Finally, we arrive at our main destination in Gainesville, FL for day 1 of the annual Fest. Now in its thirteenth edition, we make our way to the High Dive for our first few bands beginning with LVL UP from Purchase, NY. These slacker punks combine Pavement aesthetics with early Smashing Pumpkins psychedelica. It’s a cool combination on paper, and the quartet makes it work in some parts, they’re compact in their delivery. However, I can’t help but feel a little tedious at times. The fuzz is chewable, but my eyes drift a little to my own day dreams. LVL UP is a mixed affair though they’re only getting started, so let’s see what they can improve on from here.
Playing their final date of what has probably been an exciting first tour in America; Nai Harvest set the record straight that their fans can “do what they want”. I imagine there are limits. Anyway, back to the performance at hand. Their audience take in all the fuzz that this Sheffield duo has to offer. ‘Rush’ lives up to its namesake as the band play with energetic fervour, whilst ‘Hold Open My Head’ has a feel good indie chorus you can’t hold down. The biggest reaction comes when the band play old indie emo tunes such as ‘Floor’, provoking a tidal surge in the crowd centre. Two new songs from their upcoming second LP see the light of day; they showcase the band’s full formed transformation into a reverb fuelled indie rock act. All in all, it’s a solidly good performance; all that remains is whether the duo can outdo themselves from here.
The next act at High Dive is arguably one of the breakout acts of 2014, I shit you not (pardon my language). Since they dropped ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’, The Hotelier have had people weeping at their feet. The emotionally tense delivery on show matches what people have lusted after on the record. For example, the strutted opening chords leading into ‘Your Deep Rest’ is played with such utter intensity that you can’t quite make sense of all things. Happiness, sadness, confusion…these are all just words. The Hotelier rigorously deserves all the applauses this early evening, and by golly, you’d have to be really unlucky not to witness it.
We now leave the sadness at High Dive to the anger growing at 8 Seconds. We manage to catch the last 10 minutes of Night Birds. Their tenacious although repetitive 80s style hardcore punk is fairly fun to watch. It provides a stern simmering for legendary hardcore punks Paint It Black, who from the word go roll out the most furious set we’ve seen so far. Dan Yemin’s ear throttling yells feel like sandpaper to drum skin, so satisfyingly rough to the touch. You’d be a madman to want to get to the front as it looks like a vulture’s feast from where we’re standing. On the other hand, the melodic filled rage in ‘Pink Slip’ and Andy Nelson’s throat grabbing bass in ‘Past Tense, Future Perfect’ has the same effect of a siren’s call. These songs lure you to a fist pumping journey to the end, justifying Paint It Black’s terrific stage presence.
Backtracking our way to the High Dive, we seek to revel in the soulful post rock/emo of Foxing. Last year’s debut album ‘The Albatross’ was a refreshing listen, so it was fulfilling to watch them play live for the first time. Costumed as the Mighty Ducks, Foxing perform gentle, fragile music in a sprightly way. This energy is eaten up by their audience who give in to the band’s alluring pedanticism. Credit to frontman Conor Murphy for orchestrating this unison; his nervously confident presence causes a powerful intimacy as he dances lightly with mic and horn. Meanwhile, the rest of the band are classically trained aficionados in combining post rock grandeur with twinkly indie feeling. The way tracks like ‘The Medic’ and ‘Rory’ are delivered, from calm to tempest, are a thrilling sight for the eyes. In summary, Foxing are a highlight of the festival for sure!
We move onward now to Loosey’s, a bar across the road from 8 Seconds, for a few more pints and a band or two. First up we manage to catch Philly alt punks Address, whose music sounds suited to this environment, defining the term ‘pub rock band’. The question here are Address actually any good? In this writer’s opinion not really. I feel more inclined to look at my iPod touch than watch an uninspiring performance. There are a few in the room who get it, but my attention wanes. By the time San Jose’s Hard Girls begin, I suddenly feel lifted and refreshed. Hard Girls play with a timeless spirit that doesn’t wear out. The melodically layered noise and indie punk tenacity prevail in this small bar, encapsulating the trio’s feverous ambition. I for one am sold by it; here’s to hoping Hard Girls get more recognition in the coming months.
It’s been five years since their last album ‘Iron Front’, but Strike Anywhere remind everyone tonight of their existence. What we witness is a punk union manifesting at the front, echoing feelings of rage and hope against a turbulent system. The band plays with passion, expressing their dissatisfaction in the best way a political punk group can. Frontman Thomas Barnett raises the torch, leading the way through “woahs” and addictive choruses. Admittedly, songs like ‘Sunset on 32nd’ and ‘To the World’ squeeze your blood vessels with anthemic seizures. It’s a tight affair to watch, even though I can’t help but feel like something’s missing. Sure, the sound hasn’t been perfect at 8 Seconds. On the other hand though, maybe the band’s lack of activity in recent years has probably affected the performance impact somewhat. Regardless, my knit picking is contrasted by the ecstatic reaction of the crowd.
Capping off a rousing first day, Touché Amoré spring into cathartically strong fashion dressed a ghosts. Opening with ‘Tilde’, the band proves forevermore why they’re one of the best live bands on the planet right now. The drumming powerhouse that is Elliot Babin sends shockwaves across the hall of 8 Seconds, taking Jeremy Bolm’s screams and the melody with it. Such methods achieve amazing results as the crowd coherently connects with the band in the most intimate way. This can’t work however on the music alone; the poignant words written by Bolm seals the deal. ‘Is Survived By’, ‘Gravity, Metaphorically’ and ‘And Now It’s Happening in Mine’ are all strong examples of an intensifying combo of superb musicianship and touching lyricism. This ultimately reaches a serene and accomplished conclusion at ‘Honest Sleep’; we’ll definitely be losing sleep after being in awe of that spectacle.
View more of Already Heard’s coverage from The Fest !3 here.
Words by Aaron Lohan (@ooran_loohan)