First-year fests are generally a gamble, requiring time, money, and planning for something that could easily fail if the logistics aren’t tuned just right. For SKULL Fest, which debuted at Belvedere’s Ultra-Dive in 2008, the first iteration proved that there was an appetite and passion for this kind of event, with two hundred people showing up for the inaugural day-long celebration of punk and hardcore.
The festival hosted by SKULL Records, where Hanna also serves as founder and owner, celebrates its 11th year this weekend. In contrast to its first year, the 2019 festival will take place over the course of four days and feature more than 50 different bands.
“SKULL Fest has grown a lot over time, and it has become what it is now, which is this holiday for Pittsburgh punks and for punks all over the world now,” says Hanna. “We get all the best fans of the genre from all over the world.”
Kicking off Thu., Aug. 15 at Babyland with Japanese hardcore punk band Skizophrenia, the festival continues all through the weekend to Sunday night, ending with a 30th-anniversary celebration of zine/record label/collective Profane Existence at Cattivo. Other performances will be held at Rock Room and Spirit throughout the weekend, with multiple shows at each venue.
SKULL Fest has become a sort-of pilgrimage for punk and hardcore bands and their fans from around the globe. National acts such as SexPill from Houston and Geiger Counter from Minneapolis will take the stage, as well as international bands like Warwound and Rubella Ballet from the UK, and Swordwiedler from Sweden.
The festival's international appeal has helped it gain more recognition and put the Pittsburgh punk scene on the map.
“I have a friend from Pittsburgh who lives in the UK now and he says that, ‘So many people, when they hear I’m from Pittsburgh, they ask if I’ve heard of SKULL Fest,’” says Hanna. “It’s crazy that it’s really so far-reaching.”
Even with all of the attention SKULL Fest has gained, for Hanna, it’s all about bringing love, community, and celebration to the punk scene right here in Pittsburgh.
“I really love to see everybody reunite for the fest, and I love seeing everybody dig on the bands, and all the dancing and stage diving. I love to see everyone's crazy styles,” says Hanna. “Every year, people’s hair and clothes and punk styles get crazier. The camaraderie is my favorite part and it keeps me wanting to do this every year.”