Joe Esposito & Aaron Harel: It’s a Day of Just Philly Love.”
On Saturday, the second annual Love On the Streets festival will hit Paine’s Park on the Schuylkill River trail, bringing a full day of art and music. Our Brendan Menapace spoke to Joe Esposito, a graduate of Drexel University and the special events coordinator for Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund and Aaron Harel, a music industry major at Drexel and staffer for Mad Dragon, about making this year’s festival even better than last year.
What spurred this idea of the festival?
Joe: I was a long-term volunteer for Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund, which is the city’s nonprofit that builds skate parks and advocates for skateboarders. I had ties with them my sophomore year of college, and was in an event position with them. I wanted to do something that involved more pieces of my life, but it also tied in to the greater scheme of things that Franklin’s Paine was looking to do outside of just the skate park. It was really about collaboration. Collaboration is the biggest inspiration in everything I do—just making communities that you never think mesh, mesh in some sort of way. So, last year, we had circus arts.
Aaron: Yeah, there were like 30 kids on a trapeze next to like punk bands.
J: To me, it was literally about bringing worlds together that you wouldn’t see.
A: And it was all Philly-based.
J: It’s a day of just Philly love. That’s why we named it Love On the Streets. It’s about the love of Philly street artists. Artists being visual, musicians, skateboarding as an art, dance, whatever it may be, that’s what we wanted to do.
A: And the art of drinking. We added beer this year!
So aside from the addition of beer this year, what else is new this year?
J: We have DistoArt.
A: He’s a renowned street artist. He has murals all over the city. He’s a big player, and he’s coming through to do some live murals. The biggest thing this year is that we now have $2,000 in cash to give to skateboarders.
J: So last year’s skate piece was a demo, and it was a demo from a Philadelphia group of young skaters like ages 8 to 15. These kids were absolutely mind blowing. But we wanted to up the ante and have the community be involved this year, so we took that skateboard aspect and made it a competition.
A: So there’s going to be a qualifying round during the day and then a little later in the afternoon are the finals. So people will be competing for this cash prize. And they’ll get other things, like gift baskets and they can win golden tickets from Electric Factory and Underground Arts.
What are golden tickets?
A: It just means they are admitted to every show for the rest of their lives.
So how did you go about picking the bands for this year’s festival?
A: I’m actually really a lot more involved in electronic music, so this festival has been a really awesome challenge for me to book the lineups. We got a nice budget from Mad Dragon to book talent, so, aside from my own personal preference—a few of the bands were just things that I’d like to see—I do a lot of asking around. Because, like we said, this is entirely based on the community, so it’s not just based on what I think was good. I asked many, many, many people. One of the talent buyers at the Electric Factory was funneling me names and sitting down and looking at my list. And many Drexel students would come in while I was working [in the Mad Dragon office] and say, “Oh, what do you think of this?” So, as much as I can, it’s a homie fest, a Philly fest—every artist is from Philly or based in Philly—so that was a big part of it. And wanting to see bands like Steady Hands. It’s always awesome to see them. It was a massive community effort.
What are you looking forward to most?
J: When the first band hits the stage, we can just cheese from ear to ear. When the first act goes on, the day starts. That’s the best part.
A: Last year was so smooth. I’ve run other events, and we just have the best team ever. I’m not used to working with people who don’t suck. This team is on top of shit. I’m looking forward to everything just flowing. Every vendor that left last year was happy, every artist was happy.
Did you guys run into any obstacles at all?
J: The planning process, you’re always going to find obstacles.
A: It’s tough fundraising a festival that’s completely free, other than food and beer. We pay most of the bands, some of the smaller bands are playing for free. But it’s tough finding sponsors, finding the money to get a sound system, everything to run the festival down to like wristbands and golf cars.
J: Funding everything from wristbands to headlining acts [like Lithuania, pictured above].
During the blizzard, some people spraypainted all over Paine’s and ripped out wiring for the lights. Has any of that put a damper on this?
J: We’re trying to address it in the best way possible. It’s absolutely terrible. By bringing these graffiti artists into the festival, we’re trying to promote that real rich natural art, rather than some kids being idiots.
A: There are just super talented artists coming in. That dude Get Up has a lot of signature things that you’ll see all over Philly. These are established street artists who make beautiful art and don’t just fuck shit up.
J: I believe we’re doing a quick buff job before the festival, too. We’re going to do just the amphitheater so it’s picture-worthy. The whole thing with the lights set us back a little bit, too. We had to get an electrician.
How long have you been working on this, then?
J: Since about November.
A: We tried to get started on it earlier this year.
J: We started conceptualizing last year in January, and we started conceptualizing this year in November, so everything was ready to execute in January.
This is an all-day thing. What does the schedule look like?
A: First band goes on at noon, last band finishes at 9. It’s going to be three bands, then three DJ’s during the skate competition. They’re going to be DJing hip-hop for them to skate to.
J: After the skate competition, the beer garden opens, and then the last four bands go on. Then we have art going on all day, vendors and food trucks all day, and raffles. We have tons of giveaways.
A: Mad Dragon is actually giving us custom screen-printed skateboards to give away. There’ll be a lot of free stuff.
Paine’s isn’t that big. How are you fitting all of this?
J: We ask ourselves that every day.
A: It’s comfy in the best way.
J: Honestly, we do get a little close, like we do kind of piece everything together real tight.
How many people are you anticipating showing up this year?
J: Last year we had about 1,500 for the full day. So we estimate about double that for this year, so 3,000.
A: We can’t really turn anyone away, because it’s along the Schuylkill River Trail, so there’s people coming and going all day.
J: And it’s not like it’s closed off or have to pay admission. It’s literally all doors open. And most of the activity goes on around the perimeter of the park.
Sometimes free shows can get crazy, as we saw with the Radio 104.5 Block Party at the Piazza a few years back. Are you guys worried about anything like that?
A: Actually, no. It’s such a mixed crowd that everyone keeps each other in check.
J: It’s everyone from 8 years old to 60. Philly Jesus was there.
A: It’s so balanced across the board.
J: That’s what I love about it. The crowd that is drawn to Paine’s on a day to day basis is going to be totally different than the crowd at the festival. Pieces of that crowd that are there every day will be at the festival, but it’s going to be an all-encompassing event so there’s so many different flavors, and tastes—I’m referring to people as tastes…
A: It’s a full day event. The music is not just drawing younger crowds. I think that is something we have to keep in mind, though. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. I’m just basing it off of last year, but this year we’re adding beer. But with the beer comes police detail, which we had last year but we’re having more this year. It’s tough to explain, but it’s not that type of crowd. Obviously we’ll keep it safe.
Let’s say everything goes off without a hitch this year. You double your numbers, everything is perfect and you’re set to get bigger next year. What artists would you go to?
A: Modern Baseball for sure. They’re all going to be at the festival anyway. They might as well play. Those guys are just the Philly heads. They’re just such a great demonstration of how Philly punk DIY takes things to the rest of the world.
J: And I think we have room to have more genre diversity and bring in some hip-hop heads, because hip-hop is so synonymous with skate culture.
A: Just artist names aside, we want so much more hip-hop.
J: Right now we’re technically Philadelphia’s largest skateboard festival because we’re Philadelphia’s only skateboard festival.
A: We also talked about doing a more constant thing, like a smaller monthly thing.
J: Almost like First Friday. LOTSa Fridays! Oh, we also have LOTSa Radness. Do you know Philly Radness? The art display here [at Drexel]?
A: There’s a skateable art instillation, and we’re partnering with them to have a free pre-part on the 12th. with a food truck outside. We’re getting Brandon Can’t Dance, Horse Cops and a solo set from Old Maybe. So it’ll be two in row, free skate and music festivals.
What happens if it rains?
Both: It’s not going to rain!