It was the day that Roky Erickson died and while he and the 13thFloor Elevators weren’t metalheads, the impact that they had on the fest’s cognizant attendees was still pretty obvious. On top of that, the sun was shining bright and the temperature was just right, so the first few bands didn’t have as thick a crowd as they could have. Vitriol and Vauna didn’t let that stop them from playing with vivacity—but in Vauna’s sense that liveliness is played out in a slower and more melodic way, backed by chant-like singing.
Everything picked up when Oakland’s Vastum took the Neumos stage. They were gruff, grimy and sludgy. Dan, the vocalist, had a fairly aggressive way of interacting with the crowd. Outside of the dual growls between him and guitarist Leila, Dan continually reached over the monitors, pulling and shoving at the patrons in the front row. From afar, it seemed like peculiar attacks on individual fans. Yet upon closer inspection, Dan was working with intention; his end goal to get everyone riled up enough to actually move. That happened in stages — first, it was a sea of headbanging. Then, a considerably large mosh pit. It ended with Dan crowd surfing amidst the swinging fists.
Downstairs, Thantifaxath’s searing black metal veiled the Barboza in darkness. Each member plays in a long black robe and with no lights on, the mood it created was dreary yet enjoyable. Such couldn’t necessarily be said for Pathology, who unfortunately didn’t seem to impress the crowd much. Dave Astor’s beloved death metal band has been around since 2006 but with 3/5ths of the band being new, their connection with the crowd was off. On record they were still extreme and live, they were the same, but they had more of a deathcore feel to them. They tried repeatedly to get a circle or mosh pit going to no avail. It’s never good to have to entreat participation, but there were some cheers and claps, and two lone pit warriors brought back some windmills and spin kicks to keep the energy alive.
It was interesting to have Inter Arma playing on the smaller stage. Barboza, while possessing great sound and a few strong blowing air conditioners, couldn’t house all of Inter Arma’s fans. Those who were in there and closer to the back had a harder time seeing the not-so-elevated stage, but not too long after, Wolfbrigade nearly incited a thrash riot from the Neumos stage. Their cleverly branded “lycanthro punk” was well welcomed, with an aggro nature that at least had the whole room moving.
For solo artist STAHV, aggressiveness and crowd engagement was an afterthought over at the Highline. Perhaps the most melodic on the bill, STAHV’S deathgaze was the perfect respite within the chaos of the day. With just him and his guitar, he created this beautiful instrumental noise, some of which was quite familiar. He did a warbly rendition of Echo & the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” that seemed to collectively soothing, just for Indian to take the stage and disrupt the calm. As soon as the feedback from their guitars reverberated through the speakers, everyone choosing to break outside on the patio and along the outlying walls bum rushed towards the stage. They baited the audience with long pauses before harshly riffing in and out of some discernable tracks like “Rhetoric of No,” and others that depending on where you were standing in the room you couldn’t quite make out. That didn’t seem to affect their reception, though—it livened everyone up enough for another couple hours of raging.
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat