Ever say something as a joke, and then face the awkward moment when said joke is a joke no longer? That could have happened with the first edition of Total Bummer. “The festivals around us always have these big, overblown names that tried to be showy like ULTRA Music Festival and Real Big Deal Fest. We wanted to show off our sense of humor a bit and thought it would be really hilarious to have a big spring break-themed festival and call it Total Bummer,” says JT Bringardner, founder of the scrappy festival that throws its third bash in Orlando this weekend. “We’d booked this huge festival with 80 bands that we were all freaking out about but that most people never heard of before, like Teeth Mountain, Truman Peyote, RUN DMT, JUICEBOXXX and Coma Cinema. We had no idea if anyone would show up and there was a real possibility that it would be a total bummer. But it wasn’t.”
On the contrary, Total Bummer’s done pretty damn well, with events in Gainesville and Tallahassee on the books. This year’s incarnation features over 100 bands and musicians, including Reptar, Pictureplane, Teengirl Fantasy, Unstoppable Death Machines, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, the Dewars, Sumsun, Maximino and Bringardner’s band, Oh Fortuna. He frames Total Bummer as an antithesis to events like ULTRA and The Fest that “now are overrun with corporate douchebaggery and virtually the same slew of tired acts year in and year out.” Bringardner and friends launched Bummer to prove “Florida’s rich musical landscape was being ignored or, at the very least, undernourished,” and he estimates a 60:40 ratio of electronic acts to rock-related ones this year. By electronic, they don’t mean slick, stadium-filling techno and dubstep, either, but rather artists with a more unpolished and DIY-friendly vibe.
Various activities also accompany the sounds of Bummer: a piñata sacrifice (Friday), a dodgeball melee (Saturday) and a hoop ball challenge with 25-foot basketball hoops (Sunday). Bringardner emphasizes the importance of positivity, camaraderie and cutting loose for the event. “I’d say more than anything, what sets TB apart from other fests is the atmosphere,” he says. “People come to the Bummer as strangers and leave as dear friends.”
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