Florida is a state of perpetual transience, departure, and arrival. While we couldn’t imagine any worse PR—to wit: violence, pill mills, serial killers, political skullduggery, and “Florida Man,” now a de facto clickbait-archetype of American Derangement—we are still home to some folks intent on upping the cultural ante.
Glenn Van Dyke and Lena Simon, a returning local and new arrival, are adding some serious primo rock energy to the Northeast Florida music scene. But they bring more than good intentions. Both are seasoned vets of the underground rock scene. Van Dyke is a founding member and guitarist for Brooklyn-born band BOYTOY; known for releasing fuzz-laden garage rock; albeit if the garage was filled with black lights and Afghani smoke. As bassist for Los Angeles surf-noir heroes La Luz, Simon has helped steer the band into enormous critical success, due to their strengths at pushing the surf-rock sound into innovative directions both on record and onstage.
Now the pair is firing up the second annual Winterland music festival. Held last year at the Space Gallery in downtown Jax, the inaugural Winterland was the brainchild of Van Dyke. The two-day music fest featured live music by touring and local bands. Van Dyke spent $5,000 of her own money to fund Winterland; a venture that didn’t even guarantee an audience. All the bands got paid, each night the packed-room was totally rocked, and Van Dyke made a full return on that investment. Now, with the help of partner Simon, Van Dyke is presenting Winterland II.
“I think Winterland is still taking on its form and I just want things to happen,” explains Van Dyke, whose intention and sincerity in evolving the local music scene is personal. A Jacksonville native, Van Dyke grew up in Ortega Forest. She was into music at a young age, when locals like Yellowcard, Inspection 12, and Whaleface ruled the roost. Heavily into the surf and skate scenes, during her teen years she went to shows and played punk rock. “I played in a band called Sexbot that played one show at Jack Rabbits,” she laughs. In 2008, she graduated from Episcopal School of Jacksonville and that same year moved to NYC to attend NYU, where she studied audio engineering and music business; in 2012, she helped form BOYTOY in Brooklyn. A year ago, she decided to return to her hometown.
“Living in Brooklyn and seeing the rate of how many things happened really impressed me. Coming back to Jacksonville and it seemed like things were ‘almost.’ I’m very self conscious about talking about the local scene and thinking I’m being judgmental or precious, because I’m not. In this city there are some really talented bands, especially garage bands, and talent doesn’t mean you have to have some amazing voice in the studio. Talent can be having an amazing garage band or even being really good at being mediocre. I’m just excited about helping make things happen.”
Last year’s Winterland surely qualified as happening. Friends old and new stepped up to help Van Dyke. Laura and Matthew Bennett of the Space Gallery let her rent their space for a nominal fee, while Aardwolf Brewery donated beer for the cause. “We had rented Sumo Wrestler suits for wrestling, boxes donated by Cash Carter for fort building, a raffle prize for a discount surfboard from Justin Quintal and Ricky Carroll, and local vendors,” says Van Dyke.
She also stresses the input and encouragement of Matt Shaw, Void Magazine editor-in-surf. Shaw is also the bassist for The Mother Gooses, the local garage rockers whose latest music was recorded and produced by Van Dyke. “None of this could have happened without Matt. We started pow-wowing in fall of 2017 and he told me all about the scene, and what was happening in Mayport, and the surf vibe. I was thinking about moving back at that point and he really encouraged me and said he wanted to do some things. When he became editor at Void, he really helped and we’ve remained in cahoots from the very beginning.”
Promoting, organizing, and then implementing Winterland was an all-consuming experience and Simon witnessed firsthand the intensity of its inception and creation; and even the toll on Van Dyke. “Last year Winterland was this idea that had previously only existed inside of Glenn’s head. She was telling me about it and I could hear the enthusiasm in her voice, the genuine desire to push Jacksonville arts, culture, and DIY scenes; things that make cities feel inspiring! I was in,” says Simon. “Glenn is completely capable of wearing all of the hats. Last year she was running sound, paying bands, finding catering, picking up beer and wine, building a stage, organizing so much that she could barely enjoy her own feat. I suppose I just wanted to be another head to put some of those hats on, lighten the load a little. This year I will do the same, but hopefully we can be a little more ahead of the game so we can also enjoy the weekend.”
In her brief time back, Van Dyke wasted no time getting involved in the local scene. She bought a house in Springfield and between surf sessions, recorded bands in her home studio, in addition to promoting local shows. Encouraged by what was happening in the city, she decided to go all in. Meanwhile, buoyed by their success, La Luz were working at a hyper rate.
“We were touring pretty much nonstop for a few years and when Glenn told me she was buying a house and setting up a recording studio in Jacksonville it somehow sounded appealing to me,” says Simon. “I’m not gonna lie: at first I was a little scared of the idea of Florida; it turns out a lot of people are. But I came around to it. I now find myself explaining, maybe even defending, my move to Jacksonville.”
Avid surfers, both cite the waves as being a certain attraction, as well as Jacksonville being a big city, yet affordable enough to live as professional touring and recording musicians. The pair has also installed a studio in their home, dubbed The Regal House, which includes analog and digital recording gear. “I like garage rock and the ethos but I also like hi-fi music,” says Van Dyke of her production vision. “I like to span beyond the garage realm.” Most recently, she produced local up and comers, Hensley. “They’re really awesome. They all go to Fletcher and they’re super talented; they have a really great pop sensibility.” Simon is equally enthusiastic about the potential of The Regal House. “That was a mutual dream of ours. Both of us have slowly been collecting gear over the years with the hope that someday it could all live in the same room. Having a dedicated space for music making is a game changer. You can have all your stuff set up all the time, ready for that moment of inspiration.”
The upcoming Winterland features an inspired roster. Eight bands perform each night, with lineups including Seattle hard rockers Thunderpussy, Tennessee stompers Faux Ferocious, and the Salt Lake City-psych of Max Pain and the Groovies, along with locals like The Young Step, Geexella, The Mother Gooses, and Mercy Mercy. Northeast Florida bands dominate both bills, a deliberate move. “There are some great garage-style bands here,” says Van Dyke. “And a really rich hip hop scene.”
Like last year’s fest, Van Dyke’s main “business” concern is making sure each band is paid, a sometimes-rare thing in the DIY realm.
“We’ve been trying to promote $5 shows throughout the year. I know sometimes people complain that there’s nothing to do here but if you’re not willing to always pay bands to play, there’s something wrong.”
With Simon’s involvement with Winterland, she brings her own years of experience, knowledge, and, just as importantly, “outsider’s” perception of the emerging Duval-heavy festival.
“First and foremost, Winterland is about supporting the local artists and businesses. My favorite festivals I’ve performed at are the ones that feel the most grassroots; like Pickathon, Treefort, and Beach Goth. They started super small, asking mostly local bands to play and gathering a few bigger acts to help draw,” says Simon. “Both Glenn and myself are trying to show Jacksonville that you can have a music festival here that isn’t Rockville; instead it’s really good music that is coming from your neighbor’s house. We also want to support our fellow touring bands residing in places like New York, Nashville, and Seattle, and show them what I’ve been calling ‘The 4th Corner’; that Florida wants good music!”
While liberating the possibilities of any art, particularly music, the Do-It-Yourself aesthetic can be a double-edged sword. The Little Rascals-style “Let’s put on a show!” thrill can fade when people realize that the key concept is Do It. Loud music, spray paint, and broken glass is a thrill until you have to lug in the amps, lose the deposit, and then sweep it all up. Still in their 20s, Van Dyke and Simon are veterans of dive bars and erudite pros; they know how to get shit done. Their ongoing successes in their respective music careers, combined with being a couple boasting both a Jacksonville native and Los Angeles-born transplant, bring much-needed new perspectives to the Northeast Florida music scene. Van Dyke and Simon have big ideas and they know how to kick them into action. Their excitement about firing the local music scene up a notch is evident yet they’re totally indifferent to any punk-rock zoning board intent on issuing scene-violation citations.
“A lot of people think you can be punk and have an attitude of ‘what’s the use.’ But I’d rather double down. I mean, you’re still swimming upstream, but for me it’s a creative puzzle trying to figure out how to make it work without a lot of bureaucracy,” says Van Dyke. “Particularly with Winterland, where I’m making the stage out of donated pallets and instead of financial sponsorship from someone that isn’t really a ‘fit’ to find small and independently owned businesses to that want to get involved. It was really incredible to me how many people were so into the idea and willing to help and they still are. The community is so excited about things happening, especially around Jax’s downtown; which is where my focus is. But I definitely have aspirations for this. But you do it year by year.”
Friday lineup features Star Goon, Hensley, Shantih Shantih, Mercy Mercy, Geexella, The Venus, L.O.V.E. Culture, and Max Pain and The Groovies.
Saturday lineup features Dust Fuss, The Jackettes, Fever Beam, 9E, The Mother Gooses, The Young Step, Faux Ferocious, and Thunderpussy. A vinyl DJ closes out both nights.