PREVIEW: Follow the Philly punk scene to FEST with JUMP and The Key
A month ago, a massive swatch of the Philly punk scene traveled to Gainesville, Florida to play at The FEST – an annual gathering of DIY music makers and lovers. Staff from JUMP Philly and The Key trailed alongside, talking to some of our favorite locals about their FEST experience. What follows is an excerpt of a long-form piece that will appear in the pages of JUMP’s Winter 2015 issue, which will be on newsstands this month.
SteveO of The Holy Mess was in Gainesville, Florida last month when a friend texted him looking for weed. There was none to be found.
“I was like, ‘Yo dude, I’m in Florida,’” recalls the frontman, born Stefan Wieslaw Niemoczynski. “He was like, ‘Oh shit, I guess all the weed went to Florida, too.’”
A large contingency of Philly punk bands, their fans and whatever party aids they decide to bring with them travel annually to Gainesville for The FEST – the largest, most important music festival for modern punk and hardcore music, which takes place every Halloween weekend in the college town.
“It’s a phenomenon,” says SteveO.
At this year’s FEST, which took place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, more than 20 bands on the bill claimed a Philly background, surpassing any other city or country’s representation.
Curators of The FEST line-up, spearheaded by festival founder and staffer for Gainesville-based label No Idea Records Tony Weinbender, seem to agree with the notion of this Philly punk phenomenon.
Throughout the weekend, you’d be hard-pressed to find one of FEST’s 20 venues without a Philly band scheduled to play on any given day. You’d be harder-pressed to find an attentive audience not singing along, as they were on Friday for The Holy Mess’ set in a packed, 700-cap venue with a long line of people waiting to get in.
“If you’re on tour, you get to play to certain friends and fans one city at a time,” SteveO says. “At FEST, you kind of get to play in one city to most of your friends and fans at the same time. It’s crazy. There are friends from England, Europe, Australia and friends from down the street all in one little city.”
Those friends from down the street are the same ones you’ll inevitably run into on FEST’s main drag along University Avenue. It’d be rare not to find various other members’ bands gathered together in the audience in support of a fellow Philadelphia band playing a set, no matter the size or vibe of the venue.
FEST finds Philly’s punk scene migrating to Florida once a year to become the crux of one of the genre’s most important events, the world over.
It’s almost like thousands of people wait all year and travel hundreds of miles to touch something locals feel every day.
Tommy Manson stands by the luggage carousel in Gainesville Regional Airport, keeping an eye peeled for Everyone Everywhere’s personal effects as his bandmates wait in line at the rental car counter. But “wait” is relative; if you’ve never been to a regional airport, it’s a severely scaled-down experience from Philadelphia International. There are three gates total – not three terminals, three gates. Luggage shows up on the moving strip in a flash, and the instrument cases are easiest to spot.
“Everything is backlined at the show tonight,” Manson explains. “All we need to bring are our guitars and cymbals.”
On the walk through the rental lot, guitarist Brendan McHugh notices a row of shiny convertible Corvettes and notes the bright, sunny afternoon – a change of pace from the bitterly cold Philly week the band had just left.
“Wait, nobody told me we could get one of those cars!” he exclaims. “Is it too late to switch?”
They find their modest economy car – a four-door sedan – load gear into the back and pull out of the airport lot. Where many bands plan a full tour around getting to FEST and back, bassist Matt Scottoline explains that Everyone Everywhere’s experience this year is like a ninja mission.
“Brendan [McHugh] lives in New York now, we don’t get together and play as often as we used to, we all have other projects,” he said. They were slated to play the High Dive at 1 a.m., head back to their hotel and catch an afternoon flight back home.
Driving up University Avenue with the windows rolled down, Manson spots friends walking up the strip with their credentials – hellos and high-fives are exchanged before the light turns green. He heads inside the Holiday Inn to artist check-in and returns with a bundle of drink tickets, wristlets and a box of guitar and bass strings, which are promptly handed off to Scottoline.
“What am I supposed to do with these?” he asked. “I don’t play bass!” (In his current project, Hurry, he gave it up in favor of lead vocal and guitar.)
“You play bass in this band!” McHugh jabs, then ponders the 10 complete sets of strings in his hands. There were 10 songs in their setlist. “Should I just break all my strings during every song?”
A van drives by ferrying the French punk band Sport, which Hurry had just performed with back home. “When are you playing?” they ask excitedly. Scottoline relays the info and they make promises to be there.
At the show, Everyone Everywhere catch up with old pals like Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. (who covered their song “Raw Bar OBX 2002” in a Daytrotter session), watch openers Prawn and Foxing, and nervously stepped to the stage in the wee hours to find the room was still nicely filled out.
Since the band rarely tours anymore – and hasn’t done a U.S. run since its 2012 self-titled LP was released – it didn’t know what to expect. But fans were excited to see them, screaming along to “I Feel Exhausted” and rushing the stage for the cathartic closing of “Raw Bar.”
Over at the merch tent, the band sells out of vinyl – it was doing a name-your-own-price deal, sure, but most people in line did seem to be paying. Manson looks pleased.
“We pretty much brought everything we had down here with us,” he says.
TO BE CONTINUED… For the full story, which also features interviews with Lame-O Records, Beach Slang, The Menzingers, The Weaks, Restorations and more, look for the Winter 2015 edition of JUMP Philly, which will be on newsstands this month. Also, stay tuned for our photo gallery of Philly scene favorites tearing up the stage in Gainesville (alongside some non-Philly folks who we were particularly impressed with) by Rachel Del Sordo and Key editor John Vettese.