It’s October in Gainesville and for most people here the Gators are on their minds: parking cars for extra cash, drinking beer in the backs of pickup trucks and watching football. You can smell fall in the air (that being the only sign of the seasons changing) and it’s a steady 80-something degrees. Last night as a frat boy relentlessly tried to open my front door, despite its being locked, and hoards of squawking sorority girls were screaming and crying by my bedroom windows as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t help but dream of better times. Fest is right around the corner, and in just a few weeks the crowds of falling, vomiting school kids will be replaced by thousands of young and aging punk rockers who know how to hold their liquor and walk on two feet.
October always reminds me of Fest and all the friends and good times it brings: from the modest Fest I, where mostly locals were riding bikes from venue to venue and stage managers bragged about having bands play ahead of their allotted times even though that meant messing the whole schedule thing up; to Fest X, where we celebrated with friends from around the world who we wouldn’t know if not for Fest.
I remember working registration the first few years of Fest. It was held in Wayward Council (RIP), and kids shopped and browsed between aisles of records while waiting in line. Wait times varied from zero to ten minutes. Everyone was stoked and smiling as they checked in and got their wristbands. Those wristbands cost about $20-$40 and were treated like gold.
Last year I was amazed as I approached the Holiday Inn to co-DJ the Fest pool party and saw that the line for registration wrapped around the building, down the block and on to 3rd street. I followed it inside, up a few flight of stairs into the conference room where an intense flea market awaited. The place was so crowded, there was nowhere to stand. Browsing vendors’ tables was even difficult.
Once I got to the pool deck everything was different. The vibe was relaxed and cheery. Friends were reuniting left and right. Group hugs were rampant. Europeans were showing off their pasty white skin and people were mostly swimming in their clothes and underwear. I could see down into the parking lot from where I was and it saddened me to see the line was barely moving. Not even a third of the line had made it through registration and everyone was missing the amazing party.
Fest XI is tapped to become a beast of its own. With an early registration planned for Thursday, there’s no excuse to miss the amazing pre-Fest pool party and hopefully no reason to complain about that line. It will also be the first Fest ever where Gainesville’s “Blue Laws” no longer apply. This means that bars and venues won’t be forced to close by 11 p.m. on Sunday, so be prepared to Fest even longer. Sunday is typically a slow and easy day where long lines no longer apply, the crowds are usually gone and a somber (or extremely hungover) mood looms over our exhausted little town. This Fest Sunday is slated to be different. Things could get crazy so be prepared to stay an extra day.
It’s almost time for me to start getting the house ready for my regular house guest, Newport Andy who will be visiting from Wales, for whom I’ll be cooking up my famous giant pot of chicken soup. I’ll also be stocking up on hand sanitizer, Airborne and Gatorade and I suggest you do the same. Happy Festing!
Fest registration link: http://thefestfl.com/fest11/registration