Music beneath the coasters: review of the Skate and Surf Festival

By SALLY BONIECKI

Staff Writer

It had been drizzling for most of the morning of Saturday, May 18, but that did not deter anyone from driving for miles to the first day of the Skate and Surf Festival at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson. Even locals who knew the back-up in the far right lane of the highway could be bypassed by using the entrance’s second lane couldn’t avoid a long wait in the park’s driveway.

Despite the apprehension of many, once in the park, the line to pick up wristbands was short. Park security was heightened for the event. Though it was never required before, for example, all belts had to be removed, a small but puzzling change.

The line to Skate and Surf led us through a narrow path and out into a fenced-off area of the parking lot underneath Kingda Ka. Many fans ran over to the Alternative Press tent immediately in order to get a bracelet for a meet and greet. Names like Escape The Fate, Fall Out Boy, and Of Mice & Men would be there. However, VIPs, who had been granted early entry to the venue, got almost all of the wristbands, leaving most disappointed.

Those still without meet-and-greet wristbands awaited the bean bag toss, which gave hopefuls the chance to win an extra bracelet. People that had brought gifts for a band handed them off to those with bracelets in the hope of winning their sympathy.

I was immediately stunned by the camaraderie and kindness between fans, heightened by similar goals and interests. One stranger received a pass to meet a band they didn’t know, Mayday Parade, and instead handed it to me.

As for the lineup, I applaud Skate and Surf for their choices. The bands were very diverse; from Streetlight Manifesto with their horn section to the electronic duo Death Spells.

This diversity was obvious when musicians commented on the more obscure bands.

“I haven’t heard of any of these bands besides Fall Out Boy,” said Thomas “TJ” Bell of Escape the Fate.

Brooks Betts of Mayday Parade similarly stated,

“There’s a few bands I’m excited to see … to be honest, I’ve never heard of a lot of them.”

What they had in common though was their dedication to music.

Of Mice and Men perfectly exemplified that when it began to rain harder before their performance later in the night. Forbidden microphones until their final song because of the risk of electrocution, they decided to perform without them. The crowd provided a solution, yelling the lyrics loud enough to fill in the vocalist’s role.

The headliner, Fall Out Boy, performed very late but was a perfect choice. The unusually friendly crowd was captivated by the music; tight space and stepped-on feet became unimportant.

Though Fall Out Boy was, for many, the festival’s main attraction, the band members said they were honored to be a part of the larger group.

“I’m happy we’re still ranked among the bands that are here… they’re all great,” said bassist Pete Wentz.

This quote embodies the spirit of festivals like Skate and Surf: fans go to see their favorite bands and discover new ones in the process. Attendees of the Bamboozle Festival last year similarly reported discovering new acts such as This Good Robot and Matt Toka.

Sunday was much more laid back than Saturday. Traffic had sped up and the schedule was kept much more tightly than Saturday, but the spirit of the event continued.

Meet-and-greets were easier to obtain on Sunday. I was able to attend the LeATHERMOUTH meet and greet at the Ford Go Further tent. The band includes former My Chemical Romance members Frank Iero and James Dewees, which likely caused the event’s popularity. The workers kept the line very tight, only allowing a certain number of fans to walk up to the table at once. The musicians were very relaxed, a big difference from the Alternative Press tent on Saturday.

The iPlay America tent, one of the only meet-and-greet sites that did not require a wristband, hosted another popular band, Miss May I. It was also well organized by staff, who even handed out cards in case fans had nothing of their own to get signed.

The music magic continued that day. Breathe Carolina fans were extremely energetic, especially when vocalist Kyle Even walked through the crowd. This Good Robot and LeATHERMOUTH played at the same time. The small groups of fans from both shows were very friendly towards each other, like a family.

A much larger crowd gathered to see Macklemore, an act that very few people predicted popularity for.

Overall, I can say that Skate and Surf was a huge success. There were no catastrophes; I did not witness any bands being pelted with objects from the crowd, any fans carried out to ambulances or anyone falling over drunk. The security officials were very responsible and took action when necessary. Anyone using illegal drugs was ejected immediately. The festival’s organizers even learned from their mistakes on Saturday and applied solutions to Sunday’s show.

The festival’s few shortcomings were the high price of merchandise, the limited selection of food and an occasional rude security guard. But all things considered, these are minor complaints, and Skate and Surf Festival was definitely an experience I would like to repeat.

 

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