Kind of Like a Fest 5 - live in Half Moon Bay (Cover Artwork)

Kind of Like a Fest 5

live in Half Moon Bay (2009)

live show

There are reasons I got into punk rock when I was young and ill-advised, and now old and jaded, I can still find validation in my decisions. I think that events such as Kind of Like a Fest, this year being the fifth, are exemplary toward what it means to be hopelessly and irrefutably involved in an ideal.

I moved to San Francisco approximately six days before this fest, meaning I went alone and knowing no one and spent the greater majority of the day feeling awful, roaming with nobody to discuss the amazing bands seen or the ideals of the music involved. But at the same time, the hospitality of the air, the simple movie-like setting of vans parked sideways and kids smoking on the sidewalks, there is no subculture such as this that provides loneliness with such comfort in an idea of relation.

There were many acts that played throughout the day, and some I liked and some I was indifferent towards. I suppose one star is for the fact I did not dislike any of the acts. Every band brought intensity, everyone was sincere. I've been to quite a few shows and festivals in my time and never have I been able to say that, across the board, there was a level of humility expressed by musicians parallel to this.

Don't Trip started things off and, while I appreciate legitimate hardcore, it's just not my thing. They did it well and right and all, but while the lead vocalist showed an intensity (perhaps because it was his mother's birthday, and she was hanging out taking pictures), the rest of the band didn't have an absolute energy and I just found myself nodding my head along.

Make Do and Mend was like Hot Water Music but with more balls (if you can believe it). Their songs were surprisingly long and I couldn't figure out if it was just the juxtaposition to the short-song hardcore band that preceded them or that they just liked long jams. Regardless, their lead guitarist is something spectacular and there were some incredible moments of just complete rock and roll that happened during their set.

Punch reminded me a bit of Ampere, but with female-led vocals. The lead vocalist was rather incredible, her shrieks were gut-wrenching and between songs she'd just speak in a voice completely opposite to the sound of the music, thanking the crowd and her bandmates as they were wrapping up a summer tour.

Spires was just incredible. Fans of Life at These Speeds take note; the band fused a great aspect of (legitimate) emo with a hint of doom and stoner rock (if you can believe it) into a great set.

1994! was a two-piece that sounded like a strange amalgam of post-hardcore and math rock, but never really hit it right with me as far as the sound went. The duo played their hearts out, but the music just missed the target of anything above average.

I saw Dead to Me a million and a half times (seemingly) at South by Southwest a couple years ago and their set seemed to be about the same to me. I'm sure for the people who like this band they were great, but to me they've always seemed average. Chicken puts everything he's got into the live show, which I will give credit for, but the songs just seemed to lack an invitation to feel involved with.

Sabertooth Zombie makes loud music I care very little for. It was good for what it was but not my thing. If you like intense hardcore, check them out. They were pretty good live, but again, if you weren't into the tunes there was no way you'd get into the set.

Touché Amoré is going to fill the gap that Modern Life Is War has left in hardcore. I hadn't had the pleasure of seeing these guys yet, but the difference in their music was obvious from the crowd response; while a majority of the hardcore sets from the day featured a scant few doing those ridiculous floor-punch dances, for Touché Amoré the crowd stormed as close to the band as possible (leaving me with a bloody lip 20 seconds in), wanting to be a part of the sound. This band is something special, and their live show is no joke. The lead singer did what he could but the rest of the band really had no space to move around due to the proximity. Stellar set.

Hour of the Wolf was another hardcore band that presented an amazing set of energy that didn't grab me much. It wasn't that the music was bad, it's just it wasn't my cup of tea, and by this point in the evening the rampant floor-punching, choreographed moshing had run its course. I (somewhat) understand the idea of moshing (at least I did when I was 17) but now at 26 I suppose the idea of slamming myself into other people for no real reason to the tune of drop D power chords is just not as illuminating as I suppose it once was. Regardless, this band had a true following in the venue and they just didn't happen to be my thing.

In the interest of full disclosure, the guys in Broadway Calls are friends of mine, so I won't go too much into a review, other than to say that when I turned 18 (eight years ago now), I saw A New Found Glory and Midtown in a packed tiny room in Massachusetts and since then, this is the first time I have seen such a reception to pop-punk. It was fucking ridiculous. There was no space to stand or breathe. Whatever you might think of their tunes, at least here on the west coast, these guys make people move and shake for sure.

Comadre ended the evening with utter brilliance. Nothing bad can be said about the band or the set. By the end of Broadway Calls it was hard to think that the audience would be up for even more intensity, but everyone brought it in for Comadre. If you like the band, you can imagine what a great set by these guys would be like, and that would probably be what happened here. Bodies roamed in and out, filling every space and floating on top of one another, each anthem screamed at the top of every lung.

All being said, I avoid festivals for the most part. Something about the idea lacks the meaning and intimacy that drives me to go see shows that I can connect with from the first place; helter skelter and anxiety about crowds just isn't my thing. But this fest manages to be subdued as well as energetic, walking a fine line between a great show and something overblown. A hard task accomplished well, and I look forward to next year.

I have photographs from the show up here.