Last October I had the pleasure to travel across the Atlantic ocean to Gainesville, Florida, to the greatest festival on planet Earth - The Fest. It's three days of the best punk rock bands in the world, attended by the nicest people around. Fest is basically the best on every single account. If you're reading this, you probably already know this. Sadly I won't be able to attend this year. Emma and I always said that due to the cost of a flight to Gainesville from the UK and accommodation we won't be able to go every year. Then this year's line-up was announced and I instantly wanted to go back on this plan. Then recently the stage splits were announced and my heart broke that little bit more. I'm really not going back to Fest this year. Because I'm a massive glutton for punishment I've decided to do a top ten of bands I'm gutted I won't be able to see at Fest. To make this a bit easier on me, there are a lot of bands I want to see, pretty much all of them really, so I've decided to add some rules to this top ten. Punks love rules right? For this top ten I'm not including any bands that are considered "big bands" or bands that I've seen before.
Almost People are a power-pop-punk trio from Durham, North Carolina. For me they are one of those awesome discoveries you find whilst randomly checking out related artist bands on Spotify. The song that hooked me was Bored With Booze. I enjoyed the upbeat nature of the music along with the instantly singable chorus of the track. I feel like Almost People could be one of the surprise highlights of Fest.
Brooklyn, New York, band Cold Wrecks are a band that CPRW reviewed earlier this year when we checked out the album Breaking. Cold Wrecks play emotional and relatable pop punk music. Think of bands such as PUP and Modern Baseball and add a little New York attitude, then you have Cold Wrecks. This is a band you shouldn't be sleeping on, I think they are clearly destined to be a household name in the punk world very soon.
Chicago's Davey Dynamite is probably my favourite discovery of the year. His debut full length Holy Shit was released at the very end of 2016. If it had been released sooner I can only imagine it would have appeared on a lot of end of year top ten lists. He plays angry folk punk rock that really makes you think, with some of amazing socially aware lyrics. I have a feeling that Davey's Fest performance could be one where people can say "I was there when…" Gosh I want to see Davey Dynamite live.
Dead Bars have released what is one of my favourite albums of the year with Dream Gig. The album is 9 songs of terrific gruff voiced shout-a-long punk fun. I can only imagine that this incredible album sounds even better live with a room full of sweaty punk rockers shouting along with Dead Bars singer John Maiello. I imagine the whole set would be drunken carnage.
The Penske Files
If I had a pound coin for every time I've said that Canada is like a factory for making great punk bands then I could probably afford to get to Fest every year for the rest of my life. Alas, sadly nobody is paying me to say that. I was first attracted to The Penske File because of their name, I do love a Seinfeld reference. Then I listened to their album Burn Into The Earth and I fell in love. They play sing-a-long pop punk (I'm sensing a theme here) with some added harmonica, giving The Penske File a different sound to many of their contemporaries. I was disappointed that they weren't playing Fest last year and now I'm upset that they are playing the year I'm not there! Hopefully a UK tour will happen at some point in the future.
The Raging Nathans
The Raging Nathans from Dayton, Ohio, played last year's Fest and also did a tour with Wonk Unit before The Fest but for some reason I didn't check them out. This was a big mistake. Since that time I've learnt that they are one of the best melodic pop punk bands around, who are only going to have an upward career trajectory. Their album Losing It, in particular, is fantastic - filled with bangers that will make you sing, dance and smile.
Spanish Love Songs
I first discovered Spanish Love Songs after The Burnt Tapes' (and sometimes CPRW contributor) Pan put them on his top ten albums of 2016 list, even though Giant Sings The Blues was released in 2015. It's an intense pop punk record with passionate, heartfelt lyrics. Lead singer Dylan Slocum has an incredible vocal that carries a huge amount of emotion but also packs an incredible punch. Spanish Love Songs seem like another band that are on the cusp of really breaking through and becoming the next big thing in the punk rock scene.
Orlando, Florida's Teen Agers are another one of my great Spotify discoveries of the year. The four piece have been going for a few years now and I'd heard the name but never gave them a listen until this year. I'd really been missing out on some fantastic music from this awesome foursome. Fest 16 will have many great melodic pop punk bands playing this year, as they always do. Teen Agers are definitely among the best of them.
The Toms are one of those bands who you are first drawn to purely because of their name. The New York based three piece (all named Tom in case you hadn't worked it out) offer a different style of pop punk to a lot of bands playing Fest. It's more of a lo-fi pop punk styling that has plenty of delicious harmonies. I also enjoyed their bio of "The Toms are a bunch of Toms that enjoy being Toms."
My Fest Friend, and CPRW contributor, Robyn checked out Wolf-Face at last year's Pre-Fest event and I've wanted to see them ever since. For those who don't know - this Floridian band take inspiration from the 1980s teen movie Teen Wolf and dress in wolf masks along with basketball uniforms. It all sounds rather gimmicky, but then so are Masked Intruder and everyone adores them. Robyn has told me just how tight they were live and this has made me really want to check them out.
This is just ten of the incredible bands that are playing a Fest 16. Like I said at the beginning of this post, there are many many more that I want to see. If I feel like punishing myself some more later on in the year I may well do another of these lists.
FYI: The two bands I'm gutted about missing more than any others are Squirtgun and The Lillingtons. I consider them both in the bigger bands category though so that's why they're not included on this list.
This top ten was written by Colin Clark.