Tag Archives: MakeWar

Pouzza Fest 9, Montreal, Q.C., 5/17/19-5/19/19 By Will Malkus

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I’ve often heard Montreal’s Pouzza Fest referred to as “Fest spring training,” but now in its ninth year of operation it’s pretty clear to see that Pouzza Fest is in the process of developing its own identity, out from under the shadow of its larger and older fellow. It’s no secret that Pouzza Fest was heavily inspired by The Fest in Gainesville, Fla., but like so many of us did when we first discovered punk music, the smaller festival is now starting to see which parts of its identity it wants to keep and which parts it wants to change. This year especially the changes were readily on display, not just in the presentation but also in the lineup the organizers chose to book and the other wholly unique activities and events that are part of the Pouzza experience. I look forward to seeing Pouzza Fest continue to grow and mature but this year had its own highlights, which I had the opportunity to write about.

All the best parts of Pouzza Fest are still there of course; the fact that all of the shows at the main stage beer garden are free and open to the public, for example, or the presence of the food that the festival is named after (pizza with poutine as a topping), but the most valuable part of Pouzza Fest by far is the ongoing dialog about diversity in music and working hard as a community to make sure everyone at the festival is safe that the organizers encourage to not only take place, but evolve and expand throughout the weekend. Over the course of the three-day festival Lorien Lamarr and I covered twenty-seven bands, two panels, and one baseball tournament. I saw old friends, made some new ones, and explored parts of Montreal I’ve never gotten to see before. Obviously that makes for a lot of content, so I’ll try to keep this brief. Hopefully the following reviews will introduce you to a new band or musician, or help start a conversation about safety and representation, but please also feel free to check out the full lineup at their website. Amusez-vous bien!

POUZZA FEST DAY ONE, 5/17/19

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Women in the Scene Panel: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
It’s telling that Pouzza Fest decided to hold a Q&A panel focusing on women in punk, and even more telling that it was the very first event on the entire festival schedule. The panel, which featured a combination of musicians (Anlin Fan, Jenni Cotterill, Jordan Joyes, Valerie Knox), bookers (Nancy Ross), journalists (Liz Imperiale), and PR agents (Melanie Kaye), was moderated by Turbo Haüs co-owner and music industry veteran Michelle Ayoub. The topics covered ranged broadly, as the issues and experiences of being a woman in punk are no more universal and interchangeable than those of any human being, but of course there were some common threads. A lot of time was given to addressing and debunking the prevailing myth that “female-fronted” constitutes its own genre, and also to discussing strategies and tips for achieving success in whatever niche aspect of punk the hypothetical audience chooses to focus on. I would love to see more of these panels happen not only at Pouzza but also at other festivals in the future, because as the panel members pointed out, this was not only about addressing the struggles of being a woman in the scene but also presenting a valuable educational resource for people of any identity to benefit from.

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Anti-Harassment Seminar and Q&A with Shawna from War On Women: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
I won’t spend too much time focusing on Shawna Potter’s brief introduction to anti-harassment because it’s all covered (and in much more depth than I could ever get into with just this brief paragraph) in her new book Making Spaces Safer: A Guide to Giving Harassment the Boot Wherever You Work, Play, and Gather, recently published by AK Press. It’s a great read and if you haven’t had the chance yet I highly suggest checking it out, but the main focus of her seminar was the Five D’s of Bystander Intervention, the five steps to be taken in the event that someone is being harassed in front of you: Direct, Distract, Delegate, Delay, and Document (the last one to be used as a last resort if one or more of the others have failed). Being from Baltimore I’ve had the opportunity to hear Shawna speak on this topic several times, but I can’t stress enough how worthwhile these strategies and techniques are. Big ups to Pouzza Fest for kicking off their festival by giving attendees tools to use throughout the weekend to help keep each other safe.

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Cold Wrecks: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Pouzza veterans Cold Wrecks played the first set of the fest, but even if they hadn’t, I still would have gone out of my way to catch them. The four-piece band released their second LP This Could Be Okay just a few months ago and you could feel the hype in a packed Foufs Garage. Even with a fill-in lead guitarist and the fate of their beloved van (RIP Van Michael Vancent) uncertain and weighing on their minds, Cold Wrecks was able to bring the pop punk energy which set the pace for the rest of the weekend. Very few bands do jump-worthy, high-energy songs about the anxieties and frustrations of life in the 2010s as well as these four. They rounded out their set by playing ”Montreal,” furthering their successful efforts to make themselves mainstays of all the best festivals by writing songs about their host cities.

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Sarchasm: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Hot on the heels of Cold Wrecks was the East Bay’s Sarchasm serving up their specific brand of “intersectional bummer punk pop.” True to form, their most recent album on Asian Man Records was called Beach Blanket Bummer Pop, and in all honesty I struggle to find a better description for their sound. These are upbeat summer jams about dark topics, like being scared for your life at a protest or contemplating suicide, a musical dichotomy that I might have been skeptical about prior to hearing them absolutely nail it. Sarchasm seems to feel their music in every fiber of their being; stumbling, jumping, and writhing around every inch of the tiny Foufs Garage stage with reckless abandon whether they’re belting out their own powerful lyrics or absolutely slaying a cover of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”

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Choked Up: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Brooklyn-based four-piece Choked Up was in the middle of their sound check when we got to the main stage at Foufs, but it was hard to tell because the band was so in synch they were playing what sounded like full songs already. As a warm-up it was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as their full set. There are clearly miles and miles of meaning behind Choked Up’s songs, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since they’re fronted by the prolific graphic novelist and illustrator Cristy Road. There’s a cohesion to Choked Up that’s hard to find in bands that have been around three times as long and the crowd was very clearly there for the understated shredding, the gritty edge of Road’s vocals, and the lyrical content that backs up Choked Up’s mission statement of, “Queer POC to the front! It’s okay if you feel awkward. If you got into punk rock and you don’t feel awkward, maybe rethink your choices!”

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Bad Cop/Bad Cop: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
For the first of many times over the course of Pouzza Fest weekend, the main stage in downtown Montreal came alive for the powerful trademark harmonies of Bad Cop/Bad Cop. These West Coast punks have been on the rise for the last few years and it’s easy to see why. Between the aforementioned harmonies, the syncopated no-frills guitar, and a message that has never been more prescient, Bad Cop/Bad Cop playing “Womanarchist” was easily one of the stand-out performances of the entire festival. And speaking of “Womanarchist,” their flagship song felt especially relevant in the wake of the Alabama abortion ban passed just days before Pouzza Fest, and as they launched into it the field in front of the stage became only a mass of bodies jumping and beer cups raised high as the words “it’s my right to choose!” echoed across the entire city of Montreal.

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Early Riser: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Between Brooklyn mainstays Heidi Vanderlee and Kiri Oliver’s dual vocals and cello/guitar respectively, Mikey Erg of every band ever on drums, and proper.’s Natasha Johnson filling in on bass, I think it’s safe to say that Early Riser has officially achieved NYC supergroup status with their Pouzza 9 set. I most often hear Early Riser categorized as a folk punk band, but I don’t think that moniker really does justice to their legitimately beautiful songs. In a scene filled with people screaming into microphones and pounding on their instruments, it’s so nice to occasionally just sit back and hear some happy songs accompanied by warm cello music and soft harmonies. It was the only time all weekend I got to see how the acoustics in Foufs did with anything other than punk vocals and they did not disappoint.

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Save Ends: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
We were a little late getting into Save Ends’ set in the smaller half of Foufs, but that didn’t diminish my excitement at the opportunity to see them again. Day one of Pouzza was proving to be full of atypical punk acts and Save Ends was no exception. On top of guitar riffs and baselines that range from pop punk to emo to truly heavy, the real power behind the Boston five-piece is the interplay of vocal accompaniment between their co-vocalists: guitarist Christina Atturio and keyboardist Brendan Cahill. Both have wholly unique voices in the world of punk, and together they elevate Save Ends into a whole different weight class. This was the first set of the weekend where I saw people singing all the words to the songs back at the band, and judging from expressions, I saw I’m sure more people will be joining in the next time Save Ends plays Pouzza Fest.

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Abertooth Lincoln: at Turbo Haüs, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Stepping into Turbo Haüs is kind of like stepping into another world. After passing through an entirely nondescript and unsuspecting bar, I entered through a door into a room completely bathed in red light and full of drunken punks all speaking rapid-fire French, where a band that looked like the crew of a cruise ship was tuning up on stage. From the side of the stage entered a person wearing a wetsuit, and they took a microphone in hand as the rest of the band launched into some of the hardest metalcore I’ve ever heard, complimented by 8-bit interstitials from a lone keyboard player. The band in question was Abertooth Lincoln from Dayton, Ohio, though during this particular set they identified themselves as Space Force, after the eponymous anti-nationalism single they released just a few months ago (and also a flash game of the same name they made to go along with it). Words cannot do it justice but safe to say everyone in attendance was entirely floored by the sheer energy and powerful voice of frontperson Ashley Pooler and the brutality of the rest of the band, myself not the least among them.

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Dead Bars: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
If a group of your thirty-something friends listened to an Iron Chic record and decided to start a band with a vocalist doing his best Lawrence Arms impression, then invited you over for a band practice where they were absolutely hammered, you’d have a pretty good sense of what seeing Dead Bars live is like. They are a no-holds-barred, true-to-form pop punk band out here singing love songs about sharing earplugs and I could not have enjoyed their set more if I tried. From the balcony of Katacombes I had a front row seat to watching the front rows rip themselves into a frenzy over a repeated chorus of la-la-las and the stumbling antics of vocalist John Maiello that threatened to consume the whole crowd. It was already 11:00 PM by the time they went on but no one was holding anything back on night one, least of all Dead Bars.

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Arms Aloft: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Where to begin with Arms Aloft? I could write about them for pages, so it’s hard to try to isolate this down to just the bare minimum. I’d be hard pressed to try to think of a band that inspires me more with the things they say, not just through their music but through their staunch anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-shitty-people platform as well. Sonically, Arms Aloft is Midwestern punk at its best: raw, fast, and honest, completely lacking any guile whatsoever. Seth Giles’ gruff voice was in rare form on night one, especially while crooning the title track and my personal favorite from their last album What a Time to Be Barely Alive. Arms Aloft ended their set with an impressive display of Midwestern manners; lots of compliments and gratitude for Pouzza Fest itself. Just because you’re punk doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole, and no band exemplifies that ideal better than Arms Aloft.

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Spanish Love Songs: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
This wasn’t my first Pouzza Fest so I knew to pack extra clothes because there is one universal truth to surviving in Montreal venues: no matter what the temperature is outside the inside will be very, very warm. Couple that with the fact that we were closing out the night with the undisputed champions of heartfelt party jams Spanish Love Songs and I knew not a single one of us would be making it out of Katacombes with our clothes dry. Spanish Love Songs absolutely destroyed the crowd in the best possible way and I can only imagine what we must have looked like from their perspective: a constantly shifting sea of sweaty faces screaming their songs, fists raised high into the air, with people practically hanging off the balcony to point their fingers back at them. Their mid-set rendition of new single “Losers” was a Pouzza Fest highlight for me and a perfect end to the night.

POUZZA FEST DAY TWO, 5/18/19

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Grand Slam 4 Baseball Tournament: at Lafontaine Park, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Day two of Pouzza Fest started with a long search for what might be the most unique aspect of the whole festival: the Saturday morning baseball tournament. Punk and baseball have a long history of intersection but Pouzza Fest takes the relationship a step further and lets bands, sponsors, and partners form teams to compete against one another in a bracketed tournament, complete with hot dogs and beer for sale, a live announcer, and (naturally) loud punk music blasted from giant speakers just to complete the authenticity of the experience. I got the impression that this is one of the better kept secrets of Pouzza Fest but I genuinely hope to see it grow in the future as it was a very relaxing way to pass a sunny morning in Montreal before the music started.

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The Anti-Queens: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
The Anti-Queens used to bill themselves as “four tits and a dick” but these days they’ve swapped the dick out to realize their final form: “eight tits and some instruments.” I caught The Anti-Queens last year at Pouzza Fest but this year they took the main stage by storm first thing on day two, immediately winning over the audience by dedicating a song to “anyone here who’s on their period right now!” Even though it was obvious that a lot of the crowd were battling hangovers and just starting their days, the Toronto band still brought the energy and rallied the assemblage with thirty minutes of blistering garage punk fit for any early ’90s college basement show. The open-air venue allowed the three-part harmonies of the band to really shine where last year they were a bit overshadowed by a smaller space, which is way more of a testament to how hard they wail on their instruments then it is a criticism of their voices or the acoustics at other Pouzza venues. With this fest under their belts The Anti-Queens may have fully graduated to headliner status, and I hope to see their name at the top of more lineup announcements soon.

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Alex Brown And The Hepcats: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
I’m a big fan of diversity in my lineups so I was happy to see that Pouzza Fest continues to go out of their way to book acts that I would probably never seek out on my own. While rockabilly certainly isn’t for everyone (I can’t say I’m the biggest fan myself), Alex Brown And The Hepcats were a welcome surprise before a full day of running from punk show to punk show. It takes a lot of charisma to pull off the rockabilly aesthetic in 2019 but charisma is something that Alex Brown has in spades, blending a little punk energy into the genre of a different rebellious age while still twisting, shouting, and shaking like Elvis Presley himself. Once you hear him you might not be surprised to learn that he was a quarter-finalist on the Canadian version of The Voice, and that vocal prowess coupled with some excellent twangy guitar and good old-fashioned charm had people legitimately swing dancing by the second or third song of the set.

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Walt Hamburger: at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Walt Hamburger was probably my favorite surprise discovery out of all of Pouzza Fest. Lorien Lamarr (Aretesophist Photography) asked that we cover him, and when I remarked that I had no idea what he sounded like, she replied simply “good.” Dashing over from the Beer Garden to the tiniest Pouzza venue Théâtre Sainte-Catherine meant that his set had already started, but walking into that crowded room mid-song was probably the best introduction I could have gotten. Soulful ballads with heart-wrenching lyrics weren’t really what I expected to hear from a guy called Walt Hamburger, but it’s always nice to be surprised in the oft-predictable punk world. Walt plays some of the best acoustipunk I’ve heard in a very long time and has almost two decades of experience as a musician under his belt, but nothing could have prepared me for the whistling. This may seem like a strange statement, but the man can whistle like nobody’s business and it adds a whimsical counterpoint to what are some of my new favorite “rainy day” songs.

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Direct Hit!: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Direct Hit! writes pop punk concept albums about the nuclear apocalypse and experimental drug use à la Hunter S. Thompson, and even though the thoughtful approach to minimalist storytelling through well-crafted lyrics seems at odds with their “get drunk and party” punk rock approach to music, it has cemented their status as one of the greatest contemporary pop punk bands. I always seem to catch them headlining festivals these days, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it does mean that some of the party atmosphere they bring to the table is lost in translation. At the risk of sounding anti-success, I have to say that I vastly prefer the Direct Hit! shows I’ve seen in packed venues, where there’s no barrier and you’re constantly at risk of a stagediver landing on top of you. I don’t even like stagedivers but some bands just call for it in order to get the full experience and Direct Hit! is absolutely one of those bands. That’s not to say they didn’t deliver a quality performance full of energy across an eclectic, discography-spanning setlist (because that would be a lie) but punks have a tendency to get greedy about their favorite bands from time to time and I’m afraid I’m no exception.

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Invaluable: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Taking a break from the plentiful pop punk of the weekend to catch the much heavier Invaluable from Virginia Beach turned out to be a great decision. As much as I’d been enjoying all of the other bands we’d seen, there was something missing that I found in Invaluable’s shred-heavy, slightly sludge-y melodic punk sound. Once again Pouzza had me covered in terms of variety, and the three-man band’s killer gang vocals complemented their stylized thrashing perfectly and left me feeling satisfied on the metalcore front… for at least a little while.

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Big D And The Kids Table: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
As a lifelong ska fan, I have to admit that I was unapologetically excited to see Big D And The Kids Table open up the pit just as it started to get dark in Montreal. 2007’s Strictly Rude was actually one of the first albums I bought with my own money after discovering them on the Asian Man Records’ Ska Is Dead comp, so getting to throw down and skank to “Noise Complaint” along with such a huge crowd took me on a nostalgia trip right back to high school (in the best way, if there is such a thing). Pouzza Fest has always been kind to ska when setting their lineup and this year was no exception. Of course Canadian punk has a long, proud ska history itself and I have to admit that I am consistently impressed at just how diehard their diehard fans are. In terms of performance, Big D And The Kids Table have been at this for so long they’re total professionals these days, and I don’t know if they could put on a bad show if they tried.

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Bike Tuff: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19 (by Lorien Lamarr)
Will caught whatever stomach bug was going around and had to skip a set, so I’m filling in. Kamea was one of my favorite records of 2016, but even if you’ve never heard a single Bike Tuff song, you’d feel like an old friend returning home at any Bike Tuff set. I haven’t been to the Midwest since I was fifteen, but I feel like an honorary member of the Midwest scene at a Bike Tuff show. The crowd is the enthusiastic fifth member of the band. When you have a hundred voices screaming “Did you forget about me?”—that really takes gang vocals to a new level. I think it’s the hopeful mood of the surface-level bitter-sad songs that keeps everyone coming back. If that desire to retain your grip on hope feels familiar, you belong at a Bike Tuff set, but honestly, if you show up you belong and that’s goddamn beautiful.

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Sincere Engineer: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Let me preface this by saying that I have never, ever seen a crowd go as hard for Sincere Engineer as the packed room in front of the Foufs main stage did at Pouzza Fest 9. Last year frontwoman Deanna Belos played by herself, but it would seem the days of Sincere Engineer solo sets are gone as the four-piece have the Rhombithian setlist pretty much down to a science now. Having been on the Sincere Engineer hype train from pretty early on it’s impressive how much their fanbase has grown in just a few short years. They have always defied easy classification into any of the major punk genres but it’s been incredible watching Belos develop as both a performer and a lyricist/vocalist/guitarist. The band even premiered a brand new track at the end of the set, clearly Alkaline Trio-inspired and full of trademark Red Scare gruffness but still wholly unique. If the rest of the album sounds that good, we all need to start preparing now.

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Bong
Mountain: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
If I’d gone into their set blind I never would’ve suspected Bong Mountain hailed from the frozen land of Grand Rapids, Mich. and not somewhere warm and sunny. I can easily imagine listening to their debut album on repeat during a weekend beach trip, but they exist just slightly outside the pop punk spectrum with guitars just a little too noodley and their song structures just a little too varied to be nearly pigeonholed into that box. Still, the crowd at Katacombes had clearly come specifically to see Bong Mountain, as people were doing backflips (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) off of the stage and into the crowd almost immediately. The area right in front of the stage resembled nothing so much as an impromptu human pyramid as waves and waves of punks leaped and clambered over each other in an effort to sing right into the faces of the band members themselves. We’d all been playing it cool and conserving energy in preparation for our evening’s must-sees, and almost universally it seemed we all decided that now was the time to let it all out for Bong Mountain.

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Ramoms: at Café Cléopâtre, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Are the Ramoms a gimmick band? Yes, of course they are, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have all the stage presence and musical ability of the band they’re named after and then some. Let’s face it, The Ramones were never considered one of the greatest punk bands of all time because of how well they could sing or play their instruments, and in this category at least, The Ramoms have them beaten in my opinion. Still, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so adaptation must be up there as well. The Ramoms were the last stop of my night, and as far as closers are concerned it would be hard to top hearing some of the songs that first got me into punk but with fresh twists on them; for example how the four moms transformed the Ramones classic “Judi Is a Punk” into “Gritty Is a Punk,” a love song to the giant orange nonbinary icon, avowed antifa member, and current Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot Gritty.

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The Dopamines: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19 (by Lorien Lamarr)
Will was once again down with the sickness, but luckily for me, with the exception of gluten, I have an iron stomach impervious to any illness. I say “luckily,” but I suppose that’s a matter of perspective. I love The Dopamines, but a Dopamines show is uncannily like giving your fun uncle who gets mean when he’s drunk a microphone… except there’s four of him. It’s like being consensually verbally abused in a quid pro quo exchange for earwormy punk. For an added twist, although their lyrics are often still angry, they are also introspective and honest, which always makes me wonder, “How much of this stage behavior is bravado or do they really live that stark of a dichotomy everyday?” True to form, The Dopamines brought three beers a piece on stage with them and greeted the audience with, “Why aren’t you all at Iron Reagan, you posers. We’re The Dopamines from Ohio. Fuck you,” and launched into a set heavy in tracks from Tales of Interest. The audience, myself included, cheered. Two songs in, when we were still there, one of those beers was spat directly at us, almost like a dare to stay. Not only did we stay, that was when the pit opened up. Punk don’t back down from a dare.

POUZZA FEST DAY THREE, 5/19/19


Rayner: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19

Rayner from Las Vegas has been on the periphery of my awareness for awhile now, but Pouzza Fest was the first opportunity I got to see them play live and I’ll be honest: over the course of a twenty-ish minute set I completely fell in love. Their specific brand of pop punk isn’t the frenetic high-energy speedway that’s come to be defined by the genre, instead their songs invite the listener to slow down and consider the world around them. This is particularly true of my favorite track off of their 2017 release Disasters, the cleverly named “Blurred Limes” which challenges our modern day notion of success and offers an alternative: “live your life like it’s one big show.” Unendingly humble and grateful to Pouzza Fest for having them all the way out from Las Vegas, Rayner closed their set with a hilarious tongue-in-cheek cover of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” that was still an absolute bop and caught the crowd up with its infectious energy.

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Guerilla Poubelle: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
It’s never easy to write about a band that sings in a language you don’t speak, but French anarcho punks Guerilla Poubelle have crafted such a clear thesis statement between their music and message that even a casual listener can grasp the gist of what they’re trying to say: namely to wake up, see the world around you, and acknowledge the way it and the people who live in it are being treated by those in power. It was a message that Pouzza Festers were more than willing to listen to, as hundreds gathered in the pouring rain to bask in the group’s gravel-mouthed vocals and driving guitars. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen a mosh pit full of umbrellas, which struck me as very fitting for a band that deals in existential philosophy as much as Guerilla Poubelle does.

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Andrew W.K.: The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
When I saw the full lineup announcement for Pouzza Fest I was excited for a lot of reasons, but I was only surprised for one: Andrew W.K.’s name at the top of the headliner list. Pouzza has always managed to grab one or two headliners that completely defy expectations, but seeing Andrew W.K. play an outdoor beer garden in the middle of downtown Montreal was an experience I knew I wanted to be a part of. Looking back on it now, I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint in the slightest. With a thunderous sound setup, a professionally-designed and coordinated light show, and no less than four guitarists all shredding at one time, what other set could compare to the sheer party energy that Andrew W.K. brings everywhere he goes? When we talk about punk, I think it’s important to remember that sometimes we have to throw our heads back and scream, and there’s no one Pouzza Fest could have gotten to better remind us of that than Andrew W.K.

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The Penske File: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
Just hours before their Pouzza Fest set, The Penske File discovered that their van (along with all of their gear and personal belongings) had been stolen from where they were parked behind Foufs. The call went out, with images of the missing van and all of their gear quickly spreading all over social media in the hopes that anything would turn up. Despite these tremendous setbacks, The Penske File would not be deterred. They borrowed gear from other bands, took the stage as expected, and delivered one of the most incredible sets of pure, undiluted pop punk I have ever seen. Seemingly channeling all of their frustrations and anxieties inwards, all three members, jumped, lunged, and roared with a passion that I’ve never seen from them before. I have said before that The Penske File is the only presently touring punk band that is entirely made up of frontmen, and nowhere was that more on display than on Foufs’ main stage on the third night of Pouzza Fest.

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Kill Lincoln: at Café Cléopâtre, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
Any time hometown ska heroes Kill Lincoln from Washington, D.C. play I do my damndest to be there front and center, and I wasn’t about to let Pouzza Fest be the exception to that rule. Even with some of their regular lineup missing in action, Kill Lincoln still treated the late-night Café Cléopâtre to a full set of good old-fashioned East Coast ska punk. If you’ve ever wondered what Less Than Jake would sound like if they’d had a hardcore phase, you should absolutely check out Kill Lincoln. They are one of the most innovative and hard-working ska punk bands out there now, and in a world where ska is mostly treated as a punch line, they’re worth defending. Ska MVP award for Pouzza Fest goes to trombone player Yasutaka Umemoto, who dominated the stage with some of the most impressive vertical jumps I’ve ever seen.

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MakeWar: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
And finally, after three days of an absolutely unreal Pouzza Fest experience, I was fully ready to close out the weekend with some MakeWar singalongs. The NYC three-piece was more than ready to acquiesce, launching into their set with little preamble (“We decided not to get drunk before our set and I think we did a pretty good job. We didn’t succeed, but we did a pretty good job.”) but plenty of energy. It seemed like they’d been storing it all up over the course of the fest, and now it was ready to be unleashed upon the Katacombes crowd in one furious assault of fast guitar, heavy bass, and pounding drums all almost drowned out by the strength of Jose and Edwin’s dual vocal prowess. For the last time of the weekend I watched the crowd go wild for an absolutely incredible band, and the longer the set went on the more we all collectively fought against its inevitable conclusion, perfectly willing to live in this moment as long as we could.

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Will Malkus is a writer, librarian, and concert photographer based out of Baltimore, Md. You can check out his photography and writing portfolios at charmcorephoto.com/.

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BAND REVIEW SUMMARY

FRIDAY, MAY 17
Women in the Scene Panel @ The Beer Garden
Anti-Harassment Seminar and Q&A with Shawna from War On Women @ The Beer Garden
Cold Wrecks @ Foufs Garage
Sarchasm @ Foufs Garage
Choked Up @ Foufounes Électriques
Bad Cop/Bad Cop @ The Beer Garden
Early Riser @ Foufounes Électriques
Save Ends @ Foufs Garage
Abertooth Lincoln @ Turbo Haüs
Dead Bars @ Katacombes
Arms Aloft @ Katacombes
Spanish Love Songs @ Katacombes

SATURDAY, MAY 18
Grand Slam 4 Baseball Tournament @ Lafontaine Park
The Anti-Queens @ The Beer Garden
Alex Brown and the Hepcats @ The Beer Garden
Walt Hamburger @ Théâtre Sainte-Catherine
Direct Hit! @ The Beer Garden
Invaluable @ Katacombes
Big D and the Kids Table @ The Beer Garden
Bike Tuff @ Katacombes (by Lorien Lamarr)
Sincere Engineer @ Foufounes Électriques
Bong Mountain @ Katacombes
Ramoms @ Café Cléopâtre
The Dopamines @ Katacombes (by Lorien Lamarr)

SUNDAY, MAY 19
Rayner @ Foufs Garage
Guerilla Poubelle @ The Beer Garden
Andrew W.K. @ The Beer Garden
The Penske File @ Foufounes Électriques
Kill Lincoln @ Café Cléopâtre
MakeWar @ Katacombes

FEST 17 Review – 69 bands by Kayla Greet

Fest 17 Kayla Greet

FEST 17 Review – 69 bands by Kayla Greet

I flew out on a redeye to Tampa on the Monday before. While trying to get shut eye on a plane is not the most ideal situation, for those of us on a budget it certainly beats spending money on a place to stay for the night. As I was walking to my terminal in Seattle, who should I pass by other than Russ Van Cleave! The Sea-Tac airport isn’t massive like O’hare, but it’s definitely not small either. The fact that we were synced up on our FEST travels and didn’t even realized it was a good omen for the days to come. We popped over to the food court and chatted over some nachos while we waited to board our flights.

Somehow I managed to put together about four hours of sleep in the air. This was a good precursor training for the long nights to come for the rest of this trip. Once I landed in Tampa, I managed to get myself good and lost in the airport. Somehow I had taken a series of shuttles and ended in the rental car parking lot that exited on to a remote service road quite a ways from the airport. What can I say? It’s a gift!

From there I got a lift to the Tampa art museum to check out the Yayoi Kusama installation they had. Viewers were limited to only two minutes in the room, but it was a magical time. I was immersed in one of her infinity rooms that was covered in mirrors and rife with neon inflatable tentacles covered in polka dots. All the while you’re hearing Kusama recite a love poem she wrote in Japanese. The entire thing was beautiful. Then I looked at the museum’s impressive collection of Grecian and Roman artifacts.

I still had a couple of hours to kill before I could check into my Airbnb, so I stopped into Tequilia’s for some empanadas and a bit of a calm before the storm. The place I was staying was a comfortable fifteen minute walk from the main festivities. Once I was able to check in, I met the host’s cockatiel named Khloe and settled into the room.

Later I met up with the Seattle crew for drag queen bingo and freezy drinks in the heart of Ybor City. For those non-drinkers, I have to say the virgin piña coladas are wonderful. On Pre-FEST eve I basically barhopped with my friends and sipped on ginger ales while they indulged in spirits. And I even filled my karma bank that night by letting a Fester crash at my Airbnb because his friend bailed on him last minute for a place to stay. As far as complete strangers go, Mike was a delight and I was happy to help!

DAY 1

Guerilla Poubelle
Campdogzz
Dollar Signs
Sandspur City
Wolf-Face
Nightmarathons
Lone Wolf
RVIVR
Dead Bars
World’s Scariest Police Chases
Cursive

Okay, now on to day one which is my day two, but who’s counting? Pre-FEST begins! But not till 6:20 PM! Mike and I hung around the Airbnb till my friend Aaron, who I was sharing the room with, arrived. Once everyone was settled and unpacked, we walked over to registration where I ended up chatting to some folks from Pittsburgh for a while. Our timing was great and I managed to get a FEST photo booth picture both with my Seattle buds, and with my FEST roommate. Bonus!

From here Mike offered to buy us lunch for letting him crash at the Air Bnb. FEST people are the nicest people! We went to Hamburger Mary’s where I indulged in a mac ‘n’ cheese Beyond burger that was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. I did have a minor panic attack a couple of weeks later when I learned that this LBGTQ bar/restaurant was shut down due to both an employee with Hep A working in the kitchen, and live rodents and cockroaches found by the health department. I’m happy to say that none of us got sick.

The first band I saw was Guerilla Poubelle from France who was playing their 999th show as a band! That is quite a feat. After checking them out for the second time this year (they played an incredible show with Arms Aloft in Seattle over the summer), we sauntered over to the Orpheum for the end of Campdogzz and all of Dollar Signs’ set. Pre-FEST this year was considerably smaller and only employed three venues total, one of which was only doing afternoon acoustic bands. So really it was a fifty-fifty toss up between Crowbar and Orpheum. This made scheduling conflicts almost non-existent.

After a high energy set from those North Carolina boys, and getting a chance to catch up with Lou Hanman outside of Orpheum, I caught some of Sandspur City followed by Wolf-Face. For those who are unaware, these guys dress up as Michael J. Fox from Teen Wolf and play some poppy, driving punk jams in basketball uniforms and wolf masks. As far as gimmicks go, theirs is pretty good. Nightmarathons from Pittsburgh were next and my buddy Tim is their drummer. They played a tight and very enjoyable set that I was happy to be a part of.

From here I was about to flip a coin between Dikembe who I know people enjoy though I don’t know their tunes, and Lone Wolf from The Netherlands who I knew zero things about. As I came out of the bathroom at Crowbar I figured I’d stay for a song or two of the Dutch group and then walk over to the Orpheum.

The problem was that their first song was an absolute ripper so I stayed for a second one. That song was even better! Dead Bars’ CJ Frederick came over to me and was like, “Holy smokes this band is great! And their gear is so nice!” Before long I was committed to staying for their whole set and didn’t want them to ever stop playing. Every time they finished a song I felt less like I was clapping and more like I was high fiving myself for making the best choice of the night. They’re a mix of Big Eyes, Marked Men, and Sugar Stems with these insanely catchy numbers and I was in love. After their set I ran over to the merch table and grabbed a copy of their latest CD. I considered the flexi and/or an LP but didn’t want to carry/ruin either while traveling. Please come back to the States soon Lone Wolf! They were the best band of FEST!

And then I was caught in a conundrum. RVIVR and Dead Bars were playing within ten minutes of each other and while it’s only a six or seven minute walk between venues, I had to figure out how to best split my time. Now, I’ve seen both bands countless times over the years in the Northwest, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re both some of my favorites to watch. I started at the Orpheum as RVIVR started first. Then I stayed for most of their set and popped back to the Crowbar in time to see Dead Bars’ last three songs. It was the first time in a long while that I’d seen them with CJ who is a delightful human being who I miss very much.

My Pre-FEST roomie Aaron and I reconnected and wandered over to watch Cursive for the end of our first day. Bad Cop/Bad Cop was officially closing out the night, but neither of us had it in us to keep walking around till 2 AM. Cursive played a very tight set and sprinkled in plenty of stuff from Ugly Organ as well as new stuff. Just before their last song, Tim Kasher went on an impassioned political rant about the importance of getting out the vote for midterms, as well as not allowing the right to divide us. That was the first of many “go vote” pep talks I heard shouted from stage this weekend, but it was one of the more impactful ones in my opinion. With a bit more pep in our step, we walked the twenty minutes back to our bed and finally truly rested.

DAY 2

Bad Cop/Bad Cop acoustic
Headlines
War On Women
PEARS
Night Birds
Tiltwheel
Dead To Me
The Tim Version
Lemuria
Tim Barry
Radioactivity

One of the nice things about FEST is that nothing starts at crazy o’clock. You’ve generally got until the early afternoon to chill out and recoup from the day before. Now I don’t drink anymore so I’m not having to shake off the fog of too many PBRs and whiskeys in the AM, though I will say that standing on concrete and pinballing between venues all day will certainly wipe you out. Always be sitting whenever possible and drink water like you’re an opposite camel that will never have a reserve of liquid of any kind. Follow these simple steps and you’re well on your way to surviving the festivities.

Aaron and I showered up and propelled ourselves back into the mild Florida heat. While it was still warmer than I preferred, there was often a breeze which kept the temps from hitting the eighties. Totally tolerable. I outfitted myself with a tropical print fanny pack (aka waist wallet) containing an emergency power pack, charger, notebook, and cash money. And I also clipped my gigantic water bottle with a carabiner so I didn’t have to hold it all day. Last year I made the mistake of bringing a shoulder bag and felt like the world’s biggest asshole for bumping into people at every gig.

We arrived at The Bricks about an hour before Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s acoustic set so we could cram some caffeine and vittles into ourselves. By the way, the food here is fantastic! While we were eating I got a message from our Airbnb host asking what time we planned on checking out today. In my head I’m like, “Umm… tomorrow morning?” Turns out I fucked up when selecting dates for the room and there was another couple coming in to rent the spot that night.

So I shot a few quick texts to friends saying we might need an emergency floor to sleep on tonight, and then frantically looked for reasonably priced Air Bnbs last minute. I found a $40 room only three miles north in a fairly sketchy and cluttered house, but it was better than nothing. Finally Aaron and I could breathe and relax a bit. There was no immediate rush to move out so we were still able to see some of the bigger bands on our early afternoon schedule.

Fest 17 Kayla Greet
After settling up with the wait staff, we meandered to the back patio of The Bricks for a super duper intimate set with BC/BC. There were two fans blowing full blast onto the stage, though it still wasn’t quite enough. Halfway through they got the third fan turned on which made hearing them much harder. But holy hell these gals have range. I’ve seen BC/BC electric many times in all sizes of venues. I’ve seen them play shows smaller than this sweet acoustic gig. But I’d never seen them just absolutely slay like this. From the very start Stacey said they wouldn’t be using the vocal mic provided for them, and I was very impressed with how much they projected, especially over the sound of three industrial fans. One of the best sets I saw that weekend for sure.

Ever since Headlines dropped their demo on bandcamp in early 2018, it’s been an obsessive earworm for me. Especially that “Teething” song. Holy crap is that a jam! So moving house could wait till after their set ’cause I was jazzed about catching them. For whatever reason I decided to stand on the side stage for their set. Maybe I subconsciously placed myself closest to the door so we could bolt as soon as they finished? Anyways, the sound was not great as I was behind the speakers and basically hearing it through the monitors. Not at all a fault of the band or the Crowbar. I’m just a dummy for standing where I did. Anyways, they were great and I was very pleased to have seen them. That Marissa has a helluva voice.

I bee-lined to collect Aaron for our eviction shuffle and passed my friend Tim on the way. He gave a quick hello, finished his conversation, and then came over to chat. Unfortunately it was a short one wherein I explained how much of an idiot I am and that we had to go move. In the interest of time we began a series of three Lyfts—one to the old place, one to the new place, and one back to Crowbar. The whole ordeal took around forty-five minutes and we were back in time for me to catch War On Women. Phew!

This was my first time seeing WOW and they really do put on an impressive show. Shawna Potter is a force to be reckoned with, totally taking control of the stage as well as captivating the audience. Between WOW and Radon, as well as “Two Minutes To Late Night” for which WOW were the backing band, guitarist Jenarchy played eight sets that weekend. She fucking rocked the three sets I saw her do, and I’m sure the others were even better.

After this set I took a lengthy outside break and chatted with Zach and Brian from PEARS for a bit. I’ve said it before, but one of the magical things about FEST is just shooting the shit with some of the best bands around. Out on the High Dive patio there were members of Bad Cop/Bad Cop, WOW, Night Birds, and more. Once it was time for PEARS to hit the stage I jumped back inside.

They played their signature high energy set with a medley of covers ranging from Santana ft. Rob Thomas to Green Day. At one point Shawna Potter joined them on stage for a song. Another one of those awesome things of FEST is seeing these spur of the moment collaborations. I stuck around Crowbar for a triple dose of PEARS, Night Birds, and Tiltwheel, then wandered over to Orpheum for Dead To Me. The venue was packed for DTM so I took a better vantage point by watching from upstairs. While there, I stood next to a girl who couldn’t be bothered to look up from pictures of dogs on her phone to catch even a second of DTM. That’s fine I guess. Sometimes you just gotta recoup and look at puppies, though I chose to summon my energy reserve in order to do some dancing and singing with Jack and crew. This was the first time I’d seen their new songs live and they put on a hell of a show.

Fest 17 Kayla Greet
Then I bounced back to Crowbar for a dose of The Tim Version, peppered in some Lemuria at Orpheum, and boomeranged back to spend the last of my night bouncing around to Radioactivity. Those Denton dudes always pack a punch as they tightly weave through their power pop jams. This was the first band so far that I staked out a spot right up front and it was so worth it. Finishing up sharply at midnight meant I had time to wind down, wipe the sweat from my brow, and catch a ride with Aaron to our Air Bnb. He had me in tears talking about how the Piebald set drove him to drink and called them a bunch of hair farmers. I nearly fell over laughing at such a ridiculous phrase while we waited for our Lyft. Even our driver was cracking up at his late night rant about washed-up nostalgia. Fantastic way to end the night!

DAY THREE—The Road to Gainesville

Cold Wrecks
Goddamnit
Sports Reference
Reconciler
Radon
Bad Cop/Bad Cop
The Eradicator
Tsunami Bomb
Such Gold
Audio Karate
Arms Aloft as Jimmy Eat World
Ramona as Beastie Boys
Riverboat Gamblers
Crusades

Having slept maybe five hours because we were too busy talking about the events of the past two days and singing Samiam songs to each other, Aaron and I packed up and headed to the FEST Porkchop Express pick up. The email confirmation we all got said to meet at the Hilton Gardens at 10:30 for an 11AM departure. I don’t think we actually got on the road till almost noon. Aaron and I were there fifteen minutes early and sucked down some free coffee from the hotel lobby.

I bumped into some Seattle friends Raymond and Kelsie who’d just flown in the night before and were taking the charter bus with us. Unless you’re close enough to have driven yourself to Pre-FEST, the Porkchop Express is the way to go. It’s only $50 for a one way trip, and you get an exclusive T-shirt! At 11:15 we’d been waiting for a full hour and nothing was happening. The bus was there. The driver was there. But all the rest of us were queued up in front of the hotel with our luggage.

Finally I took charge and decided to see what the deal was. I walked up to the driver who introduced himself as “Keith, but my friends call me the Ragin’ Cajun.” I asked what our ETA was and he responded with, “two hours.” “No,” I said, “Not how long till Gainesville, how long till we get on your bus and on the road?” He replied that he was just waiting on us and once the shock of that washed over me, I yelled to the crowd of folks to get on the bus.

Everyone rushed towards the bus, some threw their gear in the compartments underneath, and then I realized I’d made a grave mistake. There still needed to be someone to check us in and distribute these exclusive tees. So I asked everyone to hold up a minute while I asked the front desk what was going on. They had no idea so I went back to the bus passengers and asked if anyone in line knew any FEST organizers or volunteers. Again I was empty handed.

Ragin’ Cajun told me that he had a manifest of fifty-seven riders so I did a head count. We came up seven people over. There was a second bus that was picking up at the other hotel, so I asked everyone to double check their confirmation email and make sure they were in the right place. Even though I didn’t know what was going on, I did my best to keep everyone as informed as I was, and used the opportunity to get to know our driver better. He said he’s from Louisiana originally and loves AC/DC and Metallica. We were going to get on just fine. Then he asked me what kind of festival we were all going to and I replied, “Well, there’s wrestling, comedy, and oh a shit ton of punk bands.” I’d considered informing him it was a circus convention, though burying the lead seemed funnier.

Eventually the other bus swung by with the FEST volunteer who had the detailed charter manifest and we got all squared away. The shirt this year was a picture of Large Marge that said, “Tell ’em Pre-FEST sent ya!” Our driver informed us that our in-drive entertainment was Leprechaun in the Hood and Child’s Play. I connected with a new friend from Los Angeles and settled in with my Northwest buds after asking the bus to give a round of applause to our driver, Ragin’ Cajun. I made it through maybe half of Ice T battling a scorned leprechaun before laying on Aaron’s shoulder for a nap. I woke up to the cringe-worthy rap at the end of Leprechaun and rolled into chats with friends while Chucky was possessed by a killer on the run.

Having skipped breakfast in lieu of our charter bus schedule, I was starving by the time we rolled in to Gainesville. I got dropped at the Holiday Inn, checked into my room with my friends (Alithea, Nichole, and Jake) who were already there, and set out to get food. Nichole joined me for lunch at Reggae Shack where I ordered way too much food and cried on the inside that I couldn’t finish their dulce de leche festivals.

Razorcake’s own Craven Rock met up with us at Reggae Shack and accompanied me to the non-FEST sanctioned impromptu(?) Radon show at Leonardo’s Pizzeria. There were three bands on this free bill and I caught half of the first one, as well as most of Radon. I reconnected with Aaron there who thankfully helped me finish the delicious 32oz smoothie I got from Reggae Shack. I bumped into my buddy Fedge from Oakland there and it started to feel like FEST was truly upon us. With a few songs left to go, I had to sneak back to my room at the Holiday Inn to lie down before the day really started.

Once I’d digested more of my gigantic lunch, I surprised The Bollweevils by stopping in where they were having lunch. Always nice to reconnect with some old friends and even better when they’re not expecting it. They finished up their drinks and we all headed to 8 Seconds to catch Bad Cop/Bad Cop. On our walk I overheard some kids saying they didn’t know how to get to 8 Seconds so I roped them in with our caravan. “We’re headed there now. Come with us!”

We got our first wristband of the day and headed to the landing on the side of the stage for one of the best views in my least favorite venue. There we ran into Rev of Success who was playing with Western Settings. I always love seeing hometown homies outside of Seattle.

I dipped out right before the end of BC/BC’s set so I’d get to the High Dive early for Tsunami Bomb. In doing so I caught the tail end of The Eradicator who was still up to his masked Squash antics. When they finished up, I snagged a spot up front, stage right and was situated just in front of my buddy Dominic who is the bassist.

Now this was about the twentieth time I’ve seen Tsunami Bomb, but only the second since they reformed with their new singer. They played so many of my old standbys, as well as mixing in their two brand new jammers. Of those twenty times seeing TB, this was also only my second with original keyboardist Oobliette. It was everything I wanted it to be. Though because FEST is a well oiled machine, their set was cut abruptly only a few bass lines into the crowd favorite “Lemonade.” Turns out they went on just a few minutes late and couldn’t squeeze anymore lemons into that set.

Afterwards I reconnected with Dominic who’s been a friend of mine since I started following the band sixteen years ago. Not only does he play in one of my favorite bands, but he hosts two podcasts (3 Gigs, Monster Candy), helps run Alternative Tentacles, and draws awesome comics. He rules and it’s always a blast to see him.

I stuck around High Dive for a while longer since one of my favorite people in the whole world was there. My buddy Tommy from Chicago was at FEST helping sling merch for Red Scare and luckily I met up with him before his weekend got real busy. We hung out through Such Gold and Audio Karate’s set, just catching up on the patio before I ran off to Loosey’s to catch some cover sets.

Snagging a slice of Five Star pizza on my way, I jumped in line with Seattle buddies Greg (Bobby’s Oar), his partner Stephanie, Skyler from Heck Yes, and Kendra from the Bad Copy. This might have been the first line I had to wait in all weekend. If you’ve got to kill some time at FEST, I can’t imagine a better group of folks to do it with. Plus Kendra had Bad Copy Mad Libs with her wherein I was allowed to make fun of The Menzingers from the safety of a fictional story.

Fest 17 Kayla Greet
What we were all queuing up for was Arms Aloft’s Jimmy Eat World set. Now I’m happy to admit that before crossing that threshold to Loosey’s I’d consider myself a very casual JEW fan who maybe would remember one or two songs. Number one I wanted to watch Arms Aloft pretend to be another band, and two I wanted to be there early for Ramona’s Beastie Boys set. When that half hour was done I realized I knew way more than a couple JEW songs, and that I really enjoyed hearing them live. Maybe it’s that FEST magic of seeing a crowded room lose their shit about a great band playing someone else’s songs. Either way it was far better than I had anticipated.

In between sets I took a seat on Loosey’s patio. To my left was a table full of Germans and I’m still on level one of verb tenses with Doulingo so I decided not to practice my amateur Deutsche. To my right was a trio of dudes, one of who continued to punctuate his stories with gesticulating and consistently jabbing me by accident. After a couple of jolts to the shoulders and ribs I decided to let on that I was eavesdropping. It was Jeff Matika from Banner Pilot / The Longshot / Green Day. He was super apologetic about bumping me. I chatted with him about how much fun the two Longshot shows I saw in the Northwest were and how I bonded with their guitarist Kevin for being an extra in Star Trek.

Ramona doesn’t fuck around. They took the stage wearing matching (Grand) royal blue jumpsuits with their band name on the back, as well as shades, and various accessories such as backwards hats and large metallic jewelry. Here’s the thing, they weren’t doing karaoke to beats without the rhymes. They’d recorded themselves playing the hooks on a keyboard, as well as had a guitarist filling in other melodies, and Shannon on drums for an added oomph. There was also a live keyboardist for a few songs. I don’t remember much within the whirlwind of amazement besides them nailing “Sure Shot” and Abbey crushing “Girls.” One of the most fun sets of the day for sure (shot).

Worried I’d miss one of the gnarliest bands of FEST, I cut Ramona’s set a bit short and ran over to see the Riverboat Gamblers. If anyone is breaking a bone this weekend, it’s Mike Wiebe and it’s here. What an absolute fucking mad man. The fear receptor in his brain must be malfunctioning because he’ll do anything for a shocking effect. Scale the ten feet tall speaker stacks as an already six foot something tall man and then leap into the crowd of people who think they’re ready for it? When I wanted to tell Ragin’ Cajun we were all going to a circus convention, this is our ring master.

My pro-tip or whatever about FEST is this: don’t go to 8 Seconds for any reason whatsoever. The staff is on the medium to totally bogus scale, the sound is not great, and the indoor smoking I just can not get over. I personally smoke and think it’s disgusting to trap up tons of people in a smoky bar/venue, not to mention the potential of getting burned? No fucking thank you.

So guess what? I peaced out early from that set too. Originally I planned on being there till the end of their set with a whole twenty minutes to spare before the first of the last Crusades sets. But fuck all that. I didn’t want to trigger a migraine before seeing these Satanic Canadians! This gave me time for yet another slice of Five Star on the way to High Dive and then I high fived my friend Lukas at the front of the stage, eagerly awaiting Crusades.

Fest 17 Kayla Greet
I don’t know how to convey it to you. They were simply just so fucking good. Dave Williams is absolute precision in a Kate Bush shirt. Jordy hits hard in all the right places. Skottie and Emmanuel harmonize like angels, if they believed in them. They brought up this amazing woman to sing my favorite Jay Reatard song, “My Shadow,” with them. That’s like winning the lottery. When a band you love dearly covers another band you love, but also picks THE best song? Fantastic.

Afterwards I hung around the merch table to say hi to Dave in person. He and I have communicated a bit over the years and I’ve interviewed him in the past, but both of our respective nations have kept us from congregating in the flesh. He graciously gave me a Crusades shirt depicting a saintly figure hugging a goat. With that and a few hugs goodbye, I strolled back to the Holiday Inn for the night.

DAY FOUR

Night Birds
PEARS – Go To Prison
Banner Pilot
Lemuria
RVIVR
MakeWar
Adult Magic
Ceramicats
The Flatliners
The Copyrights – North Sentinel Island
Katie Ellen
Spells
The Creeps
Nightmarathons as Samiam
Dead Bars as Bouncing Souls
Crusades

For a number of beneficial reasons, I quit drinking just a couple of days after last year’s FEST. So this would be my first major music festival (sponsored by PBR) where I wouldn’t be partaking in booze. Because of that I designed a distraction for myself and organized a Punks is Sober meet up to better reach other folks who may be struggling with substance abuse. One of the FEST Friends mods also had something like this set up as she wasn’t drinking anymore due to a pregnancy. It made sense to merge events and so we carved out a couple hours on the patio of Pop-A-Top to commiserate and meet.

Honestly I was pretty disappointed with the turnout. Maybe eight or nine people out of several thousand showed up. And one of the people there openly admitted he was a drinker who was just there for moral support. That’s so totally fine. Good on you for supporting your friends. I was anticipating basically an AA meeting for punks, which is what I’ve been searching for at home for the last year.

I got a decent start on the day and was en route to Pop-A-Top when I got a text from Tommy saying he was heading downstairs at the Holiday Inn for a smoke. So I turned heel and walked back to meet him for a quick hang. One of our mutual friends had lost their wallet the night before so we discussed the logistics of finding it or getting them home without an ID. Everything worked out in the end, which is great!

Fest 17 Kayla Greet
Showing up about twenty minutes late to the sober meet up, I quickly grabbed a coffee as well as a cucumber soda and a vegan breakfast burrito. There I met up with a woman from Paris whose sober date was only two days behind mine, and a guy who people in my Atheist Agnostic AA meetings at home had suggested I meet as we had lots in common. A couple more folks showed up a little later and the core of us sat abreast of Night Birds’ raucous set at the Atlantic while talking about recovery, sobriety, subculture, and music. It was small but it fucking ruled. I’d way rather sit and connect with people at that moment than see Night Birds again. Plus we could hear it really well anyways!

The next band at the Atlantic was a mystery set consisting of PEARS playing their first record start to finish. I sat with my new friends for a bit longer and eventually popped into the Atlantic for the second half of the B Side. It’s always an interesting thing when a band plays an album all the way through because I’d hazard to guess that some of those songs haven’t been played since they were recorded. As per usual, those New Orleans dudes packed a punch and put on a great set.

With some time to kill I walked over to Bo Diddley Plaza planning on checking in on my buddy Tommy slinging merch over there. But Banner Pilot was playing and it just reaffirmed my aversion towards that band. So I bowed out and headed to the Wooly for Lemuria’s mystery set. Shout out to the bartenders at the Wooly for being totally happy to fill my giant water bottle and throw a bunch of ice in it as well. The room was pretty packed and I found a spot off to the side, halfway facing the stage and half the open doorway filled with radiating Florida sun. The difference in lighting was so drastic that I wore my sunglasses which was beneficial since I was also feeling emotional.

There’d been rumors flying around that Lemuria was calling it quits, so I was happy to have this mystery set to catch them at for the second time this weekend. About four or five songs into their very Get Better-heavy set, Sheena relieved everyone by saying the rumors were false and Lemuria would carry on! Awesome.

On my way to the High Dive to catch MakeWar, the sounds of RVIVR filled my head from Bo Diddley. While I mostly avoided the huge outdoor venue, as I’d rather watch medium- to small-sized bands in more intimate venues, I definitely appreciate the sound quality and how much those PAs carry throughout downtown Gainesville.

MakeWar. One of the brightest highlights of FEST 17. I definitely let my fatigued body and mind take over for a bit and got straight up lost on the way to the High Dive even though it’s basically my base camp for FEST. Several times throughout the weekend friends would text me asking where I was. One hundred percent of the time the answer was High Dive. So I came around the back through the parking lot which meant no bonus slice of Five Star, but as I passed all the out-of-state license plates, I noticed the dudes from MakeWar blowing up a few large Orca whale pool floats—much like the cover of their first record.

Before the set started, I got to reconnect with my friends John and Drew who I met at last year’s FEST because I asked if I could charge my phone next to them. It was so good to see these dudes again and it made me reinvigorated about how amazing FEST can be. Soon as we heard the first notes of MakeWar, we all wandered in and sort of spread out. Maybe three songs in the pool floats came out. There were three huge Orca whales and one pink doughnut.

Within seconds of the floats being released, a stage diver grabbed one on either side of the fins and hopped on. He managed to survive a few seconds of literal surfing the crowd before being swallowed up by the chaos. In the midst of these inflatables floating around the pit, one of the sound proofing panels, which were held on by hooks and eyelets from the ceiling, came crashing down. Fortunately only most of the panel came unattached and it sort of swung at a ninety degree angle, narrowly missing several people. When I looked up from ducking the panel, I saw Drew and two others holding onto the soundproofing so it didn’t crush those underneath it.

The floats were still flying everywhere and more had been added while I was distracted by the ceiling guillotine. A few floppy inflated skeletons were cruising around also. At one point a beached whale landed right in front of me. Instinct kicked in and I tried to fling it back into the air with my foot. I momentarily forgot that I was wearing slip-on shoes and that right foot took off with the Orca, causing my sock to land into a major PBR puddle. Thank you to the one pit angel who helped me relocate my shoe so I didn’t develop FEST foot and have to have it amputated. Absolutely one of the best sets of the whole weekend.

From here I met back up with Aaron and we watched Adult Magic at Boca Fiesta. This band features Mike from Dead Broke Rekerds and it was cool to have a chance to see him play some tunes. We sat and chatted for a bit while a band played inside at Palamino’s, and then headed over to the Hardback Cafe to check out Ceramicats. These guys and Radon were the only local bands I checked out, and quite honestly they weren’t even on my radar. But Aaron used to live in Gainesville and I trust his recommendations. After a half hour of piercing, twinkly, mathy leads and somewhat sleepy indie, I spotted Replay Dave in the crowd. He surprised me by saying, “I don’t want to sound like a dick, but what the hell are you doing at a Ceramicats set? Only locals come to see them.” Well when you’re friends with an ex-local, you get tipped off to the good stuff!

We both had a couple of hours before anything we really wanted to see was happening. Aaron caught up with his Florida friends and I hit up the arcade. I hung out there getting replays on their pinball machines until Aaron came by. He was winning most of our matches and I decided that it maybe wasn’t my day for competitive pinball. So we popped outside for a cigarette and bumped into Brendan Kelly. I asked him if he hangs out at Logan’s Arcade in Chicago and he responded that he was only there because they don’t have whiskey backstage at Bo Diddley and he was bored as fuck.

Seeing that we all had some time to kill, we hung out while Brendan and Aaron argued about who had the worst American Steel tattoo. Brendan told us about how he and Ryan from American Steel got each other’s bands tattooed on a whim in the basement of the American Legion Hall in San Francisco. He said there was little to no sanitation, and the guy who inked them had to do five shots in a row just to settle the shakes in his hands. All of a sudden Aaron’s thirty dollar tattoo didn’t look so bad.

From this point on Aaron and I were inseparable. We were now officially doing FEST together. I’ll say that there is some amazing freedom in FESTing alone but it gets lonely pretty quickly. It was awesome to have a partner who likes the same bands, and is willing to show each other new ones. We hung in the back of the Wooly, holding hands and watching Katie Ellen. Even more fantastic was their gorgeous cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me.” Seeing Katie Ellen is akin to what I imagine attending church does for theist people. It’s a gorgeous set of music.

Then it was off to the High Dive for Spells! I admit I attended most of their set from the patio, resting my legs. Two different people from the bus incident in Tampa came by to thank me for taking charge. One of them said we’d probably still be there if I hadn’t spoken up! He insisted on buying me a drink for my efforts so I acquiesced with a Shirley Temple. While we were sitting on the patio, Aaron’s friend Jeff tumbled in like a bull in a china shop. He told me he was so worried that they wouldn’t let him in because he was so drunk, but that if he had to miss The Creeps he was just going to slit his wrists in some abandoned alleyway. I mean I really love The Creeps, but he LOVES them. Then he revealed to us that he’d developed three different dance moves for their set that were based off of Jazzercise.

Their set was absolutely incredible and everything I ever wanted. Though each second was transformative for me, there was a point I was taken aback when I realized that I was surrounded by tall men. Do only tall men and I like The Creeps? I felt like I was trapped in a crop circle so I shimmied a bit closer to the stage, and even closer still when they played “Cancer.” This was another set I got a bit misty-eyed at. Skottie has the most incredible voice and I’m so happy to have finally seen them live.

Could things possibly surpass this zenith?!? Did my soul have any more room to be tantalized? Turns out it did. Jeff and his Jazzercise moves followed us to Nightmarathons’s Samiam cover set at the Atlantic. Their drummer Tim had told me their set list the day before but that didn’t totally prepare me for how much fun this was. I think by the time they played “Factory” or “Sunshine” the mic no longer belonged to the band. It started to become overwhelming for me and I stepped back from the crowd, only to be treated like a wrestler on the ropes when I was bounced back in by Jeff. “Where do you think you’re going? No girl, we’re SINGIN’,” he shouted in my ear. And just like that I was catapulted a couple of inches from the mic with my arms pinned to my side as forty other people mobbed the mic to close out the set with “Dull.” What made the entire experience that much more memorable was Jeff intermittently shouting, “Play something off Soar!” “Do you know anything from Soar?”

I ran outside soon as they finished to stave off a panic attack and catch my breath. That was the first time I’d been right at the mic while people climbed on top of each other to get to it. Guess I leave that sort of thing for the hardcore kids. Next was Dead Bars doing Bouncing Souls and I’m so glad I gave myself a reset before that. Before the first song, I tried to take a drink from my water bottle, but my timing was awful because a crowd of dudes chanting “Ole ole ole ole, oleeee, ole” shoved their way forward, smashing the bottle to my face in the process. It’s not really a Jersey band doing another Jersey band unless someone is bleeding from the mouth, right? They ran through all the hits and the crowd absolutely lost their minds.

Between Creeps, Samiam, and Souls, Aaron and I had lost our voices. I don’t think either of us packed a reserve tank of energy, so we sat through the very last Crusades show ever instead of trying to power through. This is one of my regrets, but sometimes you just can’t push your body to or past its limits. Not quite ready mentally to call it a night, we walked around Gainesville till around 4 AM. During our walk we passed by the No Idea house and the most unsettling car accident. As we rounded the corner, Abba’s “Dancing Queen” was blaring and a soft red light filled the scene. A car had probably hit this palm tree at around 50 MPH and I couldn’t tell which end was the front anymore. There was a cop on scene but all we could hear was full volume disco. It felt like we were walk-ons in a David Lynch film.

DAY FIVE

Pkew Pkew Pkew
Horrible Things
Nervous Triggers
Bobby’s Oar
Bong Mountain
Ramona
Black Dots
Arms Aloft
Western Settings
Erica Freas
City Mouse
Nothington
Radon
Burn Burn Burn
The Copyrights
The Sewer Rats
The Penske File

Sunday is the hardest day. I just don’t ever want to say goodbye and go back to the real world. It’s a sad truth, but we still had a whole day to savor.

Aaron met me at the Holiday Inn and from there we went to Loosey’s to have breakfast with Tsunami Bomb. Well, most of the band had gone back home by then, but I got some quality time in with Dominic. It’s always so nice to actually catch up with people at a huge fest like this instead of just high fives and hugs in passing.

Once we’d eaten, we headed to Bo Diddley to see Pkew Pkew Pkew with our new friend Sarah. Last year I barely got in the door at Tequila’s to see these guys and now they were dominating the largest stage at FEST. Kudos to you dudes! We then hung out at Palomino for a few bands and caught Bobby’s Oar playing outside Big Lou’s on our way to see Bong Mountain at High Dive.

After a quick pit stop at the Holiday Inn, we shared a Lyft with my friend Alithea and headed to see Ramona. They’re killing it this year. Of course I’m glad to see them blowing up and working on a new record for Red Scare, but I wish all that was happening before they left Seattle! Their set was amazingly powerful and made me tear up just a bit. They covered Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away with Me” which I’d never heard before, but was transfixed by. I’ve since heard the original and am really impressed with Ramona’s version. Abbey injects so much emotion in her singing that she could make you feel sappy about “Old MacDonald.”

Black Dots went on next and while they were great, I was still thinking about that Ramona set. Arms Aloft and Western Settings were definitely worth seeing for the hundredth time, though I felt a little guilty for not checking out something I’d never heard of. FEST singalongs had ravaged Aaron’s voice and at this point we were working on a Penn and Teller act. His voice was completely gone and could only communicate by texting me while I talked to him.

Fest 17 Kayla Greet
He took off to see Too Many Daves with some friends while I snagged a tempeh burrito at Boca Fiesta and watched Erica Freas’s solo acoustic set. I walked in a couple of minutes late and every seat in the Hippodrome was taken. A smattering of people was sitting crisscross applesauce style on the floor in front, so I snagged a space just to the left of Erica. As she played, more and more people came by, sheepishly poking their heads in the door. Every single time Erica encouraged the folks on the floor to come closer so there was enough room for everyone. By the end of the set we had her surrounded. She spotted Mattie Jo watching from the doorway and had them come in to sing a RVIVR song with her. The last song she played was “Quinn.” Before she launched into it she taught us the last line of the song that ripples out for several measures. What an absolutely incredible moment. Sitting there with maybe three hundred echoing “Our hearts beat with you” was so beautiful that I teared up for the second time today. Erica was a much-needed emotional reset and I feel so lucky to have been there.

Aaron caught the tail end of this singalong. After I shook out my leg cramps and thanked Erica for a beautiful set, we headed to The Wooly to watch City Mouse and make sure Miski was playing without shoes on. Their set was also very powerful. Towards the end, Miski jumped off the stage and into the crowd with her guitar and mic. Those intimate FEST moments never get old.

We attempted to end the weekend on a high note by seeing Radon but we goofed. So instead of going to Boca Fiesta, we showed up to the High Dive where there was a line to get in. Fuck! Why does everyone wanna see Radon?!? Well we got to the front of the line finally and heard gravelly songs about being tired and realized we were at Nothington’s last show. Whoops! Not that we have anything against those dudes, it just wasn’t the speed or crowd we were looking for.

Once we rectified our mistake, Aaron handed me a Shirley Temple and ran into the crowd for “Facial Disobedience.” It was a much better set than they had played at Leonardo’s and I was happy we caught them twice. My buddies Burn Burn Burn from Seattle were playing one of the last sets of FEST at Durty Nelly’s so we headed there next. The guy in front of me had clearly been to the same button machine we had earlier that day and I tried to trade him a Ren & Stimpy pin for his coveted “Nuke the Whales” one. To his credit he did consider it, but had to pass on the offer. Damn!

Burn Burn Burn played great and for a mostly Northwestern crowd. After their “last song,” they were told they still had six minutes so they cranked out a cover of “My Own Worst Enemy.” Not wanting to have a Lit song be the last thing we heard at FEST, Aaron and I ran back to the High Dive for another Copyrights set. As we wound down the weekend, we walked past the last bands of the night, deciding not to go in especially since that Penske File set was absolutely packed.

So instead we took a Lyft back to the Wyndham. Our driver let me request Samiam’s “Don’t Break Me” for the ride and he even had a disco ball and light show in the back! I’m the world’s biggest idiot and booked my flight home from Gainesville at 6 AM on Monday. Aaron was kind enough to stay up till 5 AM with me and we had a mostly delirious karaoke party in his hotel room. We shared an elevator with two brave Chicago dudes who were on a quest to find gators to fuck with. I’m certain they were totally sober. Then in the parking lot I ran into my buddy John Pata and got to spend my last few minutes of FEST with some of my favorite people of all time. FEST 17 was a resounding success and I can’t wait till the next one already.

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Lorien Lamarr Photo Column – MakeWar

Lorien Lamarr Photo Column - MakeWar

Lorien Lamarr Photo Column – MakeWar

(click for full size)

Admittedly, I was late to the party on MakeWar (NYC). I first found them on a flight home from Fest 16. I had been recommended them by a few friends and by the end of “Matador Pool Party,” the first track on Developing a Theory of Integrity (released 2016), I was already kicking myself for missing their set. MakeWar has everything that draws me to a band and does it with flawless cohesion: gorgeous, flowing melodies; lyrical storytelling; and booming anthemic gang vocals that practically beg you to sing along. I had to fight myself not to belt out loud, “Let me have a normal five AM!” from “Ode,” the second track, on a packed flight. “Tiger Lili” had me resisting air drumming on my tray table. I was hooked.

I made a decision on that flight; I was going to photograph them in the following year. I tried repeatedly within the next year to get that opportunity, even bargaining for a photo pass to their gig opening for The Gaslight Anthem. I only got notice that I could shoot the show a few hours before doors, but the show was in Brooklyn, NY and I live in Baltimore, Md. Dejected, I resigned myself that my next opportunity would be at Fest 17 and I couldn’t be more pleased that this ended up being the set I shot.

The first thing I noticed when they started playing (besides the ruckus of a mosh pit behind me) was the giant inflatable orcas on stage. An inflatable orca is also on their album cover. I thought to myself, “Those are going into the crowd and soon. I am in the wrong spot.” At the end of the first song I darted side stage so I could get behind the band.

“I want to see someone ride one of these whales!” Jose Prieto, the lead singer, shouted as he and Edwin Santacruz, the bassist, hurled the inflated whales and one inflated skeleton into the crowd. To say the crowd went wild would be an understatement. This was the sort of cathartic pandemonium that the Fest crowds live for. In short, if that kind of raw energy is what you’re looking for, I assure you, MakeWar will not disappoint.

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Fest and Pre-Fest 2017: Sixty-four Bands! by Kayla Greet

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017: Sixty-four Bands! by Kayla Greet
October 25-29, 2017

Though Fest just celebrated its sixteenth year of existence, this was my very first one. I got off to a great start by running into my friend Adam France (of Burn Burn Burn and sometimes Arms Aloft) on the flight out. Not only were we taking the same red eye from Seattle, we were assigned seats right next to each other. So I got a surprise travel partner all the way to Tampa, and we talked about what we were most excited about to see over the next five days.

Once we landed in Tampa after a few hours sleep, my friends Steve, Tim, and Travis scooped us up and transported us straight to the registration line for Pre-Fest. After getting our wrist bands, swag bags, a visit to the Fest photo booth, and a couple drinks, we set our bags down in the hotel and walked about two miles to the Tampa aquarium. Sure, we were all there for bands, sunshine, and pizza, but why not add a little local culture to the trip? We arrived just in time to see a penguin feeding, then panned tide pools for sharks teeth, saw various aquatic life, and pet stingrays and sea anemones.

Wednesday, 10/25/17—Eleven bands

Daydream
City Mouse
Caskitt
Sinai Vessel
Ghouls
Teenage Bottlerocket
Off With Their Heads
Apologies, I Have None
Against Me!
Typesetter
Arms Aloft

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
The very first band to kick off my Fest experience was not one that I was familiar with—Daydream from Oakland, Calif. I was still getting my bearings and trying to sort out where I needed to be to see a maximum amount of bands and friends, so this set was mostly lost on me. Pre-Fest is a pretty great way to knock out a lot of the bigger bands that were playing both events, and is considerably smaller. There were five or six venues in Tampa versus the twenty or so in Gainesville and it was much easier to bounce from show to show without risk of missing out due to capacity.

After a brief Seattle meet up and saying hi to the dudes in Off With Their Heads, I walked over to Crowbar for City Mouse and Caskitt. The overall event is so impressively planned out with every space backlined with a full drum kit plus Orange cabs and heads—all the bands needed to bring were guitars and their repertoires.

Some of the things I was less prepared for were how exhausted I was after twelve hour days five times in a row, how to best spend the gaps in my schedule to rest and/or see new bands I was unfamiliar with, and how to handle not getting into a show I had my heart set on. In one of those gaps on Wednesday I followed my friends in Young Go Hards to Tequila’s where I saw a band called Ghouls from the U.K. that I was pleasantly surprised by.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
Then I hit up Teenage Bottlerocket and half of Off With Their Heads before running off to see Apologies, I Have None, high fiving Ray Rocket on the street as I passed him. Apologies was easily one of the best sets I saw all of Fest. There was a huge crowd of fans from the U.K. there earnestly shouting along to every song. One of them spent the set with his back to the band and his arms outstretched as if he was orchestrating the whole mob of Brits.

Following that, I bounced over to Against Me! who played a great number of songs with a saxophone! I made a temporary show buddy who draped his arm around my shoulders and sang along to their whole set with me. Those are the moments that make things like Fest really special. Then I finished off the night with Arms Aloft who whipped the crowd into a frenzy. I found a spot right behind the speakers where I got a great view of the band as well as the folks trying to navigate rocking out with a tarp-covered billiards table in the middle of the room. Seth from Arms Aloft closed off the night saying where they were playing for Fest, but requested that people go support bands with women and people of color in them instead.

Thursday, 10/26/17—Thirteen bands

toyGuitar
Jabber
Clown Sounds (URTC)
Tiltwheel
Pkew Pkew Pkew
Too Many Daves
Meat Wave
Smoking Popes
Beach Slang
Toys That Kill
Banner Pilot
88 Fingers Louie
The Lillingtons

Thursday started off a lot later in the day than I had hoped for. My backpack and all my essentials were trapped in my friend’s hotel room and he had passed out earlier in the night than anticipated. So Adam and I graciously set off to stay at my friend (and Fest photographer) Lorien’s parents’ house just outside of Tampa. We didn’t get back into town till around 4 PM. I collected my things and made my first meal of the day a veggie Subway sandwich that I scarfed down while watching toyGuitar from the sidewalk outside of Crowbar.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
I then rounded the corner to catch Jabber at Tequila’s and boomeranged back to Crowbar for Underground Railroad To Candyland and Tiltwheel. Throughout all five days, I stuck to a strict regimen of 1:1 water and PBR so that every time I saw a new band I toggled those liquids. This kept me from getting too inebriated to make it through the day (I witnessed many people pausing midway for a beer nap), as well as staying hydrated.

Pkew Pkew Pkew was the first time I experienced not being able to really see a band. Up to that point, every set was easily accessible and I had no issue getting in. But I dipped out of Tiltwheel halfway through and found that I barely managed to watch Pkew x3’s set from the doorway. It was absolutely packed! Which didn’t stop the sardines inside from endlessly crowd surfing.

From here I bounced around till the Popes, who played a fantastic set at the Orpheum. They even did a brand new song which was awesome. I stuck around for Beach Slang but left halfway through ‘cause the fans were just too much for me to deal with. After getting a sharp elbow to the shoulder blade with no remorse from the person who slammed into me while James rasped about filthy luck, I cut my losses and went to dance to Toys That Kill for half an hour. I’ll seriously never get sick of seeing those dudes. It was also nice to chat with Sean Cole a couple of times throughout the weekend.

Here’s where I lose you guys, probably: I don’t give a damn about Banner Pilot but I’ll go see them for “free” if given the opportunity. It felt a lot like when I went to a Battlestar Gallactica writer’s panel and got nerd shamed when I told the guy next to me in the back row I’d never seen a single episode. But anyways, I spent my time at this set randomly chatting with a guy in an Extreme Noise (Minneapolis record store) hoodie because I like that shop. Turns out that he’s not only not from the Midwest, but was a friend of Art Ettinger, who I met at a show in Pittsburgh in June. Talk about small world!

88 Fingers Louie was great, but Lillingtons were goddamned wonderful. I found a spot right next to the stage and could actually see the entire show. Afterwards, I made new friends who told me about randomly crashing a Third Eye Blind afterparty in Kentucky and I told them about being backstage at two Barenaked Ladies shows.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
And with that Pre-Fest wrapped up without a hitch, even though there was an active serial killer in Tampa the whole time we were all there. Scary!

Friday, 10/27/17—Eleven bands

Seattle Fucking Supersonics
Wolf-face (Jawbreaker)
Nothington
Ramona
Decent Criminal
Young Go Hards
Hot Water Music
Pegboy
88 Fingers Louie
The Lillingtons

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
After another night at Lorien’s folks’ place, I said bye to Adam as he boarded the Porkchop Express and I hopped into my buddies’ rental on our way to Gainesville. We stopped midway for a roadside attraction of live baby gators and fresh grapefruit. There’s actually way more than one of these in a two-hour drive. I mean, it is Florida.

My friends were staying near Bo Diddley and I set off towards the Holiday Inn pool party while they checked in. I grabbed a beer in the lobby of the hotel and took an opportunity to charge my phone but the only available outlet was next to some guys I didn’t know. They kindly allowed me to plug in and chatted with me while I waited for my phone to charge. One of those guys (Drew) made a point to say hi and hang out with me every time we ran into each other over the next three days, which made going it alone a lot less awkward. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being able to come and go as I pleased without having to check in with a group of people, but having someone to tag along with is awesome too.

I decided to skip the pool party and track down some longtime friends who had just recently gotten married. Jon, Rachel, and I caught up at Palo and then headed to Mother’s for the Wolf-Face Jawbreaker cover set. Now those not familiar with their schtick, these guys dress up as Michael J. Fox’s character in Teen Wolf, so think basketball uniform-wearing werewolves. Their singer dressed as Dracula and made a joke that he thought they were all going in costume for this set. Anyways, it was the closest I’d ever gotten to seeing Jawbreaker, until I actually saw Jawbreaker a month later.

Then I went to my least favorite venue of Fest: 8 Seconds. It’s a massive space with two levels, which meant a ton of people could fit in there. But the sound was not great, the bouncers were surly, and on the first day they were still allowing smoking inside. I caught a bit of Nothington, long enough for Jay to give a shout out to his dad for being there and a few songs, then ran over to Loosey’s for Ramona. They had just relocated from Seattle to Philadelphia so it was really nice to be able to see them again.

Another Seattle local was playing after them, but in the twenty minutes between sets I rushed over to Palo to see Decent Criminal. Now I don’t know what happened, but towards the end of their set there was an issue with the guitar amp and their guitarist started pounding his fist on it. That then escalated to him hitting it with the guitar, and ended with him trying to smash his guitar on stage, grabbing the mic, and singing a few lines before walking off mid-song. It was entertaining at first, but ultimately made me a little uncomfortable. Fortunately, one of their friends grabbed the mic and finished the set with the rest of the band, which kinda saved it.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
Without having much time to process that, I headed back to Loosey’s to watch my buds in Young Go Hards who finished extra hard with a Cher cover, complete with a mid-set costume change! Glad I didn’t have to turn back time in order to catch that. Following their set, I joined up with my friends in Ramona and Rebuilder to hit up the pinball bar for a few games. Pinball is one of my top favorite things and it was really difficult to pull myself away from that for my other favorite thing—live music. After getting a high score on Medieval Madness, I was ready to head back out.

Here I caught a little bit of Hot Water Music and went back to 8 Seconds for freaking Pegboy! They, sadly, were playing at the same time as Atom And His Package, who I haven’t seen since 2003, but Pegboy was a bucket list band for me. Plus my buddy and fellow Razorcaker Tommy was out there doing merch for them. Win/win situation. I snagged a spot on the side of the stage with Ranae who joked about how Larry usually gets exhausted and lays down on stage after the third song. Well, this time he made it to the fourth one before he sat down for a breather!

I looked around the huge room and spotted Ray Rocket singing along to every word. That’s one of the coolest things about Fest—watching people you’re a fan of be fans themselves. At a local show or on tour, these guys are super approachable, but you never really get to see them as anything besides musicians themselves. In Gainesville they’re right alongside you in the crowd, enjoying a bunch of their favorite bands as well.

Even though I’d just seen 88 Fingers Louie and Lillingtons the night before, I stuck around to hang out with Tommy and the dudes from Pegboy. Those Chicago guys are a lot of fun. Outside, an out of breath Larry told us he was getting way too old for that shit and punk rock was exhausting him, but also could he bum a cigarette?

Lillingtons finished off the first day of Fest, I said goodbye to my buddies, and hit up Flacco’s for a late night veggie burrito before calling it a night.

Saturday, 10/28/17—Thirteen bands

Dollars Signs (Scooby Doo)
Bong Mountain
The Dirty Nil
The Eradicator
Off With Their Heads
Astpai
A Wilhelm Scream
Rebuilder
City Of Caterpillar
Jabber (No Doubt)
City Mouse (The Muffs)
Worriers (Fleetwood Mac)
The Dopamines

Day four! At this point I’m so fucking tired and sore. Never hungover or dehydrated—just worn out from so much walking, standing, and being out from 1 PM to 2AM every day. I make Reggae Shack my first stop and have lunch with a new friend Gabriel. The food here is easily the best I had on the whole trip and the coconut mango smoothie really started my day off right. Gabriel and I headed over to Boca, which we found was at capacity. We watched a few of Dollar Signs’ songs through the glass door, and eventually made it in when a couple people left. These Michigan guys were all dressed up as Scooby Doo characters. Having packed my Star Trek uniform with me, I really appreciated their acknowledgment of the Halloween spirit.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
Afterwards was Bong Mountain, of which our mutual friend Matt Stacks is the drummer. At this point with my energy level, I’m not looking to be in a pit with crowd surfers and the Florida sun beating down on me, getting doused in PBR. So I snagged a corner by the bar and enjoyed the shade as much as their set.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
I’d considered skipping OWTH at Bo Diddley but I’m glad I didn’t. Ryan paid a random dude from the audience twenty dollars to put on an Avatar wig and let them paint him blue. He then was a part of the show for the first few songs before Ryan “released him back into the wild.” There was a definite Smurf section of the pit afterwards, and OWTH throwing the rest of the blue paint out to the audience only made it worse (better?).

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
Catching half of City Of Caterpillar afterwards was really fucking great, but I am still kicking myself for not going to see them when they played Seattle just prior to Fest. I figured I would see them in Florida, but didn’t consider that it would conflict with the other bands I wanted to see. So I left early to watch Jabber’s fantastic No Doubt cover set.

At this same time Against Me! was doing their Reinventing Axl Rose set, which I didn’t realize how much I’d regret missing until I heard people talk about it the next day. Whatever, I’m dumb. But I did get to catch Worriers doing Fleetwood Mac and City Mouse doing The Muffs, both of which were so perfect and magical.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
I dragged myself to Dopamines for the last set of the night, but was too tired, sweaty, and beat to stay for the whole thing. Someone at the High Dive forgot to close the back door and a bunch of us watched Dopamines play for a while from basically behind the stage. After “Public Domain,” I stepped outside to get an Uber. While I waited, I got to hear Nothington at Loosey’s on my right, Dopamines on my left, and a slice of Five Star pizza was center stage. Moments like these make Fest wonderful.

Sunday 10/29/17—Fifteen bands

Crime In Stereo (Is Dead 10 year anniversary)
After the Fall (Descendents)
Squirtgun (Screeching Weasel, Ghoulies, Mopes, Riverdales, Queers, et cetera)
Apologies, I Have None
The Murderburgers
Worriers
toyGuitar
Garrett Dale
MakeWar
Good Friend
The Slow Death
Iron Chic
Superchunk
Western Settings
Dead Bars
Teen Agers

Was I ever a huge Crime In Stereo fan? Not really. Was I going to miss them play the fan favorite record from start to finish? Of course not. Fest for me was all about filling my day with new experiences, bands I’d never heard of, and ones I loved dearly. Only the real die hard CIS folks were out at 1 PM after a full weekend of partying, but Bo Diddley is so huge that even a crowd of five hundred seems sparse out there. CIS remarked that this was the earliest show they’d ever played, and as far as I could tell, they did so flawlessly.

On my way to the High Dive I poked my head into see a bit of After The Fall doing Descendents. I’d been on the fence about Squirtgun’s pop punk cover set since I’d seen so many of the bands they were doing and thought I might rather seek out something I knew nothing about. Well, I’m really glad I went anyways. They played songs from every pop band the members had a hand in outside of Squirtgun. This meant Groovie Ghoulies, The Queers, Screeching Weasel, Zoinks!, Common Rider, and Methadones. What a fucking treat. This turned out to be one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend.

Since Apologies, I Have None was my number one set of Pre-Fest, I went to catch them again, this time at Bo Diddley, and this time not nearly as fun. But I ran into my new friend Drew and we caught each other up on our Fest highlights. As he head out to see Brutal Youth, I realized I should have just stayed at the High Dive and seen all of Murderburgers instead of the two songs I caught after waiting in line to get in. Que será, será.

Off to the Wooly, where I almost didn’t get in for Worriers, but I managed not to strike out twice in a row. They were so great and have become such a tight and talented band over the years. I was happy to finally hear some stuff from Survival Pop done live, too.

For a moment I considered skipping toyGuitar who was up next, but that set at Pre-Fest while I scarfed down a sandwich on the sidewalk was not enough. Not to say there weren’t many people there, ‘cause there definitely were, but I had a ton of room to dance towards the back. Half an hour later, I had completely bounced back and my energy levels were soaring, even through I’d mostly lost my voice trying to keep up with Jack Dalrymple. No contest; Jacks voice wins every time.

With rubbery legs I wandered over to Tall Paul’s for a triple threat of MakeWar, Good Friend, and The Slow Death. The first two have been on tour with each other for about a month and had gotten rather tight. They were wearing each other’s T-shirts and the guys in MakeWar did some backup vocals for a few Good Friend songs. I got Good Friend’s record to review for Razorcake a few months back and it was so cool to be able to see these guys so soon after. Considering they’re from Ireland/Newcastle, I might not get another chance.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
What can I say about Slow Death? Jesse Thorson is a stage presence to be reckoned with and you never know what you’re gonna get with him. Before the set was half over, he was dead lifting beer kegs and holding them over his head like a deranged Donkey Kong. Mikey Erg played guitar with them, making it his 79th set of the day, and grinning ear to ear the whole time. I think people enjoy Slow Death for the lose cannon aspect just as much as the tunes. I hung back for a bit to have a drink with Ryan, Ranae, and Lisa (New Noise Magazine), before rushing out to catch the last half of Iron Chic at Bo Diddley.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
Superchunk was next but at this point I just wanted to relax and take a break from music. I stayed for a few songs and then headed to the pinball bar with friends. This was the night to be at the arcade! Shortly after I got there, members from Worriers, City Mouse, and OWTH showed up, and Mikey Erg was on the third floor playing DJ for the whole place. I played a few games, talked to Adam (City Mouse) for a while, and hugged Mikey Erg. The end of Fest was nigh.

Fest and Pre-Fest 2017
Last stop: Rocky’s Piano Bar. I only caught the tail end of Western Settings because I had to run back to High Dive to retrieve my stuff before their bag check closed. Closing out the night was Dead Bars who I see all the time at home, but it’s different seeing bands in other states. I was shuffled in with a bunch of strangers, all of whom were singing along to a song about a bus I take back in Seattle. It was so cool to be around people I’d never met who knew all the same words and loved music in all the same ways.

Teen Agers went on next but I spent their set saying my goodbyes to friends from all over the country. Some friends and I grabbed a six pack to share at their hotel, and at about 3 AM I decided to head back to my Air Bnb. But once I got out to the curb, a Fester was offering to share his Uber with anyone who wanted to go to the Great Canadian Beer Purge afterparty at Holiday Inn. Not wanting Fest to be over yet, I hopped in. By the time I actually headed back, it was around 4:30. My Uber driver was playing nothing but Against Me!, and I felt like it was a perfect note to go out on after a weekend in their hometown while it was overrun with punks.

I stayed an extra day and got to experience Gainesville without the influx of Fest folks. In comparison, it was basically a ghost town. My Monday was really excellent though. I got a tattoo, met friends for coffee, went record shopping, spent a few hours in the (free!) Natural History Museum and Art Museum at University of Florida, walked a couple miles around campus, saw a real live alligator out in the wild, and watched hundreds of the 400,000 bats on campus fly out of their bat houses at dusk. Then I made one more trip to the fabulous Reggae Shack where I ran into Worriers and told them how much I enjoyed their work, spent a few more hours and tokens at the pinball bar, and said goodbye to Fest.

Let’s do it again next year, shall we?