October 23, 2014
by Brandon Gepfer

Nothing is easy for a punk band. Half of our insignificant bands pack our gear into beat up vans, travel hours on end to get to a show and (on a good night) play to 25 folks in some basement. The struggle of being in a band is a labor of love and for that labor, each year we are rewarded by The Fest In Gainesville, FL If you’re reading this, you probably know all about Fest—it’s the punk rock family reunion. Bands, fans and all of their friends meet up over Halloween weekend to drink beer, consume plenty of awesome food and catch our favorite bands along with discovering a slew of other new bands.

The feeling of Fest is incredible for a small band. For one night, most of your fans are at your show. For my band (Placeholder) it’s a night that completely erases breakdowns, canceled shows, no show promoters and everything else in between. For thirty minutes each year, I truly feel that people care. From the attendees, to the staff and all the way up to Tony and the No Idea crew. They genuinely care about all the bands they Invite to Fest.

Last year was the first year Placeholder was added to the official lineup of bands and for me, it was a major accomplishment. My first Fest was Fest 8 and have only missed one year since then; I would travel down with other bands and get lost in the friendship and utopia for that weekend. Finally, it was my band’s time to actually be a part of it.  At the time, we had a new record coming out on Black Numbers, I Don’t Need Forgiveness, and we embarked on a tour to support it. The tour was a quick 10-date run down to Florida, each one with several bands also playing Fest. The shows were awesome, but the entire time we were focused on what we would do as soon as we got into Gainesville.

On that tour, we played a not-so-great show in Jacksonville with our hometown friends 1994! and decided to just drive to Gainesville directly after it ended. I pulled our van into the Holiday Inn early Friday morning and just waited up like a kid the night before Christmas until we were able to check in. We had a few people traveling with us that were Fest virgins so naturally, I talked their ears off waiting in the registration line about the pool party and general shenanigans. We were finally here.

After attending the pool party, drinking too many beers and getting a stressface tattoo, it was time to load in for our show. I honestly don’t even remember the show, I only remember that I was happy. I was happy that my friends from the west coast were in the same room as all of my friends from back home. I think we played well but honestly, that doesn’t even matter to me.

As a fan attending Fest, I was so happy to see my favorite bands. As a band playing, I was just so happy to see all of my friends I met through touring. All of the people that gave me a floor to sleep on and spotted us some cash for gas. My favorite people through this crazy experience of being in a band that “doesn’t matter” were all here to prove to me that success or whatever that means is more about friendship and a sense of belonging than being a rich rock band.

For one weekend a year, I’m at home 1,000 miles away.