For the town of Gainesville, Florida, the most wonderful time of the year comes at the end of October. No, not Halloween. We’re talking about THE FEST. For 14 years, the independent punk festival has thrived and played host to thousands of headstrong punk and hardcore bands, giving a stage, a microphone and throngs of fans to underground bands across the world. This year, THE FEST boasts an outrageous lineup of veteran punkers, college-hit darlings, NOISEY-repped favourites, and newcomers from seemingly nowhere. As degenerate ne’er-do-gooders swarm each and every bar and dive in downtown Gainesville to catch glimpses of musical debauchery and mosh their brains out for three days, you’ll want to scope out beforehand just who you want to see. Wading through the hundreds-long festival bill can, like a moshpit at your old high school buddy’s show, be confusing, tiresome, and full of people you didn’t need to see (just kidding, everyone at FEST is golden), so we’re here to lend a hand and pull your head up above the crowd. We’ve zeroed in on 25 acts throughout the three-day shenanigans that will be sure to nearly blow your brains out with punk-rock goodness, and will 100% leave you with no voice the next day.
(‘Punk’ word counter: 4ish)
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30th:
Welcome to Gainesville, home of the best three-days of punk minimum wage money can buy. You’re probably travel-weary and hungover already, but lucky for you, the fun starts a little later. With most venues opening their doors at 5:00, you’ll have loads of time to check out the town and sniff out the best least-authentic Mexican food you can find. At the Holiday Inn Pool Party (located on the third floor of the building, for those who can’t hear where the obnoxious music is coming from), loving renditions of beloved punk albums will be banged out by acts like Beach Slang and Turbo Fruits. We recommend heading there for We Are The Union’s 4:50 start time to see them tear through Blink-182’s unabashed pop-punk diamond Enema of the State. This set will no doubt be a fitting warm-up for the weekend.
Take a breather before heading over to Lot 10 to catch Pennsylvania’s Title Fight at 7:00. Conveniently, right after their set, fellow Pennsylvania exports and FEST alumni The Menzingers will rip up the same stage. The Menzingers are explosive, honest, and endlessly endearing, and pack high-brow literacy into four-chords through an Orange amp. If you miss them, you WILL hear about it and you will be bummed. But, the equally fiery and equally awesome So So Glos, straight outta Brooklyn, occupy a 7:50 timeslot down the road at The Wooly. Flip a coin to figure out which band you want to accelerate your heart-rate and damage your hearing.
Vancouver’s Billy the Kid should be your next stop. Starting at 8:50 at the Civic Media Centre, the Canadian singer-songwriter will be belting out her visceral acoustic folk. Listing her influences is pointless; she’s a true original and a powerhouse artist, and worth every second of your attention. Keeping it Canadian, Ottawa’s Steve Adamyk Band play The Atlantic at 9:40. The garage-pop four-piece has earned itself a horde of devotees in their hometown and across Canada, and will probably leave a similar group in Gainesville and beyond. Songwriter and punk celebrity Chris Farren will probably leave you in stitches from laughing and singing in equal parts, so be at the Civic Media Center at 10:10.
To round out the night, Philly rockers Restorations will shake down The Wooly at 12:50. Smack in the middle of a tour with fellow FESTers The Menzingers, mewithoutyou, and Pianos Become the Teeth, you can catch the whole bill in one evening at THE FEST.
Sleep off the six beers and adrenaline coursing through you. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.
(‘punk’ word counter: 4)
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31st:
Rise and shine. Or, if you’re like most people the day after a show, rise at 11 and grumble your way through a McDonalds breakfast sandwich. The fun starts at around the same time today, so mosey around and catch some new bands that you won’t stop annoying your friends and coworkers about when you get home. Make sure you catch Philly darlings Modern Baseball covering The Killers at High Dive at 1:10. Following that, you’ll want to see Burlington, Ontario’s three-piece workhorse The Penske File play Loosey’s at 2:10. After half an hour of their brash and beautiful sounds, your moderate hangover will be gone and you’ll have found a new favourite.
Even though NOFX has a stranglehold on the ‘punk rock Rolling Stones’ title, Lagwagon has been around long enough to deserve it too. The California skate-punk pioneers will rock the open-air Lot 10 at 9:00. Their Fat Wreck Chords labelmates, Hamilton, Ontario’s The Dirty Nil should be your next stop at 10:20. The trio’s ‘hammer rock’ will rattle your teeth and shake your bones, but also leave melodies wriggling in your head for weeks. (If you’re feeling up to it, we’d also recommend sneaking over to Ottawa’s Big Dick at Palomino between sets. Or buy a time turner from JK Rowling and see all three, uninterrupted).
Next up on the docket is New Jersey’s punk heroes The Scandals at Durty Nelly’s. 11:20 might be pushing your 9-to-5 bed time, but you’d probably rather fist pump then drool on a motel pillow. Their set overlaps with West Virginia’s Rozwell Kid but don’t miss these top-notch rockers. One listen through their LP “Too Shabby” and you’ll be sold on their melodic, Blue Album-era Weezer slacker-rock. Now that you’re wide awake, hit one of this year’s biggest buzz bands, Beach Slang, at Cowboys at 12:40. The Pennsylvania punks are sappy, genuine, and limitlessly positive, due in large part to frontman James Alex’s eyes-aglow lyricism and honesty. Round off the buzz you’ve got with Ottawa’s The Creeps at Rockey’s, and call it a night. Or don’t. I’m an article, not your mom.
(‘punk’ word counter: 4)
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1st:
So your time at THE FEST is drawing to an end and you’ve seen beautiful bands fronted by homely folks for two straight days. One more to go, so lets make it count, shall we?
The open-air festivities resume with the folk-punk wizardry of Jeff Rosenstock (who indeed sells robes called ‘Jeff Robenstocks’). He and his band will bring their goofy and endearing tunes to Lot 10 at 3:50, and then Toronto, Ontario’s punk saviours PUP will tear through their slot at 5:00. PUP is another band that has picked up massive steam in the past year, in no small part thanks to their insane touring schedule and relentlessly stellar live shows. Their punk rock is melodic, technical, and sing-song all at once. Fair warning: you will be a massive fan boy after their set. Stay put for yet another Philly export in Modern Baseball at 6:10. Their anthemic, Gaslight-Anthem-meets-The-Smiths sad-guy pop-punk is catchy as hell and lyrically brilliant.
Don’t bask in the afterglow too long, cause Colorado’s rockers Elway start shaking down The Wooly at 7:20. Their current Facebook cover photo is the parents’ guide to the movie Twister, so if that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. Not that we needed to remind you, but Andrew WK is probably someone you’ll want to see. The party rocker plays at 8:30 at Lot 10. Party hard. New York’s Chumped ought to be your next stop at 10:20 at The Wooly. Or Blacklist Royals at Durty Nelly’s at 10:30. Don’t make us choose. We won’t do it.
THE FEST is coming to a close and you might be feeling a little tired and exhausted. But stow that shit cause you’ve only got one night left here. It’s time for Cayetana at The Wooly. The three-piece indie-punk band from (you guessed it) Pennsylvania is part of a punk revival that’s nestled in the state, and they’re providing a necessary and depressingly missing component: female voices. In a scene typically overrun by male voices and bodies (for example, have a look at any punk festival’s lineup, or this article’s highlights), the inclusion of female artists is invaluable and noteworthy. It is sad that this has to be of note, but it is, and Cayetana’s powerful bellow ought to be heard by every single FEST attendee.
(‘punk’ word counter: 7)
That was THE FEST in a nutshell. Though we picked out just 25 artists and acts for you to enjoy and headbang to, the true magic of music festivals is discovering bands you’d never heard of, and probably never would, save for wandering into a bar where they’re slaying a set. Get out to each and every second of music you can while in Gainesville; soak it up, tell your friends, and keep going to shows, cause that is what will keep wonderful things like THE FEST alive for 14 more years. Stay tuned for our coverage of THE FEST 14. See you in Gainesville!
(total ‘punk’ word count: 19. Not bad).
Follow updates from The Fest here.
Review by Luke Ottenhof | @LukeOttenhof