I don’t know what happened, but I woke up Friday morning feeling fucking fantastic. Maybe it was the impending change of scenery. Maybe it was getting more than four solid hours of sleep. There is no way to be sure, but there was an extra pep in my step as we loaded up our fucking ballin’ ass Dodge Durango rental with snacks, booze, and humans.
It didn’t last long though as the drag of driving two hours north through the boring fucking “swamps” of Florida quickly wore thin. Mix that with the shitty Starbucks sugar shake I had and not being able to smoke cigarettes, and I was one step closer to the edge. The only thing that saved me from breaking was listening to Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” and listening to Lindsey yell-rap Skinhead Rob’s part in “Red Hot Moon.”
We took a car vote, and Kendra and I were quickly shut down from visiting Cafe Risqué, the “We bare all” strip club just off the freeway. Instead, everyone opted to head straight for our hotel, the Wyndham. It probably worked out for the best. I don’t think the Friday early afternoon “talent” at a truck stop strip club/cafe in the middle of the swamps of Florida could compare to us bribing the desk clerk with a twenty and the promise of telling him the whereabouts of our good friend Sergio if we found him in exchange for the best room available in the hotel with a view of the lagoon. And it was worth it. Our room was fucking tight.
After we settled into our tight accommodations, we had more important things to do. Our list included getting to the pool and having a pineapple drink before heading off to ensure we didn’t miss fucking Freya Wilcox & the Howl. Whoever scheduled them to play 3PM on the day everyone got to Gainesville is a fucking idiot. But surprisingly, it didn’t affect the turnout one bit. Mother’s Pub was packed from door to weird loft area with people watching the Australian rocker do her thing.
We had an hour to kill afterwards, so we hit the flea market at the Holiday Inn to get some Fest Photo Booth pictures in. Tony Shrum and I also spent some time threatening each other with a make out session in Wyndham pool later. We were both bluffing; the pool ended up being freezing at night. Empty threats aside, it was time to hustle a mile down the road to Loosey’s to check out Ellen and the Degenerates. They were a band that Fest announced was playing and had an interesting enough name for me to see what they were about. And what they were about was rad.
Direct Hit! played across the street at the newly re-opened 8 Seconds (aka literally just Cowboys with an 8 Seconds sign) and came out on stage with an entire ska band worth of horn players to start their set with a cover of Cock Sparrer’s “We’re Coming Back” before jumping into the most ripping live version of “Paid In Brains” I have ever seen. Fucking ska.
I ran across the other side of the street to Durty Nelly’s to check out a couple of Cold Wrecks songs from the very back of the venue. Dirty Nelly’s was fucking packed and I actually had to use my dick move press pass line cutting power for only the second time in the three years I’ve had the ability to do so. Decent Criminal was playing at the Palomino an hour after Cold Wrecks, which meant we had time to make a stop at the “secret bar,” also known as [Redacted]. We walked into a completely silent bar as the local patrons watched an episode of Stranger Things. Not wanting to take the chance of it being a new season 2 episode, we grabbed our drinks and sat outside and acted like drunk idiots in peace.
I stopped at Loosey’s to check out our homies in Young Go Hards before getting to the Wooly to see Clownvis Presley. Watching Mac Sabbath last year was a highlight of Fest 15, so I had high hopes for this set. Finding Kendra and friends in the crowd, we were all delighted to see Clownvis try out a new magic trick onstage, complete with the audio tape to guide him through playing over the PA. It was weird and hilarious and the parody bands at Fest are 2 for 2. Would recommend.
I once again had to use my amazing line cutting abilities to get back into 8 seconds for Banner Pilot. The big venue was packed, but I happily watched from the back away from the giant Midwestern crowd surfers, slowly sipping a PBR. Afterwards, we were finally able to get to the real reason we were all in Gainesville, Flaco’s Tacos. I scarfed down a delicious chicken burrito, to renew my late night energy for the second band I refused to miss this weekend, The Dopamines. Every opportunity I have ever had to see these pieces of shit play has been thwarted by some stupid fucking circumstance. Either, I was out of town that weekend, or the girl I was dating at the last Fest they played wanted to see some boring fucking crying band instead, or I just got too drunk to realize what I was watching. Every. Single. Time.
I made it inside the venue. Step 1: Complete. I ran into a bunch of good friends to sing along with. Step 2: Done. I went to the bar to get us a round of Fest punch to make the debauchery circle complete. And waited. And waited. And waited. The first chords began to ring out. And I waited. the first song was halfway through. And I waited. Was I seriously going to miss this fucking band again for some god damned glorified Kool-Aid? As I stressed out, the bartender finally made her way to me and I got us four drinks no tip and made it back just in time for my personal favorite Dopamines song, “Business Papers.” Fucking check.
The night wound down and we made our way back to the hotel pool. What the pool lacked in hot man on man action was definitely made up for by the dude walking around offering pickle back whiskey shots, which ultimately led to Australia’s finest – Cam Woodyard – doing a pickle back shoey. That was it. The night could only go downhill from there. Reluctantly, we packed it up and made way for bed, curious to see what Saturday would bring.
We had two days left of this shit.
** all below images by Eden Kittiver
** all below images by Kendra Sheetz
** all below images by Zack Jacob