I went to the third Fuck Yeah Fest, in 2006, four months after I moved to Los Angeles. I went to the fourth one, too. At the third one, the still-ascendant local kids Silversun Pickups might have been the biggest draw, but clearly it was the punks' three-day weekend: The Circle Jerks, Erase Errata, and No Age all performed. It was Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris (Black Flag, Off!) who helped a bored 18-year-old Torrance, California upstart named Sean Carlson start the festival in 2004. In 2011, the FYF group -- by then four core people and a handful of part-timers -- partnered with promoting giant and AEG acquisition Goldenvoice. The FYF Fest I went to this past weekend bore little resemblance to the scrappy Echo Park gatherings of nearly a decade earlier.
Sure, there were still enterprising sidewalk hot dog vendors outside the site, but this time there were 20 times as many -- literally, from two to about 40, beating out even the impressive number of informal-economy carts outside a Hollywood Bowl show on a summer Saturday night. This time, instead of the Echoplex's bar, there were multiple beer gardens, and booth setups by Bulleit Bourbon and Ketel One Vodka. And the bands' name recognition factor had shot up exponentially: headlining acts included The Strokes, Interpol, and Haim, all of whom the average hip suburban dad has at least looked up on Shazam.
Some entities just shapeshift, and that's fine. Sting went from The Police to doing Renaissance lute music. Elton John transitioned from "The Bitch is Back" to "Circle of Life." If FYF Fest's sellout (let's call it what it is, not judge, and move on) means the playing field has re-opened to small, homegrown festivals with local reach, I look forward to seeing what the young promoters of tomorrow come up with.
To be old and punk rock is to be old and potentially irrelevant, and that is, to a certain degree, why most punk bands have such a limited life cycle. How can anyone maintain the anger, aggression and emotional commitment to hold onto the values and morals deemed important as a teenager, without the world grinding it all down into a jaded package of disillusion?
There is nothing that says that being in a punk band means you have to start when you are 20 and cease when you are 27, but to a certain degree, the writing is on the wall the moment you start. You may have been bellowing discontent to a crowd of 20-year-olds with your first vinyl, but after the third album is released, an older you will probably still be bellowing that discontent to a crowd of 20-year-olds.
With that in mind, it is completely understandable why bands in the realm live and die so quickly, and those that stick around for decades are few and far between.
February 10th, 2012 @ Showbox at the Market, Seattle
But Gainsville, Florida quartet Hot Water Music are one of the few between. Hot Water Music released Finding the Rhythms in 1995. After eight full-lengths, numerous EPs, and returning from an "indefinite hiatus", the torchbearers of the post-hardcore/emo wave of the mid-'90s are still going strong. For their tour in support of their latest release, Exister, HWM took out for support two very similar bands in different points in their career: La Dispute and The Menzingers.
When reminiscing about Hot Water Music, most people bring up how they were their favorite band at one point or how no one else spoke closer to home lyrically, etc., etc. For many in the punk community, Hot Water Music proved that you can wear your heart on your sleeve and not sacrifice any points for it. This evening at the Showbox in Seattle, the legions of kids that sang along to their every word 15 years ago have aged and matured likewise, rounding their set out with one of the oldest median age punk crowds you'd see in a while. When "Wayfarer" rang out, the crowd cheered almost louder than the band sang. The mosh pit was active, but not in a stupidly vicious way, and there wasn't a single crowdsurfer until a teenager finally was able to get on the shoulders of someone else to make his mad dash for the barrier between the crowd and the stage.
HOT WATER MUSIC - EXISTER ALBUM REVIEW
LIVE SHOW REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW
In April 2012, La Dispute announced their latest charity benefit project, Conversations, a packet consisting of a hand-assembled and multi-dimensional collection of items courtesy of La Dispute themselves, writers involved with 826michigan, and the band's artist friends. All proceeds from Conversations benefit 826michigan, a branch of Dave Eggers' literacy organization, 826 National.
In this feature, we speak with vocalist Jordan Dreyer about their work with 826michigan and highlight all of the organizations they have worked with in-depth. As La Dispute continue to use their youth and energy to benefit the less fortunate, this on-going article will be updated to reflect their continued humanitarianism.
"Everything goes a long way. Every little thing counts." -- Jordan Dreyer