Every day for the past five days I have sat down to tell you all about my weekend spent experiencing 15 hours of live, genuine metal from the hearts and souls of 19 bands. But how do you put into words one of the most unbelievable musical experiences of your life? I don’t think the mere words that I am about to put down will ever truly do it justice, but I will try my best.
The last weekend of April, 2012 had been a day I had been anxiously awaiting for months. It was Day 1 of the Gilead Media Music Festival and I was about to immerse myself in 2 days, 19 bands, 15 hours of live metal in its many varied forms. Adam Bartlett, the mastermind behind Gilead Media, has been busting his ass off for countless months to bring this unbelievable event to a small, relatively conservative community nestled in the bosom of the Midwest. This weekend was all and more than I ever expected.
I arrived about 90 minutes early to scope out the hall, mingle with some friends (old and new), and check out the merch. I could have spent a small fortune on all the shirts, vinyl, discs, and tapes (yes, tapes) that were available, but alas, I unfortunately have bills to pay.
As I was browsing the displayed wares there was some activity around the stage as they were getting ready for the first band. A chair and small table were brought out and a small mixing board and a large metal briefcase were set down on the table’s wooden surface. As I wandered around the merch tables some more, a droning sound began to fill the small, intimate music hall. It took me a minute to realize that Darger and Plague Mother, the first band of the day, had started their set.
It was an odd scene. At the table sat an unassuming man in front of the mixer, a hooded gentleman in front of the now opened briefcase, and a third man sitting with an electric guitar on his lap with effect pedals arrayed at his feet. Those that had arrived to festival on time were privy to fifteen minutes of a heavily distorted, ambient, and mesmerizing sound. I’m a huge fan of ambient noise and this is what I would go into a desensitization chamber with (if music were allowed).
That was a hell of way to start the festival. To drastically change things up a bit, Darger + Plague Mother were followed by Arms Aloft (a apparent guilty pleasure of Adam). This four member punk outfit from Eau Claire, Wisconsin is a name to remember. Write it down. Go check ‘em out. These guys put on a hell of show that’s packed with a punk sound that resonates with most anyone who takes a moment to truly listen to them. It has been well over ten years since I’ve actively listened to any type of punk music (with the exception of DC Fallout) but I was immediately hooked as they remind me of one of one of my favorite post-hardcore punks acts, Boy Sets Fire. After their set, I immediately went over to their table and picked up their EP, Comfort At Any Cost (Gilead Media). The lyrics are incredibly written and the sound catchy and addicting. I highly recommend you pick it up.
Aseethe is a band that I had only recently discovered. This three piece doom/sludge/funeral metal band drove to Oshkosh from the fields of Iowa. They brought with them the ominous, foreboding, and thick distorted goodness that is their deep, visceral sound. Aseethe made my chest reverberate, my ears scream, causing the marrow weep from my bones. It was divine. If I hadn’t already spent most of my cash reserves, I would have immediately added another CD to my collection.
Next up was Milwaukee’s punk/thrash group, Protestant. Having been born and raised within an hour of Milwaukee I had heard of Protestant but only in passing. When they plugged in I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I did discover in the first few seconds was that the bass player is fucking nuts. Actually, the whole band is nuts. Protestant plays hard and brutal blackish thrash metal with a fervor and fury that is rarely seen. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to kick some ass with, Protestant is a must have in the playlist. Did i mention they’re brutal?
Protestant was quickly followed by Get Rad, another hardcore/thrash band out of Milwaukee. The brutality and craziness continued for another thirty minutes. To add to the crazy and ferocious sound, Get Rad had a self made lite brite from cardboard and christmas lights hanging above the drum kit that lit up with various phrases (get pizza, get rad, inverted crosses) that changed between songs with a footswitch controlled by their guitarist, Brad. All I can say is that an evening with Get Rad and Protestant is enough to make any day complete.
I’m not sure if I heard this correctly, but supposedly Hell hadn’t practiced together in over a year. It didn’t show. Their sound started with slow, methodical droning, then transitioned into scathing black metal with doom undertones and would move back and forth between the two within and between each song. The drummer hit his drums like a man possessed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone hit the skins that hard without breaking the stick, the drum, or an arm. Hell is a band that lays waste to the unbelievers with their methodical blackened doom metal sound. Everyone needs to experience it at least once. Twice if the survive the first time.
The lights were made even lower as the red lights went up for Fell Voices, a three piece black metal with ambient/noise undertones. The drummer for Fell Voices has an ability that is truly dizzying. Watching him was like watching a frenzied berserker laying waste to his enemies, like watching the Hulk “hulking” out in a bloody haze. For even greater dramatic effect, these guys sing and scream without a microphone but were still clearly audible over their instruments. This festival was not only batting a hundred but also hitting every ball out of the park. Unfuckingbelievable.
Ash Borer was another one of the bands that I was the most excited to see. I discovered these five guys a few months ago when I saw them on the Gilead Festival ticket and have thoroughly enjoyed their fresh and original sound in an often overdone and stagnant genre. These five dudes were put on this small stage to melt souls with their blistering black metal. Ash borer gave me a sonic orgasm. That’s all I can say. To say more would be an injustice. I need a cigarette.
The first evening’s festivities ended with Nashville’s doomers, Loss, another band that I was incredibly stoked to see. There were a few sound issues at the start of their set but were quickly corrected. Halfway through their performance I got an image of myself sitting in the middle of a darkened room surrounded by stacks of amps, letting their cosmic sound consume me as I transcended into an enlightened state. Which is why I couldn’t understand why there was a large exodus of people leaving towards the end of their set. I don’t know if people thought the band was done but all I knew was that I wasn’t about to leave, I wanted, I needed more.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed what every band had to offer (some more than others) and that I would definitely see each band perform live again f the opportunity were to arise. I couldn’t wait for Day 2.