Fest 8 Recap: By Matt Walker

Each year just before Fest rolls around in Gainesville, I feel a little buzz of excitement in the air. I know it’s going to be a fun, crazy weekend and I’m probably going to get sick by the end of it. This year was no different. Except I think this is the first year that I wasn’t trying to kill myself running around to see as many bands as possible; I just kind of rolled with it and everything worked out great. Don’t get me wrong, there were bands that I definitely wanted to see, and for the most part I did. And there were a few I missed, but it’s cool. It was all fun times.

As usual, the Fest party actually winds up starting before Friday in Gainesville. This year, my weekend started on Thursday night at Boca Fiesta, with Fiya, Strikeforce Diablo, and Panthro UK United 13.

The night started off hot and sticky, like most nights in Florida in October. I sat on the porch with my girlfriend, Grace, and her roommate, Liz; drinking wine and beer and more wine, laughing and swatting mosquitoes. We finally got it together and got to Boca Fiesta around 10:30. Boca Fiesta used to be the Hardback Café, a place where a lot of great bands played in the ‘90s, so it’s cool to be able to see bands in that same space again. Fiya was already playing when we got there. We could hear the music from about two blocks away, and it sounded good. I was pumped about seeing Strikeforce back together because I had never seen them before, and they didn’t let me down. It was just what I wanted it to be. They were just heavy enough without taking themselves too seriously, and they saved my favorite for last, “All Things Cloven.” Panthro was also a treat that night. I haven’t seen them play in about a decade, and I don’t think they have played together in almost as long. They were awesome, playing with as much energy as I remembered them having ten years ago.

On Friday, I was moving a little slowly as a result of the night before. Grace and I finally made it up to the Holiday Inn to pick up our Fest passes around 3 PM. That was kind of a strange part of the weekend. It’s usually fun to hang around for a while at registration with friends, but this year I didn’t really see anybody I knew there except for some of the Fest volunteers. And it kind of seemed like most of the people in line were in some kind of confused haze, looking half asleep and kind of lost. I didn’t hang around long. Grace went down to the parking lot before I did, and after we left she told me that the megaphone-wielding asshole, frat boy—and very likely a Dane Cook fan—up on the pool deck yelled down at her: “Show me your tits!” Not cool jerk, go home!

Later that evening, after another round of drinking and hanging out on the porch, we went to Durty Nelly’s to meet up with some friends. Watson was rocking the front of the bar, but they were already well into their set and it was packed, so we hung in the back and got acclimated to the Fest world. We moved over to Rum Runners to catch Savage Brewtality next. This was kind of a reunion show for them, although they did play one show a few weeks earlier. As always, it was a treat. Awesome Gainesville thrash songs about boners, zombie Jesus, Weekend at Bernie’s and Full House. It’s pretty much everything you need right there.

We went back over to Nelly’s to watch Clairmel next; another band I haven’t seen in a really long time, and they didn’t let me down either. Awesome ‘90s punk that sounds just as urgent now as it did then. Dave Decker is an intense dude to watch play guitar and sing, which is also awesome. I hit a wall about three-quarters of the way through the set though and walked to the parking lot out back to escape the crowd. Grace was standing out there too, so we sat on the curb and waited for the show to end, watching people stumble by in the quiet Gainesville night. There were some parties going on after the show, but I decided to call it an early night and save my energy for the next two days.

On Saturday, we started off with a late lunch at Boca Fiesta, then Grace and I went to catch Toys that Kill at the Venue. They were great, but I was a little hungover, and didn’t really get into it until they played “They Tied Up All Our Lace,” and it turned out to be their last song. Oh well, hopefully I can catch them again sometime soon. Then, back to Nelly’s for Vaginasore Jr. Such a great band name and, unlike so many bands with funny names, they’re actually awesome. And very loud, which I guess is also part of being awesome.

A group of us wound up at Market Street Pub after that, on the side where they serve food, not where the bands were playing. I think we spent a solid three hours there drinking and talking. It was fun. During the second round of tequila shots, a friend said a good way to pace yourself is to have one shot per hour. Which sounded very reasonable at the time. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea, though, if you’re going to be drinking for the next eight hours or so, which is what happened. (And maybe some of the shots were semi-hourly.) I didn’t remember until later that she also said it’s a good idea to have a glass of water every hour, too. One of the best treats of the weekend came next. My friends wanted to go see King Friday back at Nelly’s. They’re an old Gainesville band that hasn’t played in a long time, to my knowledge. I had never heard them before, but was curious to see what the hype was about. They turned out to be awesome! It seemed like everybody there was an old friend or fan of the band, so the show was amazing. Everybody was having tons of fun. I just discovered that they have a new album out, and what I’ve heard of it also sounds awesome. I’m going to buy it as soon as I get some money.

The next move was back over to Market Street, this time to watch bands, in addition to drinking. When we got there, Tim Barry was playing and it was super-packed. I made a quick attempt to get anywhere where I could see him and it was pretty much impossible. My buddies in Ninja Gun were playing next, so I went and hung out with them at their merch table. And here is one of the dumbest things I said all weekend, speaking to Jacob from Ninja Gun: “I hope all these people watching Tim Barry clear out of here before you guys play!” Nice. Luckily, that didn’t seem to be the case. I made my way up front when Ninja Gun played and it seemed like the place was still packed. As always, they were awesome and the crowd really seemed to be into it. Next it was Whiskey & Co., a Gainesville staple that can always be counted on for good times. They rocked some new songs that I can’t wait to get my hands on when that new album comes out.

This is that part of the night where things get a little hazy. Drag The River played next. I didn’t watch all of their set, but I thought the masks they were wearing for Halloween from the movie, The Strangers, were great. Very creepy. Grace had some friends in from out of town for the weekend, so we went back to her house for a while and I apparently bought and ate pizza, which I don’t remember. Everybody else was going to bed, so I called up Coody from Ninja Gun, who was staying at my house, to see if he wanted to hang. I went by my house to pick him up and we sat on the front porch and caught up with each other for a while. This was when I met Ben Snakepit because Ghost Knife was also staying at my house; they’re friends with my roommate, P.J. I remember that he was very nice, and I was very drunk and probably seemed like a weirdo. But anyway, after not being able to convince Coody to leave the house, I headed over to Jon’s house from Whiskey & Co., The Takers, and Towers Of Hanoi. It was a good time hanging out with buddies over there for a while before calling it a night (or early morning).

On Sunday, I brought Coody over to Grace’s house for a cookout with friends. It was actually one of my favorite parts of the weekend. We had some good food, laughed our asses off about stories involving people shitting on floors, and relaxed with some mimosas.

We made it up to the Venue in time to see Chris Wollard And The Ship Thieves. That album was one of my favorites from last year and, up until now, they haven’t played too many live shows, so it was cool to see them and hear the new songs they’ve been working on. Radon came next: awesome, awesome, awesome. Chris Wollard eased me into the day with some laid back, solid rock and roll, then Radon came along with some of the best Gainesville punk songs ever to kick me around a little bit and get my blood flowing for the remainder of the Fest. And as if they hadn’t done enough, they brought Jeff Pezzati out at the end of their set for a cover of “Home of the Brave.” After wandering around for a bit post-Radon, we went over to Flaco’s to chill with Awesome City Limits, which is Jack Bailey from Army Of Ponch (and lots of other rad bands), playing country hits. He decided to play outside, which seemed like it was confusing to the people working at Flaco’s. But it was great, the sun was setting, no amps or mics. It was just a small crowd and good tunes.

Next up was watching Strikeforce Diablo again at The Atlantic. It was just as good, if not better, than Thursday night. I guess all the guys live in different towns now, but I hope they can get together for some more shows. After Strikeforce, we hung around outside to get some fresh air and Young Livers kept us entertained for a few minutes. They pulled up in their van to drop off a friend, but they couldn’t get the sliding door to close back. I would have tried to help, but there were already like five people trying everything they could to close that door. And it was funny to see them struggle. It became a small spectacle for a couple of minutes, and when they finally somehow got the door closed, everybody outside started cheering for them.

At this point, it was getting close to the end of the Fest, probably time for just a couple more bands. I decided to go to Rum Runners to catch Thunderlip. I’ve seen them a few times before and it’s always pretty entertaining. It was no different this time. Besides guitars that rocked my face off constantly for about thirty minutes, the lead singer sang a whole song with his balls out before setting his pubes on fire; which was pretty funny until the stench of burning hair made it over to the crowd and everybody cringed and turned away. Finally, it was time for Assholeparade; another Fest staple that I always try not to miss. Market Street was packed. I managed to stand up on a bench near the stage and get some good views of the perpetual chaos that ensues during their sets. As usual, the whole set was a big non-stop pit; people going nuts and the band trying to hang on to their instruments. They’re the perfect band to see last during Fest, in my opinion.

Afterwards, I went over to Laura Predny’s (awesome Gainesville artist who has also contributed to Razorcake). It was a good end to the Fest, hanging out with friends until way too late/early. There was a full-on dance party inside while people hung out outside drinking and listening to people pass around the acoustic guitar. This is also the time where things get a little hazy for me once again. I remember just before we went home, Nato from The Used Kids played a special set to, I think, about three of us, with P.J. yelling out requests and singing along.

Awesome! Bye Fest! See you next year!