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Thursday, April 18, 2024
<p>You Blew It!&nbsp;performs at a warehouse show located off Northwest 74th Place at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. More than 400 Festers showed up for the show.</p>

You Blew It! performs at a warehouse show located off Northwest 74th Place at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. More than 400 Festers showed up for the show.

Illegally loud music, skintight fashion and the ever-present scent of Pabst Blue Ribbon invaded the streets of Gainesville this weekend.

With Gator fans flocking to Jacksonville for Florida football, about 8,000 self-proclaimed punks were expected to infiltrate downtown.

By noon Friday, the volunteer check-in line for Fest 11, a three-day Gainesville punk rock music festival, snaked across the Holiday Inn Gainesville University Center’s parking lot, up the building’s stairs and into the second-floor festival flea market.

Most of the festival’s 360 bands had made the hotel their home for the weekend. Attendees without the money or luck to get a hotel room slept in cars, strangers’ houses and wooded areas in the city.

Many went without the luxury of a shower or a change of clothes.

Lack of hygiene aside, it was one of the punk community’s most-coveted weekends, with about 4,000 passes sold.

At a pool party on the hotel’s third floor, 22-year-old Fest volunteer Derek Durham fished a Pall Mall menthol from his pocket. It was his fifth year at the festival and first volunteering as a stage manager.

He had driven from Tallahassee in his ‘98 Camry with only the clothes he was wearing and a pair of cutoff shorts, socks and some old Fest shirts in the back seat.

“I wouldn’t miss this for anything,” he said. “Christmas? Forget that.”

Near the pool’s stage, fans crowd surfed through a sea of neon-colored hair, studded denim jackets and cigarette smoke.

A white-haired police officer cast a wary eye on the crowd. He stood guard at the pool’s door. No wristband, no entrance.

Strangers shouted “Happy Fest!” to each other as they funneled malt beer in parking lots. Audience members rushed to help fallen crowd surfers. Homeowners opened their doors and backyards so Festers didn’t have to sleep in their cars.

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“You may pass over them as just crazy people — they’re punks,” Durham said. “But in all reality, they’re just people, just like you and I and everybody else, that like hardcore music and living the alternative lifestyle.”

In their hometowns, Festers might be in the minority. But on Halloween weekend, Gainesville belongs to punk rock, progressivism and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Festers wander up and down West University Avenue in PBR T-shirts, sipping $1 PBR tall boys from pink PBR koozies and carrying 12-packs of PBR in blue PBR tote bags.

Although the corporate-sponsored festival fills 13 downtown venues, most UF students would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of names they recognize.

“A very small percentage of bands do this for a living,“ Durham said. “There’s not enough money in punk rock to sustain yourself.”

Tanner Jones, 22-year-old guitarist for Orlando-based band You Blew It!, agreed.

“Fest is a gathering of friends instead of a collection of shows,” he said. “You come here, and you meet bands, and you meet friends.”

The days were marathons of drinking, walking and dancing that could last until 5 a.m., only to restart three hours later. Pizza slices, nachos and vegan hot dogs fueled Festers between shows.

“I’ve been on this road 48 hours straight, zero naps,” Durham said as he searched for his friends on West University Avenue Friday night. “I need my naps.”

The shows didn’t end when the bars closed. Some Gainesville residents hosted late-night performances at their houses, and Festers traded addresses by word-of-mouth, text message and Twitter.

At about 2 a.m. Sunday, about 400 people huddled behind a storage warehouse north of Gainesville. Underneath the yellow glow of two street lamps, You Blew It! played a set powered by a gas generator.

The band and two other groups played for about an hour before two police cruisers pulled around the side of the building.

“Leave, or I will start arresting people,” an officer shouted from the cruiser’s PA system.

Festers swarmed past the cars. They weren’t afraid of being arrested; it’s how the party ends every year. Besides, there were more shows Sunday afternoon.

In the power struggle between punks and police at Fest, there were no clear winners.

An unsanctioned show would be shut down, only for another to spring up in a hotel room or garage across town. When a fragmented community assembles, it’s hard to shut down the music for long.

As Festers pulled away from the warehouse, being corralled back into the city, the crisp sound of cymbals could be heard for a few minutes longer.

The beat rang out in the still October night: constant, powerful, defiant.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at

You Blew It! performs at a warehouse show located off Northwest 74th Place at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. More than 400 Festers showed up for the show.

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