The crew was a little slow to waking on our third day of existing in the state of Florida. As we laid in bed scanning the various feeds on our phones, one of us made the discovery that the restaurant that we all (sans Nikki due to a terrible headache) ate at on Thursday evening had been shut down… due to a previous employee having Hepatitis A. Oh. Cool. All articles that we found which reported the news confirmed that we were in the clear, as the employee no longer worked there when we patronized it. I was also pretty sure that I had been vaccinated for all the possible Heps, as my mother has been deeply paranoid for over a decade that I will end up dead from a sterilized tattoo needle. But just in case, I decided to check the symptoms so I could monitor my health. They include but are not limited to:
- Sudden nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side near your liver
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Joint pain
Oh… so you mean Hep A’s symptoms are the same as Fest Flu? Great.
We shuffled our possibly diseased bodies down to The Bricks around 12:45 to catch the latter half of Jason Guy Smiley‘s acoustic set. Unlike yesterday, the sun was out reminding me that I was much closer to the Southern Hemisphere than Chicago… and that I had forgotten to put on deodorant. And from the smell of it, most of the crowd did as well.
The ladies of Bad Cop / Bad Cop took the stage as I took a spot on the ground next to Jax, a very cute senior dog I had just met. I said my semi-longwinded piece about BCBC in my Day 1 article. But I will add that a stripped down acoustic format of their set only assists to showcase how amazing this band is live. I don’t think I’ve ever before seen someone shred through an acoustic solo like Jennie did! A+++
As Coffee Project was setting up, Skyler and I headed inside to grab some food since we had missed breakfast at the hotel. We planned out the bands of the day and I planned out how many time I could hit the freezy drink bar in between. First on the list was Signals Midwest at The Orpheum. While the giant venue was by no means empty, it appeared that many Pre-Festers may have still been napping at three in the afternoon. Those who were in attendance were crammed right at the front of the stage singing along to every word as the band danced and jumped across the massive stage.
I hustled back to Crowbar for MakeWar, another one of my “I never miss their set” bands. Their last album, Developing a Theory of Integrity, was released in 2016 and the band has seemingly been touring ever since. I was prepped and ready to sing along to every song, as I have in the past. But MakeWar came to the table with a whole bunch of new songs for this afternoon set. Fingers are crossed for a new album in 2019.
Always a woman with a plan, I left MakeWar’s set ten minutes early and raced over to the freezy drink bar. I had just enough time to get there, get a drink, chug it at medium pace as not to freeze my insides, and then sprint over to catch Direct Hit! And I almost made it too! But the problem with the best place in Ybor City is that everyone else loves it as much as I do… so I always end up seeing someone I know and chatting with them, losing any sense of time. Before I knew it, I was late for my date with Milwaukee’s finest.
I entered The Orpheum to the sounds of a song off Wasted Mind. “Which song?” you may ask. I dunno, man. I was all hopped up on freezy margaritas. But I can guarantee that it was a fucking ripper, as almost all their songs are. I stood side stage and watched Devon Kay dance and spin all over the stage as Steve held his bass over his head and Danny practically tore apart the drum kit. Nick eventually gave up his guitar, grabbing the mic, and closed out the powerful set.
There was only one place to go after witnessing a band like Direct Hit! You guessed it. Skyler and I met up with the wonderful Josh Voland and talked about Crazytown (yes that Crazytown, sugah, baybeh) while we waited for my Candian partner in trash, Laura, to show up. All of a sudden, half of Minneapolis showed up in the freezy drink bar. Of course, there was some bullying of the TouchTunes machine which resulted in a sing along of Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” and ultimately a chant of FREE-ZEE-DRINKS! FREE-ZEE-DRINKS. I was having such a great time that I decided to forego PEARS to spend more time with my faraway friends. It didn’t take long before Skyler started to receive a slew of messages about how PEARS played the Grammy award winning song “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty AKA his personal anthem. We were both crushed. But not too crushed to split another freezy drink before heading over to catch Red City Radio.
Is there anything this band can’t do?! I’ll admit that I was a fair-weather fan for most of the band’s career prior to 2015. I’ve known the guys for years and I love hanging out with them, but I just didn’t ‘get it.’ Then something drastically changed last year. I sat down and took another long, hard listen to their discography and had one of those “Ohhhh. Okaaaaay” revelations. So catch me in the front row of any RCR from here on out, feverishly shouting along with everyone else.
This part of the early evening offered three choices: Tiltwheel at Crowbar, Broadway Calls at Orpheum, or you-know-where. I didn’t take any photos of the two bands listed. But I also didn’t check in at the freezy drink bar on Facebook like I had been all week. I’m not 100% sure where I went from 6:40-7:30, but I do have a few photos of the Ybor City chickens on my phone around that time. Perhaps I chased them around the streets for an hour? All I know is that my soul re-entered my body while I was in the crowd at Crowbar, singing along to Too Many Daves as they played “Dude’s Room.” How perfectly fitting.
This time when I ordered my umpteenth strawberry pina colada, the bartender at Centro Catina finally responded to me by name. It only took nine visits in the last 48 hours! On top of that, playing at the bar at that very moment was my favorite set of the whole week(end). It’s a set I can count on being solid year after year. It is… the generic white dude playing requests on his acoustic guitar the Thursday night of Pre-Fest set!!! During Pre-Fest 4, Kevin and I about lost our minds when he played the Matchbox Twenty song I had requested with more gusto than the band ever did. Ever since then, it was all Rob Thomas all the time. I thought about asking the the guy if he knew Brendan Kelly’s recently released mega smash hit “Shitty Margarita,” but his mental catalog seemed to be a bit dated. So naturally, I asked for the Grammy award winning song “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. Sadly, he said that he didn’t know how to play the intro. I pouted my way through (probably?) some shitty Dave Matthews Band song he played instead. But my spirits rose when I got a margarita refill and he played a soulful rendition of “Walking in Memphis.”
The saddest part of the best set of Fest is that, eventually, you have to leave to go see other bands. While a bunch of the friends headed off to see Piebald, I went to Crowbar to catch Chicago’s MEAT WAVE. Hey, I guess I’m just not part of it or whatever. However, I AM so immensely proud of these three dudes. They have worked their asses off, playing everything from small, cramped, freezing Midwestern basements in the middle of winter to opening for bands like Cursive to D4 to Rocket From the Crypt. They’re practically unstoppable and their live show just gets better and better!
The last band on my list was Radioactivity. I’m not sure how anyone could not like the Marked Men, and by default not be deeply in love with this band. While I was waiting for them to take the stage, I began to realize how drunkenly worn down I was. When was the last time I sat down? When was the last time I ate? And what the hell is water? Just like that, one of the magical angels from Feed the Scene who I had spoken to earlier found me and gifted me a gluten free vegan brownie (yeah, that’s right. I’ve got a lot of dietary shit going on. Which is why my diet consists of 73% frozen alcoholic slushies). It was like I was reborn! I used the sugar high for good and rushed all over the venue snapping pictures of Radioactivity as they played. It was about three songs in when I noticed Zach Quinn from PEARS directly upfront, dancing his buns off. In a flash, I was right next to him following suit until the end of the set.
Sweaty, exhausted, and filled with dance endorphins, I decided that going back to the room now would be silly. I sent out a blanket of texts that would make any mass market spamming company proud. They only said one word – Boneyard. I closed out this year’s Pre-Fest sitting on a toilet in the middle of a bar surrounded by my faraway friends and then drunken walking back to the hotel smashing a giant bag of Ruffles into my mouth.
Tomorrow we’d be headed to Gainesville, to Fest, and to the fully functional lens my mom overnighted to me!