Hey punks: Put down those razors and electric shavers, it's time to let the facial hair flourish. You too ladies; nothing says sex appeal like a well-grown dirt-lip. And to all the social drinkers and self-professed professional drunks: you better start cracking open the cold ones. It's time to raise the bar known as your tolerance level. That's right it's October, which means The Fest is just around the corner. With three days of punk rock, pizzas, and Pabst Blue Ribbon all in the heart of the sunshine state, consider this the Shangri-la of the scene. Scene Point Blank recently spoke with The Fest organizer and No Idea Records employee, Tony Wienbender, as well as slew of veteran bands playing The Fest 6 to hear tales from years past and few things to keep in mind when arriving in Gainesville at the end of the month.
Tony Wienbender (The Fest/No Idea Records)
Scene Point Blank: So The Fest doesn't have a mission statement but it seems like the main objective to have some serious fun.
Tony Wienbender: Yeah, that's our main purpose to create a cool, fun, hangout environment that's kind of almost turn into this family reunion where once a year people from all around come down and for three days while seeing some awesome bands.
Scene Point Blank: Totally, a lot the bands I talked to are saying that The Fest is like a staple for them, something they look forward to every year.
Tony Wienbender: For some of them, it's like the only thing they do every year. Some tour the area just to play here and some bands fly down. I think this year we have rare pop-ins from bands like Armalite who never really get to tour. They would never be down here unless it's The Fest, which is cool because it's an opportunity for us [No Idea Records] to see them and we put out their record, and for a lot of other people to see them too. Then there's a band like Swing Ding Amigos, one of my favorites, who we always try to get down here. They don't really tour at all.
Scene Point Blank: So there is close to 200 bands playing?
Tony Wienbender: Well we're getting ready to announce another slew of bands. I just finished listening to some more applications for bands and I don't even know where we are at right now, maybe like 220, the most we've ever had.
Scene Point Blank: Keeping that in mind, how much planning and production time goes into The Fest during the year? Do you handle most of it yourself?
Tony Wienbender: I handle pretty much all of it. It's a part-time job for when I am not working at No Idea. I work on it during the whole year, sometimes even when I'm at No Idea. Right row I'm kind of strapped from both ends. I usually start around March or April. I know this year before South By South West, which was in April, I had the dates set and I started emailing bands to see if they wanted to come and play.
Scene Point Blank: In regards to producing such an event, putting it together and making it all happen, can you talk about the high and low points of previous years and how influenced the shaping of this year's The Fest.
Tony Wienbender: I mean there hasn't been any real lows, just a lot of highs, but I suppose a low would be not getting much sleep right before The Fest and then having three days where everyone is in town. That's a low for me personally, like the weekend of; not getting to see the bands I want or all the people I know because I'm just running around during the weekend. I don't get to spend much quality time with anyone, which I wish I could because I only get to see a lot of them once a year. It is also really hard negotiating with a band's booking agents because bands really want to come, but the booking agent is doing their job [which makes it hard to fit in The Fest to a band's schedule]. But I think over the years I've built up a real good rapport with [booking agents] and I think they understand what we are doing and they understand it's not a huge monstrosity like a Bamboozle or a Bonnaroo. We don't have these huge corporate sponsorships so there isn't a lot of money going around. All our sponsorships are done on a trade basis really. The highlights are really just getting to see everyone come from out of town and just to witness how happy everyone is walking around the streets of Gainesville. Supporting all the local and independent business is nice too because they just get a big boost that weekend. It's just nice to see all the volunteers from the town too - as a town we've just gotten really good at hosting this thing.
Scene Point Blank: Not to compare you, but how is this like Pointless Fest in Philly - the singer from R.A.M.B.O. puts it on. Are you familiar with it?
Tony Wienbender: Yeah I know it, never got to go though.
Scene Point Blank: Don't know if you heard but in the last year they had a lot of trouble with the "crusties" causing trouble which caused a back lash from the locals. Are they pretty good to the punks during The Fest?
Tony Wienbender: We've never had any problems. Never had a fight; never had a lot of problems with anyone really. As you get bigger you know that more and more people that are going to come. Two factors that I think about it keep it on the positive side of thing is that 1) I usually don't book any hardcore bands, and if we do we make sure they aren't the ninja kicking hardcore bands.
Scene Point Blank: That's where I got into hardcore and I heard some the other day thinking, "Do people still even listen to this?" I saw that bands like Modern Life is War and Ruiner are playing; while I know they fit into the grand scheme of it, they seem different from most of the bands playing.
Tony Wienbender: Yeah we tried a little more this year; last year we had like a hardcore showcase that worked really well. We had Government Warning and Paint It Black come down; Affirmative Action Jackson too. They all played together in one show and it worked out really well. This year got a little bigger with 108 wanting to play, which is awesome because I grew up on 108. But that's probably the heaviest band we've had to play The Fest. Mastodon played The Fest 2, but there were no problems with that. They were a smaller band then. They were big for The Fest but still smaller than they are now. I try to diversify, but I got applications for some bands and was like, "This sounds like it's going to be problems." I put bands at certain venues where it's like I know this venue can handle this kind of show. I'm not going to throw a hardcore band in a club that is used to hosting jam bands.
Scene Point Blank: You said there are a lot more people in attendance, and I'm sure you put a lot of information on the website, but a lot of people won't read it, specifically that almost all the clubs are 18 and over. Is there anything younger people can do to come?
Tony Wienbender: That's just how Gainesville is; they make any club that serves alcohol, meaning hard liquor, has to be 18 and over. That's a citywide law and we can't really do much about it. In the past year's I've tried to get around it by saying if you bring a parent you can get in. And we've had a lot of parents bring their kids. That's cool too. A couple years ago Against Me! played and I'm sitting in the back venue taking it all in, but I notice I'm sitting around a bunch of old dudes. I was like "How's it going man" and they were like, "Yeah, that's my kid in there. This is pretty awesome." And they are hanging out too, having a good time. It's a bummer that's how it is, but those are the laws. I can't change it. One of the places is all ages because they don't serve any alcohol and one is all ages because they only serve beer and wine. But those places tend to not stick around in Gainesville because it's hard for them to stay afloat in a college town that predominantly drinks. You just can't cover your expenses were your basically making a dollar off each person comes in. The Fest is a big boost for them though, because they will be packed. But you take a club like 1982, which is all ages, there alcohol sales will be a fraction of the ones that serve liquor. I think that a lot of the bands that The Fest hosts are more geared toward a 21 and over audience. Like Naked Raygun playing with Seaweed and Dillinger Four; I certainly know there are kids under 18 who listen to them and want to come, but there is really nothing we can do about it. Some day maybe we will take The Fest on the road where they have all ages stuff and they can see the bands.
Scene Point Blank: That would probably be a lot better than some of the more recent Warped Tour lineups.
Tony Wienbender: (Laughs) Yeah. It's always been a dream of mine, even before I started The Fest, to do a traveling tour and I had it set-up and our headliner backed out on us so the other headliners backed out because of it. Some day I will redo it. I don't know if it will be "The Fest Tour" and it definitely won't be as many bands, but I still have it in the back of my brain that someday I'll make it happen so someday I can say that people can do this besides these big giant touring machines. But that's how Warped Tour started out, Kevin Lyman [Warped Tour, director] used to work for Lollapalooza and he was sitting on a mountain with some friends and they were saying, "This sucks man, Lollapalooza really has none of the bands we like or our friends like. Fuck it Kevin, you know what you're doing. Do it." And he did it. And the first Warped Tour was not a big success but it had amazing bands and those bands weren't old at the time, so they were still gearing towards a younger audience. I think there's room for someone to do something like that again. Will it work? I don't know; we'll just have to try and see. Right now I think what were doing is the best we can do with what we have in this town.
Scene Point Blank: I agree. For all the people who are attending The Fest for the first time, any advice to make sure this is the best show of the year?
Tony Wienbender: I would hope that everyone coming take an opportunity to see as many bands as they can. If I were coming I would think, "Man I've seen these bands before and it would be cool to see them in this environment, but what's more awesome is to see all these bands I've never seen before." I'd say take the time to research the bands, we put all their info online, links to their mp3's and try and check out one or two bands you haven't heard before. But if someone is coming just to hang out with their friends and only wants to see like four bands, that's their prerogative. That's why we try to make The Fest like a "choose your own adventure". You have all these venues and there is no way you can see every band, but you have the choice to be as active or non-active as you want to be. If there is a huge band you want to see like Dillinger Four or Lawrence Arms, don't show up like fifteen minutes before they play and expect to get in. Meet people too, that's a cool thing. You get out of your scene, you get out of your city and you might meet a friend who lives in Leeds or something and maybe go over there to hang out with them.
Scene Point Blank: Exactly, right now I can't find anyone who has the time to go with me, so I'm just going to show up, thinking I'll probably meet some people at the same shows and hang out with them.
Tony Wienbender: Definitely; it's happened before. Last year all the kids from Ireland, Germany, and the U.K. came in the day before and talked through the message board so they met up at this one Irish Pub and now they're friends. Everyone is really friendly for the most part and I've gotten a lot of good feedback about it. It's like we are all on the same page. If you come and don't know any one, as long as you an outward person you should meet people. If you're quiet or shy you probably won't run up to people. I think it happens a lot more than you think it would. We talked about having like a The Fest blind date show. It'll be like, "Meet Josh, he's from Philly and likes Paint It Black. He's straight edge and prefers vegan food. Let's see what happens when we send him out with Laura, who's from Minneapolis and her favorite band is Asshole Parade. She has dreads and eats meat.
Scene Point Blank: She's a fan of Crimethinc literature.
Tony Wienbender: (Laughs) I think somebody else has to set that up. It will be hilarious. I think that probably happens on its own though, we don't really need to put a catalyst to it.
Scene Point Blank: Getting back into bands, which ones are you psyched to see, or hope you can see?
Tony Wienbender: Top of my list: Naked Raygun and Seaweed. I never got to see either one of those bands growing up. I freaked out when I found out Seaweed wanted to come. And then there are a few playing where it's like, "I've never heard of this band before. They're awesome." Them playing The Fest doesn't necessarily help The Fest bring in more people or whatever, but I think as the one putting on The Fest it is my responsibility to try and give a lot of bands to play who haven't been heard by many people. I could fill those spots wit bands that people love but I don't really like those bands. I'd rather have some band from Milwaukee that nobody knows come down and play, thinking hopefully they will have a good show. All of the bands who have driven a ways, being unknown to many people, always say, "Dude, that was one of the best shows we've had all year." So there are those bands and every year I always get really excited to see Dillinger Four and Toys That Kill. Do I get to see them every year? No. I think that Matt and Kim are going to bring a fun time element to this year. Swing Ding Amigos, like I said, are one of my favorites so I am going to make sure I catch them. Municipal Waste is finally going get down here and play the craziest set they ever wanted to. And Avail. Waste and Avail - we've tried to get down here every single year. I grew up listening to Avail, playing in bands where Avail were like father figures, telling us the right way to be in a touring band. So I am really excited they are coming down. It's hard fore me because I personally pick almost every band that plays so I like almost every band.
Scene Point Blank: Changing topics, I was looking at the sponsors and I saw that Pabst Blue Ribbon was a major one. I thought, "It's gotta be more than a coincidence." Are they aware how popular they are among punks?
Tony Wienbender: How that worked out was during The Fest 1, one of the club owners told me that beer companies would provide beer. I was like, "Really I thought I was going to have to buy beer for all these bands." He told me to consider Miller and I was like, "Ehh Maybe." Then he said Budweiser has the most money and I said, "Well in Florida, they are like an evil corporation. Right up there with Disney so I don't want to deal with them." So then he suggested Pabst. I was like, " I like Pabst, my friends like Pabst, and you won't get too much shit from getting free beer from them." So I've dealt with the same rep every year and they give us more and more beer each year. Last year they gave us money to make koozies, so we made 2500 koozies that they paid for and we gave us free shirt. They have been real awesome. And other beer companies and liquor companies have wanted to give us more money but why would I turn my back on Pabst who has always been super cool to me? They might not have as much marketing money as these other big players, but I really back they way they have handled everything. The weekend of they are super cool to everyone, giving our free stuff to everybody. It helps out too.
Scene Point Blank: Seeing how The Fest has been dubbed the pinnacle of beard rock, which bands playing do you think have the best bearded members? Do you have suggestions or requests for facial hair at this year's The Fest?
Tony Wienbender: I think we got called the beard rock fest because we're No Idea and I think No Idea has always been synonymous with beard rock which all started with Hot Water Music when way back in the day Chris and Chuck would just have these enormous beards and they would shave their heads. They would just look so weird and so gross; it was just disgusting. It somehow became synonymous with Gainesville. I know other scenes people probably grow more beards then us but Gainesville - I mean I currently have a beard - I think were older and lazy. We grow facial hair and don't want to shave it. Who has the best beard? Davey Titlwheel always has a gross beard. Last year Ben Snakepit had a really disgusting beard. I know people will be coming down to shave their beards into antics. One year, instead of growing beards, we did moustaches, which were really cool. I think that was The Fest 3 and it kind of freaked out everyone who came from out of town and expected everyone in Gainesville to have beards. I had this one that went across my face and into my chops so it kind of looked like this mutton-civil-war-esque thing. A patriot look, it was pretty bad. We'll see happens this year. Maybe before The Fest everyone will go to the barber and get clean-shaven to freak everyone out.