Every year, you beard-growin', PBR guzzling, flannel wearin' punks converge upon that tropical resort town known as Gainesville and hoop and holler it up for three days straight. Our own Dan Donald was on the scene this year and from the looks of it, he hit about 1,294 shows while he was there. Check out his re-cap of the annual trek to punk mecca below.
The Gainesville Fest, otherwise known simply as The Fest, has become more than just a punk rock festival; it has become an annual ritual within punk rock culture that draws people from all over the globe. While I am very familiar with the festival, I have known many musicians and fans that religiously attend the festival each year, to the point of booking off the weekend almost a year in advance, 2017 was my first fest. My attendance at the fest came both by playing (with my band Daggermouth – insert shameless plug here) as well as attending, and my experience was great on both fronts. If you need to pick a festival in North America to splurge on next year, I highly recommend this one.
The line-up of Fest is always on point, covering styles from indie rock, punk rock, metal and everything in between. I knew as soon as I was informed that my band would be playing that I would have to scope out the line up and make a strategy to maximize my time to allow me to catch as many of the bands I wanted to see as possible. Friday was mostly a write off given that I was going through all of the motions of getting organized for my own performance that evening, but I was still able to catch a few amazing bands. Prior to heading over to 8-Seconds, my evening was started off by great sets from both A Wilhelm Scream and The Flatliners who both had Bo Diddley Plaza dancing right off the bat. As I was walking over to prepare for my upcoming set, Garrett from Bird Attack Records intercepted me and promptly informed me that I should get my Canadian ass into the Hi-Dive to see Such Gold. I had just enough time to sneak in and catch the majority of Such Gold’s set before I began to risk my own band Dad suffering a stroke while wondering If I was going to make it to the venue on time, and I am so glad I did. Such Gold ripped through songs from their entire catalogue to an energetic and enthusiastic crowd. These dudes crushed it – do yourself a favor and check out their new E.P.! When I finally arrived at 8 Seconds, Red City Radio was just getting started and I was in full pre show mode, from what I can remember RCR played a great set, but when you are in that mode it is a bit hard to take everything in. Following Daggermouth’s set I stuck around the same venue and caught sets from Banner Pilot, Pegboy, and 88 Fingers Louie. All of these bands played solid sets to an extremely receptive crowd, but 88 Fingers Louie really caught my attention. The band was on point from start to finish; with all of their skate punk speed licks dial in 100%. Their set covered both old and new material and I enjoyed every minute of it, the band captures a feeling of fresh nostalgia, and they pull it off with ease.
Following 88 Fingers Louie I was tasked with escorting some of my happily intoxicated band mates back to the hotel. With my first day of Fest successfully finished up, and our set played, I was looking forward to relaxing and taking in the rest of what Fest had to offer.
John Creeden and The Flying Hellfish @ Mothers Tavern
A Wilhelm Scream @ Bo Diddley Plaza
The Flatliners @ Bo Diddley Plaza
Such Gold @ Hi-Dive
88 Fingers Louie @ 8 Seconds
As I was shaking the rust off Saturday morning I had learned that Hot Water Music and Snapcase were playing a secret show at 1pm. How I wish I could tell you all I jumped out of bed and teleported past the line and was able to enjoy this intimate experience, however, I did not. I can’t remember exactly where I ended up, but it might have been eating my feelings at Taco Bell. I prefer not to talk about it. The beginning of my Saturday started again at the outdoor stage where I enjoyed some of the great food trucks as well as a great set from Ontario’s The Dirty Nil, followed up by a surly and entertaining 35 minutes from Wyoming’s Teenage Bottlerocket. Both bands played solid and entertaining sets that helped me shed the regret of missing Snapcase for a second time in one weekend (the fast food might have also helped). Following this I headed back over to Hi-Dive, where I caught an awesome set from San Francisco’s Western Addiction. They played a fast and heavy set of melodic hardcore that contrasted nicely to the pop punk I had enjoyed earlier. The singer of Western Addiction took a tour of the entire venue during the bands set, walking on parts of the bar and shimmying down a ledge on the wall, all while singing and pulling the microphone cord through a maze of people. The staff handled the situation very well and the band had an amazing set. I still can’t believe that much microphone cord was available to allow such an off stage adventure; they come prepared at Fest. Following this rather unexpected experience I headed over to catch one of my most anticipated bands of the weekend, Ontario’s Grade. Grade put on a great show that hit me right in the nostalgic feels, I felt like I could have been in high school all over again. The set consisted heavily of material from Under The Radar, and it was great. The crowd loved it; I loved it, good work Grade.
The rest of my Saturday gets a little hazy following Grade, but I was able to catch the relatively new band from members of Western Addiction, The Swingin’ Utters, and Nothington called Sciatic Nerve, and they played an energetic set of hardcore punk rock. Some other stand outs of Saturday included Against Me! playing all of Reinventing Axl Rose, as well as receiving a serious dose of thrash from both Extinction A.D. and Iron Reagan. I had been looking forward to catching Hum at the end of the evening, and from what I recall it was entertaining, but to have a band like Hum follow Iron Reagan at 1 in the AM, was a bit of a mood killer. The drone of Hum did a better job of putting me to sleep than engaging me, that being said, the band did their thing, and they did it well.
The Dirty Nil @ Bo Diddley Plaza
Teenage Bottlerocket @ Bo Diddley Plaza
Grade @ 8 Seconds
Western Addiction @ Hi-Dive
Against Me! @ Bo Diddley Plaza
Sciatic Nerve @ Durty Nelly’s
Extinction A.D. @ 8 Seconds
Iron Reagan @ 8 Seconds
Sunday was my favorite day of music at Fest 16. The outdoor venue had a line up that definitely got my attention, many of the bands playing I hadn’t seen in years, so I was not sure exactly what to expect. Thankfully, the bands all delivered. My day started with Crime In Stereo who performed all of …Is Dead, and it was phenomenal. Kristian Hallbert’s voice was one of the best of the entire fest; it cut through the music and sounded exactly like the record. The band covered hits from their entire catalogue, but …Is Dead always held a special spot in my rotation, and it was as if the band had not missed a beat from the day it was released. Following Crime In Stereo was England’s Apologies, I Have None. The band was entertaining, and while it was unfortunate they played directly after Crime In Stereo as the crowd had thinned a bit, the band delivered a heartfelt set of 90’s emo influenced rock and roll – there was even a nod to Grade thrown in for good measure – at least I hope it was a nod. Following this was one of my favorite sets and bands of the weekend, Long Island’s The Movielife. While the crowd was significantly sparser than I would have expected, the band delivered a great flowing set of classic Movielife songs as well as a few well-placed new songs. I was not sure how to feel about the bands most recent output, but after experiencing the songs live, I can confidently admit that I am sold. This band has some great chops and it was awesome to finally get to see them play. After The Movielife was Iron Chic, I enjoy Iron Chic a lot, I have had the pleasure of seeing and playing with them several times this year so they did not reach the top of my list of bands that I HAD to catch, but I am glad I did. It is worth noting that Iron Chic’s set at Fest 16 was something special, the crowd was huge and the band played on of the best sets I have seen them play – finally catching the new material helped as well.
Following a bit of a music break, my pals and myself walked back over to Hi-Dive to catch some old friends and touring mates of Daggermouth, No Trigger. No Trigger played a fast and extremely energetic set to a packed venue, and killed it. I love the new E.P., and it was a treat to see them perform these songs a long with some of my old favorites. As the festival was drawing to a close, there was one band left on my list to catch, and I am really glad that I did because it was one of my favorite performances of the weekend. Following No Trigger’s set at Hi-Dive was New Jersey’s Bigwig. Bigwig has been a band I have had a soft spot for since seeing them play in my hometown with Gob in the late 1990’s, I had not seen the band since then through adult eyes, so I was curious as to what to expect damn near 20 years later. While I can understand the somewhat goofy aesthetic of the band may not be for everyone, Bigwig ripped at Fest 16. The crowd was extremely engaged, the venue was packed and the band tore through a set of classic material as easily and tightly as if it was 20 years ago. Bigwig provided a fantastic ending to my Fest experience, well the deep fried Oreo’s outside helped too.
Crime In Stereo @ Bo Diddley Plaza
Apologies, I have None @ Bo Diddley Plaza
The Movielife @ Bo Diddley Plaza
The Smoking Popes @ Bo Diddley Plaza
Iron Chic @ Bo Diddley Plaza
No Trigger @ Hi-Dive
Bigwig @ Hi-Dive
All in all, I can see why people visit The Fest every year. The Fest provides an amazing line up showcased at fantastic venues, all put together by staff and volunteers that display their love for the event and punk rock in general. There were many bands that I wish I could have seen, unfortunately, playing and walking around a 3 day music festival at my age is a challenge in and of itself – if I missed you, maybe next year. SHOUT OUTS TO SETH ANDERSON, SARAH LIT, GRAEME LITTLEROCKET, GARRETT WADFORD, and the one and only TONY FEST!