After many years of obsessing over lineups and getting recommendations from true punk fans, I finally headed to Gainesville, Florida this year for Fest 17. I also got to tag along with the band Hans Gruber and the Die Hards on their journey to make their debut at Fest. After an early flight from Austin to Savannah, I hitched a ride on their This Flat Earth Tour <—Who knew the Earth was flat? (see video link)
The room was packed since the Holiday Inn Pool Party/Officer Bradford’s Jammy Jam was canceled. This happy hour turned into the show to get Fest officially started!
This past year I have had the pleasure of meeting Chris Fox and the members of Boss’ Daughter. We got to catch their set at the Palamino Pool Hall and it was truly a sight to see. People were jumping on stage and dancing around every inch of that pool hall. If you haven’t been to Boss’ Daughter show, are you even partying? See videos below:
I saved most of my energy for Saturday and Sunday of Fest. Every morning was a surprise to find out which Mystery bands would be revealed. It is a real “Sophie’s Choice” when deciding which band to see and having to miss one of your other favorite bands. This isn’t my first music festival where I have had to make similar decisions since I am a South By Southwest veteran at this point. CITY LOGISTICS AND TIMING IS KEY! Since I had missed some artists on Friday, seeing my favorite bands get added to the schedule was a godsend.
The two Mystery bands I caught were Night Birds and Pears on Saturday. Night Birds haven’t left my listening rotation for about 3 years now. I think Mutiny at Muscle Beach is an under-rated masterpiece. I finally got to see them for the second time in my life and that will not be often enough times. Fest also got an added bonus this year from the band Pears. They decided to play their album Go to Prisonin full. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to this record I would highly recommend it especially if you are not familiar with them previously. I think it is a great representation of their musical range as a band. It is an unbelievable debut album and it only gets better from there.
Pears sounds like no other band out there at the moment. I love that they are clever lyrically and are full of rage but in a satirical way. Another fun fact about Pears at Fest is they were supposedly giving away lyrics sheets if someone got a Pears tattoo from the Fest flash sheet. I am one of those crazy people but I got mine on Sunday after they left. Hopefully, I can connect with them when they come back through Texas. Regardless, I got a cool (permanent) Fest souvenir.
One of my favorite show experiences was getting to see War on Women finally. I have read about them in many online articles but I wanted to see what the hype was really about. The venue was so packed but the performance was stellar. I had listened to an album a few months ago and I expected it to be intense. When I heard the song “Say it” live, it was absolutely moving. Having a song blatantly state the obvious and jarring reality about rape was emotional but needs to be screamed from the mountains tops. This is a song that definitely reflects the times of this past year. I also got an informative book written by Shawna Porter about creating safe spaces and I look forward to reading it. She was super loving in person and is an absolute treasure to this scene. I am bummed I didn’t get any footage from this show to share.
Later that night after bouncing around with friends, I headed to Bo Diddley Plaza to check out Rozwell Kid. I really like them and have seen them previously. This time around they really impressed me. I think this band will continue to get better and better as their career develops. I was really looking forward to finally catching The Lawrence Arms set. I have missed this band at many festivals over the years and they rarely tour in southern states. Finally getting to seeing the Lawrence Arms was definitely worth the wait.
One of the major appeals of Fest for was getting to see Lagwagon perform “Let’s Talk about Feelings” for the 20th anniversary of the album. This album is fun and has great songs such as “Hurry Up and Wait” and “May 16”. It is said that this is Joey Cape’s favorite Lagwagon album but I feel the band would say that about all their records like they were their children. The first Lagwagon record I ever listened to was Double Plaidinum. That will always be my favorite but Let’s Talk About Feelings is my other go-to album. The cover art and the playfulness of the record itself will make you want to listen to it beginning to end. I am glad I got to celebrate this album at Fest 17.
My late show on Saturday was located at Loosey’s Market to check out pop-punk sensations The Dollyrots. A college friend of mine really sweated this band and turned me on to their style. They are not my usual taste in pop punk but the songs are super fun and catchy. You can tell this is Kelly and Louis’ passion and they always have fun on stage. I am glad I finally got to see them live. I got to catch another Mystery Band, which was The Stereo!
This was a reunion for them, which Fest is known for bringing back fan favorites. When I think of power-pop, the Stereo is possibly my favorite. That might have to do with the members being from the Impossibles and Animal Chin. It is like a perfectly formed Fueled by Ramen super band. I feel this secret show was a test run for the bigger Bo Diddly stage but all the super fans showed up for this particular show. I also had the pleasure of running into my favorite podcaster Jeff from the Rockfuel Podcast at this show. See some footage below:
Sunday was a random day for new music and crazy hijinks on the final day of Fest. I headed to the tattoo shop Wunderland to see about getting a Fest tattoo. Since there is always a list of people ready to get inked, we headed down to the see The Stereo for an encore performance. I also had the pleasure of meeting the band after their set and they said they are working on a new album!
I was REALLY looking forward to seeing Dollar Signs at Fest for the first time. This band was a hidden gem in my Spotify. I want to send Spotify a literal thank you letter for introducing me to this band. I am bummed they only had a 30 minute set time at the High Dive. Nevertheless, I was determined to enjoy every second and they did not disappoint.
They wore their party shirts, had hoverboards, and the crowd sang every word. I have to say that was one of the best shows at Fest. I look forward to what they will release next. In an ideal world, I would love to see them tour with Jeff Rosenstock. That would be a match made in heaven.
I eventually got my tattoo (see above) and headed back to Bo Diddley Plaza for the last time. I had to see Masked Intruder for the tenth time in my life. This band literally steals my heart since they steal everything else. I sat on the lawn and watched all the crowd surfers fly by. It was a nice way to spend my last evening at Fest. After getting some dinner and my Masked Intruder fix, I headed back to the High Dive. I had been watching The Shell Corporation on Bridge City Sessions on YouTube for the past month. “Kumbaya” is my official anthem of the year 2018. I had to see it live. Here is some of the song below (buy their albums!) :
This band should get more credit and be a bigger name, which I feel that will come in time. They have a vision and a style that always leaves me wanting more. I ended up staying at the High Dive with my friends to check out The Fad. I hadn’t listened to or thought of this band since the early 2000s. We had a great time dancing to some throwback ska and having some drinks to close our first Fest. It was definitely one for the books.
I know there was a ton I missed out on. If I didn’t have a full day of traveling then I would have been at “the purge”. There is always an awesome band that shows up and there are new friends to be made. I am sad I missed Iron Chic while getting my tattoo. It would have also been cool to experience Pre-Fest or see the wrestling. I just don’t believe you can do everything at Fest. I am sure many of you have tried. I think that might be the beauty of Fest, it is a unique experience every time with new and old friends.
Even though I have been to many shows in Texas and around the country, I have to admit Fest has the best fanbase hands down. Fans come year after year and are a real punk community. I made a lot of new friends and got to see some old good ones while I was there. I hope to make it back to Gainesville for more great memories and to party with my Fest friends.
For more photos and videos from Fest 17 check out my Instagram.