The Fest. That annual punk rock holiday camp where 3,000 people overindulge on PBR and, if you’re (un)lucky, encouraged to drink dubiously-sourced alcohol from an Australian’s soggy shoe.
As ever, there a couple of hundred bands playing in the glorious Florida sunshine too, meaning it’s something of a pilgrimage for people from all over the globe. This year promises to be no exception, with a stellar line-up that includes big hitters such as The Movielife, Against Me!, Hot Water Music and Superchunk. There’s also another strong showing from the UK and Ireland, and anyone making the trip shouldn’t need reminding about the excellence of Nervus, Anna’s Anchor, Kamikaze Girls, Ghouls and the like.
Already Heard will once again be making the trip to the Sunshine State to get sunburned (God damn our pale and pasty skin), eat grease-laden pizzas and maybe – just maybe – watch a f*ckton of killer punk rock.
Here are 10 acts we absolutely won’t be missing:
Italy’s Dags! made their way around the UK earlier this year in support of I Love Your Lifestyle and Football Etc., and if you caught them, you’ll know they were hugely entertaining. Playing mathy, indie-rock crossed with some old-school emo, they’ve got some killer hooks to go with some strong noodling guitars. And, best of all – besides the ridiculous song titles, such as ‘I Would Love To Send All Those Shitheads Wearing Camo To The Actual Army’ – the Milan trio are a riotous amount of fun; witty, charming and thoroughly absorbing.
Where & When: 7:10pm – Friday, October 27th – Rockey’s Piano Bar (112 S Main St)
Dead Bars delivered one of the finest punk albums of the year with ‘Dream Gig’, and they’re a blast live too, armed with a barrel-load of pit-friendly, sing-along anthems. Like all of the best bands, there’s a bittersweet tinge to Dead Bars’ stories of anxiety and drinking, but they translate perfectly to the communal live experience. And, now that they’re officially part of the No Idea family, Fest will feel like home away from home for the Seattle natives. Expect them to slay!
Where & When: 12:10am – Saturday, October 28th – Tall Paul’s (10 SE 2nd Ave.) – Guided By Voices cover set
10:40pm – Sunday, October 29th – Rockey’s Piano Bar (112 S Main St)
Dead Leaves have come a long way since their pop-punk roots as Call It Fiction, and while they moved towards a more indie-rock/post-hardcore sound on their self-titled mini-album, this year’s ‘Vultures’ has seen the Ohio group finally hit their stride. Drawing on their pop-punk nous, there are some razor-sharp hooks to go with the dense lyrical themes, adding light and shade to the group’s dark heart. The result will hopefully make for a compelling live spectacle…
Where & When: 6:20pm – Friday, October 27th – Rockey’s Piano Bar (112 S Main St)
Brooklyn’s Hiccup are as infectious as their name suggests, combining choppy guitars and duelling vocals. Not unlike Martha or the Spook School if they relocated to the States, there’s a coolness to Hiccup’s sloppy sound that is unforced and undeniably crowd-pleasing. ‘Imaginary Enemies’, the group’s first full-length, emerged on Father/Daughter Records (home to Diet Cig) earlier this year and is a riot from start to finish; brash and bold and entirely original – and we can’t wait to catch them live.
Where & When: 4:10pm – Sunday, October 29th – High Dive (210 SW 2nd Ave)
Montreal’s Laureate wowed us with the wonderful ‘Landmarks’ earlier this year, and the Canadian emo/pop-punkers will be making the long journey down to Florida to round off a successful year. Driven by the dual vocals of Erin Power and Giancarlo Talarico, there’s real depth and variety to the group’s sound, elevating them above their peers. If they’re half as good live as they are on record, we’ll be in for a hell of a time…
Where & When: 11:20pm – Friday, October 27th – Loosey’s (120 SW 1st Ave)
Pkew Pkew Pkew
It wouldn’t be Fest if there weren’t some good time punk to sing along to, and Pkew Pkew Pkew are fine proponents of the genre. Recently signed to SideOneDummy, who re-released the group’s excellent self-titled effort, there was already a considerable buzz around the group prior to their appearance at Fest last year. This year – and with a whole new audience opened up to their beer-soaked drunken odes to baseball and skateboarding – they should be a full-on riot.
Where & When: 4:50pm – Saturday, October 28th – The Wooly (20 N Main St)
On record, there’s an earthen beauty to Sinai Vessel’s rustically charming vignettes. Not unlike Pinegrove or the Weakerthans, the true beauty of Sinai Vessel’s songs lies in the storytelling, and vocalist Caleb Christie Cordes can sure paint you a verbal picture. Live, however, they’re electric. There’s a sense of catharsis about Cordes’ songwriting, which, combined with an unbelievably intense performance, makes Sinai Vessel come alive. Getting to see them two years in a row – especially now we’ve had time to digest ‘Brokenlegged’>I? – is a privilege. We cannot wait.
Where & When: 10:30pm – Friday, October 27th – Rockey’s Piano Bar (112 S Main St)
Arizona’s Sundressed meld gorgeous pop hooks with forthright and honest lyrics that take on some pretty heavy topics, including mental health and abstinence. It’s an approach that has won them some high-profile fans too, including being handpicked to open for Dashboard Confessional. Recent full-length ‘A Little Less Put Together’ was a big favourite here at Already Heard, so if you like punk music armed with plenty of pop hooks and a heavy dose of introspection, Sundressed aren’t to be missed.
Where & When: 11:20pm – Saturday, October 28th – Boca Fiesta (232 SE 1 St)
Erstwhile High Dive vocalist Toby Foster released a new solo album earlier this year on the ever-dependable Lauren Records, and will be bringing his full-band experience to Fest for what promises to be one of the sets of the weekend. Combining considered lyricism with breezy indie-pop hooks, Foster’s ‘100 Ways’ doesn’t drift too far from his previous output, displaying his ability as a relatable and powerful lyricist. Considering the social aspect to Foster’s lyrics, he’s an ideal indie-pop artist for The Fest.
Where & When: 4:30pm – Sunday, October 29th – Palomino (232 SE 1 St)
We’re huge fans of Wild Pink, so we’re understandably stoked at the thought of seeing them live for the first time. Their sound has evolved somewhat since 2015’s ‘Good Life’ EP, but this year’s self-titled effort was a triumph of mood and textures, displaying subtle shifts in tone and effortless changes of pace. While predominantly a punk festival, bands like Wild Pink show how the boundaries blur, recalling the likes of Pedro The Lion and Death Cab at their vulnerable best.
Where & When: 8:10pm – Sunday, October 29th – The Boxcar (201 SE Depot Avenue)
The full schedule for The Fest 16 can be found here.
The Fest 16 takes place in Gainesville, FL from October 27th to 29th. Pre-Fest 5 takes place in Ybor, FL on October 25th and 26th.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)