The end of October is nearing, and in addition to Halloween, that also means that tons of great punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, emo, and other punk-related bands are heading to Gainesville for the sixteenth annual addition of The Fest, which goes down from Friday, October 27 to Sunday, October 29 at various venues. (And before that, it's the fifth annual Pre-Fest in Little Ybor on 10/25 & 10/26 with many of the same bands.) 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 16 great bands playing Fest 16 that, for one reason or another, feel really exciting to us right now.
One more thing we'd like to note: You Blew It, who we included on last year's Fest guide, are going on hiatus and The Fest and Pre-Fest are their final shows for the foreseeable future. Catch them while you can!
Check out our list below (in no particular order), and check out the full schedule with venue info and set times here.
Tallahassee hardcore band Night Witch have been around for a few years, and they've got a few releases on their Bandcamp. The most recent and best-sounding is Tour Tape 2016, which has five fiery originals and five punked-up covers of the now-defunct Tallahassee indie pop band Naps. The originals have vocalist Rosie delivering pissed-off, vocal-cord-shredding screams that take on sexism and other injustices in the world. With all the abusers in the music industry getting outed in the past couple weeks and the prevalence of the #MeToo hashtag, the time has never been better for a song like "Lucky," where Rosie spits, "It was consensual, right? It was fun, right? I wanted it, right?" On "White Lies," she takes on white privilege and offers a reminder to keep feminism intersectional. On "Girl Code," she celebrates the solidarity of women protecting other women from predatory men. The powerful messages are matched by the whiplash-inducing music, which is fast, loud, and tight as all hell. They play The Atlantic at 11:10 PM on Sunday.
Superchunk helped define the sound of '90s indie rock with all-time classics like their 1990 self-titled debut and its 1991 followup No Pocky for Kitty, and when they finally started making records again at the beginning of this decade, it was like no time had passed. 2010's Majesty Shredding and 2013's I Hate Music rank among the band's best work, and they sound entirely modern without really toying with Superchunk's trademark style. They're still a roaring live band, and have no trouble competing with the countless younger bands they've influenced (many of whom are playing The Fest this year). Superchunk have been releasing a series of ripping singles this year, and we can likely expect a good mix of new material and classics at The Fest. They headline Bo Diddley Plaza on Sunday at 8 PM.
Hum reunited a few years ago but their shows are still few and far between, and The Fest is their exclusive Florida show of 2017. Not only are their shows rare, but Hum still sound as massive and hard-hitting live as they do on their classic '90s records. And, especially in 2017, those records sound more and more like they were ahead of their time. The current trend of bands mixing post-hardcore and shoegaze can be traced back to Hum, whose talents stretch far beyond their one big hit, "Stars." (If you've yet to be exposed to You'd Prefer an Astronaut or Downward Is Heavenward, check them out stat!) Whether you're a longtime fan or a newcomer, this is sure to be one of The Fest's most unmissable sets. They headline 8 Seconds at 12:30 AM on Saturday (technically Sunday).
For raw, classic-style screamo with a spastic, progressive side, it rarely gets better than City of Caterpillar's sole 2002 self-titled full length. They were peers of pg.99 (with whom they released a split and shared members) and both of those bands left a major mark on the "spazzcore" sound of the early and mid 2000s. They reissued that album this year and finally recorded their 11-minute song "Driving Spain Up A Wall" (which had been played live for years), and both releases serve as a reminder of how powerful City of Caterpillar's sound still is. They've been on a reunion tour all year, and they say it's going to end this month, so catch them while you still can. They play 8 Seconds at 9:30 PM on Saturday.
Against Me! completely reinvented themselves (no pun) with the release of 2014's Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which began an entirely new era for Against Me! and introduced them to tons of new fans. They kept the momentum going with last year's similarly great Shape Shift With Me, but their appearance at The Fest this year will be a treat for the old fans. They're performing their classic debut album Reinventing Axl Rose, which turned 15 this year, in its entirety. Coming off the release of a few acoustic folk punk EPs, Reinventing Axl Rose was the band's first electric full-band release but still had their folk punk roots (and DIY and anarchic spirits) intact. It's the rawest-sounding full-length they ever released, and it remains one of the highest peaks in their discography. Not to mention, The Fest will have this Gainesville band playing for a hometown crowd, so it should be extra special. They headline Bo Diddley Plaza at 8:30 PM on Saturday.
Philly's Soul Glo are a blistering hardcore band who formed a few years back and already released at least one must-have album, last year's Untitled LP. It takes on police brutality, white supremacy, and the complexities of living life as a black man in America. It's a political record, but it's really a personal one too, with vocalist Pierce Jordan looking inward as much as he looks outward (it's worth reading their revolutionary lyrics and their recent lengthy interview with The Key). Half the songs on the album are untitled, but the songs that do have titles often have as much power in the name as they do in the lyrics. They take an iconic hardcore band to task by naming a song "Guilty of Being... Wait," and the impact of a song title like "Violence Against Black Women Goes Largely Unreported" really speaks for itself. This band could be true leaders of a revolution, and like many great hardcore bands, the ideas are backed up by the delivery. Pierce has this manic, unhinged scream that's a thrill to listen to and doesn't sound like much else out there right now. They play The Atlantic at 5:20 PM on Sunday.
The Polyvinyl-signed Rainer Maria were one of the key bands of late '90s and early '00s indie-emo, with a flawless discography that spanned about a decade before the band broke up in 2006. They thankfully got back together a few years ago, and this year they finally give us a new album, S/T. Instead of picking up where they left off, Rainer Maria introduced us to an entirely new side of the band. It's their darkest and heaviest album yet, and it rivals their classic material in its own way. The lyrics are a little less sentimental, but the riffs on "Possession" are pulverizing in a way Rainer Maria never were before. They play Bo Diddley Plaza at 7:10 PM on Saturday, directly before headliners Against Me!.
Majority Rule reunited around the same time as City of Caterpillar this year, they toured with them recently, and they play back to back at The Fest. Both also released splits with pg.99 back in the day, and both had careers that were way too short-lived. Compared to City of Caterpillar's spastic sound though, Majority Rule had more of a post-rock side, delivering their harsh screams over gorgeous instrumentals. That style might be even more prevalent today than it was back then (thanks to bands like Deafheaven, Pianos Become the Teeth, etc), but Majority Rule still stand out as one of the best. Their recordings aren't dated one bit and recent live shows still have them sounding great. They play 8 Seconds at 8:30 PM on Saturday.
Long Island emo can thank Taking Back Sunday and Brand New for taking its sound to the masses, but before either of those bands formed, The Movielife (whose co-founder Eddie Reyes left the band to form Taking Back Sunday and whose longtime guitarist Brandon Reilly used to play in The Rookie Lot with members of Brand New) were already adding great music to the LI emo canon. Their 2000 album on Revelation, This Time Next Year, offered melodic hardcore as sharp as The Movielife's LI forebears Silent Majority did, and their subsequent Drive-Thru releases -- 2001's ...Has a Gambling Problem EP and 2003's Forty Hour Train Back to Penn -- took their sound in a more ambitious direction, one that really deserved the mainstream success of the TBS and Brand New albums of that time. They established a strong following that hasn't faltered even after all these years, and when they finally returned with last month's Cities In Search of a Heart, their first album in 14 years, their fanbase welcomed it with open arms. They play Bo Diddley Plaza on Sunday at 3 PM.
Every year, The Fest lineup points me in the direction of at least one awesome thing I've been sleeping on, and this year it was Zeta's 2016 album L'Antiteoria del Todo. The Venezuelan progressive screamo band actually formed in 2003 but didn't put out their first release until 2011, and they've been pretty prolific since then. L'Antiteoria del Todo is perhaps their best-produced album yet, and it spans so styles of music and truly can't be pigeonholed. "¿Por qué sentimos que no nos necesitan?" works in jazz guitar, "¿Cuándo rendirse significa ganar?" starts out as sludgy psych-blues and ends up as spastic hardcore, "¿Por qué tenemos que perdernos para encontrarnos de nuevo?" is a horn-fueled song with lounge/ska rhythms, and "¿Por qué gastamos tanta energía en nuestras personalidades?" is gruff, bulldozing post-hardcore -- just to give a few examples of the sounds on this album. Whether they're at their lightest or their heaviest, the vocals on this album are always screamed, and even if you don't speak Spanish, the passion in their voices comes through loud and clear. I haven't seen them live yet, but from watching their recent Audiotree session (which includes clean vocals, post-rock climaxes, and bongos), I get the feeling their show is gonna be pretty fucking awesome. They play The Atlantic at 9:30 PM on Sunday.
Smoking Popes were always a unique band within the world of '90s alt-rock that they hailed from. With all the grungy, angsty singers and the nasally pop punk singers of the era, Smoking Popes' Josh Caterer instead sported a Morrissey-like croon (and Morrissey was a known fan of the band). They never got the acclaim or popularity of some of their peers, but the punk and emo world never stopped embracing them and you can still hear the influence of classics like 1994's Born to Quit on modern punk/emo today. The band's original lineup recently got back together and put out their first new music since 1998 (via Asian Man Records), and those songs sound and feel like the '90s all over again. They play Bo Diddley Plaza on Sunday at 5:20 PM.
Buffalo, NY metalcore greats Snapcase have been reunited for a while but they mostly play one-offs in their home state and festivals, so any chance to see them is rare and worth taking. They haven't released new material but the old stuff holds up super well and remains incredibly influential. It's hard to picture metalcore's mainstream breakthrough or Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come happening the way it did without Snapcase's influence, and even with all the imitators out there, nobody does it like Snapcase. They play Bo Diddley Plaza at 8 PM on Friday, and they'll be the heaviest band on that bill by far.
Ratboys tour with punk/emo bands and they have DIY ethics, but musically they're more of an alt-country band, kind of like past tourmates Pinegrove. They recently released their second album GN on Topshelf, and it's well worth checking out. It's got country and folk signifiers like twangy slide guitar and campfire-ready acoustic guitars, but Julia Steiner’s voice and the lo-fi recording also show Ratboys have one foot firmly planted in indie rock. It's a great mix, and Ratboys should provide a nice contrast to all the blaring power chords you'll be hearing all weekend. They play Rockey's Piano Bar at 8 PM on Friday.
Before Jonah Falco started drumming for Fucked Up (who have been quiet lately), he played guitar in Career Suicide, who returned recently and released their first album in a decade, Machine Response (via Deranged Records). It's cleaner and clearer than their earlier work, but certainly not overproduced, and it rips just as hard. The guitar solos shred, the rhythm section is relentless, and vocalist Martin Farkas still sounds like he's losing his mind on every song. They play 8 Seconds at 10:30 PM on Saturday.
Winnipeg punk duo Mobina Galore cite The Distillers, Propagandhi, and Against Me! as core influences, and they make the kind of hard-hitting melodic punk that you'd expect from knowing that, filled with passion and precision. They've actually won over Against Me!, who took them on tour earlier this year. Even if their sound is familiar, they do it really, really well and they'd be a great new band for fans of '90s/early '00s punk to check out. They play Loosey's at 9:40 PM on Friday.
The first time we highlighted Sinai Vessel on BrooklynVegan was actually in a Fest preview (Fest 13), and they've seriously come a long way since then. This year they finally released their debut album, Brokenlegged, and it's an earthy, spacious rock record that fans of Death Cab for Cutie, Kevin Devine, and Manchester Orchestra really need in their lives. They've got deep lyricism, grand song structures, and a knack for dynamic shifts that you don't hear every day on a debut album. They play Rockey's Piano Bar on Friday at 10:30 PM.