The last weekend of October was a crazy time. The northeast was hit by the frankenstorm Sandy, causing destruction all over and of course the weeks of power outages and gas shortages. Now, call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure the whole thing was my fault. You see, the weekend before I went on an actual, honest-to-god vacation for the first time in years. Obviously someone was trying to teach me a lesson for thinking I could ever leave this island.
The vacation I refer to was a trip down to Florida for Fest 11. That weekend every year, the Florida Gators football team heads down to Jacksonville and brings half the city with them, leaving downtown deserted. A bunch of punks happily take up the slack as they invade Gainesville for Fest, a weekend jam-packed with hundreds of bands. Thousands of attendees travel from all over the world for three days of the best the world of punk, hardcore, and indie rock have to offer. Unlike other festivals, Fest doesn’t take place in a large field or a parking lot with stage trucks and horrible sound. Instead, nearly every bar and music venue in town (also most with horrible sound) opens up their doors to anyone with a Fest bracelet. You’ll find packed rooms filled with a bunch of weirdos spilling $2.00 PBR tall boys all over each other, singing along to great music.
I’ve been talking about going down to Fest for literally a decade. Years ago I didn’t have the money for such a trip, and for the last few years October weekends always seem to be filled with schoolwork, weddings, birthdays, and other obligations. This year I decided enough was enough and talked an old friend into coming along for the ride.
Despite the layover, the flight down to Florida was mostly harmless, which is a good thing because I hate flying. On the ride over, I asked the driver if anyone had shown up to the hotel yet for registration and I got a very sarcastic “yeah, a few.” I knew there would be a decent amount of people around at Fest, but I really didn’t expect a few thousand people in the parking lot, pool, registration room, and roaming the hallways of the hotel. It was an eye-opener to say the least!
How it works at Fest is there are about a dozen venues throughout the city that host shows, so the bands you want to see in any given day might actually be at different venues up to 15 minutes away. Because of this, we mostly stuck to the main drag downtown that included 6 or so venues. We missed some bands that I wanted to see that were playing across town, but the tradeoff was that we got to see more bands in total. Every venue sold cheap beer, but despite my best efforts I really just wasn’t into getting wasted, which worked out great every morning I was there. This meant that I spent less time hungover in bed and more time hearing great music!
Stay tuned for part 2 of my experience at this past Fest!
and now the passing days on the outside feel great, and it never ever rains