Thousands of punk music enthusiasts, including some USF students, will migrate to Gainesville this weekend for Fest’s ninth annual event, while Tampa also offers early opportunities to start the festival off on the right note.
Fest is a Gainesville-based music festival that spans Halloween weekend and hosts shows in downtown bars, bike shops and local restaurants.
Started by Tony Weinbender of No Idea Records in 2002, Fest will host 289 acts across 12 venues.
This year’s headliner is Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a punk cover band with matching outfits and a cover selection that has included Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stevie Wonder songs. The band features NOFX singer and Fat Wreck Chords punk record label owner Fat Mike on bass, and plays Saturday from midnight to 1 a.m. at The Venue.
On Friday, reunited Detroit ska-punkers The Suicide Machines will play The Venue from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., closing the night’s proceedings with a 19-year discography of often politically charged songs.
The festival also offers free shows, flea market trades and art galleries during the day.
Three-day tickets cost $65 in advance and rise to $80 during the festival’s weekend, which lasts Friday through Sunday, according to the concert’s website. Anywhere from 20-100 walk-up tickets are available every day at each venue.
Yet, students don’t have to drive to Gainesville to catch some of these bands. Transitions Art Gallery at 4215 E. Columbus Drive will hold Pre-Fest concerts today and Thursday, featuring 33 acts that will play Fest later this weekend. Both days’ shows cost $10 and start at 6 p.m.
Tonight’s concert will offer 10 bands, with headliner Franz Nicolay performing his folk troubadour tunes. Nicolay has also played keyboards for The Hold Steady and Against Me! – bands that have charted at No. 30 and No. 34 on the Billboard 200, respectively.
Nicolay joins Naples-based rockers Fake Problems, who will play in support of their new album “Real Ghosts Caught on Tape.” At Fest on Sunday, Fake Problems will play at 2:50 p.m. at The Venue, and Franz Nicolay at 6:40 p.m. at a free show in Boca Fiesta.
Pre-Fest amps up Thursday with 23 additional bands. Acoustic acts like Paul Baribeau and Eric Ayotte will be followed by San Francisco thrashcore band Punch and Minneapolis punk quartet Banner Pilot, which is top-billed Thursday.
Banner Pilot’s bassist Nate Gangelhoff said the band has played Pre-Fest three times now.
“I’ll play every year they ask me to,” Gangelhoff said. “It’s different than Fest. It’s one big party in a huge parking lot full of people and tons of friends from around the country.”
Gangelhoff said he is excited to see his label mates Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Teenage Bottlerocket play, but part of Fest’s fun is catching bands in smaller venues.
“I need to check out the list,” Gangelhoff said. “You should check out random bands. You’ll be surprised sometimes.”
Shane Handal, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary social sciences, said he discovered new bands that way last year.
“Fest is a weekend getaway from normal life, where all that matters for three days is what band you’re going to see,” Handal said. “Everyone is there to party and have a great time.”
Other students consider Pre-Fest a cheap alternative to the main Fest. Paige Lewis, a sophomore majoring in English literature, said she attended Pre-Fest last year because of the cost and time it clears up in the weekend’s schedule.
“When you go to Fest, you have to worry about schedule conflicts, so there are certain bands you can’t see,” Lewis said. “So I go see them at Pre-Fest.”
Melanie Foley, a senior majoring in international studies and four-time Fest attendee, said the festival allows her to reconnect with friends across the country.
“It gets tough to see friends working full-time, going to school and living in different cities – so things like Fest are great,” Foley said. “I like seeing friends who I haven’t seen in months, and sometimes since Fest the previous year.”
USF alumna Christina Coil said that when she attended Pre-Fest last year, she appreciated the crowd’s energy and seeing “fun, awkward music for fun, awkward people like me” in Tampa.
“All these kids were going absolutely insane – singing, crowd surfing, climbing on top of speakers,” Coil said. “It’s cool to see other people out there into the same stuff that you are.”
For more information about Fest and Pre-Fest, including lineups, visit thefestfl.com/fest9 and transitionsartgallery.com.