Toys That Kill @ Fest 11 (photo: Loren Green)
@ Durty Nelly's
After the band caught my attention earlier this year (with 2011's self-titled release), I reached out for a pre-Fest interview. With my goal to see some bands I haven't seen before, Vacation was near the top of my list of bands I wanted to check out. The Ohio three-piece delivered on par with their record, with vocalist/drummer Jerri Westerkamp leading the shouts and a set that blended energy with feedback, utilizing their noisier elements to knock some of the polish out of an afternoon filled with poppier bands. I knew maybe half the set from their LP, and I probably should have picked up some 7"s or tapes to fill in the rest of the blanks. A band to watch.
@ 8 Seconds
I had the pleasure of seeing Riverboat Gamblers twice in 2 days and, yes, I chose to see 'em both times because it's just that worth it. I'll give the nod to 8 Seconds because, A) I saw that set first, and; B) the second show was so packed and sweaty that I couldn't get a good sightline.
For those who haven't seen the band, it should be required viewing. Even if their recorded material doesn't appeal to you (I was a bit hard on them with The Wolf You Feed release earlier this year), they go all out on stage, and singer Mike Wiebe is fully invested in entertaining the crowd. He doesn't know how to stand still, rambling around the stage, crowd surfing while singing, climbing amps and, really, any structure he can find. 8 Seconds has a mini-tiki bar up front that he found his way on top of during an early song. He eventually dismounted with a casual mention that he'd been instructed to get down, but with a winking shrug of his shoulder, he jumped full bore into the rest of the set, ending with another huge climb/stage dive. Wiebe has such a knack for performance that I almost feel bad for the rest of the band, as it can be hard to watch them while he is up his antics. Nonetheless, it's not all spectacle either. The sets were both similar and near-perfect, and the jumping around only adds energy--even while lying on his back being passed around the venue, Wiebe hits his notes and keeps his mic plugged in and it's something to behold.
@ Boca Fiesta
Toys That Kill
The thing about Fest is that it can be hard to catch the headliners without nodding off. There are roughly 12 hours of official shows going on Saturday, and the last acts have to battle empty stomachs and a whole lotta booze. Seeing that Toys That Kill were closing out the night at Boca Fiesta's outdoor patio, it was a perfect way to wrap up an evening.
Their bouncy sound is energetic enough to rejuvenate, and the perfect Florida weather (this year, anyway) was refreshing after spending a day hopping between dark, smoky venues. Boca Fiesta has a nice stage set-up, with ample floor space to get a good view without necessary getting knocked around by stage divers and the pit, and it was easy to grab a good spot along the side maybe ten feet away from the band.
The set mixed their discography well, but did play heavy to this year’s Fambly 42—definitely not a bad thing in my book. As always, Todd Cong was entertaining and enthusiastic, while the crowd (many of whom he seemed to know personally) were very involved, constantly running across the stage and diving into the fracas, and playing placing a San Francisco Giants hat on him as he played. While the So. Cal native didn't take kindly to the hat, chucking it across the room upon discovery, the good-natured tone of their rock was fully revealed when, near set's end, he announced that it had been returned to its proper owner. More importantly, the set itself was tight and powerful, led strongly by Jimmy Felix's drumming. I didn’t catch them the same night, but I hold a strong suspicion that crowd was made up of many of the same people.
Riverboat Gamblers @ Fest 11 (photo: Loren Green)
@ The Florida Theater
It took Dear Landlord how many years to release Dream Homes in the first place? I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that its follow-up is taking a similar path. That said, I've just got annual Fest shows and a sporadic tour to catch them now to satiate that hunger. Playing another early set at Florida State Theater, the band took the large stage with good energy and positive spirits, despite the distance of the stage from the floor area. A band of this style is certainly better suited to more intimacy with their audience, but the set carried a non-stop flow with countless stage dives and vocal trade-offs, showing the band still has the same power that surges throughout their sole full-length. It may not have been as memorable as performing in ICP make-up, but it still showed the band’s chops.
@ The Atlantic
Whiskey & Co.
The Atlantic on Saturday night was a welcome change. Sure, it’s still a dingy bar, but with the velvet art and softer line-up, it just felt relaxing. Running over to catch Gainesville’s alt-country experts Whiskey & Co. after watching a furious Off with Their Heads set was just what was needed. But it wasn’t just the setting. Having seen the band open for Lucero in the past, it was refreshing to see a full house for the band, with glasses raised in the air during beer-fueled laments and beer-fueled escapes, the country band stared a wonderful chemistry between Brian Johnson and Kim Helm. Helm has a distinct stage presence, seemingly in her own world and distant from the stage, and it fits her reflective delivery and somber tone respectfully. While I haven’t gone back to Dream Rust Colors as much as some of their releases, the band is finding their way back into regular rotation following this set.
@ New Top Spot
Underground Railroad To Candyland
I could have sworn I’d already written about these guys last year—maybe it was Fest 9. Anyway, Underground Railroad to Candyland continue to grow in their stage presence and performance. Hypeman Jack Blast has grown from awkward co-vocalist to a masked ringleader on par with Beau Beau of Avail, and the rest of the (rotating cast) of band members deliver emphatic, peppy rock that’s equal parts insipid and brilliant. Taking the stage at a mildly-populated New Top Spot, the band pulled in everyone in attendance despite playing in a venue that was clearly just constructed and, with the white drywall and open floors, has the feel of a giant Legion Hall. In some aspects, I suppose that’s a positive. However, it tended to work against most bands’ ability to keep the energy flowing—not the case for URTC. For as much as the band has grown, it’s hard to believe that 2011’s Knows Your Sins is only their second release. While I did catch more bands after their set, it marks my third consecutive day of concluding SPB recaps with a Todd Congelliere-led band.
Fest 11 bands that I saw: Restorations, Look Mexico, Junior Battles, Elway, Pure Graft, Blacklist Royals, Nothington, Dopamines, Mean Jeans, Arms Aloft, The Capitalist Kids, Nothing in the Dark, Copyrights, Off With Their Heads, F.Y.P, Latterman, Andrew Cream, Fest art show, Sam Russo, Strong City, The Motorleague, Stickup Kid, RVIVR, Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band, Vacation, House Boat, Brokedowns, Banner Pilot, Riverboat Gamblers, Sister Kisser, Negative Approach, Pretty Boy Thorson & the Falling Angels, Tiltwheel, Toys That Kill, Dee Cracks, Ssssnakes, Joyce Manor, Dear Landlord, Crusades, Riverboat Gamblers, Off with Their Heads, Whiskey & Co., Mixtapes, Underground Railroad to Candyland, The Slow Death, Too Many Daves, Tim Version