Live Review: The Fest 13 – Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A. – 01/11/2014

We’re now onto day 2 at this prestigious punk fest in Gainesville. The shenanigans begin with a fun, silly cover set by You Blew It! The Orlando quintet have broken through this year on the back of solid tours, a terrific second album, and a five-track EP of Weezer cover songs. Donning the Rivers Cuomo shades, lead vocalist/guitarist Tanner Jones acknowledges the giddy tone. And what fun do we all have, both band and audience, at the High Dive listening to spot on renditions of this beloved alt rock band. ‘Pork and Beans’ and ‘Hash Pipe’ are played with the same stern geeky glean as the original. Meanwhile, ‘Surf Wax America’ and ‘In the Garage’ (minus a kazoo) are injected with the band’s personal melancholic imprint. You Blew It! have started Already Heard’s second day at Fest in the most delightful way!

Philadelphia has always been a resourceful haven for fantastic new bands. Indie punk trio Cayetana are definitely no exception to this well established fact. They play a firmly balanced performance today, with a patient crowd who become lost in the organic beauty of their sound. In my opinion the strongest quality is the band simply has great songs in their arsenal. Cayetana’s gifted knack for songwriting wins them the respect of their audience here. A nervous punk fuelled energy glows from the trio amongst affecting lyrics, gentle strums, whimsical basslines and memorable drum patterns. It’s not explosive, but it sure as hell eases you into a euphoric framework.

We make our way down now to The Wooly, whose first band is about to tear us asunder with jubilant indie rock. Despite naming their debut 2014 LP ‘Forgettable’, you can’t help but think that Sorority Noise are being ironic. Furthermore, although they’ve lost two members, bassist Kevin O’Donnell and drummer Jason Rule, they seemingly don’t want to disappear either. With help from a couple of friends (apologies I have forgotten your names!), their electrifying riff fuelled punk and gracious noise is wonderful to watch and hear. Such attributes make a call back to those early college rock bands in the 80s. Naturally the concoction of punk, pop and indie, wrapped up in a warm melancholic package, is always a welcome listen when it’s done this adequately.

After watching such an explosive set, it’s a shame it is followed by a damp squib of a performance. It’s not that Candy Hearts lack energy, my use of the aforementioned term is based on myself cringing at something so choreographed that it’s hard to watch. Yes, I am aware Candy Hearts’ peppy pop punk has infected some members of the crowd; however I am not one of them. Call me harsh but it’s like watching Josie and the Pussycats in real life. I really wish I was across the road watching Dangers instead at the Atlantic.

Our “pain” which we endured will now be deeply rewarded with the harrowing woes by Captain We’re Sinking. The Scranton punks have grown considerably upwards in appeal since they released the sublime ‘The Future Is Cancelled’ last year. Tracks like ‘Montreal’ and ‘Adultery’ are emotively brought to life by this performance. Captain We’re Sinking switch their heart strung souls into their fingers and minds, welling up the intensity even further. The crowd senses this, blending in with the band’s raw energy, resulting into a fantastic spectacle.

It has been an absolute struggle trying to get into the Atlantic, but patience is rewarded as we go into the venue for the first time. Moving on to the band at hand, I shall make a side note. Everyone knows this by now; melodic hardcore as a style is on the verge of oversaturation. So where do the bands go from here? Well, the only logical step is for bands of this style to evolve. This is the case with Kentucky group Xerxes. Having recently unveiled sophomore effort ‘Collision Blonde’, Xerxes showcase their new colours. The cathartic screams are ever present, though they are accompanied by 80s style post punk surrealism in guitars and bass. Imagine The Cure or the Jesus & Mary Chain as a hardcore band and you’ve pretty much got your answer. These influences produce a visceral dream like sound which the band masterfully delivers. The crowd eat it all up with greed and you can feel the goose bumps creep up your neck. By golly, Xerxes are on to a real winner here!

Up next, Goodtime Boys have gotten themselves out of a spot of bother. With their bassist and back up bassist unavailable, the Welsh post hardcore act relies on emergency help via Self Defense Family’s Ben Tate. Bearing in mind, Tate only learnt the bass parts to these songs at 1am; he does a fine attempt at helping Goodtime Boys deliver the goods. Even though they seem a tad off, the quintet play anthemic tunes like ‘Life Moves’ vigorously, ensuring they have a lasting impact. Frontman Alex Pennie is always the poetic marksman co-ordinating the sheer weight he off loads. Generally speaking, Goodtime Boys, although not at their best, commit to being a solid live band.

We only just catch the final five minutes of pop punks Stickup Kid, who sound scrappy but immature for our liking. However, our main reason for coming down to Rockey’s Bar is to watch one of the most talked about bands of 2014. Evoking traits of The Replacements and Jawbreaker, Beach Slang truly justify their hype through the course of this set. It appears somebody forgot to tell them that Halloween was yesterday (they’re dressed as summer tourists); this represents their charm and humour, contrasting with the songs they play. The Philly punks engage head on with the crowd playing a meteoric performance. Hearing the words to songs like ‘Filthy Luck’ being sung in unison with such uplifting yet heartrending devotion is a joy to watch. Is Beach Slang’s hype justified? 100% yes it is!

Over at High Dive, New Orleans indie punks Donovan Wolfington gear themselves up for an audacious show. Their dynamic moulds different jigsaw pieces together, including gritty punk, summery indie, slacker rock and pop melodies, which they express in a lovingly cared for way. The crowd react in the right ways to the songs. The mid tempo, soft to loud numbers like ‘Spencer Green’ results gentle sways to chest clutching outbursts. Meanwhile, a raucous song like ‘Keef Ripper’ provokes an adrenaline fuelled rush to the stage. The quintet plays new material, which strengthens their best qualities such as the male-female vocals and garage enforced pop rock. It makes us excited to hear this new LP they’re working on. But we’ll have to be patient. For now, we’ll just bask in the belief that Donovan Wolfington are a great band.

After braving the frustrating wait in the cold and queue, we only manage to catch the closing epilogue of Old Gray’s set. It appears the Atlantic’s audience were treated to an astonishing performance. Following Old Gray, Love, hate or be confused by them, you simply can’t deny that Self Defense Family have become a notorious and intriguing institution in the last few years. Engulfing the Atlantic bar with a wall of post punk noise, Self Defense Family have an unworldly presence like no other. This is bolstered by the ever eccentric Patrick Kindlon, whose bizarre rants is just as eye addicting as his strung pedantic vocals. By the end of the set, we can proudly say that we buy into what this band is selling.

Playing sonic fuelled indie rock which bends and groans Philadelphia’s Creepoid is the last band we watch on Fest day 2. It may get repetitive at certain points, but Creepoid’s sound is really hypnotic to watch. The grimy yet sheen reverb and minimalist vocals sends us all into a trance that is already plagued by alcohol. It appears they’ve taken lessons from the best in the business with this style; Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine spring to mind. As they finish on the closing number, you realise that Creepoid is a band you can’t cleanse out of your mind.

View more of Already Heard’s coverage of The Fest 13 here.

Words by Aaron Lohan (@ooran_loohan)

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