THE FEST: THE ALL-OUT MUSICAL MARATHON
Publié le 26 Oct 2023 par melo_pirate
First of all, those who know me well are aware that I have a big thing for music festivals. I still had one week left of vacation to take. The thought of going to a tropical destination, like most people do, gave me the chills almost as if it was a snow day. So I started looking for potential adventures outside the country. That is when The Fest made it’s holy apparition.
I came across the « The Fest » lineup after it had been share by one my Facebook contact. Against all authority immediately caught my attention. Because I particularly enjoy them and had no had the chance to see them live so far, the idea of checking that band off my to do list was really attractive. It was a little later that week, parked on the Highway 20 between Quebec and Drummondville, that I made the crazy decision to deep dive into The Fest experience. It was official, I was going to be part of the festival’s 20th anniversary and escape to Gainesville, Florida – the university city.
THE FEST FORMULA
The Fest‘s formula is similar to the Pouzza Fest. Nevertheless, The Fest is a more grandiose and boosted on steroids version of the Montreal festival. The festivities take place from Friday evening to Sunday. There is also an optional « Preshow » on the Thursday evening, with two different line-ups. However, the preshow is not included in the ticket’s base rate and both entrance for these shows are sold separately. That’s why I decided to attend one show only, that was kind of a warm-up to what would eventually become the biggest musical marathon of my life to this day. I discovered the band Iron Chic, a festival’s favorite, and they delivered a solid performance. The evening ended early, which allowed me to save some energy for the piece de resistance.
All about the venue
The Fest has 13 different venues all over downtown Gainesville. Amongst them, one is dedicated exclusively for humor and one solely for wrestling. Five of the venues are all ages, making The Fest somehow kids friendly.
All venues are fairly close to one another. The furthest venue is a twenty minutes walk from the main stage (Bo Diddley Plaza ). It’s also possible to rent a scooter « Montreal Bixie style » to make the commute easier from one venue to another. But we didn’t try that option.
What about food and drink ?
Several spots for food and alcohol can be found, and there’s farily good variety of products, not just junk food, for $20 USD per meal. Water can be found for free, or can be bought for $3 USD for a can. Another option for late night snacks is the local pizzeria 5 Star Pizza, where you can buy a slice for $2 USD.
In terms of payment method, credit cards are accepted everywhere (including at the merch tables which made me very happy), except for the BO DIDDLEY PLAZA stage. There is a token system that we must pre-purchase at another station, and it’s the only payment method accepted at the bar. Each token is sold for $3 USD and the cost for one drink is around one or two tokens. At the venues, alcoholic beverages are sold for $8 CAD, which is a fair price in my opinion.
The best tool ever
The Fest has its own app, which has been an essential planning tool throughout my adventure. This allowed me to decide on which bands I was going to see every day, and therefore spared me some time. This brilliant application also allowed us to track all schedule changes, almost in real time. It also works offline, except made for the updates that won’t donwload if you’re not connected to a network. Furthermore, secret shows are announced on the app 24 hours in advance.
The wrong tool ever
One thing that bothered me at The Fest festival though was the exaggerated number of bracelets giving access to the different venues. On Friday afternoon, we had to get to a specific location to get our first bracelet. The line up is long, but still is moving fairly fast.
Then, we had access to a flea market with numerous artists, well-knowned American labels and other exhibitors.
The situation got worst later. IDs had to be shown at each venue before we could get in, and we got a new bracelet with a different design each time. This granted us with the right to purchase alcohol, even in the 18+ venues. The staff is hard to find and because the bands play in so many different venues, it was geting hard to remember if we had the proper bracelet. To this day, I am still trying to understand the purpose of the first bracelet that ended up disappearing throughout the colorful collection of items on my arm. I believe that if would have been a lot easier if there was a bracelet identifying the legal drinking age right from the start. This would have avoided a lot of confusion and would also have helped reduce the waiting time at the entrance of each venues.
We are family
Another strong point of The Fest festival is how close the musicians are to their fans. Most of them didn’t stay backstage. They were rather like us, either dancing in the circles pit, standing in the middle of the crowd, or simply enjoying the shows with their friends.
WHEN BAD TIME RECORDS PLAYS CUPID WITH MY BLACK AND WHITE CHECKERED HEART
Bad Time Records was definetely my favorite discovery of the weekend. I happened to find out that half of the bands I decided to see on Friday were on that label. Who would have thought that I’d fall in love that much!
Bad Time Records was founded by Mike Sosinski ( Kill Lincoln ) in 2018 as he felt frustrated with the music industry because of the lack of support for the ska punk music. That’s when he decided to create his own label, with the intention of supporting local talents and counterbalancing the absence of support for a type of music that was being snobbed more and more. Bad Time Records also promotes everything that’s related to anti-racism, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic.
‘’ Everyone seemed to think it was a bad time for the genre ‘’ –Mike Sosinski
I discovered Bad Time Records during Friday’s ska night (and it wasn’t planned that way). Having already decided which bands I was going to see, I didn’t think I’d end up losing track of time to the point of forgetting I wanted to discover other bands. The venue was very festive, to a point where musicians were inviting one another to play their songs, remembering each and everyone one of us how unity is a big thing for that label. I had to be careful on saturday night for the second ska day, because I could have easily get stuck at the same place one more time.
Finally, after thinking this through over and over, I still cannot decide who’s my favorite band from that label. So I decided to give a honourable mention to all of the following bands:
MY LUCKY SEVEN aka my top 7
Besides the incredible ska scene, I also attended 48 shows during my stay under the sun. I chose to see bands that I had not had the chance to see in Québec, meaning I missed some of the biggest names such as The Bouncing Souls.
Here’s my top 7 findings.
***special mention to War on woman acoustic that was the cherry on top of the weekend.
WHEN THE FINISH LINE RIMES WITH SETLIST
Finally, here’s my setlists hunting trophees and my daily band choice. I am however disappointed that I missed The Dopamines, highly recommended by my friend Chris Bro ( Le Big bro show ) as well as Lost Love which was sold out before they even started playing their first song.
I want to give a shout out to the festival for booking bands with female members, and it didn’t feel as if they were pressured to do it. It’s great to see that women’s talent is being put up front for their true value, not because they had to. It helps us remember that we are a community first, and it’s heart whelming to see that such fight is slowly being won with such positivity.
Rédaction : Mélodie Martel
Correction et traduction : Jessica Martel