Monday, November 16, 2009

Punk Rock and Beat Up Cops: Surviving The Fest 8 Part 2

I present to you, the 2nd part of my chronicle of Fest 8!

Conisdering the late night before, Saturday started pretty early. I woke up around 11:30 with sore legs and a sad excuse for a voice. By 2pm I had gotten myself together as best I could and went with a group of Friends to Market Street Pub to watch Gatorface and New Bruises. On the way to the show I was surprised at the number of people walking around, functioning and going to see bands play after a full night of drinking and loud music. I mean, I was sober the whole night and I was feeling quite sluggish.These kids just can’t get enough rock and roll I guess, and the bands’ sets that start in the early afternoon are just as well attended as the ones at what would be peak show times. It’s just another example of the alternate universe that The Fest seems to operate in.
After leaving Market Street I headed to 1982 to see Pulling Teeth, one of the only bands on this year’s roster that I was positive I did not want to miss. I was there almost 45 minutes early thinking it would be plenty of time to get in, thinking Pulling Teeth would be looked over by the elitists and hype police that attend The Fest. I guess I was wrong and I spent all of Pulling Teeth’s set listening from outside standing in line. But there’s a silver lining to every story, and the parking lot at 1982 seems to be made of silver. While walking around Gainesville that weekend Kaila and I noticed just how many people were there with some kind of iconic band tattoo. We decided we should start some sort of game where we would try to count as many cliche band tattoos as we could and then see which were the most popular. The obvious front runners would be the Black Flag bars, Milo from the Descendants and the surprisingly popular Hot Water Music logo. We never really kept score and lost interest some time Friday Evening, but the guy in front of us in line that afternoon had such a passion for permanently displaying his musical tastes on his skin, that it reignited our passion for the game.

It was exciting to come across such a gold mine like him and inconspicuously taking all these pictures of his leg without him noticing was just another way to keep busy while waiting in these lines. Kaila is really a pro at covert photography. I’ve never seen such technique while never being detected by her subject. For some reason this guy never thought to himself, “Man, this girl is taking forever to tie her shoes.”

On top of cliche band tattoos, day two was Halloween and Halloween is always great for people watching, especially at a big event like this. There’s nothing like watching a grown man stage dive in a bee costume or seeing Billy Maze and “the Sham Wow guy” mix it up together in the pit. There was even a guy who walked around Gainesville in a Green Man costume all day. That’s what I call commitment. Though my personal favorite was the vocalist of Cloak/Dagger doing their entire set in a Henry Rollins muscle suit, complete with the “search and destroy” back peice and the Black Flag bars tattooed on his arm (which were also counted in our cliche band tattoo game).
Between all the people watching and standing in line I managed to see a few more bands like Richmond’s Cloak/Dagger and the babelicious Madeline. By late Saturday night/ early Sunday morning it was time to seek out another house show, so I went with a few friends to scout another party that would feature a complete cover set by a band. This time it was Bomb the Music Industry playing Blink 182’s album “Enema of the State” in its entirety. The show was at a house on 8th street in the middle of Gainesville’s uber hip and dirty student ghetto, though I’m still not sure which house the show was at. When we walked onto 8th street we walked into a crowd of a few hundred people all standing in the middle of the street. Watching the crowd for this party take over a whole block of the neighborhood, I thought to myself that there was no way something good was going to come from whatever was going on. I was so right.

I was standing off to the side of the street, safe behind a parked car watching the night unfold when the cops showed. This is to be expected when there’s a few hundred people drinking and blasting music in the middle of the street in a residential neighborhood. Instead of busting the party immediately, the squad car rolled through with its lights on trying to get people out of the street. As they drove away everyone started cheering, but the cheers didn’t last long and the car turned back around. That's when some dude in spandex had to go be a hero and go dance provocatively in front of the squad car. Not surprisingly, this pissed off the officers who were just trying to drive back through and clear the road a second time, so in the midst of a few hundred on-lookers one of the cops gets out of the car and starts to arrest the dancing spandex dude, or the unidentified man, as the papers called them the next day.

At this point I thought this might be interesting, so I pulled out my camera phone and started filming:
After people started throwing beer cans at the cops is where the story gets murky. Comparing different eyewitness accounts that varied from “That cop took a beer bottle to the head,” to “That was obviously police brutality! Up the punx!” its hard to get the whole truth. The official story from the Gainesville Sun read something like this:

Ryan J. Clarey, 25, of New Hampshire, attempted to free the unknown suspect from Jones' grasp by throwing a punch at the officer, Kameg said.
Jones used his Taser on Clarey and arrested him; meanwhile, the man who Jones was originally trying to detain ran away. During that process, several other bystanders attacked Jones, and other officers were called in for backup.
"He called for emergency backup, and it was two versus six for a short time until 20 more units responded, [Officer] Kameg said. "People threw rocks and bottles at the police."

By the end of the night it was apparent this incident was going to overshadow everything that happened that weekend. Never mind that the entire fest went without one fight, or the fact that there were a dozen other house shows that weekend that went on without police interruption. Nope, this is what Fest 8 would be remembered for: an incident that probably could’ve been avoided with a little common sense, but I guess beating up a cop and then claiming police brutality was the “punk rock” response to the situation. Because that’s what punk is really about: bringing down the man and Blink-182 cover shows.

Since I was the first to post a video from that night on the internet, I feel somewhat responsible for causing some sensationalism around that night. I had no idea that my video would end up being reposted by the Gainesville Sun, or that Tru TV would want to use it an upcoming clip show called “Holidays from Hell” (seriously.) The next day the fight was on the lips of everyone and my video was being tossed around as evidence of the insanity of the night before. When people found out I was the one who shot it I started to feel like I had shot the Zapruter film or something. I had one guy tell me that I should destroy it because his friend was going to jail because of it. When I watch it though I’m not really sure what the fuss is about because barely anything happens in it. If that guy is worried about evidence of his friend committing a crime he should talk to the guy who shot this video:
Despite the stigma that would hang over the Fest for the rest of the weekend, everything went on as usual. In fact, an hour after the 8th Street scuffle I was in a packed warehouse outside of city limits watching Camadre and Dead To Me and enjoying the post-Fest nightlife.

The next morning I had to pay my dues for getting a free Fest pass by volunteering at The Venue, and as it turns out volunteering for your pass is a pretty sweet deal. Every once in a while I had to help a band move some stuff on or off the stage. The rest of the time I just had to stand there and watch bands play on the biggest stage at The Fest. Most of my day was spent watching bands like Broadway Calls and Chris Wollard and The Ship Thieves from the best seat in the house.
My only challenge the whole day came when when local legends Radon played and I had to keep their friends and family corralled on the side of the stage instead of stumbling around on stage in a drunken stupor. One particular gentleman, an older man wearing a bandana, work boots and a Dale Earnhardt t-shirt saw all the stage diving and craziness that was happening and it compelled him to stage dive. Luckily before he did he came up to me and said, “I think I’m gonna jump,” so I had to convince this man in his 50’s that he shouldn’t stage dive and that he should just hang out back here and keep drinking his Natty Ice.

After my shift I checked out Market Street and caught a little bit of American Cheesburger, a good powerviolence band with a horrible name, and then headed to the Atlantic to watch Washingtonians Shook Ones close out The Fest with a bang. As it turns out, The Atlantic is built for Stage diving. The stage is the perfect height and the walls are lined with risers, perfect for diving from the back towards the front. People really took advantage, using every inch of the room they could. There was such a constant flow of people jumping on stage and jumping back in the crowd, it became this synchronized perfect movement made entirely of stage dives. It would’ve brought tears to Scott Vogel’s eyes.
Fest still wasn’t over for me. I would attend one more house show, in a small old house where blues legend Bo Diddley used to reside, his name still carved into the back patio cement. It was a small gathering made up of a few friends and acquaintances packed into the garage to watch Hour of the Wolf literally hang from the rafters as they played. It was a great end to a great a weekend that was truly about the music..and drinking...and beating up cops...but mostly about the music.

Before I knew it the weekend was over. Monday came and with it came the reality check that I was broke and that it would probably take me almost a week for my body to recover. Heck, it took me two weeks just to finish this article about it! I guess it takes a while to acclimate back to the reality that you have to live in for the rest of the year. I had to go back home to a town who's music scene thrives on top 40 cover bands and music for middle aged divorcees to dance to. It's a place where the term "house show" doesn't exist and playing music for any other reason than to make some extra cash on the weekends seems absurd. It's a shocking reality I live in, and it just makes me anticipate the next Halloween weekend even more.

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