"It was kind of out of necessity at first," admits Casbah booking agent Steve Gardner. "I like doing festivals, but I usually don't do them on this short notice." But for the relatively new Durham club, Fourth of July weekend was a blank slate, with no bands booked for the all-important Friday and Saturday nights. So, because it's 2011, Gardner turned to Facebook.
A few months earlier, he'd created a group, NC Garage/Punk, to keep members "up-to-date with what is happening in the North Carolina live garage rock/ punk scene." He'd wanted to do a garage rock festival, inspired by Chapel Hill's erstwhile Sleazefest and in line with the Bull City Metal Fest Casbah hosted in February.
Once he'd mentioned to the NC Garage/Punk group he was hoping to put together a short-notice fest on Independence Day weekend, it wasn't long before the bill started taking shape. "That Facebook group really helped, because people got excited about it and it got the word out," Gardner says. "I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to fill up two nights. I thought I'd end up with maybe one night with five bands." Instead, he filled two nights with 16 bands.
Among those ranks, there's plenty of variety: Richmond's Haverchucks hock loogies of snotty Screeching Weasel punk while Raleigh's Mumu Tutu brings a '77 swagger. Durham's Wild Wild Geese lead their '90s-style indie rock with roaring guitars, while their neighbors in Brainbows favor a bass-driven post-punk rumble, and Thee Dirtybeats look to the '60s for their hazy psych-garage. This year's Amerifest, Gardner says, is "kind of a test case." But he doesn't balk at the idea of turning his last-minute punt into an annual tradition. —Bryan Reed
Friday lineup: The Cheats, Wild Wild Geese, Brainbows, Static Minds, Mumu Tutu, The T's, Fooligans, Johnny Staxx & the Durty Boyz
Saturday lineup: The Haverchucks, Blood Red River, Thee Dirtybeats, Of Whiskey & Blood, B-Side Project, P-90s, The Venables, Scotty Sandwich