Editorial: "inFESTation" (Part 1)

Punknews have paired up with the PostPunk Collective to bring to you an editorial collaborative piece titled “inFESTation”. The piece is focused on the experiences and happening of this year’s Gainesville Fest 15 by the members of the PostPunk Collective. The PostPunk Collective is a group of individuals involved in a PostPunk Cultures graduate English course this fall at the University of Florida. The graduate course explores all forms of media that corresponds with cultural shifts in the U.K. during the 1980s. This piece comes in 12 short pieces split amongst a 2 part posting, credits to the pieces are applied to the group listed on the bottom of the piece. Today we bring to you part 1 of 2.


inFESTation: for punk is a pestilence that refuses cure. inFESTation: when your local scene explodes to become the capital of punk nation. inFESTation: when the subterranean hive is alive with the frenetic drives of alternative futures. inFESTation: when the sounds of the underground surround us with microphones, drones, and pedal tones. With distorted baritones and sonic tombstones. inFESTation is amped up, and it won’t back down. inFESTation: an abrasive invasive that scrapes your ears and perforates your shoes. inFESTation: when hardcore carves out the caverns in your ribcage. inFESTation is a domination of black. inFESTation: when the academy that dissected and defined punk leaves the ivory tower and goes out into the street! inFESTation: when punk and postpunk expression invades the way we think, the way we write, and what we do.

“Tom Petty is a wordy m!f!, but I love him to death.”
Which is what Jordan Hudkins of Rozwell Kid uttered in the eerily enigmatic space between the band’s covers of “Refugee” and “The Waiting.” And we love Tom Petty too. Here in Gainesville, Petty is our heroic older brother, and the FEST is our weird child whom we adore. So while we expected to hear Petty-gone-punk, what we heard was better. The sound was authentically Tom Petty. It was so uncharacteristically punk, that it was, by definition, so perfectly punk. We expect covers to provide revision, a kind of reinterpretation of the original song. But what happens when the cover remains corpulently faithful to its parent? Punk is an ever-crawling, ever-hungry assemblage. It’s messy. Its cannibalistic covers blur the categories between audience and stage. The song becomes a mediator—the lyrics a conversation, the music a thumping pulse, full and alive with the good stuff that Punk absorbs from its host. We didn’t come to see the band—we came to sing with the band. Rozwell Kid’s performance was congregational karaoke. It was pure, like a gospel hymn, and it spit us out with sweet relief. Petty never felt out of place—rather, he provided the perfect transcendence between genre. As we sang along to “Free Falling,” trying to leave this world for a while, Hudkins hit the subsequent note of I’m free with such emotional intensity, that we had time-traveled to another era.

check. CH-CHEck… cheCK. CHECK! CHEEEEEECK!!!! – Yeah. That’s it. – One. Two. THREEEAAAYYYY!
Sound checks blew through opposing doors and clashed over a sea of cars and people. Four o’clock in downtown Gainesville and FEST15 was raring to rage. Whether attendees tumbled off a bus at University and Main or rumbled a customized Harley down the Atlantic’s sidewalk, excitement and anticipation vibrated through the crowds queuing outside the hodgepodge performance spaces. Disregarding Florida’s heat, FESTers sported their favorite band t-shirts and black sneakers to search out friends, venues, and pre-show drinks. Finding all three, their shouted greetings, conversations, and laughter accented the electric guitar riffs and frantic drum sequences erupting from Bo Diddley Plaza, The Atlantic, and The Wooly.
To amp up these reunions even more, Halloween inFESTed FEST this year! Punk pirates and pleather clad skeletons peppered the waiting crowds, stitching the ghoulish, the grunge, and the glam together with more than safety pins. This carnivalesque undercurrent rendered the flyers hanging all over town asking “Arrested During the FEST 15?” hilariously playful rather than ominous. Even the people ripping the flyer’s tiny rectangles tore off the number with a wink and joke. As the crowds swelled, that spirited, unassuming fun pulsed in time with the competing rhythms bouncing off the buildings and echoing through the streets.
Like the color splashes zipping through the sea of black, the final sound checks electrified the streets with punk music fans’ collective roar –

Future? What Future?
The warm, dark space of the High Dive, illuminated only by neon stage lights, plunging me into nighttime as I stepped out of the bright afternoon sunlight. A sea of black Converse and boots lining the walls. The deep reverberations of live drums undercut with the constant flow of ambient punk music on a loop. Just a few of the sights and sounds I encountered at the High Dive when I arrived to hear Sonic Avenues on Sunday.
I perched on a bench along the wall close to the stage, finding the perfect vantage point to watch as the Canadian-based band began to play. As I leaned against the wall, the pulsing vibrations of the base thrummed through me, shuddering through the bench and into the cavity of my chest. The synchronicity of the band mates struck me, the group sliding across stage together as though drawing a single, simultaneous breath fueled by the rhythms of their sound. Throughout Sonic Avenues’ performance, the lyrics often fell away, letting the instruments breathe, a sign of the band’s rock ‘n roll roots and a dedication to music lost in mainstream radio’s lyric-laden hits.
The second song of the band’s set, fittingly-titled “Future,” recalled the complex relationship between futurity and early punk artists for whom No Future became a mantra. The song encapsulated this contentious dynamic with the bleak outlook of the chorus-line future is shattered evoking a Brit-punk sensibility matched by the band’s frenetic sound. Citing The Adverts and The Sound as major influences, Sonic Avenues demonstrates if there is a future of punk and post-punk, that future has deep roots in punk’s past.

If Enid and Rebecca from Ghost World…
If Enid and Rebecca from Ghost World and MTV’s Daria Morgendorffer channeled their let's-not-take-ourselves-too-seriously attitude into a punk trio, the result would be Cayetana. Reminiscent of L7's edge with tinctures of The Donnas' playfulness, Cayetana, an all-female punk group from Philadelphia, hit FEST 15 at Bo Diddley Plaza armed with their infectious pop punk sound like a piece of blue bubblegum grenade exploding in your mouth, like Tank Girl writing a poem in purple Sharpie on a junkyard car. With no prior knowledge of Cayetana, I didn’t know what to expect as I saw Augusta Koch (vocals, lead guitar), Allegra Anka (bass), and Kelly Olsen (drums) make their way to the stage sporting comic book-colored blue, red, and blonde coiffures. Glossy yet smoky, elegiac but lively, Koch’s vocals resist classification. Alongside these alluringly elusive vocals, Koch’s guitar riffs somehow appear cutting and buoyant simultaneously, intermixing seamlessly with the rhythmic ecology of Anka’s visceral bass and Olsen’s upbeat drums. Cayetana’s between-songs dialogue, from Olsen’s beer-for-breakfast joke to Koch’s poignant comments on the FEST’s inclusive atmosphere, embodies their eclecticism. In their ability to juxtapose the frivolous with the serious, Cayetana’s songs explore not only the absurdities of navigating human relationships but also that leftover teenage angst some of us carry well into our 20s. On the one hand, these themes induce social alienation. On the other hand, there is critical distance from overt pessimism. Though they draw inspiration from that 90s-era cynicism-as-chic aesthetic, Cayetana parades this seeming hopelessness like chainmail adorned with caricatures of past disappointments—like hundreds of pins in tattered jean jackets.

The red, white and blue banners of Pabst Blue Ribbon flicker over stage, greeting a sea of sweat and black t-shirts. It would be easy to mistake this for a nineties punk show—colorful tattoos and Mohawks, denim jackets, combat boots, chokers and cutoff jeans are everywhere as Toronto punk quartet PUP takes the stage. But there are subtle clues that this is indeed 2016, like the prevalence of people vaping rather than smoking, or a 3D-printed prosthetic fist pumping in the air. “What’s up Spiderman?” lead singer Stefan Babcock asks a crowd member in between verses of their opening song. The only thing in the sky other than a crystal-hot Florida sun is a small white drone that bobs along just out of reach of the half-filled beer cans arcing over the crowd. A perfect counterpoint to the Gainesville heat, the Canadian punks howl a winter metaphor: This winter hasn’t been so rough / Oh it was cold, but still it wasn’t cold enough. A PBR-drinking Skeletor and a guy in a too-small Stormtrooper onesie encounter each other in the pit, another reminder that it is Halloween weekend. People point at each other and scream along to PUP’s cathartic lyrics: “And how many times have I lied to you? / If I was drunk when I said it / it might have been true!” A security guard smiles despite the blood seeping from the side of his eye. The drone flies away.

This piece is a collaborative piece by the following co-authors.
Ashley Tisdale, Kel Martin, Michael Lupi, Chloe Lane, Thomas Johnson, Madeline B. Gangnes, Megan Fowler, Jason Crider, Jill Coste, Kevin Cooley, Marsha Bryant, Kelly Beck, Samantha Barrett.