Few bands have made as big of a Fest impact as Paint It Black. The hardcore favorites have a steady presence, not only from their main band, but with other projects like Lifetime, Affirmative Action Jackson, Armalite, and more also being regulars. Living in Fest infamy is the apartment show at Fest 6 in 2007. While I wasn’t personally there, I still hear about it to this day when Fest is mentioned.
Catching up with bassist Andy Nelson, Scene Point Blank asked him what he enjoys most about the annual Gainesville bash.
Scene Point Blank: What led to the apartment show at Fest 6?
Andy: I'm afraid the backstory for this one is way less interesting than the outcome, but since you asked: Earlier that day, our dear friends Shook Ones asked if we'd be interested in stopping by to play a short set at a house show they'd arranged and so, of course, we said yes –as long as we didn't have to miss Naked Raygun.
So, the four of us watched Naked Raygun (up fucking front) and once they hit the last note of that surprising Sludgeworth cover, we hightailed it across town in just enough time to run through the door of that apartment and play for however long it took the pigs to storm in and grab us. I might have this wrong, but I think we managed to play a few more songs after the cops arrived.
Scene Point Blank: Other than the apartment show, what are some key memories from that year?
Andy: The years tend to blur, don't they? It's embarrassing to say, but at the moment my feeble brain quite frankly can't differentiate between Fests 5, 6, and 7. There were a lot of drunk people there, right?
Perhaps The Fest exists in an aberrant metaphysical space where there is no such thing as time, there is only Fest.
Scene Point Blank: This was the first year utilizing a bigger venue (The Venue), right? How did playing on a larger stage affect the feel of performing at Fest?
Andy: Actually, if memory serves, our very first Fest performance was at Abbey Road, which in hindsight seems just as big. Not to toot our own horn, but I think Paint It Black always does a good job of at least attempting to break through the distance and alienation that comes with playing in a huge, impersonal rock club. And usually it works out. That set at Abbey Road, for example, was one for the books. Obviously it's entirely different than playing in a packed, sweaty living room or church basement, but it's been surprisingly easy for us at The Fest, which I'm sure is mostly to the credit of the collective consciousness of the thousand or so right-minded punks who continue to surround us in those rooms year after year.
Scene Point Blank: What keeps you coming back every year?
Andy: You mean besides Dillinger Four and the part of the night where bars let out and you can buy a Five Star Pizza on the street for $5? Recently, the espresso at Volta.
Scene Point Blank: Since the apartment show and then the parking lot set, do you feel like you have to one-up yourselves each year? Any big surprises in store for #10?
Andy: After the U-Haul show, I think we were all worried that we'd become a spectacle act, which is both a fate worse than death and also something we never intended. And to some extent, in recent years we've felt a weight of expectation; it's a bit of a drag, too, considering that our focus is always the actual Fest performance itself! But we all make our own beds, don't we?
We have nothing extra planned for Fest 10 as of this writing but, of course, you'd be the last people to tell even if we did. I've always fantasized about doing a generator show in the lobby of the Gainesville police station. Do you think that would make Tony mad?
Scene Point Blank: Affirmative Action Jackson is also a regular Fest band and, well, most of Paint It Black shares members with other groups that play each year. Does it ever feel hectic, like you have a lot to do while in town, or is playing multiple sets part of the fun?
Andy: It's a double-edged sword. While it's nice to perceive an exponentially greater amount of love and approval with each rousing set you turn in at The Fest, you do end up having exponentially less quality time with friends and you end up seeing exponentially fewer other bands play.
This year, members of Paint It Black will also perform in Lifetime and TV Casualty and, I think, Armalite, so it's clear that none of us have figured out a way to entirely avoid the excitement that accompanies the chaos.
Scene Point Blank: A lot is made of Dan’s day job and how it ties into being in a hardcore band. What is your day job? Is there any crossover between your job and your bands?
Andy: Aside from my duties in various other active musical acts, I work for an independent concert promoter in Philadelphia called R5 Productions, booking and working shows. It's about as much crossover as you can get.
Scene Point Blank: Your bands are a lot less active than they were, say, 5-10 years ago. How do you balance punk rock and a regular “adult lifestyle”?
Andy: My bands are less active? You could have fooled me. Though it is true that I'm always struggling to find a reasonable balance between this mental illness that is playing in touring punk bands while still maintaining good relationships with the wonderful people in my life. And being able to afford a few basic human needs like food, shelter, rare records, and the finest coffee. I absolutely do not have a "regular adult lifestyle," and I'm perfectly happy with that. I don't think I'd be able to tolerate such a thing.
Scene Point Blank: Paint It Black also rarely tours. When you played Minneapolis in February it was a crazy show with a lot of energy. Does the infrequency of touring make it more enjoyable?
Andy: Paint It Black has evolved into a somewhat elusive creature over the past year or two, but we are no less engaged with the scene of which we are a part or the people who define it and make punk happen. It's an unfortunate reality that these days we don't play as many shows as in years past, but we've been pleasantly surprised that people seem to understand this and, rather than become disinterested in us in the face of our inactivity, will instead make a point to be there when we do play.
A lot of people came to those shows in the Midwest from areas surrounding, and the air felt so charged: the combination of the pent up energies of hours and hours cooped up in cars or airplanes traveling to get there (for us too). That sort of group catharsis is the entire goal of why we play shows, so it's been rad that for the past year or so, all of our shows have carried that atmosphere. We've always felt the same way about our annual Fest shows, actually.
Scene Point Blank: At that show, did you plan the DYS cover with D4, or was it pretty spontaneous?
Andy: It was spontaneous in the sense that no one knew it was going to happen when we arrived that afternoon, but not in the sense there was some lyrical rehearsal before Yeems stepped back onto the Triple Rock's stage. You can't blame him for being a professional, can you? Hopefully that doesn't ruin anyone's perception of the magic.
Scene Point Blank: It’s been 2 years since anything new came out. What’s the status on writing new material?
Andy: New songs float in the ether. When the stars align just right, we'll assemble and something magical will materialize. We haven't gone anywhere, you know.
Scene Point Blank: Thanks for your time!
Photography: Chrissy Piper