Fest recaps are tough. It’s a 4-day* event with over 400 bands. By my spotty count, I saw at least 42 bands and 7 comedians and I’m sure those numbers aren’t accurate. I had some holes in my daily schedules that I wandered about town, ate foods, met up with friends, or just forgot what new bands I checked out. I missed a good dozen more I would have liked to have caught live but—what can you do?—a guy’s gotta eat and sleep. Beyond the massive scope of the event, it’s also more about “the scene” than it’s about spotlights. Sure, big names and big draws played, but there isn’t a Winner of Fest, as much as there’s an ongoing twelve-venue party where each band has Tony Weinbender’s stamp of approval. Fest 12 was my seventh in a row and I doubt I’ve seen a bad band yet.
Night Birds playing at Fest 9, 10/29/2010 – photo by Nicole C. Kibert on Flickr.
Fest 12 was marked by an expansion to 4 days*. The expansion was fairly organic, as unofficial shows have been hitting Gainesville on Thursday night for years in advance of Fest and out of towners like to arrive early. The changes this caused were twofold. First, at a day longer, there was a stronger sense that people in the audience were wearing out. On Saturday night, crowds were a bit calmer: four days of raging takes its toll. Second, the extra time allowed a greater distribution of primetime slots for bands to play. It’s not to say there weren’t still 2pm shows daily, but many venues didn’t open doors until 4-5pm which gives attendees more sleep, better food options, and a better chance to check out the city that is hosting them.
*Counting pre-Fest, which this writer did not attend, the total event spanned 6 days.
But you aren’t reading Fest 12 to hear talking points. How were the bands? Did I see Tim Version and Tiltwheel for the seventh consecutive year instead of seeing new bands? You got it. Thanks for paying attention. Sure, there’s a journalistic expectation to report on the bigger items of the event but, honestly, Fest is about the people as much as the bands. Each year is a reunion of new friends met in Gainesville from across the globe, and it’s just as important to catch up with like-minded music friends as it is to watch live music for four days straight.
My overall listing below has at least an hour hole each day, but it still gives a representative sample of the long weekend. If only that text hadn’t autocorrected a surprise Radon set that was missed. “Reason?” Who is that?
This was a short day for me, not so much because of a light schedule as it was a 6am flight, three airports, and registration/flea market. On the plus side, that means less competition for picking my highlights.
PITY PARTY @ PALOMINO
I’ll be honest: Pity Party didn’t woo me with their music so much as the atmosphere of their set. The set could have used more vocals and the sightlines in the corner of this pool hall are…who am I kidding? There is no sightline, there is no stage. But that played to Pity Party’s advantage in a set I’d hold out there for anybody who safety pins a “punk is dead” catchphrase onto their jacket. It was manic, sweaty, and hard to decipher. That also means it had to thrive on its energy and attitude, and it did.
THE TIM VERSION @ DURTY NELLY’S
As far as Fest goes, The Tim Version has a short drive up from Tampa. With new dad Russ Van Cleave screaming, the band led a set with lots of new material. They have a new album recorded and it’s only a matter of time after they’ve hit my “most anticipated” list two years running. It was a set both typical of the band and the venue: a bit grimy, dark, and hazy, with moments of throat-shredding euphoric energy that transcends through the cigarette smoke and past those stupid ceiling fans that block the stage and don’t even work. Plus, it set the stage for Tiltwheel, who won’t get a write-up this year other than to say it was a solid set as always.
Jowls playing Fest 12. Photo by Loren M. Green
Friday felt like Saturday. Adding a day to a festival will do that. By the time I got indoors for my first “club” show of the day at just 4pm I was already looking for a boost. Who would have thought it would come in the form of a cover band?
OPERATION IVY (WORN IN RED/SEA OF STORMS) @ DURTY NELLY’S
Cover bands were something of a thing this year. Novel, yes? Something to write up as a highlight…? I have mixed feelings about that but I’m just being honest here. The set held true to Energy, mixing ska and punk and playing all the hits that every single person in attendance at Fest knew. Sure, they didn’t play “Bankshot,” but with a surprisingly good Jesse Michaels impersonation (and a bit of Lint), they delivered to a packed house that re-juiced everyone for a full day of upcoming bands. I’ll take this over a Sparks any day (see Fest 6). It even made me regret missing the Rancid cover set (Leagues Apart) the night earlier. Again, this probably shouldn't be a highlight, but it was just one of those times when there are a few hundred people in a room, all grinning ear to ear.
MIXTAPES @ 8 SECONDS
I still can’t figure out why such a crisp pop-punk band hits me like they do, but it may have to do with Mixtapes’ live sets—that’s how I first heard the band last year when I wandered into The New Top Spot early and caught a few songs. The male-female vocal tradeoffs and lyrics that cover small towns, small scenes, and early 20s partying, are delivered in a mixture of the cute and the honest and it just hits, regardless of what qualifiers are used to describe the sound. It’s bouncy pop and, entering the venue to see a dozen beach balls flying above a pogoing crowd only reinforces that it can’t all be screaming cathartic punk, blistering hardcore, or acoustic self-reflection. Sometimes you just have to smile and enjoy the moment.
RAGING NATHANS @ DURTY NELLY’S
What’s the deal with all the bands I want to see playing this dingy venue? Anyway, Raging Nathans caught my attention at Fuck Dave Strait Fest in August and they hit on that same note here, playing pounding Ramones-inspired punk with big drums and big hooks that get a lot fiercer than the New York group I just namedropped. A three-piece to watch. And this time around a few people in the audience even knew the band.
Too Many Daves playing at Fest 9, 10/29/2010 – photo by Nicole C. Kibert on Flickr.
Friday and Saturday are the biggest days of Fest. May as well start it with a vegan breakfast and a screening of Descendents’ doc Filmage.
NIGHT MARCHERS @ FLORIDA THEATER
When people asked who I was at Fest 12 to see, I usually said the Night Marchers. The relatively inactive San Diego band was something of a stylistic outlier at Fest and the crowd may have reflected this (or maybe the 6:20 timeslot) but I was surprised not to find the Florida Theater packed for the legendary John Reis and gang. What they delivered was a live replication of both of their records, mixing up their best songs and hitting on a level of accuracy that sounded similar to the raw recordings they specialize in. It had a bouncy, positive vibe and maybe a little more surf undertone than I’ve detected on studio recordings, and their jokey attitude played well. If only they’d had some merch for sale as I get the feeling they were one of few bands who would have had a shirt in a color other than black.
DILLINGER FOUR @ FLORIDA THEATER
What a year. Not only did I enter the Florida Theater, but I did so 4-5 times. One of which was for Dillinger Four who are Fest vets but missed the past couple of years. In an early “headlining” slot at one of the largest venues (apparently they wanted to boot out Festers for some late night clubbing), D4 were both hilarious and rocking. In typical fashion, Paddy dropped lines on Obamacare, Fest, and whatever else came to mind, but it was also a surprisingly tight set from the oft-sloppy band. Perhaps I’m accustomed to seeing them at home, but in opening with Fest-inspired “Gainesville” and sticking to a Situationalist Comedy and Civil War-heavy set, the band played one of the best shows I’ve seen from them in a long time. And I’ve seen this band a lot.
F.Y.P @ 8 SECONDS
The headliners really were the headliners tonight. After catching a less exciting F.Y.P set at Fest 11, I had intended to skip out on this reunion of sorts. However, the schedule was fairly open and I entered 8 Seconds to see yet another Todd Congelliere band—likely the frontrunner if I were to count how many times I’ve seen specific musicians at Fest over the years. This year, F.Y.P fit 8 Seconds much better. The band is built on sloppiness and making something beautiful from the ugly, and ugly is a good word for the 8 Second floor. Playing to a half-full room of people mostly too drunk to stand upright, the set was a mixture of slip’n’slide pit and happy singalong, bringing memories of the band who kicked off Recess Records back in 1989.
Matty Bloodbath, J Wang, & Jeff Dukes playing at Fest 12. Photo by Loren M. Green
Saturday was definitely the heaviest day of festing (v.) among most. With that brings a tired Sunday: crowds that lean on walls and sip water, yet get into it when the getting is good. It was no different this time around and, as noted in the intro, the venues opened later which allowed good time to sleep and then catch some new bands. There was even time to catch a quarter of football before the main attractions started.
CRY BABY @ PALOMINO
I’m not sure how much to say about Cry Baby. I didn’t get their 7” (too hard to carry around all day) and their set was all I’ve heard from the band. Each year sees the graduation of bands from smaller stages to larger and it seems that Cry Baby may make their presence known more at Fest 13, playing an energetic big of gruff punk at mid-tempo. Heart on your sleeve, DIY goodness.
BANGERS @ LOOSEY’S
I’d just gotten Crazy Fucking Dreams before Fest and it’s hitting me harder than its predecessor Small Pleasures. The UK band has played Fest before and they were among an international line-up Sunday night to close out Loosey’s. The socially conscious bits of lyrics may not hit as hard live, but the catchy yet insightful singalongs bursts double in power. Check ‘em out.
ALL @ FLORIDA THEATER
I’m not really a fan of ALL. That was sort of the point of the Filmage documentary in a way but, still, even after seeing them, it just doesn’t click in that same way as their bespectacled brethren group. Regardless of personal tastes, with a Chad Price fronted line-up and the wonderful Bill Stevenson on the kit, ALL ripped through a lot of their catalogue to a mixture of three audience types: up front were the big fans, dancing and singing along in glee; in the middle were the curious—those in respect of their lineage but seemingly not all-in, and; third, were those who were just hoping for the unsubstantiated rumors to come true that Milo had come to town. (He had not). Regardless of it all, it was a fun set that highlighted their varied textures and also bring Price’s vocal range to the forefront. While, personally, I could have done with more pounding, driving songs at that point in the weekend, the melodic focus of ALL was in full power and it’s impressive to see an inactive band play such a tight set, especially after 4+ days of festing. Note to Florida Theater: don’t block off the restrooms when a band still has 10 minutes left on their set.
Onward Etc playing at Fest 12. Photo by Loren M. Green
Fest 12 bands that I saw: Third Base and the Hits (live band karaoke/pool party), Nona, Worriers, Pity Party, Tim Version, Weekend Dads, Benny the Jet Rodriguez, Tiltwheel, Onward Etc., Adult Boys Thunder Band, Jowls, Operation Ivy (Worn in Red/Sea of Storms), Mixtapes, Raging Nathans, Too Many Daves, Cayatena, Sonic Avenues, Audacity, Underground Railroad to Candyland, Filmage (screening), Banner Pilot, Iron Chic, Matty Bloodbath J. Wang & Jeff Dukes, International Dipshit (with Nato and Dave Radon), Jeff Rowe, Night Marchers, Awkward Age, Dan Padilla, Dillinger Four, The Caffiends, American Lies, Banquets, F.Y.P, Andy Sell, Luke Fields, Ian Douglas Terry, John-Michael Bond, James Fritz, Andrew Orvedahl, Kyle Kinane, Who Needs You, Cry Baby, Smoke or Fire, Smith Street Band, Burnt Books, Throwing Stuff, Bangers, Murderburgers, ALL