Skate or Die Fest is from 1 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, at Gas Monkey Live.
With all of the local music festivals — Homegrown, IndexFest, Spillover, Fortress Fest, Oaktopia and JMBLYA, to name just a few — it’s possible that North Texans have too many to choose from. Organizers now, more than ever, must look for ways to stand out from the pack.
Harley Barnes, a local music enthusiast and founder of the blog ThisNewBand, is hoping that a skate-themed music fest will thrive in a saturated market.
“Skateboarding is more popular than ever now,” he says. For example, he says, "Thrasher Magazine partnered with Vice. Thrasher is one of the original skateboard magazines, started in the 1980s, but it’s become part of pop culture now. Every kid is wearing Thrasher merch. ... You also have Fantasy Factory with [pro skateboarder] Rob Dyrdek. He started Street League Skateboarding, which is like the new X Games.”
Barnes' concept isn't new. A handful of other music events have happened at skate parks, like NTX SLAMFEST a couple of weeks ago and music shows at 4DWN Skate Park in Dallas. But these events have been mostly low-budget with small turnouts.
“It’s going to be bigger than Homegrown,” Barnes says of his 3,000-capacity event. He’s working with a similar budget to Homegrown. He also has a team behind him that’s ready to go. He helped out with Bulladora Music Experience before it was canceled, and he retained the same investors and event producers for Skate or Die.
The festival has a solid lineup of local and national bands, with Bowling for Soup headlining. And the festival isn’t just using skating as a trendy theme; there will be skating contests with a $3,000 cash purse.
One of them, called S.K.A.T.E., employs a concept similar to the P.I.G. basketball game, and with 200 entrants, it’s also a contender for the Guinness World Records title for the largest S.K.A.T.E. contest. Skaters interested in participating are invited to register for the competition via the festival website.
The event also has a philanthropic bent, with local charities benefiting from the proceeds and a live auction happening onsite. Artist Uprising is curating artists to design custom skateboard decks that will be auctioned for $200 to $500. The festival poster also promises a politician dunk tank, an interactive art installation, live murals, vendors, food trucks and plenty of angst.
The event will also feature a puppy petting zoo, which ties in with a more serious facet of Barnes' personal history.
“I was adopted,” he says. “So anything adoption-related is really cool. Live pet adoptions with the puppy petting zoo is probably the closest we can get. Also, one of the charities we’re supporting will be adoption-related.”
He said he had to struggle to make sure his lineup was equally weighted between male and female artists and included LGBTQ musicians.
“We’re really proud of that. It wasn’t easy; 90 percent of the bands in this genre are male,” he says.
His blog, ThisNewBand, didn’t set out to cater to women — he started it because he loves music and wanted to interview and write about his favorite musicians — but he quickly realized that young women were his biggest demographic.
“I didn’t know about fangirls at the time, that whole culture," Barnes says. "But they’re the same type of people as me, very passionate about music, although they show it in a different way.”
The blog’s fans became part of his editorial team.
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“Twenty people work on the brand and the blog. Almost all of them are under 22, and they’re all female,” he says. “Our head curator for the blog is 15 years old.”
Barnes has started a number of ventures; he regularly curates music lineups with different organizations in North Texas. He considers Skate or Die Fest his fourth company and the largest.
“It’s definitely the biggest event I’ve ever thrown, but it feels pretty natural,” Barnes says. “We took a giant risk and giant leap, and I have a great team that’s made it happen. I came to them with a concept, and they helped me execute it.”
Visit skateordiefest.com for more information and to apply for the S.K.A.T.E. competition.