I’ll get right into it. I had a blast at FEST 13, the 2014, PBR fueled, punk rock centric, Gainesville FL institution of a music festival. Why wouldn’t I return for FEST 14? A weak liver? No. Maturing taste in music? Obviously not. Not wanting to wade through a schedule of over 400 bands ranging from folk punk to hardcore? Umm, hell no. Not wanting to mingle with like minded music fans who are not afraid of crowd surfing and gang vocals? To Gainesville, I say!
We waited in the registration line for over 3 hours last year, so every effort was made to get there earlier this year, and as a result we got there at pretty much the same time as last year to find ABSOLUTELY NO FREAKING LINE. As in, we walked directly up to the desk and registered. Did they figure out a different system? Was last year a fluke? No clue, no complaints. We milled around the punk rock flea market a bit (sorry, I love vinyl, but I’m not carrying it around all day. Thanks for the stickers and coozies, though), and then headed upstairs for the pool party where unironic (I think) Blink 182 covers were being enjoyed. Those were some patient lifeguards, let me tell you.
I’d been curious about why a band would call themselves Wolf Face, so we made out way to the High Dive. Really fun set by some hirsute dudes (FEST is kinda known for bearded punks), still not sure about the name thing, though.
Title Fight was next on the schedule, so we headed to Lot 10, the amazingly named temporary outdoor venue that was put to use because Bo Diddley Plaza is undergoing some renovations. Lot 10 served its purpose well enough, even if it lacked the little bit of seating that Bo Diddley had, which was less important on Day 1 than it was on Day 3. Anyway, I’d been wanting to see Title Fight for quite a while and was glad to see that their fans stuck with them through their more recent hazeyier sound. Seemed like people were singing along to Chlorine just as much as Secret Society. Nice.
Tons of sing along love for the legendary outfit The Menzingers, too, who were up next at Lot 10. Security was amazing all weekend, gently pulling crowd surfers over the barricade and directing them back out into the crowd, often with a high five or friendly back slap included. Seriously, kudos to all the volunteers, who all seemed to be legit music fans who somehow helped this amazing, amazing feat of logistics not only work, but work well. So cool. The fact that Friday headliners Desaparecidos had to cancel? Not so cool.
After a quick bite at Flaco’s (mmmmm, the Cuban. Seriously, the Cuban.), we somehow settled in for the night at Cowboys. I’m really not sure what the thought process was, as we missed a ton of stuff I had hoped to see, but so goes FEST. And, in true FEST fashion, it ended up being a blast. BIGWIG wasn’t really on my must see radar, but played a smoking set to a huge crowd. Same with Tim Barry, really, I love him, but I’ve seen him multiple times and didn’t plan of seeing him again, but there we were, and it was great. It is really heartwarming (this may also have been a function of the beer) to hear a whole crowd sing along like that. Holding the attention of hundreds of mostly drunk punks with just a microphone and an acoustic guitar is impressive, to say the least.
I’ve witnessed a manic Riverboat Gamblers set before at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest (highly recommended festival, btw), and even though I knew sort of what to expect, the insane crowd surfing and the dive off the p.a. stack was more than a little impressive. The energy didn’t let up for Off With Their Heads, either. Their melodic hardcore was easily one of my favorite sets of the weekend. Flat out fantastic.
Holy shit, is that just Day 1? Well, not quite. Steak ‘n’ Shake here we come. Oh, and tomorrow’s Halloween.