Written and Photographed by Ivy E
The Atlanta punk scene is alive and well, and thanks to events like 40 Fest, it’s thriving. The three-day, all-ages punk music festival hosted by Bill Johnston and Bambi Nicole has been something punks from all over the US look forward to going to. This year, I decided to see what all the fuss is about.
The lineup was jam-packed with bands like Cheap Sex, Anti-Heros, Endless Struggle, Blank 77, Broken Cuffs, Ponx Attacks and The Havoc. This year, it was held at a gigantic skatepark warehouse called, Village Skatepark which gave us the true meaning of DIY.
Most people from out of town stayed at a nearby Motel 6 that sold out faster than binoculars at a nude beach. We stayed with a local couple, Jackie Fegter and Tim Campen, who have a beautiful Air bnb style spot to crash for band on tour or good friends in town for a visit.
On day one, we got a ride to the warehouse with Jackie and Tim. It was our first time at this particular venue. We had a little bit of trouble finding the event parking lot and finding ourselves behind the building in a repo parking lot, jokingly quoting the movie Old School and telling the owner of the property that we, in fact, “here for the gang bang” when he asked us what we were doing. Once we realized this man didn’t think we were funny, nor had any idea what we were talking about, we then noticed that all the cars were a little beat up more than the usual cars at a punk show. We apologized and got back on track to the front of the building.
They had an extensive paid parking area split into sections, $5 near the street, $10 for mid-parking, and $20 spots right next to the venue entrance.
Getting our wristbands at will call was surprisingly a headache-free experience and well organized. All the staff was polite and friendly, greeting us with smiles, and the security pat down was non-aggressive, which immediately put us in an excellent mood.
Leaving the ticket area, it jets you into a massive warehouse with skatepark ramps in every corner. It’s littered throughout the main hall, which was great for climbing up to check out a band over the crowd or snapping some pictures. The light was low and cozy. There were dueling stages on each side of the room, and they were well-lit like two lighthouses over a sea of mohawks and studded leather jackets.
In the middle of stages along the wall, three bay doors led outside to a smoking area with skate ramps and grind rails. They had food trucks that served delicious tacos, little tents with ramen, and large barrels, and they lit hobo fires to keep everyone toasty once the sun went down. On the opposite side of the main hall was a large room filled with MORE ramps, vendors, and band merch tables. This area had a “Shredders layer” vibe from the first Ninja turtle movie that immediately brings you back to simpler times. They had a bar in the back that served white claws, PBR, and water and was staffed by charming and welcoming bartenders. That almost never happens if you have been to a large club or a festival. You usually feel like you are always on eggshells as if you are trying to order soup from the soup nazi in Seinfeld, and at any moment, you will get cut off. They even had a little tent in the far back that served coffee and vegan pastries for the sober folks.
After scoping out the scene and taking everything in, we noticed that we were some of the oldest people there. Seeing all these kiddos dressed to the nines gave us hope that there will be more to come after our generation is too old and we won’t have nursing home shows.
I got a chance to talk to some of the bands performing that weekend and got their opinion on 40 Fest:
Broken Cuffs from Palmdale, CA (Ricardo Ramos, Coby Sill, and Gio Loyola) played Day 1 and have been buzzing on the internet lately. They rolled into town and stole our hearts right off the bat. They said that after seeing epic bands like The Virus and The Unseen playing in past years, Ricardo gave notice to 40oz booking (Bill Johnston) liking their pages and music videos, prompting Ricardo to reach out and see if they could play this year. Ricardo said, “I wasn’t expecting the place to go off the way it did on a Thursday when everyone has work the next day, but sure enough, they went wild.” They said they have been taking excellent care of and would definitely return if asked to.
Mike Blank and Renee Wasted from Blanks 77, based initially out of Hillside, NJ, played Day 2 and might be the most wonderful and hilarious people in the world said that they have known Bill for a while and asked them to play first-year 40 Fest and this is the second time playing but this year was “definitely interesting.” They loved that it was all ages, half-naked people were skateboarding all over the place, it has a very “do whatever you want vibe” that made it feel old school, and the lineup was incredible. In their opinion, this year was better because it wasn’t at a bar and didn’t go super late. They said it’d been a fun few days, but they were ready for bed. Blanks 77 is playing somewhere in Philly on May 13th. You should definitely catch them.
Jason Todd from The HAVOC based out of Los Angeles, are currently on an east coast tour with The Parasitix, played Day 3 and absolutely knocked it out of the park regarding performance, catchy songs, and style. Jason said he met Bill personally for the first time when he was a guest on their podcast ‘Punk Rock Talk.’ He was promoting last year’s 40 Fest, which got the ball rolling with their discussions to play this year’s fest. That led to all of them meeting over the phone. But this weekend was their first time to meet Bill in person finally. When I asked him how he felt about 40 Fest overall, Jason said, “Excellent! We were able to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. This was our album release show, so it felt great to celebrate this occasion with them. Plus, watching all of the bands was a blast!!”
This event had something for everyone, from grocery cart crowd surfing to skate ramp power naps, and it was worth all the hype. If you ever find yourself in Atlanta in mid-January, give yourself a treat and check out 40 Fest. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
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