Music festivals are multiplying quickly in Florida these days. There's a new upstart joining their ranks this very weekend, but the inaugural Florida Is Loud event aims to fuck with your preconceptions of what a "fest" is and can be, both sonically and logistically.
Grassroots-organized and free of cynical branding or even more cynical curation strategies, FIL aims to show off all the various hues of Florida's heavy underground (which is going pretty strong at this moment), from the unhinged punk of Nunhex, to Worsen's blackened d-beat, to sludge fuckers Holly Hunt; representing the City Beautiful, you've got Autarx, Burn to Learn, Acid Baptism, Ad Nauseum and Deformed, among so many more. Taking place at Uncle Lou's and Will's Pub over a packed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with upward of 30 bands playing, Florida Is Loud is somehow being headed up by just one person: metal musician and DIY booker Glenn Ritchey.
Speaking to Ritchey just over a week before the event, he seems almost eerily calm about what he's about to undertake, still approaching the whole event with enthusiasm and the requisite self-deprecation. "Calling Florida Is Loud a fest was mildly tongue-in-cheek," he shrugs. "Frankly, I just wanted to see my friends' bands in one room over one weekend."
What was initially intended as just a long weekend at Uncle Lou's hosting fellow road buddies and noise-mongers whose paths Ritchey had crossed playing in either Ad Nauseum, Wrapped in Pale or Deformed quickly grew into something much bigger. Ritchey marvels, "I underestimated Florida's interconnectivity. ... I had my initial list and started contacting people I knew about the idea of the fest. Before I knew it, I was being contacted by bands that weren't in my immediate network. It was a snowball effect." These grassroots connections not only led to a phalanx of Florida's finest agreeing to play, but Nashville grinders Yautja and hotly tipped hardcore band Knife Hits signed on too. This is big.
Ritchey is quick to acknowledge assistance received as the fest expanded out to Will's Pub for a Saturday night show. "Peter Olen of Endoxa Booking has been very helpful with some crucial things, such as booking Will's Pub, getting the pre-sale tickets in motion and offering advice on how to operate something of this magnitude." It's refreshing to see continued collaboration and resource sharing on the DIY show promotion level. Ritchey credits the DIY mindset as instrumental in all of his various creative endeavors: "There's a sense of urgency and purposefulness rooted in the DIY creative mindset that I have a deep admiration for. I believe that the DIY attitude helps an individual to grow creatively, and personally."
With no precedent for this particular event to look back to, it's heartening to see everyone involved – promoters, bands, fans – ready to take a leap of faith on something completely new, especially when the very concept of a festival can have negative baggage in the underground: too big, too corporate.
Ritchey agrees, "I'm not much of a festival person to begin with. I have a deep appreciation for the idea of music festivals [but] ... I don't really enjoy standing around for hours at a time in crowds." And though we feel weird even pointing this out, Ritchey's summation of his ultimate motivations for this event is definitely in keeping with the spirit of the holiday season. "There are bands on this who are playing their first show, coming home to see old friends, and even playing Orlando for the first time," he enthuses. "That idea is all the inspiration I needed, really."
When asked for some recommendations for weekend viewing, Ritchey heaps praise on the hazy electro-pop of Harsh Radish and the debuting "grindcore supergroup" Petrichor, before stating, "In my opinion [all of] these bands are some of the best that the state has to offer, past and present."
See you next year? Ritchey is oddly optimistic for someone who titled a song "Futile Noise": "I don't think it's absurd to think that this could happen again next year."