The word is getting out on the Worst Kept Secret Fest.
This is the second time that the event will be held at Skate Naked, an indoor skate park located at 3790 E. 5th Ave., after having outgrown Dude Locker. The festival organizers were concerned that the location was too remote, but were pleasantly surprised when attendance grew even after the move.
“Attendance is always surprising. We always have our doubts. When you do something like this, it’s kind of a big risk and you don’t know if it’s going to pay off,” founder Geoff Spall said.
It was estimated that the first festival had around 100-200 in attendance, with it
steadily growing up to 500-600 in attendance at the seventh Worst Kept Secret, he said.
This Friday and Saturday will mark the eighth Worst Kept Secret Fest. Spall started the free festival in October 2012. It usually happens twice a year — once in the fall and once in the spring.
“When I started a band in Columbus, I was always looking for something like this — like where it is dark and loud and everyone is having a great time like it’s 1991 again,” Spall said of the reason he started the festival. Spall is the lead singer of Columbus band Friendly Faux.
He said he believes that Worst Kept Secret Fest’s inclusion of all types of people is what sets it apart from other festivals.
“To me it’s one of the most inclusive-type festivals where people can come and practice their craft. Not everybody is in a band, or is a painter, or a drunk, but people can have fun appreciating all three. That’s the ethic behind this and I think that’s what would make us special compared to other ones. That and we have no money,” he said.
Spall is referring to the fact that all profits are rolled into putting on the next festival. Worst Kept Secret Fest has looked into becoming a nonprofit organization, but hasn’t gained that status yet. The only sources of profit for the organization are beer and festival merchandise, as sponsors mainly give services rather than money.
They will, however, be accepting donations at the door for the Dick and Jane Project, a Columbus-based organization that partners middle school students with professional musicians to create songs.
Joshua Ziegfeld got involved with the Worst Kept Secret Fest after he attended the first one, and is now one of the directors of the event. He has seen the event grow and change over the years.
“It was pretty much just heavy garage rock for the first one or two and then it started branching out pretty quickly after that. We have a good mix of everything,” Ziegfeld said.
They make a point to include new and more experienced local acts on the roster, and even have more popular bands “sit one out” to maintain that balance. Not even Friendly Faux has played every one of the festivals.
“We always like every time to pick some bands out of the scene that people haven’t heard of because we want our audience to come in and see something new that they haven’t seen before and walk away thinking ‘that’s my new favorite band,'” Ziegfeld said.
Columbus band and previous Columbus’ Own feature, Betsy Ross, will be playing at the festival for the second time. Lead singer Charity Crowe enjoyed the last Worst Kept Secret Fest.
“You’re playing music and there’s people still skateboarding and doing their thing and it’s really cool, a really nice environment,” she said.
Art director Melissa Hoffman designed the fliers for the event, featuring an octopus-like creature to symbolize the eighth festival. She said the water theme will carry over to decor and merchandise for the festival.
Hoffman also organized the visual art portion of the festival, which will feature seven local artists with varying media. There will be art for sale with 100 percent of the sales going to the artists themselves..
Hoffman said she hopes that people will enjoy the ambience of the event.
“It’s a pretty dark area but we keep the gallery pretty lit so it’s an intimate experience and with all of the local music playing in the background. It’s very unique and special,” she said. “We want it to feel very communal.”
Spall described the opportunity for the range of bands to share the stage, “like a frat mixer,” and Ziegfeld said that Worst Kept Secret Fest could even be seen as a networking event.
“If you are a creative type … it’s actually a really great place to go meet other people who are involved in stuff and make new connections,” Ziegfeld said.
The Worst Kept Secret Festival will kick off on Friday with doors opening at 5 p.m.