooler in Newton.

“When I was a teen, you could just start a band and get a show,” Kaplan says. “It was really like, you would get an email from your friend about playing a show, and it would happen. There were bands that were [high school] seniors that we all really looked up to as freshman and that really inspired us to play. There was this whole lineage — it felt like it had been going on forever and would continue forever.”

Kaplan isn’t sure what changed, but somehow the torch didn’t get passed to the kids he works with in Brookline. So he came up with an idea: a youth-centric music festival where teens could perform, take in new music and make connections.

“The best music comes from a culture,” Kaplan says. “Which means just lots of people doing lots of stuff. And lots of chances for things to happen spontaneously.” That’s the goal with Yes Fest: to foster community among teens. You never know which scrappy garage band might turn out to be the next Aerosmith or Dresden Dolls.

Drawing on the networks of several other nonprofits — Zumix, Girls Rock Campaign Boston, BRAIN Arts and the West Suburban YCCA — Kaplan was able to attract dozens of young volunteers to the cause. The group agreed on some things right away. They wanted the festival to be inclusive, and they wanted it to be free for teens. (It’s 10 bucks for everyone else.) After much discussion, they finally landed on a name.

“We were trying to come up with a name that really brings out the essence of the event,” says 17-year-old Mario Jarjour, who drums in the band Wild Painting. Yes Fest’s young organizers are used to being told “no,” he explains. “But if you want to go to Yes Fest, you’re more than welcome.”