and get ready for this year's gala! ENJOY!
The Fest goes country on its final day
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?
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