Monday, 7 November 2016

Gig Review: Unofficial Pre-Fest, Gainesville 27/10/16

The Fest is an annual punk rock festival that happens in Gainesville, Florida. Each year the bars in the Gainesville area put on shows for the festival attendees who are in town a day early. It is sort of an unofficial pre-fest for those not attending the official Pre-Fest in Ybor, Florida. In the weeks leading up to The Fest my mind was blown. Rehasher announced that they were playing an unofficial pre-fest show at the High Dive in Gainesville. After double checking with Emma that we would definitely be in Gainesville that evening I excitedly bought tickets for the show. For those who are unaware, Rehasher are one of Roger from Less Than Jake's side projects. I've been a big fan of Rehasher since hearing their debut album, Off Key Melodies, way back in 2004. Due to Roger's commitments with Less Than Jake, any Rehasher activity is rare and I had pretty much assumed they were a band I'd never get to see live. So I'm sure you can understand my excitement.

(Emma's sections are in italic)

We got to the High Dive early and immediately thought that this would be a great place to watch punk bands. (Something we would be doing a lot this weekend). It's a nice sized space with a high stage allowing you a decent view wherever you are in the room – assuming that you don't get stuck behind one of those tall types. First up were a couple of local bands, the first being Arrows In Action. Having never heard of this band before we had no idea what to expect. We soon discovered that this four piece play an up tempo brand of pop punk music. For the most part it was enjoyable and it's clear that they are a band with a lot of promise but I did get quite distracted by the fact that their entire set was being filmed. A highlight of the set was a good cover of a Blink-182 song from their latest album California.

Following on from Arrows In Action were Former Planets. Musically they were a very talented band and their singer had a good voice and stage presence. It was very difficult not to pay attention to him during the songs and he made sure that he kept the crowd's attention between songs. At one point he called out to a chap in the crowd a threw a bag of merchandise and CDs at him and instructed everyone to take stuff from it as it was all free. An interesting way to keep the crowd alive during tuning breaks.

Now let's rewind to a couple hours earlier when Emma and I were sitting in a bar named Whiskey House. Talking to the bartender about being in town for Fest he mentioned that a free unofficial pre-fest show was happening at Whiskey House that evening. That peaked our curiosity so we decided to look into who was playing – it turned out to be none other than two of our favourites from back home, Andrew Cream and Jake & the Jellyfish. Looking at the set times it worked out that we could watch both of their sets before returning to the High Dive for Rehasher.

We made our way back over to Whiskey House to catch Andrew Cream play his ‘unofficial’ pre-fest set. Whiskey House is, as you might imagine, a whiskey bar. They had a small stage set up near the door, and in front of the windows – good for luring in passing Festies. I think Whiskey House was mostly being used for more acoustic-based artists, but Andrew Cream was there with his ‘full band’ (only the drummer would actually fit on the ‘stage’). As their official Fest set was scheduled for late on the Sunday night some time after midnight, we were grateful to be able to see them before that. Playing mostly songs from his debut album Self-Portrait, released earlier this year, Andrew and co stormed through their set with great enthusiasm. Andrew stated how it was his 4th or 5th time at Fest and how much he loved attending and playing – it certainly showed. As it happened, we didn’t make it to Andrew and co’s official Fest show but imagine those who did had a great time, just like we did at pre-fest.

Folk-ska punk band Jake & The Jellyfish were next up on the Whiskey House stage. The band featured a slightly different line up to the last time we saw them (at Manchester Punk Festival in April) – no violin, more accordion – and so they has slightly different sound but were no less energetic and fun. There were definitely too many members of Jake & The Jellyfish to fit on the Whiskey House stage but with half of the band on the floor in front of it the gig felt very inclusive. The boys wasted no time in getting the folk at Whiskey House moving and there was a real party atmosphere – just what you need to get you ready for Fest. If my memory serves me correctly, they played a mixture of songs from their two albums plus a new song called Killing Time (I remember thinking ‘This is the song with the dog video!’). An excellent little pre-fest interlude before heading back to see Rehasher!

We made it back to High Dive just as Rehasher were sound checking. Joining Roger on stage were Alex on drums and Tony from The Duppies on bass. This incarnation of Rehasher have only played a handful of shows together but it didn't show – such is the skill and musicianship of all three members of the band. Despite Roger having a slight technical problem with one of his guitars, Rehasher played a storming set. Where Less Than Jake play a poppy style of ska punk music, Rehasher take pop punk and add a lot of speed and aggression to it. This suits Rogers voice perfectly. For a long time he's had one of my favourite voices in the world of punk rock music. When I was growing up listening to pop punk music Roger's voice is what I imagined what all singers should sound like. Rehasher played an outstanding set. It was great hearing so many songs that I never expected to hear live as well as two great covers of Iron Maiden's Can I Play With Madness and The Outfield's Your Love. As much as I love Less Than Jake I do wish there was more time for Rehasher. The songs have always been fantastic and now seeing them live has added another fantastic dimension to them. Thanks Roger and the rest of Rehasher for playing the show. For me it was a once in a lifetime moment that won't be forgotten for a long time.

What a great night and a wonderful way to warm up for The Fest!