My Amazing Weekend at The Fest – Part I

After years of looking at the amazing line ups and telling myself I had to go, I finally made it to my first Fest in Gainesville this year. What a crazy weekend! I can say that the yearly punk rock reunion lives up to its reputation! So here is the report of my experience at The Fest.

My boyfriend and I made it to Gainesville on Friday morning after only 2 hours of sleep. The joy of traveling with Air Canada and Greyhound! I felt almost dead, but I was so happy to see my best friend and be at The Fest that exhaustion gave way to excitement. After a shower and a breakfast at Ihop, we were on our way to the famous Holiday Inn. The line up to get inside was insane. I knew that as a media, we could skip the line up, but it really made me feel like a jerk when I saw the lenght of the line. We were lucky enough to come across members of Arms Aloft who told us exactly where to go. This is when The Fest officially started for us!

The frenzy inside the hotel was incredible. The booth where we had to pick up our media pass was in the flea market and it was full of people coming in and out. But it was great to see so many punk rockers smiling and happy to be there! As a crazy vinyl collector, I wish I wasn’t traveling by plane. There were so many records there that I almost lost my mind. Not to mention the books and all the other merch. I had the chance to meet people from Smart Punk and Wiretap Records and talk about their work and all they do for the punk rock scene.

Then it was time to head to our first show of the weekend: Dial Drive! I have no words to tell you how excited I was to see them live. They were part of the reason why I decided to go to The Fest this year, so it was quite magical to start the weekend with them. I grabbed my first White Claw can (probably the best drink ever for a diabetic person) and I was ready for some sing along in the crowd. Dial Drive were so amazing that I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the weekend. I smiled so much during their set that my cheeks hurt. The guys have such a contagious energy. They were definitely one of my favorite sets of the weekend.

After that, I had to choose between Bedspin and Masked Intruder. Since I had seen Masked Intruder a couple of months ago, I decided to go see Bedspin. I’m a big fan of their last record and I was pretty excited to see them live. And they were great! I’ll sound like an old lady but during their set, I couldn’t help but repeat to myself « so young, but so talented. » Bedspin is the kind of band that gives me hope for the future of the punk rock scene. Hopefully they’ll get all the attention they deserve because those guys are amazing!

We made it to the Bo Diddley Plaza, which is the outdoor site of The Fest, for the end of Masked Intruder. That band is so much fun to watch, with the crowd singing and dancing. I was glad to catch a couple of songs before Teenage Bottlerocket. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of outdoor shows. I feel like I’m always too far from the band to really enjoy the show. So it was great to see TBR for the first time ever and they really put on a great show, but I would have liked it better in a venue.

Next on my schedule were Debt Neglector, A Vulture Wake and Boss’ Daughter in three different venues. No need to tell you that there was a lot of running from places to places during the weekend, but those bands were totally worth the run! Amazing voices, amazing music and amazing vibe. The tiredness was kicking in really hard and my feet were almost screaming at me, but I had to go on not to miss too many bands I wanted to see.

So my dead feet brought me to see Lost Love. Yes, miles away from home, I decided to go see a band from Montreal over any other band. Why? Because I love them! It was not their first time at The Fest, but it was their first time as a full band since Vinny, the drummer, didn’t have the chance to play The Fest before. It was super cool to be in the crowd and look at people singing out loud and enjoying the show of a band I consider « a local band. » It made me super proud of the Quebec punk rock scene, especially since the guys played an amazing set. As always.

After Lost Love, we took a little break and had a couple of slices of pizza, the firsts of too many during the weekend. Five Stars Pizza and White Claw were definitely a big part of my weekend! I kind of miss them already. But let’s go back to the shows… I was glad we were V.I.P. with our media pass or else we couldn’t have made it to the overpacked Boca Fiesta to see Such Gold. I had seen them many times before and I was too tired to really enjoy the show.

And that’s why I made the hard decision to miss Astpai, Audio Karate and Night Surf and return to the hotel. It made me sad because it was my last chance to see Astpai live since they will call it quit after their tour and I really love the new Audio Karate and Night Surf records, but 2 hours of sleep vs 8 hours of shows is definitely not a healthy ratio. Plus I had two other crazy days of shows coming. It was time for me to end my first day at The Fest and go to sleep.

To be continued…




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