I have to start out with Less Than Jake. The long running ska punk band playing a hometown show is one not to be missed. I am a long time fan of the band and they are still one of my all time favourites. Also the first gig I ever went to was a Less Than Jake one and it changed my life for the better. I have seen Less Than Jake more than I've seen any other band and they continue to provide one of the most entertaining live shows in the world. A brilliant live band coupled with an excellent back catalogue of songs this is a set that is not to be missed. As I've just spoken about one of my favourite bands in seems appropriate to next talk about one of Emma's. Scranton PA's The Menzingers are Fest favourites and seem to play every single year. Since their beginnings in 2006 The Menzingers have gained a reputation as one of the best of the newer school of punk bands in the world, selling out shows everywhere they go. Their records are great - On The Impossible Past has got to go down as one of the best records of the past ten years - but it's live when they really come into their own. If you're reading this then there is a good chance that you've seen The Menzingers live and witnessed the carnage that ensues. Greg, Tom, Eric and Joe begin to play and for some reason bodies begin to fly.
Speaking of bodies flying I can't think of any band that gets a crowd going like Iron Chic. If ever there was a band that can start a huge singalong as well as a mass of bodies flying all over a room it's the Long Island five piece. I've said many times that their debut album Not Like This is in my top five of all time. You hear Iron Chic and you can't help but shout along and throw your fists in the air. The lyric "Home Is Where We Are Today" seems incredibly appropriate for The Fest. Long time friends of Iron Chic, RVIVR are another band playing Fest. RVIVR are one of the most forward thinking punk bands of the current crop with a big subject of songs being about gender equality. The dual vocals between Mattie Jo Canino and Erica Freas are the best in the whole of punk rock. The energy that the band omits is just incredible. I can't wait to see Change On Me live once again, it's such a special song whether hearing it on record or seeing it live. Something quite special and rare is also happening at The Fest with a rare reunion appearance from Latterman. For those unaware Latterman featured members of Iron Chic and RVIVR and are one of the most influential bands since the new millennium. Latterman played melodic punk rock with dul shouted vocals from Phil Douglas (Iron Chic) and Mattie Jo Canino (RVIVR) and many of their songs featured political or socially conscious lyrical content. As a big fan of both Iron Chic and RVIVR, but being late to the party for Latterman, I'm very excited to see this legendary band.
Another band reuniting to play the festival are The Ergs! Yes, you read that correctly The Ergs are playing Fest. I never ever expected to get a chance to see The Ergs play live and when I found out that they were I fanboyed very hard. I had the privilege of seeing Mikey Erg play live solo in London back in 2013 and was blown away. Seeing him play with one of the best pop punk bands ever is going to be something extremely special. The genre of pop punk is represented very well at The Fest. Masked Intruder are probably one of the most popular bands in the genre at the moment and should provide a festival stealing performance. Gimmick bands shouldn't really work in the world of punk rock music but everyone loves Masked Intruder. The crime-committing foursome from Wisconsin have perfected the sugary sweet pop punk sound and will put big smiles on everyone's faces with their songs about breaking the law and trying to get the girl. For me, one of the most underrated pop punk bands of all time are Canada's Chixdiggit. A band that I've wanted to see for years but have never had the chance, I look forward to big smiles and bigger singalongs from the four piece. Classics such as Spanish Fever, Chupacabras, Brunette Summer and I Remember You will go down a storm with the Gainesville crowd.
There is also a heavy dose of ska punk playing the festival. Along with Less Than Jake, The Fest also has Big D & the Kids Table and Mustard Plug on the line up. Boston's Big D & the Kids Table have toured relentlessly for the past twenty years and have become one of the most respected bands in the genre. Combining ska, punk, reggae, thrash, stroll and dub music, plus a big energy, high octane live show, they will definitely get the Florida crowd moving. The same can be said about the legendary Mustard Plug. A big part of the third wave ska movement from the 1990s, Mustard Plug have continued to entertain crowds ever since they burst on to the scene. Another band that I've never got round to seeing and I can't wait to put that right. The Beer Song in particular should be a big highlight of the Michigan-based band's set.
When I think about some of the most important people in punk rock one of the first names that always comes to mind is Jeff Rosenstock. Since Bomb The Music Industry broke up Jeff has worked under his own name to great success. His 2015 album We Cool? was one of my albums of the year and is still in regular rotation on my record player. I had the pleasure of seeing him live earlier this year and was reminded what a punk show should be all about. Hot, sweaty, uplifting and fun. Another band that often comes to mind when the subject of uplifting bands is mentioned is Off With Their Heads. Ryan Young is the best songwriter in the business. He has this amazing ability to write about some dark and depressing subjects and somehow make you feel uplifted at the end of the song. If ever listening to a band felt like going to therapy it's Off With Their Heads. Unfortunately Off With Their Heads had to cancel their European tour this summer so I'm glad to have the opportunity to see them again at The Fest.
Minneapolis punk legends are back at The Fest this year - Dillinger Four. The Fest's own website says "if one band encapsulates Fest it's D4." I had the opportunity to see them play a very very rare UK show this year but ended up having to miss out. I was gutted about that so I'm hoping I'll get the chance to make up for that at The Fest. Hearing them play Gainesville in Florida is a bucket list moment for me. Lastly you have Strike Anywhere. One of the most influential melodic hardcore bands of the past fifteen years. With a strong political and social message Strike Anywhere are a band I've wanted to see live since first hearing Infrared on an old compilation. Lead singer Thomas Barnett has one of the best voices in the genre, whether he's singing or screaming it's impossible not to be captivated by him. Both of these bands are must see. So be down at the front, prepared to get very sweaty and pretty squashed by some hardcore and passionate fans.
This my first Fest preview. In the coming weeks I will also previewing the newer bands, acoustic/solo acts and the UK bands playing The Fest. So look out for those!