Friday, October 26, 2007

Fest V Flashback: Day 3

Let's close out last year's Fest with a bang
and get ready for this year's gala! ENJOY!


The Fest goes country on its final day

The Ones to Blame get down at Common Grounds. _________________ Fred Sowder/

Saying goodbye to Gainesville for yet another year, the Fest V ended on a decidedly country note Sunday. During the mid-afternoon, while people were in the middle of early voting and candidate forums, the Downtown Community Plaza had some of the free acts of the weekend, including Rob McGregor’s project The Damn Wrights. McGregor, who’s produced more local CDs than most people own, performed a selection of country-folk tunes backed by a crack female band featuring members of The Ones to Blame. The weather was great – a big change from the world-ending torrents that hailed down Friday evening.

Continue to 2nd paragraph After enjoying the sun for a bit, it was off to The Atlantic to catch a relatively unknown band with an intriguing name, Affirmative Action Jackson. The North Main Street club, already packed to the gills due to its early Sunday schedule, was buzzing with a rambunctious crowd as the vocalist railed against things like Sparks and Republicans between quick bursts of punk. The band, which calls Philly home, typified the rest of The Atlantic’s Sunday hardcore bill, which also included fellow Philadelphians Paint It Black, among others.

Common Grounds was next on the itinerary with some early shows by Glossary and Two Cow Garage, two bands hailing from other prominent college towns. Murphreesboro, Tennessee’s Glossary kicked up some honky tonk blues featuring dual singers that hocked CDs and fruit from the stage between songs. Two Cow Garage, from Columbus, Ohio, debated whether or not they were a country band between their corn-fed rock tunes.

Between these two bands, I decided to take a brief stroll over to Club Red to complete my cycle of all The Fest venues for the weekend. Ceramic Cats on first featuring atmospheric compositions sung by Beat Buttons vocalist Alex Lopez. The band sat around onstage as if at a hippie commune, playing laptop rock for the couple dozen in attendance. Many were waiting for the Buttons later appearance at the venue.

After almost crashing an Oriental wedding at The Sun Center on my way back to Common Grounds, I decided to keep my wandering to a minimum the rest of the evening. Although the peak crowds had long since dissipated, my lockout from Common Grounds last night stuck in my mind and I really didn’t want to miss their evening lineup this time.

The always-entertaining Ones to Blame took to the stage, singing tunes of woe and its subsequent alcoholism. Budweisers, Jagermeisters, and other assorted beverages came into play, but no $3.99 wine, unfortunately. The quintet of gals kept things lively nonetheless, with a couple of members sporting their newly pierced noses. The crowd began to reach its peak as the banjo and mandolin cranked out their country party tunes.

Bassist Jackie at one point staked The Ones to Blame’s claim as a “drinking band.” Saying this just before Whiskey & Co. took the stage was like Russell Crowe saying that he can put some away while standing next to Mel Gibson.

The crowd was certainly near capacity when Whiskey & Co. took the stage. Drinking anthems like “Nightlife” got the crowd warmed up with many a drink and beer glass hoisted into the air. Kim Helm and Brian Johnson traded verses with relish as the crowd swelled to an impressive size. Let’s hope that more talk of these “final show” rumors is just that.

Former Hot Water Music singer-songwriter Chuck Ragan then took to the stage with his guitar and harmonica. Looking very much the part of a punk rock troubadour in the Dashboard Confessional vein, Ragan kept the crowd’s attention with his set of earnest, rootsy blues tunes. Ragan, who now calls California home, seemed happy to be back among many of his friends and most loyal fans. Mid-set, Ragan sent out a song to his former HWM bandmates who were off touring Europe under The Draft moniker. By the end of his abbreviated show, he had accompaniment in the form of violinist John Gott. Ragan brought things to an emotional conclusion with a sing-along version of the HWM classic “Eating the Filler.”

The Fest wouldn’t be complete without the bands that make Gainesville the thriving punk scene that it is. That said, Billy Reese Peters were putting on a late-Sunday set a block away at The Side Bar. The Fest wouldn’t be complete without at least a peek at their set. A packed house awaited me at the venue once again, much like last evening. Inside, BRP were having a grand time. The band, shirtless except for the eternal Dolphins fan and bassist Mike Collins in his favorite Daunte Culpepper shirt, flailed around the stage with abandon. They even launched into a drunken version of “We’re An American Band,” which fit the hysteria level that The Fest had reached by that point in the evening. Despite the infectious nature of the crowd, the oppressive heat and humidity of the small venue drove me back to Common Grounds one last time.

There, Colorado’s Drag the River continued the trend of multi-state representation on the evening, although all members didn’t quite make the trip. The band flew into Gainesville especially for The Fest even though they’ll be back for their own headlining tour in a mere six weeks. Bassist J.J. Nobody’s fear of flying kept him away, forcing guitarist-vocalist Jon Snodgrass to do low-end duties. Vocalist Chad Price, now with beard and looking more and more like director Kevin Smith, blended with Snodgrass on an extended set of lowdown countrified tales. After about three false endings in which the band was goaded into playing yet one more song, The Fest finally came to its exhausting conclusion.

Now, exhausted is how I feel. Throughout the weekend, an image I saw on TV last week stuck in my mind. In a zoo in London, a pelican went up to a pigeon and swallowed it whole! I pictured the whale on The Fest t-shirt logo as the pelican and me as the pigeon on more than a few occasions. I’m just happy to have survived this ever-popular annual musical adventure. After all, this beard’s getting itchy. Where the hell did I put my razor?

© Copyright 2006, The Gainesville Sun

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fest V Flashback: Day 2

Take a deep's a run down memory lane from Saturday last year:

The Fest V turns the corner on day two

After a damp but promising start on Friday, The Fest V reached its stride on day two Saturday with a full 13-hour schedule of music. To even begin to comprehend how grueling such a task this is, one must begin the day well nourished. With that, it was off to Common Grounds for some of their barbeque. Upon arrival, the chow line was already quite long – in fact long enough to bail out while my better half held our place in line. Inside Common Grounds, Frozen Cobra were just finishing their set as the first band of the day. Their short-but-sweet set of raucous punk tunes provided an aural bloody mary for those still recovering from the night before, including the band itself.

Continue to 2nd paragraph The barbeque offered both carnivorous and vegetarian options with entrees such as pork sandwiches and barbeque tempeh. After ordering the latter with sides of potato salad and beans along with bottled water, I was informed that the beans were not totally vegetarian. I explained to the server that I wasn’t vegetarian but was instead trying to eat healthy in an effort to last the day. The dish was adequate, but hardly the “ass-load of food” that the schedule promised, unless of course you’re speaking of your typical indie rocker chic diet. Nonetheless, the tempeh provided a quick shot of protein energy to take on this musical juggernaut. My wife enjoyed her pork sandwich, although she thought the meat a bit “lukewarm to cold.” The meal passed for a solid lunch, though, but would have been more suitable at two or three dollars less than the eight bucks charged.

Back inside Common Grounds, Blacksnake were into their early afternoon set. The Gainesville band featured vocalist Rich formerly from Whoreculture as well as other former members of rock vets Grinch, Scorcher, and The Doldrums. Blacksnake flexed their longtime musical chops with a set of top-notch garage rock. The Hold were up shortly thereafter representing Gainesville with metal-inspired tunes in the eighties/early nineties tradition of The Cult and Alice in Chains. It almost gave one the feeling of being at the Button South in South Florida fifteen years ago.

Any lingering feelings of nostalgia soon went out the window with the set from Wilmington, North Carolina’s Thunderlip. The recurring theme of costumes finally made their debut this Halloween weekend as singer Charge Kruiser dressed in drag with a cape and ascot as he writhed on the ground. The band put on a shock-rock set of songs that thoroughly entertained the ever-growing crowd, complete with a blood spitting bassist in the form of Patrick Phillips.

After taking a bit of a break to watch our local football team pull out an unimpressive win against a clearly inferior opponent, it was back downtown for more costumed musical mayhem. The band VCR were taking the stage at The Atlantic complete with neon-colored Jason masks. As a squid-man danced through the crowd, the band showered the audience in its aggressive synth-rock sound, inspiring many spontaneous mass-handclaps. No guitars here – just a rhythm section with three keyboardists that took the crowd on a musical journey of equal parts Hammond B3, Moog, and Farfisa. (They get my vote as The Fest V's best and most original band!) The Atlantic’s Fest set-up took some getting used to: the usual front entrance was reserved for bands only while us common folk had to enter through the side alley, which brought us into the club near the rear toilets. Charming.

After a missed attempt to catch Ghost Mice on the Downtown Plaza before the end of their set, a quick check of Common Grounds saw the line well into the parking lot in the direction of Five Star Pizza. Clearly, any hope of getting back there this evening was now lost.

The Side Bar was a great replacement, though, with a throng of high-energy punk bands. The Tim Version whipped the crowd into a frenzy with crowd surfers galore, even inspiring one overzealous fan to hang from the sprinklers mid-set. After a thorough scolding by the soundman, The Tim Version continued with Russ’ sandpaper-rough vocals and a harmonica stand that received little or no use. Up next were Mississippi trio One Reason. Stocky vocalist Ginger kept the crowd energy up with a tight set of stage diving crowd-pleasers.

The Door-Keys from Bloomington, Indiana were up next at The Side Bar. Led by vocalist Daun Door-Key, the quartet was a pleasant surprise for those that stuck around for a locally unknown name. Their tight rock sound showed much promise, providing hope we may see more of this band soon. From one college town to another, The Door-Keys were touring with Future Virgins, who were up later on the bill.

After a quick detour over to Bar One to catch part of a shoe gazing rock set by Building the State, it was back once again to Abbey Road, where Minus the Bear had put on a stunning set the night before. Oakland’s The Fleshies began the evening here, holding court before an enthusiastic crowd who continued to be inspired by vocalist Johnny No Moniker as he seemed to do more singing from the tops of the crowd’s heads than on stage. Equal parts Mick Jagger, Eddie Vedder, and J.D. Wilkes, No Moniker showed screamo energy that knew no end, while balancing atop amp stacks, crowd surfing mid-song, and being an all-around dynamo across the stage. It actually made the veterans Radon seem tame by comparison.

Radon, however, were not about to miss out on the fun. With members donning costumes as rapper Lil’ Jon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the band ripped into yet another reunion set that always holds the Gainesville locals rapt. For the first time, however, I noticed a marked decrease in the sound level while Radon was on stage. Perhaps it was just my overworked eardrums by that point, too.

After a few of Radon’s songs, it was time to hop on the old bike (the only way to get around town Fest weekend!) for a quick trek over to Club 1982 for the remainder of the evening. Upon arrival, three people were carrying someone dressed as Superman through the door in front of me. Turns out this was Morningbell vocalist Travis Atria making his grand entrance to the stage. With other members of the band dressed as Batman, The Flash, and Batgirl, the band opened with a spirited version of “Monster Mash.” These power-pop super heroes put on a concrete set of tunes, culminating in a finale of the band donning jackets covered in electric lights that strangely recalled the conclusion of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video.

Local indie hip-hop trio C.Y.N.E. drew my biggest bit of sympathy on the day, however. Cultivating Your New Experience certainly did that, being the first act to feature a member that was actually too inebriated to perform. The conscious hip-hop collective’s DJ, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, was clearly in no shape to provide the beats that let emcees Akin and Cise Star work their normal magic. As a result, the duo did many of their tunes acapella. Those in the crowd clearly felt for them, though, providing much love and moral support for their efforts. Serving as a latter-day Public Enemy, Akin spouted conscious messages from the mic such as “crack kills black males” and other platitudes. Their set made one yearn for a performance under more sober conditions.

Closing out the evening, funk faves Velveteen Pink put on an impressive set of retro rhythm and blues inspired the likes of Prince and George Clinton. Drummer-vocalist Nicholas Robbins kept the beats coming through a constant cloud from the onstage smoke machine, while bassist-guitarist Timothy Deaux danced front and center with the band’s pimped-out jackets and shades. Keyboardists Stanley Walker II and Alfredo Lapuz, Jr. also laid town the funky riffs. While the smoke and disco lights did grow tired after a while, Velveteen Pink proved to all why they continue to be one of Gainesville’s most unique musical exports. By this time, however, many were weary from a grueling day of nonstop music. Even though the 1982 bartender emphasized an extra hour of drinking ahead thanks to the evening’s clock change, I doubt many took him up on the offer. After all, one more solid day of Fest music remains.

© Copyright 2006, The Gainesville Sun

Fest V Flashback: Day 1

Ah, it's that time yet again. The Fest 6 is here in Gainesville this weekend and it's bigger and crazier than ever. In fact, it's been sold out now since Tuesday morning! In honor of the festivities (can you believe Wayward Council is doing a show Saturday that begins at 6am?!?!), I'm posting my accounts of last year's shindig that I submitted for the now-defunct Undertone. I do have to say that even through the writing is mine, it is
© 2006 Gainesville Sun/NYT Publications. Without further ado:

Rain rules, but Bear growls on The Fest V’s opening night


The day began promisingly enough. Excitement could be felt in the air as early as midday as throngs of bearded, black-shirted music fans, along with their jean-clad girlfriends, began to trek up and down West University Avenue. Their destination: indie record store and co-op Wayward Council, the official pickup point for their weekend pass wristbands for The Fest V. With its fifth year, The Fest promises to be bigger and better than ever, and not only because everyone was getting a free orange and white beer coozy with their ticket.

This year, with a barbeque on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a rooftop sunset happy hour, where the recently released Fest III DVD will be screened, shows that the event organizers are getting comfy with Gainesville tradition. There are even free shows each afternoon on the city-owned Downtown Community Plaza.

As the evening began, you could see why even the local Convention and Visitors Bureau was aware of the annual event this year. Parking spaces were at a premium even earlier than usual on a Friday as fans and band crews alike dueled for coveted downtown street parking. By eight o’clock, even the Sun Center parking lot was over capacity with vehicles parked halfway upon curbs in order to catch an early set by Miami natives Sidecar Racer at Club Red as part of the first-time electronic music Fest showcase by promoter Electronic SubSouth.

By this time, University Avenue almost had the feel of a street carnival. Packs of Fest attendees were easily spotted by their black attire as they strolled back and forth, checking out local businesses along the way. This manic atmosphere, however, was soon to be replaced by an evening monsoon not seen in Gainesville in quite some time.

As the more daring Fest goers took to the streets, some running, some merely shuffling between venues, the driving rain continued, bolstered by the strobe-effect lightning across the Gainesville sky.

Seattle’s Minus the Bear took to the stage at Abbey Road to a dedicated but slightly damp crowd. With tunes from their latest disc Menos el Oso as well as older favorites, The Bear kept the crowd grooving with their unique mix of synth grooves and rock sensibility. The crowd surfing was a bit atypical of a Minus the Bear show, but considering the venue and its longtime reputation of overzealous security, it seemed to fit the situation. Other band members on the bill came out to lend a vocal hand to the band including those from P.O.S. and Velvet Teen.

MTB made due with the largely cavernous venue that is Abbey Road, filling the undressed room with their unique pulsing sound, much to the delight of all in attendance. At the show’s conclusion and after last call, almost on cue, the rain lessened, giving all hope for a cool yet sunny music-filled Saturday.

© Copyright 2007, The Gainesville Sun