You Blew It!

support Pup + Dikembe + Somos + Teen Agers + Mikey Erg + Chumped + Divided Heaven + Protagonist + Young Uncles
author PP date 28/10/14 venue Wills Pub, Orlando, USA

Many of us travelling to pre-FEST and FEST from overseas like to fly over already the weekend before to get acclimatized with jet lag, the 30+ degree heat, and the return of summer in October. For our travel party this entailed a weekend in Miami Beach and a couple of days at Orlando's many theme parks prior to the drive to Tampa and Gainesville for the actual festivities. It just so happens that a few bookers in Orlando got a wind of many FEST folks doing just that so they set up a pre-pre FEST show in a couple of pubs near Orlando with a lineup to die for. For just $13, you'd get a ridiculously strong lineup featuring Young Uncles, Protagonist, Divided Heaven, Chumped, Mikey Erg, Teen Agers, Somos, Dikembe, Pup, and You Blew It! - an unbelievable price for us Europeans accustomed to paying much more than that for just a single one of these bands coming to town. So off we went to experiment with Lyft and Uber taxi apps for the first time to find ourselves in a slighlty shady looking neighborhood outside of St Matthew's Pub, where the first five bands would be playing, and weren't able to make it on time for the first two acts. Here, the venue had built a makeshift shed on the backyard where the bands would be playing practically outside with the rest of us standing on wood-chop in the garden. Neat surroundings for a punk show, although I must admit Will's Pub was a far better choice for the last five bands considering it was more of an actual venue than a shady bar. Apologies for the lack of photos, we had an unfortunate incident of a memory-card overwrite so all photos from this show were lost.

Divided Heaven

Starting the night at St Matthews, we find the stage in what seems to be the backyard of the pub. The first band we manage to catch is Divided Heaven whose front man, singer-songwriter Jeff Berman, went from doing mostly acoustic indie punk to including a full band on his songs on his latest record "Youngblood". Tonight he plays with two band members on drums and bass and takes care of guitars and vocals himself. The sound is generally not very impressive on this stage and while his voice comes through nice and clear, some of the finer melodic edges are cut off. He tries to frame his show with jokey remarks, but doesn't succeed in really connecting with the crowd at any point, rather creating a distance. A few people up front are nodding along to the music as the band plays an even mix of new and old songs, but the most energetic people in the venue seem to be the drummer and bassist who are both rocking out all the way through. The combination of the sound conditions not being optimal and Berman sort of hiding behind his hair and his guitar while singing makes it hard to connect with the music, and instead the show turns into an enjoyable but definitely anonymous experience.



Brooklyn pop-punkers Chumped are next on stage. By now way more people have showed up and the backyard is packed with people in front of the stage, where the band emits an intriguing energy that is reflected in the audience throughout the set. The sound poses a problem once again as their female lead singer's thin voice gets almost smothered in the layers of guitars, and since they seem like a pretty relatable bunch of people on stage, it annoys me that I can rarely understand a word of the lyrics under these conditions. Their material is fairly varied as opposed to the two acts that surround them tonight, and as a person who don't know them very well at all, I am left entirely motivated to check them out properly as soon as I get the chance. Towards the middle a few people begin moshing but this is promptly stopped by what seems to be a self appointed security guard. Still, the good mood isn't killed and as they finish their last song with some instantly likable chorus melodies, the crowd is singing along energetically. In a better sounding setting than this, I could easily see Chumped play an even higher scoring show.


Mikey Erg

Mikey Erg, most famously a part of punk rock band The Ergs!, has been touring extensively as a solo act for a while. He is a very talented singer-songwriter, but his approach to being solo on stage is sort of unusual, as he rocks out on his electric guitar in exactly the same way as if he had a band with him. The sound conditions seem to be less of a problem during this set, which makes sense as there are less instruments clashing. He plays old songs from his time with The Ergs!, a spontaneous Beatles cover, and also some of his own solo songs, but there's no particular difference in the expression as it all sounds like it was designed for a full band. With this approach, I can't help but feel like something is missing in the sound, especially when he bursts into instrumental parts of songs that should escalate the energy levels but end up falling short because he can't raise it more than he's already done with one instrument. Even for a short set like this, the similarity in the expression gets tiring and for me it is clearly the catchy lyrics and his infectious energy on stage that carry the performance. Still, I absolutely love his voice and the way he pushes it into screams from time to time, and it only goes to show how talented a songwriter he is that lots of people are singing along and grooving to his riffs throughout the set.


Teen Agers

The only band tonight that nobody from the RF expedition has any experience with is Teen Agers, a quartet local to Orlando. To begin with, their typical melodic punk rock gives off an impression that seems rather uninspiring, partly because their lead singer performs with his eyes either closed or gazing at his shoes, which doesn't really fit the relatively upbeat music. Nor does it help that the bassist's vocal harmonies are out of tune, although the second guitarist's seem on point. Things get better as the show progresses though, and while the voice hardly matches the grown up appearance of the man on stage, the high Chris Conley-esque singing isn't half bad. The songs in general seem to sit in between the early material from Saves The Day and Jimmy Eat World stuff from "Static Prevails" and earlier, which gradually does it's work at making us feel like there might be some potential here. The band tops this with a sympathetic attitude giving props to a band they saw playing here in the same venue the night before and seeming like thoroughly down to earth types. That said, more character is needed both soundwise and in the stage performance for Teen Agers to not have their qualities overshadowed by the many similar sounding bands at Fest at large.



Somos are one of the biggest positive surprises and newcomers this year after having released a critically acclaimed debut album "Temple Of Plenty" earlier this year. Tonight, they are looking like a band that is really happening right now, as they open the set with a tremendous display of power and energy. Their emotionally charged, melodic songs capture the audience instantly and for the next 30 minutes, most of us are singing along, smiling, and/or involved in the pit in the middle of the venue. "We played here six months ago for 15 people so this is pretty sick", the band states, and rightly so. By a rough headcount there are at least a hundred, maybe 150 people watching the band rock out on stage in a wavey, back-and-forth movement. It's a flurry of upbeat energy we're seeing on stage, and since the front rows are singing along from the top of their lungs, it prompts vocalist Michael Fiorentino to genuinely thank the crowd: "That's pretty sick hearing you sing along... one of the first times this has happened for us". The great energy the band display son stage, along with fantastic songwriting on display and a brief stage dive at the end wins over the crowd tonight. Watch this band. They will be huge in no time.



After the melody explosion of Somos, Dikembe have quite a big task to impress me and the rest of the audience considering their music is far more indie-flavored in its nature. Such worries disappear pretty much instantly though as the band open with "Librarians Kill For That Kind Of Quiet". Not only is the crowd singing along during the chorus straight away, but the band's movement on stage is explosive to the extent that it completely defies their otherwise quiet and contemplative indie rock soundscape. There isn't a shortage of things to see on stage as the band cycle through material both old and new, going through "Scottie Spliffen" and another track from their critically acclaimed and much hyped EP "Chicago Bowls" with its ultra catchy "I've got a problem with problems" lyric bite, and finishing off with "Sorry I Can't Stick Around". Basically, they play a much, much better show than what I remember from seeing at FEST last year. The energy, the songwriting on display, and the general atmosphere in the venue is top notch. This will be a difficult choice come FEST this weekend.



Much like Somos, PUP have been experiencing a meteoric rise this year after releasing an absolutely gem of a debut album. This is a record that sounds like no-one else, and since it has such chaotic features and sharp edges while also being exceptionally catchy, it's perfect to get a crazy crowd dynamic going. Indeed, when the band opens with "Guilt Trips" the crowd response is nothing short of spectacular. The pit is insane with front rows crashing towards the band, whilst they go through songs like "Dark Days", "Mabu", and "Reservoir" later on. The chaos combination between the crowd and the band is simply amazing, with sharp, screeching guitar riffs battling for time and space against ultra catchy chorus work. In the 30 minutes that they play, they also manage to introduce a brand new song, which sounds like a hardcore punk track with a Pup twist to it. It leads directly into a jazzy section that opens into "Yukon". This is the kind of quality songwriting and performance skill that elevates a band into the perception of the wider audience. Finally, when the band finishes off with "Reservoir", the venue is in a state of ecstasy and exhaustion from singing along and moshing crazily. This is the kind of show that makes bands and it won't surprise me at all if PUP are playing shows many, many times this size in the coming years.


So here's the part where we have to excuse ourselves for not seeing You Blew It!, but then again the advertised finish time of the show was 1:45am, and that's about when the band went on with two Weezer covers. Having to check out of our Orlando resort by 10am it meant that we had no chance at all of being able to catch the band play their set, which admittedly looked fairly standard and static from the couple of songs that we saw. Oh well, there's always next time. PP

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