Our friend Stacy Kranitz, who is a (super talented) photographer, invited Scott and me to go to Skatopia’s 20th Anniversary Bowl Bash in June. Of course, we said yes. Here is a (post) liveblog of our experience.
I made up the names of the people I talk about because it seemed easier than trying to remember their real names. (Plus it seemed exploitative or something to use the real names of people I didn’t know?)
I google Skatopia extensively. Then I look at #skatopia on Instagram and Twitter. It all makes me feel old and “square.”
Scott and I go to Walmart to stock up on food for our trip. There is a couple arguing loudly in the parking lot as we walk in. The guy yells, "Shut your mouth, you IGNORANT BITCH!"
All the self-checkout machines are inexplicably closed. There is inexplicably only one cashier open. She is inexplicably waiting for something (a new cash register drawer maybe?) The guy in front of us has a terrible rash on his arm and face and a large Megadeath tattoo on his bicep. The guy behind us has a black eye. We wait for ~10 mins. without moving. The line gets very long.
I spend an hour making a sandwich for the next night: salami and mozzarella on a baguette, with roasted bell peppers, caramelized onions, and garlic herb aioli. Text Elizabeth Ellen about sandwich. Tell her we will probably be the only ones there with aioli on our food.
Leave Beckley. Stacy tells us she has a big camp spot near the entrance, behind where the Green Jelly (a band) are camping.
Scott temporarily turns into his mother and says, "The turnpike sure is busy today! Gracious!"
Scott temporarily turns into his dad and yells at a truck driver for not driving the way he wants him to.
Scott temporarily turns into dad and yells at a truck driver for not driving the way he wants him to (again).
We arrive at Skatopia.I expect to have some sort of difficulty on arrival, like maybe we get heckled for looking old and square, or maybe it is a big giant mess and we can’t find Stacy. (Cell service is spotty at Skatopia so I assume this will result in disaster.) This doesn’t happen. We enter and park our car with no problem, then walk up the hill to the big skatepool (called Lula Bowl) until we find Stacy.
I had heard that people are really into explosives here, and this is not an exaggeration. It takes me about 20 minutes to get acclimated to the constant bangs and pops.
We head to our camp site. Stacy has taken Adderall so she is able to function during her time at Skatopia, and as a result is extremely helpful in setting up the tent. We are camping next to a dog grave. The dog ghost will keep us safe. We sit in the grass and talk and chill out for a while.
We go back up to Lula Bowl and Stacy introduces us to Brewce, the main guy behind Skatopia. He is in his 40s and shirtless and has a red and blue bihawk and therefore sort of looks like Prodigy. He has a big scar down the middle of his head; a few years back he got into a freak accident involving a tire pump and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Stacy says he was weird before and the accident has made him weirder, but from our limited interaction, he seemed fairly normal.
There are people all over the place – mostly young, mostly male, mostly white, mostly of the “crust punk” subculture—but there are plenty of exceptions. A lot of them are not wearing much clothing. A lot of them seem heavily intoxicated on various substances.
I am obsessed by the women and can’t stop staring, like a total creep. There is a badass-looking girl wearing studs and skateboarding the bowl like a boss. There is a hot girl with big tits and super short shorts with a knife in her belt, and she looks totally badass. There is a badass-looking girl who is tall and cheekboned like a supermodel, pulling off the crust punk look so well that she looks like some sort of badass fashion model-African royalty hybrid.
I meet Joey, who Stacy has told me about. We hope to interview his mother for a piece we are both working on for Vice about the opiate epidemic in Appalachia (she is a former addict who is now on Suboxone). Joey tells me about his experiences in San Diego (which is where I am from). He said he went to a hotel where Richard Ramirez once stayed, and that he was fucked up on opiates and miserable the whole time. I joke that that sounds pretty identical to my experience with San Diego. His shirt is covered in blood.
Another photographer stands at the edge of the bowl with us. He and Stacy seem to be friends. I like him. He has a kind face. Stacy smokes pot with some people from France.
Stacy makes some guy and his cooler move so she can take Scott’s and my photo. Lula Bowl looks over the mountains and from her camera screen, it looks like we are the king and queen of Appalachia.
We go over to this rusted-out stage across from Lula Bowl. This girl named Tina is sitting there and being loud. She is obviously extremely high on (something) and there is possibly something else going on with her mental state. Next to her is a shirtless kid in his late teens with lots of curly poofy hair. He asks me if I am too cool for his hair. I say no. He tells me to come sit next to him so Stacy can take our picture. I oblige. He rubs his hair all over me, while I look uncomfortable. I am fine with him rubbing his hair on me, it’s just that I generally experience discomfort when people touch me.
Tina throws a beer at Scott and he catches it and sets it on the stage. She grabs my hands forcefully and says, “I appreciate your being in front of me because there is no being in front of you.” I feel like it is a koan of wisdom.
Scott and I take a walk around the upper property, which is a loop that goes around a field that contains another, bigger, rusted-out stage. There are lots of tents and cars along the loop. It is muddy and disarmingly beautiful, with wildflowers and chirping birds. We hear snippets of conversation as we pass people. A lot of them have to do with Brewce or Brandon (Brewce’s son) or Skatopia in general. It all feels vaguely cult-like.
Stacy takes photos of two beautiful badass-looking crust punk girls who have taken their shirts off. One of them has absolutely perfect boobs. Scott says he saw her puking just a few minutes before. I overhear some dude say, “You can tell when titties come out cus it gets quiet"
Shit is getting weirder fast. Major explosives go off, so loud that it makes me and everyone around me jump, even though we are used to explosives going off by now. Some people are now yelling, extensively and very loudly, at Tina. I guess she said that someone was too fat to be on stage and it made them mad. Tina is yelling "I am anti, I am it." Another koan.
"It's the smell of Skatopia: sweat, explosives, and weed," some dude says. He is correct. It also smells like beer.
Some guy with his dick out pulls up his pants, picks up Stacy, and twirls her around. She gracefully pushes him away. He and one of the girls with no shirt on dog pile themselves. “Ow my nipples!” she yells.
Black Flag is playing on a boombox. People are wearing clothes with Suicidal Tendencies and Dead Kennedys logos on them. It makes me feel less old. It is nice to know that punk music preferences haven’t changed.
The crust punks are playing music and singing together. There are a lot of banjos involved.
I overhear some guy say, "I love that I'm not circumcised. It makes me stand out."
Off in the distance, I see a car on fire. This is something I knew about Skatopia – that cars get set on fire a lot. Stacy had told us they were trying to avoid cars on fire this year. I guess they aren’t going to meet their goal.
A fight between two dogs is resolved by throwing a skateboard at one. This upsets me more than anything else I have seen so far.
We walk over to the burning car. People are chanting, “Skate or die!”
A woman named Jessica says that the car is hers. She is furious and yelling. I assume she is crazy or on drugs or both, that it isn’t her car burning. When she walks by us, she accuses Scott of burning her car and punches him several times in the arm. I rub her on the back supportively and tell her everything will be OK. She calms down briefly.
It turns out that the car is actually Jessica’s. I guess she is not crazy.
A fight breaks out over the car. It is brief, and involves a woman getting punched (inadvertently) in the face. The man who was fighting is yelling, "I burn my car, you don't burn my car."
One of the crust punks gives Jessica the rest of his beer and a hug.
The man who was in the fight is no longer angry about his car being burned. Now he is yelling about his kid’s car seat. I guess it was in the car. He is now mad about the car seat burning.
The crust punk who gave Jessica his beer walks up to us and tells us he is kind of scared. He explains how he comes every year but this is some shit.
Stacy, Scott, and I go to eat dinner and talk some more. The sandwich with aioli is really good. Our soundtrack is a band singing, "Fuck you! Hate you! Kill you! Die!"
There is an announcement over the loudspeaker telling us that we can't burn people's cars.
We go up to the house where the bands are playing. I am interested in the girls in the mosh pit. They are throwing themselves with as much fervor as the boys. I remember moshing when I was younger, how whenever I’d go in, guys would assume it was by accident and “help” me out of the circle. It always used to make me furious. Here, this doesn’t happen. The hot girls are clearly treated as some sort of commodity, a rarity, but in a way they are also treated like equals. The room is very hot and everyone is sweaty. It doesn’t smell quite as bad as you might think.
The band’s set ends. A guy gets up on stage and says his band broke up before the show could happen, so he will be playing by himself. He has an acoustic guitar and screams into the mic. He plays a screamy, thrash version of The Mountain Goat’s “No Children.” Some of the audience sings along. It is strangely triumphant and beautiful.
One of the women who was yelling at Tina earlier is now getting yelled at for being on heroin. The guy doing the yelling says, “You get!” The crowd begins chanting, “You get!"
There is a girl walking around with snake around her neck. She has a tattoo of a snake around her neck
Some guy seems to ask Scott for heroin, but he is too fucked up on heroin for Scott to be sure.
Scott and I walk up hill and sit on the edge of Lula Bowl. It is very dark. Some naked dudes walk past carrying large flashlights. It is pretty and quiet up here. You can see a lot of little lights from all the tents and it looks like fireflies.
We walk back down the hill, to go sit in the car and charge our phones, which are both dead now. Someone asks for acid. Someone else says, “I need speed. Pharmaceutical speed.” Someone else says, “No I want meth.” Someone else says, “I need heroin.”
Scott and I sit and talk and listen to music while our phones charge. We talk about feeling like observers, not just here but in life in general – the feeling of always been detached and outside things. Fireworks rain over our car.
Stacy comes to car. We smoke cigarettes.
We get out of the car so Stacy can show us the Pink Palace, which is the strip club part of Skatopia. A girl named Mandy is passed out on the stage. Stacy tries to wake Mandy up, because I guess Mandy likes to get on the pole, but she is fast asleep.
We go upstairs to where the bands are playing. Green Jelly is playing now. They are the headliner. Scott informs me Green Jelly used to be called Green Jello but they got sued. They play a song called “Three Little Pigs,” which I remember hearing in the ‘90s as a child. I remember thinking it was annoying. It is even worse now.
Stacy returns from taking photos of the stage. I guess one of the Green Jelly guys got mad at her and hit her in the face. There is a streak of dirt on her forehead from where he hit her.
We head back to the tent. Green Jelly continues to play. They are very annoying and seem like bad people. They yell at the audience a lot, telling them they are stupid and ugly, etc. We get ready for bed.
I briefly panic after realizing that there is no way to make coffee in the morning, but then I remember the caffeine pills in my purse. Think "Caffeine pills will make it all ok."
I wake up briefly because someone is next to our tent yelling “Yeeeeoaaa boy yeeeah.”
It is raining. Our tent is really shitty and rain is getting in. I don’t mind too much because the rain is making everyone quiet.
We wake up. I feel disgusting. I am sweaty and dirty from the day before, and our tent is extremely hot. Everything near the door of the tent is wet. I take a caffeine pill immediately.
I decide I want to buy a t-shirt, so I walk up to the main building. The staff seems surprised that I want to pay for something.
I find Stacy. She tells me about her adventure of the morning. I guess the girl that looked like a fashion model is schizophrenic and didn’t have her medicine and had some sort of episode. She told Stacy this, so Stacy took her to a gas station where there was cell service and a way to get help. The girl ended up going to the hospital. The police come, and are very nice and tell Stacy she did the right thing. The next time I see Stacy, she tells us that the girl came back to Skatopia with medicine and a bag of hygiene products, looking for a ride anywhere. A car ended up taking her to Chicago.
We say goodbye. Stacy seems appreciative that we came. Scott and I leave.
We get home. I shower immediately, and then take a nap.