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Festival Review: A first timer’s Fest – Fest 17 @ Gainesville, FL (October 26-28, 2018)

Punk rock can mean a lot of things—a delivery method for progressive politics; deconstructivist rock ‘n roll; a space for self-expression. It represents itself through a multi-colored palette—street, hardcore, psychobilly, skate, pop, folk, crust, melodic, post, and more. What connects it is our most sacred tenet, one that stretches from our goofiest pop punk to our most somber hardcore, our number one deity: DIY.

In the quest to define what punk is, or what it’s become, DIY becomes the key, simply because: whatever this is—and this can be a a lot to unload—we did it ourselves. Punk rock is a necessarily nebulous catch-all for a slew of different outsiders with different wants and needs. But wherever they end up on punk’s spectrum, it’s assumed that they’re there to do something. Punk rock is as much music as it is a community—a place for people to come together.

For me, my brand of outsider status brings me to the corner of punk that features open-wound lyricism and singalongs. This is the stuff that makes you feel like an intruder on another’s thoughts. It’s like mainlining a connection. So, for a guy like me, who loves Hot Water Music, The Menzingers, Off With Their Heads, Leatherface, The Lawrence Arms, and Paint It Black—there’s a lot of labels you can throw at the wall and chances are a lot of them would stick. Orgcore, melodic punk, post-hardcore; but really, if there was one unifying label, the sort of catch-all you could drop in conversation, it’d be Fest.

The Fest in Florida is perhaps the most notorious, and most popular punk rock festival in the world. Every year, thousands of devotees make their yearly trip to Gainesville to see sets from hundreds of bands, meet old friends, and drink gallons of PBR. For many, Fest is punk rock. And this year, for the first time, I joined the many. For me, Fest was a sort of waking dream. There’s too much detail to capture it all accurately, and the minute you’re out of it, all but the broadest strokes remain. It was a blur, a beautiful, intense blur—but I’ll do my best to deliver the moments of clarity, all in the name of documenting my first, and maybe to convince a couple new acolytes.

I came in on a red eye flight, took a nap, then, for the rest of the first day, kept going like my life depended on it. Fest’s appeal is the sheer multitude of quality acts—all three days of the festival had a handful of bands I’d declare personal favorites. There is no waiting out openers for the band you came to see (but plenty of new to discover!). If worst comes to worst, and the venue you want to be in is at full capacity, well, there’s a lot more venues: and a Fest wristband and ID gets you into all of them. I started my maiden voyage at Bo Diddley Plaza, the large outdoor venue that houses a lot of Fest’s biggest names. Direct Hit! was the first heavy-hitter of the day, and the played a mix of new and old (including the Halloween-appropriate “Werewolf Shame”) in the pinks and oranges of sunset. They sounded great, they were clearly happy to be playing, and the new material was refreshingly different from their past catalog, while not feeling out of place in the setlist.

Lemuria was next, a band I stuck around for despite not knowing very well. They played well and had a pretty exuberant audience, one that with a little research I might join in the future. Piebald was another band I didn’t know, but they impressed me with their music and I could see a clear kinship between what they were doing and what I liked in my current lineup of favorites. It sounded like heartfelt pop punk with a hint of emo, and it won me over fast. But the band I had come to see at Bo Diddley was, of course, The Menzingers—quickly becoming my most seen band, as well as my default favorite. They were great, as always, and as per usual: I found myself in the hugging arms of new friends, screaming along to every word.

Next was to the High Dive—the venue, based on their killer lineups, most aligned with my tastes—here, there were two must-sees, one of which pushed the scale enough for me to fly from the opposite corner of the country to Florida. First, I had Dead Bars. I can’t say enough about the Seattle homeboys, but through reviews and interviews, I have certainly tried. Dead Bars is a gravel-voiced melodic punk band with rock ‘n roll aspirations; they sing about big things in the span of simple refrains and matter-of-fact storytelling. Their live show is like living out a daydream, complete with guitar melodies and singalongs. In Gainesville, they pulled the largest crowd I’ve seen for them, and there wasn’t a non-dreamer in the house.

Crusades is another band that has become a passion project of sorts for me. They’re intellectual and melancholy, oblique and heavy—all the while being both visceral and highly musical. Their songs are marked with crusty chord riffs dueling with ghostly vocal melodies. This Fest marked their end as a band, their last two shows, ever. The first show was all rock, no talk—an explosive display of all that they’ve built together. Live, Crusades’ heavy roots appear in full affect. The second night was a more heartfelt affair, with tearful goodbyes and a touching speech from frontman Dave Williams on what Crusades represents at its core. When the last chords were played, the band members embraced each other center stage, as the crowd cheered one final time. There were a lot of great sets at Fest this year, but Crusades’ farewell was the most emotional.

The second day ended with Crusades, but it started just as strong with a ridiculously packed High Dive set from Spanish Love Songs. Judging from the fan response, I am not the only one who loved Schmaltz. These guys are poised to be huge, and they kicked off a run of bands that deserve mention for exceptional sets. France’s Guerilla Poubelle are volcanic onstage—their venom communicated clear as day despite the language barrier. They engaged in charming and eloquent banter in between playing songs from their latest album (and Red Scare debut) La Nausee, ending with a duet featuring Arms Aloft. Worlds Scariest Police Chases also wowed me, having fallen in love with their last full-length, they were a band I had been dying to see for years. As expected, they were as funny, ridiculous, and hardcore as their albums suggest.

MakeWar played one of the most memorable sets of the weekend, releasing a fleet of inflatable killer whales into the pit. Soon, these PBR soaked monstrosities were bouncing off the ceilings, knocking out fixtures in their wake. It was, simply put, incredible. The songs were great as well, but anyone who’s listened to Developing a Theory of Integrity can tell you that.

I caught Wolf-Face (who one Fest-goer said, in an overheard conversation, were a must-see), whose gimmick was fun and weird (a Teen Wolf… band?), with good music to boot. They had us perplexed, laughing, and rocking out in equal measure. We popped over to Bo Diddley and saw part of the Lawrence Arms set, with a gravellier (or less than sober) performance from Brendan Kelly.

Being thwarted by an at-capacity Mom Jeans show (another band who is, apparently, huge), I leaned on my old reliable, the High Dive, and decided that if I didn’t know any of the bands playing right then, odds are that at least one was pretty good. The punk gods were smiling on me, and I managed to walk in right before Spells began to play. My memory jogged itself and I recalled this was one of Anxious and Angry’s latest signings.

I was about to find out why.

Spells were the hardest slap in the face I received all weekend. This was a band almost entirely off my radar, and here they were blowing my mind. They were uniformed in polos, one member on tambourine duties, all the while their frenzied lead singer spent the set’s entirety in the pit—grabbing, rubbing, antagonizing, and just generally messing with (me included) audience members. It was a sight to see. Hardcore, punk, pop punk, or some amalgam of—they played and screamed and fucked around with a sense of urgency only matched by their sense of fun.

Bong Mountain, Pkew Pkew Pkew, and Red City Radio formed the heavy-hitters lineup for the next day. The latter, in particular, sounding better than I’ve ever heard them before, with studio-quality vocal harmonies delivered live to a mid-day audience of true believers. It was a cathartic set, made all the more poignant for being the Fest’s final day. This was the end of a perfect weekend for a lot of people, and it was the final chance to go all out.

We took a break from bands to check out Fest Wrestling—an artform I had little to no acquaintance with, but was entirely intrigued by—and I am pleased to say it didn’t disappoint. I’d never watched wrestling in my life, but I was in awe of its unbridled insanity. Fest Wrestling is pure camp spectacle delivered via a stable of super-talented performers. It didn’t take long, even for a novice like myself, to get swept up by its energy. As some punk rock bonuses, we got cameos from Masked Intruder (who would play a fantastic set later in the evening) and the one and only Officer Bradford. For me, Fest Wrestling was a definite highlight of the weekend.

As Fest came to a close, I made it my mission to jump as many venues as I could, to do one last mad-dash to see as many bands as possible, keeping in mind that only one could serve as a proper ending to my first Fest. I jumped from The Get-Up Kids to Question the Mark; from Typesetter to Swiss Army; finally landing on the most Gainesville of Gainesville bands: Radon. For me, there was no more appropriate way to end my time at Fest. It was a sentiment shared by many of my fellow fest-goers, as I walked away from the Palomino, after finally hearing “Radon” live, complete with crowd-surfing and shouted “ba-da-da-das,” I overheard another punk explain Radon succinctly—“They’re Florida’s Jawbreaker… If Jawbreaker were from the south, they’d be Radon.”

The Fest is a monster of a festival. It removes the lines and borders we draw within the boundaries of punk rock and replace them with a singularity—Fest. It’s DIY, scrappy, and heartfelt and it includes a diverse group of both bands and audience members. The community becomes a spectacle in itself—punks make room for extras in each other’s Lyfts; veterans helps first-timers find venues; we all talk and hug and sing along, together. Despite this unity, the pleasure of Fest is that it is such a personal experience. My Fest highlights included The Menzingers, MakeWar, and Spells—yours very well could’ve been Mom Jeans, Lagwagon, and Hospital Job. At Fest, there’s room for a wide breadth of experience, but still, in the end, it’s all Fest.

So, If you haven’t made up your mind yet: go.

And if you’re already a true believer: see ‘ya next year.

 



Real Sickies (Canadian punkers) debut new video, “Go Away”

It is with great pleasure that we bring to you the brand-new video from Edmontonian punk rockers Real Sickies! It is also with great apology to Edmontonian punk rockers Real Sickies that we didn’t do this earlier!

The song is called “Go Away,” and the video hearkens back to the days when VH1’s “Pop Up Video” was still a thing. Check it out below!

“Go Away” appears on Real Sickies’ latest album, Get Well Soon, which was released a week ago (June 1st, to be specific) on This Is Pop Records north of the border and It’s Alive Records in the States.



Album Review: The Creeps – “Beneath the Pines”

Punk rock, for me, begins with introspection. Now before I get tarred and feathered—anarchy, fucking-the-system, cops, politics, veganism, gender identity, and more are all just as equally valid. Blame it on the records I grew up with, blame it on my soft, mushy, poetic heart—but there’s still nothing more thrilling to me than self discovery. Navel gazing is the diving board that sends you plummeting into ideas. More and more, I can’t help but think that Guerilla Poubelle was right, and punk rock is existentialism. On the journey to change, we look inward; and I can’t help but think, all this moshing and screaming was us thrashing towards our own authenticity.

But gone are the days where punk meant only one thing. In the last thirty years, the genre has become a vehicle for self-reflection and a number of albums have shown the merit of this approach. Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, Hot Water Music’s Fuel For the Hate Game, and later, Against Me!’s Reinventing Axl Rose. The thread continues to the modern day and the music has become punk canon, a source of influence and intertextuality—conscious and subconscious—a sonic and perspective bookmark to flip back to when a comparison is warranted.

The CreepsBeneath the Pines very much follows in that same headspace, even if they don’t ape the sounds. Thematics aside, first and foremost, this is an album of great songs. And second, The Creeps are a pop punk band. What this means to the listener, is that this is a record with an even rarer color palette. Beneath the Pines is personal, melancholy, and melodic; and paired with its ghostly, reverb-drenched production—it makes for an experience as haunting as it is human.

But before we get too far, let’s look at how the Creeps succeed as a pop punk band. For me, the primary task of any catchy punk is to be, well, catchy—and this is where the Creeps build their foundation. The melodies across this album never cease being gorgeous. They stick to you like glue, and accordingly, they’re treated like the star of the show. There are some nice guitar flourishes throughout the album, but for the most part, they’re adhesive. This isn’t to diminish the instrumentals on Beneath the Pines, but rather to shine a light on their conceived unobtrusiveness. “Shimmer” opens with one such riff, and “In My Mind” features a catchy lead as well, but for the most part, they’re kept lean and better for it. They manage to balance being present without being overbearing, often scaling back to chugs to let the vocals breathe. They are the detailing that give the songs depth, but still communicate a common law: when the chorus comes in—you’re supposed to sing along.

The best problem an album can have is having too many highlights to list. “Bottom of Things” has some hard-hitting and relatable lyricism (“Eye contact—I practice everything. Except sleeping, I don’t do that much these days.”) packaged into a big, infectious chorus. It also features a somber, emotional bridge that builds to rapturous howls. “Bodies” is another excellent track, more aggressive than “Bottom of Things,” suitably propelled with the galloping strum of distorted power chords. The opening lyrics are almost a thesis statement: “These human bodies, such beautiful acts of betrayal.” It’s interesting and inherently relatable, a eulogy for our mortal vessels, doomed to flat tires and oil leaks—destined for a ditch. The chorus, for me, captures the inevitable, and how we humans fight to sublimate death into something we can idolize, the reclamation of suffering through art:

It’s not the tightest ship,

In fact there are holes,

You said, “you’re bleeding from the lip,”

I said, “it’s spilling from my soul.”

Attaching meaning to hurt is nothing new, but it succeeds holistically, in cabal with the melody and insistent rhythm, transcending metaphor to be screamed as a rallying cry.

In parallel to the album’s themes of nostalgia and memory, I can’t help but think about the records that shaped my taste and therefore my life. Do you know I remember where I was the first time I heard Repeater? Same for Fuel for the Hate Game, Searching for a Former Clarity, and The Empire Strikes First. All of those records are tied to sights and sounds, old futon beds and my first record player; my first laptop and my senior year of high school. These gave me the start I needed to digging up my insides. To pull a quote from “Fall:”

I fear we’re all just fated to these capsules of time

Like memories of pure bliss beneath these sky-tall pines

And either that’s all that’s left, or even those leave our minds

And then we all fall down,

And then we all fall

The Creeps paint a picture of a race against time—the same one we’re all running. I’ve been known to call art made for everyone to be art made for no one. These are books, movies, and songs that aspire to a sort of bland universality, that couch their stories and melodies in the most brash representatives of the human experience. They cover heartbreak, love, and worry with those exact words, like Mad Libs of the human condition. The Creeps dig deeper though, and in exploring themselves they end up with examinations of greater humanity—the failings of our body, the social contract, depression, and addiction. They do this through specificity, by joining a great tradition of punk rockers working through some shit. It’s a healthy reminder that even though we don’t have the same “sky-tall pines,” we do all have them—and they’re worth holding onto.

Beneath the Pines is at once heady and nostalgic, introspective and musical. It communicates experience skillfully, with slice-of-life imagery and universal angst. It inspires empathy, while also inspiring awe. This is a pop punk record unlike any I’ve heard before, and if this is where the Creeps landed after nearly two decades of activity, I think it speaks well of their trajectory. This is personal, specific music born from a unique vision—re-envisioning punk rock into something new, useful, and defiantly esoteric.

5/5



DS Interview: Skottie Lobotomy (The Creeps) talks new album, songwriting, and confrontational escapism

In a matter of weeks, after lamenting a drought of new music, I received three albums that I couldn’t stop spinning. There was The Penske File’s Salvation, Spanish Love Songs’ Schmaltz, and The Creeps’ Beneath the Pines. I’ve purged my thoughts in reviews, countless listens, and dozens of personal recommendations, but still, these are the records I can’t shake—three distinct visions of what modern punk rock can be, built on the foundation of expert songwriting.

Beneath the Pines isn’t out yet, but it has a special place among the three. It shares members with Crusades, a fantastic band that shocked the punk community by announcing their departure earlier this month; and comes as the follow-up to Eulogies, an album that allowed the Creeps to stretch their chops and become known as one of pop punk’s foremost songsmiths. While the connection is inevitable, to say that The Creeps is Crusades’ little brother—a near consolation prize to fans—is to ignore the band’s twenty years playing, releasing, and evolving. Beneath the Pines is a great album, no matter its relation—a singular vision, powered by introspection, killer melodies, and the sort of songwriting that marks you for life. It’s at once melancholy and hopeful, and with a few deft lyrics, will endear the hardest hearts into a singalong.

I was lucky enough to exchange emails with vocalist/guitarist Skottie Lobotomy on the new album, his songwriting process, and what it means to be punk through introspection. Check out the interview below.



The Creeps (punk) stream new song “Even”

Ontario punk band The Creeps are streaming a brand new song off of their upcoming album, Beneath The Pines. The song is called “Even” and you can give it a listen here.

The group last released a split with No Marks in 2016. Beneath The Pines is scheduled for release on May 4th via It’s Alive Records.



The Creeps (punk) stream new song “Shimmer”

Ontario punk band The Creeps are streaming a brand new song off of their upcoming album, Beneath The Pines. The song is called “Shimmer” and you can take a listen to it below.

The group last released a split with No Marks in 2016. Beneath The Pines is scheduled for release later this year.



Starter Jackets (members of The Copyrights, Hospital Job, Attic Salt) release new album, play “Live From the Rock Room”

The world’s greatest power pop band that gets mistaken for a defunct sports clothing line has released their first LP, “Decisions”. I’ve been waiting for weeks to write about this, as I was granted a preview of the album after I did some awfully humiliating things behind a Casey’s General Store dumpster than involved day-old pizza, half a jar of mayonnaise, and the surrender of what little dignity I had left after I got drunk and gave out my phone number at my last family reunion. But hey, I’m in this because I love music, and I’m willing to give something like fifty-five percent or so to share the things I love.

Starter Jackets follow up their debut EP with even stronger hooks, kinkier synths, more powerier chords and even more powerier pop. Check out the stream of the album and their performance at Live From the Rock Room below to hear for yourself how great these guys are. You can buy a digital copy of the album at bandcamp.

Starter Jackets’ lineup includes Luke McNeill of The Copyrights and Hospital Job, Lanny Durbin of Attic Salt, and Fred Malcom of both Hospital Job and Attic Salt.



Live From the Rock Room: The Dopamines!

The Dopamines stopped by Mike Felumlee’s place to record a live version of “Business Papers,” one of their best songs off their latest album, “Tales of Interest.”

You can see the video below, and be sure to check out other great bands that have recorded for the show.



Watch The Dopamines perform “Ire” Live From the Rock Room

Another video has been released of The Dopamines performing Live From The Rock Room. The track is called “Ire” and is taken from their latest album release “Tales Of Interest”. Check the video out below. Earlier this year we saw the band performing “Kalte Ente” and “The King of Swilling Powers, Pt I,II,III” from the same album.

“Tales Of Interest” was released on June 2nd via Rad Girlfriend Records and was the follow up to 2012’s “Vices”.



Watch The Dopamines perform “Kalte Ente, The King of Swilling Powers, Pt I,II,III” in session

Cincinnati punks The Dopamines recently performed the first two tracks their their album “Tales of Interest” for Live from the Rock Room sessions. 

You can give “Kalte Ente” and “The King of Swilling Powers, Pt I,II,III” a listen below.



Crusades (Canada) stream cover of Off With Their Heads track “Your Child Is Dead”

Canada’s Crusades are streaming their cover of the Off With Their Heads classic “Your Child Is Dead”. Their take on the track is a much slower and emotional affair and it can be enjoyed below.

The cover track comes on the back of Crusades’s latest release This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End, released earlier this year.



Plow United announce hiatus, release new single

Philadelphia pop-punks Plow United have announced that they will be going on another hiatus. The announcement includes the release of a new single called, Authenticity. The band reunited and released two reunion records over the last few years, but unfortunately all good things come and go.

A statement from the band reads, “Hey y’all! We are pressing the pause button again. Here’s a song from the Three sessions that explains why.”

You can check out the song below.



Crusades (punk, Canada) taking preorders for new LP “This is a sickness and sickness will end”

Canada’s Crusades are now taking preorders of their soon to be released LP entitled This Is A Sickness And Sickness Will End. The official date for the record to drop is March 7th, 2017.

Along with the preorder, the band have announced a short stint of tour dates for UK fans. You can check out the list below.

 

 

 

 

 



Crusades detail new album ‘This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End’

Ottawa’s Crusades will release their forthcoming album “This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End” on March 7th jointly through the band’s own label Anxious & Angry (USA) and Countless Altars (Canada/Europe).

Tracklisting and a video teaser are below.



The Dopamines finish recording new album

According to a post on their Facebook page, Cincinnati’s Dopamines have finished recording a new full-length album. All we know right now is the LP will be titled Tales of Interest, but we’ll keep you posted as more details are revealed.

This will be the Dopamines’ fourth studio album. It will serve as the follow-up to Vices, which was released in 2012 through It’s Alive Records.