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fest.pngFest 8
Halloween Weekend 2009
Gainesville, FL

The Festies – Best of the Fest

Well, ladies and gentleman, another year’s gone by and another wonderful Fest has been etched in the annals of history.This Fest had all the makings of a great one: lots of partying (mostly done responsibly), lots of bands and good music, lots of friend-making and lots of revelry. Mix in plenty of walking and standing around in lines and you’ve got yourself a Fest.In honor of this monumental annual happening, Racket presents it’s “Best-of” for Fest 8, which we’re half jokingly/half lovingly calling The Festies.

Grand Prize Winner – Underground Railroad to Candyland

This Recess Records staple serves up fucking party jams, yo. That may not be technically accurate, but that’s what the live show amounts to. I’ve seen these standouts from last year’s fest three times now and they deliver good times. Obviously, I couldn’t see all 200+ bands performing at Fest this year, but of those I did catch, at no other performance did I see as much flat-out dancing as during Underground Railroad’s set.Of course, I was dancing too.Several members were adorned in some form of costume, which would seem appropriate since Fest takes place over Halloween weekend. However, a quick YouTube search will reveal that they pretty much always wear ridiculous costumes.

They played all the hits, all the classic jams, from their album Bird Roughs. “Square Ball,” “Suey,” “Over and O’er,” basically the entire album. I’m not sure what drugs were used in the production of these songs, but with lyrics like “come bounce the square ball / onto the round wall / deny collect calls / make sure your pants fall,” I could make a few educated guesses.The band had three drummers for the duration of their set, including Brad from Dear Landlord, and claimed they were trying to start a drum circle. Heads were bobbing, feet were moving and booties were shaking right through their final number, a “Body of the Bird” and “Paint Thin Walls” combo.The songs are simple, super catchy, energetic and everything good about punk rock.You can’t go wrong here.

Runners Up

God Damn Doo Wop Band

The biggest surprise of Fest 8 was the God Damn Doo Wop Band, who, interestingly enough, wasn’t even on any of the official bills at the Fest. While it would be insulting to suggest there is uniformity among the bands featured, it is accurate to say there is a general theme to the sounds of the bands who makeup the lineup.Furthermore, the bands at Fest have such a diverse array of names, stretching from the hilarious (Vaginasore Jr.) to your standard “The (insert noun here)” bands, that, when looking over the lineup at the Pre-Fest Thursday night in Tampa, my fellow wayward travelers from Chicago and I assumed the Doo Wop Band’s name would be some ironic moniker chosen in jest.We were blown away when we discovered that they are, in fact, a fucking doo wop band.

Three lovely ladies took to the stage and within seconds we were mesmerized. Sure, these darlings from Minneapolis were cute as a button, but looks can only get you so far. Thankfully, these ladies have talent in spades.It’s the harmonies, kids, the everliving harmonies.The band’s front-gal, Kat (deserving of that title more because she runs the business side of the band, rather than the typical standard of being “lead vocalist,” as the ladies alternate turns at the helm for almost every song), is audacious and holds the crowd’s attention with a fervor that warms the soul.Kiera gives a more subdued performance, often gazing toward the stars as she croons, her hands crossed behind her back.That’s to say nothing of her ability; she just might be the most vocally gifted of the bunch.Saumer falls somewhere in between the two.During her leads, she grips the mic tightly and belts out her lyrics, to be sure, but not quite with the passion Kat displays, nor the calm passiveness of KieraShe walks the line between the two, as it were.Taken as a whole, the three strike a terrific balance that, were a major label A&R rep standing in the back of the room, one might take it as a sign the group was concocted specifically with those roles in mind.However, there is no such rep and they’re so genuine there is no denying it.

Did I mention there is a backing band?While the regular band doesn’t do much of the touring, the group does feature guitar, bass and drums live, and even a sax on their recordings. Of the several shows the band played at venues surrounding Fest, featured members included Mikey Erg!, formerly of the Ergs!, but currently of every band playing at the Fest, as well as Jesse and Dan of Pretty Boy Thorson and the Falling Angels, and Sean from Vacation Bible School.

So impressed was I with their set at Skatepark of Tampa, that when I noticed Kat at 1982 during the Brokedowns I had to ask if and where they were playing over the weekend.We just barely missed an A Capella set at Boca Fiesta, where a three hour wait for food then caused us to miss them yet again at a house show.Thankfully, they played a full-on band set back at Boca on Sunday night.This time the atmosphere was much more intimate (and chilly). I only wish they had covered “Monster Mash!”

The Emotron

The Emotron secures his position more for his stage show than for his music, which is nonetheless enjoyable.He plays synth toons a la Atom and His Package and even covered an Atom song on a benefit tribute album.I managed to get to the Kickstand just before it reached capacity and made my way inside. It was too dark for me to spot my friend Mollie so I found someone with a 12-pack of beer to ask if I could purchase one.The gent would have none of it, telling me he couldn’t finish the pack on his own and giving me one free of charge.We struck up a bit of a conversation and then his lady friend joined the conversation. I commented on her Dead Milkmen shirt, stating I had just seen them at Riot Fest. She said she had seen them last year at Fun Fun Fun Fest, which I regrettably missed over the second weekend of November.Then, by chance or the alignment of cosmic forces, The Emotron broke into a cover of “Tiny Town” by said legends!

The craziness did not stop there.I told my new friends that I was a longtime fan of Atom and His Package so The Emotron was right up my alley. Then The Emotron broke into his nearly identical rendition of “Me and My Black Metal Friends” by Atom.Cosmic forces, I’m telling you.All the while, The Emotron is throwing flour (or some similar substance) all over himself and others, along with various other…things.After going on a rant about “dipshits beating up cops” (YouTube Fest 8 Riot for a look), he announced that only two songs remained and broke into the next number.

Now, the Kickstand stage is such that you can’t see a damn thing unless you’re sitting on Shaquille O’neal’s shoulders, so I couldn’t make out what was going on onstage, but some people were sort of “oohing” and “aahing,” while others downright freaked out.My two friends were compelled to cross over to the “bands only” section to get a better look.They informed me “he just lit his dick on fire.” “What?” I said. “You’re kidding, right?” “No, really,” came the reply.Alright, so I had to see this for myself. I crowded into the band area as well and, sure enough, there on the ground was some sort of aerosol can and The Emotron was standing stark naked (he was wearing naught, but a speedo prior) at centerstage, some brown substance running down his chest (it looked like chocolate syrup, dont’ get too grossed out yet), pointing his penis at himself and doing his very best to piss into his own mouth.Eventually, he collapsed to the ground where he peed all over himself and brought his set to a triumphant end.

I later discovered he has a Twitter account.Reading through his tweets, I found that apparently only two people told him his set reminded them of G.G. Allin on his recent tour. This must be a sign of the times (young kids not knowing shit) because anyone who knows of G.G. Allin would instantaneously recognize that’s exactly what his live show was like, just with drastically different music.In terms of showmanship/shock factor/etc. at Fest, The Emotron was unparalleled.

Honorable Mention

Dear Landlord/Copyrights

I’m not incredibly familiar with Dear Landlord. As a result of Brett and Adam from the Copyrights being in the band, I’ve seen them live enough times that I recognize most songs, but I didn’t acquire any of their releases until recently. I was in the minority, however, as the crowd at Common Grounds on Saturday afternoon was standing room only with a line stretching around the block.The band took to the stage dressed as a Conehead Gang, wearing shirts that said “C.H.A.R.P. – Conehead Against Racial Prejudice,” combat boots, tight jeans and suspenders, then proclaimed “We’re Dear Landlord…from France” before bursting into 30 minutes of non-stop action.

The crowd thinned out some for my beloved Copyrights, who, despite being called the saviors of pop-punk by MRR, are convinced no one likes them.The pop punk faithful disagree wholeheartedly (as do I) and a solid turnout of loyal followers stuck around and made sure the pit didn’t die out.Unfortunately, Funburg was missing from the band due to work obligations he couldn’t miss. Believe me when I tell you, those obligations didn’t keep him from riding a motorcycle all the way down from Illinois for Friday night’s Fest activities. He was up by noon and back on the road to Illinois on Saturday.

John, formerly of Shot Baker, was touring with the band in Funburg’s absence and as a result, the guys played mostly newer material. Their new releases are every bit as good as the early stuff, but Make Sound is still my favorite album and only a few of my favorites were played from it.It was great to see Luke and the gang again. We all got ripped on Friday and on Saturday, Adam and I shot the shit over free PBR all night long before going to catch Textbook Committee, a Guided By Voices cover band fronted by Dave from the Arrivals.They had good buzz around them and it was the perfect close to the night.

Bridge and Tunnel

I hadn’t listened to this band before, but the Chicagoans spoke highly of them. After listening to part of their set down in Tampa, I made a point to watch them at the Fest. They were insanely good. The show had an intensity that stood out from others that weekend. If it hadn’t been so early, I would have bought merch.I’ll definitely be picking up a few of their releases.

Participation Awards

One of the biggest side stories at the Fest is always the bands one didn’t get to see.Our participation awards for the year go to a handful of bands who, despite being awesome, due to the nature of the Fest and some unforeseen circumstances, I was simply unable to catch.

First up: Dillinger Four.I went to watch the first half of Static Radio NJ’s set with the intention of going to catch the last half of D4’s set afterward.What I did not know, however, was that due to some sort of power outage earlier at The Venue, where D4 was playing, set times had gotten all screwed up and bands were getting cut short in an effort to get things back on track. D4 was supposed to play from 6 to 7pm. I walked into The Venue at 6:30 just in time to catch ten seconds of D4’s last song.Did The Venue take advantage of this situation to have Less Than Jake go on early and play even longer? Nope. They just had an hour long break between bands instead of a half hour break. Fucking lame. I left and didn’t see either band.

I didn’t see Snuff or Samiam, the two top-billed headliners. I may come to regret that some day, but Snuff played incredibly early on Saturday, against Bridge and Tunnel and free beer so I have no qualms about my decision for now.Samiam played against the God Damn Doo Wop Band, who as I have already attested, basically made my weekend.Of the hundreds of bands Mike Erg! Played in at the Fest, the only one I got to see was The Measure (SA), who didn’t recreate the energy of their album very successfully. I missed both Psyched to Die (barely!) and Used Kids.

I missed O Pioneers!, Bomb the Music Industry and Defiance, Ohio, bands with diehard fans and unfortunate (for me) set times. I would have liked to see Dan Padilla and John Walsh, two bands with people names who sound nothing alike despite their name similarities.So many bands, so little time. But the Fest is perfect; I wouldn’t change a thing.The Fest Guide and posts at www.thefestfl.com hinted about the possibility of retiring the event. Although they were merely addressing rumors, who knows for sure? One thing that is for sure: if they throw it, I will come.

–Luke Toney