It's the end of October, so if you've noticed that all of your favorite punk bands are heading South (or are already there), it's because The Fest is this weekend (and Pre-Fest is already underway). The punk festival is in its 15th year, and it goes down from Friday (10/28) to Sunday (10/30) at various Gainesville venues. There's really so much good stuff to see, including acoustic sets, cover sets (this is Halloween weekend remember), and more. There are reunited bands, bands you haven't heard of yet, and plenty of the in-between. It's impossible to catch everything you want to see, so here's a guide that will hopefully help you narrow things down a bit. We picked 15 great bands playing Fest 15 that, for one reason or another, feel really exciting to us right now.
Check out our list below, and check out the full schedule with venue info and set times here.
They might be named after a Pixies song but they're way more furious than Frank Black, Kim Deal & co. Vocalist Christina Stijy is truly a madwoman, screaming her lungs out over the band's dark, heavy hardcore like it's her last night on earth. I first saw Gouge Away opening for Thursday and Touche Amore earlier this year, having heard none of their music, and was blown away right off the bat. This year's , Dies is just as crushing as the live show was. Catch them at 7:10 PM on Friday at The Altantic.
Mikey Erg is one of the busiest musicians in punk (and he released an excellent solo album earlier this year) but his beloved band The Ergs! have been broken up since 2008 (save for a one-off reunion in 2010). Now they're finally back again, and this rare chance to see them is not one to pass up. No word at all if more shows are on the horizon. Of all the modern bands who take on classic-style pop punk, few get it right like The Ergs!. Catch them at 7:40 PM on Friday at Bo Diddley Plaza.
Spill are fronted by former Placeholder singer Brandon Gepfer, and like that band did, they make fuzzy rock that's equal parts punk and indie, and very '90s. They just signed to No Sleep for their debut album and we can't wait to hear it (due out December 16). They'll likely play some stuff off of it at The Fest, so head to their set for a sneak peak. Catch them at 6:40 PM at The Atlantic on Saturday.
They've never broken up and they haven't released an album since 2008, but Dillinger Four shows are pretty rare and always awesome. When you want loud, raw, grizzly punk that's still really fucking catchy, you want D4. When you think about the kind of punk The Fest is usually synonymous with, you think D4 (or maybe Hot Water Music or Against Me!). They're surely heroes to a ton of younger bands playing The Fest (or, you know, to Green Day). Festers are probably already fans, but if you haven't hopped aboard the D4 train yet, it's never too late. Catch them at 8:30 PM at Bo Diddley Plaza on Saturday.
If you're into the punk side of emo, Samiam albums like Billy and their major label debut Clumsy are total classics, right up there with Dear You. Unlike Jawbreaker though, Samiam kept at it. Their last album was 2011's solid Trips, and they do a little touring every year. Still, they haven't really done an extensive run in a while, so there's a good chance that The Fest will be your only opportunity to see them this year. Catch them at 7:10 PM at Bo Diddley Plaza on Saturday (directly before Dillinger Four).
The Menzingers have been one of the stronger modern punk bands for quite some time now. Early on, they were the perfect opener for a Hot Water Music or a Bouncing Souls show, but now they're their own beast and having the same effect on young kids that those bands had on kids years ago. They just announced their new album After the Party, and going by the two singles they already released, this is gonna be a special one. Catch them at 6 PM at Bo Diddley Plaza on Saturday (directly before Samiam and Dillinger Four) (yes this is a killer show).
One band that quickly followed in the footsteps of emo-punks like Samiam and Jawbreaker was Knapsack, who put out three killer LPs in the '90s before breaking up. Singer Blair Shehan then led The Jealous Sound, but he finally got Knapsack back together in 2013 and the reunion shows were fantastic. Those records don't sound dated at all. Like a bunch of bands on this list, Knapsack have a very small amount of shows this year. Catch them at 12:40 AM at Cowboys on Saturday night (technically Sunday morning).
Florida hometown kids You Blew It (well, they're from Orlando not Gainesville) had been doing the Kinsella-style emo revival thing for a while, but for this year's upcoming Abendrot (their first LP for Triple Crown), they're going in a new direction. It's kinda atmospheric, kinda Manchester Orchestra-y, and closer to the post-emo of The Hotelier, TWIABP and Foxing than it is to a "revival" of anything. Catch them at 10:40 PM at Cowboys on Saturday (same show as Knapsack).
The Fest has a ton of new bands, but every now and then they make some room for some true OGs, and this year that comes in the form of Negative Approach. They were only around for a few years in the early '80s and produced just one full-length, 1983's Tied Down on Touch & Go, but frontman John Brannon and drummer Chris Moore got NA back together with a new lineup in '06 and they've been doing shows ever since. We saw them at Maryland Deathfest earlier this year and they ripped. Catch them at 12 AM at The Wooly on Saturday night (so technically Sunday morning).
Torche are playing The Fest and you should obviously see them, but we wanted to especially point out that frontman Steve Brooks' other band Floor will be there too. Floor were basically doing the same sound that Torche would make more popular later on, and when Floor put out the 2014 reunion album Oblation, it basically felt like the followup to Torche's Harmonicraft (not a bad thing at all). Torche are always on the road, but Floor shows are fewer and farer between. Catch them at 10:40 PM at The Wooly on Saturday (directly before Negative Approach).
War on Women's 2015 debut LP on Bridge 9 rips and their live show is even more powerful. Here's what I said about it when they opened for FLAG earlier this year: "They make a hardcore with a message that’s very relevant and necessary right now — rape, abortion rights, street harassment and transphobia were just a few things they tackled during their set. They also have a killer rhythm section, sharp, loud guitars, and a truly unforgettable singer, Shawna Potter. The best hardcore shows are the ones where you can’t look away or get bored, even if you try, and Shawna is a big reason War On Women puts on shows like that. She’s sarcastic, angry, confrontational, and entertaining all at once, and it shows in both her delivery and her constantly-animated performance." Catch them at 9:40 PM at The Wooly on Saturday (directly before Floor and Negative Approach).
It was a bummer when vocalist Meghan O’Neil left the powerful hardcore band Punch, but the bright side is she teamed up with some new musicians (including former Snowing drummer Justin Renninger) to form Super Unison who are just as good. Their debut album Auto recently came out on Deathwish, and it has a lot of the harsh sounds that Punch had, but also softer, prettier stuff and Meghan nears Kim Gordon territory quite a few times. It's one of the year's better hardcore debuts. Catch them at 10:20 PM at The Atlantic on Sunday.
If, like us, you live in NYC, then you might get to see Big Eyes a lot. But if you're traveling to The Fest from a part of the world that Big Eyes don't play as often, we really recommend taking this chance to see them. They're one of NYC's better current punk bands, with classic-style post-Ramones punk meeting hard rock riffs and twin leads. They just recently dropped Stake My Claim on Don Giovanni and it really is a ripper. Catch them at 8:50 PM at High Dive on Sunday.
Planes Mistaken for Stars were one of the more distinct post-hardcore groups of the early/mid 2000s, and they just returned with Prey, their first album in a decade. Their sound hasn't softened or gotten more accessible at all, which is a very good thing. Sanford Parker produced it and Deathwish put it out, so you know they're still in very good hands. The Fest has a handful of reunited bands, but PMFS are one of the few with a truly excellent new album. Catch them at 9:20 PM at The Wooly on Sunday.
One of the year's most triumphant reunions for fans of the type of music you'll hear at The Fest is Thursday. Those guys aren't playing this, but singer Geoff Rickly's political screamo band United Nations are, and their shows are a hell of a great time. They've only done a very small number of shows this year otherwise, and nothing else is on the horizon at the moment. And considering this election season that we're right smack in the middle of, it seems like the perfect time to see United Nations. Catch them at 7:20 PM at The Wooly on Sunday (same show as Planes Mistaken for Stars).