Monday, January 23, 2012
Fest Chronicles Pt. 1: Wednesday/Thursday
Fest started late on Wednesday night for my roommate Pat (Party Pat) and I. Being from Canada, our travel time was lengthier than that of most of our friends going and also required flight. We decided to fly out of Buffalo since it would save us a considerable amount of money on flights and we lived pretty close to the border, making it pretty easy to get there. Our good friend Scott who was joining us on the trip offered to drive us to the airport and picked us up! We finished our packing Wednesday night and met Scott in a parking lot near our house at around 10:30 PM. From there we went to pick up our last two passengers for this trip, Duff and Shelby. We had originally planned to sleep at Duff’s house and then head out early in the morning for Buffalo. However, we did math and realized that we’d only get about 2 hours of sleep. Figuring that it would be better to get all the driving over with at once and just sleep in Buffalo, we left on an all-night drive. Everyone was sleep-deprived as the day before we’d all either worked or had a pretty huge amount of schoolwork to finish. As a result, the ride mostly consisted of beef-jerky, Doritos and Simpsons quotes, especially us breaking out in “Moe, Moe, Moe, nobody likes me why don’t you like me?” every 10 minutes.
We got to the Buffalo airport at about 3 AM and slept in a waiting area until airport security opened in the morning. Whenever I travel to the United States, I always fly out of Buffalo because of how much cheaper it is. Unfortunately with all the money one saves, they almost always have to put up with this sleep in this area. It’s always late when you get there so you’re always a zombie of a person. It’s uncomfortable and it really sucks.
After getting through security at about 5 AM, we greeted with a four hour wait until our flight boarded. Now in a larger airport this isn’t as bad because there are usually at least a few things there to help kill time a little bit, Buffalo airport on the other hand, does not. We got breakfast when the restaurants opened but for the most part sat in our gate watching the clock tick for four hours.
Finally 9 AM came around and we could get on our plane. Around this time Party Pat left us as he had different flights, albeit from and to the same places and at somewhat similar times. The flight down to Orlando was quick and pretty uneventful. As I got off the plane I was immediately hit with a giant heat wave. In Canada the weather had been pretty cold, with the temperature staying around 0 Celsius, and I dressed accordingly, covering myself in sweaters, flannel and toque and a jean jacket. In Florida it was sunny and about 25 degrees. I was pretty excited about this because I despise cold weather. Sweating, but excited. I found Scott, Duff and Shelby and we made getting a cab to the Orlando bus station our first priority.
We grabbed one out front of the airport and the driver turned out to be a huge ass. He yelled on his phone the entire ride, except for when he took breaks to ask us if we had ever been to the theme parks there. It’s around this time that I realized how much Orlando sucks. It has Universal, Disney and the Kennedy Space Centre, but other than that there isn’t much. It seems like the entire skyline is hotels and everybody there is a tourist going to the tourist attractions. Doesn’t seem like a very cool place to me. Also, our driver, as we would later discover, took a very roundabout way to get to the bus station, taking advantage of the fact that we weren’t from the city and didn’t know our way around. Fuck that guy.
After that shitty cab ride though our fortunes started to change as we coming into the homestretch of our journey. We walked into the bus station and were greeted to a large crowd of kids who were clearly also going to Fest. I changed into my cut-offs, stashed all my winter clothes into my bag, bought a strawberry flavoured Fanta (that shit ain’t in Canada) and commenced loving life.
Our bus to Gainesville was almost completely punk kids, save the talkative/crazy women from Texas who sat behind Scott and I and the women with an autistic child that kept yelling “IT’S ‘CAUSE HE’S RETARDED!” because she is clearly a terrible parent and person that was sitting in front of Duff and Shelby. The bus ride was great because it was long and boring, allowing me to put on some music and catch up on sleep. There was a rest-stop halfway though, allowing me to grab Funyons and various other snacks. Our rest-stop also coincided with that of my good friends Mark and Emily who were also travelling from Canada, but had come down the day before to go to Universal. We said “See you guys in an hour or so” and took off to finish the bus trip.
When we arrived in Gainesville we realized as soon as we got off the bus that we were far from where we needed to be and didn’t really have any logical way to get to our hotel other than walking. So we set off, seeing all the fine shit-hole landmarks of the beautiful metropolis that is Gainesville. It was a long walk but it wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t already spent the day travelling. At around 2 PM we had finally reached our destination: The Gainesville Holiday Inn.
Beginning a theme that would continue the entire weekend, we were greeted by familiar faces in the lobby, our friend Mike. We quickly checked, dumped off our stuff and Scott, Duff and I went to go eat at Checker’s (also not in Canada!) while Shelby napped. We bought our first case of beer for the weekend, I changed into my bathing suit and we went up to the pool deck.
This was the first “re-union” or “meeting” for the weekend. We knew a pretty sizeable amount of people going to festival, coming from all different parts of the States, Canada and even Australia. As we got up to the pool we saw a huge crowd of these people. Probably about 20 of them! Smiles and hugs all around. We proceeded to drink and swim and hug and sing for the next few hours. It’s really great seeing friends you haven’t seen in a long time again and that is definitely a big part of what makes Fest so awesome. Since I live literally an entire country away from many of these people, chances to see them are scarce. When we do get to see each other, we definitely try to make the most of it, as you will see from the stories from this weekend.
There was a Pre-Fest show on the Thursday before the whole she-bang started, which many of our friends were going to. Unfortunately it sold out pretty fast and I didn’t get a chance to get tickets. Fortunately I was not alone. Duff, Shelby, Gimper and I set off for a dinner at Boca Fiesta, which is a Mexican restaurant in Gainesville owned by Warren Oakes who used to drum for Against Me! I had pulled-pork tacos, mashed sweet potatoes, cornbread and a Schlitz. It was delicious and a pretty fun time.
I was pretty drunk at this point as I had been going since mid-afternoon and it was starting to get pretty late. Most were still at the show, but a dozen or so of us got to together to party in our friend Ian’s room. Party Pat had arrived while I was at dinner, so the whole crew I had come down with from Ontario had been re-united. The World Series was on and we had a ton of fun watching it and drinking. An awesome Canadian moment occurred around midnight. Scott and I had just finished off the last of the Pabst case we had bought earlier in the day. I said “Damn, we’re out of beer” and everyone looked at me weirdly. I then remembered that we were in Florida and could buy beer in gas stations and convenience stores, which were open until 1 or 2 AM, much later than the LCBO or Beer Store are open in Canada. I got pretty excited realizing we would be able to re-stock on beer essentially whenever we wanted to. Scott offered to go buy some I gave him a ten. He asked “So I’ll grab you a six-pack?” and everyone gave him the same look I had just received and ten minutes later he came back with a delicious twelve pack for me.
After this Party Pat, our friend Babs and I left to go get some food at Checker’s (I uncharacteristically passed as I had just had it that morning). While we were outside we saw a large group of people walking towards and joked that we probably knew them. Lo and behold among them were Steve and Dan. This happened all weekend. No matter where you were at whatever time of day, there were always a ton of your friends around you. It was the best.
After our riveting food adventure we returned to go to sleep as it was somewhere around 2 or 3 in the morning, complete with Pat sleeping on our floor because he had nowhere to stay.
In terms of how I thought it would be in my mind, Fest was definitely living up to the hype.
Monday, January 16, 2012
I decided to do something a little different this year. I found that when I was making my year-end lists in the past the hierarchy in which I placed the albums seemed to be pretty arbitrary (How proud of me for that sentence are you Susan Douglas?). Every year I knew what my favourite release was but I always end up listening to different albums at different parts of the year, so the ranking turns out to be just what my favourites are at the end of December. I spend way too much time thinking about if this album is better than that one, but worse than that one, etc. to the point that it turns out to be useless. Plus this is just a subjective blog, so why does it even matter right? Having said all that, for 2011 I decided that I would rank the top few because I know them for sure, after that I’ll just list my other favourites, without order. Cool? Cool.
Copyrights- North Sentinel Island
I’m totally late to the Copyrights party. There’s a ton of punk bands around that seem to ape The Copyrights style and there is obviously a reason for that. So this album came out during the summer and good ol’ John Flynn gushed about it on Tumblr. I kept thinking “Man, I should really get that thing.” This happened for about a week. Then I got it and loved it. The heavenly vocal lines! The poppyness! The dreams of seeing the band surrounded by rad punk-rock friends while enjoying cheap beer! Seriously though, it starts great and doesn’t let up, there are memorable hooks fucking all over it. Bonus points for the transition between “Crutches” and “Hard-Wired”. Also one time I made huge breakfast while jamming the fuck out to this album.
Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room- Hurricane Season
I know I’m in the minority when I say that I think Alkaline Trio still puts out pretty great albums. Not-only did I think This Addiction was “not-bad”, but actually “very good”. But I do think there’s a disparity in the level of skill with Alk3’s two song-writers. Matt Skiba can still turn out a really great song every once in a while and I find that his good songs are usually my favourite. But for every “This Addiction” or “Dead On The Floor” there’s at least one “Draculina”. Meanwhile, Dan Andriano does nothing but crank out awesome pop-punk songs. Considering all of this, I was decently excited for this release, figuring it would be all slower poppy rock songs like “Fine” off the last album. I was right, but liked the release way more than I thought I would. There’s a lot of acoustic guitars and this album isn’t as punk-sounding as the Trio, but it’s still really awesome and shows how good Dan is at writing songs.
Direct Hit!- Domesplitter
Loud, rowdy pop-rock. Fast and raucus. In Alternative Press it said “The Andrew WK of pop-punk”. Works for me.
Fucked Up- David Comes To Life
I’ve always enjoyed Fucked Up, but not to the extent that everyone else seemed to. Then this album came out. I was on a road trip to Montreal with some friends and also under the influence of a certain plant. We listened to this album all the way through and it was just a tour-de-force. That was really the perfect context to listen to it. It was ridiculously ambitious for Fucked Up to try something like this and it totally worked. You can barely call them a hardcore band now, but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t good anymore. I rarely listen to it unless I know I’ll have time to listen to the whole thing, but that speaks to the cohesiveness of the album, doesn’t it? Every time I do, it feels like the musical version of a John Hughes movie. And that is awesome.
I Am The Avalanche- Avalanche United
Out of all the albums I knew were coming out this year, this was probably the one I was looking forward to most. Their debut self-titled album is fucking great and I don’t think it gets enough respect with most punk fans (the instrumentals sound Lifetime meets Fugazi for Chistsake!). I love The Movielife as well, so obviously I was anxiously awaiting the second album from this band. The pre-released songs “Holy Fuck” and “Brooklyn Dodgers” only did more for this. Finally it came out and I was definitely satisfied with it. It wasn’t the overpowering list-topper I thought it might be, but it’s a great second for this band. I found it took a much more “just punk” sound than their first album, but I enjoyed it still. I’m really looking forward to this band much more active again.
Joey Cape’s Bad Loud- Self Titled
A lot of people love Lagwagon, but for some reason the same amount of support doesn’t translate to Joey Cape’s solo material, which I think is absolutely great. He took the next step in his post-Lagwagon career by forming this band this year and putting an album of full-band versions of his solo songs. I heard the new version of “Okay” and knew this was going to be something I enjoyed. I guess it might have been more exciting if it was new material, but I thought this was really great all the same. If you like his solo material, you’d love this. If you don’t like his solo material, you’d also probably like this because it’s just awesome pop-rock combo’d with great fucking song-writing.
Junior Battles- Idle Ages
These guys are really moving up in the world. About two years ago I saw them open up an awesome show for the Shook Ones, Make Do And Mend and We Are The Union and now they’re on Paper And Plastick and doing pretty regular tours. This is good because the band works extremely hard and they are seriously the nicest guys around. For real though, it is impossible to not like them personally. Anyways, they put out a really great EP last year and I was interested to see how the band would follow it up. It’s easy for a band to put out a total banger of an EP with four songs but translating that skill to a full-length album is much harder. Luckily, Junior Battles are a very good band and made that transition very easily; this album is fucking great. It’s catchy, it has really interesting guitar lines, great lyrics and “whoa’s” in all the right places. I suggest you get this album as soon as you can if you haven’t already because they show no signs of slowing down.
For some reason, most people I know were disappointed by this album. This confuses me because I thought this was a great follow-up to Get Better and has pretty much everything I want in a Lemuria release. At first it seemed like just “another Lemuria album” as it was kind of in the style of their last album. Then one day I was really hungover going to work on minimal sleep. The combination of this album and a coffee saved me that morning and all I could think about was how much I enjoy this album. That statement still stands too, as I think this album has some of their best songs. Great fucking band.
Living With Lions- Holy Shit
Living With Lions’ first full-length Make Your Mark was something that I got really into upon its release. I enjoyed their debut EP just as much, so I was really looking forward to their follow-up. Then the band lost its singer during the writing and recording of what would become Holy Shit. They replaced him with Stu Ross, who I was already familiar with as the singer/guitarist of Lowtalker. This troubled me because these two are pretty different in their vocal approach. I’m always for bands experimenting and taking their sound in a different direction, but at the same time I don’t want a complete change in style. Fortunately the change worked out pretty well. Stu is different enough that the band sounds new and refreshed and not trying to make Make Your Mark volume II with a new singer. The album didn’t hit me like the first one did, but it’s still pretty awesome. It’s fast, melodic and catchy as fuck. To top it off, the guys are absolutely ace live and always a ton of fun. Unfortunately, the band met a ton of controversy when some dick in California got offended by the album artwork (Have you ever heard of Slayer?) and made complaints to a minister in British Columbia (I was going to link to the Vancouver Sun article which initially caused all of the problems, but it was taken down, hmmmm) and the band was forced to either change the artwork of their album or return the funding which they received through a Canadian government agency for the arts. They did latter and paid for everything themselves as well as through a Kickstarter campaign. Canada, you do rule most of the time, but this was really fucking lame. Still though, great pop-punk album.
Saves The Day- Daybreak
I got really, REALLY into Saves The Day this year. I don’t just mean I started to like their records a lot, I mean that they’ve got 500 plays over the next artist on my Last.fm for the last 6 months. It started by me liking Can’t Slow Down because it sounds like Lifetime. Then I got into Through Being Cool because it’s a great example of late 90’s pop-punk. Then Stay What You Are started to dominate my life with its quirky pop-rock. Then the floodgates opened and I threw myself on the mercy of their discography. Most fans of the band have written them off but I think this is the best album they’ve put out since SWYA. It’s a totally new line-up for the band and the first time in awhile (since their first album) that they haven’t had Dave Soloway on guitar, so I was wondering how that would affect the sound of the band. The answer is not that much, but new guitarist Arun Bali’s spacey leads are the perfect addition to the band. Opening the album with a ten minute song is pretty ballsy, but it definitely worked and really draws you in and makes you listen to the whole thing. As with every Saves The Day release, the lyrics are mostly about love, which I like. It’s obviously not the best thing the band has ever put out, but it does take them in an interesting direction while also using the elements from their older albums which won them all the fans in the first place.
This Is Hell- Black Mass
Most people really don’t like that This Is Hell has moved towards a much more metal-influenced hardcore sound on their last two albums. However I love both hardcore and thrash metal, so I’ve welcomed this evolution with open arms. Rather than producing metal-core in the vein of Madball or Biohazard, they take all of their metal influence from the 80’s and turn the trash up to eleven. It’s fast as fuck and the riffs make you wonder if they listen to anything other than Anthrax and Megadeth in the van. Combining that with hardcore shouted vocals and I’m over the moon. I love bands who can still turn an absolute rager of a thrash album that recalls the East Bay in the 80’s rather than newer bands and This Is Hell definitely did that with this album.
Title Fight- Shed
The Last Thing You Forget by Title Fight is a really awesome compilation. The whole “pop-core” thing has gotten pretty big and pretty out control in terms of how shitty some of the bands are. Title Fight are definitely NOT part of the latter and I wouldn’t even place them alongside bands like Four Year Strong and Hit The Lights even though everyone else does for some ridiculous reason. The aforementioned compilation showed that Title Fight was very in touch with their hardcore scene while still making melodic, poppy-but-still-rough music and a debut album from them had me champing at the bit. And they really hit it out of the park on this one. They show a wide variety of influences from North-East hardcore like Suicide File or American Nightmare combined with 90’s emo like Texas Is The Reason and Sunny Day Real Estate to make an awesomely melancholic “I guess you can call it pop-punk” album. They’re absolutely great live and I’m very interested to see what they do with their sound, considering how much they evolved between their last two releases.
Wonder Years- Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing
4. Joyce Manor- Self Titled
I have a bad habit of hearing people talk about how awesome an album is and then never getting around to listening to it. Eventually I do much later and ask “Why didn’t anybody tell me about this?”, even though everyone did. This album is an example of that. Everyone I know could not stop talking about this album at the start of the year. Then I missed them when they came through Toronto as part of a really awesome tour with Lemuria. Finally one day I heard “Constant Headache” and was instantly hooked. The songs are all fast and aggressive and have awesome rough and dissonant guitar lines, but at the same time an awesome poppy feel. And of course the deciding factor; lyrics about being heart-broken. It’s a quick affair (10 songs in about 19 minutes!), but that just it means it won’t take long for you to check out the entire thing! “Leather Jacket” will forever be one of my favourite songs.
3. The Swellers- Good For Me
Very key to my listening habits is the commute to my job in the summer. I take the GoTrain to and from my lifeguarding job at an amusement park. During this commute I obviously listen to music because it’s either that or listen to everyone in the rat race down to Bay Street describe their ridiculously boring lives in the suburbs (Yes, I realize that makes me sound like an asshole.). So as a result I end up listening to a pretty huge amount of music in the summer and that is generally the time period that shapes this list the most. This Swellers album was one of the albums that I turned to most during the summer. I was pretty indifferent towards the release of this record as I had more or less written the band off after their last effort Ups and Downsizing. Then one of my friends described Good For Me as “skate-punk meets 90’s alt”, which sounded pretty interesting to me. I follow the members of the band and twitter and I notice they talk about Weezer, Nada Surf, The Foo Fighters, etc. on there pretty often and it seemed like a really good thing to me that the band was trying incorporate new elements to their sound regardless of if they were congruent with their older material. Most people would assume that mixing those types of influences with the fast, technical skate punk they were known for before would be a recipe for disaster, but it really works well. The album really shows a band who is completely comfortable with their musical style as well as the Diener brothers becoming pretty damn good at writing songs. During the summer it eventually boiled down to me making coffee, leaving my house and trying to decide if I wanted to put on this, Stay What You Are by Saves The Day or the new House Boat album.
2. House Boat- The Thorns Of Life
I liked House Boat’s last two releases A LOT. For this reason I thought that I would be over the moon with this release as well. Upon first listen I dismissed it as sounded “like House Boat”, if you know what I mean. Then I gave it another chance and fell fast and hard for it. This album, along with The Swellers and Stay What You Are by Saves The Day was pretty much all I listened to this summer. It really takes all the best elements of the first two releases and builds on them. The song-writing is better, there’s a greater difference between the style of songs (in that it’s not just one fast pop-punk song about being depressed after another, not to say I wouldn’t enjoy that) and the album has a way better flow to it. Everyone knows I enjoy a good love-ditty and Grath really knocks it out of the park on this release. Hey, I have a type when it comes to pop-punk and House Boat really fits
FREEFREEFREE LISTENING! JOIN ME IN BEING INSECURE AND ONLY THINKING ABOUT GIRLZ.
1. Bomb The Music Industry!- Vacation
I know my gigantic Rosen-boner is no secret, so this album topping this year for me is probably no surprise to most. As soon as a new BTMI! Release comes out my first priority is to listen to the album all the way through while reading the lyrics on the album’s page on quoteunquoterecords.com. Every time I do this I connect to the song-writing instantly and immediately fall in love with the record. This has happened every single time this “band” (though they do have a pretty stable line-up nowadays) puts anything out. I was at work the day this album came out, but saw people shitting their pants over it on facebook and twitter the whole day. What? The synth-ska-pop-punk-nowgettingsortofaltyinagoodway band that I always loved and everybody thought sounded like shit? This release must be a barn-burner. By my own admission, I thought it was great at first but didn’t freak the way most did. It did click eventually though. I was in a pretty shitty mood for a few days and then put this on and thought to myself “Oh Mr. Rosenstock, you’ve done it again. I’ve said it before, but every Jeff-related release feels like he hangs out with me for a day and then writes an album about everything that I think, worry and obsess over. This one is no different. Thanks for coming out, everyone else.
All Teeth- Summer Sessions
A really fast hardcore band doing all Specials covers? Are they deliberately pandering to me? Even though it sounds like it would be a car-crash of an EP, it works really well.
Dopamines/Dear Landlord Split
Do you like punk rock music? Do you like cheap beer? Why don’t you come over and listen to punk rock music and drink cheap beer? And then we’ll put on jorts and plaid shirts.
These two bands are definitely among the best in the local Ontario scene right now. This EP shows both bands growing in maturity and making more complex tunes than their previous material. It’s a great recorded example of how rad both are live and makes me super stoked to see what they do in the future.
This EP came when prolific pop-punk band Mixtapes (Seriously though, they have an asinine amount of not just releases, but good releases over the last two years.) made the decision to re-release their debut full-length Maps (Hey! That was on my year-end list last year and is free right here!). It has two new songs and four full-band versions of songs which were acoustic upon their initial release. Honestly, next to Maps this is probably my favourite release by them. The full-band versions definitely top the originals and it sounds like they should have always been that way. Both new songs are also killer and are up there as my favourite tunes by them. CATHCY AND POPPY AS FUCK. CUTE AND ADORABLE. The band just signed to No Sleep Records and are moving up in the world! Good on them, they work hard, are incredibly nice people, are some of the only other people in the punk rock world who know what Baller Blockin’ is and few people deserve it more.
We Are The Union- Graveyard Grins
We Are The Union has always been a band that I find myself much more interested in than everyone around. I have never understood why this is the case. Though I think that Great Leaps Forward didn’t quite match the level of gnar that Who We Are did, it was still a really good album. The band has a pretty unique sound that puts them right on top of the fence between ska and pop-punk and people still don’t give them enough recognition! This EP is the first noise they’ve made in a while and continues right where their last album left off; fast beats, face-melters and upstrokes. Just for good measure they throw in an ace Descendents cover at the end. Of my favourite song! I really think the band is great and works really hard to tour as much as they can and stick to their ideals. You should check them out because they deserve more than they get. Also, Trailer Park Boys reference on one song? Ya damn right.
Teenage Bottlerocket- Mutilate Me
I went through a pretty big Teenage Bottlerocket renaissance this year and became a way bigger fan of the band than I was before. Just like Saves The Day, they really clicked with me like they never had before. This EP continues in the bands usual style (Obvi brah, it’s Ramonescore.) and the song-writing is as strong as it’s ever been, with the title track being especially great. It’s very brief as it’s only three songs, one being a Bad Religion cover, and the band’s style lends itself to short songs, but it’s still great and definitely worth listening to.
2.Mikey Erg- Heart 12”
I fucking love The Ergs! a whole lot. So when I saw that Mikey was putting a solo 7” (on Valentine’s Day!) I was logically extremely stoked. Rather than the usual acoustic-folky route that most frontmen take with solo releases, Mikey made it a full band affair, playing all the instruments himself. Two guesses as to what the lyrics are about. In all seriousness though, Mikey is absolutely fabulous at writing pop songs about love and both songs on this 7” are evidence of that. HOW CAN YOU HATE MIKEY ERG? IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!
1. !ATTENTION!- Another Year