Total Fest Day One: Sweaty, Loud, Bearded Men, Gin



Last night, the eleventh annual Total Fest began, with the first set at Zoo City Apparel.
How do you recap the glorious barrage on the senses that is a music festival? So much hilarity has to stay forever unblogged because it doesn’t make any sense out of context. Like this, which I have scrawled in my notebook: “Without this chest hair, we'd have no rock and roll holes, and we need rock and roll holes to serve us.”
By far the most accurate notes I have are: “sweaty...drunk...loud...bearded men...gin.”

My notebook also says “Kate smells bad,” which is why you shouldn’t let friends write in your notebook.

Anyway, I’ll do my best to recall events as honestly as I can. Trends so far: beards seem to be pretty “in” this year, which makes for a fun game of “Homeless or Hipster?” while walking down Higgins. Lacking the hormones to grow one myself, I might have to knit one.

The bands:

I got off work in time to head over to Zoo City Apparel and see Big Eyes, the Seattle-based punk band that apparently is quite offended to be described as having a “earnest Midwest sound” on the Total Fest poster blurb. Big Eyes plays with more of a throwback ’70s Runaways-type sound, especially with frontwoman Kate Eldridge’s disaffected-teenager vocals. Also, everybody had a brief “oh shit” moment during the set when a cloud of smoke puffed up on stage. But it was just a random blurt from a smoke machine.

I also loved the art installation Spelunca, a cave made of T-shirts around the Zoo City stage, even if it does trap heat. Can Amanda Browder come do that to my bedroom?

After the Zoo City part of the show, people moseyed over to the Top Hat for the rest of the night, the least metal and most dancey line-up of the three.


Highlights: I believe another Seattle punk band, Unnatural Helpers, set off the first mosh pit of the festival with their fast tempos, and then husband-and-wife party team No Fi Soul Rebellion set up on the floor, as always. No Fi’s lo-fi, good-feelings vibe always seems to work people into goofy ass shaking, which is as it should be.

Next, Maryland-based electronic dude Dan Deacon set up a glittery skull and flashy light display, cleared the floor for a dance contest and finished the night working the crowd into a bubbly dance froth.
This was also the first time I've been to the Top Hat as a Total Fest venue, and while the bottleneck at the entrance will always irritate me, I appreciate that the smoking patio out back allows folks to cluster outside with their drinks and b.s. without fear of open container tickets. I look forward to seeing how many people cram into the VFW Saturday.


The first night of any festival is always a warm-up, and inevitably I’m somehow not prepared. At some point, possibly when No-Fi Soul Rebellion had the crowd lie on the floor, I lost my only ear plug. I wandered outside after Dan Deacon and realized the silence was oddly deafening. Dammit.
Public Service Announcement: please wear earplugs to shows. I’m almost completely deaf in one ear, because of a benign bone disease, and it sucks. People talking to my deaf side assume that I’m a jerk and I’m ignoring them, which is only true sometimes, and I’m the person at parties going “WHAAAAT?” because I can’t hear anything in crowds. If bars started carrying ear plug dispensers like they do condom dispensers, I’d be super stoked.

Festival wear is always a balancing act between dressing for hot-as-balls dance floors, the chilly bike/walk home and shoes that are cute yet supportive. I think today I’ll wear a bikini, Doc Martens and bring a jacket.

Kate Whittle is the copy editor for the Indy.

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