Two weekends ago, I had some of the best couple of days ever. From Oct. 26 through 28 I was in Florida at the Fest 11, a music festival which is basically the mecca for punx. Being there was seriously surreal from the very start. See, Fest is something I’ve wanted to go to for a while, but the prospect of planning always seemed far too daunting for my trip to actually materialize. Buying a plane ticket, finding a place to stay, figuring out who to go with…it all just seemed like too much work. But oh, was it worth it.
The whole atmosphere throughout the weekend was unlike any other I’d felt before. I go to shows often, I push people around, I sing too loudly and I show up in photos with my face contorted in a way that makes me look like I’m in severe pain when I’m actually having the time of my life. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been to a lot of shows and they’ve all felt great, but nothing can compare to the emotions I felt during Fest.
Just seeing all these people who looked exactly the same, myself included, led to some fun games of “stare longingly at people’s band tees,” “guess the size their ears are stretched to” and “admire that beard,” but more importantly created this overwhelming and incredible sense of unity, especially knowing you’re all there for the same beautiful reason: music.
Just imagine people coming from all across the country and all around the world to join together in Gainesville and hop from venue to venue at all hours for three days straight. It’s so easy to spot someone who’s there for Fest, you don’t even have to glance at their wrist for that lime green band, you just know (that also might be because there’s a hilarious divide in Gainesville between grungy punx and some of the trashiest people I have ever seen).
I should probably talk about the tunes now. Everyone keeps asking me who my favorite act was and I keep saying it’s so hard to choose and proceed to list everyone I saw and why they were perfect, so I guess I’ll do the same here.
The Menzingers, ah The Menzingers. After listening to their latest album on repeat this summer, I was beyond stoked to see them and they did not disappoint. They played pretty much every song I could have wanted to hear, with the exception of two. This was the one set I saw where I actually made it to my usual front spot and left the Florida Theatre sweaty and beer-covered. I’ve never felt better.
Seeing Braid was unreal, of course. Every time I see a ‘90s emo band that I never thought I’d get to hear live (and by every time I mean that one other time I saw Cap’n Jazz) I am blown away. To see them play “A Dozen Roses” was all I could have asked for and I feel a little bit more complete as a human being.
I’ve got to wrap this up soon, so short descriptions from now on. Lemuria was fantastic as always and it was weird not to see them in a crowded New Paltz basement. Iron Chic and RVIVR went right after each other and played great sets and helped me make a new friend! Good Luck was as fun as I thought they would be and “Public Radio” was so satisfying to sing to.
I spent all of Friday at one venue seeing a straight string of amazing bands including Prawn, Stay Ahead of the Weather, Restorations, Koji and Into It. Over It. with a full band. Restorations was better than I could have ever anticipated, despite not playing my favorite song and I’m pretty sure they surprised everyone with how powerful their set was. I’ve seen IIOI a bunch of times, but I’m now convinced he should always play with a band behind him. It just sounded right, especially when he played “Pilsen.”
Hop Along, Comadre, Calculator, La Dispute, Ceremony…all insane. I could keep going, but I should probably stop.
From good friends to 24-hour Krispy Kreme adventures to a ballin’ tofu sandwich to staying up until 6 a.m. and sleeping on a hotel room floor to a crazy warehouse show where cops came and the band still kept playing…I couldn’t have asked for anything more from you, Fest.
I still haven’t taken off my wristband because I don’t want to admit you’re over.
But I’ll see you next year. I can hardly wait.