Something clicked on the way down to 350 Fest in Tinley Park and I blurted out, “Is this fucking thing inside or outside?” No one knew the answer. I figured this thing was going to be like the Ye Scallywag Fest they had in San Diego, outside in some field with a ton of beer vendors and a stage. Then I kept seeing Tinley Park Convention Center on the GPS and questioned everything I thought I knew. We pulled up to the giant convention center and to all the ‘punks’ shuffling their way inside. I guess this was going to be more of a Comic Con vibe.
We made our way down the long corridor wondering the entire time if this was really happening. The convention center had a weird deserted hotel feel to it, not a Punk Rock inspired beer fest. But we saw the mohawks going in and sure enough there was the fucking massive line to get inside. Burn Rebuild was already playing, luckily we were able to bypass the line, but we still only managed to catch like 2 songs from the Chicago locals.
They had wrestling between the bands in a ring opposite the stage. It was cool to watch them body slam and suplex each other while we stood in line for a fresh beer. It was still weird to me that this entire thing was inside a giant room, but Sincere Engineer started playing so I didn’t have too long to dwell on it. Deanna and crew powered through their quick 30 or so minute set and it was back to a tag team match in the ring and more beers.
A Wilhelm Scream was up next. I’ve always had a real problem catching these guys play, I’ve been at a ton of fests and shows with them on the bill, and I always am just not around. It’s fucking weird. Like a vampire not invited into a home. Well, lo and behold I was outside smoking a cigarette, sweating in the gross humid heat, and thanking god this fest actually was indoors. That’s when I realized that A goddamn Wilhelm Scream was halfway through their fucking set. I ran into the crowded room and made sure I stayed put for the rest of their songs.
I just saw The Smoking Popes play not too long ago, so I used this time to wander around and see what else was going on in the Convention Center. 350 Fest had everything running on tickets you bought from a table towards the back. Five dollars equals one ticket equals one beer or food item. In the very very back there was a food area set up selling slices of pizza, baked pretzels, or pierogis. There were also a couple vendor tables set up including our very own Kyle Janis and his Soothsayer Hot Sauce. They even had Dead Serious Tattoo there tattooing some special designed flash for the show. It took everything I had to not plop down a hundred bucks I didn’t have on an orange sherbet colored death holding some popsicles.
I was walking out to smoke another cigarette when I heard a familiar voice emanating from a side room I hadn’t noticed yet. It had a huge sign above it that read VIP area. I looked at my wristband and it said VIP guest. Fuck it. I went into the room and saw Gillian McGhee from Turnspit inside playing acoustic. What a wonderful surprise! Another surprise, there was free beer tastings in this room! 350 Brewery had a bunch of other breweries pair up and make a special brew just for the show, and we were the judges. I should have kept an extra score card because now I forgot my favorite. But it was very fruity and very delicious, so good job mystery breweries.
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say in the year 2018: Mest was on the stage and ready to play. Look, I never listened to Mest. I always thought their brand of 2000s high school pop-punk was corny as shit, and watching them play live, it seems like they haven’t changed over the years. There was a very sweet moment when singer Tony Lovato brought his son out onstage to sing happy birthday to him. But that moment was offset by the uncomfortable amount of time they spent talking about some ladies “titties” in the audience who apparently flashed them. Not to mention the very lame act of demanding the audience starts a circle pit to their next song, which had absolutely no business having a pit. The audience seemed perplexed as well, as evident by maybe the first two rows of people putting their hands in the air when told to do so. They didn’t even play those goofy fucking songs anyone even cared about, “Cadillac” and “What’s the Dillio?”
Less Than Jake was also very into telling people to circle pit. They also love them some dad weed jokes. “If anyone wants to party, we’ll be up in the hotel in room 420!” Back in high school, a buddy made me a mix tape of some bands, one of them had a song that started “What the fuck, the fuck have I become.” Me being the level headed youth I was, fucking loved it because it said the word “Fuck” in it. Two times in a row! That was my introduction to Less Than Jake, although I didn’t know it at the time. Unfortunately, Napster was just starting to take off, but we only had the one super slow computer in our house, and looking up lyrics online to find a band was next to impossible, so I never investigated further. I guess I could have just asked the dude who made the tape for me, but like I said, I was a youth and pretty lazy. Anyway, the handful of times I have seen LTJ, they were always pretty fun to watch and this time was no exception. They had their toilet paper shooter and pulled a couple fans up onto the stage during their songs (one young person was very unenthused to be up there, but the other made up for it by running around the stage and taking selfies with the band).
The Descendents closed out the night. Milo came out onstage with a thermos strapped around his arm in what looked like a very uncomfortable position to play a show in. But hey man, you got to stay hydrated. Back in 2012, I took a road trip with my very good friend Lindsey Collins from San Diego to Denver to see the Descendents play with Hot Water Music. Tonight I could barely be bothered to stand up for their entire set. Man getting old sucks; I really don’t know how a bunch of dudes in their mid-fifties manage to summon the energy to play these kind of shows with 30 fucking songs over an hour or so. The only real problem I have is if you have seen the Descendents anytime since they released Hypercaffium Spazzinate in 2016, you have seen this show. The good news was as soon as they were done the lights came up, no fucking encore.
350 Fest might not have been exactly what I was expecting. But I’m still excited to see what they do next year for their 5th anniversary. The indoor fest was odd at first but looking back, it was air conditioned, there were no bugs, you couldn’t get sunburned, and there was plenty of room to party. The only real downside was a beer or a food item was the same exact price. $5 for a slice of cheese pizza is a little steep, but really food at other fests cost 2-3 times more than that so in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not even that bad. I’ll see you all at 350 Fest 5.