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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Fest to invade downtown Gainesville on 10th anniversary

<p>Concert-goers crowd around the door of the Civic Media Center before a show during the Fest in October 2009. The Fest 10 is scheduled for Oct. 28 through 30 at 11 venues in Gainesville.</p>

Concert-goers crowd around the door of the Civic Media Center before a show during the Fest in October 2009. The Fest 10 is scheduled for Oct. 28 through 30 at 11 venues in Gainesville.

It happens every year.

Herds of bearded punk-rock enthusiasts flood the streets, and a cloud of excitement settles over the city for a weekend of music and camaraderie known as the Fest.

As many as 6,000 lovers of punk, hardcore and indie music come from as far away as Europe to see their favorite bands and partake in 72 hours of unadulterated crusty glory.

The Fest 10 is scheduled for Oct. 28 through 30 at 11 venues in Gainesville.

Weekend tickets are sold out, but a limited number of walk-up tickets will be available on the day of some individual shows. Ticketing information is available at thefestfl.com.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Fest, which was introduced in 2002 by Tony Weinbender.

Weinbender said there was no way he could've foreseen how much the Fest would grow or that people would still be interested 10 years later.

"I was just trying to get through the first one," he said.

While in college in Virginia, Weinbender put on a music festival called MACRoCk. After he moved to Gainesville in 2000, friends who had been to MACRoCk asked him if he would consider organizing a festival in Florida.

Weinbender started inviting bands from all over, and the first Fest kicked off in October 2002. Sixty bands played during two days at five venues, he said. There were 500 attendees, including the bands.

This year, Weinbender anticipates 6,000 attendees. The set list sports more than 250 bands, including groups from Japan, Slovenia, Austria and the United Kingdom.

The economic impact on Gainesville is huge, he said.

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The Fest always happens over the Florida-Georgia football game weekend, when the exodus of college students makes Gainesville a ghost town.

Bringing in 6,000 Fest-goers, 70 percent of whom Weinbender said come from outside of Florida, is something local businesses appreciate.

But the cultural impact of the Fest is probably even greater than the economic impact. Although its fame is more underground, "Within the punk rock community ... Gainesville has been acknowledged and respected for a really long time," Weinbender said.

He said he doesn't have a long-term goal for the Fest; it happens year-to-year. But, he said, as long as he's able to keep putting it on and it's a good thing, he will.

The Fest's past has occasionally been marred by negative episodes, such as an incident during Fest 8 in which four people were arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer at an after-party.

Weinbender said Fest organizers had nothing to do with the party, and none of the arrested people were even attendees of the event.

Gainesville Police Sgt. Tscharna Senn said crimes at the Fest are usually committed by people who come from out of town looking for a place to stay. She said GPD in no way wishes to deny Fest-goers their rights of assembly, but if they break the law, they will be dealt with accordingly.

"We just hope that people act like adults and that they don't violate the law," she said.

Every year, in preparation for the Fest, GPD officers talk to venue owners and attend meetings with organizers to get an idea of how many people will be in Gainesville during the weekend.

Based on those expectations, GPD makes a forecast about how many officers will need to be on hand.

Senn said officers will not be posted at every venue, but if there is a traffic issue or an altercation at any venue, GPD will send officers out to it.

There were no significant incidents at last year's Fest, and Senn said she doesn't anticipate sending extra officers to venues this year.

"We always go into it hoping that it's going to be both productive for [organizers and venue owners] and a non-issue for us," she said.

Jen Vito has owned 1982 bar, one of 11 venues participating in Fest 10, for "a few years."

She said the Fest has used 1982 as a venue almost every year the event has been around. It's one of the only all-ages venues at the Fest.

Vito said 1982 always hosts a pre-Fest show on the Thursday before the event, featuring some local bands and some from overseas.

Since 1982's first Fest, she guessed the bar has hosted hundreds of bands.

Because there usually aren't too many bands with female members playing the Fest, she said, she always asks to get some radical female bands at the bar.

"We try to bring a little more equality to our version of the Fest because that's what our venue is about year round."

Vito said the best part of Fest weekend is meeting the people who come from Europe to see the shows. But, she added, "I'd be excited about any [band] that has radical politics."

 

Concert-goers crowd around the door of the Civic Media Center before a show during the Fest in October 2009. The Fest 10 is scheduled for Oct. 28 through 30 at 11 venues in Gainesville.

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