Monday October 29th
For the first time I actually get too little sleep on purpose! Not sure if thats progress or not. We pack out things and then its all going back home. First stop is dropping off Hamish at the Greyhound bus stop. Then we hit the Interstate to go back to Orlando. My plane is scheduled to leave at 2:30p.m., so our destination is the airport. Robert manages to find the worst bathroom at a gas station along the way. Said it reminded him of Trainspotting. I didn’t see it, for better or worse. Theres a big goodbye at the airport and I’m on the way home. At the Orlando terminal I make my standard “Its a long way back to Germany” – status update. I feel I’ve done this a bunch of times before.
Monday October 29th
Sorry for the delay, between recovering from Fest and going back to work some insane shifts I had to catch up on sleep. Which gets me right back into my Fest diary:
Sunday October 28th
So this is Sunday, which means there is not only a long regular Fest day ahead of me, but its also the day of the Fest-after party at the Holiday Inn. This is scheduled from 12:30am till 5 a.m.- so I have a loooong fucking day to look forward to. Guess I better fill up on sleep for this, right? My body thinks differently and I wake up after a bare 3.5 hours of sleep. Honestly I have no idea what is wrong with me. Its not even that I wake up and are still more asleep than awake. No. I’m genuinely awake. FML. But what can I do other than power through? So again I edit some photos, get breakfast, talk to the other guys.
Around noon we head to the Holiday Inn to meet with Kendra and set up the photo booth for the night. Again, this goes great. We have our old spot and get a lot of stuff done in an hour or two. One of the things you have to do as a photographer is to be a problem solver. Turning duct tape into string to hang up the banner is one of these things. Build a fort out of tables to channel the movement of the people is another. We also decide to move the backdrop a few feet forward, which might not have been the best decision, but more about that later. After we’re done Robert and me head back to the hotel cause Robert forgot something. We get food along the way and then head out for the first show of the day.
There are a lot of “mystery sets” scheduled for the afternoon. Although they have been announced for a few days now, its still nice to have some sets you did not look forward to weeks ahead. Pretty much all I want to see that night is at Durty Nellys, so getting in and out is a little bit of an issue as the bands are popular and the space is small. But I have to say Nellys has the best security, very relaxed and they are not putting another wristband onto me. Thanks for that. The guy at the door was very nice to us all day.
So, who is playing? Of course its the Dopamines! Again? Yes. Again. If you haven’t noticed yet, I am an idiot, so I go see the Dopadudes all the time. This small place should suit them I would say. They picked out a few of unusual songs to play, guess thats the charm of the mystery sets after all. Good start for the day. After that I make my first (any only) visit to the Florida Theater (the biggest venue) to see Night Birds – only to learn that they cancelled. Bummer. So back to Nellys it is for another show of Crusades. Then I head over to Loosey’s, where the European showcase is happening. I feel like I know even more people in here than elsewhere. We end up taking a photo and theres people from Italy, Spain, Canada, USA, France, Germany in it. Fest is really an international meeting. I get to see a bit of Leagues Apart from the UK.
The next mystery set in Off With Their Heads. Do I have seen them twice already, just at Fest alone? Yup. But at one moment I think that I actually feel comfortable at a festival where OWTH and the Dopamines are playing each day. So the band has decided to play their first album “From the bottom” entirely. For the first (and possible last) time ever. That draws a crowd, and so Durty Nellys is filling up to capacity again. Its fun, and the usual sing-alongs are there just as always. OWTH are a band that you cannot go wrong with at Fest. A take a short break after their set, get some food, just hand out on the streets.
Just for a few songs I jump into the New Top Spot to see Mixtapes. I get there in time to see somebody throw a condom at Ryan, to hear them play the song I’d like to hear. Also Jon Lewis takes a bunch of images of myself. Mixtapes have really a good crowd for them as well. They are pretty popular among the Fest visitors.
What followed was nothing but the absolute highlight of my Fest weekend. One of the most anticipated bands, not only for me, but for quite a number of people. I’m talking about Masked Intruder. They released their debut album just this year, its a great piece of pop punk and they got quite a bit of buzz going on for them as well. Nellys is packed and so I have to fight my way through the crowd. As I get there I see Mikey Erg standing on stage. I joke with him “So it was you all along, huh?” – And he answers “I’m only standing here so people see that its not me!” (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this link.) Nothing is really set up yet, the crowd (and the stage manager) are waiting for the band to appear. When they finally show up, they are already wearing their masks. Well, obviously they are dedicated to not break their characters.
The show starts with the drums that lead into “Stick em up”, one of their signature and fastest songs. I think “oh shit”, and that’s pretty much whats on my mind for the rest of the set. The crowd just goes wild. Masked Intruder play a fucking brilliant set, they manage to be super poppy and melodic and tight at the same time. And they pull it off perfectly. Everybody is singing along. Everybody. Each word. People are crowdsurfing like crazy. Its getting really hot inside of Nellys. My lenses keep fogging up cause its all so warm and moist. I’ve been in here for some time, so lenses should actually not do this. But… there is little I can do.
Without a doubt, their hit single is “Heart-Shaped-Guitar”, which features Maura Weaver from Mixtapes on the girl vocal parts. She is here, but she has to be crowd-surfed by the audience to get forward to the stage. Thats how packed the venue is. After putting on a mask they start the song. This is actually the first time she sings this live with the band! Everybody goes apeshit. Highlight of the Fest. Best set of the Fest. Pure fun! The “Police Officer” on stage that has an eye on the “Criminals” starts to undress.. After the set I stumble out on the street, my t-shirt is completely soaked. I start to feel cold cause I am so wet. I had to buy a shirt just to change into something dry. Here’s a video of “Heart Shaped Guitar”, see for yourself:
There are three bands playing afterwards that I would like to watch, but thats impossible. Since I am already at Nelly’s I decide to just stay and watch The Slow Death. And they are great. For some reason they have not one, not two, but three bass players consecutively. But why not? They also have a barfing drummer. And fun. At the beginning I thought about trying to just watch half the set to might catch one of the other bands, but I enjoy this too much to leave.
After that I call it quits. I need to save some energy for the rest of the night and the aftershow. Plus I want to go back to the hotel and finish the preparations for the booth. Kendra and Robert want to see Propagandhi, I don’t really care and volunteer to be the guy to do this. Before that I hang around some more. Eat. Talk to some people, buy Old Man Markley merch for a friend. Then meet up with Kendra to get her camera (mine has a broken USB port and cannot be used tethered to the computer) and then walk down to the Holiday Inn.
The party is scheduled to start at 12:30a.m., I get there by around 11p.m. expecting to find somebody there setting up. But there is nobody there. I try to ask around, contact Tony as well, but there is nobody. Even when security shows up they are not letting me in initially. When they finally do, I am literally the only person there. Like 30 minutes before this is supposed to start?! This was different last year. In the end it takes a lot longer for everyone to get there and get the party started. I could have come an hour or even 90 minutes later without missing anything. But then Tony makes a big speech to the waiting crowd (that showed up eventually) and it starts.
Just like on Friday, the booth is busy, there are a few more pauses, but overall we are doing well again. At the other end of the room the bands start to play. Again its all cover sets. Green Day, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Fugazi (not really), Nirvana. All played by Fest bands, again some sort of mystery set. But: I didn’t really enjoy these this time. What puts me off are the vocals mainly. I think most sound terrible. Kendra said it might just be because often somebody from the audience is singing. Plus BTMI are not really doing Fugazi, they do a Fugazi/Sugar Ray mesh-up. Dafuq?!
People are drunk and enthusiastic, so at some point somebody steps into the backdrop and knocks everything over. The top bar gets bend and some of the stand as well. Yeah, that one is probably broken for good. Guess thats always the danger of dealing with this type of crowd. After the bands are done we pack our gear and that is the official end of Fest. I have to say, I liked the after party itself better last year, although the photo booth went really smooth again, just like Friday. Robert and I part with Kendra, all willing to do this again next year. Robert and I get some late night food / breakfast at an Ihop at like 5 am. Thats the end.
Saturday October 27th
So Saturday is the day where nothing is going on (besides Fest itself obviously), so thats the day to sleep in, right? My body thinks differently and after only four hours of sleep I wake up. Hey at least I’m getting the most out of the free breakfast. Then I edit some photos and upload them for the Fest photo editor. Then I also go over the photo booth images. Don’t let your customers wait! We go into town at noon, a quick meeting at the Holiday Inn, food at Applebees, I manage to post the photo booth images from my phone. Buying more photo supplies at Best Buy, and then its time to see some bands again.
Robert and I get to CMC to see the Mixtapes acoustic set. When we get there its really crowded and so all we do is stand in the back. Its not really working for me, I don’t get into this. There is a mystery band listed to play after them, its the only one that has not been announced, so there are some rumors who it might be (I heard stuff like Joey Cape or The Measure (SA) reunion), none of which turn out to be true. In the end, nobody plays. Apparently nobody had been booked, or nobody could do it. Bummer.
So House Boat are up next. One of those few sets that I couldn’t miss under any circumstance. One of the best bands and live always good for some surprises. Pretty fun set, without any special events. But I’d love to see them play more often. Can they tour Europe please?
Across the street Banner Pilot are playing 8 Seconds. They also made my “don’t miss” list. I enjoy watching them. The night before I found this nice spot in the corner between the stage, the pit, the speakers where I can see everything really good and block nobodies view. Perfect photo location. I spent a good amount of the set just standing there.
Then its time to go Boca Fiesta/Palomino, a double venue, there are quite a bunch of bands I want to see playing there in a row. First of them are Candy Hearts, a little more on the lighter side of music for the weekend. But I’ve seen them at Insub Fest, and guitar player Christian has been posting on the same message board as me forever. Its really hard to get up front, so many people wanna see them, so I decide to pull out the long lens and shoot from the far back. Works fine.
After their set I sit outside, tired and resting. My brain can’t wrap itself around the fact that its barely 8 p.m. which means there are still five more hours ahead of me until the end of the night. The sleep deficit finally hits me. Robert and I leave and get some food and an energy drink, hoping it helps me to make it through the night. As we get back the Gateway District is about to start. The one time I saw them before they did not really get to me, but then their record came out and its really good. I manage to push myself to the front for some photos this time. Yet I only see about half their set, as I need to head out to CMC to see Mikey Erg.
It’s not a secret that I really love Mikey Ergs music. But I have seen him play a bunch of times and contemplated skipping his set, as it was exactly in between other sets I wanted to see. But when the time comes I decide to go none the less. As it turns out, that was the right decision. I get to CMC and position myself on the side of the stage, knowing Mikey wouldn’t mind. On one hand you could argue that his set was pretty much exactly what you’d expect him to play, and what I have seen before. Sounds kinda boring, right? But then again there were these singalongs and everybody just being passionate about his songs. He could have done this without PA, cause the entire crowd was louder than that anyways. I filmed the entire set, the first 17 minutes are just static footage, after that I picked up the camera.
The Mikey Erg set gave me exactly the boost and adrenalin rush I needed to recover from being a tired mess, so when I walked back to Boca I looked forward to seeing the Max Levine Ensemble. They played outside now to a good sized crowd. These guys music is so catchy and positive. How can you not like it?
Crusades are more on the darker side of pop punk, so they were a bit of contrast to TMLE, still they rocked out pretty great. Those Ottawa dudes are the best. Check out their own festival called Ottawa Explosion too!
Again I have to cut the set short a bit to go to 8 Seconds to see Lemuria. Love that band. Sheena gave me a free shirt earlier that day. Its an Ergs! tribute shirt, so how could I pass up the opportunity? I also meet Kendra there, hadn’t seen her all day. We end up singing Lemuria lyrics into each others faces. Good times. The crows loves them as well. At one point I look across the stage and see Todd, a fellow photographer, putting bunny ears on yet another photographer. Oh yeah, even us shooters like to have some fun in between.
After that I go to Durty Nellys again. But all I do is sit down at the bar, resting, drinking cola. The Fake Boys are playing, but I am not really paying attention. Sorry guys. To my defense I have seen you play Europe before. In Italy on tour with the Accelerators. I’m just not in the right condition right now.
Last band of the night are the Criminals. I know singer Jesse from the same message board mentioned above, plus he is a super nice guy. I even visited him at the Alternative Tentacles headquarters this summer. The Criminals are a much rawer band than most here. And their sound shows this. Jesse is a great energetic frontman and thats entertaining as fuck. Their set was equally terrible and great. Towards the end I think “wow, a band that played even less songs than House Boat!”. And then, as their time has already run out, they play like six more songs. Even the house lights were turned on at that point. Later I found out its Jesses birthday! Congrats Lushman!
Photos of the night can be found in the Gallery.
Friday October 26th
I totally fail getting a good nights rest and wake up early. Everybody else is still asleep, so I just go and check out the hotel breakfast. Yeah pretty decent actually (and if you know how much of a picky eater I am, that really says something), especially cause its free! This is our big photo booth day, so Robert and I leave early. My power adapter broke, so I try to find a new one. Without it we will not be able to keep the computer running all day. But hey – there is a Home Depot right by the hotel – and they got nothing. Out of all possible places they advice me to check out Bed, Bath & Beyond. What? But they actually have the kind of travel adapter I need. Thats it, we’re good to go! As we roll into the Holiday Inn parking lot the line for registration just starts to form outside. We get our stuff together, finish the decorations and when the doors open at noon everything is perfect.
To summarize the next 6 hours: Photo Booth was great! We had people coming to check us out pretty much the entire time, so we were busy but not overrun. There were two or three occasions when there was a little queue for the printing and there were few moment with nobody at all. Felt good that way. Lots of people were really appreciative and liked what we did. Many took more than one image, and often wanted multiple copies. We had streamlined our approach and had almost no technical problems neither. This was almost perfect! I can barely think of things to improve. Last year we had things more complicated and that caused all kinds of small issues, but we did a good job of fixing those. Although we did not have the giant Fest backdrop, and therefore improvised with a smaller banner and the black muslin, I’d have to admit I like this one much better than last year. It looks more classy (yeah I know, to make up for the classy-ness we have people wear stupid props!) and I dig it. Also people came up with ideas of their own. We had a pyramid, we had people made all kinds of poses and faces. The hammer prop we were given by the Orlando comic shop was definitely a peoples favorite.
The highlight happened towards the very end. The day before I got a message on Facebook, and reading it I thought “wow!” Somebody told us he was going to propose to his girlfriend right there in the photobooth and wanted us to take a photo! And it happened. And she said yes! The pictures are even more special cause right in this very moment the banner decides to come off and is falling down. Guess even the gaffer tape could not handle the awesomeness. Congratulations and good luck to Danny and Sarah! And then a few minutes after the proposal some guy shows up with a pizza slice costume, and he decides that this is the only thing (!!) he wants to wear. I told Kendra “I know this sounds weird, but we have people proposing and other getting naked – I feel like we’re really archiving something here!”
Registration goes on until about 6pm when the line actually comes to an end. And we pack our crap together. Which means: The actual Fest is starting right now. And the next photo booth is not until the end of the event, so we are good to check it out. At Fest 10 the Friday sucked for me for the most part. I had trouble at a venue, I was worn down by the entire day of photography even before the music started and so I only saw one set of one band playing. (which was great at least!) I was really hoping to do better this time.
This also means the time of making choices starts. There are a dozen bands playing at any given time and you can only watch one, maybe two if you change venues in the middle of a set. Its tempting to see the Kepi Ghoulie/Mean Jeans set, but I decide that I cannot not watch the Dopamines. Robert drops me off at 8 Seconds, I’m actually allowed in this time, and so Fest starts.
The Dopamines set is great. I like it better than the one of the pre-show. Can’t really say why. Maybe because there are more people, more shenanigans with the other bands and friends that are around. Highlights include the big guy falling over head first into the pit and Jon Lewis kicking a beer can, which sprays beer all over Servo. He didn’t know there was still liquid in it. The Dopamines always put on a good show anyways.
Next I walk down all the way to 1982 to see the Borderlines. Its the Leftovers without Kurt Baker and they got a Jetty Boy on bass instead. Met all those guys years ago. They are fun and still kind of a new band. Capitalist Kids are next who I never heard of, but I like their pop punk. I even realize that there was a Mr. T Experience cover in between.
Back the other direction to the New Top Spot for the Copyrights. So this a completely new venue. So new that this is the very first night they even open. And they only did to help out Fest when another venue couldn’t do it. Its all still very improvised and make-shift but it works. For the most part, except the bass amp causes trouble, making it a little difficult for the Copyrights. But when they are going, they go strong. Matt (the guitar player of the Borerlines/Leftovers) does a few crowdsurd, which comes an abrupt end when he hits the ground hard at some point. People carry him out, scary shit. He was okay though.
I’ve seen Off With Their Heads more than any other band, but they are still more exiting than the alternatives to we head back to 8 Seconds for their set. I enjoy it, so do many others. They get the entire venue to sing along. Me included. F.Y.P. are up next. I have to admit I have never listed to them, so I’m completely unfamiliar with any of the songs. None the less they are great! The band alone would have me like the set, but there is more shit going on. One guy is just messing with the dirty towels, they get thrown around, as well as the basket they are kept in. Beer and water get sprayed a lot. At one point the main security guy just decides to no longer give a fuck and joins the stupidity. Instead of fishing crowd surfers off the crowd, he just pushes them back. He starts spilling water on peoples heads and when the basked lands in the pit it goes out to the audience. Its messy and fun.
After that I find myself unable to chose from the remaining bands and end up just sitting on the street. I get a soda and a snack and hang out on my own. Then I get into this interaction with a drunk girl who walks by. She is not part of the Fest crowd, rather a ‘normal’ person going out on Friday night. Seeing my camera she is like “So you’re a photographer?” – “yes”. Her drunken ramblings don’t make much sense to me, but she decides that its important to capture something “real” – by which she means the other people that are sitting around on the street and outside the venue. So she picks up my camera, walks over and starts taking photos. I just watch what happens. After a while she is talking to this group of people, so I decide to end this experiment, I pick up her shoes and purse (which she dropped when she walked over) and exchange it for my camera. I also overhear part of the conversation where she tells that she used to be a “bad” girl, working as a stripper, but is “good” now, working with small children. Although the other guys are asking her how exactly that transformation went, we never got a satisfying answer. That concludes my night.