Never Say Never Festival reaches sixth consecutive year

The sun was shining March 12 as nearly 5,000 people gathered to enjoy a day of non-stop music.

DontGetEmo concerts hosted its sixth annual Never Say Never Festival (NSN) and welcomed a lineup of more than 35 bands to perform on four stages, such as Bring Me the Horizon, Asking Alexandria and Of Mice & Men.

NSN is a multi-stage festival held in Mission, Texas every March during spring break. The music festival brings together performances in rock and roll, hip-hop, indie, pop punk, electronica and other genres.

Zar Castillo, co-creator of NSN along with George Culberson, explained that starting this one-day festival was not an easy process. Both put their own money together and began to build their vision piece by piece.

“I remember having the first festival in 2009 and having $30 in my bank account,” the Mission native said. “Yet in the middle of the fest, doing this $100,000 project, I was like ‘I don’t know how we’re doing this, it’s going, it’s happening.’”

While coming up with the idea of a one-day concert, Castillo said his vision received negativity from local businesses, people and friends. Castillo said he and Culberson had backlash such as, ‘It sounds like it’s not worth it,’ and ‘The market down here is never going to accept it.’

“After hearing all this negativity, that’s how the name Never Say Never came about,” the 29-year-old said. “It was just this grand idea of (DontGetEmo) that was never gonna happen and then one day, one spring break, we did.”

Castillo, who has been in the music business for 10 years, formerly hosting concerts at Nikki Rowe VFW in McAllen, believes NSN provides a different experience for the fans as well as the bands.

“At the fest, these bands and their fans love interacting with each other. Most of these bands will walk around after they play and take many pictures with fans,” the South Texas College alum said. “It’s not just about the music, but more so about the experience.”


For first-time NSN attendee Rosalinda Guerrero, the festival was unlike any other concert she had been to.

“I met so many amazing people,” the University of Texas at Brownsville student said. “Even the ones that hit me in the face or pulled my hair, I loved them all. It was great getting to meet the bands. I got to meet my baby Alan Ashby from Of Mice & Men…he called me gorgeous.”

While Guerrero checked out some of her favorite bands, such as Emmure and This Wild Life, 16-year-old Daniela Dorado fulfilled her wish and met Craig Owens, lead singer of Chiodos, an American post-hardcore band.

“The best thing about NSN is getting to see all the bands live that I’ve been listening to on my iPod,” the first-year attendee said. “It’s more thrilling seeing the bands, actually hearing the bass and the beats in real life than through ear buds.”

Eighteen-year-old Guerrero believes NSN is a nice way for locals to see bands that ordinarily wouldn’t come to the Rio Grande Valley.

“It helps out the people that don’t have a lot of money to travel great distances to see their heroes,” the Brownsville native said. “It puts small cities like us to be known.”

Both Guerrero and Dorado agreed that NSN is an experience that they would want to take part in again.

“It’s worth the whole day. You won’t get bored when you’re at a place full of bands that you love,” said Dorado, a McAllen native. “It gives you a great opportunity to check out other amazing bands that come to your liking.”

Fans weren’t the only ones that left with a new experience, band members did as well. Troy Fonseca, lead singer for local band In the Hero Prevails, has been looking forward to playing NSN for some time.

“(In the Hero Prevails) have been wanting to play NSN for a long time, but nothing really worked out. This year just fell into place and we’ve worked harder than ever,” the San Benito native said. “We just played and it was amazing. It was probably my favorite show ever. I’ve never been this tired after a show.”

CJ McMahon, lead singer for Australian deathcore band Thy Art Is Murder, explained that this is the band’s first appearance at NSN, but they toured Texas last year when they performed at San Antonio’s Everything’s Bigger in Texas Festival.

“America in general is really good to us, and everybody knows that, especially American bands that tour here,” the 31-year-old said. “Texas always has something different about it. The energy, the people are crazier here or something. Texas is always unreal for us, so we love it.”

Thy Art Is Murder is currently on tour with Emmure on The Mosh Lives tour, which began in early March with more dates to be announced, according to McMahon.

“Every show we play, the fans are erratic and crazy. We’re destroying every show,” he said. “All our fans are super supportive and respectful of us and we act the same towards them. Without our fans, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”


As the bands pack their drum sets and guitars, Castillo and his team at DontGetEmo concerts will begin working on Never Say Never Festival 2015. Castillo explained that his team will start bringing together ideas of what can be improved for future NSNs.

“We have huge goals for where we want the festival to get to,” he said. “My biggest goal is to have someone like Fall Out Boy or Paramore play our festival. That’s kinda like the pinnacle level where I see NSN going.”

Castillo explained that since creation in 2009, NSN has received invitations to take the concert to other cities, such as San Antonio and Houston. Despite the offer, DontGetEmo concerts is loyal to The Las Palmas Race Track and doesn’t see NSN moving anytime soon.

“That’s kinda in the future, you never know. This could be a tour one day,” Castillo said. “I would love to work on NSN until the last day that I can. The plan is to keep doing what we’re doing, let (NSN) keep growing and maybe we’ll take it on the road one day, but right now we’re focusing on what’s in front of us.”