Live From Fest 11: Pre-Fest

Gainesville, Florida – October 25, 26, 27, 28

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The Smith Street Band, pic by Lauren Dixon



Just a two-hour drive from Orlando, the small town of Gainesville is quite a little town… well, for 361 days of the year it is. The other four days, Fest takes control. For three nights – four if you take into account Pre-Fest shows – Gainesville is overrun by punk rock fans from every corner of the globe. The weekend hosts more than 300 bands over 12 venues, art galleries, comedy shows, flea markets, rooftop pool parties, secret shows and hotel after hotel overflowing with alcohol-fuelled punk rockers. A slew of Pre-Fest shows, official and unofficial, flood the small town and its surroundings on the Thursday before Fest officially kicks off.

There’s an indescribable atmosphere attached to so many fans and bands being in the one place at the same time. For those lucky enough to snatch up tickets to the sold out Pre-Fest shows at 1982 and High Dive, the weekend kicked off in ultimate party mode. After lining up at Fest HQ (The Holiday Inn University) to obtain pre-purchased weekend passes, a quick stop over at 1982 was in order. Doing a mighty fine job of representing Australia, Melbourne’s The Smith Street Band crammed onto the venue’s small stage and unleashed to a more than welcoming crowd. They may have been on the other side of the planet, but half the venue was singing along and bouncing off the walls. It’ll be surprising if they actually come back to Australia.

The problem with so many awesome bands playing on one weekend is there is bound to be some clashes. Now, in its 11th year, Fest organises have assembled Pre-Fest shows that aid in eliminating as many possible heartbreaking clashes as possible. The line-up at High Dive did a mighty fine job of easing some pain. A long line meant that most Cobra Skulls fans caught the tail end of their set, but everyone was well and truly inside for Shook Ones’ burst of energy that turned the venue into a hotbox. If you aren’t won over by The Dopamines recordings, a Fest performance will surely convince you they are worthy of a place on your iPod. By the time Dear Landlord and Off With Their Heads took to the stage, it was looking to be a huge night, but it seemed most were there for those two and it meant that the room was less than full forBroadway Calls. Their audience mightn’t have been packed in wall-to-wall, but they played with more intensity than those before them. Things picked up slightly for Teenage Bottlerocket, who also put on a killer show to get the weekend in motion, but ska headliners Mustard Plug ended up playing to only a handful of fans. Considering a Pre-Fest experience tops most Australian shows, the three days to follow will no doubt deliver a weekend of epic proportions. Livers, get ready.