New York seems so far away at the moment, especially because my trip down here was not the straightforward affair it might have been. Knowing I was going to miss my old friends Pansy Division and the Avengers, who will be playing at New York's Knitting Factory on Saturday night, I made a side trip to Baltimore to catch them on Wednesday.
Baltimore looked better than I remembered it, perhaps helped by the fact that Matt from Dead Mechanical and the Sick, Sick Birds took me in hand and guided me to not one but two fine dining establishments, the first where we had an excellent Afghani meal. My review, apart from the very good food: "This place has tablecloths. I usually can't afford to eat at New York restaurants that have tablecloths."
We then had a second dinner with members of the bands (actually, just dessert for us) at the charmingly bizarre Zodiac Cafe and Bar, very close to the Lo-Fi Social Club, where the gig actually took place. It was a long and leisurely meal, full of scandalous sex and tour stories (I had none of my own to offer, but it was fun to listen) before we had to dash through the now-pouring rain for the show itself.
Which was good, but I'm in a hurry to finish this Fest post so I can get back to the Fest, so let's just cut to the following morning, when I caught a train to Washington DC's very impressive Union Station (never been there before; it puts New York's Penn Station to shame), where I had a few minutes to step outside and marvel at a few fancy buildings before hopping on the similarly impressive Washington Metro, which is just like San Francisco's BART (same builders, I believe) except that it's cheap and it works. Anybody connected with BART should be ashamed (if those vampires of public transit were capable of such an emotion) to see how much better Washington has done with its system. It took me to National Airport in 23 minutes for (I think) $1.45 (compared with 65 minutes, three separate trains, and almost $6 to get to SFO), and I got a plane to Tampa.
Tampa was the home of the much ballyhooed pre-Fest show, which turned out to be about a thousand drunken beardos, some of whom were actually quite nice, and about a hundred regular people milling around inside and outside a skate park on the edge of, if not right in the middle of one of Tampa's, shall we say, less affluent neighborhoods. All the bands sounded like Crimpshrine with beards, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending, but I couldn't stick around too late (apparently the show went on till 4 am), so I left around 11 and drove to Gainesville, rested up, and on Friday afternoon met up with PPMB luminaries Chris Grivet, Chadd Derkins, Carla Monoxide and Chelsea Short Attention for an alligator hunt which proved fruitless, though we did turn up a whole slew of giant snapping turtles.
After that I explored a bit of Gainesville before the shows actually started, featuring yet more bearded Crimpshrines, but also the poppier sound of the Methadones and the now almost legendary SoCal veterans Toys That Kill. We stopped in for about 45 seconds of Naked Raygun before Grivet proclaimed, "Okay, it's history and I've seen it, let's go." I will say that the NR singer looked as though he hadn't aged a bit since I last saw them sometime in the 80s. That was impressive. The music, not so much.
Apart from that, most of the time was spent hanging out on the sidewalks of University Avenue, watching the freak and beard parade stroll and stumble by. Oh, and at the very first show of the night I found myself standing behind my onetime business partner and co-founder of Lookout Records, David Hayes, whom I hadn't seen or spoken to (apart from a couple email/internet exchanges) in at least 10 years, probably more. He was sporting - what else? - a beard, and seemed rather startled to see me at the Fest, as well he might be, since up until a year or so ago, I would have been startled to see myself here as well. Unfortunately he left before anyone turned up with a camera, but maybe today or tomorrow.
Okay, I'm off to see the Max Levine Ensemble, Delay, Vagina Sore, Jr., the Ringers, possibly Avail and American Steel, and about 10,000 other bands. Next time you hear from me it will probably be my birthday, which starts at midnight tonight and, thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time, carries on for 25 rather than the usual 24 hours. Wish me well or not as the case may be; the fact remains that I'm at the Fest and you're not! Well, except for you sad Festgoers reading this on your Blackberries, of course...