By Cameron Lee
September 22, 2021
Brett Toukatly– who goes by the alias, TwoKat— has lived in Charlotte since 2007. Originally from Topsail Beach, he arrived in Charlotte when NoDa looked much different than it does today. At the time, he worked multiple jobs at local establishments like Revolution Pizza & Ale House and Growlers, and became a staple in the neighborhood. He earned a degree in civil engineering from UNC Charlotte, but soon after graduation he was at a crossroads.
“When I graduated, I didn’t want to pursue what I studied. I was kind of in a dark place and turned to art,” Toukatly said. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Now an illustrative graphic artist, Toukatly uses bold lines and vivid colors to create entrancingly ghoulish pieces that he shares on Instagram. Although he was featured in the Mint Museum’s Constellation CLT series, Toukatly is still somewhat of a newcomer to the Charlotte arts scene and now wants to help propel local arts and music in NoDa with a new festival called Astro Pop taking place on Saturday, September 25. A full-time artist and a part-time employee of Wooden Robot Brewery, he’s been devising a plan for an all-day event for about a year and a half.
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“When we first opened the NoDa [Wooden Robot] location, one of my reservations was that they’re moving into a neighborhood with this bright, shiny space, in a neighborhood that’s been historically arts driven. And I really wanted to make sure that they were honoring what NoDa has been about,” Toukatly said.
The Astro Pop Mural and Music Festival will showcase a rooftop stage located at Wooden Robot’s The Chamber location in NoDa. The music lineup boasts a diverse mix of styles and genres that Toukatly selected. Charlotte indie rock stalwarts Late Bloomer and Paint Fumes will play alongside hip-hop/R&B singer-rapper Erick Lottary, rising indie electro-pop artist Natalie Carr, math rock band Cuzco, electronic IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) collective Sweat Transfer, and the new solo project from Junior Astronomers frontman, Terrence Richard, Alan Charmer.
Astro Pop will also feature local artists Matt Moore, HNin Nie, John Hairston Jr, NoirsOne, and Maryssa Pickett. Both the ground floor and rooftop of The Chamber will be utilized for five 6-by-6-foot wood panel murals to be painted by the featured artists: three downstairs and two upstairs.
In addition to the music and live art, the festival will host a variety of local vendors selling baked goods, apparel, art, jewelry, and more. There will also be several food options at the event including Bayou Betty serving cajun cuisine, empanadas by A Tana Empanadas, soul food from Taste Moore Soul, birria tacos by Carlos Dogs, and island-themed offerings like fried plantains and ceviche from Full Circle Food Cart. Summit Coffee will be on site for your coffee fix with cold brews to keep attendees astute and refreshed for the festivities.
While this will be Astro Pop’s inaugural year, Toukatly already has big plans for the future with visions of making it a multi-venue street festival sprawling across the NoDa district.
“Having Wooden Robot’s support on this has been huge. I want to branch out and make it bigger in the future. And maybe do something across multiple venues in NoDa, like a Hopscotch-style event,” Toukatly said.
Growth and change is inevitable in any city, and the pandemic has in some ways accelerated construction in Charlotte while many creative types have been cooped up ready to exert their pent-up artistic energy. Saturday’s event will help revive a local music and arts scene that has lost a little momentum, and Toukatly just wants to do his part: “I want to give back. I want to grow this idea. And I want people to feel like they can come out and express themselves.”
2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Natalie Carr
3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. – Late Bloomer
5:25 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. – Sweat Transfer
6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Cuzco
8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. – Alan Charmer
9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. – Erick Lottary
10:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. – Paint Fumes
That Guy Smitty will be DJing (inside) from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.