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How to guarantee crowd at an arts/music fest? Keep it secret

BERLIN– The chances are good you haven’t heard about the next big event in America’s coolest small town – and that’s exactly the way organizers want it.
Specifics are scarce, but on a secret date in June at an undisclosed location a major alternative arts and music festival will be staged.
Matt Dove, former professional skateboarder and owner of Punk Rock Fish Studio, has held similar events in the past. Last year he teamed up with Dew Tour promoter Alli Sports to host an event in conjunction with the popular extreme sports festival. This year, because the tour went its separate ways from the promoter, he’s launching an independent event with a few close friends.
“It’s an art show and music event,” Dove said. “We have seven bands playing. It’s free to the public. Fifty percent of the artists are professional skateboarders – whether they’re legends or current competing pros – and the rest of the artists are just local artists that I’ve had contact with over the years.”
Last year’s event drew more than 500 people and featured a set from legendary Bad Brains frontman H.R. This year’s festival could attract twice as many people.
“It’s not classic art – it caters more toward alternative arts and conceptual art with a more modern twist,” Dove said. “The whole show is also based on Eastern Shore culture as far as the food is concerned. We’ll do fried chicken, corn on the cob, steamed crabs, I think we’re doing a whole pig this year, and we’ll do seafood mash and collard greens and cornbread – keep it super traditional, crab-feast-style food.”
Local sponsors include Blacksmith restaurant, Burley Oak Brewing Company, Good Clean Fun Life, the Burley Inn Tavern, Loaded Gun Custom Bikes and Dimensions Skate Shop. Dove has secured all the necessary permits, obtained insurance for the festival and has hired security – but the location and date will probably not ever be officially released.
“We’re trying to stay away from announcing specifics because last year’s show turned out really, really well,” he said. “We had multiple surprises, including H.R.
“We’re trying to keep it that way this year,” he continued. “If you’re in the know then you know what’s going on. If you’re not in the know then you’re going to be looking for it next year and we’ll be more prepared for the people that we don’t know to be there. We don’t want it to be 5,000 people cruising around Berlin looking for a party where they get there and they don’t have anything to eat, or they get there early and mob everything so when the pros come out they don’t have anything to eat. We’re trying to keep it really cryptic.”
The “in the know,” speakeasy style of the event also falls in closely with Punk Rock Fish’s marketing tendencies.
“You have to follow along and pay attention if you want to know what’s going on,” Dove said. “We do have a radio station that is also part of the plan that is going to be dropping hints up until the night of the show. Tune into local radio – that’s all I can say.”
Dove said the unnamed radio station will be broadcasting from the undisclosed location during the unannounced date of the festival.
So – just who is invited?
“The plan is for locals and the people that I traveled with and skated with throughout the years to be able to have a sort of ‘underground spot,’” Dove said. “You don’t want to be mobbed and not be able to eat when you have all this good food in front of you because you’re shaking a million hands. We try to set up a staging where everybody is on the same level; there are no nametags, and there are other reasons to be there besides ‘meet the pros,’ which is good food, good music, good artwork.”
Dove insisted the festival would be family friendly, and hopes the response leads to similar events being held in Berlin on a regular basis.
“We’re looking at this to be a catalyst for Berlin to have either a festival or a music venue that embraces the arts and culture in a younger format – not necessarily young as far as age, but as far as your perception of artwork,” he said. “We want to bring the alternative art.
“My thinking in traveling around the world and living in art districts is this is how it starts,” Dove continued. “You have pioneering people that start it like that and then it becomes really popular. We want this to be rooted and long lasting, and hopefully this expands people’s definitions of what art it. Everything is art – not just a landscape of a golf course.”