(Originally appeared in Mutant Renegade Zine #12, Fall 1999)
It all started out innocently enough. In May of ’98 Mite and I were invited to a festival in Wilmington, NC. We thought it sounded pretty cool, but like dolts we passed on it. The next month Kenyatta sent us a W.E. Fest zine to rub in how much fun we missed out on. We vowed not to miss the next one. By February we had eight people who planned on hitting the festival, but by May it looked like it was just me and possibly my friend Jeremy. My ex-tenant, Robin, had just moved to Wilmington so I took it as a sign…that I had a place to crash at least.
So, Jeremy and I left at about 11 p.m. on a Wednesday after my last class. Due to Jeremy’s CD adapter not liking my cassette player we had to endure only crappy radio and each others inane babbling for the next 12 hours. We made it to West Virginia without incident by 4 a.m. and were hungry so we found a 24 hour Hardees. We went in and saw a mountain girl representative waiting to take our order in the Hardees shrine to some nascar driver. The whole thing was surreal. After we endured being called “sweetie” and “sugar” about 100 times from the 8-months-pregnant snaggletoothed order taker we had a look around the store. Not only was there a complete nascar suit on a mannequin encased in a plastic box, but there also was a door, trunk and hood which looked like they were the aftermath of some pretty ugly accidents hung on the walls like trophies. We ate quickly and got the hell out of there.
Soon after we were back on the road and I fell asleep instead of paying attention to my navigator duties. When I awoke I assumed that we were in North Carolina…instead I saw a highway sign with Richmond on it. Evidently the highway split and we ended up two hours out of the way. Eventually we found some back roads that took us to the triangle and on the way to Wilmington. We ended up getting there at 3p.m. Then in my daze of sleep deprivation I decided to drive up to Havelock and see where my son would be spending his summer with his mom. It was a terrible drive with tons of construction and round about roads. By the time I made it back, it was 10 p.m. and beer sounded very good.
So Robin drove us to the Rusty Nail, the sight of Thursday nights festivities. There was a crowd of people outside and I was thrilled by the fact that there was sand in the parking lot, unlike the gravel we have. We made it inside just after the Hostile Amish played. I grabbed a beer (and was shortchanged) then set off towards the stage to the next band – Big M.F. Stick. They were a great heavy band with three singers. One sang, one rapped and one screamed in a grindcore way. Everybody was dancing and jumping around while the room seamed to explode with sweat, beer, heat, fun and music. When they finished their set I needed a rest…and more beer. Soon I wanted to meet people other than the college girls I was trying to hit on, and I noticed many people with W.E. Fest stickers on. So, I got the idea of sticking a MRZ sticker on my shirt. It actually worked and I ended up meeting the people from D.U.D.E., Kenyatta, Lee and a host of others. I also talked to a member of Big M.F. Stick since I noticed that they were from Indy. I asked if he’s heard of a grindcore band called Blatherskite and found out that two members were in the band. I was then directed to Skoth and we talked about the old days. Soon Scrap came on and played a great set of hardcore metal. After the show we were told that everybody was going to invade Denny’s, so we did likewise. At 2 a.m. WeFesters controlled Denny’s and there was much drunken rejoicing. We ended up meeting a bunch more people including Stephen and Erica, who asked if they could crash at Robin’s starting Friday night. So after a quick drive we were asleep on the floor.
I woke up after only a few hours of sleep ready to go and explore this place known as Cape Fear. Once we were all alive again we headed off to the Dixie Grill which housed the Exchange this year. I dropped off a ton of zines and picked up many more from all over the country. We looked out onto the bay and saw the USS North Carolina. Since we had a while with nothing to do we decided to go look at the big boat. I’ve never seen a battleship up close…except for the little ones I built as a child. It was very freaky and pretty intimidating. I took some photos of this and other neat things…but that roll of film died somehow. While standing on the pier I spotted a lone sign that read “Alligators are dangerous.” I guess the people of NC really need to be told everything…
After seeing the tool of massive destruction we headed off to the punk rock bowl. Robin, Jeremy and I meet up with Stephen and Erica again and played a few games of 10-pin. After a bit the bands started and the bowling pretty much ceased. First up was Suran Song Stag who were more of a multimedia experience. A female singer and a male bassist playing while two projectors showed slides on to them and the white backdrop. It was quite haunting and beautiful at times and made being in a bowling alley all the more surreal. Next up was Pacer, a fun punk pop band that really rocked out and put everybody who was there into a great mood.
After bowling we decided to eat at the Rock and Roll Café which we saw when we came into town…if you’re ever in Wilmington skip it, it was lame. After we were full we headed off to the Dixie grill for another night of music. The beer was cheaper than the first night, plus they had Courtney Love’s twin working there. Actually her name is Olympia, but she looks just like Courtney did in “The People Vs. Larry Flint”. By the time the bands started playing the place was packed and I was lit. It was a great night full of music, beer, meeting new friends and just making a fool out of myself. Plus several people earned their “We got Nekked” pins…no, I was not among them, but I witnessed several. Drew Moore, Negative Nancy, PIZ, Cropduster and Notch all played however, I can’t tell you much about any of the bands. I do remember that Negative Nancy, Piz and Cropduster were really great and that the whole night seemed to be one of the funniest times I’ve had in quite a long while. After the bar closed down we all headed off to the after hours show. It was in some loft with a few kegs of free beer. I saw three bands before we left at about 4 a.m., but I was very toasty by then. I met some Florida anarchists who were there and many more people of all ages and musical tastes.
Somehow I awoke on Saturday by 11 a.m. without any trace of a hangover. Stephen and Erica had crashed there too and were annoyed with me for two different reasons. Erica since I snored and was near her…and Stephen because I had no hangover and was full of energy upon waking, yet he didn’t drink and felt like shit. Ahhh, the beauty of negative energy transfer. We headed out by 1 p.m. and split off. Jeremy, Robin, her sister and I all headed to the ocean for a spell. Once we finally found a place to park we headed off the beach. You could immediately tell that we were from out of town. We were so white we practically blinded people by the way the sun shone off our bodies. We them went running through the waves and made general tourists out of ourselves. I spotted a few other W.E. Festers due to their pale skin and fascination with the ocean.
After a bit more of running around aimlessly we got ready for the micro-brewery beer tasting at the Underground Sandwich Shoppe. When we got there the place was packed and the singer from the Moths was playing a solo set. Beer after free beer flowed into my hands and I ended up meeting even more W.E. Festers. By now I was very relaxed with the crowd and noticed who the core crowd was and that many people were only there for a day or two. During this time I acquired many WE Fest name tags and like most of the others there, plastered myself with clever (at least they were to me) sayings.
Before I knew it the crowd had moved to Bessie’s the site of the night’s festivities. First up were the Moths from NYC. I had a great time listening to their catchy alternative rock and suggest that you check out their CD review…or see them live. Next up came an industrial / noise / electronica duo called DEVL. They really had the crowd going and put on a musically intense show. Solar Coaster came on next, but I don’t remember much about them.
This was about the time I left the bar and hooked up with the anarchists. We headed back to the Sandwich Shoppe hoping to get the rest of the free beer only to find that some idiot skinhead had trashed the bathroom and that they had closed off the beer. We wandered around for a bit then went back to the bar. Outside I heard everybody talking about the most amazing band…XBXRX. Like an idiot I missed them so I hurried inside and found a piece of their keyboard. Evidently they smashed all their equipment.
I felt defeated, but vowed to drink more and hope the remaining bands would compare. Luckily the next band was my favorite of the whole festival. They were a great ska band from Tuscaloosa, AL, called Pain. This had to be the best ska band I have ever seen and they had the crowd pogoing and so full of sweat that it was unreal. It was amazing that all of them could fit on stage and still jump around with such energy and not thump each other.
Next up were two bands Krakatoa and The Selzers who played great songs but slowed things down a little bit to much for me at the time.
So a few of us left to get pizza at this great New York style pizza place. They had slices and served it deli style. What was the best was the Italian guy who made you feel like you were in Brooklyn with his NYC attitude. Great, greasy and filling.
After we had soaked up some of the alcohol with grease we headed over to that nights after-hours party. It was at the same loft and they had the remainder of the micro-brew kegs flowing. This time there were four bands that I remember and we stayed until past 6 a.m. By the end I was exhausted, drunk but very happy. We drove back to the apartment (don’t worry, the driver didn’t drink) while the sun rose in our faces. We talked for a bit and I realized that I had drank for about 14 hours straight. Soon after I drifted off into sleep.
Amazingly by noon we were all up and Jeremy and I were starting to pack up. Once we were set and ready we headed off to the Sunday film festival. It was at a dinner theater called Rocket’s and we caught four really good short independent films. The first was “In the Basement” which was a strange surreal film involving a boy’s journey in a basement where his parents sent him. Then it was “Children of a Laughing God” where an aspiring reporter tries to impress E! by making an audition tape. After many humorous failures of getting a real star to interview, he succeeds in interviewing a child star trainer and uncovers a wacky mystery.
Next up was a nod to the happy instructional films of the ’50s. “Let’s meet Johnny” has the announcer voice, black and white film and a surprise ending when Johnny doesn’t pay enough attention to his enterprising girlfriend. Finally there was “Love Stalks” a tale of Karla who was having a bad week that turned much worse after she notices a man stalking her. A great glimpse into the mind of a fairly paranoid, yet average person. Thoughts, action and getting trapped in a relationship that you actually want.
Finally we saw the feature film of the show “Captive Audience” which Mite reviewed elsewhere in the zine. Easily one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time.
Then after a short break they started the zine round table. Five of us made it onto the stage and when it came for questions the crowd was silent. I suggested gorilla questioning but I was voted down. I don’t think many people really got much out of the segment. I said nothing about Mutant Renegade…just babbled about how great the fest was. The other editors did a mix of a few words or long winded speeches about how to make a zine. Maybe next year some life can be injected into this low part of the week.
Finally came the poetry portion. I was hesitant and a few poets were pretty lame, but Ziggy was a definite highlight. He raged through several poems like a beat poet on a triple cappuccino. Some of the others were good as well, but none could match the total package that Ziggy presented.
When we were about ready to leave, Robin persuaded the great Jim Testa to play her short student film. It was a very short film about a couple and a dad. Lots of hidden meaning and few words. People seemed to enjoy it and it was a nice sendoff for the Mutants.
After many good-byes, Jeremy and I were on our way back to the wastelands of Ohio. The trip back was interesting to say the least. On the way we got lost again, almost ran out of gas, almost got beat up by a group of redneck kids at a Denny’s, accidentally pulled into a few hick town and ended up getting a speeding ticket less than 20 miles from home. The only good part was that it was nice to sleep in a bed again…
If you couldn’t tell from this tale I loved the W.E. Fest and encourage you all to go next year. It only costs $15 and it is more fun than you can imagine. Do it!!!