96 Hours at The Western Front
(Editor’s Note:) For the second year in a row Ghost Cult is pleased to bring you coverage of the premier doom, sludge, and avant-garde heavy music event on American soil west of the Mississippi river. Thanks to our friends at Violent Resonance, we have full coverage of the fest from the eyes, ears and lenses of these fine purveyors of heaviness. We seriously take little notice of the competition (other websites you cheat on us with) here at Ghost Cult, but if you love this great noise we call metal in its many forms, check out their sick in-depth interviews, and killer reviews. Thanks you guys!
A First Taste of Doom in the Desert
As dusk fell over Tucson, AZ on Thursday, October 16th, the third and thus far most prestigious iteration of the Southwest Terror Fest commenced with a whole new look and feel to it. Having moved further into the colorful warrens of the downtown area and expanded to two venues this year, The District Tavern and the historic Rialto Theatre, it felt as if this festival had achieved something admirable even before the first note of the first chord from the first band was played. Downtown Tucson possesses the kaleidoscopic atmosphere of many different types of art and culture mixing together in a melting pot that provides the sustenance of entertainment for people of every stripe, and for four days this month, the most widely imbibed audio brews were the twenty four various shades and vintages of the bands who brought the dark and heavy vibes of punk and metal to that scenery.
Much like the precursor shock to a devastating quake, the fest kickoff show at The District Tavern packed enough of a wallop to send one sprawling around the room a bit, but not enough to blow the place apart. Local Tucsonans Conquer Worm began the night with their brand of minimalist doom and were followed by Twingiant, the Phoenix, AZ based purveyors of roaring galactic sludge. In between these sets of ear shattering heaviness came another new aspect of the festival this year: the guerrilla troubadour known as Amigo The Devil. Performing his first of several impromptu sets of what can best be described as acoustic “murder folk”; Amigo hopped up onto the bar with a banjo and serenaded the tightly packed crowd with some tongue in cheek tales of woe. This brought a nice new element to the event, by breaking up the usual cycle of one band playing, a set change, and another band playing.
The final two bands of the kickoff show, Oryx and -(16)-, ended the first night of the fest on a pretty high note. Oryx, a two person psychedelic doom crew from New Mexico, brought a depth and intensity far out of proportion to the number of band members, and veteran sludge metal practitioners -(16)- riled the crowd up with an impressive set that showed they haven’t lost any steam after twenty-two years on the scene.
The long, narrow dive bar shtick of The District brought the music up close and personal, and despite the cramped conditions at times, the environment and music transported the crowd to another place of pure enjoyment. Without looking out the front windows of the venue, someone could even imagine that this show was taking place in a tucked away alley of Manhattan or Chicago. The sound was fair to good considering the dimensions of the venue, but this was more than made up by the proximity of the stage to the crowd: neck to neck and about as personal as it can get.
Overall, the first evening of the fest was satisfying and the mood of concert goers was one of anticipation for the upcoming days of the event. The sense of community and diversity among the attendees was fascinating as well. One could hear accents from all across the Unites States and the world. There were fans from Germany, Israel, and France right there in the desert town of Tucson, AZ. Build it and they will come, indeed.
PART II- Monday
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WORDS: RYAN CLARK
PHOTOS: VALERIE LITTLEJOHN