Event Reviews

Gainesville Hardcore Festival

YMCA Camp McConnell, Micanopy • 12.19-21.97

The name was definitely misleading. The lack of any real Gainesville presence in the Gainesville Fest most likely stemmed from the fact that the organizer hails from south Florida, not Gainesville. Locals were slighted in that only two Gainesville-bred bands played, Hot Water Music and The Blacktop Cadence. There are plenty of other amazing hardcore bands residing in Gainesville that would have played had they been asked. Many also felt that Gainesville’s reputation was being used as an enticement to the fest with barely any involvement from the locals. A few phone calls would have garnered help, acceptance, and a truer representation of the area. Instead, the people most obvious to approach about help with a show in Gainesville knew barely any details at all. Most Gainesville kids didn’t know this was even going on. Gainesville may have been the location, but it wasn’t the spirit or the heart.

But despite that, and some other, more complicated misgivings, I went. And I’m glad that I did.

The three-day festival was held inside the main building at the YMCA at Camp McConnell in Micanopy, a few minutes outside of Gainesville. The grounds were beautiful and many kids spent their time canoeing, skating, or just running around. We had beautiful weather and it was appreciated, especially by the kids from the northern states.

The first day brought a late start due to P.A. problems. Emo-oriented bands seemed to be the rule of the day. Serotonin (Atlanta) opened with great melodic emoness, followed by the Kossabone Red (sloppy Cap’n Jazz-ish stuff). The Grey A.M. (PA) were a nice surprise, playing more rocking melodic emo. Mid Carson July (PA) had a lot of crowd support and spilled forth emo melodies – also a nice surprise since I hated their first seven inch. Live they pleased the ears. Discount (Vero Beach) played their last show on their five-month tour and rocked pretty well in a Berkeley-ish pop-punk vein. They looked a bit tired. The Jazz June (PA) was another amazing emo band, with thickly textured melodies stemming from three guitars. They rocked, with some referencing the Promise Ring. Umm, okay, I see that a little. Peterbuilt (Orlando) played one of their best sets ever. Powerful, rocking emotive stuff. Very punchy and catchy. The Blacktop Cadence does indeed have a Hot Water Music presence, but much quieter, more refined of a set. Hankshaw (Tampa) spilled emo-pop melodies all over the floor and the crowd simply ate it up. High-register male vocals with sugary, heartfelt music. Hot Water Music closed out the night with gritty, punchy, catchy emo/hardcore along the lines of Fuel. Lots of singalongs and dancing ensued.

Across town, I Hate Myself played at the Hardback that night. That was a tough choice.

Day two found things starting earlier. The hardcore mini-mall of distros from around the country were again set up against the walls, and some good records were found for pretty cheap. Dark Angel Divine (Vero Beach) opened the day. Everyone was a little apprehensive about how they would be accepted, as they are far from a hardcore band, landing more near the black metal category, complete with keyboard. The crowd was quite open-minded and receptive, though. Ed Matus’ Struggle (Miami) followed with dense, textured, passionate emotiveness. They’re back up to a four-piece now, and the added layer is noticeable. This was one of the best sets I’ve seen them play. Omega Man (Tampa) was the first band to put some teeth into the fest with tall stacks of great metal-influenced hardcore. I don’t seek out a lot of music along these lines but Omega Man impressed the hell out of me. Tight set, good songs. Their CD represents them well, too, so find it. Culture (FL) did standard hardcore, played a bit sloppy, and got kids going nutty with the kickboxing. They’ve never been quite my style, but a lot of people went crazy to them. Keith Welsh (Port Myaka/Gainesville) offered a brief respite in the way of lovelorn acoustic songs that had people sitting down and attentive. A great set that got a great response.

Madison (MI) was the first real big disappointment. I had heard Joe play guitar in Rosalind and wanted to like them, and the music was all right emo-styled stuff, but their singer’s style was intolerable to me. Dawn of Orion (Atlanta) contributed metal that made me wish for a Viking helmet. Again came the nutty dancing. Early Grace (Tampa) followed, another pleasant surprise. I expected grindy stuff and got a little, but with more melodic, almost emotive tinges. Teach me to prejudge, eh? New Day Rising (Canada) was the one band that made me run outside to escape. They played melodic hardcore that did nothing for me. A few others shared my opinion, but the majority totally loved it. Hmm. They also made a stink about having to play before midnight, otherwise they (would turn into pumpkins) weren’t going to play. A little hard to believe – driving from Canada to just turn around and go home? Anyhow, they got their way and most people left immediately after they played. As a result the remaining bands had a steadily decreasing skeleton of listeners as it got later and later. Carlisle (Orlando) played their grind-tinged powerful emo swoon with screeched vocals and had much dancing and appreciation. Fairchild (NY) followed with some emo-ish poppy-punk. Vacant Andys (Miami area) finished with a great popish emo-punk set that landed them somewhere near bands like Shyster and Gameface (kinda). It was late and my memory of them is fuzzy, but they impressed and reversed an earlier opinion I had held of them. Too bad more people couldn’t have caught them.

Fairchild was allowed to open for day three, but they didn’t impress me nearly as much as they did the previous night. I left to explore the grounds and wound up having an awesome canoeing experience on a beautiful lake. I returned to the second band, M.I.J., playing an amazing set of Cap’n Jazz/Promise Ring-ish emo. One of the few records I dropped some cash on (I was at this thing on a shoestring budget). Song of Kerman (Orlando) played sincere hardcore with lyrics mixing personal and political topics. Good music, too. Red Letter Day and A New Found Glory each played heartwarming emo reminding me of Gameface, with A New Found Glory being the punchier of the two. Both came from south Florida. Evil death metally hardcore followed that had me running around to find out who the hell was playing. It was Cease from Tampa, and they had come a long way since the last time I had seen them a couple years ago. Another impressive band.

Sons of Abraham (NY), Indecision (NY), and Shai Hulud (Miami) each gave us our dose of hardcore. More dancing. Prevail (SC) got things screamy and less chug-chug and the silly dancing commenced, relying less on tough-guy tactics and more on fun, including a circle pit that went all around the perimeter of the room. Remington played densely noisy, screamy stuff with a dirgeful low end. Very impressive. They also win the award for perseverance, their van having broken down along the way. Somehow they still made it to Gainesville and found a way back. Reversal Of Man (Tampa) closed out the fest with one of the best sets I have ever seen them play. Intensity, sincerity, and energy pushed through manic, grindy, screamy hardcore with lots of breaks, singalongs, dancing. This band only gets better with time, and the crowd loved them.

For the most part everything ran very smoothly. I had a much better time and was much more impressed with this than I expected to be. I think it definitely had its problems, but this was the first try, so maybe next year they’ll have some of the kinks smoothed out.

Other things deserving note: delicious vegan cookies for sale by the Remington folks, okay vegan pancakes shared, free packaged food that was freshly dumpster-harvested, the bonfire every night, lots of smiles and friendly people from places such as NJ, DC, TN, CA, ME, etc., the costumed rivalry between the Sideburns and Mustaches during Blacktop Cadence involving Hankshaw kids, Todd and Dave’s hospitality.

Shame on you: the people who sprayed the fire extinguisher, the people who burned part of the fence in the bonfire, those who made the bathrooms despicable (the girls bathroom was the worst… ), anyone against humorous self-critique of the “scene.”

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