When Dan Campbell of Hateful Notebook Promotions organized the first Yardstock last year, the idea of it being the “first” never occurred to him, simply because the idea of there being a second was never on the table.
“I thought it was going to be just for that summer, but things went so well. Everyone there had fun, all the bands had fun. Someone at the end of the night said, ‘See you again next year,’ and that was that. We’re going to be doing this every year now,” Campbell says.
While that first event was, Campbell admits, “thrown together,” the Hateful Notebook crew took full advantage of having a year’s worth of time to plan their follow-up. The result is that Yardstock 2014, at Par Glass House in Shickshinny this Saturday, is bigger and better, spreading 25 bands across two stages.
The lineup includes acts ranging from punk and hardcore (such as Shoemakersville’s Home Movies and Larksville’s Vulturepeak) to progressive rock (Scranton’s If You Will and Eye on Attraction), grunge (Bloomsburg’s Inner Temple), and even “lo-fi doom pop” (as New York’s Ghosts and Goblin describes itself). Of course, Campbell’s own band, the Ashland folk-punk foursome Condition Oakland, will perform as well.
As if that weren’t enough, there are two phrases built into the very DNA of Yardstock that are nothing less than magic to any music lover’s ear: “all day” and “free.”
“It’s like a safe haven. It’s a place where you can go listen to music, have fun with your friends, and just live carefree for one night. There’s no worrying about, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go this show and this one and this one, and I don’t have enough money.’ Everyone is invited, everyone can come,” Campbell says.
“What makes it unique are the people who come. Everyone becomes friends instantly. Last year, you’d see people get knocked down and other people would pick them up. People who didn’t bring food last year, other people would share with them. It’s just a very strong community of kids who care about music and each other.”
STEALING THE SHOW
Asking Campbell if there are any bands on the Yardstock 2014 bill he’s especially excited to share the stage with, you might expect to get some stock answer, such as, “It’s like being asked to pick which of your children is your favorite.” Not one to beat around the bush, though, Campbell doesn’t miss a beat.
“Walk the Plank is the band that I think is going to be the band that steals the night,” he says matter-of-factly.
The reason? Campbell points to the Washington, D.C., hardcore band’s reputation for intense live shows.
“Our band has always had the mindset that if you’re going to do something, do it big, do it well, do it with passion,” Walk the Plank vocalist Ian Crocker says. “I like to think our live shows are representative of our attitude towards music. Every one is an opportunity to play for new people and make an impression.”
The band’s attitude towards music will be represented on a whole other level later this year when the group heads into the studio to record its first full-length.
“We’ve released three splits and two EPs, so we wanted to take a step back from nonstop touring and smaller releases,” Crocker says. “We’re looking forward to putting something out that we can really be proud of and can be the culmination of all the years of hard work we put in.”
Until then, Walk the Plank continues building its reputation, show by show, fan by fan. Quite a few of those fans are already in NEPA. Returning regularly in recent years via their association with Hateful Notebook, the members of Walk the Plank are no strangers to the area.
“The one thing that we’re all really excited about is that there are people out there who work really hard to book and promote shows for local bands and touring bands and to foster a sense of community,” Crocker says.
“The diversity of the music scene in (NEPA) is great. There are a lot of people who are very active, and they may not fall into the same genre. It allows for events like Yardstock, where you have a bunch of different bands with different styles. We’re really excited to be a part of that.”
LIGHTING THE TORCH
Diversity, it seems, is the buzzword for Yardstock 2014. In addition to the variety of bands, the event also offers other artists and entertainers a forum. Artist Ted Hazard will be there with his Hazleton-based comic book company Hazard Studios, alongside tables for Fun Box Boards skate shop, Time Table Records Collective, Marcellus Shale Earth First, and the Pennsylvania Modified Dolls, among others.
And if you should see the flickering of flames somewhere in the distance, double-check before you start screaming for a bucket of water. It’s probably Fire in the Soul, a fire-dancing troupe comprised of performers from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware.
“We do hula-hooping on fire, poi-spinning on fire, fire fans, fire staffs, and fire swords,” troupe founder Amanda Tokar says. “Basically, anything you can think of we’ll light on fire and play with to entertain the crowd.”
Though they’ve never had an incident, safety is always on the troupe members’ minds. They keep a fire extinguisher and fire blankets nearby at all times. Even still, some people can’t quite wrap their heads around – pardon the expression – playing with fire.
“I’ve worked in kitchens my whole life, so I’m not really afraid of getting burns. I just want to make people happy. I like to go up to people while I’m eating fire and, if anyone needs a cigarette lit, I’ll take care of that,” Tokar says.
“Sometimes, people who’ve never seen this kind of thing before will have a blank look on their face where you can’t tell if they’re scared or amazed.”
A music lover herself, the latter feeling is one Tokar can relate to. Even if Fire in the Soul weren’t performing, Yardstock 2014 isn’t the kind of event she’d be likely to miss.
“It’s something we do every summer. Music festivals are like my every-weekend vacation,” she says. “It’s something we’d go to anyway, but getting to add to that, getting to perform with some pretty cool bands, it’s amazing.”