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I've played in one band or another for the majority of the Fest's 20-year tenure. For those of you who don't know, Fest is a long-running 3-day music festival in Gainesville, Florida centered around DIY punk, hardcore and emo bands and adjacent friends. It takes place across over a dozen venues - from small bars to large outdoor stages - and features both brand-new and legacy acts. It's very much a scene, and maybe best described as the punk rock antithesis of SXSW.
This past weekend marked the 14th time I've played (I think?) and I'm not sure if that's cool or awkward but I am a bit proud of it. I'm proud that the person who played Fest 5 a million years ago (I'm mortified just thinking about them) somehow pulled off a music career. At least, enough to play to a pretty ridiculous crowd there on Sunday night.
When you're a part of something for that long it's just as easy for it to lose its shine as it is for it to be over-romanticized. To keep my memories fond, I decided that for all intents and purposes this year would be my last time playing. Head out on a high note, and I think I did just that.
I had to remind myself that I'm allowed to close a chapter. I can choose to improve upon things that don't align with me in the way that they used to. I still love my friends who I always see at Fest and I will be fine. I can be an active participant in what comes next.
I think being a part of any "scene" is an exercise in setting boundaries. It's an experiment to find out who will build you up and who will let you down. It's always a gamble, an adventure, and a journey you're opting into. I feel incredibly lucky that this year I opted into spending quality time with great friends, people I really admire, and folks I've known for a very long time. They're people who have pursued music and comedy, some who are doing incredibly well, some who have no backup plan, some who are "going for it" full throttle, some who decided to stop touring, some who quietly just played their last show, some who think they might be missing out, and we're all the same people who just want to watch some band sing about getting out of this town.
The conversations I had this weekend confirmed just how much you don't have to do anything. Your career or your art doesn't have to follow one path, the same goal as everyone else, the same shape, or the same strategy, in order to get where you want to go. Saying no is empowering. Advocating for what feels good is the BEST. The weird idea you cooked up with a friend but have no idea how to create may be the best thing you'll ever make. I have been able to accomplish as much as I have because I trusted in that.
To keep some posi vibes going post-Fest, here's some recommended listening/watching:
😂 Kali Masi's album [laughs]
🪜 Sarchasm's split album with Bad Idols Splits and Ladders
🎉 Kyle Kinane's new special Trampoline In A Ditch
🐈 Catbite's album Nice One
🎺 Jer's album Bothered / Unbothered
🚂 Tim Barry's album Rivanna Junction
🗑 The episode of the Chris Gethard show with Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and a dumpster
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