One year robbed of live music later, FEST is returning to Gainesville for its 19th punk-fueled circle around the sun.
Oct. 29 marks the start of this year’s three-day festival, which will take place across 18 venues and stages throughout downtown Gainesville. The multi-stage event showcases live music, comedians, independent professional wrestling and all things punk-rock — bringing its steady cult-like following of local and traveling headbangers along with it.
Long-time FEST owner Tony Weinbender sees the one-year hiatus not as a loss but as extra time to dedicate to planning and making FEST 19 even more memorable.
“The music industry has been really hurting,” he said. “This is a big jumpstart for a lot of people back into performing live again, seeing music again.”
This year, attendees can expect to see all their favorite parts of FEST back, sprinkled with extra health precautions: A negative COVID-19 test or proof of full vaccination will be required to attend the event.
Many of FEST’s mainstay venues, like High Dive, Hardback Cafe, The Wooly and Hippodrome State Theatre will be hosting once again, while some were lost due to pandemic-induced complications, Weinbender said. But new venues like Fox Lounge and Heartwood Soundstage are gearing up for their inaugural involvement.
Of the slew of bands to look forward to, the lineup includes Hot Water Music on their 25th anniversary tour, Frank Turner, Murder by Death, Baroness, The Wonder Years, Good Riddance and many, many more.
Three-day and single-show passes are available on FEST’s site for pre-sale only. Those interested can also opt to sign up for a volunteer shift during the weekend, which will earn them a free three-day pass — now valued at $190 — and a unique art print T-shirt.
FEST runs a longstanding and deeply connected volunteer system, with many volunteers returning year after year and some eventually becoming staff members.
“To make FEST work, what we do is we look internally into our own scene and our own community, and let Gainesville help us kind of run FEST,” Weinbender said.
Volunteer shifts average between four and eight hours, depending on the job you sign up for. There will be an informational meeting for those interested in volunteering Oct. 20, held at 7 p.m. at Curia On The Drag.
Volunteer-turned-stage manager Jade Gideon-Troy has been working with FEST for nearly eight years, starting as a volunteer at the second ever Pre-Fest when she lived in Tampa. After moving to Gainesville, she has made working FEST a yearly tradition.
As stage manager, Gideon-Troy is in charge of making sure bands are on time and sets run smoothly. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have time to enjoy the festival herself.
“There’s a peace to having basically three days straight of the only thing you have to worry about is keeping a beer in your hand and getting to the next set,” she said. “It’s a really good little removal from real life.”
Volunteering with FEST has gifted Gideon-Troy with her favorite job she has ever worked, she said. Getting to meet some of her most admired artists while surrounded by a like-minded community is what brings her back year after year.
“Meeting people from all over the world that have the same favorite band as you and you just randomly meet them at a bar and start talking about albums and stuff — that’s so cool,” she said.
Like Weinbender, Gideon-Troy is most looking forward to the sense of community FEST brings along with it. And especially after the tumultuous year the live music scene just endured, FEST organizers and staffers are hoping to invite back some sense of something on the streets of downtown Gainesville.
FEST is taking place Oct. 29-30. Three-day and single-show tickets can be purchased here.
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