Adorned in vibrant, oversized graphic T-shirts and patterned pants, indie-rock group Hotel Fiction complained about the Florida heat, joked about their alma mater’s alleged rivalry with UF and gave an electrifying performance for a crowd of more than 500 Saturday night.
Earlier this year, student-run record label Swamp Records collaborated with Gainesville music venue Heartwood Soundstage to host Indie Live, a six-part outdoor concert series spotlighting indie talent. This fall, the two groups are teaming up once again for more shows over the next three months.
Hotel Fiction, composed of 22-year-old University of Georgia graduates Jade Long and Jessica Thompson, said they made the drive from Athens, Georgia, to Gainesville Saturday just in time to headline the concert alongside The Hails — a band the musicians have been a fan of since high school.
Their performance was the fourth stop on their fall tour and included songs from their debut album “Soft Focus,” which dropped Aug. 27. Long said the album, which had been nearly two years in the making, felt like a “culmination of our college experience.” As hundreds of audience members cheered and sang along to newly released songs, this sentiment was felt across the crowd.
“We didn’t really expect it to become an album until about a year ago, and it just felt right,” Long said. “So to put it all into the same project feels really true and raw to us, and we’re just happy that it’s finally out in the world.”
Compared to Spring semester’s Indie Live, safety measures at the Back to School Fest reflected Florida’s loosening COVID-19 precautions. Seating, which was split among benches and chairs, wasn’t fully socially distanced, and masks were only enforced for those in the roped-off area directly in front of the stage, which was capped at about 100 people.
Regardless, 21-year-old UF entrepreneurship senior Gabriela Gonzalez said she felt safe given Heartwood’s present safety precautions.
“I like that the venue is outside because I feel like that gives it a lot of flexibility for people that aren’t as comfortable,” she said.
As for the slow return to live music, which Swamp Records hoped to contribute to with the Back to School Fest, Gonzalez said it was “about time.”
Shannon Mercatante, a 20-year-old UF public relations senior and president of Swamp Records, said Indie Live was a worthy comeback to live music and a great way to “get the music scene slowly back to where it was.” This time around, she’s optimistic the series will continue to bridge the gap between students and local talent.
“Hopefully shows like this will bring a lot more of the UF student body, as well as the Gainesville community, all together to celebrate the music scene of Gainesville,” Mercatante said.
Some of the newest among this scene is The Late Night Losers, which got their official start in January. The self-described rock ‘n’ roll band is Gainesville-born and -bred, composed of two current UF students and two recent UF grads.
And if that’s not enough to cement The Late Night Losers to the Gainesville arts scene, the group lives right down the street from the Driptones — which announced their official signing to Swamp Records at the event Saturday.
“It’s dangerous,” 22-year-old lead singer of The Late Night Losers Thomas Allain joked. “There can only be one band on the street at a time.”
As for their introduction to the field, he said the band received a lot of support from Heartwood owner Dave Melosh. The venue itself, Allain said, is “really a special place in Gainesville” — resources, equipment and staff included.
At the Back to School Fest, the band’s “first big shindig back” after being apart for the summer, The Late Night Losers played a variety of songs, closing with “End of the Road,” which was recorded at Heartwood in June.
The show went on past midnight, marking the close of Saturday night’s Indie Live, but the beginning of Swamp Record and Heartwood’s dive back into the live music scene in Gainesville.
Contact Veronica Nocera at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.
Veronica Nocera is a first-year Journalism major with a History minor. This is her first semester on staff for The Alligator, where she works as Avenue News Assistant. She also writes for Rowdy Magazine.