Fest 11 Diary Part IV – Sunday

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.

The After-Party

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.

For the photos of the night visit the gallery.
For the photo booth photos visit www.festphotobooth.com

Fest 11 Diary Part II – Friday

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.

Photo Booth

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!”

Danny proposing to Sarah

Finally FEST!

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.

Head first!

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.

Matt Crowdsurfing during the Copyrights

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.

Security guy shenanigans

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.

See the images of this night in the Gallery.
See the photo booth images at www.festphotobooth.com

Fest 11 Diary Part I – Arrival and Preshows

Wednesday, October 24th

The alarm goes off at 5:15a.m. and makes me jump put of bed so fast that my neck hurts. What a way to start this adventure. The early hour and the fact that I didn’t get sleep the days before does not help neither. So I’m starting my Fest trip already with a sleep deficit, knowing its not going to get any better any time soon. I spent a few minutes too much packing so I miss the subway and have to walk to the station. Getting to the airport is easy though. I check in and then do the smart thing: Get food in the supermarket downstairs for a fraction of the prices they charge in the terminal. There is a lot of waiting time ahead of me.

Transatlantic travel is annoying. Spending so much time on a plane in an uncomfortable seat is almost torture, at least I never even tried the food. I could go on a long and bitchy rant about all of this, guess I save it for another time. At the airport there is a guy wearing a Rvivr t-shirt. I bet he’s going to Fest as well. But I’m not in the right mood yet, so I avoid talking to him. Plus, Rvivr are smelly, aren’t they? He also was on my connecting flight to Orlando, I still didn’t say a word. However I decided to talk to him if he should go to the concert that night. Asking “Am I following you, or a you following me?” – but he did not show up.

Meet Robert. First time we met was at Insubordination Fest 2008 and every year since. He has been helping with the filming and other things. Then last year when I debuted the photo booth he pretty much volunteered to help and it went great. Guess part of this is the fact that he does this thing (portrait photography) for a living. Besides being a completely overqualified assistant he also turned out to be a great host, driver and friend. He picked me up at the airport and since we’ve got a some time to kill we went to a comic shop to hang around. One of the owners also likes pop punk so we sit there, talk about the Dopamines, listen to Screeching Weasel, this is all pretty nice. Robert says these guys love the music but never go to shows, not even local ones. Well, what can I say? There are these idiots that travel around the globe to see some bands play (*cough cough*) and others who don’t even dare to travel to the end of the block to do the same.

There is a pre-pre-show in Orlando that night at Will’s Pup. We went to the same one last year. This time its a little smaller band wise, although I think seven of them are playing. I don’t even know who played at all. For me this night isn’t about the bands, its getting to see some people, saying hello, getting into the Fest mindset. The evening was perfect for that. I don’t even make it to the door without seing some international friends. There are the Arteries (Wales), the guys from Leagues Apart (England), there is Rory (Toronto), Glen and Goli (Hannover, Germany) etc… Yeah this feels like Fest now. There is quite a mix of bands, from the guy doing an accoustic set to the post-emo-whatever-rock with the punk bands in between. The only band I really watch are the Arteries. We leave around midnight, finally going to get some sleep. I didn’t even bother trying to take photos.

Thursday, October 25th

In the morning I get to meet Roberts parents and we have a lovely chat. Then we pick up Morgue, get some photo supplies at Best Buy and start driving to Gainesville. Nothing happens along the road. We cannot check into the hotel room yet, its booked in another name, so we just go directly to the Holiday Inn and start preparing our stuff. So we’re doing the Fest Photo Booth. During registration and the after show party we’ll have a backdrop and props set up and take images of the fest visitors. Its stupid and goofy and usually fun. Its our second time doing this at Fest, plus we’ve done it twice at Insubfest in Baltimore.

Meet Kendra: Besides Robert and me she is the third person in our team. Tony got me in touch with her when we first talked about doing the photo booth at Fest. She is a Gainesville local which helps a lot with setting everything up. And she is not only a young, good looking woman, she is also super exited to do this. I couldn’t be happier with my assistants! (just a little side note: I guess technically I am in charge of this, and it was my idea etc.., but any one of us three would be able to do this on his/her own and we split the work pretty even I’d say).

Setting everything up works pretty flawless, the only thing we have to deal with is that the backdrop is missing. We had a huge Fest backdrop this year, but they were never delivered to the Fest this year. So we get a smaller one and use Kendras black muslin backdrop instead. We also got some other things to decorate and in the end it looks really good. We split and decide to do the final preparations in the morning.

Meet Hamish: Hamish is from Australia and I met him this year in Ottawa, when we shared a hotel room to visit the Ottawa Explosion festival. We got along really well, then we spent more time at Insubfest and after that. So when we were looking for room mates to share a hotel at Fest, I agreed immediately. He also came to the Holiday Inn and then we all headed out the preshow.

High Dive Pre-Show

Last year this pre-show was the highlight of the Fest. Everybody was there, you didn’t have to worry about what other band is playing the same time and we just had a really great time. Part of this was the fact that it was sold out and we managed to get two guestlist spots and found a third ticket for our friend Christian. This year it was again sold out, but we were smart enough to buy tickets in advance. And yeah, there are a lot of friends and people I know around. I’m also good friends with half the bands that are playing. I skip the first two (Shock Ones and Cobra Skulls) and then start the Fest with the Dopamines. Who are always fun to see live and one of my favorite bands. And the crowd is energetic from the start. Crowdsurfers, mad Germans and Australians drinking beer out of shoes on stage. Next are Dear Landlord. I have to admit I was not that exited to to see them. I have seen them quite often and they have not a lot of material so their sets tend to be the same over and over again. But at some point during the set I look up and into the venue and see that people are singing along from the front to the back of the venue. There are raised fists and people singing along everywhere. That reminded me how awesome these guys are. Definitely the crowd favorites of the night. Then there are Off With Their Heads, the band I’ve seen live the most often. Good set, at the end Ryan jumps into the crowd and keeps singing. The last band I get to see are Teenage Bottlerocket who seem to have added a few new gimmicks to their set (like a guy with a mask coming on stage at the beginning), which is entertaining. But after half their set I leave as the travelling, the jetlag and sleep deficit finally get to me. Robert and Hamish agree and so we pick up Craig (room mate #3) and go to the hotel and to sleep.

Solid start, even though the pre-show felt more special last year.

See the photo of the night here: Link to the gallery.