Trinumeral Festival's Grant Howl Talks Music, Psychedelics, and the Apocalypse

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As the year 2000 loomed and the entire world panicked under threat of complete computer apocalypse, i.e. the bug called Y2k, Grant Howl and the Under One Beat crew gathered a gang of friends and threw a party to appease the digital gods.

This was the unofficial birth of the Trinumeral Festival, a yearly celebration of that date when "the day, month, and year align in an auspicious numeric sameness." Now in little more than 24 hours, the decennial edition will be slamming Miami all weekend in honor of 10/10/10.

By phone, Crossfade discussed weird noise and numerology with Trinumeral organizer Grant Howl. We needed to understand the phenomenon.

New Times: Where are you based?

Grant Howl: I actually grew up in Miami on North Miami Avenue and 96th Street. Now I live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

When you lived here were you involved with the nightlife scene at all?

Not a bit, man. The only thing we would do were drum circles at a place called the Farm in Little Haiti.

I guess you must've always been music-obsessed, though.

Oh, yeah. Under One Beat is the crew that's throwing the event. It's comprised of a bunch of artists who all grew up together. We've always been jamming and singing and playing music. It wasn't until we couldn't keep a band together that we started hiring other people to play our parties.

How did you finally discover the Trinumeral?

That first thing we ever did happened on the eve of Y2K. Then we had an idea to throw a party on January 1, 2001 or 1/1/1. It was like a little gathering. But it wasn't called Trinumeral at that time. Anyway, we had another event the next year with the same core group of people on 2/2/2. And then by 3/3/3, it had evolved into a bigger thing. That year was actually called the 3/3/3 Third-Rate Circus and we just got the strangest people we could find in the Southeast and brought them to Charlotte, North Carolina. We had the whole bottom floor of this skyscraper in downtown and we just filled it with freaks and jugglers and bands and DJs. We followed up with the 4/4/4 Future Freak Rodeo.

So when did you finally give the day its name?

We kept saying, "Someone's gonna coin a name for this date and the names we're coming up with are so haphazard that they're not going to stick." Literally every day, I was thinking about what to call it. And the first thing I came up with was Triple Digit Day. But then I'm laying there one night and I'm like, "Wait a second, when we get to 10/10/10 that's actually six digits." So I called one of my best friends who helped me found the event and I said, "Hey, man. Is ten just one Roman numeral?" And he said, "Yeah. It's an X." So I was like, "I figured it out, man. We're Trinumeral."

For your Y2K event, did you intentionally fixate on the whole apocalypse panic?

We never felt like the world was gonna end. But we wanted to have all our friends in the same place in case it did. (Laughs) And I think it's funny now that we're gonna be approaching 2012 and the whole Mayan idea of the apocalypse. You know, it started with the idea of an apocalypse and here we are facing 12/12/12, which to some people signifies the Great Awakening or another great shift in consciousness. Whether it means the end of the world or not, we can't really speculate on it.

Is every Trinumeral Festival a dark day?

No. The 5/5/5 was actually May 5, which is Cinco de Mayo. So that was a very happy, festive one and it actually happened in Miami. But, like, for June 6 of 2006, obviously that was a dark and ominous one because of the number 6/6/6. It was pretty hard getting sponsors. (Laughs)

This has kinda turned into a numerology lesson. How about 8/8/8?

You know, 8/8/8 was cool. I used to live in Shanghai. And in Chinese, the word for eight also means money. So we thought, 'Maybe we could make some money this year. Let's try to do something really big.' And it was the first year we produced a full-scale, major American music festival. We had a 1000-acre nature preserve, three stages, 71 bands, and almost 3500 people showed up.

This year's fest is sorta heavy on the hip-hop. Has that always been Trinumeral's thing?

No. We kinda started with our roots in jam bands. We've worked with all the big ones from the Disco Biscuits to the String Cheese Incident to members of Phish. But in the last few years, the people who were into that kind of music seem to be switching into a more electronic mindstate, getting into dubstep and stuff. However, we've had the GZA from Wu-Tang. We've had hip-hop at our events before.

Last year, though, we had Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, and Edgar Meyer as our headliner, who actually won a Grammy for 'Best Classical Album of the Year.' We had a classical music headliner, which is really awkward for a festival. And the year before that, we had Galactic as the headliner, the funk brass band from New Orleans. But we've always interspersed it with electronic music because we've seen that it's kind of the trend. So this year, it's morphed into something that might appeal more to Miami, mixing the electronic and dubstep with hip-hop.

There's some hype about the philosophy of the Trinumeral Festival. What exactly is it?

Underlying everything is the psychedelic party vibe. And even though some nights might seem hip-hop themed, that's gonna break away at a certain point and evolve into something that's less genre-defined. We've always prided ourselves on being as diverse as possible so we can get a crowd full of people who wouldn't normally hang out together. It's just about bringing people together, man.

The Trinumeral Festival with Big Boi, Blackalicious, Tokimonsta, and others. Friday, October 8, at 7th Circuit Studios, 228 NE 59th St., Miami. Saturday, October 9, at White Room, 1306 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Sunday, October 10, at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Doors open at 10 p.m. each night. Individual tickets cost $15 to $25, and three-day passes cost $50. trinumeral.com.

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