After much reflection, unwinding, photos scoured through, and piles of records listened to I have my annual Fest weekend wrap-up here for your reading pleasure. It's a long one. Enjoy.
Flight to Jacksonville is at 6PM. Anxiety is butchering me in fear that Delta will cancel on me again (see Translate #6 for details on that mess), It's also sleeting outside. NYC flights next to my gate are already delayed. Surprisingly, they come through without a hitch and I roll into Atlanta before catching a connection to Jacksonville.
We touched down in Jax at midnight and I read, napped, and stared into the void which is this airport until about 5AM when Soul Control rolled up and got me.
We got into Gainesville at about 7AM and I took a power nap at the hotel until about 9:30AM when I had to get over to the Holiday Inn to set up my table. The Kiss Of Death dudes forgot to bring my LPs that I shipped them. Shit. All I had were 7"s, zines, and CDs that I brought on my flight. This makes things slightly more complicated.
The line this year was crazy. Last year it felt like everything got wrapped up by around 4PM and all attendees had their tickets, and still some time to party before bands began. I bailed at 4:30 so I could eat before watching bands and there was still a line going down the stairs, outside, and down the block. It probably kept up til at least 6PM. Wild.
Beasts Of No Nation was the first of many bands that I ventured to see this evening. This is the band fronted by the singer/guitarist from Trial By Fire, as well as my man Kevin from Majority Rule who I hadn't seen in ages. They sounded just like Trial By Fire and it was good. Plenty of great between-song banter as well.
I tried to run over to the Double Down in time to catch Regents, but sadly missed them by mere seconds. I picked up a record to make up for it. Ex-Frodus, Sleepytime Trio, and Engine Down dudes? Yes please.
I decided to make my annual pilgrimage (AKA, down the street) to the Wayward Council to take stock of their cheap used stuff and found both Monorchid full lengths for $5 each. This year, they did not mock my purchases. Could their callous crusty exterior perhaps be chipping away into warm acceptance perhaps?
Next, Tigers Jaw. Hype band. They pretty much live up to it though. I waltzed in to 8 Seconds and they were jamming on a slow, plodding, and extremely epic, heartfelt sad song. It knocked me down, though the rest of the set I saw was more upbeat and poppy.
Bailed a little early to run back over to the Lab and see Cutman. They are a local G'ville band that never seems to leave town and I miss them every year at Fest. I shall not be denied this year, even if I can stay for only a few songs. And I'm glad I did. Heavy rock that will fuck you blind. Aluminum neck guitars are the shit and sound loud as fuck. Well done. Also, one of the better LPs I've picked up this year. Old Helmet, Jesus Lizard, and old Clutch fans will rejoice.
Could I power walk fast enough to get back to Double Down and see a minute of Magrudergrind? Yes I can. And in the space of a few seconds I could probably see about 4 songs. By this point the club was getting pretty packed and it was kind of hard to see so I didn't actually watch that much but I know it got wild.
Over to The Atlantic to see Senders. They are another local band that have yet to get as far North as I am so it is imperative I check them here. The Atlantic is one of the best mid-sized venues, so I'm always happy to see bands play here. Having heard an advance stream of the new Senders LP was a treat, and hearing these songs live was pretty great. The bass tone alone was enough to level a city block while the guitars both shimmered and pulverized- Torche style stoner pop tuned up an octave with a touch of Hum to go with it. Solid.
So why didn't I go see Kid Dynamite? Well, I saw them a few times when they were originally around so I didn't feel obligated to attend tonight, even though I was interested. The understandable cancellation of Lifetime still stung nonetheless. Plus, I'm not a huge fan of the Florida Theater because it's big, ugly sweaty, crowded, smokey, and the sound can suck depending on where you're standing. So I took the advice of a stranger and stuck around after Senders to watch Creepoid.
Their name alone was intriguing enough, and they ended up sounding like their namesake- eerie, weird, creepy, spooky, with sooth, harmonized vocals and a grungy stoner rock backbone. Right up my alley. Very impressive. Nice surprise.
Back to the Double Down to try and see Touche Amore. They're always pretty good, but at this point fatigue was starting to set in so I opted to listen to them from out on the clubs patio.
I did, however, step back into the club to catch the only 'mystery band' I'd see all weekend- the Sleepytime Trio reunion. I never saw them while they were around and their recordings don't exactly do them justice because goddamn did they kill it, as if someone had lit their asses on fire. Total, all-out chaos that was equal parts screamo spazz and Jehu worship.
Afterwards I took some time to actually chill out and chit-chat with some old friends from Louisville and DC, biding my time before Coliseum took the stage.
Here's a great thing about Fest: bands that normally don't have a big crowd will suddenly play to everyone nationwide who likes them, thus the opportunity for the type of crowd response you wish they always got suddenly ends up happening. And Coliseum got what I thought they deserved. And therefore, I got to stagedive a bunch. But in my years of coming to this thing I'd always feared getting doused with beer, and amazingly, it's never happened. That is, until the Coliseum stage dive where I had almost an entire cup poured on me. I guess I deserved it for landing on a bunch of people's heads.
Leaving Coliseum to try and see some of Hot Water Music I somehow got caught up in an Occupy Gainesville march and walked with them for a few blocks, lending my voice to the chants. Gotta support whenever, wherever possible I suppose. Though I have to wonder how long these folks would last in the bitter cold Northeast!
Anyways, the last time I saw Hot Water Music must have been at least 10 years ago, but I wasn't expecting too much since everything after "No Division" just doesn't really do it for me and I'm sure they would be playing plenty of stuff from those later records. I showed up and some other dudes were playing HWM songs. Was this a joke? Did I get to the wrong set? No, it was already the encore and the Bouncing Souls played/covered a few more HWM songs. Well, that's that then.
I was on the verge of passing out from exhaustion, but I felt obligated to go next door and catch a bit of the boys in Polar Bear Club do their thing. As always, their energy is beyond compare and they bring such a good vibe and attitude to what they do... but I was beat and needed food. So after about 4 songs it was time to break out.
My gang headed over to a CVS to grab some snacks at about 10 minutes to 2AM and the place turned into a bum rush right as I got in line at the cashier. You see, they stop selling beer at 2AM here and apparently, people had partying to do. The best part was the lady ahead of me moving incredibly slow while the boozehounds further back were anxiously counting the seconds. We decided to make the situation worse by building the tension with exclamations of, "C'mon, these people need their beer!", and so forth. It's as if the slow lady up front was engaging in a passive firestorm. Take note sxe warriors- this could potentially be a new tactic in the war against partying: Make 'em wait!
Started the day on a mellow note with a drive into town and wandering down to Karma Kream, which is probably the nicest spot in town to get food, in my opinion. They make their own vegan ice cream, brew a great cup of joe, and serve a killer tofurkey reuben. Plus, they're all really nice and helpful there. Thumbs way up.
After the grub I ventured across the street to The Lab to see Fellow Project. There are folks from Bridge and Tunnel and On the Might Of Princes in this group and it kind of sounds exactly like you'd expect based on that. It's a tried and true Long Island emo sort of sound that I found pleasing to the ear.
OK, now time for punk. Got myself over to 8 Seconds for Armalite. Never seen 'em, probably never will again. But I like their record so it was probably a good idea to see this very, very part time 'band' do their thing. Plus, all these dudes are quite the comedians individually so I was expecting some clever back and forth. They were sloppy, fun, and brought a great Dag Nasty/Dillinger 4 sort of vibe that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I had some time to kill so I checked out this pool hall where an impromptu record store had been set up and I found some gems. I'll just say, this is the last place I would have ever expected to find a Path Of Resistance LP. But there it was in this most un-edge of places. I was singing "die motherfuckers, we never want you back!" intermittently throughout the rest of the day.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum I watched a few minutes of RVIVR purely out of curiosity to see what all the hubbub was about. Meh... it's mostly well done melodic punk. Maybe they're too preachy at their regular shows, but they seemed reserved here what with all the bouncers, crowd surfing, and so forth. Pretty 'safe space' huh?
I got to watch Steve-O play with Off With Their Heads. He really seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Next- Soul Control at The Lab. This is, I think, my favorite venue this year. You can get about 100-150 people in there. The stage is about 6" off the floor, and the vibe is great. Plus, it was the perfect size for every band that played it. So, since SC sort of got the shaft in terms of slot/venue last year, they got a pretty perfect fit on things this year. They sounded awesome and people really dug it and packed the room nicely. I'm sure they were stoked.
Bridge and Tunnel is always a good time. They are so passionate about what they do and they totally killed it once again this year over at 8 Seconds.
The rest of the 'mystery bands' slated to play at smaller venues really weren't my cup of tea, so instead I chose to get some $2 tempeh tacos at Flacos. Aside from the long-ass wait, it was totally worth the $4 I spent total.
From here there was enough time to get into the Theater to get the perfect spot for which to watch Paint It Black. Last year I was way in back so it was hard to discern exactly what was going on. So when they got on, everything was perfect and I was fist-pumping along to the jams, surrounded by like-minded Philly people fist-pumping even more. They opened the set with "Atticus Finch" for fucks sake, how's that for going for a riot right from the get-go?! Easily one of the best sets all weekend.
Afterwards I rolled out to see The Bomb. I like Naked Raygun and never saw them, and I admire Jeff Pezzeti's vocals quite a bit so this group will have to do. Aside from having the dullest name ever they brought it well and were quite energetic, though the vocals were a bit quiet. What was up with that dudes double-sided pants? He looked like an extra from a 1990 3rd Bass video or something. Thumbs up to the music, gasface for dress style.
Another local Gainesville band that will never come up my way was over at the Atlantic- Averkiou. I figured I ought to see it because I really dig their My Bloody Valentine dreamy rock style. But I gotta say, not only was the atmosphere in the Atlantic so thick with cigarette smoke at this point that I was nearly choking on it, but the band also did not appear to be having fun while playing. They played flawlessly, but they were not terribly exciting to watch. And to think, I missed Amateur Party for this who were no doubt ripping it up over at 1982. Oh well.
So, to lift the spirits I was compelled (as I always am) to see Lemuria. And, of course, they were great. I don't think I'd ever seen them jump around so much. And while last year provided many more stage dives (from me mostly), this year's barrier prevented that from occurring, and much of the energy was relegated to the stage.
Next, I quite literally ran to the back of the Theater and cool-guy'd it to the stage to see most of Ted Leo's set. I yelled out for "Biomusicology" and he said it was axe'd from the set. No! But it was made up for when, at the end, they pulled out "Stove By a Whale", which I figured they never played out anymore since it's such an atypical Pharmacists-type song, and damn heavy too. But it was great and I sang along to every word. What a great way to close out the night.
I skipped out on Against Me because I don't really like them. Sue me.
Late night root beers and bad TV followed. Do I know how to party or what?
A thought occurred to me today, and it's not meant to be sexist, or chauvinistic, or pervy. It's more of a social psychology, or anthropological study, I don't know. Either way, during Fest about 5000 people descend on Gainesville from all over the world and wander the streets for an extended weekend. And in wandering these streets I notice there are countless attractive women. So I wonder, are these people always this attractive? Or is it a collective mindset of knowing they will be in a different place and attempting to look their best, or their coolest, or whatever? Do they normally look like shlubs back home because they have no one to impress there? I'd say the same question could be posed to guys, but it seems like every dude here forgot to shower for a few days, and forgot to shave for even more. But it appears as if most of the women here actually took the time to consider their appearance before leaving their hotels. So I'm not really sure what the deal is with this because, as a guy, I do not put much thought into my appearance most times. Is it wrong that I take notice of this? I spent about half my time over the weekend walking back and forth down these streets so I see a lot of people. I might add, somewhat off-topic, that in the typically male-dominated world of punk music I've never seen so many women playing in bands as I did this weekend. Up the ratio/punx.
Anyways, Sunday is always the slow day but things seemed active early on and I started it with some triple chocolate ice cream from Karma. Treat yourself!
Over at 1982 I went to see a band called Weatherbox. I never heard them, but they're named after a Mission Of Burma song, so they have that going for them. Well, they were ridiculously tight, and they lived up to the name with loud, mathy rock that was certainly inventive. But the vocals felt a little weird to me, like sort of too mainstream-y radio rock or something.
Most of the excitement was over at the Atlantic today and I hung around there quite a bit to see the likes of Weak Teeth, The Catalyst, and Pygmy Lush. The only real conflict today (and they were more than ever this year!) was Punch versus Restorations. But I figured I could see 10 minutes of Punch and that would be at least half their set before leaving. Well, it was worth every second as they totally upped the ante from last year (dressing up at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and April O'Neil) by coming out as Ghostbusters, while the singer donned a full Slimer costume, throwing ectoplasm into the crowd. And, of course, the whole place turned into a riot zone. Fucking crazy.
Meanwhile, Restorations got an incredible reaction to a packed house at Looseys Pub. Goddamn, they sounded huge. What a great response to a (sort of) new band, who put out one hell of an amazing record this year. So happy for them.
So late that night (OK, midnight) the Soul Control dudes were headed back to Providence and I had no other means of getting my ass back up to Jacksonville by the next morning for my flight, so I opted to roll out with them once again. I got to the airport at 2AM for a flight almost 10 hours later. And that airport is no treat to spend the night in. Sleep comes to those who wait and I waited a long time and didn't really sleep.
I guess it wasn't the wildest of Fest weekends for me. No after shows this year for me (I actually don't think there were too many this year), or late night partying. As they say, punks not dead, it just goes to bed at a more reasonable hour, even if that's still not until 3 or 4 AM. But G'ville is truly always a great place to visit, where every local business seems to be run by cool people, totally support the Fest, punks run wild and the cops don't freak out. Where a bunch of drunks can put together three days of fun and keep things ridiculously organized. Where you can see an ambulance playing the Halloween theme music from its siren instead of... well... a siren (this really happened and it was beyond weird). Fest is good times regardless of what kind of music you like. Another thing I did not take stock of was whether or not anyone took me seriously all weekend based on the fact that I had a stupid moustache. Self-awareness overload. I felt compelled to explain myself whenever possible. If I talked to you, please bear in mind I don't usually look like this.