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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Pop punk bands perform for Gainesville crowds ahead of Fest 21

Gainesville’s alternative, emo scene gathered for a preview concert at Bo Diddley Plaza

Nothing was going to get in Dennis Pfeiffer’s way when he and his band, The Real You, took the stage at Bo Diddley Plaza. Not the heat, not the humidity and definitely not the fact that his band had never played at Bo Diddley before. 

Tyler Moscarello, the band’s 22-year-old guitarist, opened the show with an announcement to the audience. 

“This is our first time playing this stage,” Moscarello said. “We’re not used to having this much space.” 

Bo Diddley’s stage, which measures about 200 square feet, is a far cry from the venues that The Real You usually books. 

“We play everything from DIY spots to people’s living rooms to local bars,” Pfeiffer, 24, said. 

The Fest preview concert Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. was The Real You’s first time on a stage where all five members could spread out, and Pfeiffer took advantage of the newfound room. 

In between songs like “High Life” and “Club Vegan,” the band’s newest release, Pfeiffer ran and leapt across the stage. 

Pfeiffer’s energy was matched by the black speakers lining the edge of the stage that thumped the rock music of each band so loudly the turf shook. The vibrations of the steady percussion and screaming guitar riffs reverberated around Bo Diddley Plaza for two hours, which was just a taste of what Fest attendees can expect in October.

The Real You will be playing at Fest, the legendary punk rock underground music festival held in Gainesville annually, for the first time this year. Pfeiffer said it’s been a long time coming. 

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “In a way, I feel like it’s a little overdue because we play a lot in Gainesville and we’re friends with so many bands that play Fest.” 

The Real You opened at Bo Diddley for fellow Gainesville-based group Off Day. The band, leaning more on the punk side of pop punk, played a set of bass-heavy ballads punctuated by the wailing vocals of lead singer Caleb Moore, 27. 

Like Flagman, the alternative metal band that performed last at the concert, Off Day are considered ‘Fest veterans.’ Off Day plans to perform at its third Fest this year, but a concert attendee has them beat twice over. Matt Barus, a 30-year-old Gainesville resident, will be going to his seventh Fest in October. 

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“It’s always great,” Barus said. “I love seeing a bunch of bands I never thought I’d see, randomly finding bands I’ve never heard of before.” 

The unpredictability of Fest is what keeps it exciting for Barus, and what keeps him attending year after year. 

Fest will be hosted in the heart of downtown Gainesville, splitting over 200 bands between 14 venues. Some bands come from afar, like Montreal-based group Lost Love, but Fest might just mean the most to those closest by. 

“It’s cool because it’s our stomping grounds and it’s our backyard,” Pfeiffer said. “We’re just excited to finally be part of it.” 

Contact Bea Lunardini at blunardi@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @bealunardini

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