Thursday, November 6, 2014

FEST 2014- A REPORT FROM THE FIELD

-->

Every year (almost) I go to Fest, down in Gainesville, Florida.  Every year I come back with piles of records, a crappy tan, and loads of stories.  This year I started off at Pre-Fest in Tampa before venturing up to Fest official.  here's what happened.
DAY 1
Airport anxiety.  Not a fear of flying, but of airports taking forever to get through, flights being delayed, connections missed.  I dread the hassle.  But it’s the Syracuse airport.  When have I ever spent more than 15 minutes getting through TSA?  Never.  This was no different, yet I still barreled down the highway to get to the airport over an hour early, making sure I would not miss my flight.
            Florida is the land where everyone smokes.  They ought to just hand you a pack of Marlboros when you get off the plane as a welcoming gift to their state.  A friend of Glenn’s picks me up.  We have a nice chat.  I get my registration biz sorted out and he then takes me to Glenn’s new record shop Vinyl Countdown (check it out if you’re in Tampa and enjoy records and comics…  a perfect mix if you ask me).  It’s a small shop, but all quality stuff.  I pick myself up an old Guilt LP.  We go back to Glenn’s house.  I meet his riled up dogs, and then we head out to Ybor to get on with the business of watching bands.
                                                 Self Defense
            Self Defense Family is first on my list.  It’s been a few years since I’ve seen them play, but I’ve been keeping up with the musical progression.  They play a bunch of stuff I don’t know and a couple from the recent LP.  Pat’s ramblings are in top form.  One of their guitarists plugs an old phone into her guitar and plays harmonica into it.  I’m not sure the exact effect this is supposed to produce (the sound here is a little weird), but it sure looks cool.
                                               Self Defense

            Honestly, there are not many bands I have an interest in seeing here tonight, or at Pre-Fest for that matter.  Flying to Tampa was more of a convenience than the massive headaches I endured in past years flying into Jacksonville.  But regardless, I’m a stranger in a strange land, may as well check out some venues.  Everyone smokes.  Did I mention that already?  It’s also like mid-July down here.  So the humidity is thick in the air, mixed with cigars and cigarettes, and it’s fucking with my sinuses that have just adjusted to Upstate NY Fall chill.  And out of nowhere I blow a nose gasket and blood starts gushing out.  I have a weird thing where I tend to get nosebleeds from a combination of flying and sudden changes in climate.  Either way, I must have looked like I got into a fight or something because I’m bleeding out into the street, over a garbage can and getting blood all over my hand and face.  It’s a truly disgusting sight. I could have passed for a bath salts abuser who just tried to eat someone’s face.  I’m certainly in the right part of the country for it to be believable.  Eventually I make my way into a venue to wash up and take care of my stupid nose.
                                                        That's my blood

            Moving on, and wandering from venue to smokey venue I catch parts of sets from Dowsing (minor Superchunk feel), Bear Trade (English No Idea style), and Astpai (pop punk with weird time changes).  I stop to get a falafel sandwich at a place where the waitress is too busy with her phone to actually provide service to the customers.
            And then a band I had on my short list to see- Cumulus- plays on a patio in an outdoors type venue.  They’re very poppy, with bits of synth, and a fun and energetic feel.
                                              Cumulus

            Then it’s off to see Restorations.  They play a bunch of new stuff and it sounds tight.  They play so goddamned well and solid though it’s impossible to ignore them.  They really have it dialed in.  Stoked for those dudes.
            From there I catch back up with Glenn and we bail out.  Once back at his house the nose starts up again and I’m preoccupied with making the bleeding stop.  I barely sleep the night.  Um, this isn’t sounding like a great vacation so far, is it?
            When I do wake up its about 15 minutes before my nose starts bleeding again.  What the shit. Why can’t I just get FestAIDS instead?  I think it would be preferable to a gross and bloody sniffer.
                                                   Restorations

DAY 2
            I barely made an agenda for today, and maybe that’s what leads to adventure of the best kind- unplanned.
            I was dropped off in front of the Orpheum.  Kaiju Big Battle was getting under way and I was excited to see what surely would be dumb, ridiculous entertainment.  And was it ever.  Consider this scenario- dudes wearing monster outfits and wrestling among cardboard cityscapes while a crazed announcer did the play-by-play through it all.  Some of the monsters who partook in the madness: Dust Bunny (dusty space rabbit), Kung-Fu Chicken Noodle (dude with a can of soup for a body), and Gambler Bug (self-explanatory).  It was way too much fun.
                                              Kaiju Big Battle- Dust Bunny vs. Gambler Bug

            Yet once it was over I had a good six hours to kill before anything else I was interested went down.  I ran into an acquaintance I barely knew from Philly and basically spent the rest of the day tagging along on their adventures, which was great because much of that day was spent exchanging opinions on music, comics, veganism, and other assorted stories…  ya know, the stuff that lets you know for sure if you got a solid person in your midst or not.  Congrats Kate, you pass with flying colors.  Continue being rad.  The days travels brought a long walk downtown to partake in the fabled Taco Bus.  It was decent, but way overpriced for what I got.  I ended up watching several bands I wouldn’t normally subject myself to, and they were met with about a 50/50 ratio of success- The Bennies (and Australian Andrew WK meets weirdo ska hybrid), Dear Landlord (Fat Wreck/Fest style…  yeah, ‘Fest’ is now a genre of music), Smith Street Band (not my thing, but I get why people like them, very epic sing-alongs), Laura Stevenson (indie/folksy, but genuine and quite original).  Sprinkled betwixt were bands that were on my list to see- the fuckin’ Night Birds (intense raging surf/hardcore rippers), Pale Angels (incredibly loud and manic Sugar-meets-Nirvana rock), PUP (you all know who they are at this point, deserved hype and so godamned wild to boot).   
                                                   Night Birds
        
Crisscrossing town all day, it felt good.  But by 11 PM I was beat.  I gave Glenn a ring but he was going to be a bit so I decided to take a gander at the Screaming Females set.  I’ve seen them a bunch, and they always impress, so I guess it couldn’t hurt to see them once more, right?
            Finally I get to the crash pad and am ready to pass the fuck out, but am somehow convinced to stay up an extra hour or so while the people at the house chat up about TV and comics (yeah, it’s a running theme this weekend I guess).
                                                Pale Angels

DAY 3 (HALLOWEEN)
            Get me to the bus.  Wait in line for awhile and then jet up to Gainesville for the main event.  Rolling into town so many things are racing through my head to try and accomplish all at the same time- drop off inserts for the 4-way split LP to the guy from Community Records I’ve never met, hand out the Hex Records Newsletters, eat and drink something before I pass out, meet up with my Syracuse connection so I know where I’m sleeping tonight, take a massive dump…  ya know, essential stuff.  Somehow a miracle appeared before me and I was able to take care of all of these things in less than two hours.  Sounds like no big deal right?  Wrong.  Imagine trying to coordinate all this stuff in a city where 5000 punks are all congregating at the same time, all trying to take care of their own shit.  Not so easy.
            And yet, I am still so hungry.  I need food.  I also need to hit up the new Arrow’s Aim (AKA, one of the best record stores I’ve ever been in).  Which need do you think I satiated first?  Before you take a guess just understand that I would not do well in a post-apocalypse scenario.  After dropping nearly $100 at the record store I dropped a whopping $4.25 on a couple tempeh tacos from the always amazing Flacos.  Needs=met.
                                                       Record haul

            Time to see bands.  After catching Ma Jolie I swung over to 1982 and took in Brief Lives.  I’d say they were the most ass-kicking band of the day.  They covered Helmet.  I was overjoyed.  It’s as if Swiz and Quicksand got busy in a back alley, Cutman perved in on the action and nine months later Brief Lives were birthed.  Destructo-rock.  Friggin’ singer of Valient Thorr is their vocalist strangely enough.

                                             Brief Lives

            So let’s see how this whole Bo Diddley Park thing works out.  Lemuria playing outdoors in a park to thousands of people.  It’s the most ambitious step I think I’ve seen Fest take over the years and it actually works pretty well.  Aside from the corny barriers which made things a bit impersonal it was about as good as they could make things overall.  I’ll take the band in a club any day over this, but it was still alright.
                                              Lemuria

            After a handful of songs I shot over to 8 Seconds to see what I could of Paint It Black.  How will this go?  Awesome apparently because they took down the barrier!  So yeah, Dan Yemin- righteous dude, insane stage dives, sing-alongs, destroy everything evil with overwhelming posi hardcore vibes and harsh riffs.  You cannot deny the power of Paint It Black or the chaos that ensues.
                                              Paint It Black

            Halloween in Gainesville- where it’s totally normal to see a posse of skateboarders all wearing Devo costumes, or a strapping 6’5” dude in a sexy Snow White get-up.
            I didn’t see PUP again.  I saw the line for PUP.  It stretched around the block.  That’s a lot of people who won’t see PUP.
                                              PUP (Pre-Fest)

            I made a stupid schedule for myself crisscrossing town back and forth and by the end of the night I thought my feet were going to fall off.  But one more time over to 1982 to catch a little Canadian band called Life In Vacuum who played to a tiny crowd.  That’s OK.  The small crowds tend to mean the band is usually pretty awesome.  And they were.  Loud, tight, crazy dynamics and tones, mathy, hard, interesting.  Like the sassiness of These Arms Are Snakes and Monorchid, but wound tight and louder with the discipline of Shellac.        
                                              Life In Vacuum
   
            Stupid schedule attacks again- back across town, and further, to see Dave from Ex-Breathers play Superchunk songs at CMC.  I caught all of 1 ½ songs due to the long walk, but at least one of them was “Hyper Enough” so that works.  But now I’m hungry enough as it is (see what I did there?) and I get some snacks over at Pop-A-Top, including my first Fest root beer of the weekend (see last years write-up on that). I roll with a Bulldog brand, which ain’t too shabby, but not terribly original either.  It does the trick though.
            Finally, it’s over to High Dive to see Prawn.  I imagined metal dudes mistakenly showing up thinking Prong is playing and having a similar reaction as the Motherboy fans had in that one episode of Arrested Development.  Fuck.  Prawn was probably the overall best band I saw today.  They sounded incredible and everyone was singing along, as they should be, because “Kingfisher” is one of the best damn records I heard all year.
                                             Prawn

            On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Taco Bell and witnessed a gaggle of girls dressed as, I don’t know, either Playboy bunnies or hookers, exit the place.  According to our driver Allyson, she saw them earlier in the night and one of the girls was wearing underwear where ‘you could see her vag’.  How about that?  Imagine the lonely cashier tasked with working the late shift on Halloween Friday night and in parades this gang of broads flashing their naughty bits and buying tacos.  Maybe it brightened his day, maybe he went home a bit more sad.  Who’s to say? 
DAY 4
There’s time to kill early on so I suggest that Mike ought to go see the alligators.  He’s never seen them.  Heck, he’s never been to Fest.  You got to see the gators at some point.  But it’s like NY weather out here today (as in, it’s like 50 out today) so who knows if the gators will be out.  So we seen some gators and they still look like they’re made out of rubber, but I’ll go ahead and believe they’re real.
                                              Gatorin'

            Afterwards I convince my crew that they need to witness Kaiju, as they’re performing again today.  Some of it was the same as Tampa, but they also threw in a couple other characters I hadn’t seen, like the breakdancing Silver Potato being the highlight.  “He doesn’t just pop and lock”, as the man says.
                                              Kung Fu Chicken Noodle- Kaiju

            I get word a little bit later that the line at the High Dive stretches back to Tallahassee so I best get over there and use my magic pass to get in before it gets tight.  I knew Cayetana kinda had some hype behind them, but this seemed excessive. Nevertheless, I’m happy for them and am excited to see them again.  I had to endure a Weezer cover band before Cayetana would begin.  Yet when the Weezer band finished half the place emptied out like schmucks.  Whatever, more room for me to watch a band that rules.  And yeah, Cayetana basically played their whole album and there was still a good sized crowd there, so all was right in the world.
                                                       Cayetana

            I convinced another crew to go get lunch at Reggae Shack.  Why wouldn’t I make at least one trip there this year?  My ignorance in years past made me pass them up, I have to make up for it.  I ate until I felt dumb.  The food was great, the service not so much.  Try the Ackee Bruschetta.  It looks kinda gross and sorta has the texture of eggs, but believe me, it rules.
            Wandering back I figured I ought to queue up for Dangers until I saw that the line was backed up to Timbuktu.  Not even my magic pass would save me on this one.  I don’t think I’ll even bother.  I suppose I’ll go back to Arrow’s Aim and look at more records.  It’s like starring into the abyss and having it stare back at you.  ‘This is your life, flipping through one record at a time’.  Exit stage right I suppose.
            Pace around, wander, watch, repeat.
            Into Durty Nelly’s to see All Eyes West.  It’s a smokey Irish pub and I feel a bit awkward here. But I have ditched out on seeing this band for like three years so I guess now’s the time to finally put up and check them out.  They fuckin’ kill it too.  The guitarist, who looks at least seven years my elder wraps himself around the crowd, banging and pushing, jumping, etc.  Now that’s inspiring.  
                                           All Eyes West

            I jet halfway through to try and catch a bit of All People’s set at 1982.  It’s definitely weird shit.  They bring up a self-described drag queen during their set who self-identifies as ‘Madonnathan’ to sing a show tune with them and it’s pretty great.  Varied sound, weird vibes, entertaining times.
            With some more time to kill I finally get over to patronize Karma Cream and get some tea.  I catch Dan Yemin and talk that dude up for awhile.  Always a welcoming dude and genuine human.  Walk back to Pop-A-Top and grab a root beer (an Old Red Eye, not necessarily worth writing home about).
                                             All People

            Now I’m chilly and I’m wearing a t-shirt.  And I decide to go see the Descendents outdoors.  They’re exactly as I’d expect them to be.  Now, I’ve never been a massive Descendents fan.  I enjoy their music, but don’t celebrate it daily or anything like that.  And it’s been approximately 18 years since I have seen them and not much is different, but it’ still pretty fun.  So after about 20 minutes and most of the songs I’d care to hear I make a bee line to the Atlantic because I know as soon as the Descendents are done that line to get in is going to get stupid again.
It’s a good two hours before Self Defense plays and every band before them is terrible.  And I don’t mean terrible musicians or anything, just music that I can’t understand for the life of me why it is popular.  But I’m also old and have sore feet, so not much is awesome at this particular moment. 
            But finally SDF takes the stage again and play pretty much the same set as the other night, but the sound is better here and everything comes off crystal clear.  Pat goes off on fighting internet shit-talkers, and Ecto Cooler.  Perfect stage banter for whatever sort of band they’re supposed to be.
            Creepoid closes out the night.  They go off, but not quite as nuts as I’ve seen them in the past.  Then again, I believe they did drive something like 18 hours straight to get here.  They broke out a couple older songs that I thought they may have retired and that was a bonus.  What wasn’t a bonus:  nearly clocking the drunk guy behind me who kept yelling out chauvinistic bullshit during the whole set (met with a sea of rolling eyes), who decided to drunk mosh into everyone during the last song.  After getting rammed a few times I took the fella by his jacket, pulled him forward, then threw him back a few yards, and told him to relax.  Afterwards he got all sad sack on me and said, ‘don’t be mad at me’.  Geez, what a palooka.
                                              Best shirt I saw all weekend

DAY 5
            I had a dream this morning where I was wandering around a house singing a Black Flag song that didn’t exist.  A circa-’83 Rollins look-alike followed me around singing and dancing too.  The song was called “Throw You Off the Roof”.  It had a pretty catchy chorus too.  I hope Greg Ginn doesn’t sue my dreams.  And then blobs of blood gunk started flowing out my nose in the dream and I figured that was a good time to wake up.
            So, the last day of fest was fraught with concerns of what to do/who to see/ what sort of mischief to get into on this, the day of my birth.  Yes, most years during Fest my birthday happens to coincide and generally watching bands is a good way to celebrate.
            So I started with Direct Effect.  The singer of this band will be portrayed by Javier Bardem, no doubt, should a biopic ever be made about them.  Not as wild live as I thought they’d be considering their record sounds like it’s coming apart at the seams, but they were still pretty good.  Afterwards I got some lunch across the street at Harvest Thyme, where the tiny dreadlocked waitress looked like a cross between Beth from Walking Dead, a cartoon, and a crust punk.  That sounds terrible but I honestly mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
            Back to the Atlantic and catch sets from Weak Teeth and Dredger (who were basically the only powerviolence style band I saw, and they all look like older dudes.  Into it.) before Ex-Breathers got on, who I was mostly there to see.
                                           Ex-Breathers (not actually taken at Fest)

            I just have to ask though- why does no one go off for Ex-Breathers?  This is some hostile/energetic music.  What’s wrong with people?  Is Fest getting more tame, or am I just showing up for the wrong bands?  Is moshing over?  Am I old?  Regardless, they destroy everything with a non-stop set of thrashy riffs, Fugazi-like dynamics, and weird transitions.  Non-watchers ought to be ashamed.
            I dash across the street to the Wooly to catch Whores and a scant crowd is present.  It soon starts filling up though as the band can probably be heard from miles away with the thickest slabs of noise rock sludge this side of a Melvins show, which, in case you didn’t know, the Melvins are playing later tonight.  Fuck my camera for being dead because these dudes are basically the most photogenic band around, carelessly throwing their guitars around and kicking into their cabs, or the air, or other people, whatever.  Riff after riff.  Avalanche of riffs. Riffy McRifferson.
            And then, back to the Atlantic (again).  Fucking Invincible.  Like I’m not going to watch them.  They had a younger version of their usual bassist/sometimes guitarist George filling in.  I mean, like an exact replica, only 20 years younger.  So yeah, people moved for them, because if they didn’t I would have figured a bunch of corpses were watching.  They play Infest-styled blast hardcore with plenty of meaty riffs to pulverize you.  I mean, their name is Fucking Invincible, they have to live up to it.
            I zip over to 8 Seconds to try and catch a bit of the Restorations set and I see them play two songs, which is fine.  Both are from the so-far fantastic (and just released) “LP3”.  One I know, and will probably be my favorite on the record, the other is one I’m not familiar with yet. 
            Back to Wooly!  I’m finally going to see United Nations.  I’ve missed them in years past and I want to know what they buzz is all about. I have to admit- almost every song kind of sounded the same:  open with blast beat part, transition into aggressive Thursday/screamy part, repeat.  It’s not a bad way to go, just an observation.  Lots of snarky chit-chat between songs that sounded sort of like vocalist Geoff Rickly was trying really hard to be hateful about things.  I don’t know, maybe he’s got genuine beef against the Beatles. 
            Time for a root beer.  I go with a solid, consistent winner:  a Sioux City Root Beer.  It’s my birthday, I can drink whatever root beer I want.  Once again, it’s chilly, I’m in a t-shirt, and I’m about to stand outside in the dark and watch Lifetime for the first time since 1996.  I will not be denied.  Life is weird.
                                              Bo Diddley Park

            I see Lifetime.  It’s kind of surreal.  It’s like a version of something I really dig.  They’re so far away, but the songs are so good.  The band is clearly not in their element (which would more likely be a basement, indoors).  Instead they’re playing on a big stage in a park to about 2000 people.  They still play all my favorite stuff so I’m happy.
            Time to close out the night.  I return to the Wooly early so I can warm up.  On the downside I have to sit through Circle Takes the Square.  It’s not my ting, and especially difficult to take in the incredibly complex music they’re playing when I’ve been raging through five days of bands non-stop.  But my pals Nate and Sarah help me get through it as they have brought me a delicious birthday cupcake to satiate my appetite, and loads of laughs as we take pictures of people ‘bored at Fest’.  At this point in the weekend it’s pretty easy to do, a lot of people are wiped out.  I’m almost there.
            And then I see Coliseum and all is well.  They barrel through solid rock jams that are well known, one brand new song that sounds like Swiz, and even a few real old ones.  Always a pleasure to see these dudes.
            The Melvins take forever to begin.  But they’re the Melvins, so what do they care?  To kill time my cohorts and me dance up on everyone who walks by.  Finally, the Melvins begin and it’s another set where I know nothing that they play.  I have to admit, I really enjoy the Melvins records that I have.  But that’s all of about 4 LPs out of the Grand Canyon-sized catalog they have to draw from.  And basically they’re going to play whatever the fuck they feel like playing, no matter how bizarre and obscure it might be.  That’s part of the ‘fuck you’ charm of this band.  So after about 40 minutes I’m ready to check out.
                                          Bored people at Fest, after 5 days of non-stop mania

            I collect my shit, say my goodbyes to Syracuse brethren who are off to greener pastures in Orlando, and chill in front of the Hampton, where I am to crash with some other folks for the night.
            While waiting for my party to arrive I see my pal Brian from Kiss Of Death exit the hotel.  I call out to him and we talk for a minute.  He asks what I’m doing waiting around and I explain that I’m just waiting for my group to arrive and he just hands me his hotel card.  In fact, he just gives me his room.  He says he’s paid up to tomorrow, but wants to get back home to Tampa tonight to sleep in his own bed and I can just have his whole room.  It’s all mine.  No other people.  It’s got two king sized beds in it.  I can’t make this up, dude just GAVE me his room.  At a really expensive hotel.  Now that’s birthday gift.  Needless to say, after a few nights of weird sleep I finally get the best nights rest I’ve had all week.  Fuck partying until the dawn, I’ll take a good rest.
            In the AM I get up, get out, get food, and board the bus back to Tampa.  I wait around in the airport and board my plane.  I make my connection and then get back to Syracuse late at night.  It’s honestly the first time in years I’ve flown and had absolutely no travel complications whatsoever.
Thanks Fest, always a blast.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

APPLE CIDER, PUMPKIN STUFF, AND REVIEWS

There has been no gradual change, Fall just appeared one day.  It was 90 degrees one day and 60 the next.  I'm cool with it.  I'll take chill Fall days any time.  Gimme a warm drink, a couch, a comic book, a record in the background, and I'll pass the whole day away...  one can dream can't they?  OK, so a few of these reviews come from records that have been out for a bit, but whatever.  This is all about the influx of the short and fast, as more than a few have graced my turn table as of late.  OK, read on and start getting anxious about Halloween (the only holiday worth a damn).


ANGEL DU$T, “A.D.”
Are they joking, or are they real?  Are they both?  Such is the sort of question one should not even bother to ask when listening to Angel Du$t (yes, the dollar sign is part of the name).  Just accept it for what it is, even though most of these dudes have played in bands worthy of being played as a soundtrack for back alley brawls.  After a killer 7” from last year they follow up with a dozen songs on a dozen inches of wax and call it an LP.  Fifteen minutes later you’ll be exhausted from bouncing around the room like an idiot.  Each song is a fun burst of punk rock that strides the line between some SoCal style and NYHC/older H2O about love lost, love spurned, and all that gushy stuff in-between.  A lot of emphasis is put on the vocals to add a dose of melody.  I dig their simple style, which is not only reflected in the instant catchiness of the songs, but also in the package of this record.  (React/Reaper)

CAYETANA, “Nervous Like Me”
So did this band explode overnight or what?  I’m happy to see that not only has this young group garnered considerable attention quickly, but that they have grown a lot as a band, and songwriters, in a very short period of time as well.  After a demo and a seven inch it appears they have put some time in with recording their first LP and it’s a wonderful record full of catchy anthems and plaintive gems.  It’s easy to get lost in the songs here as they move through haunting melodies, bouncy bass lines, a steady beat, and the uniquely emotive vocals of guitarist/singer Augusta Koch.  They add in hints of organ and synth for background texture on a number of songs and all these elements combined make for a great debut record.  Songs like “Black Hills”, “Animal”, and “Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving” are my favorites here, having heard them live months ago and still caught in my head once I heard this record.  That’s a good sign of a catchy song.  If I were offer up any changes it would be that a few of these songs have been on their other recordings and I think I just want to hear more new songs aside from the ones I already know!  (Tiny Engines)

FUCKING INVINCIBLE, “It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better”
After numerous setbacks with actually getting the physical copies of this record out F.I.  finally have a ‘full-length’ to call their own.  I put that in quotes because even though there are 14 songs on here it takes all of about 14 minutes to get through the whole thing.  Whatever.  If a band can come up with that many songs and fill two sides of a 12” it’s a full length.  I’m assuming you can guess what they sound like if you’ve never heard them based off of that?  No?  Play extremely fast, throw in a three second face-smashing breakdown, and wildly screamed vocals and then get to the next song.  That’s pretty much the gist of it and I’m a huge fan of the particular jib that they’re cutting.  But if I may get into the details I have to say the recording here is more grimey than their last two seven inches.  I’ve grown to dig it after listening to this repeatedly for the last couple weeks (it’s pretty easy when it’s so short) and it translates better on vinyl than it does via mp3.  But it lacks a little of the punch that was present on the first couple 7”s.  I will say, though, that everything is mixed together more evenly on this record.  OK, now go and play faster.  (Atomic Action)

GREEN DREAMS 7”
Good and rowdy fuzzy punk from Rochester.  This group has gone through a few different lineups and changes over the last couple years, but it feels like they’re settling into their groove on this four-song ripper.  You’d think a married couple and their friend would sound nice, right?  Instead you get snarled vocals, garage-y clatter, and a hardcore/punk love affair tearing it apart at the seams.  Love hurts, but it’s catchy.  Could use a better recording, though I’m assuming they want it to sound dirty.  (CherishRecords)

LONGEST WAR 7”
If you lived in Buffalo from the mid-to-late 90’s (like I did) you will recognize exactly what is going on with this record, even though the members of this band are spread out from Rochester, Hamilton/Ontario, Buffalo, and the West Coast.  But they all share some Buffalo love and represent it here like it never went out of style.  Think meat-and-potatoes working class hardcore, a bit of youth crew, and just a dash of Slayer and you have Longest War.  They managed to cram five songs onto this little record and having known some of these dudes for a long time I can say without hesitation that this is pretty much exactly what I envisioned them doing when they started playing.  (Press Gang Records)

MULTICULT, “Variable Impulse”
A couple of the guys from Virginia’s long-running Wayward (yeah, I thought they split too, but they are still going!) probably thought to themselves, ‘ya know, we don’t sound enough like Jesus Lizard yet’ (truth be told, while sharing some similarities The Wayward have more of a proggy vibe… but I digress), so they went and started this band….  which sounds just like the Jesus Lizard.  And I imagine they will take that as a compliment.  OK, so maybe the vocals are discernable and some of the more propulsive and wild elements common to TJL are a bit more restrained here, let it be known Multicult do a fine job of paying homage in a very legit way.  Some of those slightly prog inclinations they have going on in Wayward poke their noses around here, but all riff sniffing aside, Multicult lay down some seriously heavy bass work and twisted, gnarled- but thoughtful- noise rock skronk that I can get down with.  (self-released)

PRAWN, “Kingfisher”
A friend’s band recently played with this group out of town and reported back how awesome they thought this group was.  Having absolutely nothing to go on but their good word I found myself the recipient several days later to the contents of this album and gave it a go.  Uh, my friends were right.  Rarely does a band invoke spirits of old and spit it out into the modern world with their own unique twist on things, and make it work seamlessly.  Yes, Prawn pines the sounds of mid-to-late 90’s emo and post-hardcore, dissects the template and adds washes of expansive guitar, as well as passages of intricate riffs.  The first half of the record expands on the intricate and more rocking end of things, punctuated by opener “Scud Running” and later on by “Dialect Of”.  The second half moves slower, wandering in and out of expansive sounds until it culminates in closer “Halcyon Days”.  All in all, it’s an excellent record that is leaps and bounds above their previous body of work.  A sleeper hit for sure.  (Top Shelf Records)

PUNCH, “They Don’t Have To Believe”
If there is one thing that is not up for debate with the Bay Area’s gnarliest (debatable) hardcore group it is consistency.  You know what you’re going to get with Punch, down to the look of their records.  The minor changes apparent are ones that any decent band should hope to accomplish- more cohesion to their musical rampage, and not being afraid to occasionally stretch the length of their songs out a bit (in their case, past the two minute mark).  What remains is a loud and ripping record full of blast beats, youth crew breaks, massive build-up’s, and throat-shredding vocals.  The lyrics continue to pine mostly the ‘personal-is-political’ theme, and are done so with a bit more clarity than on previous recordings in my opinion.  Punch do what they do and they do it in an awesome way.  Like the record says, “play fast, or don’t play”.  (Deathwish Inc.)

RINGWORM, “Hammer Of the Witch”
More often than not, bands that continue to hack away at whatever path they choose for themselves tend to water down whatever it is that made them so potent in their early years.  The advancement of age, calloused fingers no longer quite on the pulse of what’s happening, careers, kids, ya know, things that remove hungry bands from that which kept them vital to the music they played.  None of these aspects appear to have dulled the razor with which Ringworm has been slicing the ears of listeners for the last 20 years or so.  Maybe they’re just lifer scumbags with nothing to live for but heavy metal, and that’s truly admirable.  I will say, though, this doesn’t quite smash one’s enemies as harshly as records like “Life Is Pain” or “Justice Replaced By Revenge”…  as in, there are less breakdowns.  But this is a solid metal record.  Solos abound out of every corner.  The music is fast and riffs well crafted.  Human Furnace sounds just as pissed and volatile as ever.  Yet many of these songs sound the same…  like one big fast, pissed, metal song.  I suppose that’s not a bad thing, especially for a band still tearing it up after all this time.  This has quite possibly the best artwork of any Ringworm record to date.  (Relapse)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SURPRISE! IT'S A NEW RECORD!

For the first time in...  who knows, forever maybe... we're teaming up with a couple other labels to release a record!  This has been in the planning stages for quite a long time with the lion's share of the work being done by Community Records and Social Cancer Records...  and Hex Records is just jumping on board as a proverbial third wheel.
Be that as it may, this Fall (November to be exact) we will be partnering up to release a four way split featuring Ovlov, Ex-Breathers, Gnarwhal, and Woozy!  All the bands are linked so go listen to them if you haven't already.
The first song from this 12" is up right now from Ovlov and you can check it out HERE.

You can also pre-order the record NOW.

It will ship out in November.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

END OF SUMMER SALE!




We won't promise you that any of this stuff will aid you in back-to-school preparation...  unless loud music helps in that department.

OK, it's on. The end of Summer sale is going from now til Sept. 1st. 20% off in the store when you use the code 'SUMMERBUMMER'. U.S. customers only please, shipping is too friggin' expensive. New stuff added to the store as well and all orders come with free goods! Do it! http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

INTERVIEW: TONY WEINBENDER (FEST)


Gainesville Fest.  Or just simply known as Fest.  It needs no special title.  People know what it is.  The first year that I went I piled into a rented minivan with six other friends, some of which I barely knew.  My name was on the rental because I was the only one old enough to rent a car.  We drove straight from New York to Florida.  It took about 20 hours and I think I did about 12 hours straight driving for no good reason other than being a determined road warrior.  I was afraid of an entire town drowned in beer and the accompanying annoyance that comes with being a straight edge guy amongst hordes of drunk people.  But I had to admit, that year (and every year since) people at Fest have been nothing short of awesome.  That’s the great thing about Fest- 5,000 people from everywhere take over a small college town and appreciate that they’re wearing shorts, watching punk bands, and having fun in the sun on the cusp of Winter.  How could that put anyone in a bad mood?
After communicating via e-mail for a few years with organizer Tony Weinbender about press stuff he suggested a phone call for this interview.  Truly a pre-internet dude at heart.  I furiously scribbled as he talked so he will have to forgive me if I paraphrased some answers slightly, or just edited out bits because my hand cramped up.
Before getting to the actual questions Tony went into his history of growing up in Roanoke, Virginia and making punk connections the old-fashioned way:  go to shows out of town, play in a band, meet people face to face, remember those people, play their town, and have them play in yours.  From connecting with regional heroes Avail, to founding the MacRock Fest in Harrisonburg, to moving to Florida and becoming a full-time roadie for Less Than Jake, to working in-house at No Idea Records, and eventually establishing Fest, and it growing to be one of the biggest and best punk events in the U.S. (13 years running!) Tony has come a long way.  Here’s what transpired of our lengthy conversation.



What do you think separates Gainesville Fest from other fests happening around the U.S.?

It’s definitely different.  When we grew up there seemed to be more of a format with various fests.  More of the underground hardcore and punk that came from the DIY culture would all gather in one big venue for the whole day or weekend, which could get kind of dull, just hanging out in this one building all day.  But when I lived in Virginia and put together the MacRock festivals I applied something I learned from going to CMJ in NYC, and that was using multiple venues.  So when I did end moving to Gainesville and eventually putting together Fest I wanted to have multiple venues.  It’s something different, ya know?  I also wanted to have a lot of diversity of bands that played, different styles of music.  That way, you have a hardcore band playing in one venue at the same time that a punk band is playing at a venue next door.  It gives the attendees the power, instead of just sitting in one venue all day, waiting for whatever bands you wanted to see.  With Fest I wanted to do this fun and exciting thing for people and to be able to help my friends who were in bands.  Ya know, give these bands some exposure.  I mean, it might even be a big thing, but with certain bands, especially smaller ones, if they play Fest it could really do wonders for their band.
            Also, I think, with Fest, it’s this huge community, like a family sort of thing.  People travel from all over the world for it and we all get together to enjoy this thing.  I think that is part of what separates us from other fests happening.
            It seems like the popular format for a lot of fests to follow is to have one big venue with multiple stages and it doesn’t always feel like a real community sort of thing to me.  With Fest we’ve got these messageboards, and facebook groups, and other things where people just spend the whole year talking about Fest.  It’s weird.  It’s almost like a con.

A con?  Like a scam?

No, like a comic con.  Like San Diego Comic Con, ya know?  The people who are into those sorts of things just create this whole world around it and talk about it all year, ya know?  Fest has people following it like that.  It’s weird.  When we first started doing it we used to call it a family reunion because so many of our friends and friends bands would all get together this one weekend of the year to be here and hang out.  Some times I take for granted that what we do is really awesome.

Do you go to other fests and get a feel for what they do, and maybe apply it to Gainesville Fest?

Well, a lot of the fests I’ve gone to over the last several years have been smaller.  I don’t go to the bigger ones really because you’re usually stuck at one venue the whole time and I don’t really care for that.  But I like to go to Best Friends Day up in Richmond because I’m from Virginia and a lot of the bands I like and am friends with end up playing.  I also went to Insubordination Fest and that was a lot of fun.  I like the smaller fests because I can actually hang out at them.  I can’t really do that at Fest because I’m generally too busy running things.
            I will say, though, that Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin was really great.  They have a different format than we do, but the guys who put it together- we’re all cut from the same cloth.  Because of Austin being the type of town that it is they can do things on a much grander scale than we can.  But the organizers really open their arms to us at Fest.  It’s like a big fiesta there.  It’s really cool to see people from our scene do really huge things.  Like, they just did Slayer!  But they’ll still make room to have a band like Joyce Manor play, and then still book smaller shows throughout the year.  Those guys who book FFF Fest come from the DIY scene.  One of them is involved with Chaos In Tejas and that’s a really cool Fest as well that uses multiple venues.  And the best part is Austin is cool with it.  They’re used to stuff like that happening.

I know Fest is a job throughout the year for you, but when do you generally start planning each year’s event?

Well, Fest always happens at the end of October.  So for a couple weeks after it happens I basically do clean up for a couple weeks afterwards.  Most of that is paying bands who took off before they were able to get paid, or forget to come by the office and get paid.  So I’m tying up loose ends with that stuff, and a lot of accounting things.  Lots of little details.  Curtis, who does Best Friends Day, is actually a certified CPA, so he comes down and helps out on that end.
            So after that is Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and I generally hang out with family during that time.  We usually get started in January.  That’s when I begin talking to venues and get their feedback and ideas about what was working for them, or not working for them, during Fest.  It gives them a couple months to reflect on it, and we just work out how to proceed with next year’s Fest.  I like to get all that stuff cleared up early.
            I really don’t have a lot of vacation.  Thanksgiving and December, that’s about it.

How many people do you have on staff to help you, not counting the couple hundred volunteers you have every year?

I’m actually the only full time person on the payroll.  Sarah Goodwin has worked on Fest for the last four or five years.  She started interning with basically no experience, but picked things up really quick.  She does a lot of contact with bands after I book them, produce the guidebooks- that big book we make every year, and she uploads stuff to the site.  Last year we had another person named Sara intern as well, and she has moved up to dealing with sponsors, hotels, and social media stuff.  Rich (Mineo, Horsebites) does our artwork.  Ted Barnes does all our layout stuff.  Steve Wocziack does our website.  They all live in different states.  Lots of people help out with volunteering, and now some of them get paid to do other random stuff, like video work.  We can all work through the internet.  That never used to be the case.  I’ve actually never met Ted Barnes in person, but he’s done work for us for years.  It’s a small group of people overall.  But then the week before Fest a lot of friends come into town to do work, like sound guys.  They all make the whole circus run.


Are there bands that you approach every year about playing, but for one reason or another they cannot play?  And by that I mean dream lineup type bands?

For years it was the Descendents, but this year they are finally playing.  The Descendents happened this year.  I generally try to keep it interesting and add a lot of new bands.  But I’ve always wanted to have the Murder City Devils, the Weakerthans, and Superchunk play, but it never works out.  It’s not even a money thing.  It’s usually just scheduling.  I wanted Big Business to play, but it couldn’t happen because they’re going to Europe or something.

So you got The Melvins instead!

Right!  But yeah, it generally comes down to scheduling and I can’t blame anyone for that.  There have been bands who dropped off because they got offered a spot on some big tour instead.  You got to go for that, ya know?  If we asked some band to play, and they couldn’t because they were going to Europe and feel bad about it, it’s like, ‘go to Europe.  That opportunity does not always come around’.
            But as far as dream list goes it gets smaller and smaller, as we’ve had a lot of bands we’ve always wanted to play already play.  But things will always pop up.  Bands will get back together and do some shows that you wouldn’t expect.  This year it was Mineral, and I’m really excited that they’re playing.  At this point we have a bit of sway and have been able to re-unite some bands, like we’re waving some magic wand.

Such as?

A few years ago Seaweed played.  That was incredible.  Last year it was Knapsack.  Getting Snuff to come out one year was a dream come true.  Getting From Ashes Rise was a big deal because when they were around they never came down this way.  And a lot of these bands are down for it because it’s not some big deal where there’s a big backstage for bands.  They hang out in the street with everyone else.  Most bands are really into that idea.  Some like having a backstage, but for the most part, that’s part of the appeal of the bigger bands we get- they like the idea of everyone just hanging out together.

Playing off of that, are there bands you’d like to have play that you know just wouldn’t mesh with what was going on at Fest?

I do like diversifying the lineup.  I’d like to diversify it even more.  But I think it would hurt things at this point if we were to diversify it even more.  A few years back we put on the Harvest Of Hope Fest and at that we were able to diversify it more.  We could have hip-hop groups play, but it wouldn’t work at Fest even though I love hip-hop and grew up with it.  I wouldn’t ever have something like DJ’s, or trip-hop bullshit.  But I do like the more indie hip-hop stuff, and wouldn’t mind venturing into that.
            Overall, I think my taste in music is representative of what Fest is.  That’s what I like.  I’m 38, but I still get goosebumps when I hear Avail.  I know it sounds corny, but I love that there’s an ‘emo revival’ happening with a lot of bands now.  I really liked all those bands.  I think labels like Top Shelf and Tiny Engines, who are putting out new bands that sound like old bands, like Prawn, are great.  I mean, they just released a new Braid record!  That was huge for me when we got them to play Fest.

So, switching gears, what’s the most difficult part of putting together Fest every year?

I’m a very organized person.  I’m a go-getter.  I work very hard at this every year, and put a lot of time in.  So it drives me nuts when people muck up the works, like city municipalities.  They’re not used to what we do.  When people talk about ‘red tape’ and ‘jumping through hoops’- it’s really true.  The smallest things can be really tough.  It would be great if there was just one person who oversaw everything.  But instead you have to go through a bunch of different people for different things associated with codes and whatever, and then you call that person, and they shuffle you around to someone else.  The buerocracy of it is nuts.

It sounds like the plot of a Parks and Recreation episode.

It’s just like Parks and Rec and I’m Leslie Knoppe.  It’s like the people in the beurocracy just don’t want to work.  They just want to sit around.  They don’t understand that people outside of government want to do things, and have a deadline for doing them.
            I know I make them sound bad, but most of these people are nice, they just don’t get what we’re doing.  Of all the groups we have to deal with I have to admit that the police have been the nicest.  They will go to bat for us.  They have stood up for us at city hall and talked us up.  They’re the ones who see the attendees at Fest every year and see that they’re great people, not city council members.  And out of all the people we go through in the city for Fest we tax the cops time the most, and they’re the ones who end up helping us the most.
            Another thing that can be difficult are some businesses that can be slack.  It used to be more of an issue, like old venues that aren’t around anymore.  We’d talk to them months ahead of time and then they’d just shut down right before Fest.  


Related to that, unlike some other fests that take place in large cities- like CMJ in NYC and FFF Fest in Austin- Fest takes place in a pretty small city and I’d imagine you probably have a significant relationship with the city that might be outside the norm?

Honestly, if Fest took place in a bigger city I think it would be a lot easier because bigger cities have things in place for bigger events like this, as they are more used to large events.  They have the facilities in place.  Gainesville doesn’t necessary have all those facilities in place.  But after Fest 10 the city seemed to realize, ‘oh shit- a lot of people come here, we need to check in on this’.  They could have been real bad about it, but we have a fairly good relationship with the city.  In the past we never had to worry about fire certification.  But now the fire marshal shows up and is asking about banners that bands hang on the stage.  I end up having to call the manufacturer of the banner and ask if they’re fire resistant.  They have no idea.  They’re made of vinyl, how should I know?  It’s weird little things like that.  I’m like the lobbyist for Fest.  But I can’t complain, ya know?
            A place like Austin though, they get it.  In Gainesville, at first, the venues were hard to have get on board.  They would charge me for everything, even though we were the ones doing all the work throughout the weekend.  I didn’t get it at first.  But I know a lot more now.  I guess the biggest benefit of Gainesville is that it is a small city and there is definitely a community vibe here.  And also doing pre-Fest in Tampa has been great.  Dealing with some of the venues there has been great.  It’s different.

That leads me to my last question- why pre-Fest?  Why add more days to the Fest in a different city?

There’s a few reasons.  First, our PBR rep (PBR sponsors much of Fest) lives in Tampa.  They pushed us to do something there.  And the venues were really cool.  The initial idea was to do a spin-off of Fest, like in the Spring.  We could do more of a variety of bands, like metal and hip-hop.  It would have been like Harvest Of Hope, just without the camping.  The camping bit of that fest was terrible.  I’ll never touch that shit again.
            Secondly, Tampa made sense because more and more people were flying into Fest early every year so we thought we’d give them something to do.  We had pre-Fest shows in Gainesville that were selling out, like on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Fest.  Plus, for most people it’s cheaper to fly into Tampa than Gainesville and a lot of people were doing that anyways.  The venues in Tampa are bigger as well.  So we thought we’d try it out.  It was comfortable.  We had 668 people buy passes last year for it, before people even came to the door just buy a ticket.  It wasn’t great.  We lost a little bit of money, but we could afford it.  It was nothing drastic.  It was definitely worth it.  As of now, we’ve already sold more passes than last year, so we’re on track to do pretty well with it.
            But we just try to put on the best production that we can do and the people who do come out give it good reviews.  People talk about it.  People last year were bragging about it.  Ybor is a cool city to hang out in.  It felt like the early years of Fest.  So I think it’s working.
            At the end of the day though, if doing Fest sucks more than working a regular day job than I’ll stop doing it.

Gainesville Fest runs from October 31st- November 2nd this year.  Pre-Fest in Tampa/Ybor City is October 29th and 30th.  Get info on the insane amount of wild bands playing, as well as passes, here: