How Brownies & Lemonade Went From College House Parties To Festival Stages

Brownies & Lemonade party with Skrillex
When Skrillex Comes Around: In 2017, EDM superstars like Skrillex and Diplo began playing surprise sets during pop-ups, helping the brand explode. Courtesy of Brownies & Lemonade

In 2012, the founders of Brownies & Lemonade, Kushan Fernando, Jose Guzman and creative director Chad Kenney, were enjoying their time at UCLA and throwing renegade house parties for their friends. At the time, the idea that their parties would one day feature surprise performances by Diplo and Skrillex was far from their radar. Now, the brand has done all that and managed to expand to festival stages at Coachella, Lollapalooza and more.

Keeping with their renegade roots, Brownies & Lemonade rarely announces lineups beforehand. Instead, fans learn of party dates through social media and are invited to RSVP for information on when and where, with the final lineup oftentimes not being revealed until an artist takes the stage. 

The brand has helped kickstart the careers of rising stars in the dance industry, including Moore Kismet and Blanke. “It’s always been like a supportive crew and I just loved the parties, even when I was in Australia,” Blanke, whose real name is John Paul Orchison, told Pollstar. “I think they knew about me before I came to the States, just through the internet. They’ve been a great foundation, especially in California.”

With up-and-comers and major players, Brownies & Lemonade has rooted itself in the culture of dance music.

Pollstar: How did these bigger electronic artists first start coming around to your shows?

Chad Kenney: The watershed was when we were throwing a showcase with some SoundCloud artists that had come into town in an art gallery over in Mid-City [Los Angeles]. We had a lot of people that were part of Nest HQ, a blog editorial space, and Mija was going to come and perform, unannounced, with her side project Little Foot. At the very last minute, she asked, “Hey, is it cool if Skrillex comes and we play back-to-back?” So, of course that was fine. 

That was a big moment for us in people seeing the caliber of DJ and artist that was coming to play a small art gallery for only a few hundred people. That added to the mythos about Brownies & Lemonade, that you never know who was going to show up. Even Skrillex came to this small art gallery, and it was completely slammed.  From that point on, not only did Skrillex wear our merchandise and work with us on other events, but a lot of other larger DJs wanted to be a part of that culture at these warehouse shows and underground events.

As a promotion company, the COVID-19 lockdowns were especially difficult for your brand. How did you adjust?

The first thing was in April 2020 we collaborated with Proximity on throwing the Digital Mirage online music festival. We wanted to have music be this cathartic experience despite it being such a difficult time. We were able to put together a lineup of 50-plus artists ranging from Kaskade, Alison Wonderland and Gryffin to a handful of amazing up-and-coming artists such as Moore Kismet and G Jones. And the festival itself and subsequent Digital Mirage festivals we did in 2020 brought in millions of unique viewers and overall raised upwards of $400,000 for charity and other initiatives. 

After moving to online spaces during the lockdown, can you tell me a bit more about your first live show once music could return in person?

We threw the first show, which was essentially one of the first shows back in Los Angeles on that full capacity scale [on June 16, 2021]. It was in a nightclub on a Wednesday night, and we ended up having Zhu and Zedd play. Everyone reunited and it was a really special, but obviously harrowing, experience because we were unsure of a lot of the question marks about throwing events in a post-lockdown environment.