Already Heard’s Rosie Kerr is a regular visitor to the punk rock gathering known as The Fest. Over the course of five days, Rosie spent her time in Florida reuniting with distance friends, seeing some of her favourite bands and even getting some inked.
Whilst she was over in the States, Rosie documented her time at The Fest and Pre-Fest for Already Heard.
The Fest this year for me, was more about hanging out with faraway friends, and utilising the time I had with them. This choice definitely affected the amount of bands I saw, but that’s the great thing about Fest. You can choose to spend your time here however you see fit, and still have the most incredible time, like I did. Fest is a community like no other, and because of that you can walk around, take your time and just enjoy the atmosphere. Or if you prefer, run around from venue to venue seeing all your favourite bands. There’s no way to do Fest ‘right’ – and that’s the beauty of it as a festival.
Day One: Pre-Fest – Ybor, Tampa, Florida – Wednesday October 28th
Okay, so day one, at Pre-Fest in Ybor, I only caught a couple of bands due to some fireball whiskey shots and some dancing on bars (it was great, by the way). I watched The Sidekicks as my first band of the weekend and I couldn’t have chosen a better way to begin the festivities. The Sidekicks are consistently incredible live, and this being the 3rd time I’ve seen them (which isn’t enough times) only cemented that fact. The majority of their set came from their latest record ‘Runners In The Nerved World’, which is honestly such a well put together record that I’d gladly have them play the whole thing. ‘Everything In Twos’> however, is an absolute highlight always.
The next band I saw on day one, and actually the final band I saw on day one (whoops) was of course, The Menzingers. Now, we all know how much I love them. Even attempting an unbiased opinion would be silly, because I’d still say the exact same things. For the last couple of years though I have to admit, their set at Pre-Fest has been my favourite over their main Fest set. Mostly due to the additions of some absolute classics which include ‘Sunday Morning’, and the more intimate setting of the orpheum. The Menzingers are just the epitome of the modern punk band, and they do it so damn well. I think they’re ace, you guys all think they’re ace, there’s nothing more to say.
Day Two: Pre-Fest – Ybor, Tampa, Florida – Thursday October 29th
Pre-Fest day two, a hungover outing. I made it out for a couple of bands, and then had a lovely relax by the pool in our hotel with friends in the evening. The first band I saw this eve was the ever wonderful Great Cynics. Watching UK bands at Fest is always the absolute best, and I can’t explain why. Whether it’s the invasion of UK-festers all combining together for fun, or the excitement at seeing the American crowd’s reaction, who knows, but it’s almost magical. Great Cynics are, let’s be honest, one of our finest. With every record they’ve brought a new component to their music, and it’s always an incredible addition. Fan favourites always seem to be ‘Waster’ and ‘North Street’, but one of my personal favourites is ‘I Want You Around (Chunky)’. Great Cynics have the ability to be headlining stages at Fest, and other festivals. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year we saw this come to fruition. If you haven’t checked them out yet, their new record ‘I Feel Weird’ came out this year and it’s 100% worth your time.
The second, and once again, last band I saw on day two was one of Philly’s finest, Cayetana. I missed them last year due to getting in for the Osker cover set early enough, and I was upset that it had to work that way. So this year I made them a ‘must see’ on my band list, and managed to stave off the hangover long enough for their set. Playing mostly from their full length ‘Nervous Like Me’ their set was sweet and lovely. My favourite, and seemingly a fan favourite, is ‘Hot Dad Calendar’, but honestly, every song off the record is excellent. Philadelphia is a hub of musical talent at the moment, and it’s a really exciting time.
Day Three: The Fest – Gainesville, Florida – Friday October 30th
So, the next day we did the drive and got ourselves to Gainesville. I actually had a college assignment due this day so had to spend a good 4 hours locked inside our hotel room to make my UK deadline. I obviously, once again made it out for The Menzingers. Another perfect set by a perfect band. Highlight for me is always ‘Rodent’ which never gets the crowd reaction I expect considering it’s an incredible song, but I always have the most wonderful time hearing it. There’s really not too much to say that hasn’t already been said here and by everyone else. They’re universally loved, and it’s completely understandable.
For the next however many hours, I spent my time camped out in High Dive – essentially just waiting for the Captain, We’re Sinking set. In this space though I managed to watch a couple of bands that were playing the venue before. This included Arms Aloft. I’ve seen Arms Aloft play a good 4/5 times now but have honestly still never really listened to them outside of watching them live. This isn’t a slight on them in anyway, I’m just quite stuck with things I enjoy, and overplaying them. Every time I’ve seen them they’ve been pretty damn wonderful though, and maybe this was the push I needed to further my Arms Aloft experience.
Another band I managed to catch were Awkward Age. I actually had really wanted to see them play, and had listened to them previously and enjoyed what I heard. However, I honestly wasn’t too impressed with them in a live setting. I haven’t seen them play before so honestly can’t comment on whether this is the norm for them, but as redundant as it may sound, I just wasn’t vibing with it. That’s not to say they did anything particularly wrong. Just for me, maybe I expected something more.
Finally. I caught my Fest favourites (for the 4th time), Captain, We’re Sinking. I could honestly rave about them for an entire page of writing, but I’ll try and keep it short and sweet. Incredible song-writers who literally don’t have a bad song. ‘The Future Is Cancelled’ is undoubtedly one of my all-time favourite records, and yes, I over-play the hell out of it but it doesn’t grow old. ‘A Bitter Divorce’ is my absolute favourite song of theirs, and hearing it live, every time, gives me goosebumps. ‘Beer Can’ is probably next but honestly, every song is a hit. The great thing about this band is that no, they aren’t perfect live, mistakes are made, beers are had, you know the deal. But because the songs are honestly so incredible, there’s nothing that could make it a bad set. Every time I see them I come away wishing it were longer, wishing it would start all over again, and that’s a rare thing to happen to me these days. Just, listen to them. Then get yourselves down to one of the acoustic shows – you will not be disappointed. I make that promise with 100% confidence.
Day Four: The Fest – Gainesville, Florida – Saturday October 31st
So day two began with an early acoustic The Menzingers set in my favourite venue, Looseys. Looseys is small, intimate, and I’ve had some of my best Fest moments in this venue. Greg and Tom played a lovely selection of old and new, and my favourite thing about this set was the crowd. There were points when you could barely hear Tom or Greg over the crowd singing along. It’s moments like that, that make Fest your home.
After this, the next band I saw were Timeshares. I honestly don’t know too much about Timeshares other than a lot of my friends like them a lot. They are pretty much a quintessential Fest band, and that’s not a bad thing. They were really very good, and despite not knowing their music all too well I thoroughly enjoyed watching them and being apart of their Fest experience.
Then it was almost time for Astpai, who’re pretty much also universally loved. Once again, despite having seen Astpai play a lot, I’ve never really given them a chance outside of seeing them live. However, every time I see them, I see how much the crowd and how much people love them, and it makes me want to be apart of that club. They never disappoint in putting on an incredible live performance. There’s always super tight, and have their thing down.
For the next couple of hours, I spent some time at Death or Glory getting a tattoo, and then having to have a lie down after said tattoo because yes, I am a soft girl. Once I felt a little more normal, I did go to try and see Rozwell Kid. However, it was so rammed and busy that I couldn’t enjoy it so I went to hang out with friends at High Dive (which was fast becoming my favourite venue at this point). Whilst there, obviously there had to be a The Smiths cover set happening. Which included the ever wonderful Chris Gethard and the Fest mighty, Mikey Erg. Being from Manchester and saying what I’m about to say is probably treason, however I am not a big fan of The Smiths. But, The Smiths cover band on the other hand, was way way more fun than I imagined. It opened my eyes to how many The Smiths songs I actually know, and overall this was actually a lot of fun, a lot down to the crowd, but also down to the wonderful artists doing the covers.
Day Five: The Fest – Gainesville, Florida – Sunday November 1st
On to the final day of Fest. Always the most relaxed for me (apart from Fest 10 and the incident with the Fest punch which we don’t talk about, especially not here). The first band I saw were my current favourite UK band, Woahnows. I don’t really know what to say about Woahnows that I haven’t already before. Incredibly talented musicians, that write incredibly catchy songs. They are always one of the most fun bands to see play, and everyone watching, despite the “early” slot, was having a really lovely time. I do hope that the Americans that watched them go forth and spread the word to their friends about this awesome UK band they saw, because Woahnows honestly deserve that. They are good people who deserve good things to happen to them.
Next band I saw were the ever-wonderful PUP. Musical genius at it’s finest. They are always an absolute blast to watch, and Fest loves them (rightly so). Last year I saw them play a packed out venue at Pre-Fest, and this year they’re main stage, and they deserve that. The news that they’re writing / have written (I can’t quite remember) a new record is brilliant, because it’s exactly what everyone’s been waiting for. And considering the size of Lot 10, PUP still manage to make you feel like you’re watching them in a small venue. It’s intimate, in a none intimate venue, and that’s a feat not many can undertake and then achieve. Kudos to you, PUP.
And honestly, that was it. That was my Fest (as far as bands were concerned). No, I didn’t see a plethora of bands, but that’s how I chose to do Fest this year. I’ve done the running around year after year, and this time I wanted a relaxed one. As I get older, and as my hangovers get worse, Fest becomes more about the atmosphere and as I said at the beginning, hanging out with my best friends from around the world. Fest is special, and no matter how much music I actually saw, I had another special time that I’ll always treasure.
However, next year is the 15th anniversary, and if Fest 10 was anything to go by, then it’s going to be the most incredible one to date. So keep your eyes peeled, start saving that airfare, and get yourself over the pond for the most incredible weekend of the year.
Words by Rosie Kerr (@Rosiekerr)