This past October, Denmark punks Forever Unclean participated in The Fest - a 4-day DIY music extravaganza in Gainesville FL. The festival featured heavy hitters like Against Me!, Jawbreaker, and Less Than Jake, as well as a plethora of smaller artists, wrestlers, and comedians. Notably, it was Forever Unclean’s first excursion in the United States. Leo Wallin, the band’s drummer, was tasked by the controlling heads at their American label to keep a tour journal of their time stateside. So without further adieu, Scene Point Blank is proud to give you Forever Unclean’s First American Tour… Diary.
We decided to arrive in NYC a week prior to our tour so we could do some sightseeing and hang with our buds from Hidden Home Records and Shrug Dealer. While there, I sat in on drums for Shrug Dealer in Greenpoint Brooklyn, which was a fun way to pass the time (and drink for free).
Our most important mission for the week was to acquire some instruments for the shows to come. This had us biking, ubering and train-riding all over town to check out some mighty fine music shops. Notably, we met a cool dude on Craigslist named Bob, who was a retired session drummer with a packed apartment of rare, vintage gear.
Eventually, the mission was accomplished and we were ready to embark on our first little US tour down the east coast. Enough of never sleeping and Big Apples for us.
After a couple of 8 hour drives, we arrived in Atlanta GA.
We pulled into the parking lot of Bar 529 and immediately ran into two of the other bands, Spray Tan and Hunger Anthem. Margo, the bass player of Hunger Anthem, was holding a whiteboard and pen. These were her only means of communication, due to her having lost her voice in a fog machine accident. We had already met her earlier this year at Booze Cruise in Bristol UK. This time she was wearing a Forever Unclean shirt, which made us feel instantly welcome.
Before the show started, we wandered to a nearby establishment for beers and spicy tofu. The TV in the bar was playing Beetlejuice. Margo taught us the game of Threes, which is a dice game that she apparently always wins (this time was no exception). Plumer from Spray Tan closed our tab ("welcome to the south, boys!") and we all walked back to the venue where the rest of the bands had now arrived. We said hello to our fellow Europeans in Überyou and Hell & Back and ventured inside to see the first band. Spray Tan had to call their bass player, who was still at home, due to some confusion about the set order. He arrived just in time to walk directly onto the stage, and they played a great set - a superb start to an awesome evening!
Every band that played (which also included Reconciler) was rock solid. We were quite astonished by the high level of musicianship throughout the night, a theme that would turn out to be recurring in the days to come. Our set was smack dab in the middle of the bill, which meant we got no soundcheck and no chance to test our new gear. But unlike the game of Threes with Margo, this was our home turf and everything went pretty well from the get-go. Our set went smoothly and some unexpected crowd sing-alongs melted our hearts!
The rest of the night went by in a jiffy. After some rowdy mosh pits, a Journey cover, the chucking of backline into the bed of a pickup truck, and a brief house party, we were ready to call it a day. We checked in at our host Daniel’s house, met his pets (a deer and a mouse) and passed out on his soft furniture.
We bid farewell to Daniel’s pets and started our drive to Orlando. However, we only made it halfway down our host’s driveway before being held up by two police officers who thought we had broken into Daniel's car. This was quickly resolved though, and along we went!
7 hours and 700 cups of coffee later, we had our first encounter with the humid Florida atmosphere. Once we arrived at the venue, we disembarked from our pleasant air-conditioned rental car and were soon met by Craig of Punching Babies. Craig is not only one of the kindest people on earth, but he is also the promoter of the yearly Foreign Dissent showcase we were playing. Several of our friends had spoken highly of the previous years’ shows (which happen at Will’s pub), so expectations were high. Not high enough, however, because HOLY GUACAMOLE - this was one of the coolest shows we have ever played! Smooth and swift bar service, incredible vegan fast food and a packed room, only topped by the stellar lineup of bands that played!
It was obvious that a bunch of local and international Fest-goers initiated their week of Fest-ing by coming here, and a few familiar faces from Europe were among the crowd. Their shouting along made this show a special one for sure. It was clear from the get-go that Craig and his team had been working hard in their local scene, building this annual showcase up to become an important point of interest for touring bands, as well as attendees. The good vibes were as thick and sweet as fro-yo!
There was an afterparty at our new buddy Ida’s, whose house we were staying at with Good Friend, a super cool party-punk trio from Ireland. Beer and shit-talking was had until the early morning.
St Petersburg FL
After too many nights of barely sleeping, we were relieved to make our first short tour drive to St. Petersburg FL. This also meant that we had spare time to scour through the local Walmart for garments better suited to the southern climate than our nordic winter outfits. We then regrouped at our designated hotel for some instrument maintenance. You gotta pay attention to equipment that is otherwise exclusively handled while being intoxicated, or your shit will fail you at the most inconvenient times.
Tonight's venue was Lucky You Tattoo, where they host DIY shows all year. The setting was pretty laid back: play on the floor and BYOB. An ideal show in our book!
The schedule, however, was tightly crammed. It was obvious that Chewie and the rest of Savage Beat (who were running the event) wanted to put as many Fest bands on the bill as possible. An impressive feat indeed! 16 bands in only 8.5 hours is enough to please the hungriest of music devourers, and we were completely spent once the last chord of the night was struck. Our set went OK, but most of the bands were rad as hell! Some honourable mentions are Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Horrible Girl and The Hot Mess, Chloe Hawes, and Arms & Hearts. A few bands that were playing Lucky You the next day came to party with us too, packing the venue as well as the parking lot, where a party was going on simultaneously. What a night!
The Fest - Gainesville FL
After touristing about in the Tampa Bay area for most the day and browsing through cool alien-themed gaming computers for Troels, we headed up to Gainesville to check into our home for the weekend. Our friends Clint and Jen graciously lend out their house and themselves to a group of fellow Danes who participate in Fest-ivites every year.
Now was the time - the grand finale we have been looking forward to for many months! Fest is the talk of the scene worldwide, and for good reason! Having only previously experienced the European equivalents, it quickly dawned on us that the scale and setting of Fest makes it very special. 6000 attendees and 300 bands in a cozy college town accompanied by a great bar and food scene is a combination that is bound to be magical. Our set was late at night on the last day, so we had plenty of time to indulge in the full-on silliness that naturally accompanies every great festival.
Not much can be said about The Fest that hasn’t already been described in countless pieces across the internet. But for us, it included bumping into friends from around the world, getting shitfaced several times a day, eating Caribbean-style food (and surely putting on a couple of kilos), trying all the root beers we could (after persuasion from Rob of Hidden Home), and watching countless once-in-a-lifetime sets from must-sees, friends' bands and random never-heard-of-'ems.
Some of the highlight sets came from Screaming Females, Chotto Ghetto, Spraynard, Get Married, After The Fall and Wine Lips. All of the love was had and was given. The tiny amount of bands we were able to see didn’t compare at all to the amount playing. Our festival ended with one of the best shows we’ve ever had - not just performance-wise, but due to the insane crowd response from homies as well as strangers. The way it made us feel will not soon leave our memories.
And that's it! We're done! Off to the cold north we go, far from punk rock paradise.