Gainesville Fest

Gainesville Fest

featuring Liars Academy, Destro, Most Precious Blood, Red Roses For a Blue Lady, Glasseater, Stretch Armstrong and others

Market Street Pub, Gainesville, FL • December 14-15, 2001

Given that a couple dozen bands played over these two days, even listing everyone here would pretty much take up the whole article. So let’s take a slightly different approach and try to give an overview along with a couple highlights here and there.

First day: on entering, I overhear someone (not necessarily connected with the event) kvetching about how some pre-show piece by another local journalist had reputedly written something to the effect that “if you don’t like punk rock, don’t go.” Umm, duh. Gainesville Fest is a punk rock show. More than that, the bands, with very few exceptions, at least this year, fell into one of two very closely related camps. Almost every band that played was either a hardcore band or an emocore (some might say “screamo”) band. No ska-punk, no punk rock and roll, no street punk, no crust punk, no garage, no pop-punk, no pop-emo.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are plenty of people who dig that sound (as evidenced by the good crowd in attendance, and the fact that the venue had to be moved because the previous place wasn’t large enough). In fact, it makes things much easier for writing reviews. For example, the following would cover about 90% of the bands that played Gainesville Fest: Generic band review: five white guys, bassist playing something non-Fender (saw a couple MM Stingrays) into an Ampeg SVT 8×10 cabinet, two guitarists through 4×12 cabs with heads including Marshalls, Mesas, and Peavey 5150’s, one of the guitars almost always an SG, the other often an Les Paul (cannot be a Fender), vocalist doesn’t play an instrument because it would interfere with his macho posing with mic stand and/or cord, or running interference for instrumentalists who would otherwise be pummeled by flying bodies from the audience, as he does a very passable imitation of Cookie Monster from Sesame Street while bandmates bang out minor key progression with lots of metally palm-mutes.

Happily, there were a few exceptions to the above, if only for variety’s sake. The biggest exception, and therefore my favorite by default, was Friday’s appearance of Baltimore’s Liars Academy. A three-piece, they walked the line on a three-way intersection between power pop, non-screamy emo, and oldschool punk. Wow, I was totally transfixed during their set, which did not have to contend with maniacal moshpits that were standard fare for the later halves of both evenings, due both to the non-hardcore sound and the relatively early slot on the bill they had.

Had they appeared, I’m sure I would’ve had similarly nice things to say about Rocking Horse Winner, the lone female-fronted band scheduled to play. Unfortunately this band did not appear as scheduled on Saturday; wouldn’t you know one of the few bands I had some knowledge of and was looking forward to seeing would be the only last-minute cancellation of the weekend!

Another band I was looking forward to seeing on Saturday was Gainesville’s own As Friends Rust, touring on their new album “Won.” It seems to me like AFR are next in a logical succession to Hot Water Music (not that HWM are going away), from a local emocore genre perspective (just as bands like Spoke and Radon were precursors). They played a tight set and had good interplay with the audience, the lead singer carefully walking the line between rightfully cocky frontman and arrogant ass (example: during break between two songs, singer pointedly announces that band needs to finish set “to make room for some national act…”) as is perfect for the band’s presentation.

Some other notes over the course of the weekend: good to see an African-American kid fronting one of the bands, Destro from South Florida, as it was to see a woman onstage playing guitar with NYC’s Most Precious Blood; Red Roses For a Blue Lady doing two or three songs in between two other bands’ sets (even though the act did nothing for me musically, as a spontaneous musical moment it was nice); Glasseater actually playing in a major key and smiling throughout their set; Stretch Armstrong’s lead singer proudly noting that there had been no fights or violence over the entire weekend and in general putting out a very “for the kids” (he actually used the phrase “guys and gals” referring to the audience without any hint of scenester embarrassment) vibe, including their cover of Modern EnglishÃs “I Melt With You.”

Kudos to the organizers for a very well-run show, and to Market Street Pub for allowing a late change of venue due to problems with a different local club originally scheduled to house the event.

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