V Fest is many things — a chance to see great music, a display of community spirit, and a killer party. Ultimately, though, despite the corporate logos plastered everywhere, it’s a celebration of a culture outside the mainstream, a glorification of the fact that you’re listening to music as loud as you can and your mom isn’t there to tell you to turn it down. As such, it’s appropriate that V Fest has drawn in outsiders from other artistic cultures. This year, a group of graffiti artists set up a demonstration, and we spoke to one of them about his culture.
Rowbot, a former b-boy and now an art student, says he got involved in graffiti through a general interest in hip-hop culture and has been doing it for seven years now. What keeps him going? “I don’t know, I just do it for the letters, basically,” he says, while meticulously spraying a stream of red across the white wall set up at V Fest like he would on a piece of public property. The problem for Rowbot, though, is that it’s not the same. He says it’s nice to be doing it legally for a change, reminding us that he’s constantly facing the chance of being arrested. What some call art, others call vandalism, and there’s always an element of risk involved in any of his pieces. When SPIN.com asked to see his tag, the call-sign of graffiti artists, he demurred, fearful that displaying it in public might get back to him legally. So, in a public celebration of a counterculture that some might claim has been co-opted, we are given a very real reminder of the fact that even if it makes it to the well-manicured stages of V Fest, art starts off from a place of danger. STORY BY JEFFREY PARKER / PHOTOS BY BENJAMIN SOLOMON
At V Fest ’06, SPIN.com is on the ground with eight college students — four writers, four photographers — to cover the festival for SPIN.com, live. We’ll be sending them out on mini-missions throughout the festival, and they’ll be reporting live from our booth on the festival grounds. Here’s one writer’s perspective on being picked to cover V Fest.