Spraynard – Fest 10, Florida

By Tom Aylott

Tigers Jaw

The Fest, held in Gainesville Florida each year over the Halloween weekend, holds a special place in many British punk hearts. Murmurs of who is going to do the trip next year and which bands are rumoured to be playing start in the early in the spring and accelerate quickly over the summer as the room sharing allegiances are formed (and broken) and Facebook groups are started in an attempt to organise those flying together.

This year marked The Fest’s 10th birthday and as such, the organisers Tony and the team at No Idea Records had pulled out all the stops and called in every favour to put together a truly unforgettable line up. The opportunity to see so many great bands, not just at the same festival but often in the same venue straight after each other, was too tantalising a prospect for most punks this year and if the queues (or “lines” as American friends kept correcting me) were anything to go by this year it seemed like the entire No Idea loving punk community had converged on Gainesville this year.

This was my third fest, and whilst this by no means makes me a fest “veteran” (I heard from a few Brits who had been regularly for the past 5-6 years), I was already familiar with the established running order to the events that happen around the actual shows. Taking place over three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), the Friday is when most people arrive in Gainesville; dropping their bags off at the hotels before heading to the Holiday Inn for registration.

While normally a painful experience, this year was particularly brutal, with the queue stretching a few blocks from the Holiday Inn and then around the corner and off into the distance. Once you had braved the ordeal, you were rewarded with your Fest wristband (that gives you entry in the multitude of venues the shows take place in) and access to the Fest Flea Market and Pool Party in the Holiday Inn. The Flea Market allows you to stock up on Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR – a beer synonymous with The Fest), sponsored tote bags and the all important Fest Koozie.

The first time I went to Fest I was confused by the term Koozie, having never heard it previously, but within a few hours of being at Fest you will see pretty much everyone proudly displaying these printed foam drink covers around their chosen beverage. Not being a drinker myself I stuck to sweet tea. Once you have filled your totes with Koozies, records and an assortment of punk related freebies you can head out to the Pool Party.

The Pool Party is an integral part of the Friday of Fest, giving you a chance to meet up with friends and hangout with your favourite bands. The best thing about The Fest is that it is a festival seemingly without the traditional barriers between “bands” and “fans”: whilst you queue up to see a band like Dillinger 4, it’s more than likely that a few of your other favourite bands are also in the queue sharing your excitement. There is a unifying air of goodwill and excitement that unites most people at The Fest, and its atmosphere is genuinely heartwarming – it’s like a punk rock family reunion where everyone is glad to see each other.

There are a few different ways to go about putting together your fest schedule. This year I have tried to keep mine mixed between big bands that I have seen before, bands with friends in that I wanted to support and totally new bands I’d never heard of.

My first band of the day was LUTHER, in the venue Loosey’s. A fairly new band, based in Philadelphia, Luther play a strain of punk rock that is a little bit hard to describe – I have heard them numerously described as indie/punk/punk rock/punk pop and post hardcore. Suffice to say if you are a fan of 1990’s emo and driving punk rock I think you’d enjoy them.

Running out of Loosey’s and into the nearby venue 8 Seconds, I was able to catch some of TIGERS JAW. 8 Seconds is probably the second largest venue of the Fest (though is comparable in size to the nearby Double Down Live, which was previously Common Grounds). The stage is offset into one corner, meaning that unless the venue is packed with people I found the sound could sometimes become echoey and the vocals could fade into the back of the mix. Tigers Jaw certainly filled the room with sound but ended up marred by this problem. Despite that, when the crowd was singing along passionately to songs like ‘Arms Across America’ it was hard to not have a grin across your face.

I’m sure one of the most talked about bands of The Fest was KID DYNAMITE in the main venue for The Fest, The Florida Theatre. While they certainly did not disappoint in any way I was a little bit sullen that Lifetime (who had to drop off the bill) did not play as I was practically exploding with excitement to see them play their most recent album live. Kid Dynamite tore onto stage with an explosion of sound and were probably one of the most unrelenting bands I think I have ever seen live. While it seemed like some of the crowd exhausted themselves in the first five songs crowdsurfing, Kid Dynamite hammered through their hits with a precision that would make you think they had never stopped playing.

Next up for me was THE BOUNCING SOULS. One of the things you will hear from so many bands is that The Fest is one of their favourite places to play each year and as such you can see the happiness on most bands faces as they thrash through their sets to a room filled to the brim with good fans and great friends. The Souls were no exception and they opened up with a opening barrage of hits before throwing in some slower tempo sing alongs like “Lean on Sheena” mid set as well as a song off their forthcoming album. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by the final third of the set as it seemed to be missing a few of their crowd favourites, but with a trek across town to the venue 1982 to see SPRAYNARD afterwards I pushed it out of my mind. For those that stayed in The Florida Theatre for Hot Water Music, a reward came in the form of an encore in which both The Bouncing Souls and Hot Water Music played together through their hits – which I’m quite sore that I missed.

However, SPRAYNARD did not disappoint. 1982 is a one of the small bar venues close to the Holiday Inn, and unfortunately is one of the ones that suffers from an odd capacity problem. Whilst kids queued around the venue to get a chance to see Spraynard, inside it seemed a little empty despite being at “full capacity”, though that could have been due to how condensed the crowd was in the front 10 rows of people. Person per square meter, the crowd were packed in tighter than at Kid Dynamite, and it was actually hard to push your arms up past people to catch crowd surfers. With the venue not having much of a stage and certainly no barriers at the front, it was a show that was the definition of “totally off the hook”. The band were definitely one of my picks of The Fest – so much so that when they announced they were playing an after party at a laser tag bar that night I saw them play there as well.

One thing that I always enjoyed about The Fest was all of the house shows and secret gigs that happened. However due to the growing size of The Fest, No Idea were taking a hardline with bands that played house shows this year. It seemed like the Police were more clued as I heard stories of people turning up to house shows only to find the police waiting ready to turn them away. To make amends, there seemed to be a lot of after parties in the other venues around main Fest venues, the Spraynard show in the laser tag bar being one of them. Here I got the chance to see RED COLLAR, who play a mix of dancey post hardcore with a mix of passionate gruff vocals over the top, and TIMESHARES who I had heard only good things about. Timeshares fit into the anthemic melodic punk category that is now too lazily labelled as “a Latterman band”, but if you are a fan of punk with singalongs I’d definitely recommend having a listen.

Ending the night was SPRAYNARD, and after another batch of singalongs and happy smiles, I felt ready for the warm embrace of my hotel room bed.


To see more of our coverage from Fest 10 head to our festivals section.