JACKSON, NJ—Flocks of chattering teenagers migrated across the vast expanse of the Six Flags Great Adventure parking lot just underneath the daunting shadow of the tremendous roller coaster, Kingda Ka. The fluorescent-haired adolescent broods were zigzagging their way to the entrance to this year’s Skate And Surf Festival, a predominantly pop-punk focused event held here in the Garden State in a lot just outside of the park. The thick, serpentine line flowed quickly, pouring out into a fenced in zone squared off with vendor, food and merchandise tents as music began booming out in the early afternoon.
The most grand of the five stages, the iPlay America stage, played host to L.A. native rapper Hopsin, whose forthcoming album, Knock Madness, is scheduled for release this year. Across the lot upon the Aquarian Better Stage, Cincinnati-based Mixtapes amassed a humble crowd for their set. The screamo/dubstep fusion group played material off their unreleased work, Ordinary Silence, with No Sleep Records. Near the main stage, the Aquarian’s own booth at the festival sheltered artists from the rain for several band signings throughout the two-day duration, two of those being young R&B artist Tyler Carter and his side-project, Issues.
Adjacent to the coasters El Toro and Kingda Ka, the Michigan metalcore outfit For The Fallen Dreams took to the Ford Fusion Stage around 5:30 p.m. The group, signed with Rise, brought out a midsized audience with their aggressive screams and heavy lead lines. They dropped a new single, “Substance,” the first follow-up to 2011’s Wasted Youth. Hailing from Tampa, FL, Tallhart, the melodic alt rock quartet, performed on the Aquarian Better Stage in promotion of their soon-to-be distributed full-length, We Are The Same. This band was a standout of the day with their attention-grabbing vocalist and focus on groove.
The standard assortment of sponsors and vendors were camped out in the foul weather for the weekend. Appropriately, there was the Fueled By Ramen booth, which was loaded with merchandise. Fuck Cancer was stationed a few doors down from the iPlay America Stage and the event itself had artfully designed t-shirts scattered throughout the lot. Free Clothing was selling their warm and fuzzy sweatshirts with minimalist logos, while To Write Love On Her Arms set up camp, spreading their positive vibes. An up-and-coming company, Game Changer, actually developed a smartphone app for the festival that listed all set times and locations.
Taking over the main stage, New Jersey’s own seven-member ensemble Streetlight Manifesto played long, live renditions of old favorites as well as new tracks off of 2013’s The Hands That Thieve to the gracious masses. Cursing out their label, Victory, the guys criticized the company for not providing the band with any CDs for them to distribute for the weekend. Texas’ Crown The Empire, still touring in support of 2012’s The Fallout, gathered a medium-sized group around them, keeping up with the favored genre of the day, electronic metalcore.
A fan favorite, Lights ignited the main stage with her 40-minute set in the pouring rain. Her live sound translated well, bringing in the largest crowd up to this point. Lights performed singles off of her acclaimed full-length, Siberia, like “Flux And Flow,” “Toes,” and the title-track. She was one of few female musicians included as a performer at the event. On the other side of the pothole-littered blacktop, Escape The Fate, the post-hardcore Nevada crew, rose to the Ford Fusion Stage around 7:30 p.m. They have been rigorously touring for years now, just releasing their latest work, Live Fast, Die Beautiful, earlier this year. They drew an ample fanbase and maintain a dedicated one. Two stages over, Andrew W.K. put on a live rendition of his essential hit, “Party Hard,” off of 2001’s I Get Wet. Performing only with a keyboard and one backing vocalist, Andrew W.K. had an amused and enthused gathering about him. The torrents of rain only seemed to add to his theatrics, as he appeared to be having the most fun out of anyone within sight.
At long last, despite the poor weather, the headliners of the day took to the iPlay America Stage just after 9 p.m. Illinois natives Fall Out Boy opened their show with “I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me,” “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me,” off of From Under The Cork Tree, and “Thriller.” The foursome drew out the entirety of the listeners, performing extra hard in the storm. The teens were mesmerized, shouting along to hits like “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” off of Infinity On High, “Grand Theft Autumn” and the cult favorite, “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” off of From Under The Cork Tree. From their latest CD, the songs “Death Valley,” “Save Rock And Roll” and “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” were skillfully pulled off live. Much to the surprise of the crowd, Fall Out Boy closed their hormonally-fueled set with “Thanks For The Memories” from 2007’s Infinity On High, setting the bar for the following day’s headliners.
Day two of the Skate And Surf Festival appeared much like day one: same kids, same sights, same rain. Trivial as it may seem, the inclement conditions made sets go later than anticipated. Upon the iPlay America Stage, at the start of the day, Bears And Motorcycles flaunted their alt blues style sound for a small group. This bunch had a distinct flare and was quite pleasant to watch. Ohio band Miss May I shared the layers of their complicated metalcore flavor with the masses. Having been with Rise since 2008, they attracted a decent-sized crowd. Another one of the many artists represented by Rise was Dangerkids. The quintet, fronted by two singers, stuck to an emo, early 2000s-style of singing.
Around 3:30, Bayside played to an animated hoard of fans on the main stage. The NY-based rockers had quite a following at the show, performing live the listeners’ favorite, “Devotion And Desire.” On the Aquarian Better Stage, Jackson locals What About Planes held a set swiftly followed by Boston native metalcore guys, Ice Nine Kills. Pop-punk brigade Soul Melodic took charge of the Ford Fusion Stage for a medium-sized bunch of viewers as Mod Sun, a pair of self-proclaimed “hippies,” rapped to hip-hop arranged beats on the Ford Focus Stage. Upon that duo’s exit, electronic screamo group Breathe Carolina came into view to a dubstep remix of Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says.” The three-piece had a surprisingly large crowd in front of them as they shouted out a live rendition of “Hello Fascination.”
Americana pop outfit Cartel came to the Ford Fusion Stage at about 7 p.m., playing hits like “Perfect Mistake,” “Let’s Go” and “Honestly.” This pack went above and beyond expectations, as their live sound was impeccable. On the iPlay America Stage, after a bit of a rain delay, the long-awaited performance by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis commenced, as they were accompanied by a man in a bear suit. The internet sensation was received very well, with listeners bopping along to “Can’t Hold Us” and the infamous “Thrift Shop” off of the Seattle-born artist’s mixtape The Heist.
Night had fallen as the rain continued to mist over the theme park by the time the second day headliners, Ocala, FL band A Day To Remember, were set to take the main stage. The post hardcore band opened their set with a fury, beginning with the single “Violence” and transitioning into “Second Sucks” from 2010’s What Separates Me From You. Performing to a massive crowd, their music took flight and reached thousands of audience members, who were hurling themselves every which way. Vocalist Jeremy McKinnon belted out the tracks “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About The End” and “Another Song About The Weekend,” songs from 2009’s Homesick. The guys rehashed oldies such as “Fast Forward To 2012,” the intro to For Those Who Have Heart, “You Should Have Killed Me When You Had The Chance,” a cut from And Their Name Was Treason, and “A Plot To Bomb The Panhandle.” As the performance came to a close, the fans chanted for more, and A Day To Remember delivered, giving them an encore before Skate And Surf ended. Despite the adversities created by the stormy weather, the show went on and the kids went home happy. Goal achieved.