For the past decade, Halloween weekend has signaled the migration of thousands of punk music fans to the college town of Gainesville, Fla. What started out as a small celebration of No Idea Records quickly became a weekend-long, multi-venue affair that brings in hundreds of bands from punk’s various subgenres. This year, The Fest turned 10. In honor of this feat, it became a high school reunion of sorts. Inviting back many Fest-alums, and a few newbies as well, The Fest 10 boasted a line-up that led to it selling out quicker than previous Fest.
All photography by Nicole Kibert // http://www.elawgrrl.com/
Worn In Red kicked off Friday night at The Atlantic. A Virginia quartet that channels Planes Mistaken For Stars in all the right ways, the post-hardcore band’s short set allowed it to highlight tracks from its debut In The Offing alongside brand new songs that fit right into its repertoire. Its energetic performance and tight musicianship started Fest 10 off in the best way possible.
Sadly, things derailed when Small Brown Bike took to The Fest’s largest stage – the Florida Theater of Gainesville (formerly The Venue). The group opened with a pair of tracks from its fantastic Nail Yourself To The Ground EP, but something was missing. The energy and enthusiasm was there, but Mike Reed and Travis Dopp’s guitars never synchronized with one another, even on songs from this year’s reunion record Fell & Found. It wasn’t until the group’s final two songs – Our Own Wars’ “Atlanta” and Dead Reckoning’s “I Will Bury You In Me” – that the group finally began to hit its stride. It took nearly 30-minutes of floundering for Small Brown Bike to gain momentum, and as soon as it did, the group’s time was up.
The Florida Theater of Gainesville proved to be a camp ground for many attendees as the place seemed well-beyond capacity by the time Philadelphia’s Kid Dynamite took the stage. Aided by the strong lead-in of Samiam, Kid Dynamite received a gigantic crowd response. The group – which broke-up in 2000 – has played several high-profile reunion shows since, perhaps why the band was so on point. Jason Shevchuk’s raspy growl soared atop Dan Yemin’s guitar, and everyone in the Florida Theater responded appropriately. Excited attendees constantly crowdsurfed, stagedove off of speaker stacks, and threw garbage cans into the air, signs of appreciation for one of hardcore’s most important acts of the 1990s. The band was on the top of its game, playing one of the best sets of the weekend mere hours into the Fest’s start.
Shortly after Kid Dynamite’s melodic hardcore pummeled the Florida Theater, the up-and-coming Touché Amoré offered an equally impassioned set of its screamo-influenced hardcore. The set leaned heavily on the group’s excellent sophomore full-length, Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me, but older tracks such as “Honest Sleep” and “I’ll Get My Just Deserve” lent themselves just as well to massive crowd sing-alongs. Touché Amore’s show at Double Down only confirmed that it is destined to be one of hardcore’s top acts in the very near future.
Back at the Florida Theater, it was time for one of Gainesville’s own – the on-again off-again Hot Water Music. This was the band’s first appearance at The Fest since before its 2005 hiatus, and its first time supporting new material since 2004’s The New What Next. The set focused heavily on the group’s later work, including new song “The Fire, The Steel, The Tread,” and a smattering of songs from the Epitaph years. Those Epitaph records are often maligned for not adhering to the heavier post-hardcore of the group’s early records, but vocalists Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard demonstrated that even its catchiest song is still packed to the brim with energy. Hot Water Music’s set at Fest 10 could have been perceived as a nostalgia trip, but the group effortlessly proved its relevancy. In lieu of focusing on its early records during its encore, Hot Water Music was joined by members of New Jersey’s The Bouncing Souls for a short run of songs from each band’s respective discographies. Members of both bands switched instruments, sang together, and had grins painted on their faces the entire time. It became less of a Hot Water Music set and more of a beer soaked party, which, given Fest’s demographics, is the most fitting way for any set to end.
Much of the Florida Theater cleared out after Hot Water Music, leaving the night’s headliner, TV Casualty (a supergroup Misfits tribute band), to play to a fraction of the crowd its “opener” had. It was of little consequence, as the group – dressed in standard Misfits garb – tore through some of the band’s very best tracks. Ted Leo’s Danzig impression was top notch, especially on the surprise opening number, “Glenn Danzig Grocery Shopping List.” It was an equal mixture of homage, satire, and celebration. Really, there’s not a better way to end the first day of Fest’s 10 year anniversary than a stellar version of Danzig’s “Mother.”