Read my review of Day 1 here.
Woke up on Day 2 of the FEST feeling pretty good. Got fueled up on coffee and complimentary pastries and was ready to hit it. My T-shirt game was on point. I had my Broadways T set aside and didn’t have any reservations about it. Without much fanfare, we bailed the hotel. The weather was perfect, 80 and sunny, which worked out nicely as many of the acts on our list were playing outside at Bo Diddley Plaza.
We arrived at Bo Diddley just in time to grab a couple of drinks and see The Dirty Nil. I’m a fan of TDN, I know their music tends more to the pop side of punk and they’ve had issues with people calling them punk. Call it what you will, I like it. They brought it in their set. Maybe they lacked a little energy and that could be due to playing at 2pm. After Dirty Nil, we caught the second Teenage Bottlerocket set, this time conveniently at Bo Diddley. Catching them outside didn’t compare to the High Dive show, but it was still amazing. These guys are pros and they lay it down no matter the time or place.
Off With Their Heads came out next. Once again at Bo Diddley. Ryan was in rare form. He paid some guy in the crowd $20 to dress up as Sully from Avatar. The guy skulked around the stage for a few songs and then Ryan assisted him into the crowd. For the rest of the show, the wig was flying through the air like a hairy hawk. Wish we could have seen more of OWTH as they were in rare form, but we had to cut out because I really wanted to catch Grade. When I saw that Grade was playing FEST, I had it circled and underlined. I loved these guys back in 2000, and they pretty much fell completely off my radar. I gained a new appreciation for their catalog during my fest preparation. The downside, they were playing at 8 Seconds. There’s just something about that place that’s a little depressing. I don’t know if it’s just the way it looks like a typical college campus meat market, whether it’s too dark, whether it’s the shitty sound, or all of the above. Throw in the fact that not as many other FESTers were as amped as I was for the Grade reunion, and you have the makings of a downer set. From what I could tell, Grade sounded good, but everything sounds like mud at 8 Seconds, so for these guys, it was just a big mushpile. We hung out upstairs where a roof blocks the sound even further, making for a quieter muddied mess.
Getting out into the open air really raised our spirits. We basked in the sun as we headed back to Bo Diddley for Beach Slang. Whenever BS comes on the ipod, I’m like “Who is this” (good thing) and I had hoped seeing them live would drive that home. They brought it, the singer has a cool 1980s ruffled tuxedo happening, they busted out a Replacements cover, but it just didn’t make me want to buy all their records. The next band on the list, Extinction AD, would hopefully get us to the next level with their brand of Pantera-esque metal. Kudos to E AD, they did their best in a tough venue (8 secs). They had only about 20 people watching. They still blew the place away. The face-melting shredding that usually emits from the lead guitar unfortunately got lost in the muddied 8 Secs reverb that completely drowns out higher registers.
We decided to head over to High Dive to catch the Flatliners. On the way, we bumped into Mike Felumlee. We had a quick chat about what bands we were going to see. I had City of Caterpillar circled and underlined. Their post-punk, screamo concoction really resonated with me and I had the album on heavy rotation prior to the fest. Mike said that we should try to catch the Penske File. He was adamant that it would be one of the best sets of the fest. Interest piqued. We waited for like 20 minutes to get in to see the Flatliners. Caught about 20 minutes of the set. They were playing The Great Awake front to back. I don’t have the album. I have it on my list now though.
One set that stood out as a can’t miss for FEST 16, Against Me doing Reinventing Axl Rose. After Flatliners, we cruised over to Bo Diddley, grabbed a PBR and staked out a spot. AM really had great energy, they definitely drew the biggest crowd of the FEST, Bo Diddley was packed. Instead of opening with Axl, they opened with a retrospective greatest hits set. They started with “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts” then followed with “333,” “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “Black Me Out,” “I was a teenage anarchist,” and “Thrash Unreal.” Tough conflicts, but I really wanted to see City of Caterpillar, so we cut out of Bo Diddley.
City of Caterpillar was playing at 8 Seconds. They had a decent crowd considering they shared the same slot as Against Me. These guys bring the post punk noise and sludge. The perfect marriage with 8 Secs reverberating sound system. The cacophony these guys brought almost blew the roof off of the place. We were digging CofC, but Mike F’s recommendation was gnawing at us. So we cut out to see Penske File.
After taking a circuitous route and bumping our way through a restaurant full of people enjoying a late meal, we went through a back alley and finally found the venue. They played the Boca Fiesta/Palomino, which appeared to be a Mexican Restaurant by day, I guess they push the taco and salad bars out of the way to host shows. Safe to say that making our way to the Penske File paid off. These guys reminded us of why we got into this music in the first place. They brought pure raw energy to the stage. The singer told a story of how one of their original members passed away, and they almost called it quits. They carried on, and redoubled their efforts. They thanked the crowd and then broke into “Damned.” The place lost it. People stormed the stage and sang along. Others dove out into the crowd. These guys had a loyal and rabid group of supporters. Definitely one of the top 5 sets of FEST.
At this point our schedule had gotten jumbled around. The Civic Media Center was close by and Typesetter was doing an acoustic set there, so we checked it out. We only caught the tail end, but they did play a cover of The Replacements “Can’t Hardly Wait.” I know I wasn’t abducted by aliens during this time frame, but I do have some lost time in here. We caught The Copyrights at High Dive. I remember thinking they sounded better than the last time I saw them and that I need to check out their new stuff. I remember Iron Reagan vividly as they ripped the roof off of 8 Seconds with their inspired brand of Thrash Metal. The image of IR forever seared into my brain involves the lead singer and the two guitarists swinging their hair in circles to the chugga chugga guitars.
We next found ourselves at High Dive. Our anticipation of the FEST favorites, The Dopamines, had caused us to arrive early and catch some of Clown Sounds. Once again, no recollection other than the fact we were there. One of the toughest conflicts of FEST involved HUM and The Dopamines. I had HUM firmly on my radar, my wife wanted to see the Dopamines. We had never seen the Dopamines, so what the heck! Glad we went. For one, High Dive is a great place to see a show. Great sound. Perfect setting. They get it. I have to say after seeing The Dopamines, hearing their stage banter, including their bravado in the fact that “The Copyrights opened for us. Thanks Copyrights, for opening for us.” They’re just awesome. Everything that punk rock should be, a non-stop party. At one point the crowd pelted them with ice, cups, cans; they didn’t miss a beat.
We did make it over to 8 Secs to see the end of the HUM set. They played Stars and something I didn’t know. When you find a good routine that works for you, you stick with it. So after Hum, we bailed town and hit Taco Bell on the way to our hotel. Once again, it hit the spot. I got some sleep, even though a fairly raucous group serenaded us outside doing a singalong at around 3am. I was too tired to figure out what was going on. Maybe Laura Jane Grace dropped in for an impromptu set.