Since the dawn of time, or at least 1977, punk has been a mostly white, mostly straight and mostly boys club. Despite touting ourselves as one of the more woke counter-cultures, we’ve had more than our fair share of misogynistic “friendzone” lyrics, gratuitous use of “homo” as an insult, and the very awkward lack of people of color on our stages. Fortunately, admitting there’s a problem is the first step to any solution and we’re starting to see more demand for our stages to reflect the diversity of our crowds.
The FEST, by my count, has booked at least 50 bands that help slow the surge of white dudes on stage. For transparency’s sake, when creating this list I made a few “rules” to help myself. To be considered, a band needed to have one of the following: A non-white person, a female, an openly trans person, and openly non-binary/genderqueer person and/or an openly gay person. There are certainly musicians who likely fit into some of those categories, but who aren’t out or open about it. That’s their prerogative and not my place to stick into a list!
So here are 9 bands that are (more than) worth sticking on your schedule and checking out when you hit Gainesville this year.
Sugar-sweet and upbeat, this all-girl pop-punk foursome is the perfect soundtrack to sunny Gainesville. Their discography is filled with fun, sing along-able lyrics like “Grool,” detailing the now storied love of Cady Heron and Aaron Samuels of Mean Girls. They’re Fest regulars, so expect a dedicated crowd!
Jabber plays Boca Fiesta Sunday, Oct. 29 10:50-11:20 p.m. They’re also playing a No Doubt cover set Saturday, Oct. 28 at Tall Paul’s 9:40-10:10 p.m.
2. The Bombpops
The Bombpops are led by frontwomen Jen Razavi and Poli Van Dam and are the band I wished I had when I was 16. Fat Wreck Chords was littered with skate punk bands like No Use For A Name and Lagwagon – a roster dominated by dudes. It was the music that pulled me into punk, but I often think about what teenage me would have done if I saw faces like mine on stage more often. Jen and Poli rip on their guitars, fully feminine and absolutely unafraid. Signed to Fat Wreck, I think The Bombpops are part of the future of punk rock. We’re headed in a more inclusive, diverse direction and this band is proof.
The Bombpops play The High Dive Saturday, Oct. 28 8:20-8:50 p.m.
3. City Mouse
City Mouse is anchored by a frenetic pace and frontwoman Miski Dee Rodriguez’ soulful voice. Registering low in the alto range, Miski’s voice would be right at home on a jazz stage. Lucky for us, she makes punk. On the heels of Get Right, their first full-length after ten years of touring and music making, expect a band onstage with a ton of renewed energy.
City Mouse plays The High Dive Friday, Oct. 27 8:20-8:50 p.m.
4. Fat Heaven
This Brooklyn-based three piece evokes the glory of mid-90s radio punk, but without all those weird American Pie vibes. Their grungy sound is anchored by their beefed up rhythm section, complete with loud bass lines (swoon) and splashy, ripping drums (double swoon). As a bonus, drummer Gayla Escoda Brooks works with a NYC collective called Punx of Color to throw shows showcasing people of color within the punk scene.
Fat Heaven plays Durty Nelly’s Saturday, Oct. 28 6:20-6:50 p.m.
Freya Wilcox has the sultry voice of a chain smoking angel. Her blues-soaked sound is completely original in today’s punk. She’s got the voice we tend to glorify in bands like Hot Water Music and Red City Radio, but in a bad-ass Aussie. In a sea of sweetly-sung acoustic melodies she’s a breath of fresh air. She’s backed by fellow New Yorkers Craig Shay (Cold Wrecks) and CJ Dunaieff (Cold Wrecks, The Pandemics).
Freya Wilcox & The Howl play Mother’s Pub on Friday, Oct. 27 3:10-3:40 p.m.
6. Attic Salt
This four-piece is packed full of Midwestern charm. Steeped in that chilly tradition of The Lawrence Arms and Dillinger Four, Attic Salt ups the ante with dual vocals featuring guitarist Alyssa Currie. Their sound is full of melody, introspective lyrics and thick guitar and bass lines. They’ve just released their first self-titled full length Attic Salt, and I think you’re going to want in on the ground level of this band.
Attic Salt plays Boca Fiesta (Palomino stage) Friday, Oct. 27 5:30 – 6 p.m.
Seeping with low-fi indie charm and grooving guitar lines, Junior Astronomers are a hard-working, long touring band from Charlotte. Their melodic tunes and thick bass lines are at home on a punk stage, but it’s easy to imagine these guys making a splash on the wider music scene. Next time your friend who “doesn’t get” punk starts to complain about listing to Banner Pilot for the 100th time, throw on a little Junior Astronomer and start the conversion.
Junior Astronomers plays the Atlantic Saturday, Oct. 28 9:10-9:40 p.m.
8. Honey Joy
These Londoners have what’s debatably the most outwardly feminist voice on this list. With lyrics like “You are kind / You are smart / You are worthy” (“Raising Girls”), singer Meg’s voice packs a punch. Add in crunchy guitar and chugging bass, this is definitely a band to catch. The fact that they’re from across the pond only serves to make that point sharper.
Honey Joy plays Loosey’s Sunday, Oct. 29 4:40-5:10 p.m.
9. Against Me!
While Against Me! might seem like a softball pick for this list, I think it’s too easy to under appreciate the impact of Laura Jane Grace’s openness about her transition. It’s been five years since LJG announced she was transitioning into her true self. In those five years, she’s written music and a book highlighting her life as trans on a highly visible platform. We can’t overstate how impactful it is to see a major-label signed band with the social clout Against Me! enjoys championing trans rights with insight on the trans experience from a first-person narrative. Plus, their set is scheduled for a full 90 minutes and is supposed to include their 2002 debut album Reinventing Axl Rose in full. It’s a can’t miss set, no matter how you look at it.
Against Me! plays the Bo Diddly Plaza on Saturday, Oct. 28 8:30 – 10 p.m.