Fest 11 had a hell of a lot of big names: Propagandhi, Frank Turner, Titus Andronicus, Good Riddance, Dwarves. It’s tempting to push your way up front in the sweaty, spacious floor area of The Florida Theater, 8 Seconds, or The New Top Spot, but Fest isn’t just about those dozen plus bands. There are more than 300 groups that embark upon the college town every year, and 11(ish) venues that hold host to official shows. With so much in such a small space and time, there will always be missed bands, new discoveries, and amazing people. It’s putting those factors together that defines a Fest.
Holding true to previous years, I’ve leaned toward smaller venues and their more intimate crowds. It’s always great to see bands who don’t tour often playing an annual show or two (Tiltwheel, for example), and seeing who the Fest’s organizers have put on bills with these bands always makes for a strong nightly lineup. This year I chose three standout sets per day—a summary rather than a lengthy piece that tries to cover every great song, odd drunken moment, or random street encounter that comes up in town. The best way to summarize it, really, simply, is to tell our fair readers to watch The Fest’s website and snatch up their own tickets next year for The Great Punk Rock Family Reunion. After all, as I go back year and year again, the event is as much about seeing old friends that I’ve met as it is about the bands on stage themselves.
Pre-fest @ Loosey's
Thursday’s pre-Fest show choice might be a larger indication of my approach to Fest 11. Rather than take the safe route and go see Dear Landlord, Banner Pilot, and more at High Dive, I chose to see a largely unfamiliar line-up at the smaller venue Loosey’s. It was apparently the venue’s second time hosting live music on their newly constructed stage, and it functioned perfectly. Over the course of the weekend, I grew to really like the new set-up in the location that formerly housed Market Street Pub.
While I was only really familiar with two bands on the bill, Elway stole the show with an enthusiastic set filled with stage dives, direct communication between band and fans, and a high-level of energy coming from an audience who just recently had gotten out of their vans, cramped airplane seats, and other rigors of the road. At Fest, both band and fan share the burdens of travel.
Being a fan of last year’s Delusions, I knew probably half the set and left ready to hear where the band grows with future releases. They also released an EP this year, Hence My Optimism, on Red Scare Industries, blending singalong punk, local Colorado flair, and personal perspective.
Riverboat Gamblers @ Fest 11 (photo: Loren Green)
Friday involved a lot of venue hopping which, while it leads to seeing more bands, it can also mean you don’t always feel like pushing your way up front. While I saw some great acts earlier in the day, I gravitated toward the back of the room where distractions are plentiful and the sound tends to suffer. The first standout on Friday evening was Arms Aloft, from Eau Claire, WI. The band’s debut full-length was just released on Kiss of Death Records.
Delivering a familiar style that blends Midwest punk and Kiss of Death-style melodies, the band was honest and heartfelt, just as Sawdust City conveys. They made sure to note their increase to the second-smallest font size on this year’s Fest poster to stress their “up-and-coming” status. While I’ve caught the band locally a few times, the full room at Loosey’s matched the band’s energy and the audience seemed to be split down the middle in terms of those who knew the songs versus those checking out the band for the first time, yet the crowd was fully captivated.
@ 8 Seconds
Off With Their Heads
I hadn’t even intended to catch these guys this year. Instead I did twice, and each time blew me away. The Minneapolis band led by Ryan Young continues to grow, and his dedication to the road is clearly paying off in the tight, precise performance of singalong hits delivered in the larger venue. Even from the back of the room, the sound for OWTH was clear and powerful, with a full room of devotees singing along to every miserable word. Definitely worth catching when they come through your town.
@ 8 Seconds
I just realized now, while typing this up, just how many San Pedro, CA rockers reappear in this year’s highlights for me. While I generally try to mix it up, there were certain moments that stand out from Fest 11 that I choose to highlight regardless. One was an F.Y.P reunion-mode show. Sure, I saw the band play in a Legion Hall back in 1999 or so, but this was most of the crowd’s first chance to see Todd Congelliere’s first band play. The spacious venue was a bit vacuous for the stripped down and sloppy style of the band’s early material, but it was still a pleasure to see all the old songs come to life for a new crowd. I found myself with various hits from the set running through my head for the rest of the weekend (and still today), notably “Die Young,” “Jerk Off,” and “Come Home Smelly.”