Anyone who has attended Fest knows that the experience is different for each and every person. You and your friend could be inseparable for three days straight and still have hugely altered opinions of the weekend. This is why we here at Bad Copy are again including two separate write ups for each day of Fest, outlining two very different party packed weekend experiences along with a whole slew of photos. Just consider it a little extra something to peruse while you get over Fest Flu.
Written by Krista Gjestland
After a rough year, I’ve decided to approach my FEST experience with an eye toward gratitude. Last FEST Zack broke his leg and my mental health took a hard tumble in 2019. Instead of talking about all of the ways the weekend could have been better, I’m allowing myself to embrace the things that made me feel thankful for being here. So without further ado, here are all of the things I’m grateful to have experienced on day 1 of FEST18.
- Kicking off FEST with Masked Intruder. We started our FEST where we ended it last year: At Bo Diddley Plaza, watching Masked Intruder. It was during their set last year that Zack’s knee popped back allowing his fibia and tiba to crash together, cracking the top of his tibia. It abruptly ended our last day last year and kicked off a rough six months of healing. Dancing the sun down to “Crime Spree” and “Heart Shaped Guitar” was the best way to kick off the weekend and send those terrible 2019 vibes packing.
- Getting hot dogs from Sean AKA The Hot Dog Guy. Honestly, it’s silly but we talk about Sean’s hot dogs all year long. The sheer amount of toppings they carry is legendary in our group of friends! We spend 362 days of the year telling anyone who will hear it that we’ll be eating our weight in dogs come every FEST. Scoring my first roasted red pepper – mustard – dill relish dog of the weekend is exactly what I needed to FEST in proper form. Thank you very fucking much, Sean!
- Russian Girlfriends playing “Antidote.” Russian Girlfriends’ In the Parlance of Our Times is easily one of my top records of 2019, and one I’ve steadily been scream-singing along to in my car. I put off getting into this band because I associated them with a former friend. When their 2019 full-length came through on my A-F Records Record Club Subscription I sort of had no choice but to give it a listen. I’ve been fervently listening ever since to make up for my years of missing out. The band’s grip on melodic rage is most perfect on “Antidote” and to be able to scream-cry along to it live with my best friends was a top 2019 moment for me.
- Watching Less Than Jake with my longest friends. LTJ was one of the first bands I saw live. The ska staple was one of the first bands that our longtime friends and fellow FESTers Zaak and Zane bonded with us over. The first show we ever saw with the rest of our FESTing friends, John and Mariah, was Less Than Jake. Sometimes corny, always fun it’s amazing to see a band that’s been so formative in your friendships together. Thanks, Less Than Jake, for never getting out of this town.
- Catching Astpai’s final North American set. I’m heartbroken to see Astpai calling it a day. Their music has served as a personal soundtrack for the last six years of my life. I was introduced to the band by a former friend who’s since died, and it feels all the sadder to digest the end of a friendship, life and a band all at once. With that heavy load, Astpai was my ultimate can’t miss band of the weekend. I cried straight through as they plowed through all of my favorites like “Careers,” “Biting Dogs Don’t Chew” and “Honest or Sentimental.” I’m grateful to have shared in that final set, and to have had a deep connection with their music.
- Crying in public. Man, this year has been tough. Grief and depression have clouded my ability to function in ways that I hadn’t previously thought possible. Music has always been my sanctuary to process whatever’s going on in my life, so it’s no surprise that between feeling deeply rooted in this scene and being emotionally fraught I end up crying at shows. That’s not entirely new – I’m generally a crier – but it’s been a much more sensitive set of sprinklers lately. I’m thankful to have this space that I can experience music in a way that’s cathartic and genuine for me without anyone being completely freaked out. To all the people who let me cry and be fully engrossed: thank you.
Photos by Zack Jacob
Writing and Photos by Kendra Sheetz
This year has been trying… to say the least. I feel like I’ve been caught under an oversized, heavy blanket made of industrial strength depression since early January. And honestly, going to Fest wasn’t something I was looking forward to this year. The crew I used to always travel with stopped going a few years back and I miss them. This year’s hotel plans got fucked up. And I hadn’t even looked at the schedule until I touched down in the state. While I am always honored to be able to be part of the press and photo team, I didn’t think I had any energy left to plaster a smile on my face, snap some photos, and pretend I was happy around huge amounts of people. Yet, there I was in the mile long registration line on Friday afternoon.
Now, if you’ve read any of my previous Fest or La Escalera Fest coverage pieces, you may be familiar with Regan Ashton. Regan is the bassist/vocalist of SLC’s Problem Daughter and has been my partner in musical festival partying for a few years running. We went on an epic drunken rampage on the Sunday of Fest 17 which left most people vastly entertained and only a few exasperated. This year, we decided that we’d be starting early. After texting back and forth throughout the morning, Regan and Shane (guitarist/ vocalist/ nice glasses wearer of Problem Daughter) found me in registration line and shuffled me upstairs to the special check-in for Press. It was magical. I would advise everyone to start their own music site if only to circumvent the general registration line at Fest. I was in and out within minutes and, after a quick stop at the photo booth and a hug from Marc Gartner, I was ready to tackle the day.
As we stood around and chatted with friends from Heck Yes, Little Teeth, La Escalera Records, random people sitting on the curb who would soon be our friends, I started to slightly unwind. Most of the venues wouldn’t be open for hours, so when Regan and I turned our conversation toward our personal lows of the year, I suggested that we head over to Loosey’s and grab drinks instead of bum ourselves out in the Holiday Inn parking lot. Reg and I have been known to break off from the group and have serious talks about life but this one was for the books. It was like we went on a three day conversation bender with moments of distraction coming in the form of other friends and bands’ sets throughout. In the four hours before the bands even started we covered breakups, divorce, self care, mental health, work issues, personal discontent, and which bands we were excited to see this weekend (ha).
While getting us another round at the bar, a man came up to Regan. He introduced himself as Bill and then said that Problem Daughter’s set was the one which he was most excited to see all weekend. We invited him to sit down at our table and I quickly found that I know a few of Bill’s friends from the East Coast who now live in Chicago and he knows a few of mine who live in Maine. The degrees of separation are so slim! He also confided in us that he was going to ask his partner to marry him. He showed us the ring as I suggested ways and times he should do it. “What kind of lady doesn’t want to receive a greasy slice of 5 Star pizza with a giant blinging ring set on top of the cheese?” I offered. And that’s when I could feel it start to slowly creep in: Fest magic. Yeah, yeah, roll your fucking eyes; I can feel it. But there I was, thousands of miles from home, sitting next to a complete stranger who I only met because he somehow knows my friend’s band and praised him for his creative talents. And he knows my other friends. And now I know about his future wife. I decided right then and there to try to block out the negativity and stressors I always put on myself at events like this and just try to enjoy myself.
Perhaps it was the copious amount of banana ciders I had consumed already, but as Regan and I left Loosey’s and headed to another bar down the street, I was feeling lighter. The deep conversation rolled on but now it was sprinkled with fewer sarcastic smirks and more hysterical laughter between friends. We sauntered over to 8 Seconds and caught the first band of my Fest 18, DFMK. These guys are always a treat. Hailing from Tijuana, MEX, I am so lucky that I have gotten the chance to see them twice a year for the past few years. They never disappoint. I tried to get in to catch my hometown homies in Canadian Rifle at Durty Nelly’s but they were SO at capacity, they wouldn’t even let me skip the line (this is a normal thing Press is allowed to do. I’m wasn’t just being a dick). Sorry, boys. I’ll catch ya at Burlington in a week or two!
Next was Russian Girlfriends at High Dive. I finally ran into Zack (ya know Zack, from the above photos) and gave him a high five before we drifted apart in the crowd. Somehow, Regan and I floated over to the Hampton and met with Tim and Kristen from Minneapolis and drank their fancy orange peel water in the hotel lobby before walking back over to another bar, meeting up with the other Problem Daughter guys, slamming some Mango White Claws, and then ending up back at High Dive for City Mouse. I had no idea that my friend Loren would be filling in on bass, as Miski is backed with an ever changing lineup. Although we only live a few states apart, I hadn’t seen him in years. Before the end of the set, Miski invited the ladies of Werecats up to help out with backing vocals on a song. It was epic and I noticed that my face was already feeling sore from my ear-to-ear grin.
We moseyed out to the High Dive back patio area where I ran into Pat from The Decline, Devon Kay from everything, Shelby from Sad Girlz Club, and Jake from Lightweight and somehow we decided that although the majority of us are vegetarian or vegan, it was time for Jell-O shots. Ugh. That kicked the night into fast forward. Suddenly, I was walking out of the Bo Diddley photo pit into a crowd of my friends and screaming along to Against Me! playing songs off Searching For A Former Clarity. If there was any further doubt or negative thought in my mind, it was blasted into deep space by the riff from “Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners.” My real world problems were drifting further and further away (on a trail made of red Jell-O) and I was wrapped tightly in the embrace of my friends from all over the country and the world.
While I could have stayed and screamed along through the rest of Clarity backed by New Wave, I was on the move. So many sets to see, so little time. I made it into Loosey’s for The Distillers cover set just in time to catch Pity Party finishing up the last song. Missing that set was probably my #1 regret of the weekend. I shuffled over and caught Too Many Daves at Durty Nelly’s before meeting back up with Regan and catching Big Nothing at the Wooly. I’d been following them for a year or so now and had yet to catch them whenever they came through Chicago. Amazing. Purely amazing and I am more hooked now than ever before.
The last band of the night was Tsunami Bomb who had announced their mystery set earlier in the day. However, they did not announce that they would be wearing amazing skeleton costumes and black light paint. The band recently reunited with a bit of a lineup change and put out a brand new album on November 4th entitled The Spine the Binds (Get it? Skeleton costumes? Spine? I’m on to something here). And that was it. Day 1 bands in the books. Regan and I trudged over to Flaco’s for sustenance and more conversation. We ended up closing out the taco place – a Fest first in my book – before hopping in a Lyft back to the Wyndham for the most well-deserved floor sleep I’ve earned all year.
Check out my photos below and make sure to check back for Days 2 and 3 later this week!