By attending Fest 10, I’ve now officially attended 50% of them. Each Fest is similar, yet each has been significantly different. While many bands remain the same, the general feel and the ever-changing venues make it a new event every year.
Many go to The Fest for the headliners—and who wouldn’t want to see Dillinger Four, Youth Brigade, Hot Water Music, Kid Dynamite, Bouncing Souls, Against Me!, on the same bill? Well, after my first couple of years, I now go for the people just as much. The Fest isn’t only a celebration of music, it’s a gathering of like-minded people where the guy next to you is likely to be a stand-up person who shares common interests. That’s not an experience I often get in day-to-day life. As a result, I tend to avoid the big, less personal venues.
Anyway, Fest 10 was a milestone for Tony Weinbender and the Fest crew, and it flew by with raging success. The centralized locations of the new venues made things even better.
PRE-FEST @ DOUBLE DOWN LIVE
Common Grounds may be no more, but the successor venue operates in much the same way. There’s a comfort to Double Down Live, with the open-air, fenced-in patio and extra bar that allows you to get some air after seeing a few bands inside. There are some other things, too, that didn’t change with the venue name. First, it was getting there at 8:30 (doors at 8:00) to discover a block-length line.
Picking a highlight is always hard, but I’ll go with Banner Pilot on this un-official show. It was a solid line-up all-around, but the Fat Wreck pop-punks’ set was spot on, playing with a palpable enthusiasm for being in Gainesville while addressing an amped crowd. There were bigger names to follow them, but playing on the just-released Heart Beats Pacific, they mixed revelry with poise, playing a set that brimmed with energy but lacked the sloppiness that often defines official Fest performances. Meanwhile, the audience was fully invested and clearly wasn’t concerned about saving their energy for the next three days.
If there was one issue with Fest 10, it had to be the registration line. Being the veteran I am, I planned ahead with my travelling buddy and our wait was minimal—by which I mean it was less than two hours. Word of mouth had it that many people waited upwards of four hours in the Holiday Inn parking lot, with little to do but drink PBR tallboys and worry about sunburn.
I spent much of my night at Durty Nelly’s, an Irish pub with a crappy stage located in one of the corners, with no soundboard and poor sightlines. The set-up is lacking, but the intimacy is wonderful. Their staff, however, is another story. One exchange in line went something like this:
Door: We’re at capacity.
Me: I have a press pass. It says I can get in regardless of capacity.
Door: I know what it says. [curtly]
An hour later I’d missed Dan Padilla but was back inside. They pulled the same crap on me at Fest 8, but for some reason I gave them another chance.
Jumping to the highlights, though:
A WORTHWHILE WAY
@ Durty Nelly’s
While I didn’t know a thing about them, the sheer enthusiasm and giant smiles from this Japanese group were infectious. It was a bouncy set with only a handful of audience members who seemed familiar with the material, yet the energy continued to build—to the point that they band even played an encore (which is generally frowned upon on such a tight schedule—here, nobody seemed to mind).
Think The Clash, but with more pop hooks: big melody, crisp guitars, and lyrics that are incredibly positive. Throughout the weekend, I saw the band around Gainesville frequently, always enjoying themselves with their camera ready.
@ The Florida Theatre
Did I just say I skipped the headliners for the smaller-draw bands? There was one I couldn’t miss. Especially with a press pass to get back into Durty Nelly’s. Oh, wait, that didn’t work…
One of the biggest draws of the weekend was the reunion of Philly’s Kid Dynamite. There aren’t many times in life where I’ve entered a setting and literally felt the anticipation as I worked my way forward. From my vantage point it was hard to see the full band, but Jason Shevchuk took the front of the stage with gusto, holding a tightly wound mic cord in hand and belting out songs that every punk knows word-for-word. For a band that broke up in 2000, they played a tight-knit set. The stage diving was out of control, more or less a steady stream, but it never interfered with the enthusiasm. Stopping only once to mention a quick, “It’s great to be playing with so many great bands” spiel, the set was simultaneously hard-hitting and timeless, yet something of a nostalgia trip. Although their records barely topped twenty minutes, the hour-long set was over all too quickly. While I would have loved to hear a bit about the reunion, choosing not to speak directly kept it about enjoying the moment instead of reflecting on the past.
@ Durty Nelly’s
There are few bands to be playing their tenth Fest and Tiltwheel are among those elite. While the band has only released a couple of albums in that time, they have a dedicated following, with leader Davey Quinn’s beer-fuelled lyricism holding something of a biblical esteem for many Festers. The band delivered a strong set with Ross on bass in place of J. Wang. Despite the venue’s size, every patron in the bar was on the floor, sweating under the broken ceiling fan and singing every word hoarse.
Saturday was a classic venue-hopping day, and the day of the most activity in general. Lots of venues, lots of bands, little time for food. Here, I caught some big acts during the daytime, but opted to avoid the crowds late at night.
@ 8 Seconds
I’ve been behind the trolley on these guys, despite reading plenty of accolades. Yes, I’d heard the Quote-Unquote EP and I know they’re super political, but I didn’t know what to expect of them onstage. From their general looks, they don’t fit the Fest criteria: they share the classic crust-punk haircut instead of your average beer-bellied, bearded combination that most non-descript Festers wear. That said, their brand of punk fits right in. A lot of fist-in-the-air choruses, vibrant energy, and interaction between stage and crowd defined the set, while they kept their politics relatively as an aside. They made their points, but they did it in an engaging, non-preaching manner that kept the positive energy flowing.
@ 8 Seconds
Another band that shows I’m behind the times. Before I caught their last three songs at Fest 9, I was totally unfamiliar. Anyway, this year I knew they were a band to catch (and interview). They delivered as promised, building on RVIVR’s energy. The two bands played back-to-back and complemented one another well. It was a bright spot for a sunny day spent inside, and they revitalized both my energy for the day and my faith in the next wave of bands.
Here’s where things start getting hazy. If memory serves, Street Eaters were band #12 of the day, and I had no exposure to them previously. A boy/girl, bass/drum two-piece, their set distinguished itself from the other bands of the day not by volume, but in terms of song structure and band interaction. There’s something incredibly familiar in their hooky songs, but it was the stage presence that largely stood out while they blasted noisy songs with equal parts reflection, swagger, and groove.
Fest Sundays are rough. Glancing around the crowd at a 1pm show, you’ll see bodies leaning against the wall and a lethargic congregation at the water cooler. With Razorcake taking a venue to themselves for a daylong celebration of their tenth anniversary, there were special shows from the likes of Tiltwheel, Banner Pilot, Grabass Charlestons, and more. I’ve already talked about many of those bands, so the focus turns to my new discoveries.
Three-fourths Arteries, Ssssnakes play punk’n’roll with an emphasis on rawk showmanship. At times bleeding from the gums and always flailing every which way, leader Jamie Morrison was a pleasure to watch as the barefoot, six foot plus man brought his rock’n’roll stage presence to a hung-over crowd. Honestly, I don’t recall much about their songs, besides a cover of the Ramones’ “California Sun,” but it stands as one of the highlight sets of the year, and a band to check out when I see them on the shelf. I highly recommend checking them out if they play your town.
CAPTAIN WE’RE SINKING
Really I went to 1982 to catch these guys. Ssssnakes were a bonus for showing up early. If you’ve never been to the Fest (but plan to), I recommend checking out something new on impulse. It pays off more often than not. That aside out of the way, I had no idea Captain We’re Sinking had the draw they do. They came charging to a full house with beardpunk built around emphatic, gruff singalongs and big riffs. They’re right at home with my other highlights like Iron Chic and RVIVR.
@ 8 Seconds
Playing second to last this year, Chicago’s The Arrivals had a heavy task. After last year’s impromptu crowd singalong that lasted the better part of the afternoon, one had to wonder if they’d feel the pressure. The band played extremely tight, with a strong Midwest contingent front and center as Dave Merriman and Isaac Thotz alternated melodic and raspy punk, all with an extra late-night jump to their step. Much like Fest 9, the set ended on “Simple Pleasures in America” and, again, the call and response range out long after their set—actually until the club kicked everybody out—as the crowd ushered another round of the song’s “whoa-ohs” into the closer from the follow-up, night-ending Underground Railroad to Candyland (sharing member Thotz).
BANDS CAUGHT OVER THE WEEKEND: Spanish Gamble, Nothington, Banner Pilot, Cobra Skulls, Off With Their Heads, Dead to Me, The Gateway District, The Slow Death, Worthwhile Way, Kid Dynamite, Tiltwheel, Red Collar, God Damn Doo Wop Band, King Friday, Fest 10 Art Show, Rivernecks, Dave Decker, International Dipshit, The Magnificent, Grabass Charlestons, RVIVR, Iron Chic, The Riot Before, Arteries, Post Teens, Tubers, Street Eaters, Amateur Party, Big Eyes, Max Levine Ensemble, Waxahatche, Tiltwheel, Lauren Measure, Leagues Apart, Ssssnakes, Captain We’re Sinking, Future Virgins, The Tim Version, The Measure [SA], The Arrivals, Underground Railroad to Candyland
Photos by Nicole Kibert