Bands To See At FEST 15
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FEST is like punk rock Christmas. Tons of bands, tons of friends, and warm Florida weather. Okay, maybe it’s not so much like Christmas, but it is incredibly awesome and we look forward to it all year. If you are lucky enough to be headed down to FEST 15 this year, these are 30+ sets you should absolutely check out, or at the very least mark on your handy FEST app (which we highly recommend, its free yo).
To be honest, we shouldn’t have to explain this one. Not only was Having It All was one of 2015’s best albums, but its producer, Evan Weiss, filled in on bass for all of their Fest sets last year, making it an incredibly memorable experience. Annabel’s recorded music contains vast dynamic shifts that only grow with their live performance. Especially considering how late this set is and how few bands will be playing at that time, you’d be a fool to miss it.
New York City’s Big Eyes are a gutsy, driving punk band with more than a hint of good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll thrown in. Kait Eldridge has been involved with the punk scene for a long time and Big Eyes are a band that are fully worthy of your time. Catch riffs, rolling bass and driving drums combine to make a real great blend of punk. The only band I’ve chosen that I haven’t yet seen, I’m stoked to catch this band.
Go to Civic Media Center on Saturday night and Say U Want him. Yes, baby! (Am I doing it right?)
If you’re going to skip Pup’s set for anyone, it had better be Creepoid. The Philly rockers blend shoegaze and grunge into a dreamy wall of noise that’s even better when performed incredibly loud, as is their tendency. They’ve recently played with bands like Restorations and Superheaven and managed to capture the attention of diverse audiences almost immediately. I can say without hesitation that their set will be one of your most memorable at Fest.
Gainesville natives Dikembe released their third album, Hail Something, earlier this year and, boy, does it rip. Following vocalist Steven Gray’s partner going into labour with their first child, Dikembe’s show at Fest last year featured an ensemble cast including (to name just a few) Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It., Christian Holden from The Hotelier and Max Stern from Signals Midwest. This year, though, Dikembe are back in their usual incarnation and it promises to be a truly special time. This band has been through a lot and playing to a packed out Cowboys in their hometown is gonna be a pretty great way to watch this band.
The first time I saw Dowsing, I couldn’t help myself from dancing just a little bit. Vocalist Erik Czaja performs with firm control over each song, but enough energy to keep you hooked. With exceptionally skillful members filling in the rest of the band, I can say without fear that Dowsing’s set will be one you won’t want to miss.
The Ergs are a classic NJ pop punk band, and they are back to put on a show. After an awesome performance of the Chris Gethard show, I have a good feeling about this FEST. This may be your only chance to see them, so if you can get to this set. As they said on the Gethard show, “Dance like you are watching a band that has come back from the dead, because that is what you are in fact watching.”
If you spend half of FEST up front, finger-pointing and getting piled-on to loud, fast music, and decide you want to scale it back for a set or two, Erica Freas at Civic Media Center would be perfect. While Freas has a busy FEST ahead belting out songs for RVIVR as well as new band SOMNIA (w/ David Combs of The Max Levine Ensemble), the solo set is definitely worth your consideration. Many of Freas’ solo songs are mellowed-out, more intimate songs that later got sped up and “covered” as RVIVR songs, or vice versa. However, there should be plenty of originals, as Freas just released a new solo album, Patient Ones, through Don Giovanni Records on September 30. While Freas’ solo work may not have the same bite when not delivered over top of loud, fast guitars, it is every bit as powerful and dynamic. Freas has always been and continues to be a voice for the marginalized within music, which is more than worth your ear during any of solo, RVIVR or SOMNIA sets.
Everyone Leaves are everything I love about pop punk, they sort of feel like Taking Back Sunday meets Save Ends which is a match made in heaven in case you didn’t know. They are raw, honest and dead catchy. Make sure you get to them and start feeling all the feels.
Free Throw is a well-rehearsed ensemble of polished emotion, or at least that’s the best way I can think to describe them to someone who has never seen them. These guys have some of the hottest riffs you’ll have a chance to see at Fest. It’s a lovely blend of punk, emo, and mathy elements. If this show is like any other Free Throw show I’ve been to, the room will overflow with the passion each member plays with.
The Fest is a great chance to watch bands that you maybe don’t have the chance to catch all that often. If you’re reading this, it’s pretty likely that your times to catch Guerilla Poubelle (Paris, France) are few and far between, so make sure you don’t miss them this time around. Awesome, fast, catchy punk delivered with a beautiful French accent, these dudes put on one of the most energetic shows you’ll see this weekend. You might not understand the lyrics but, damn, you’ll be shouting those “woahs” at the top of your lungs. Come watch them with me.
Hodera are a NJ indie rock band that write deep and emotional tracks about stuff like love, loss, and mental health struggles, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have a great time watching them. Every single performance by them is an explosion of rock n roll guitars. They put out an excellent debut record last year, United By Birdcalls, and just finished up LP2, so expect a mix of old and new jams.
Jeff Rosenstock is a DIY legend. Jeff Rosenstock released an incredible record last year called We Cool and an even better one called WORRY. last week. You should see Jeff Rosenstock at FEST. Trust me.
Mystery Bands (Multiple)
After I missed out on The Hotelier performing Home, Like Noplace Is There in its entirety two years ago, I realized that including all of the mystery bands in my schedule was completely necessary. This is the 15th Fest and I would imagine there are going to be some awesome surprise sets. Sure, you could check twitter or constantly scan the schedule on your Fest app, but it’s far easier to make sure any schedule update notifies you of who the mystery band at any given time slot is.
The Obsessives is made of two people who are truly represented by their music – stoic, reflective, and honest. The fact that both members aren’t even old enough to drink is astounding as well. I know this set will be tight, affecting, yet still full of the tasty jams I know you crave.
If you don’t know about Oso Oso let me sum them up for you: the best damn pop band ever. Singer Jade Dimitri has such an astute grasp of language, each song is meticulously spun full of unforgettable lyrics and melodies that are brought to life in a beautiful way by the band. You should see this band just to say that you did before they blew up.
If you’re a fan of Such Gold or A Wilhelm Scream and aren’t already listening to PEARS, you’re kind of doing yourself a disservice. I caught a good amount of their set at High Dive last year and they’re just as amazing live as they are on record. Aggressive, yet refined and controlled melodic hardcore is difficult to master, but PEARS have got it down and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see how rowdy the crowd can get in a much larger venue this time around.
Prawn were one of my highlights last year when they tore the roof off Cowboys with their atmospheric emo. This band is LOUD and will blow you away, soaring riffs and walls of delay are backed with crashing drums and these dudes are always clearly loving every single minute of their set. It’s a joy to experience. (Also, if they play “Prolonged Exposure” get ready for the coolest section of music you’ll hear all weekend starting about 4 minutes in. Hot DAMN.)
Prince Daddy & The Hyena
If I could only see one set at Fest, it would probably be Prince Daddy & The Hyena. They released one of the best records of the year, and while the LP is great, it can’t hold a candle to their live show. If there’s one thing I love about these guys, it’s how honest everything is – especially the energy they put into playing. I don’t know any other band who seems to genuinely love making music like these guys. Between expert riffs, jarring yells, and plentiful references to weed, Prince Daddy & The Hyena really has it all.
How could I not recommend that you go see Pup? This Canadian punk band released an incredible record this year, and without a doubt are one of the most energetic live acts I have ever seen. Save up some energy and head to this set. You are going to have your mind blown.
Ratboys will have just got back from Europe when they head over to FEST so you bet they are going to have some good stories. Dreamy, indie punk that the Midwest certainly does best. If you need to wind down a little and get away from all the gruff punk vibes this will cleanse your palette and leave you feeling pretty awesome about yourself.
Rozwell Kid & AJJ – Tom Petty Cover Set
Cover sets are one of the most interesting parts of Fest and who better to cover than Gainesville locals Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? The combination of Rozwell Kid and AJJ sounds almost too perfect and the variety in Tom Petty’s catalog offers a vast range of hits for them to choose from. Let’s be real though, who doesn’t wanna get drunk and sing along to American Girl?
It has already been said up above, but Rozwell Kid will shred everyone’s faces off. Not only are they doing that Tom Petty cover set, but they will bring their own insane riffage to the stage of Cowboys on Saturday. Their guitars might just start on fire.
Think of how many bands you will likely witness at FEST with fast, loud guitars and snotty vocals. There will probably be over 100 of them (not that there is a problem with that). What if I told you that one of the loudest, heaviest bands on the lineup consisted of only a single digital piano and drum set? Having attended several Slingshot Dakota sets in the past, I can assure you that they are more than capable of rattling your bones and making your eyes shake due to the sheer vibrations that their indie punk/pop/whatever you want to call it brings. Carly Comando and Tom Patterson will be tasked with filling the large Cowboys venue with their energetic live performance, armed with their live ability to create a massive wall of sound that can rarely even be matched by bands with several more members and instruments. They will also bring with them new material from their excellent 2016 release Break, which contains some of my favorite Slingshot songs to date and should certainly be included in many EOTY lists.
Riding on a great new release, Signals Midwest are going to punch a few more holes in the walls of Cowboys on Saturday. Honestly, have you seen that Cowboy’s lineup? This band is right in the middle of a stacked lineup, and rightfully so. At This Age is fantastic, Signals Midwest will be just as great.
I caught a Sinai Vessel set by pure coincidence the first year I went to Fest and was pleasantly surprised by their mix of emo and indie pop. They fit right in with bands like Free Throw or The Hotelier, but could easily be grouped in with Manchester Orchestra. With a new album very recently announced, I would imagine they plan on premiering some fresh material, which makes catching their set even more worthwhile.
Last year Spill had my favourite EP of the whole damn 2015. It was perfection. 90’s tinged garage punk about getting older, hating your job and life crisis. All things that this old punk was going through at the time. I wish I could see them, I am waiting for them to get to Chicago but you lucky people can get to them in Florida.
Sundials is a classic D.I.Y. band from Virginia that have had some incredible releases in the past. Now that they have been working on some new material, expect some new jams mixed in with the classics. They play late on in Sunday, so make sure to close your Fest activities watching this act.
TENS pretty much embody what FEST is about. Loud, feel good punk rock that you can shout along with whilst chugging PBR’s (and then throwing the cans at Kyle Manning and Ryan Smith the hardest working punks in Chicago). You will be in for ALL OF THE JAMS.
While the return of Steve Brooks’ Floor has me stupid excited, I also get the treat of having Torche also play FEST 15. As FEST starts to wind down on Sunday night, what better way to catch your breath for the final hours than by slowly headbanging to some heavy stoner metal. While not quite as sludgy (but still sludgy) or doom-y (but still doom-y) as Floor, Torche still brings loud, heavy riffs that can leave you feeling cemented to the floor (no pun intended) while the rest of your body gets blown away. What is even more impressive is Torche’s excellence in adding elements of pop into much of their catalogue without losing even a little bit of steam. Deep riffs, crashing drums, and Brooks’ echoing vocals will have stoner metal stealing the show of a heavily-punk festival on Sunday night.
Toys That Kill
Like Freas, Todd Congelliere has a busy FEST ahead. In addition to playing F.Y.P.’s final set, the Recess Records founder will also be playing Toys That Kill and Underground Railroad to Candyland. What can sometimes be described as a later/current-incarnation of F.Y.P., Toys That Kill offer quick-yet-steady melodic punk music with infectious riffs that are honestly just fun. Toys That Kill recently put out a new album, Sentimental Ward, on July 1 and I would imagine they will be playing some new tunes while setting off Boca Fiesta (maybe my favorite FEST venue) on opening night.
Could I call What Gives a midwest supergroup? Yes, yes I can. Featuring members of Annabel, Elway, Ex-Dowsing and Pet Symmetry you can’t really go wrong here. Think Slingshot Dakota with a twist, they should def be high up on your list of bands to see.
You Blew It!
You Blew It! have been one of my favorite bands for years. While their albums may not constantly be regarded as my favorites of all time, they are packed with nostalgia and fantastic enough that every time I revisit them I want to tell the world of their beauty. The band is on the verge of releasing their newest LP Abendrot and it is their best work yet. Their live show is getting more intricate, their sound bolstering with new dynamics. Don’t. Miss. Them.