Skid Row in 1994, courtesy of Carrie W, UD '94With Wilburfest falling victim to unstable on-again / off-again status, Skidfest emerged as UD’s longest-running continuous -- and premier -- outdoor concert series. Having it twice a year certainly helped it steam along. Until eventually, Skidfest also fell victim to denied permits, in 2010 and 2011.
Let’s get right down to this chapter’s contributors. I asked both of these guys about living at the over century-old Skid Row (or “The Row”), and the logistics of pulling Skidfest together.
Kevin F, UD '90, was the guy who started Skidfest in 1990. We’ll hear from him first about the genesis of the event, how it all came together, and then at the end of this chapter he comments on attending Skidfest seventeen years after his inaugural one!
Matt B, UD '00, coordinated Skidfest three times, including the Spring of 2000…a decade after Kevin first did it!
I lived at 32 1/2 Academy Street from 1988 - 1990, when I (eventually) graduated; the six-year plan. I lived in the "front room" by the porch. Back then, Skid Row was painted in the words of American Graffiti's Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), "piss yellow and puke green," with flimsy railings and wooden fire escapes in the back. On warm days, we would blow off classes and lay on the roof while drinking 40 oz. bottles of King Cobra Malt Liquor, or partake in some otherwise illegal substances (often both), and work on our tans.
In the Fall of 1989, a striking blonde girl named Susie (who lived in the upstairs end unit) and I were talking on the porch, about how no one on The Row really knew each other. Since it was November at the time, we decided to throw a big party the following semester. Unfortunately, Susie left that winter and never came back. But the idea remained. I talked to my housemates, and they thought it was a great idea. We thought maybe we should call it "Skid-Daddle," as to not confuse it with the “fest” from Wilburfest…but we went with “Skidfest” anyway.
Now, Skidfest wasn't the first Row party. Skid Row had a long history of having parties, including the end-of-year “TV-Smashing Party,” where everyone would throw their televisions out the window into the backyard below, a la SCTV. All the while dancing, drinking and partying in a bacchanalian celebration of yet another year gone by. They were more spontaneous events. This was to be the first officially organized Skidfest.
Step one was to convince the members of the other houses to pitch in money for kegs. This was not an easy task, as some houses were quasi-insular in their socializing. Once I had a pledge of a keg from each house, it was time to line up some music acts in the same manner that Wilburfest always had. We knew we didn't have the money to pay for the acts, so we relied on their charitable contributions to play free, in exchange for their exposure to new listeners. I was able to get four bands: Tree of Life, The Dharma Bums, The Mental Custodians, and another band whose name escapes me.
The date was in April 1990, the same day as the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. During the weeks leading up to the first Skidfest, the concept began to pick up steam amongst the more motivated "Row-dies," and more people wanted to actively participate in the planning and execution. I was the primary point man, but I made sure to get a consensus amongst the growing number of active players when it came to promoting and carrying out the fest. We decided to charge $2 at the door, with people being allowed to stay and hang out as long as they wanted.
The second thing I needed to do was talk to the city officials. I called the police chief and also talked with the fire chief across the street. I specifically asked them that if they had any reason to shut us down, or if they found any disruptions that would get us in trouble, that I would be solely responsible and not to arrest anyone else. The police chief replied that as long as they didn't receive any complaints, that I had nothing to worry about. It was a monumentally naive and risky move on my part, but I was determined to pull this off, no matter what the cost.
We needed to get the word out. I had printed up invites by taking comic strips from the newspaper a couple of weeks beforehand, used White-Out to cover the dialogue in the word balloons, then added my own dialogue to invite the bearer to Skidfest. I used Peanuts, Doonesbury, Hagar the Horrible, you name it, and each comic strip was an invitation that I cut out and gave to friends, associates, and encouraged others to give to their friends, as well.
Now that we had the participants, the word of mouth, the contact with town officials, the entertainment and the venue, all we needed to do was wait for a couple weeks after Spring Break and usher in our little Skidfest party. Before I knew it, it was April 20th, the night before Skidfest was to begin. I could hardly sleep. I woke up the next morning at 6 AM, got dressed, opened the back door to greet this glorious day...and my jaw hit the ground: it was snowing.
Back then, there was grass in the backyard…not pebbles, and the ground was soaking wet and covered in light snow. I woke up this girl who lived in the corner unit, and asked if we could borrow her big maroon car to drive to 84 Lumber to buy some hay. We bought three or four bales, which we then spread all over the backyard. By this time, the snow had thankfully stopped, but it was still cold and damp. There was a chain link fence separating the backyard from the school parking lot.
Tatiana, who lived in the middle of The Row (and who would take charge of Skidfest the following year), had a large tarp, which we used to line the inside of the fence. The coup-de-gras, however, was provided by our friend Rob from Wilbur Street. He had this fantastic tie-dyed parachute that we secured to the Delaware Avenue entrance; effectively closing in the backyard and warding off the wind. Rob, who later went on to DJ at the Stone Balloon, also served as DJ between the sets of the bands. Back then, Wilbur Street used to have its annual mind-crushing Wilburfest parties. Skid Row and the denizens of Wilbur Street were close friends, along with the people who lived in the Horseshoe. We would all attend each others' parties and help out when needed. My next door neighbor provided the beautifully cheesy plastic hanging porch lights in garish blue, red, green, yellow, etc. and strung them throughout the trees. Skidfest was about to begin.
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