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 the last day of FEST18.
- Playing Rock and Roll with Reconciler. If you don’t have Atlanta trio Reconciler on your radar, go ahead and do that now. Their 2019 full-length Set Us Free is probably my favorite 37 minutes of the year. I stumbled upon the band through my A-F Records Record Club subscription and became obsessed. “Damn The Weather” and “Honest Words” hit me particularly hard this year, so Reconciler at Durty Nelly’s was a can’t miss for me. It was the first band Zack and I made it out to, and the only band I bought merch from. The rest of the squad hung back at our Air BnB for a little more rest, but I’m grateful we pushed out and caught these guys.
- Threats of violence with FEST Wrestling. We first made it to a bit of FEST wrestling last year, and completely fell in love with the atmosphere. Growing up I couldn’t watch wrestling – it got banned in my home after my Dad and I’s wrestling matches went a little overboard. So I never got into any of the classic 90s nostalgia attached to WWE. For me it always seemed like another hyper masculine space bent on over performing gender stereotypes. But the wrestling that goes on at FEST is unabashedly femme, queer, black and definitely not what I’ve always thought of as WWE. I still mostly don’t know what’s going on, but Zack gleefully explains each move by threatening to perform them on the rest of us for hours after. I’m thankful that the FEST wrestling team makes such an effort to have an inclusive space for wrestling that even non-violent dweebs like me can happily participate in.
- “Tin Soldiers” live with Stiff Little Fingers. There is a small handful of songs out there that I’d consider perfect, and most of them are on London Calling. One exception is a song that I normally wouldn’t like – it’s nearly five minutes long recorded. But Stiff Little Fingers’ “Tin Soldiers” is perfect. The bass line, the building crescendo, the fierce urgency. It feels poignant decades after it was written. We caught Stiff Little Fingers at Bo Diddly, and they closed out the set with “Tin Soldiers.” A part of me can definitely die happy, even if all of the Jawbreaker camp-outs were packing in to the plaza. Thank you for this consummate track.
- A taste of Japan with S.M.N. I insisted on seeing S.M.N out of this insatiable curiosity about Japanese punk and ska culture. I wrote a little bit about them in my pre-FEST write up, but I’ve heard so much from friends and bands who’ve recently toured in Japan about the unending appetite for music there. If this set is a tiny glimpse into that culture, then stories may have been greatly understated. The trio climbed and clambered all over the stage, into the crowd without abandon and the crowd responded with the same vigor. I’d stood up front thinking I’d catch a few tracks and then slide toward the back, but by the time the second song started I knew I would not be able to move until the set wrapped. At the end of the set, everyone in our squad was flabbergasted by what we’d just witnessed. Zack had said right after that it was the craziest set he’d seen all weekend, but we’d yet to finish our foray into our ska finale of FEST.
- Closing FEST on an up(stroke). We closed out FEST camped out at Downtown Fats for S.M.N, Kill Lincoln and Skatune Network. I’d figured it was going to be pretty busy for Skatune Network, but considering Jawbreaker was playing right before I didn’t think the lead up would be as butts-to-nuts as it was. All of the craziest shit I saw at FEST this year was in that room: Bodies clinging to ceiling I-beams; horn players playing from the sound booth, then crowd surfing back to the stage; photographers riding whisky barrels. OK, that last one was Zack but it still stands as bonkers. With each set, the room got sweatier and more raucous. Literally, even the bathroom mirrors were fogging up. By the end of Skatune Network’s set, I too believed that ska lives!
- Five FESTS in the bag. Each year that I get to spend a weekend in Florida with my closest friends while listening to my favorite music and eating copious amounts of hot dogs. I get to pack away my mostly professional life at home full of craft beer and un-responded emails and fill my gullet with PBR and a decided lack of responsibility. Our time in Gainesville is some of the only time our group of friends has all together every year. That we continue to be able to afford the trip – financially and mentally – is something I’m grateful for every time I’m offered a PBR, hot dog, tiki drink, or alligator. It’s a privilege to spend three sweaty days in the swamp with all of you.
- Jacksonville, baby! A final bit of gratitude for our first time flying in and out of Jacksonville. Orlando is always chaos – full of pre and post Disney World families, long lines and crowded seating. Jacksonville was pleasant and the quickest I’ve ever gone through TSA, even with pre-check. An easy check-in and airport experience made the transition back into the real world way more bearable. It’s a real boring thing to be grateful about, but I’m a sucker for good organization, well-thought plans and no surprises.
Photos from Zack Jacob
Writing and Photos by Kendra Sheetz
The final day had arrived and I had at least four good hours of floor sleep, so I was ready for anything. With nothing planned for the morning, I engaged the Problem Daughter guys in a lightening round of scene gossip (or “Hot Gos” as we had been calling it all weekend) before Regan and I headed over to my Airbnb. Yes, you read that correctly; I had an Airbnb this whole time. A few lovely souls needed someone to fill a space and I happily obliged, as I had nowhere to stay due to a lodging complication which I had touched on in a previous day’s write up.
In my 20s, I always found myself not wanting nights to end and passing out wherever I fell down. And apparently what’s old is new again, because this weekend was nothing short of that. SO… I went to my really cute and super rad Airbnb and just decided to take my suitcase back to the Wyndham. Why break a streak now? Reg and I ran into some of the amazing people who were staying as we were heading out. We got a chance to chat and I, for the millionth time this weekend, wished there were more of me or more moments of Fest. I should have been there at the Airbnb so I could have hung out with all these new friends, but I also wouldn’t have traded my late night convo with the turtle kid for anything either. There’s just so many people to spend time with and so much to do, pairing it down has always been an issue for me and my FOMO.
Reg and I headed down University and I had one thing and one thing only on my mind. Banana ciders, baybeh! We got to Loosey’s and found that they weren’t open. The door staff, who had been amazing and kind sweethearts all weekend, offered us a bag of spiral cut pineapple as a consolation prize. So we stood on the sidewalk across from High Dive and snacked on the sticky tropical slices. Kole and Taylor from The Lippies walked up and joined the fruit party along with tour manager and professional awesome life live-r Dallas. It was quickly becoming a rad Midwest street party but we had to be on the move if we wanted to make it to Bo in time.
In true Kendra and Regan fashion, we had skipped any sort of actual morning sustenance and opted to double fist White Claws for calories and hydration instead. One Mango and one Black Cherry, because diversity in your diet keeps you healthy! We were hanging with our pal Uriel (HAAAALP!) when Chicago buds Mike and Yanira walked up and asked at what category we were currently hurricaning. It’s good to know that the city of Gainesville and its annual Fest weekend residents will never forget Slurricane Kegan’s touchdown in 2018. Today, at that very moment, we settled on ‘tropical storm’ with a chance of Category 4 by nightfall.
The Mariachi El Bronx set was everything that I could have possibly hoped for. I talked to numerous people who said that their musical stylings actually perfectly parallel mariachi music, which is rad. If you’re gonna do it, then do it right. After snapping some shots from the photo pit, I got the chance to catch up with Mikey Erg, Jackson (Officer) Bradford, Will Castro, and others. While I knew that I could (should?) be running around like crazy increasing my coverage, I refused to let my FOMO get in the way and ruin what was going to be a leisurely and enjoyable day in the sun with friends.
Afterwards, we had a bit of time to spare before any concrete plans. There was no real other choice except to head to Loosey’s for – you guessed it – banana ciders. We met up with Timmesota and Kristen who were already there getting their liquid fruit fix. Soon after, Werecats took the stage. They were great, singing spooky Pop Punk songs, and were probably the most colorful band at Fest. I watched them as I sipped my cider and felt the effects of the fast hitting last day drunk – where your BAC has been sitting around .20 for days, so one drink gets you where you need to be.
We rounded up a posse and headed back to Bo Diddley and ran into Dead Bars on the way. They had the ingenious idea of setting up a merch shop on the sidewalk. Apparently, they had pulled in some decent cash in only a few minutes. Bands take note at this rad Fest life hack! At Bo, American Steel took the stage to a deafening amount of cheering and applause. They launched right into “Sons of Avarice” backed by “Mean Streak” and I could have died right then and there and been content. After shooting, I joined an ever-growing group of friends in the crowd to sing along to every song.
Somewhere between singing like Tim Armstrong, shouting along to bands, and non-stop talking for the last 72 or so hours, Regan had begun to lose his voice. It was shocking. Earlier in the day, I had joked that I was living my own version of ‘Get Him to the Greek’ with the Greek being Durty Nelly’s by 8PM. That being said, I felt like it was partially my responsibility to get Reg down the street and to the set with at least a partial voice. Earlier in the day, we had planned what I started calling ‘Family Dinner’ at Crane Ramen at 6:30. The hours and minutes were speeding by (thanks White Claw?) and suddenly it was not only dark out, but dinner time. The group ended up being so big that we had to split ourselves between two tables. If I may pull you out of this narrative for just a second to praise the lovely and hard working human beings who have worked at and have run Crane Ramen for the last three years. They have never been anything less than accommodating and welcoming and today was no different. So HUGE shout out to them and all the restaurants, businesses, and people who make every year in Gainesville so fucking cool. And now back to our regularly scheduled shit show Sunday…
With our stomachs full of “hot steam water” and rice, most of us headed over to Durty Nelly’s to catch ODD ROBOT. Man, are these guys great. I’ve been lucky enough to see them at a handful of festivals over the years, and they just keep getting better with time. Reminiscent of the Smoking Popes mixed with the good parts of Alkaline Trio (we’re gonna just skip over that Sekrets war paint and head dress phase, okay Matt?), they’re everything this Midwestern lady loves.
And then it was time. I had gotten him to the Greek and the rest was out of my control. It was time for Problem Daughter to take the stage. After a whole weekend of hype, I honestly have to say that I was severely disappointed with their set and their performance. Jaaay fucking Kay! IT WAS EPIC AS FUCK! Our Day 1 bud Bill showed up with all his pals and lost their collective shit in the crowd. Mics were taken. Humans were crowd surfed. Beer cans soared through the air. I can get all mushy-mush and write about the moments of reflection I had during their set and so many others during the weekend. I could write about how awe-inspiring it is to watch my friends succeed at their endeavors in a world which seems to value creativity less and less. But who would want to read about me going on and one like that, right? Right.
To add even more Fest magic to the evening (did you honestly think that I would use that phrase in Day 1 and 2 and NOT add it to the final chapter? C’mon!), while I was at the Durty Nelly’s bar waiting for my friends to rally up and head off to the next venue, I started talking to this married couple who were standing near me. It took all of three minutes for me to find out that the man’s name is Madison and he and I used to hang out together when we both lived in California when I was 19! He now lives in Florida and is married to a lovely woman. I now live in Chicago and have… a string of failed relationships and a weighted blanket. But I digress. It was surreal to see him after all these years and the memories started flooding back. It was so rad.
After that amazing occurrence, a pack of us La Escalera kids headed over to Boca Fiesta to catch Western Settings. There’s just something about this band that throws me into a specific head space. I always catch them closing out the festivals I go to or the weekend trips I’m on. And I guess I’ve tonally associated them with a personal cocktail mixed 50/50 between exhaustion and pure elation. Plus, there’s just something purely exhilarating about screaming “I’m not fucking dead!” as loudly as I can with a blown out voice.
We rallied up another group and headed back to Durty Nelly’s for Heck Yes. The Seattle sweethearts were playing their very first Fest and, of course, slayed. Their fast, gritty style of Pop Punk is most closely akin to D4 sprinkled with the love of getting jazzed. They’re just good dudes playing good music.
I floated over the The Atlantic and caught Hey, Chels. While the band consists of some veterans (including Ricky from Western Settings who was pulling double duty in a mere hour and a half), this was the band’s first go at Fest. Their calmer indie styling was a breath of fresh air after days of high energy Pop-Punk, Punk, and Hardcore. We were going to head back to Durty Nelly’s for one more band, but not before we stopped by Sean the Hot Dog Guy for sustenance. By no means was this my first veggie dog of the weekend. But it sure as fuck was the best one, as I saw that Sean had a full bottle of vegan bacon bits available. I drunkenly made a comment or five about how much I love them which resulted in me opening my mouth and Sassy Sean pouring half the bottle into my mouth. Hell yeah. Fakin’ Bacon and friends, best Fest ever!
After I crunched through my sodium overload, we were back in Durty Nelly’s for The Cryptkeeper Five. While they were officially my last scheduled band of Fest, I was completed out of juice and eventually so was my camera. I was able to snap a few photos, but nothing salvageable. I was exhausted… which means it was time for The Purge!
We traveled back to the Wyndham and were suddenly in the middle of a drunken shit show. Did I take photos? Oh hell yes. Can you see them? No way. That’s the magic of The Purge. First of all, you need to experience it yourself. Second of all, may I suggest you experiencing it yourself after a sunny day full of fruit flavored alcoholic beverages? Third of all, we all looked like drunken messes.
Late night turned into early morning. I have fond memories of singing a Brendan Kelly song along with one of my personal heroes, Chris Fox. I remember helping a drunk friend on a quest to find water. I know that, this year, I was coherent enough to not drink booze through a pool noodle and was naive enough to think that would keep me from getting Fest Flu. And I remember not wanting the night to end. What had started out at as a weekend I was ready and willing to pass up on had quickly become my favorite Fest BY FAR. I stayed awake as long as I possibly could before telling Regan that I needed to tap out and we returned to the room for one more floor sleep.
EPILOGUE: We woke up the next day and said our hungover goodbyes. I had planned to go skydiving in Jacksonville at noon but had mentally bailed on that plan on Night 1 after a dream of puking up whole cans of White Claw as I soared through the air. With hours and hours before my evening flight out of Florida, I instead headed to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and met my hometown hero – Chance the Snapper. He was just as dreamy as I imagined him to be as he was eluding capture in the Humboldt Park lagoon earlier this year.
I wandered around the marshy park, half looking at the animals and half in a daze from the weekend. Being alone after Fest is one of the hardest parts of my year. After days of being constantly surrounded by friends, people, music, and over-stimulation, walking through an almost deserted animal park on a Monday afternoon made me feel like a ghost. The animals paid no attention to me. The other zoo patrons barely looked at me. After a weekend where I know everyone and some people even know me, it was so very off putting to be sole again.
I left the park after an hour and called Regan, who was sitting alone at the Jacksonville airport. We recounted highlights and jokes of the weekend and talked about the personal changes we had committed to making once we got home. And I no longer felt alone. Eventually, I made it to the airport and started my journey home, caught somewhere between what had happened and what could be next. And I think that’s part of the beauty of Fest. For days, you get to dance between the past (old friends, well-worn favorite bands and songs), the present (the constant demands of living the weekend to the fullest and best), and the future (the friendships and ties you make which will lead you somewhere new in the weeks and months to come). Here’s to Fest 19! I don’t know if it can best Fest 18, but I’m sure as hell ready to try.
Oh, and Bill DID propose to his girlfriend. And she said YES!