The Fest 17 (Gainesville, FL)
Friday October 26
Gimmicks are tricky. The Eradicator is based on one of my favorite Kids in the Hall skits, and an odd one at that. One of the reasons that show has survived the ages is because their sense of humor wasn’t topical and, actually I don’t know what that has to do with this band. Back on point: The Eradicator is a band about the sport of squash. They repeat a handful of phrases from a KITH skit repeatedly in songs and in banter. In fact, that’s mostly what the banter is: a ridiculous in-joke that, shared among friends in the audience, but it works even if they haven’t seen (or don’t remember) the origin. As for the band, let’s just say it’s super funny but with a positive vibe and a lot of energy. The songs are punk rock, leaning on the hardcore side of things, and with a nod to the classics, including a couple of Weird Al-ish punk parodies. I’m honestly not sure how well a band like this holds up isolated on their own, but in the middle of 5 days and seeing more than 50 sets, it’s a hell of a time. Two bands from the weekend had me repeating catchphrases a week later, this is the first. I’ll keep you on the edge of your seat waiting to read who the second one was.
Billy Reese Peters
Billy Reese Peters signifies a lot of the great things about The Fest. This reunion set of a lesser known Gainesville band of days gone by provides the enthusiasm of a local show, the excitement of a band that rarely plays, the community of a local show, and a reminder of an album I need to revisit. Scheduling this show at Durty Nelly’s was icing on the cake: it’s my least favorite venue as far as sound and sightlines go, but it always hosts the grimy small DIY bands I adore. It’s an intimate setting for an intimate show that killed it, both in performance quality and energy. While the tiny stage was the center of the action, it was mostly a singalong from the entire crowd, complete with crowdsurfing in the small pub where audience members legs repeatedly gave the hanging ceiling fans a workout. For anyone unfamiliar, Billy Reese Peters offer a great glimpse into the music scene of Gainesville in the early 2000s.
Every time I listen to Dead Bars I appreciate them more. The first time I saw them (at a Fest many moons ago), it was fun, energetic punk rawk. Today it’s still enticingly fun, but it’s a lot deeper. To pull a line from “Dream Gig:” “I'm an aging rocker just tryin’ to make it in this world.” Their stage mannerisms put them in another world, lost in the music amid a sea of relatable yet person lyrics that are inspiringly unique in a scene dominated by similar sounds.
My lineup from the day: Starter Jackets, Headlines, The Eradicator, Debt Neglector, Pears, Santa Ana Knights, Sandspur City, Billy Reese Peters, Riverboat Gamblers, Dead Bars, Crusades
Saturday October 27
I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen Banner Pilot. They’re from my hometown and all, but it’s a different scene entirely at The Fest. Banner Pilot played early in the day at the massive outdoor space named Bo Diddley Plaza. While I prefer an indoor show, the Florida sunshine was perfectly suited to their upbeat sound overlaid with downtrodden lyrics. What strikes me most about Banner Pilot is that I’ve never seen them play an off set. It was clear that the sun, directly overhead, was hitting them hard and at least one member made not-so-subtle hangover remarks, yet they hit on every note, giving energy to kick off Fest’s second day.
I don’t think I can say a lot about DFMK, as I only caught the last half of their set (thanks to a friend’s recommendation) and I hadn’t heard them before. I just knew of them, but it was a heartfelt delivery with an ear for the classics. The band’s stage presence is both strong and unique. While the band leans on the hardcore side of the spectrum, the lead vocalist, clad in a tucked-in Western shirt with graying, nearly combed hair, is more interested in dancing to the groove of the song than thrashing around. There was a clear camaraderie among members and a ton of positive vibes that emanated off the stage and throughout the venue, even when the song topics themselves were less positive (noticing a theme here?).
Just writing the name here sends Mike Wiebe’s reverb-laden repetition ringing through my head (the second aforementioned catchphrase of the weekend). Drakulas. Drakulas. Drakulas. The fast r’n’r stylings of the band and their bizarro post-apocalyptic messages blended perfectly with Wiebe’s theatrics and blazing energy to end The Fest’s second night. Under the colorful lights of Boca Fiesta’s outdoor courtyard, Wiebe’s danced about, climbed whatever was in sight, and frequently returned to shaking the band’s inverted cross-decorated tambourine. It’s easy to describe the concept of a band like The Eradicator, Masked Intruder, or Spells (who I caught earlier in the evening), but while Drakulas have a concept, they don’t have a gimmick. At its heart this is just good music: high octane, fun, and perfect to let loose.
My lineup from the day: Sundowner, Banner Pilot, Nomore, The Weak Days, A Vulture Wake, Dead to Me, DFMK, Squarecrow, Rozwell Kid, The Lawrence Arms, Spells, Aage Birch, comedy: Fest Greg/Mike Wiebe/Harry Snover/Spencer Acree/Vanessa Kinsey, Nothington, Drakulas
Sunday October 28
Too Many Daves
I saw Too Many Daves at Pre-Fest, and I swore I’d skip them to see a new band on their second time around. But the pull of Palomino’s Sunday lineup reeled me in yet again—not to disappoint. Did I just speak somewhat derisively above about gimmick bands? I guess that’s why you can never speak in absolutes. The Fest is just the perfect outlet for this side project. If you visit their Facebook page, you’ll see a logo of a brain with a strike through it. That about covers things. The songs are usually one-to-two minutes, with the lyrics containing the song’s title on repeat. And those themes are tongue-in-cheek dude’s life mantras about your dude’s room, drinking beer and, um, restraining orders. It’s ridiculous, but the energy is so palpable it’s contagious. While pretty much all concerts are great, what really set The Fest apart (even from Pre-Fest) is that the crowd is always so excited and so pumped to be there, that the energy just fills the room—to the point that a band like this doesn’t only exist, pulling together Daves from different US coasts, but that they can charm everyone in their path while doing so.
A favorite band from last year, it was nice to see City Mouse moving up to the mid-sized venue The Wooly – which, I’ll add, has really been built into a nice venue over the years. Last year on the small stage at Crowbar, their set was a balance of energy between their outgoing bassist and the more stationary lead singer Miski Dee who belts out vocals more like a soul singer than a punk screamer. With the bigger stage, the balance shifted toward the humble Miski Dee, although everyone in the band was clearly having a good time as well, including guest guitarist Davey Tiltwheel.
I’ll give a shameless plug for our recent giveaway with Radon for giving me that extra push to stick around Boca Fiesta for yet another Sunday set. Dave was a pleasure to work with and I wanted to see him in action—to not mention in his hometown. Like I said earlier about Billy Reese Peters, there’s nothing like catching the character of a hometown show and Radon’s set was the epitome of that energy. While I consider their records to be mid-tempo and more contemplative than rollicking, the live show was an even balance. It captures their songwriting perfectly but with an extra, enthusiastic set, topped off with a bunch of people in their forties crowdsurfing and stumbling into each other.
And that, my friends, was The Fest 17. See ya next year.
My lineup from the day: Pkew Pkew Pkew, Sincere Engineer (Acoustic), Brendan Kelly, Witchbender, Ether, Other Half, Iron Chic, The Tim Version, Western Settings, Masked Intruder, Too Many Daves, City Mouse, Radon, Post Teens, Tiltwheel
Dead To Me