This interview was conducted over the phone with Tony Weinbender, creator and organizer of The Fest, on 10/23/11. Tony has been working at No Idea Records since 2002/03 (he can't remember), has done Fest since 2002. We focus on anticipation for the Fest's 10th anniversary and Hot Water Music's homecoming performance. Here is the article the interview was used for.
The Fest is now in it's 10th year. That's pretty crazy - the 10th anniversary of anything is a huge deal, and this event has grown massive in that time. What's the anticipation like to finally get this thing going in a week?
A week out from Fest, Iím confident that we have everything ready. We have a good crew of volunteers who are willing to put in the work. Right now, weíre getting ready for the small stuff. Today I did inventory on everything from Sharpies and notebooks to duct tape and everything else. Weíre doing a lot of lists and paperwork. Itís a lot of work to put the thing on, but itís been a huge year. I never thought weíd sell out of tickets or sell out the hotel as fast as we did and that was really incredible. This is by far the biggest Fest weíve done, and the biggest thing I could imagine putting on.
So wait, did you say there that this is the biggest Fest ever?
Oh yeah, itís definitely the biggest in terms of attendance, the caliber of the bands playing is crazy and itís the most money weíve ever spent on bands. Itís the biggest one weíve ever done.
I guess this is sort of a cliche question to some extentÖbut every year, there are rumors that fly around every year about "Oh, this is going to be the last Fest." What sort of keeps you keeping on year after year?
I look at Fest year-to-year. Obviously right now, Iím only looking a week ahead of time because weíve got it coming up, but if it goes smooth and runs well and weíre happy with the product we put out, being a three-day event, thereís no reason to not do it again. Itís not something we do for a living or for a career. If this becomes something thatís too much of a pain in the ass, we just wonít do it anymore. If you come to Fest and you want it to keep going, just be a part of it. The Fest is very much a living organism that could easily die if people donít act accordingly when theyíre here But luckily, weíve never really had any problems with that. Weíve never had a fight at the actual Fest. Everyone who comes in respects each other, and everyone who comes from out of town really respects the city and puts a lot back into the city. Itís a huge weekend for the economy here and in the end, it makes the town look pretty cool.
To sort of narrow it down a bit, Hot Water Music is probably, in my mind, the band that most accurately fits the description of "Gainesville punk." To you, what does that band mean to this city and to this punk rock scene?
Well, they came up through here. Not all of them still live here, but I grew up in bands in Virginia, and we played with Hot Water Music a lot. Chuck [Ragan, Hot Water Music frontman] was one of the first people I met when I came to Gainesville. He gave me a tape of their first demo. I actually have lived with three out of the four guys in Hot Water Music at some point, have been their roommate, and theyíre some of the people Iíve known longest here. Itís awesome to have them playing again because they havenít played since Fest 3. They were busy a lot and, of course, for a few of those years they were inactive. Itís awesome to not only have them come back, but to have Against Me! come back. Kid Dynamite, Bouncing Souls, itís awesome to have all of these bands playing, Less Than Jake as well. This is like everybodyís homecoming year. This is the alumni year.
How appropriate, I guess, or maybe a sense of coming full-circle, is it to have Hot Water Music playing the 10th anniversary? They haven't played it since Fest 3, and I know they first played it back during the Fest 2 when you were only a 2-day operation.
Itís awesome to have Hot Water back, like I said. They have a special place in my heart. Itís been a while since they've played a show in Gainesville Ė itís been even longer since theyíve played a big venue here Ė but I think itís a big opportunity not only for the people who live here, but people all around the world to see them. Itís awesome to have them back home and hopefully they enjoy the time theyíre here, the couple days in town when they get to see their old friends.
Now going back to the grander scheme of things, Chuck Ragan said that now the Fest is very much a globally known thing, where HWM fans everywhere know about it and where it takes place. What can you say about the legacy that the Fest is leaving behind?
Iíve been to Europe twice in the last three years, on tours with bands, and everywhere we went itís like, ďOh, youíre from Gainesville? I want to go to Fest. Iíve been to Fest.Ē Of course, I never tell them that I have anything to do with it, but itís amazing to realize that people everywhere care about it. Itís great that what weíre doing every year is a positive thing and that when people go to back their hometowns Ė to Boise, Idaho, or Exeter in the UK Ė they tell their friends about what a great time they had and how great it was. We still have the DIY ethics when we put this thing on so itís awesome that weíre doing this great thing and that itís grown worldwide. This year alone we have about 660 attendees coming that donít live in the US. Thatís not including all of the bands we have coming from like, the UK and Canada and we have a band coming from Greece and bands coming from Asia. I never would have thought that 10 years ago, it would get to a global level, or that weíd even still be doing this in 10 years. Iíve never been a part of anything this big in my entire life.