Live Review: Pre-Fest 2, Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, U.S.A. – 29/10/2014

Well, this is Already Heard’s first time at the one and only punk/indie/DIY whatever extravaganza called Fest in Florida, now in it’s thirteenth. Before we venture off to the main event in Gainesville however, we’ll be warming ourselves with bands, booze and good times at the second Pre-Fest in Ybor City, an area within Tampa. Our British bred ways are tested by sunshine in October and folks driving on the “wrong side” of the road. 

Beginning the proceedings at The Orpheum this Pre-Fest are Tampa natives Rescuer. Their brand of melodic hardcore meets post-rock is solidly delivered, yet it is distinctly familiar. It is this familiarity which leaves us feeling slightly reserved as this style has been replicated a lot in recent years. However, credit is due to the quartet, their passion flows from the speakers firmly and it catches everyone’s attention. The potential is there for them to break out from this oversaturated genre, so we’ll keep an eye on Rescuer for sure.

The following band displays a tenacious mathematical ability in whimsical notes. Tiny Moving Parts wow the audience into submission with their musical wizardry and emotional earnestness. Whilst the lyrics are admittedly flat, coupled with the music however, they give cuts like ‘Always Focused’ and ‘Along the Lakeside’ a charming edge. Eyes widen and jaws drop at Tiny Moving Parts’ performance on stage. The toing and throwing between Dylan and Matthew’s yells amidst the twinkling umph is wonderful to behold. The second band we’ve watched today, but certainly a highlight of the day thus far.

Over at Crow Bar meanwhile, playing what is essentially their debut performance at Pre-Fest, on their second U.S. tour, French indie punks Sport don’t cave into such pressure, instead they somewhat manage to gracefully kick it up the backside. These gents play sweet twiddley renditions from both of their albums, 2012’s ‘Colors’ and the recent ‘Bon Voyage’. Sport are tightly wound with each breath and step they take, it is a delight to watch them play.

Pentimento are next up in this venue and they feel slightly out of place in it. I’ll elaborate, their songs sound too huge for a medium sized bar like this; Pentimento have the potential to play to a stadium playing to thousands of people. That’s how good their gritty alt punk crafted tunes are, and it’s a surprise they’re still below the radar based on this performance. Words are sung gloriously back from the crowd to the band and you wouldn’t need to question why based on the hard evidence witnessed here.

Personally, I’ve never listened to Kind of Like Spitting before, so be aware this is based on first impressions. What makes it harder to judge the band is that the majority of their set contains songs from frontman Ben Barnett’s previously now dissolved project Blunt Mechanic. If I was a fan, this set would be unusual to watch, considering Kind of Like Spitting only reformed in 2012 after a six year break up. Regardless, the fans are happy to watch this outfit play, despite now featuring a new line-up. So back to this reviewer’s first impressions; the Blunt Mechanic segment of the set sees a mighty fine run down of rhythmic, catchy alt punk songs. I for one am hooked, yet it only compels me to check out Blunt Mechanic’s work…But wait! After an enjoyable cocky cover of The Jam’s ‘Modern World’, they do play a couple of KOLS songs. The former, older song, ‘Birds of a Feather’, sees Barnett explaining how he was a different person back when he wrote it, and that nowadays, he’s more upbeat about his life. The mood therefore reflects a contrasted, playful irony to the song’s themes making the performance pretty sweet to watch. The band then play a new song which fits with their current hearty mind set, making you sway and nod with approval. This indie/emo band have earned themselves a new fan, even if they only played two songs under their name, I, and I’m sure everyone else in the room, enjoyed it also.

Chicago, IL indie/emo group Dowsing certainly love to distort their tunes in the live setting as well as play them at fast tempos. This gives the band a sense of urgency and honest raw emotion to their performance. For instance, older tracks like ‘Gengar! Gengar! Gengar!’ are played the way they’re meant to be heard. Meanwhile, songs from recent LP ‘I Don’t Even Care Anymore’, an album with slick production values, are granted a new lease of life; ‘Get Weird’ and the title track sound fresh to their sadly thematic core. Dowsing are thoroughly good to watch and sound probably better live than they do on record, so here’s a thumbs up from me!

Making our way back from Crowbar to The Orpheum, we thought it would be a good time to shred our ears with riffs! This is all courtesy of A Wilhelm Scream, the most ridiculous energetic riff-machine in punk, who’re playing an all twitter-requested set. Whilst usual favourites like ‘Die While We’re Young’ and ‘Famous Friends and Fashion Drunks’ are belted out, the band whip a few surprises including ‘Bowling’, a song from the band’s days as Smackin’ Isaiah. The energy reflecting off from the band to the crowd melts faces, whilst each riff, bass line, raw yell and note wheels the turbines to maximum power. It’s a lot of fun to watch and you wouldn’t expect anything less from A Wilhelm Scream.

Once again we’re at Crowbar and we manage to catch the rest of Restorations’ performance. Now, in all honesty, I have never listened to this band despite the current wave over them, and so, whilst I watch them, I am surprised. I was expecting something completely different (another gruff punk band based on their name); instead Restorations are absolutely marvellous to watch. Their sound is boldly stadium-esque, a really warm, glowing spectacle to hear. Restorations sound daring in their set up and the crowd lovingly laps it up with greed. You can happily watch them with aplomb; they come off as a band richly layered in emotion and skill. Never again will I judge a band by the title they reside under.

Rounding off our first day in Ybor is a duo from New Jersey called Dads. Well, at least on record they are a duo, since tonight both guitarist and drummer are joined by a bassist. This enables them to really flesh out their sound, providing a full, rich atmosphere in this quirky medium-sized bar. It’s quite applicable considering Dads are aiming for grander sounds within an indie punk construct as evidenced by latest LP ‘I’ll Be the Tornado’. This is the second time I’ve seen the band, and in contrast to the last time, they sound more confident in what they can do. Older twinkly tunes like ‘Groin Twerk’ sound more accomplished compared to the original renditions. Meanwhile, recent grandiose material such as ‘My Crass Patch’ works up just as much of a fever amongst loyal fans. This is particularly highlighted by vocalist/drummer John Bradley spontaneously diving into the crowd’s arms towards the song’s climax. Based on this performance, we can safely say Dads are now a band worth checking out rather than being a throwaway act.

Words by Aaron Lohan (@ooran_loohan)

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