The beauty of me in Florida is that I can never sleep. I had always thought it was a Fest thing- crammed into a room with five other people snoring, amped on the adrenaline of seeing 20 bands in 13 hours. But apparently it’s a me thing. Alone in my king size bed, I was up before the sun, watching those weird infomercials that exist only is the practically dead air space between 4 and 6 am. I was elated when it was time to finally drag myself out of bed and head downtown. A Pedialyte and an energy drink and I was good to go.
I started my Saturday wandering through Gainesville, trying to find a venue I had never been to before – the library. With some help from some very nice ladies sporting their best Halloween earrings, I was able to find it, find the 4th floor room, and grab a set. Jason Schreurs was reading from his book Scream Therapy. Jason’s podcast of the same name is promoted here on the site every other Monday PLUS I was lucky enough to read and review the book before its official release. Seeing Jason read his own words and getting the chance to officially meet him after made it all even better.
I headed over to Palomino to see some Ohio favorites, Shitty Neighbors. The Toledo punks are always a great time. This band shares the same strange phenomena of a few other Midwestern bands. To me, they very much sound exactly like where they from. Like when I put on a Shitty Neighbors song, I feel Midwest. But also… they’re super Fest too! They fight right in on the Fest roster and make me think of Gainesville. I guess what I’m saying is that they should play next year and the year after that and the year after that….
Being a photographer at Fest is the embodiment of everything I try not to be outside of those few days. At Fest, I never stay at any set for more than 10 minutes. I’m consistently checking my schedule to see what I could be missing. There’s just too much to do. But this year, the DIFFERENT year, I decided to stick around for a few whole sets of certain bands; Eve 6 was one of them. I will not bore you with my multi decade love affair with Eve 6, but what I will say is that I was cocky af about knowing the lyrics to their entitle set list and felt like I’d practically be the only one. Of course, the masses would sing the “heart in a blender song” but that’s it, right? Wrong. Punks love Eve 6! It felt like everyone around me in the first few rows at Bo Diddley knew the words. Even my friend Laura was stoked to hear both a new song and a few of their older albums. I had thought that lead singer Max’s often hilarious and always outspoken Twitter persona was the reason the trio got the ticket to play, but maybe there was something else there I’d missed! Either way, they sounded great and their set was super fun. And when they finally DID play “Inside Out,” the softest, most beautiful pit broke out in tandem.
I headed over to Vivid Music Hall to catch the last part of School Drugs from New Jersey. There was a reason they were on my list, but I didn’t remember why I had them on there. I was snapping away when the floor exploded into chaos. The stage at the venue is super low. I, at 5’4”, am also super low. This means that, if I didn’t play my cards right, I’d be bending over my kneecaps like Gumby. But suddenly, a man almost twice my size stepped behind me and the chaos seemingly ceased. It was Omnigone’s Adam Davis, who has to be almost 7’ feet tall, and he was keeping me safe! As the last note of the set rang out, I turned around to thank him but he was already halfway out the venue. Thank you tall angel, Adam Davis!
I headed across the street to Vecino’s to catch the Moonraker homies. You’d think that early afternoon would be the perfect time for them because they could start drinking after. But let me please remind you, these are the guys who, at 2pm yesterday, showed up to the registration line with 2-3 drinks each in hand and a few more in their stomaches. But they are professionals so, of course, their set went flawlessly. The band recently put out a split EP with an East Coast band Neckscars which they played a song off of interspersed with energetic tracks off their last few full-length albums. Stream their split with Neckscars below and check them out if you’re on the east coast this weekend!
The next band was one I’ve had on my To See bucket list for sometime. Sweet Gloom out of California has been making waves over the last year plus and I’ve been waiting to finally catch them. Their set was full of familiar faces that I hadn’t seen in years and some who I have only seen on album covers. The band was everything I had hoped and more. There were power stances and solos and Jaake giving up his guitar and coming out into the crowd. There were kisses and hugs and the whole thing ended in a giant tickle pit. While the band had me hooked at first listen, this set solidified it. And while I know they were just in Chicago before Fest… please come back soon!!!
It was time to rest my aging body and luckily my next stop would be perfect for that. I walked over to the The Bull’s outdoor stage. There were picnic tables and umbrellas and a place to sit and rest. As it turned out, the picnic table was the perfect spot, people I knew kept coming up to us to hang out and rest for a bit. AND there was live music! I watched Guilhem (perhaps you know him from the version of Fest that our great Northern neighbors in Canada put on, Pouzza Fest?) play some acoustic tracks. Canadian friends even stood up and moshed to one of the songs. After Guilhem was Max Stern of Signals Midwest. My favorite Fest toddler, Ramona, showed up to his set to live her best life – sitting on the stage and eating snacks. She had the best seat in the house and I was so jealous!
A then snuck over to Loosey’s so I could catch Vicious Dreams. I hadn’t seen the Orlando-based band since a back room bar show down in Blue Island, IL in maybe 2018. A bit has changed, like the lineup, but they still put out amazing songs and have a great stage presence and set.
I had wanted to check out the Jabber Abba cover set. I wrangled my pal Laura to come along with me. We trudged over to University Club and figured out how to get inside, climbed the stairs and was suddenly hit with a wall of people. While the venue was technically still letting people in, my anxiety wasn’t okay with how many people were inside a cramped space with plastic curtain strips over the only door allowing in fresh air, like those you find in a meat locker. I had to bail.
I walked over to the Backyard at Boca Fiesta and caught Endless Mike and the Beagle Club‘s set instead. It was outdoors, the space seemed larger, and there weren’t plastic curtains. The anxiety gods were pacified. I had heard about the band through, basically the only way I hear about any new music anymore, Bad Copy. My friend Adam from Say-10 Records asked if I could post about them and I did a little deep dive into their music while I did. It’s like folk, but it’s not. It’s like folk punk but also not quite. It’s just… good. And they were great live!
I headed back over to The Bull for The Iron Roses acoustic set. It seemed like all of Fest had heard about the epicness which took place at the Wooly last night so they came to check them out. I quickly ran to Flaco’s and got another round of nachos to go and headed back just in time to catch the first song. I hung to the sides of the tent and sang along. But soon my hunger pains got the better of me and I had to retreat to a spot on the curb where I could devour my dinner while still watching. Imagine a woman literally stuffing her face with chips while trying to sing along to “Justify the Lies” aaaaand that was me. Two songs later, I was back up, energized, and singing in the front row again. The Punk Cellist came out to play a song, so I was able to right some of the camera wrongs from yesterday and snap a few decent shots. All in all, the set didn’t have the same vibe as last night. But while it was different, it wasn’t bad by any means. It just shows the band’s diversity and how good the songs off the new album are. Stripped down or electrifying af, they are just as impactful! I hung around to chat and snap some photos with Nathan and Becky before convincing myself to walk more.
Now, I have a bit of an unspoken rule: when I’m at Fest, I try to fill my schedule with bands that I rarely get to see, which often means that my local Chicago bands don’t get as much love. I can see them all year long! But, I made an exception this year and made sure that I didn’t miss Blind Adam and the Federal League. Like so many of my faraway friend bands, I hadn’t seen them play in years (thanks COVID) and I wasn’t going to miss it. If you miss when punk had a message of revolutionist undertones and lyrics hopeful of a better world, this is the band for you. They were a week or so out from releasing a brand new album on Bypolar Records and played a few tracks off the new release. While the whole set was great, the highlight was when my pals Ty Dykema and Bek took the stage to lend their vocals to “We Are Everywhere,” a song about disability and acceptance. It was an awesome powerful moment, in an even more powerful set.
Fueled by energy drinks and actually being hydrated at Fest for once, I walked back up to The Bull to catch a bit of Jaake from Sweet Gloom‘s solo set, then down to Heartwood to catch JER. While I have seen Jer play in Skatune Network and guest appear on stages all over for years, I had never seen Jer perform as JER before. And while Ska is not my main thing, I’m never sad at a Ska show and I am constantly in awe of how they have created a very supporting and seemingly loving little microcosm of the Ska Punk community. Tonight was no different. Everyone was singing along and having a great time. There was one person in the crowd who kept emulating the actions of whoever was onstage in the spotlight. When it was a horn solo, they were miming playing the trumpet. When there was a great guitar upstroke-based riff, they were playing right along. It was so entertaining and fun and I could feel the giant smile plastered on my face.
Back up to Boca for a bit of Sammy Kay before I headed over to Loosey’s to catch Year of the Fist. The Bay Area group is one of those bands I wish lived closer, because I would catch them every single time they played. Outside of this evening at Fest, I had only seen them once but I was blown away by lead vocalist and guitarist Squeaky. Unlike her moniker, she’s anything but; she’s a powerhouse. The band is punk with tinges of metal that give them an edge over the other more run-of-the-mill Org Core Fest bands. And of course, their set was nothing short of epic.
I watched the whole thing (another full set!) before taking a quick break and scampering across the street to the tiny liquor store where I bought and proceeded to chug two Yerba Matte canned energy drinks. I refused to run of out fuel before I got the end of the my schedule!
Next up, Tsunami Bomb at Loosey’s. All the Bay Area friends showed up to support. Jen Louie and I talked loudly to each other through our KN-95 masks at the front of the stage as the room filled to capacity. I had seen the band last night at High Dive and wondered if there would be any overlap. One quick glance at the set list told me nope! The band took to the stage in Ghostbusters costumes with singer Kate dressed as the cutest goddamn Stay Puft’d Marshmallow Man that I ever did see. They opened with “The Invasion From Within,” which I don’t think I have heard live since Warped Tour circa early 2000s. They covered TSOL’s “Code Blue.” But the real highlight of the night was when I leaned over to my friend Mat and shouted that Tsunami Bomb should FOR SURE do a Murder City Devils cover set next year. Mat smiled and nodded and three minutes later, he was onstage playing bass for them as they covered “Boom Swagger Boom.” They killed it. I’m also psychic. Please make this cover set happen in 2024, Tony. I will look like a Beatles fangirl the moment I hear the organ intro to “Press Gang.”
Skipped over to The Wooly for another friend band, Bong Mountain. Bek was filling in on guitar, as she has been for the last year or so, and I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to see her shred the fuck out of those six strings. And she did. It was nothing short of jaw dropping. The venue was so packed that I actually had to climb the stairs onto the stage to balance myself. And as far as my eyes could see, every single person was dancing and singing along. Knowing that this would be the last time in, at least, awhile that Bong Mountain would play made this the best send off. Don’t be worried though. They’re not breaking up. Adam is just moving to Chicago; so, they will still play sporadically AND I will have a new music friend in my city.
Earlier in the day, I had made a pit stop at my car and walked by a sidewalk full of band members. They stopped me, gave me a sticker, and asked me to come to their set later that night. I added it to my schedule and I made it! Austin, TX’s Rare Bloom played Vecino’s near the end of the evening. I had burned through both my camera batteries so I sat at the back of the venue hogging the outlets as I recharged and chatted with Craig Shay who was drinking out of a boot koozie (don’t know what that is? Neither did I until I saw it. Check out the gallery below for a photo!). Rare Bloom is really, really good and musically they’re really all over the place. And I mean that in a positive way; so many bands at Fest stick to one sound and so many of the bands just ARE that sound. It can get a little tedious, especially on the camera side of this whole thing. But not Rare Bloom. Their set was explosive and energetic and chaotic. Someone on an inflatable pool raft was being crowd surfed/carried around the venue. I loved every minute and was glad I stopped to check these guys out.
Last on the list was Tired Radio. The band had started out as a Brooklyn-based solo effort by Anthony Truzzolino in 2020, but turned into a full band over the years. Single and albums were release, and viola! They were closing out Saturday night at Fest, arguable the most fun and drunken set of the weekend. Poor little Vecino’s was packed so tightly that the windows fogged and the air felt wet. The band took the stage and burst into their set. The crowd went crazy. There were guitar riffs and crowd surfers and people mounting the stage to grab the mics and sing along. It was pure chaos and it was the best ways to end my Saturday night.
My ears were ringing as I walked back past Rare Bloom’s tour van to my car. I stopped at the gas station again for another round of snacks and water. Back at the room, I dropped everything the moment I walked in the door and headed straight to the shower. 10 minutes later, I was in bed surrounded by three bottles of water, snacking on Fritos, and channel surfing until I found a (probably 20 hour long) Forensic Files marathon.
Check out the below photos from Day 2, check out our Day 1 coverage, and stay tuned for Day 3 out tomorrow!