The night before the Fest, my wife and I sat out on the patio at the Wyndham Gainesville and enjoyed the delicious brews we grabbed at HourGlass Brewing on our way up. We sipped wistfully and gazed into the trees. I broke the silence, “Honey, tomorrow there are going to be people swinging in those trees, and running naked in the courtyard.” Obviously I had a slightly exaggerated sense of the debauchery that was to ensue, but only slightly.
I think we rolled out of bed on Friday morning around 10. We grabbed some coffee and got ourselves moving. Other than the bands that we wanted to see, we really didn’t have much of a plan or any idea what to expect. The first crisis of the day arose as I was getting dressed. I had decided to wear my The Spits shirt because I thought it was appropriately obscure and it’s yellow which would help keep the sun off of me on what was supposed to be a warm day. As I went through my luggage, I couldn’t find the shirt! I didn’t pack it!! Now what? Noise by numbers? Might give me some Chicago cred but too obscure. Desaparecidos? Naw. The Appleseed Cast. A band I like and have seen? Check. Obscure? I guess. Old shirt? Check. So I went with it.
After slamming a pineapple drink by the pool to the not-so-smooth sounds of Jason Guy Smiley, we decided to head over to the Holiday Inn and get our wristbands. The combination of people, confined space, and flea market atmosphere overwhelmed my senses and although I wanted to shop around, my agoraphobic side told me to get back out in the open air. We managed to fight though the cars and people. Made it to a parking structure and dumped the car. We lucked out with the parking situation. Not too expensive and close enough to the action to drop off any shirts, records, etc. that we accumulated.
The absolute best thing about the fest is the proximity of the different venues. You are never more than a five minute walk from any show. After grabbing a bite, we decided to check out A Wilhelm Scream. We beat the rush. Got our first of about 40 wrist bands, and looked to grab a beer. Eventually I would succumb to the masses and drink the more reasonably-priced PBR, but I started with the Swamphead IPA, which was actually pretty good. Caught a little A Wilhelm Scream and then cut for one of the first Mystery Shows of the weekend. Teenage Bottlerocket at High Dive doing Total in its entirety.
I’ll spare you the suspense. TB crushed it. High Dive is a great venue and I would recommend to future FESTers to see as many shows there as you can. If the choice is between High Dive and 8 Seconds, definitely take the Dive! After catching all 3 TB sets at FEST, I have to say I love these guys. Total was amazing!! They dropped “Skate or Die” and a few others to close out the set. Oddly enough, this was our second set of the fest and it stole the show. We wouldn’t know that until 40 bands later.
I wrote a piece about how to do the FEST, which was odd, because I’d never done it before. Still I had a philosophy in place, and that was to see as many bands as possible. We often had to make tough decisions and cut out early on some good sets, but I wanted to be on the move. So that explains how we hit The Flatliners, caught a bit of DAGS! (bought their record), saw some of Ratboys (not enough), and then hightailed it over to The Wooly to catch Tartar Control. These guys are awesome, the act is hilarious, and they just bring it 100%.
Next we hit Durty Nelly’s to catch The Bigger Empty. This is Mike Felumlee’s (Smoking Popes) other band, where he gets to come out from behind the kit and show off his boyish good looks. Great set from these guys. We moved on to catch Ghouls at Rockey’s where we hung on to catch the beginning of Sinai Vessel. My wife is a bad person and she really wanted to see The Lillingtons at 8 Seconds. We were worried that at one point people would just pick a spot and we wouldn’t be able to get into certain venues. So we cruised out of Sinai Vessel (very sad about that) and went to Pegboy at 8 Seconds.
Certainly Pegboy can turn your mood right around. They sounded great and hearing the songs off of “Strong Reaction” really brought back some mems. But 8 Seconds wasn’t full, and our fears of being shut out were unfounded, so we cruised back to Rockeys to catch Typesetter. Great set by them and afterward I got to catch up with Caleb Cordes of Sinai Vessel. I should mention that I had yet to get a shout out on my shirt and was questioning my choice to wear it. Then I met Caleb and he said “nice shirt.” I told him that SV reminded me of Appleseed Cast. He told me that he worked with Chris from AC on Brokenlegged. That totally blew my mind. The shirt was vindicated!!
FEST has a magic quality, maybe it’s the music, or something in the PBR that acts as the fountain of youth. At this point in the evening, we needed all the energy we could get. We were determined to catch The Lillingtons, so we went back to 8 Seconds and grabbed a couple of PBRs to pep us up. We arrived to the sounds of 88 Fingers Louie. I heard mixed reviews on their sound, but they definitely overcame the limitations of 8 Seconds better than most. I thought they sounded great. I could listen to Mr. Precision play all day. After we drained our PBRs, The Lillingtons came on. We hung on as long as we could, but had to cut out early. I don’t think they played our fave tune “All I hear is Static” so at least we didn’t miss that. We got some much-needed sustenance at the local Taco Bell, and then retired to our room for the evening, pretty amped to crash out so we could get up and do it all over again.