Big Pre-Fest at Little Ybor 6 (Tampa, FL)
Wednesday October 24
This is undoubtedly a gimmick band, but what a gimmick. Basically, think of the original Teen Wolf movie, modified to fit a Festers’ perspective: DIY culture, PBR, themes of not fitting in. It’s takes the goofy werewolf/teenager metaphor and adds an ironic, yet true-to-life spin of accepting who you are. In many ways that’s what The Fest is about: getting those thousands of fans together in a single place, meeting up with friends and making new ones over shared interests all while not being afraid to let their freak flags fly. Anyway, the band also played for 30 minutes to a packed Crowbar. It was high energy and a lot of goofiness from the mask-wearing, basketball jersey-clad group defined by charged singalong choruses and gruff gang vocals atop classic punk structures.
Every Fest has its new discoveries. Count Pittsburgh’s Nightmarathons among them. The band takes a pretty even keel approach to the stage, letting their layered singalongs shine instead of any theatrics or banter. It was a straight-forward set where the chemistry between the two singers jumped out along with their unique voices and ability to come together in the middle. An added bonus was a freebie CDR so I can recharge my memory of the set after the fact, as taking in new bands when you see this many in a short time can be a tall order.
Night one with five days to go, I took it a little easy during Cursive, enjoying most of the set from the balcony at The Orpheum. It was nice to catch the Omaha indie group in such a setting, and one of the benefits to Pre-Fest is that you can catch the headliners in more intimate venues. Cursive’s sound is warm and compelling, and the mid-size venue was a good match as Tim Kasher and company spanned their entire discography over an hour-long set. It was a best-of sort of set, with a lot of material from the latest records mixed in—which makes sense, given the band’s limited activity in recent years before dropping a new album in 2018. I was a passing fan of the band before the weekend and I’ll now be seeking out some physical records to add to my collection, being won fully over. It was also refreshing to catch a little different style of music (though with clear crossover appeal), since much of The Fest’s lineup is more of a fast-tempo and group shout-along style of punk.
My lineup from the day: Flat Stanley, Guerilla Poubelle, Awkward Age, Traverse, Wolf-Face, Nightmarathons, Dikembe, RVIVR, Dead Bars, Cursive, Bad Cop/Cop
Thursday October 25
Developing a Theory of Integrity is one of those records that kind of sneaks up on you as to how good it is. The band plays medium-tempo punk, the kind that’s equal parts a cathartic release of frustration and a thoughtful piece of art once you delve beneath the surface. Because of its tempo, it’s also the kind of band I didn’t expect to pack the house at Crowbar, but I’m pleased to see their draw. While I’m oddly harping on the speed of the music, I was unsure it would capture the same heart live and Makewar reached that and delivered beyond, striking even more of a connection. When bands have deeper songs, sometimes it forges a strong bond with the audience but, at others, it builds a wall if they aren’t already diehard fans. Makewar connect well with their audience and each other, treading that line between meaningful songs and having a good time.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Night Birds. When the new record came out, I was pretty surprised to see that they’re already a decade old. Time flies—as do their albums and sets. The band mixes classic hardcore punk, a dash of surf, and brevity. While the band is a quartet with a lot of recognizable faces, singer Brian Gorsegner steals the show during sets. Wearing a ripped-up flannel and a permanent scowl, he’s the type of frontman that cocks his arm, glues the mic to his lips, and leans into the crowd to fling the fury directly into the audience. The high energy tunes fuel stage and crowd equally, wiping out the barrier – as it should be. I highly recommend seeing them – just don’t get there late or it might already be over.
I always struggle explaining a band like Radioactivity. You know how when something is done so well that it just seems right? That’s Radioactivity and they were the perfect way to close out the night (and Pre-Fest). Stylistically, they’re a little bit outside the normal Fest sound. While some of their other projects have been a little more by-the-book, Radioactivity steps up the flair. Sure, it could have been the lipstick-print shirt, but also strutting around the small stage gives a little extra kick to the tight-as-hell songwriting of the band.
My lineup from the day: Bad Cop/Bad Cop (Acoustic), Coffee Project, Swiss Army, Signals Midwest, Makewar, Direct Hit, Night Birds, Tiltwheel, Too Many Daves, The Tim Version, Lemuria, Tim Barry, Meat Wave, Radioactivity