The Fest 14 Preview | Bands to Watch

A Nebraska punk rock band is a headliner at the nation’s preeminent punk rock festival. Read that sentence again. It’s true. Omaha’s Desaparecidos joins Andrew W.K., Lagwagon and more than 400 other bands at the 14th-annual The Fest in Gainesville, Fla., (RSVP here). The three-day event takes place Oct 30 to Nov 1, and unites punk stalwarts, up-and-coming bands, comedy and the larger punk community across more than 15 downtown venues.

The Fest has grown immensely since its inaugural May 2002 run. Founded and still organized by Tony Weinbender of No Idea Records, the festival has attracted more than 4,000 fans in recent years while expanding to bigger venues and acts. 2013 marked the first Pre-Fest party in Ybor City, Fla., featuring many of the biggest acts of the weekend. All of this while maintaining its founding DIY principles, soliciting sponsors only from genre-related and band-friendly sources. Unlike festivals such as SXSW in Austin, The Fest remains a place for bands to be seen, rather than industry people.

While most of the acts fall into the “punk rock” genre, nearly every conceivable sub-category will get representation, from alt-country to pop punk to indie rock to sludge. It also boasts a healthy roster of women musicians.

This year, Hear Nebraska’s editorial team is covering The Fest via Instagram, photos, interviews and live video. Not only does The Fest feature Desaparecidos, but a comedy showcase curated by and featuring Nebraska native (and Denver Transplant) Ian Douglas Terry, as well as Cody Wayne Hurd.

The list of bands is overwhelming (especially for a first-timer like me, who is wholly intimidated by the full schedule). We asked a handful of musicians and music scenesters with Nebraska ties to give us their must-see acts. Here are their answers.

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Will Conner, No Tide

Hear Nebraska asked me for my top three picks to watch at The Fest ’14, but I couldn’t settle on just three so here are my top five picks in no particular order.

Pup (Toronto, ON)

I found out about this band after they launched their debut self titled LP on SideOneDummy Records in 2014. Not many bands can come out swinging with a full length album as their first release but that’s what these guys did. They are an insane whirlwind of punk, indie, hardcore, and some shit I can’t put my finger on. Pup is as far from a cookie-cutter punk band as you can get, with their intelligent writing skills overflowing with music theory it’s clear they know what they’re doing. Thrashing drums, shredding guitar licks, and perfectly placed gang vocals are what make people go wild for this band.
FFO: The Menzingers, Joyce Manor

Sundressed (Phoenix, AZ)

Personal friends and label-mates with my own band, Sundressed are definitely going to blow minds at their Fest appearance. They are a collage of Indie, Emo, Punk, and Pop that blends so nicely. Their Take This To Heart Records debut EP “Dig Up A Miracle” is one of those releases that makes you question a majority of your record collection. They set the bar so high with songwriting and lyricism that the record will literally put itself on repeat. The full spectrum of emotions are touched with this band, being soft and subtle one moment and heavy and melancholy the next.
FFO: The Front Bottoms, Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids

Beach Slang (Philadelphia, PA)

If you like sing-along, classic punk rock ‘n’ roll tunes, this band has been releasing some real gems. Reverb-layered vocals and loud, warm guitars are at the forefront of the band’s sound, while straight-forward driving drums and bass carry the rhythm section. The band sounds like a sweaty basement show fanatic’s dream, conjuring up images of crowd surfers kicking out ceiling tiles. Philadelphia has become the mecca of Punk over the last few years and Beach Slang are no exception.
FFO: Jawbreaker, Iron Chic, Red City Radio

Home Movies (Los Angeles, CA)

Great guys and a better band, the dudes in Home Movies just released an EP for their Animal Style Records debut this year. Tightening the production and honing the sound of their previous releases, the unique vocals of Dom Padilla help to make this band extremely special. A mix of heavy punk, grunge, with poppy overtones come together for a headbanger’s ball. Interesting guitar work and overall composition aside, the band touches on heavier subjects with real substance. A must see at Fest.
FFO: Polar Bear Club, Hot Water Music, A Wilhelm Scream

Fossil Youth (Enid, OK)

Extremely hard working bands tend to be good at what they do, and that’s Fossil Youth in a nutshell. They toured their asses off through all of 2015 supporting their EP “Intertwined With You” on Take This To Heart Records. Heavy and melodic, head bobbing is required. Their brand of grungy-punk only works when the songwriting presence is strong, and it is. Catchy choruses and hooks transition perfectly from song to song.
FFO: Citizen, Balance & Composure

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Matt Baum, drummer, Desaparecidos

Government Issue

I can’t believe they got this band back together. GI was a huge influence on the D.C. punk and hardcore scene in the early ’80s. Most of your favorite Dischord records bands don’t exist without these guys.

Andrew W.K.

Yes, he is widely considered a one-hit wonder weirdo from the ’90s. With that said, you know you loved him back in the day and his live show is just as nuts as it was 15 years ago. Trivia fact, I met my wife at an Andrew W.K. show at the Ranch Bowl, so he’s very special to us.

Weston

Of the millions of bands that were playing approachable nerd pop in the ’90s, no one did it better than Weston. They never took themselves too seriously and wrote the catchiest songs I’d heard since the Replacements. Can’t wait to see them again.

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Matt “Vic” Vicars, booker/musician, former Lincolnite

Loma Prieta

Loma Prieta is one of the first touring bands I ever booked in Nebraska. I booked them for the first time almost a decade ago at the Chatterbox (which later became Box Awesome, and is now some pandering sports bar I think). Since then I’ve booked them countless times in Nebraska, and I have got to see them grow and progress so much, all while remaining one of the most unique and interesting bands in the realm of heavy music. They just put out a new record on Deathwish Records and it is great.

The Sidekicks

Another band that we booked in Nebraska so many years ago, at our old house – Ghost House. Again, it has been so awesome to see this band go from playing in our dank basement to about 15 people (sorry guys), to being where they are today – putting out music on Epitaph Records! A huge chunk of Fest is just having a good time with a bunch of your friends, and I couldn’t be more excited to see these dudes. Plus, at this point I think it is impossible for them to write a bad song.

Jeff Rosenstock

Yup, one more man/band who my friends and I booked in Nebraska on their first tour to the good life many years ago. If you aren’t familiar with the musical stylings of the man they call Jeff Rosenstock you are seriously missing out. He used to be in the band Bomb The Music Industry!, who had several of the craziest shows we ever had at Ghost House. Now he performs music under his legal, god-given name. Although some punks might argue that some of his music doesn’t fit the a-typical genre of “punk,” it doesn’t matter because those people are dumb. All of Jeff’s projects embody that punk spirit more genuinely than most bands playing today. Plus one time one of his songs made me cry in the car.

Stand up comedy

My wildcard pick of Fest is going to be the stand up comedy (The lucha libre wrestling is close behind). Over the last few years there has been a real upswing in people who were involved in punk rock in some way making the shift to stand up comedy. A lot of my favorite current comedians fall into this category, and Fest is one of the best places to catch ‘em. Chris Gethard is probably the biggest name performing this year, but there are tons of greats from all over the country. Pretty sure Nebraska native Cody Wayne Hurd is hosting, along with a few other young teens from Nebraska.

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Lucas Wright, Black Heart Booking

PEARS

This band just played Sunday, Oct 4 at Lookout Lounge with Teenage Bottlerocket and they totally stole the show. They just celebrated two years as a band but play like they’ve been together for much longer. With sonic offerings that range from melodic punk to fast-paced hardcore and doom/sludge to thrash, PEARS have a totally unique sound. After being “discovered” by Ryan Young of Off With Their Heads, who released their first full-length “Go To Prison” on his own Anxious & Angry imprint, they signed to Fat Wreck Chords recently, who then re-released PEARS’ inaugural album. At last week’s show a local music veteran best described PEARS as follows: “If you told me that PEARS is a schizophrenic punk band that can’t decide what genre they are fronted by the second coming of Iggy Pop and who do a good Ramones cover (which is very hard to do), I would have been into this band a long time ago!” If you are at FEST this year, you’ll hate yourself in the morning if you miss PEARS.

La Armada

Originally from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, La Armada re-located to Chicago after out-growing their native island’s small and tight-knit hardcore/punk community. Since arriving in the US in 2007 they have grown a large and loyal grassroots fanbase by touring non-stop, exuding the DIY ethos and executing amazing live performances that have become more elaborate, polished and well thought-out over the years. They have recently toured with and/or shared the stage with a number of their musical idols including Strung Out, Propaghandi, Weekend Nachos, GBH, Negative Approach, Tragedy, Death By Stereo and many many more. With the notoriety they are receiving on these larger shows and the talent that they possess, it won’t be long before La Armada will be inking a deal with some mid-tier to larger respectable label. Make sure you catch La Armada’s unique brand of “Latino Hardcore Fury” at FEST this year!

Dikembe

Somewhere in the shoegaze/skramz/indie/pop punk vein of things, Dikembe are very instrumentally tight and sonically diverse band.  With noodly melodic guitar riffs and syncopated drumming, Dikembe are both quiet and beautiful and then loud and chaotic often all in the same song.  Vocalist Stephen Gray captures pure and raw emotion with every well thought out lyric and high pitched vocal delivery of said lyrics. If you haven’t heard of Dikembe, they share a similar sound to bands like Prawn, Dowsing, Free Throw, Dads (NJ) or Brave Bird.  Fun Fact: Dikembe are on the same label (Tiny Engines) as local band See Through Dresses.  FEST goers should NOT miss this chance to see Dikembe as they very rarely tour and seem to only play the yearly festival circuits.

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Cory Call, guitarist, Arliss Nancy (and North Platte native)

I never really cared for punk. Not until my first fest experience, that is. I was always into singer/songwriters and bands like The Drive By Truckers. I thought a punk fest had nothing for me, but I had sold a guitar and was paid in a Fest ticket so I figured, “What the hell,” and I went. It changed my life. I don’t mean to sound all cathartic, but it introduced me to so many people, and so much music. Through that first time at fest, I had met enough people to book my band its first tour. We’ve been touring ever since, all through a community of fest-goers.

Of all the bands playing this year there are a handful that I’m excited to see. My top three would be:

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band

These boys from Minneapolis rip. There is a vein of rock and roll still touring around the country. Just solid fucking rock and roll. These guys are that. I met Nato a few years back through an adjoining hotel room at fest. I had no clue what an amazing musician he was. The band is a rock and roll experience, full of killer riffs, jump kicks, and Nato leading the crowd like a spun-up reverend. They are the real deal: great songwriting and even better performances. Seriously, it has to be witnessed.

The Record Collection

Another little gem of absolutely amazing rock and roll floating around the eastern US. Had the pleasure of crossing paths with these guys several times and I am hard pressed to find a tighter band of all around real solid dudes.  Hooky, high energy, fun rock and roll. Definitely worth checking out.

Banner Pilot

One of my favorite bands ever, and I’ve only seen them once.  So it’s pretty exciting to see them this year.  I feel like their latest album, Souvenir, was kind of overlooked when the t first came out. I’ve been seeing it pop up more on the internet lately. The guy is probably my favorite lyricist ever. Pretty stoked to catch them this year!

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Thad Teply, Cuterthans/Punk Rock Cop

I’m fortunate enough to be attending Fest for the 6th straight year. It’s my favorite shirts off, coozie nabbin’, nap takin’, record buyin’, gator eatin’ time of the year. Bands I’m pumped for.

Andrew WK

Andrew WK is the greatest live band I’ve ever seen. The Party Messiah is playing Fest for the first time and is the only reason I’m staying Sunday. The crowd is going to lose their minds and I may never be the same.

Riverboat Gamblers

Riverboat Gamblers have a deep solid catalog and always bring the hits. Seeing front man Mike Wiebe jumping off 20 feet speakers into the crowd always makes me think he’s going to die. Long live The Gamblers!

Off With Their Heads

With Dillinger Four not playing this year, OWTH are the next best thing. They encompass everything that a Fest band is supposed to be, and when they tear into ‘Nightlife’ that’s the moment my shirt comes off for the next 4 days.

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Ian Douglas Terry, Comedian/Crom Comedy Fest

IDT here, with a tight and quick wrap up of three of the comedians I’m most excited to see this year at The Fest comedy shows in Gainesville.  (The Fest is so great and I’m going to day drink and watch bands and party and sleep in a swamp.)

Chris Gethard

Chris is not only one my favorite comedians but also just an all around amazing human.  If you followed his public access show to its home on Fusion you know he’s hilarious, sincere, vulnerable, and amazing.  Watching him do stand up is a treat and I am over the moon excited about getting the chance to catch him.

Joe Sib

Joe was the singer of the band Wax, which rules.  They were in Bio-Dome!  He now runs Side One Dummy Records and is a hilarious comedian.  So excited to see him perform and hang out, I’ve heard nothing but good things all around and did I mention he was in the movie Bio-Dome?

Jo Firestone

Jo comes highly recommend from friends of mine in NYC and I’ve heard she is a phenom (like the Undertaker).  I’ve never seen her perform live so this will be radical and I’m expecting cool things from her seeing as she was a runner up in the Andy Kaufman awards this year (this year’s Kaufman Award winner, Brett Davis, is also performing on The Fest comedy shows and I’m also excited about seeing him as well but I wanted to keep this short and sweet).

I’m also stoked to meet my new foreign friends who are performing on Fest for the first time…Gary Doyle from Ireland, Cameron Tyeson from Australia, and Gabe Koury from Canada.  Honorable mention to the two tight dudes I’m touring with (tightestdudes.tumblr.com) for the next month…Matt Monroe and Zach Reinert (I’ve seen them live, they’re okay).

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See Through Dresses, Omaha

Rozwell Kid

My pick was going to be The Hotelier, but when I saw that Rozwell Kid is playing Fest this year,  I had to change my mind. Rozwell Kid, if you aren’t familiar with them, is a killer band with sweet riffs, rad hooks, and fun lyrics. They put out a record last year that has more than a few rippers. I’ve heard from quite a few musicians that their shows are legendary. Don’t sleep on this one!

— Nate VanFleet

Beach Slang

I think the band to see this year is Philly based Beach Slang. Not only are their live shows amazing, they are the nicest dudes on the planet. Also, I’m extremely excited for the release of their full length album due out this year.

— Alex Kirts

Title Fight

I would definitely go check out Title Fight. I heard about them through Cymbals Eat Guitars and I picked up Hyperview shortly after. One of my favorite albums of the year. I love a good song with chorus guitars. Also, don’t miss The Pauses doing a cover set of The Breeders!

— Sara Bertuldo

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Chris Dinan, Hear Nebraska Visual Editor

Worriers

Worriers released their debut full length this year. Its powerful themes wrapped around catchy hooks which is exactly how I like my punk music.  

Chumped

Late last year, Chumped released one of my favorite records to listen to while driving with the windows down.

The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die

This is one of the larger bands at Fest this year, with eight members adding to their sprawling cinematic sound.

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Andrew Norman, Hear Nebraska Executive Director

Pup

The Lawrence Arms’ Brendan Kelly posted a heads up about this band on Facebook almost two years ago, and I haven’t stopped listening to their ONE Side One Dummy record since. A young four-piece punk band from Toronto with a killer live show (legend goes), these guys quickly managed to become one of punk rock’s biggest buzz bands by gaining the respect of Kelly and many other would-be punk rock kingmakers. Four absolutely incredible music videos have no doubt helped spread the word. They make their Nebraska debut at Omaha’s The Waiting Room Nov. 22, with Jeff Rosenstock, Modern Baseball and Tiny Moving Parts. I can’t wait for the preview.

Cayetana

This is another band whose sole record, Nervous Like Me, I can’t play enough. Frontwoman Augusta Koch manages to capture these specific but very relatable life moments (“Hardest part of moving out is I remember moving in…”) in her lyrics, while her band (bassist Allegra Anka and drummer Kelly Olsen) pounds out the songs’ foundation: heavy-driving rock ’n’ roll with plenty of dynamics. Stemming from the currently exploding Philadelphia punk(ish) scene (Menzingers, Restorations, The Holy Mess, Hop Along, etc., etc.), this trio are also Tiny Engine labelmates with our own See Through Dresses. Connections.  

Banner Pilot

Grinding, melodic punk rock from Minneapolis whose sound heavily recalls Jawbreaker and who writes songs about John Steinbeck — sign me up. Their newest Fat Wreck Chords album, Souvenir, is great from start to finish, but really, so is their entire back catalogue. I haven’t had a chance to see them yet, but when I do, I’m going to be standing right in front of bassist Nate Gangelhoff’s amp so I can let that gorgeous, craggy tone invade my dome.

Andrew Stellmon is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. Reach him with news tips and story ideas at news@hearnebraska.org.