We sent our staff writer/photographer Connor Feimster to cover the 2014 Skate and Surf Festival in Asbury Park, NJ. After 1000+ initial shots, Connor weeded out a bunch and was left with 18 albums, separated by each band he saw at the festival. Check out his recap of the weekend and be sure to click on each photo to be linked to their individual album!
After witnessing the mess that was the 2013 Skate and Surf Festival (AKA: The Great Bamboozle Decline), I was wildly hesitant to see what 2014 had to offer; the lineup was really small, the venue was moved, ticket prices were pretty high, and one of the biggest names had backed out of the festival altogether (we missed you, DMX). It looked like it would be the turnout alone that would make or break the Skate and Surf name and legacy for next year and beyond. So, because of this, I gladly took charge to cover the festival. I had to see what could possibly happen this year.
The first day began at 2:00pm and the gates were even open early. That gave me more than enough time to plan out my day. Having nobody to see until about the 4:00 hour gave me a chance to check out new music and just get some shooting in for whomever I was drawn towards. That being said, I simply walked forward and checked out The Moms, a rowdy rock band from New Jersey who are signed to Paper + Plastick (home of Pentimento). They kept me incredibly entertained and quite pleased with my blind decision. Following The Moms’ performance, I realized I still had time to kill, so I wandered around the grounds and scoped out vendor tents and band merch and the like. I then decided to head over to the main stage to check out a band called Wyland, who had won the Break Contest to play there. I had no idea what to expect for never having heard of them until five minutes prior. What I was given was a wonderful folk rock experience which reminded me of River City Extension, a big favorite of mine. Heading back to my regularly-scheduled programming, I was beyond excited to catch NGHBRS, a band I’ve enjoyed for years but have never had the chance to see live. Due to some stages running behind schedule and others running ahead of schedule, I missed the beginning of NGHBRS’ set, but was still able to get in there to shoot. They played a number of songs from their debut record Twenty One Rooms and absolutely killed it with their infectious hooks and funky rock in tow. Next on my agenda was pop-punk’s newest glory children Knuckle Puck. The Illinois natives had one of the biggest turnouts of the smaller stages and delivered to the masses. This band is most certainly going to blow up in the near future, especially given their place on the biggest pop-punk tour of the year alongside Man Overboard and Transit, which is currently on the road right now. I traveled back to the main stage to see What’s Eating Gilbert, the side project from New Found Glory mainstay Chad Gilbert. Prior to this performance, I only heard Gilbert’s solo music in passing, as a result of flagrant ADD that mostly breaks out once I’m on the internet. What I ended up seeing was a band full of well-dressed folks, Gilbert fronting with a sharp jacket and black bow tie combo. This was one of the more entertaining sets of the day, which made for a fun crowd and a happy Chad. I went back to the side stages one last time to catch Citizen‘s set before I was to set up camp and the main stage for the rest of the evening. I had seen Citizen twice before, but was stuck in the far back for both performances. I was excited to actually see this band and more excited to just hear songs from Youth again. They brought their all, even through the exceedingly loud speaker setup on the Loud Stage (was it an inside pun?). It came time to say adios to the side stages and stand my ground at the main stage. This was the chunk of time I was most looking forward to, because the next three bands were some of my most hotly-anticipated of the weekend. The remainder of the night started off with The Early November and their wide song catalog. This band simply cannot play a bad show. It’s pretty expected to be wowed by TEN and they kept that expectation and made it reality once more. The main highlight of my day (and possibly weekend) followed TEN’s set, and that was none other than Saosin, reunited with original frontman Anthony Green. Anyone reading this probably knows how much Green and his musical endeavors mean to me, so you can only imagine how amazed I was during this performance. Having played all of Translating the Name, “Mookie’s Last Christmas”, and “I Can Tell There Was An Accident Here Earlier”, it’s safe to say that diehard fans of early Saosin were beyond pleased. The only thing that left me confused was why the band didn’t play “You’re Not Alone” or “Voices” or one of their bigger hits from ex-frontman Cove Reber’s era. Speculation suggests the “back-to-basics” ideology, which is completely fine with me. The last band of the day was, without a doubt, the biggest deal of the festival. If you had told me that I’d be seeing, let alone shooting a Midtown set, I’d have called you a liar and maybe cried because of the impossibility. That has all since changed because I got to witness some of the happiest fans and one of the biggest performances in recent memory. They played a wide range of songs from each of their records and tried their best to make everyone happy. And let’s just say that it felt miiiighty good to see Gabe Saporta hold a bass.
Day two was underway and was the day that held most of the bands I was excited to see later in the day. As the gates opened, people flocked over to the main stage to wait for We Came As Romans while I perused the merch yet again. I decided to saunter over to the stage to see them. I was a big fan of To Plant A Seed back in high school, so I was curious to see how the band had come along in recent years. While they seem to fall under the category of metalcore bands that need to look showy (why does that need to happen?), they still have the knack for doing what they do, which made for an incredibly fun set. I headed back to the side stages to check out United Nations, the powerviolence band comprised of Thursday‘s Geoff Rickly and David Haik and Zach Sewell of Pianos Become the Teeth. I last saw United Nations at a venue within an Atlantic City casino so I don’t feel as if I had received everything that the band had to offer at that time. I was excited to catch them again, especially given that I’m now a stronger fan of Pianos these days. Even though they were cursed with technical difficulties, they still made themselves loud and clear and made the earth (and political agenda) quake. After realizing that I had made X amount of laps around the entire grounds in the last day and a half, I made my way back to the main stage to bear witness to Hidden in Plain View, who were continuing their reunion following a wildly successful show at Philadelphia’s TLA a few months prior. I wasn’t lucky enough to see that show, so I was pretty excited to see what they were bringing to the festival. Frontman Joseph Reo has some of the best stage presence I’ve seen in the past few years and it only made me think of how wild it must have been back in 2005. As soon as I was finished shooting HIPV, I hotfooted it back to the side stages to catch my friends in Tiny Moving Parts. The guys, who are one of my current favorite bands, are recent signees to Triple Crown Records, which made landing Skate and Surf a huge deal to them. It made me wildly happy to see even a handful of people screaming their lyrics back to them and their performance was outstanding, as usual. Be on the lookout for their TCR debut! I found myself with time to kill after TMP finished their set. I was standing amidst the side stages looking around and wondering where to go next until I heard what sounded like little kids at a microphone. I turn to the stage and was sure enough to see three young boys about to start playing. Unlocking the Truth are a three-piece metal band comprised of seventh-grade boys and they absolutely shred. They were extremely welcome to the festival with open arms and left people totally speechless. Upon asking the guys when they’re next playing Philadelphia, they told me “…with a band called Queens of the Stone Age“…my jaw dropped. After trying to remember my vocabulary aside from the word “wow”, I walked a few stages over to catch Canada’s own Fucked Up. Their previous record David Comes To Life is still talked about for being extremely extensive and epic, so I had to see what their show was all about. Skate and Surf had a general rule for photographers that they were to leave the photo pit area after the second song, but that didn’t mean jack for Fucked Up. Frontman Damian Abraham spent his time, after disrobing to nothing but his shorts, on the grass with the crowd and various passersby, whether they were fans of his band or not. Looks of confusion quickly turned into big smiles when he interacted with anyone and everyone he could, all the while not missing a lyric. Fucked Up definitely held the most memorable set of Skate and Surf for me. Next up were one of my current favorite bands. Having seen a portion of them play a set earlier in the day, I knew that Pianos Become the Teeth would still bring their all. I never expect them to be anything short of amazing and find it hard to think they can get any better because they’re that good. I initially was annoyed to find them playing around the time that the sun was setting because it would make for a challenge with shooting, but there was just something about their music and the sunset that simply went together perfectly. It was an ideal setting for their powerfully emotional songs and I’m glad to say that PBTT gave me my favorite photos from the entire weekend. I sadly had to leave Pianos’ set early to make sure I could shoot my absolute favorite band in the entire world. Circa Survive mean the world to me and it had been a handful of months since I’d last seen them perform. Hot off of Saosin’s performance the night before, Anthony Green was ready to return to his purest element. He expectedly spent most of his time on top of and within the crowd, but his trademark dancing on stage was very present. I honestly spent most of my time gawking at Steve Clifford’s beautiful gold drum kit, but I still walked away with the same euphoria I get after seeing Circa. Their fans are their family and it was a big ol’ reunion. The last band I shot had set up over at one of the side stages and people began flocking right as I arrived. CHON are a very impressive technical instrumental band that have a huge, almost cult-like following in the math rock scene. I had never really devoted enough time to get to know them prior to Skate and Surf, but as soon as they began to play, I was floored. There was such awe-inspiring sounds coming from their instruments that I had to make sure it was really happening. Absolutely do not sleep on this band; they’ll melt your face off. I closed out my festival experience with an amazing set by New Found Glory, but I sadly didn’t find any redeemable photos on my camera after having it die halfway through their first song. The set, however, was incredible. In their usual fashion, they turned everything into a party. In fact, right alongside the main stage, in the Berkeley Hotel, was a wedding reception. After watching the show for a while, I noticed a flash of white run by me along the side of the stage. The beautiful bride and her childishly excited husband were standing on the stairs leading up to the main stage, talking to festival founder John D. After talking with him for a while, the happy couple got the okay to run onstage and interact with the crowd and NFG. Then, once their next song began, the groom stage dove into a sea of welcoming hands, making for a memorable wedding and a beautiful ending to a great weekend.
Skate and Surf has redeemed itself after having a tumultuous time trying to breathe in 2013. There was hardly anything worth complaining about, which is unheard of even within bigger festivals like Coachella or Bonnaroo. I can only hope for bigger and better things in 2015, if it ends up happening. Were you at Skate and Surf too? What were some of your favorite moments? Let us know in the comments!