Festival Preview: The Fest 15

The Fest, Florida’s premier punk rock festival, is nearly upon us, and Already Heard will once again be joining some 4,000 punters in making the trip to Gainesville for the event; a weekend of prime punk rock action that takes place across more than 20 city centre venues.

Nearly 300 different acts will play over the course of the weekend, meaning punks are spoilt for choice when it comes to making a decision about who to watch. Some, like Fest staples Iron Chic, need no introduction – you’d be crazy to miss them in what is surely their natural habitat – but further down the bill there’s plenty of opportunity to check out some of tomorrow’s stars today, get reacquainted with some old friends (Latterman, The Ergs!) and send off some soon-departing favourites (Old Flings).

Now, we’re all big fans of new music here at Already Heard, so with that in mind our Fest preview this year features a number of up-and-coming acts who deserve your time and attention should you be making your way out to Florida, plus one reunion show for those old-schoolers who miss the good ol’ days…

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Annabel

Annabel’s latest opus, ‘Having It All’ was one of 2015’s finest moments; a bruised yet confident and wonderfully expressive indie-rock album, punctuated by perfect moments of poise and a bombastic swell that underpinned their grand sound. It had its driving moments too; ‘The Fortunate Ones’ in particular is one of the most life-affirming three minutes you will ever encounter.

And it feels like Annabel are finally reaching an audience their rich tapestry deserves, rounding off the first day of The Fest at Rocky’s Piano Bar where a heartfelt sing-along will undoubtedly send us home deliriously happy. (RM)

Where & When: Friday, October 28th 1:00am at Rocky’s Piano Bar.

Brightr

Barely a fortnight before making the trip out to Florida, Brightr (AKA Laurie Cottingham) was making his second trip of the year around Italy, taking his heartfelt and bruised indie/emo to anyone and everywhere that will have him.

We’re huge fans of his here at Already Heard, so we’re delighted to see him on The Fest bill. His appearance caps what has been an incredible year of highs, including the release of his debut album, and we cannot wait to catch one of the UK’s best solo artists in a foreign land.(RM)

Where & When: Friday, October 28th 10:10pm at Civic Media Centre.

Choke Up

Massachusetts’ Choke Up are a band seemingly made for The Fest; melodic but not saccharine, edgy and aggressive but not obtuse, and infectiously catchy but not obviously so. They’re the sort of band that translates perfectly to a packed bar, so there’s no doubt at all that Already Heard will be queuing to catch the Boston heroes.

And while the quartet’s live show is sure to be a riot, it’s the quality of their songs that should steal the show. Last year’s ‘Black Coffee, Bad Habits’ was a triumph of Banner Pilot-style punk rock anthems, buzzsaw sharp but blessed with heart and soul. If The Fest is all about the good times and the sing-alongs then Choke Up could well deliver one of the most enjoyable sets of the weekend. (RM)

Where & When: Sunday, October 30th 3:20pm at The Wooly.

Dead Bars

Dead Bars were included in our 50 bands to watch this year, and so far the Seattle punks haven’t let us down, delivering two killer split singles as they build up to release their full-length debut next year.

Promising a raucous bar room set, Dead Bars play a style of punk similar to fellow Fest performers Pkew Pkew Pkew. Irreverent and fun, they should be perfect for an early evening sing song with old friends and new, regaling us with literal stories of trips to the ‘Funhouse’, loving New York and not getting tattooed. They might even treat us to an outrageous cover of ‘Hangin’ on the Telephone’… if we’re lucky… (RM)

Where & When: Saturday, October 29th 8:10pm at Palomino.

Digger

Late 90’s/early 00’s pop-punk often gets labelled as shallow and superficial and as a result much has aged dreadfully. Not so in the case of Pennsylvania’s Digger who, despite the occasional throw-away pop-punk hit in their early days, actually displayed a lot more substance compared to their peers.

Now Chris Benner’s pop-punk heroes are back after a near decade hiatus, and we cannot wait to get reacquainted with Digger’s heartfelt, socially-conscious, sing-alongs. In an alternate universe the likes of Digger, The Fairlanes and Weston would be lauded as highly as Blink-182, and it’s a crying shame more people aren’t fully acquainted with Digger’s spiky pop-punk anthems – but in a dive bar in the middle of Florida cuts like ‘I Want My Hat Back’, ‘Pieces’ and ‘Try and Catch Me’ promise to be celebratory. (RM)

Where & When: Saturday, October 29th 2:20pm at High Dive.

Holy Pinto

For Canterbury duo Aymen Saleh and Ryan Hurley aka Holy Pinto, 2016 has been a year of progression. Their debut full-length, ‘Congratulations’, was released in April, introducing more people to their colourful and quirky output of indie-pop. The blend of Saleh’s narrative lyrics, jangly instrumentation and Hurley’s strong drum work is delivered with warmth and conviction. (SR)

Where & When: Sunday, October 30th – 1:40pm at Loosey’s.

The Island of Misfit Toys

Despite its reputation as a punk rocker’s paradise, The Fest isn’t all about riffs and gang vocals, and sprinkled throughout the three days you can find gems like The Island of Misfit Toys. The Chicago-based nonet (yup…) delivered one of the finest albums of 2015 with the sprawling ‘I Made You Something’, which took cues from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, The World is a Beautiful Place and the Decemberists to make one of the year’s most wonderfully rewarding releases.

Of course, getting a nine-piece DIY band over to the UK is somewhat unrealistic, so the thought of seeing them as part of The Fest makes attendance a no-brainer. After all, if you’re travelling all that way, it would be foolish not to…(RM)

Where & When: Friday, October 28th 5:00pm at Rockey’s Piano Bar.

Kamikaze Girls

Much loved Leeds-based riot grrrl duo Kamikaze Girls have been winning over critics and fans since their last visiting Gainesville last October. Even Hayley Williams is a fan. Their recently released debut EP, ‘Sad’, has been welcomed by many for guitarist Lucinda Livingstone and drummer Conor Dawson’s flare for writing angst-y, impassioned songs with pop sensibilities.

Coupled with an awareness of social and political issues, Kamikaze Girls are slowly being awarded for their DIY work ethic and admirable and brave lyrical approach. An early evening slot alongside a range of fellow UK acts sounds like an ideal spot as Livingstone and Dawson continue to slowly take over the world. (SR)

Where & When: Sunday, October 30th 5:50pm at Loosey’s.

Museum Mouth

Museum Mouth found themselves signed to Equal Vision following a rogue tweet and a 6-month conversation with Say Anything’s Max Bemis. In itself it’s a great story, but doesn’t really sell how great Museum Mouth are in their own right – although it does epitomise the group’s goofy charm.

And that charm carries through the group’s bruised lo-fi indie rock. Helmed by Karl Kuehn (also of Family Bike), Museum Mouth produce some dizzingly dense narratives, with the likes of album ‘Alex I Am Nothing’ telling the story of a doomed relationship, while 2016’s ‘Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig’ retains the group’s irreverence and heartfelt storytelling but delivers it in episodic chunks. They’ve also produced some killer alt-pop songs along the way too – such as the killer ‘Crocodile’ – and we can’t wait to see them slay live. (RM)

Where & When: Sunday, October 30th 7:10pm at Durty Nelly’s.

Pkew Pkew Pkew

If, like Already Heard, you’ll be travelling in excess of 4,000 miles, you’re going to want to party when you hit Florida. And who better to crack open some brewskies with than perma-skint party punks Pkew Pkew Pkew?

The Canadian heroes’ latest album was one of the freshest of the year, regaling us with tales of skateboarding injuries, being nightmare neighbours and pre-drinks drinks. They’re the sort of band made for The Fest and as such are sure to be a big draw for those who just want to kick back, relax and sing-along to inane lyrics while bouncing around like maniacs. We cannot wait…(RM)

Where & When: Saturday, October 29th 9:50pm at Market Street Pub.

Signals Midwest

Signals Midwest’s latest opus, ‘At This Age’, showcased the sound of a band ageing gracefully and stylishly. Few lyricists can strike at the heart better than Max Stern, and a softening pallet ensured the Ohio indie-punks delivered one of the most striking returns of the year.

But while Signals Midwest continue to excel on record, live is where the fun is really at. In fact, they’ll be treating The Fest-goers with two shows over the course of the weekend – one full band and a Stern acoustic set, and you’d be well advised to check at least one out. Having honed their live show thanks to years spent on the road, Signals Midwest should hopefully deliver at least one of the most life-affirming sets of the weekend. (RM)

Where & When: Friday, October 28th 6:50pm at Civic Media Centre (Max Stern solo) and Saturday October 29th 8:40pm at Cowboys (full band).

Sinai Vessel

Earlier this month, Sinai Vessel announced the release date for their long-awaited new album, ‘Brokenlegged’. One internet wit described it as the ‘Chinese Democracy’ of emo albums, which serves to illustrate the length of time we’re talking about and also the level of expectation from fans.

But Sinai Vessel have not been hiding since the release of 2011’s ‘Labour Pains’. A brilliant stop-gap EP in 2014 titled ‘Profanity’ kept the pressure off, while they continue to crisscross the States as a group or as a Caleb Cordes solo show. Having now built a strong reputation for their alt-rock tinged indie-punk their show at The Fest should serve as the perfect foil to the weekend’s more raucous and boisterous moments.(RM)

Where & When: Friday, October 28th 8:00pm at Rockey’s Piano Bar (full band) and Saturday October 29th 11:20pm at Whiskey House (Caleb Cortes solo).

Sports.

Boston’s Sports. only formed in 2013, but have already got an acclaimed debut to their name and look like one of the underground groups most likely to make the jump out to a wider scene.

Taking cues from the likes of Snowing, Tiny Moving Parts, Modern Baseball and the Wonder Years, the real Sports. boys mix up mathy indie-pop sensibilities with pop-punk gusto to make a joyous, frenetic and infectious noise that belongs in packed in bars and played to hyperactive fans. When we said about watching tomorrow’s stars today, this is exactly the type of band we were talking about. Miss at your peril… (RM)

Where & When: Sunday, October 30th 2:10pm at Durty Nelly’s.

The Winter Passing

It’s been an eventful 12 months for our favourite Irish indie punks The Winter Passing. Their debut full-length, ‘A Different Space of Mind’, has gradually been opening up new opportunites, most notably tour spots opening for Moose Blood and Modern Baseball.

Their return to Gainesville sees the quartet taking a break from recording it’s follow-up. For Fest-goers, it gives them an opportunity to reconvene with TWP’s brand of harmonious and emotional indie punk. While the sibling pair of Rob and Kate Flynn supply a radiant and admirable set of duel vocals. (SR)

Where & When: Sunday, October 30th – 5:00pm at Loosey’s.

Worriers

Worriers are another band on The Fest bill that have delivered an outstanding album over the last 18 months. Politically and socially charged, the Brooklyn group’s second album, ‘Imaginary Life’ is a powerful document dealing with topics such as gender, identity and the actions of the police.

Yet for all the heavy themes, there’s a delicateness to Worriers’ sound, softening the lyrical blows and enveloping them with a breezy indie-pop sheen, which allows Lauren Denitzio’s excellent lyrics to shine. As a result, in these troubled times, an afternoon with Worriers should serve as an eye-opening antidote. (RM)

Where & When: Saturday, October 29th 4:50pm at High Dive (full band) and Sunday October 30th 7:30pm at Whiskey House (Lauren Denitzio solo).

The Fest 15 links: Website|Facebook|Twitter|Instagram

The full schedule for The Fest 15 can be viewed here.

Words by Rob Mair (RM) and Sêan Reid (SR).

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