Live Review: The Fest 13 – Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A. – 02/11/2014

Nursing our week long hangovers has become a sheer battle during our time in Florida. Suffice to say we strive through it all to the very end! Today marks the final chapter of The Fest 13, and we couldn’t be more excited to view today’s great billing of bands. We head towards the main stage at the Bo Diddley Plaza for our first act in the warm glowing sun. Despite their recent controversial statements, Olympia, Washington punks RVIVR bring out the fun in those attending. With help from Caves’ Lou Hanman on guitar, the band doesn’t let the critics squander the smiles on their faces. Their fire is fuelled by anarchic tendencies, but they inject it with humour. It’s a solid set; however, I can’t help but feel slightly unmoved by them. Their talks of gender equality are admirable, but the recent controversies may have led me to take them with a pinch of salt. The only thing I can say is that RVIVR have the beloved backing of their fans, who go crazy to every song they deliver.

Since most of the bands we’ve seen have played 8 Seconds, we may as well give you a side fact about the venue. On its normal days, did you know that 8 Seconds is primarily a hall for country music and line dancing? Nice little fact, but it’s a shame that the sound mixing has been slightly off, which dampens the impact of local heroes Dikembe. All in all though, it’s a striking performance to watch. The majority of the setlist compromises from latest LP ‘Mediumship’. I’ll be honest I was sceptical of the album on first listen, but this material really does grow into you. The glum quiet which erupts in angst on a song like ‘Hood Rat Messiah’ burrows into the skin till you can’t shake the feeling. Dikembe bow out in a tenderly yet resounding fashion, and based on the audience’s reaction, it’s a solid success. If only the damn sound had the right balance!

Bringing the party vibes to the punks, Fake Problems smash out rocking choruses via ‘The Dream Team’. Whilst it’s been four years since their last album ‘Real Ghosts Caught on Tape’, these indie punks have jams which still retain re-playable quality. ‘5678’ gets the floor moving a la Saturday Night Fever, with frontman Chris Farren’s charisma flowing towards the back. However, the aforementioned sound problems make their set feel a tad off. Nevertheless, it runs smoothly till the end. A personal highlight belongs to the reflective eulogy ‘Songs for Teenagers’. You can feel the hopeful woe bleed out, even when it features Laura Stevenson showing off some sweet dance moves. We’re satisfied by Fake Problems’ good performance, now when will we hear new material fellas?

Now out of their Weezer garb, Orlando emo punks You Blew It show Fest what they’re made of in fantastic style. Their latest album ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ exuded a new found confidence in the band. This confidence is very much present here as they play in their element. For instance, songs like ‘Award of the Year Award’ or ‘Terry v. Tori’ emote such a raw eagerness that you just want to have what they’re having. The fans become swept up in it from the very start, resulting in a communal vibe which defines the very heart of this prestigious punk festival. Sure I’ve had my complaints about the sound in this venue, but You Blew It pulls it off splendidly.

We make our way to the High Dive now for a good dose of heart on sleeve gruff punk. Red City Radio has all the qualities needed to make this style work. The camaraderie surrounding this room is complimented by big choruses, tear and beer soaked shirts, and a gritty calamity. We can all agree that Red City Radio knows how to deliver their genre like a crafty ad man knows how to deal with a consumer market. Whilst gruff, melodic punk rock has been running on low steam for quite some time, it’s good to see a band like this still clinging on to the edge and ambitiously showing its still worth a damn!

Like their peers Nai Harvest on Friday, today marks the final day for what seems to have been an incredible first U.S. tour by Gnarwolves. The Brighton punk trio play with rigorous wit and daring attitude on stage. The audience goes bat-shit crazy at all the hits flung from Gnarwolves’ sharpened arsenal. ‘Melody Has Big Plans’ roundhouses a jolly good mosh, whilst ‘History Is Bunk’ features a welcomed giddy sing along. Mid tempo tunes such as ‘Bottle to Bottle’ behold a grunge laden punk combo of the aforementioned happenings. Its sets like these that make you grateful to be a music fan; let’s hope Gnarwolves can continue this brilliant upward trend.

Legendary and rare; these are two words which can be best used to describe New Jersey emo punks Lifetime. They are a legendary band since they’ve pretty much influenced most of the bands on the Fest line-up. On the other hand, they rarely play shows nowadays since all of their members live full-fledged adult lives. By this point, you’re probably thinking that Lifetime’s set at the Bo Diddley Plaza is a special, brilliant show. Well it is special, in the sense that hearing these songs live makes you feel bemused. Yet, the setting makes it feel simply good rather than spectacular. Admittedly, Lifetime make songs like ‘Rodeo Clown’ and ‘Turnpike Gates’ sound well fleshed out here. However, it feels as though what makes this a solid performance is the enthusiasm of the fans. The excitable bunch feed Lifetime’s vitality to the letter, keeping one’s interest locked on to what we can get out of this performance. Reading over my thoughts, I guess my expectations haven’t been fully met. At the end of the day though, realistically, Lifetime are older and far more experienced punks than they were 20 years ago. Overall, I am satisfied in hearing and seeing a mature, contented band such as this.

The next three bands we watch involve a mad dash from one place to the other. Beginning with Circle Takes the Square, our jaws snap off at their mind dizzying mayhem. The prog screamo heroes hold their ground in an unprecedented formation. During fan favourite ‘In the Nervous Light of Sunday’, the combined gusto, screams and riffery by bassist Kathleen Stubelek and guitarist Drew Speziale creates a temperamental yet intimate frenzy in the crowd. Such calculating ferocity and skilful playing keeps Circle Takes the Square atop the pantheon they’ve built for the last decade. It puts all of the newbies to shame, making this trio as relevant to the musical landscape as ever!

From The Wooly to Bo Diddley, we make a dash to dive into the midst of Gainesville legends Hot Water Music. As well as being a home town show for the band, Hot Water Music are marking a career whopping years as an outfit. Hearing the gravel laden yells by Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard, you get entangled in this massive scale of emotive punk. The setlist they covet spans over a plethora of hits including ‘Remedy’, ‘Turnstile’, ‘Rooftops’, and ‘Jack of All Trades’. The band sound as unfathomably raw and intense as when they first started, providing an ageless wonder to their presence. It is a performance like this which justifies a band’s place in historical memory; here’s to another gracious twenty years!

The final band we head to see in this mad dash is Louisville, Kentucky trio Coliseum. It’s been an interesting journey for this group since they began; evolving from bulldozing hardcore to the brooding post punk/indie powerhouse they are now. The Wooly becomes consumed with heated intensity at the start of ‘Blind in One Eye’ before it explodes with a deafening post hardcore chorus. Another highlight includes the gritty dark punk barnstormer ‘Black Magic Punks’, which sees this trio become possessed with an electric force of reckoning. Of course, the band balances these theatrics with the no nonsense thrills of early work like ‘Defeater’; this maintains a deserved adrenaline rush for the crowd. Subsequently, all expectations are met and we’re pleased with Coliseum’s bold display.

Before we go into this next band, we should give you a little info about “secret sets”. They’re a timely tradition at Fest and they usually involve one of the band’s playing an additional special set besides their official billing. What an absolute it was then that we managed to slip in at Loosey’s to watch The Hotelier play their latest album, ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’, from front to back. The moment the band play ‘An Introduction to the Album’, you can sense the crammed emotions of this tiny bar begin to thicken with awe. As The Hotelier move seamlessly and beautifully from tracks 1 to 9, intimacy grows to dizzying levels. Personally I could go on at how audacious this set is, but since it’s a “secret set”, I won’t let slip any more details. For what it’s worth, if these young chaps are in your area, then go see them because they’re wonderful!

Finally, we come to the finishing line; the final band for Already Heard’s first visit to the Fest in Gainesville. Despite reading and hearing mixed early reviews, it’s no surprise that after two months of touring may have helped Mineral to find their feet again and sound this incredible. Nostalgia grips tightly to the older generation, whilst the young feel blessed to witness this. Beginning with ‘Five, Eight & Ten’, the Texan indie emo legends swell all their reputable majesty into magical spacious wonder. Follow up tracks ‘Gloria’ and ‘Slower’ sees vocalist Chris Simpson tentatively sings over a climatic shift from quiet chords and verse to loud distorted melodic choruses. For all the disarray, there is time for these experienced gentlemen to expose their tenderness on numbers like ‘Palisade’ and ‘Aletter’. They treat these moments with such care that you become hypnotically lost in their notes. I should give credit for 8 Seconds for finally fixing their sound issues since Mineral are the first band to sound perfect in this venue. By the set’s end, the band gather all their cosmic energy and burst it into flame during ‘Parking Lot’, leaving with us with abated breath, only to spark it out one more time during encore song ‘The Last Word Is Rejoice’.  All in all, we all feel truly blessed to have Mineral back in the musical landscape, out of the 90s, into the 21st Century.

In conclusion, Already Heard has had a terrific time at Fest in Gainesville, Florida this year for the first ever time. We saw a lot of bands over this fantastic festival dealing in punk, indie and hardcore. Now if you excuse us, we need to rest our hangovers and worn out bodies. If you’re reading this review over a month after its happened, then apologies that it’s late. You see, the awesomeness of Fest is so powerful that you’ll end up being catatonic for days after!

Words by Aaron Lohan (@ooran_loohan)

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