For over a decade the Fest has taken place in the college town of Gainesville, Fla. With that it has brought hundreds of bands, thousands of attendees, and only one suitable hot dog cart. In the past we’ve recapped the weekend for you and told you what Fest means to its participants, but now its time to give out some awards. Because if there is a point to playing music, it is winning an arbitrary award that can be held over your peers for years to come.
Since trophies are expensive – and it’s nearly impossible to find one with a bearded guy in a beer-stained sleeveless shirt atop – here are some honors to Fest 11’s best, brightest, and whose participation made the entire event better. Without further ado, here’s Fest 11’s top 11.
Lyric most applicable to Fest: Dads
As our Fest preview noted, Dads were a band to catch at Fest 11, and its set early Saturday afternoon at the Atlantic did not disappoint. It was during Dads’ set that the duo summed up the entire festival with just one line, “Spent most of Florida hanging around, drowning in old friends and beautiful sounds, singing.” In past years this award would have gone to Dillinger Four’s ode to the Fest with it’s song “Gainesville,” but in their absence the New Jersey duo picked up the slack. The crowd returned this positivity with an uproarious response, proving Dads ability to move people with short songs and simple, concise thoughts.
Best use of Jungian personality archetypes as lyrical fodder: Traveling
When this Bloomington, Ind. three piece kicked off FEST 11 as the first official act of the weekend the band did so in its self-reflective, pop-punk style. “Anyone take the Myers-Briggs personality test? That’s what this song’s about,” said singer Ginger Alford before sliding the band into the opening track off last year’s debut EP. Turns out Alford and bandmate Alan Crenshaw both fit the ENFJ personality type, as defined by the aforementioned test. So it’s no wonder she titled the song “Idealist Temperament,” with lyrics that reflect her desire to understand and find her place in the world. Traveling’s introspective lyrics and bittersweet hooks became a welcome rarity during a festival that tipped towards the more aggressive end of the punk rock scale.
Best addition to Fest: Arrow’s Aim Records
Started by a former No Idea Records employee, Arrow’s Aim Records has only been open for a couple months, but this hole-in-the-wall record store may be one of the country’s best. If its exhaustive selection of new records isn’t enough, the used bins are a sight to be hold. Some of punk and metal’s rarest records float around at prices that are an absolute steal, but the generous offerings of used hip-hop and classic rock records make it balanced, versatile and a record store that would make John Peel drool.
Best bar to drink PBR: 1982 Bar
As if the dozen or so televisions hooked up to just as many old-school videogame consoles wasn’t enough to ensnare even the most jaded hipster, 1982 Bar served up the freshest available pint of the FEST’s biggest corporate sponsor: Pabst Blue Ribbon. While some drink the beer out of some dutiful sense of irony, or simply because a tallboy can costs only $2 at the FEST, others appreciated the robust flavor that can only be achieved from drinking the brew straight out of the tap. And this was the only bar smart enough to give FEST goers exactly that. Cheers, 1982!
Best band to transcend its gimmick: Masked Intruder
While Masked Intruder’s name implies a certain level of tongue-in-cheek foolishness, these masked musicians (appropriately named after their respective colored ski mask) use this idea merely as a platform. Sure, it’s goofy, but it’s pop-punk performed with laser precision and limitless energy. The crowd ate it up, and when the group would take a breath they’d fill in with humorous banter about being on parole and the horrifying concept of the film Robocop. It may not have been the most intellectually stimulating performance, but it was certainly one of the most fun. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what music is kind of about?
Best band that could have arrested Masked Intruder on trumped-up charges: World’s Scariest Police Chases
Organizers missed a golden opportunity to let FESTers play cops and robbers here. An hour before Masked Intruder got its big, bad bandit shtick on lockdown at Durty Nelly’s, WSPC commandeered the stage at 1982 Bar as a group of corrupt cops playing its own brand of 80s-style hardcore. While it would’ve been cool to see a showdown between the two bands, WSPC put on respectable show. Donning police uniforms, complete with aviator sunglasses and a box of donuts, the group shredded through its set and even managed to rile up a circle pit in one of the FEST’s smallest venues.
Best One-Two Punch: Lemuria followed up by Braid
For us at Pop ‘stache, the capstone show came Saturday night at the honky-tonk bar Eight Seconds. Lemuria’s perfect blend of power pop and punk helped pack the festival’s second-largest theater to near capacity. Some of the band’s signature dueling male/female vocal harmonies were handicapped by an inept sound engineer. But Lemuria’s beguilingly addictive hooks managed to shine through and primed an already eager audience for what was arguably the best show of the three-day-long event: Braid. These fellow Illinoisians didn’t waste a single second of their hour-long set. The band played a strong mix of old and new, aggressive and tender songs. This post-breakup Braid wisely steered clear of its more avant-garde compositions in favor more sing-along friendly numbers, including 2011’s “The Right Time” sung by Chris Broach.
Best reality check for Festers: Kyle Kinane
At Fest 10, organizers began incorporating comedy into the three day music festival. It went surprisingly well, as Fest’s set-up allows for dedicated comedy venues to be quiet and respectful, as comedy venues should be. It was this environment that gave Kyle Kinane a place to analyze the punk community for its shortcomings. It worked not only because he was making attendees look at themselves, but given his place as a member of the scene, it came from a place of love instead of denigration.
Best Fest-exclusive release: Hot Water Music Live in Chicago Triple LP
After well over a year of teasing its release, No Idea Records decided Fest 11 was as good a time as any to unleash this massive live album from the Gainesville natives Hot Water Music. After going on hiatus for several years, the band reunited in 2008 to much fanfare. In February of that year it played two shows at Chicago’s Metro and, luckily, they were recorded. Songs were parceled out via a 7-inch singles series, but this triple LP – which is three LPs on beautiful split-colored vinyl, no less – finally unleashes the full breadth of the band’s performances. Hot Water Music has become more active since then, and will be making a return trip to the Metro in January 2013, but with its new album Exister gaining steam it’s hard to say whether or not that show will draw as heavily from classic material. But this set gives fans a chance to relive the magic of those shows, and for those that weren’t in attendance the opportunity to be a fly on the wall for two incredibly energetic and heartfelt sets.
Best outdoor show run off a generator: Dikembe/Into It. Over It./ You Blew It!/Slingshot Dakota/Braid
After a disastrous house show at Fest 8 that saw a near-riot breakout, this year proved the complete opposite was possible, making Saturday night’s show outside of a warehouse one of the most peaceable, well-intentioned illegal events in Fest history. Standing on a gravel road, with a generator powering amps, hundreds of kids showed up to watch some of the emo-revival’s best bands kick out 10-minute sets. While all of them were jovial and engaging, it was the promise of Braid playing that was the real draw. As luck would have it, seconds before Braid was set to begin the cops pulled in and broke up the 3 a.m. outdoor after-party, but even with the lack of Braid, it proved that Fest is merely the setting, and that the people who occupy this scene are its true spirit.
Fest-time Achievement Award: The people who run Fest
Fest has a lot to offer to underground music fans, but none of this would be possible without the tireless work of the event’s organizers. For 11 years they’ve booked hundreds of bands at dozens of venues, coordinated logical showcases, put on a flea market, and found a way to turn an entire city into one big party. At Fest 11 they pulled it off once again. Even with bands canceling last minute they were able to find replacements and never let minor problems affect the Fest itself. Kudos to the entire Fest team for being as great as they are, and for putting up with all the nonsense attendees can often bring. They deserve an ice cold PBR, a slice of Five Star pizza and a high-five. Next year, be sure to show your appreciation in one of those ways.