10/29/17: The Fest/Wooly’s, Gainesville, FL: Screaming Females, Street Eaters, Meatwave

Pop early and G/T/F/O the hotel; we got a long drive but the 2 hour dent we made last night certainly helped. I don’t know if it’s Stockholm Syndrome or delirium, but sleeping on my slowly deflating camping pad on the floor next to John and Megan’s bed felt so nice and comforting. Tour life is a bit like Stockholm Syndrome—you’re under the boot of your master, the tour schedule and his toady, father time. You’re constantly out of your comfort zone (save for the 45 minutes you’re on stage) so you just accept everything as it is and adapt and you tell yourself “THIS IS GREAT” and it is absolutely great, even when it isn’t shaped to your comfort. Even when you’re sleeping on a tile floor and your camping pad is dying. Even when you haven’t gone to the bathroom in a day because every toilet looks sketchy or doesn’t have a fucking door. Even when you’re consoling a lady who can’t stop crying because she got way too high and she lost the records she just bought (“here, just take these, nah don’t pay me, please stop crying.”) Even when you are crying your eyes out because you left your love in your favorite city. It’s the greatest.

I’ve never been to FEST; I’ve always written it off as a pop punk festival which doesn’t really interest me. When it’s done well, it’s great. When it’s done less than great, it’s a real work on my ears. From what I’ve been told, it’s a wild party, and I am very much a gal that loves a party. Screaming Females go on late, so we don’t even have to load in until about an hour before the set; the plan is, drive directly to whatever venue our friends Shellshag as their set will start about ten minutes after we arrive. “I’m walkin in there, and immediately getting a cold beer in my hand while Shellshag are rockin” Jarrett enthuses, and that my friends is the plan. We got the venue, parked illegally next to some atrocious dumpsters, walked in, Shellshag is rockin, and we got cold brews in our hands. Took maybe five minutes. Name me another festival where that happens. Pitchfork? 30 minute check in, 15 minute beer queue, 10 minute slog through a crowd of munted dipshits. I turn my back and everyone is scattered. I step out onto the patio for a smoke, and some people watching when whom should be shaking my shoulders but the mighty John Hays. I met John last year on tour, when Mike said “you gotta meet this guy, he’s legit.” Mike doesn’t really bullshit, so I took his word for it. John is a very sweet, funny, charming hunk of a man. He plays in a great doomcore band called Flesh Mother, does some solo acoustic songs, does some standup comedy, and does the merch/roadie gig for Shellshag. Big hugs are exchanged and some chit chat before he gets hit with sales. Solid dude.

We motor over to Wooly’s and get checked in, we still have a ton of time, so Mike, Jarrett and I go to Bo Diddley Plaza and catch Iron Chic, and Superchunk. One of closest friends is Tour Managing for Superchunk; I met Matthew Barnhart in 2009 in Barcelona. He was tour managing a band, The New Year. My bud Jason Groth, who played in Magnolia Electric Company and the Coke Dares were standing around the Midway at Primavera when The New Year walked up. “Sowley, you know Matthew Barnhart?” Someone pushes Matthew to me, he says “You mailed me a jacket from Jason Molina, and I have all your posts on the Electrical Audio forum in my RSS feed.” Now, normally if someone said the latter to me, I’d be reaching for my mace, but there was something in that boys face that just charmed the shit out of me. He then snuck me backstage to watch what was easily the worst Sonic Youth set i’ve ever seen. We stayed up til five in the morning, bullshitting and laughing and I fell in love with him. I hadn’t seen him since the Electrical Audio anniversary party, so it was great to get a couple minutes with him. It was really wild to see Iron Chic playing to so many people, a lot of whom were singing along. Superchunk were great…played a lot of songs I hadn’t heard live before which was just wonderful. Found my friend Alithea, who is like, The Queen of Fest. She’s a tuff, beautiful angel and we get to catch up for a bit. Ugh, okay, this Fest is really cool!

The homies Meatwave were on the bill at Woolys and they ripped. Total funny goofballs that rip shit up on stage. Great to reconnect with them. This is a Sunday, the third and final day of this thing; typically people are burned out, tired, and have committed to never drinking again. This crowd though? They are amped, wylin out and numerous. Its really really wild. Street Eaters, being the eaters of streets that they are feed off this wild energy and deliver a tightly wound set of street rock. My station with the merch is located on the otherside of the wall from the stage, so I cannot watch the sets, but the venue has a CCTV feed projected onto the wall right above me. All I can think is “okay, if some fool starts some shit, I can see it, but how will I get through the throng of people?” Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that one bit once Screaming Females start. They too feed off the crowd’s wild style and deliver a ferocious set. At some point, Mike eyed a person in the crowd that looked like they were dehydrated so he handed them a bottle of water. Said person looked offended, and next thing ya know, the band is getting water thrown at them. Wild stuff. John Hays and Shellshag are in the house, hugs are in order, and I’m movin units!

We load out and stay at a friends house…given that Gainesville is so small, everything is in relative walking distance, so I fell back and caught up with some friends. Drinks, musique, and bullshitting until the damn sun came up! FEST, you won my heart. Lets do it again.