Into The Fest 8: Day 1
It's 7:22 on Friday night. I'm in the parking lot of The Kickstand—one of the venues hosting the three-day punk-rock extravaganza The Fest 8. I'm surrounded by tattoos, black, crotch-tight jeans and angst. Girls with short hair are everywhere. The environment here is friendly. It's a concrete parking lot with a huge, red warehouse with aluminum siding.
It's unbelievable how many people are in town for this. Inside the "shack," the heat is oppressive and stifling. Outside, shadows of people sit and drink beer in dark corners. A group of young British guys roll cigarettes and huddle around a case of PBR. Matt and Conor are in a band called Calvinball, playing at the Venue Sunday night. They're from Leeds and Sheffield. We chat while Failures Union (Buffalo, NY) plays in the rapidly cooling October air. They're melodic and the perfect accompaniment to shooting the shit. Conor tells me that England is pretty small and he keeps running into people he knows.
Joey Cape (San Francisco) is playing acoustic guitar for a crowd of about 50 people at the Civic Media Center. The whole room is singing his songs, so he takes a break to drink a beer and lets the crowd sing for him. He looks familiar. It hits me suddenly; he's in a band called Lagwagon. I remember them from middle school. EVERYONE is singing along to a song called "Violins." It's intimate, and I feel like a stepped into the world's friendliest keg party.
The Venue 9:15pm
All access is the shit. I'm spoiled and will throw a tantrum if I have to wait in any line all weekend. There are about 300 people in here. The band playing is Gainesville's Small Brown Bike. They sound seasoned and professional. The drummer's groove is deep and the bass player is riding it like a cowboy. There's no way to get close. With so many people here, I have to stand on the balcony to even see anything. (Sean Kelly)
The Side Hatch is the side stage at The Venue. Light Yourself On Fire (Tampa) is playing. I was not prepared for this. They're a hail storm of thrash. It's kind of hard to catch your breath. If I was a violent (and taller) man I'd get in to the pit and get some aggression out. Hey kids, wanna scare your parents? Go buy this band's record. The singer has two huge Xs tattooed on his chest. Young men keep exploding with helicopter fists. (Sean Kelly)
I had to take a break. Its rough in the streets (of The Fest). There is a makeshift mezzanine outside where grad-student types are drinking imported beer—the first time all day I've seen someone drinking beer that's not a PBR. All the men are wearing those rim-style glasses and chatting, jovially. I can hear Michael Claytor & His Friends (Gainesville) setting up, and I ate way too much pizza. Claytor is going to play again at the CMC on Sunday. I strongly suggest you go see him and his unique brand of acoustic indie-folk music. (Joel Mora)
If you ever listen to anything I say ever again, please listen to this: Gainesville's Morningbell is the shit. They went on after Claytor dressed like dead presidents. Morningbell sounds like a modern '70s disco band—but better. They're so effortlessly smooth and musical. (Eva Suarez)
So that's your inside The Fest Day 1. I'm tired and it's my bedtime. Tomorrow I'll check out the registration area and try to sneak into the Holiday Inn. Also, if you have any ideas of what bands I should see in the next two days, e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace.