Gainesville's Fest 8, one of the biggest punk-flavored festivals in the country, drew close to 350 bands and thousands of music lovers from around the world. Sure, many are from the area, and many wouldn't be labeled as "punk" in the contemporary sense, but if you consider the more generous definition that counted people like Patti Smith and even Gainesville's favorite son Tom Petty as punk rockers, it's definitely a punk fest and a legendary annual celebration of the virtues of PBR.
I've extended the dates beyond the three days of the festival, because, well, all those bands gotta play somewhere on the way in and out of town, and five of the bands played in Valdosta before and after, so the Fest festers beyond the armpit Gainesvillers represent the town as and we begin here with Fest: Day -1.
I went to the Bleu Pub here and was disappointed to find that having dinner at home after my evening class made me late for Ninja Gun, who was loading out their gear when I arrived. Amy T. came up, gave me a hug, and raved about their set. I'd mentioned them to her a few hundred times before, but she finally popped her NG cherry and was awash in post-sonic bliss. No surprise there.
Carson was back in town and the bar was full of beery people, so, while it wasn't the Fest, we were all feeling extra festive. Ready the Jet, a trio out of LA, set up next. Live, the punk influences, Misfits and Black Flag, prevail at the front of the sound, but their late-Guided-by-Voices hooks and Replacement's/Husker Du sympathies come through the noise enough despite the pared tour instrumentation and open brick acoustics (the album New Record Highs is, in fact, an enjoyable listen for anyone who misses 80's Minnesota/90's Ohio indie or for anyone who wants to hear it translated into SoCal themes, e.g "Normandie," "Butane Vistas," and "Mile of Miracles").
Hard Girls of San Jose continued the positive infusion of west-coast, Fest-ready sloppy-joes indie punk. Songs like "Quinceanera," "Strange Carafe," and "Beach Party!" drip all over your shirt and make you want to lick your fingers. Max hit the skins so hard that Jay from Ready the Jet had to get on the floor and anchor his kit. They had fun and said after the show that Valdosta was the best place of the tour so far. It was fun to catch up with folks from that part of California, too, as I spent about a year there and my daughter was born there. Morgan, Max, and Mike are mercilously fun, super-nice guys, so if they're in your neighborhood, go see them.
V-town's No More Analog closed the show with a raft of new songs and a fuller sound that enthusiastic bands are comparing to The Replacements. Sure, they've been listening to a lot of Big Star and the Zombies, so it's no surprise that they're underpinning their punk tendencies with a strong sense of pop melody and incisive writing. This is clear in new additions "Been So Good," which breaks out a celebration against all the whining haters of our fair little city, and "Big City Dreams," which is about a girl with higher aspirations. The new songs deliver sharp observations packed into short, tight compositions with plenty of fuzz and feedback to go perfectly with that next PBR and pub fries, and they don't feel at all out of place with all our NMA favorites, like "Fresh Romance," "Field of Diamonds," or "Anasazi." Get that record done, gentlemen.
This was as close as I would get to Friday's Fest, as I couldn't go until Saturday, my ears were primed nicely for what was to come.