Baltimore - There was some stress getting here, and I didn't choose my means of transport or lodging wisely, but I won't bore you with those details: the only important thing is that I got here on time - barely - and got the all-important wristband that would gain me entrance to the Sidebar for the first night of The Fest.
I wasn't at all sure that I would make it. When I arrived at about a quarter to five (doors were set to open at 5, the music to start at 6) there was already a line down the block and around the corner. It reminded me of the first time I showed up at Gilman to find a line waiting for the doors to open. That was for the Operation Ivy homecoming show after their first and only tour; before the tour, Op Ivy were just one of those bands that you saw at Gilman all the time. Great, sure, but kind of the personal secret of the couple hundred people that regularly showed up at Gilman no matter who was playing. But suddenly it seemed like the world had discovered them, and we Gilman regulars went wandering up and down the line gawking and wondering aloud: "Who ARE all these people?"
It wasn't quite like that in Baltimore tonight. Not yet, anyway, but it's getting that way. I could still pick out about three quarters of the crowd by either name or face, but plainly the Insubordination Fest (this is the second annual) has caught a buzz. Last year Sebby Zatopek and I were the only people who had come from overseas (well, the Apers, too, but they were performing, and were already on a US tour anyway). This year people flew in from England, Australia, Germany, Canada and Puerto Rico, not to mention a couple dozen states as far-flung as California, Washington, Arizona and Texas, to name a few.
Now that I'm permanently ensconced in New York (come to think of it, I actually only came down from New York last year, but I was still living in England at the time), I don't get any special cred for long distance travel (I did fly over from London for Pop Punk Softball last year, so I'm pretty sure I still hold the record for that event), but I tried to make up for lack of distance by upping the enthusiasm. Egged on by Matt Lame and Johnny B ("I heard you were ruling the pit last year; why don't you get something started here?"), I leapt into the fray as Delay took the stage, and while I can't claim credit for the good-natured mayhem that ensued, it was great to be right up front for what was arguably the high point of Fest Night 1.
As you may have read here, I've managed to miss Delay twice already, despite having met and talked with them at length last year, but now that I've finally seen them, I'm here to report that they lived up to all the hype. Incredible energy, incredible band. Fellow Ohioans Team Stray were right up there, too, and yet another highlight was Backseat Virgins, who, like the narrator of "Oh Susannah," come from Alabama, though sadly without banjos on their knees. Two girls, including one wielding a crazy pop keyboard, and two guys, adding up to what for me was the surprise hit of Day One (I'd not only never heard them; I'd never even heard of them before today).
Mike Blackandgold, one of the Pop Punk Message Bored's most inveterate carpers, dismissed tonight's lineup as "Kind of like the Special Olympics," featuring all the "bands who aren't talented to play the actual Fest." It may be funny, but it's totally not true. About the worst you could say of Thursday's lineup is that most of the bands aren't quite as well known as the Friday and Saturday bands. And...? Part of the excitement of the Fest is knowing that certain bands are going to break out of obscurity and set the world (well, at least our little corner of it) on fire in ways that neither the audience nor the artist ever imagined they were capable of. Two such examples last year were the Steinways and the Copyrights; who knows who or when it will be this year?
But what some don't understand - including perhaps some of those people who inexplicably passed up a chance to attend this year's Fest - is that as great as the music can be (and let's be honest: not every band is stupendous or even anywhere near it), the even greater point of the Fest is the camaraderie and fellowship, meeting up with old friends and new. Some of my fondest memories of the early Gilman days come not from inside the club itself, but from nights spent hanging out on the sidewalk out front, where gossip was traded, plots were hatched, and bands were born and died. I don't think I ever expected to feel that way again, but tonight it could have been 1987 all over, especially when Ben Weasel came striding up the street, looking tan, fit, and as though he'd barely aged in 20 years.
I could go on... and on, and on, but if I don't get to bed soon, I'll miss the start of tomorrow's Fest-ivities, not to mention our (P Smith, Jesse Blatz/Luscious and yours truly, anyway) to visit Fort McHenry before the rock and rolling starts all over again. Did I mention that tonight's show featured an utterly insane lineup of 12 (twelve) bands?!? Normally a show featuring more than three is enough to send me fleeing into catatonia, but tonight's spectacle virtually flew by, thanks to the flawless management and organizational skills of Insubordination impresarios Chris I. and Pat Termite. I think it actually ran ahead of schedule and ended a bit early, and when was the last time you could say THAT about a 12-band show? Okay, that's it for tonight, I'm over and out, and sorry to any bands, people, or legendary incidents I didn't get round to covering tonight. You were all fabulous, even when you weren't.