On April 11th, 13 bands descended upon The Hideout in Omaha, Nebraska, and after the last note rang out and the dust settled, one thing was clear.
Stormfest is becoming an institution.
A mass of Nebraska metalheads walked through the doors to take part in almost 12 hours of partying, heavy metal style. The bands provided the soundtrack and served as the center of attention during the event, but it takes a village to put on a festival…or something like that. A HUGE SHOUT OUT to Tripp Stevens of Clenched Fist Productions for putting this crazy thing together, a HUGE SHOUT OUT to The Hideout Omaha for hosting, and a HUGE SHOUT OUT to Stormfest’s local sponsors, Dillon’s Diabolical Designs and Relentless Screen Printing.
Kicking things off at 2:30, Empires End delivered a hard-hitting set. EE is a relatively new band, and this was my first time catching them live. I was impressed. My brain proved to be especially tuned into drums last Saturday, and that may be because of Empires End drummer, Josh Chapin started the day off on two good feet.
When the Empires End set concluded, Wryan Carpenter switched out his guitar for a bass and Kearney’s Slantpiece took the stage. Slantpiece has a special energy about them, and it sucks the crowd in every time. Their set at Stormfest 2015 was no exception. Slantpiece had a CD release party the night before Stormfest in their hometown for their sophomore release “Second Wind.” Read my review here, and if you don’t have a copy yet, GET ONE!
And speaking of new albums, the next band up on the Stormfest stage was Primal Waters, who mentioned that they will be returning to The Hideout on June 6th for the release party of their upcoming CD. Half of PW’s thrashy, guitar-laden set was music from the new record–I’m looking forward to this one.
At 4:45, Johnny Legion launched into their set. Johnny and his “legion” played a great set of their horror-rock songs, one of the best sets I’ve seen from the band. JL always takes it over the top with a dynamic stage performance, and makeup and wardrobe to match their dark lyrical content.
Next up was Nebraska’s skull-crushingest band: TenDead. Damn, it had just been too long since I’ve seen a live performance from this POWER three piece. Their set featured Stormfest namesake, Storm Corbin, doing backup vocals on “Stones Throw” and KingShifter frontman, Sprout, on vocals for a cover of Down’s “Bury Me in Smoke.” TenDead is also working on new recorded material. 2015 is going to be a great year for Nebraska metal.
Jesus, it was still light out when the 6th band of the day, Cynge, took the stage. Their singer took a move from the Anselmo playbook and bloodied his forehead with the mic at the beginning of their set. Their set lurched forward with blasts of straight-forward brutality.
After a lengthy set change, When Towers Fall began their set. It seemed as though they were playing to a crowd largely unfamiliar with them, and surely they made some new fans. You could really tell that they are a super tight band, but some of the “techier” moments were lost in this live setting. Vocalist Derrek Sammons did an awesome job; I was very impressed with his clean vocals. He wore gloves during the set, maybe he thought he was going to need to dig an intricate network of tunnels with a spoon, and didn’t want to hurt his hands. More on that here.
The Clincher started their set a few minutes before 8:00. It had been a while since I’d seen them, and holy shit they rocked. Vocalist Lori Piper is fantastic. One of my favorite moments of this year’s Stormfest was when she sang a line from The Sound of Music during their soundcheck; that girl has got some mf’n pipes! The band was in top form too, especially drummer Tiffany Pilypaitis, who shredded through their set.
The Blood of War was up next. These guys are a damn powerhouse. Anchored by Justin DeWitt’s rock solid drumming (I told you I was on a drummer kick!), these guys delivered 30 minutes of insanely low tuned, pummeling metal. I thought Matt Wragge had a particularly good vocal performance. They included a new song in their set, “Darken the Sky,” which I reviewed here.
And the drumming excellence definitely didn’t stop there; DeadEchoes was up next, and as always, Ted Braasch put on a goddamn clinic. DE performed as a three piece at Stormfest ‘15, without guitarist Neil Thoene. I don’t know what the deal was there, but it surely didn’t slow these titans down. I am absolutely mind-blown every time I see this group perform. Exceptional metal, at breakneck speed, played outstandingly.
Kingshifter’s set marked the beginning of the regional/national acts. It’s no wonder that Kingshifter is enjoying the success that they are. They excel in mid-tempo, grooving, accessible hard rock/metal that is loved by metalheads and laypersons alike. They tour a lot, and it shows in the tightness of the band. Their frontman, Sprout, is charismatic, and delivers the vocals expertly.
Denver, Colorado’s Iconocaust played the penultimate set of the evening. I’ve had the pleasure of catching these guys a few times over the years, and they put a smile on my face every time. Iconocaust plays shreddy thrash metal with a mix of brutal and clean vocals. Their recordings sound fantastic, and they pull off their intricate riffs and leads live as well. They venture east fairly regularly, so if they are playing near you, I strongly suggest you check these guys out! Check out the BAC review of their single “The Hero and the Sacrifice” here.
Closing out the show was Hemlock from Las Vegas. Hemlock also headlined last year’s Stormfest, and that performance must have left the Nebraska crowd wanting. Through the whole set there were hands in the air and people pogo-ing up and down. Vocalist Chad Smith is an expert in getting a room moving, a lesson surely learned from years of non-stop touring. The band is typically outwardly very positive, especially for a metal band, but that broke down a bit when they were told “last song” by the venue’s management. After a slightly awkward exchange, the Stormfest attendees got a few more minutes of jumping around and arm-waving, and then Stormfest 2015 drew to a close.
It’s another good one for the books, kids. Stormfest really proves the strength of our scene, continually improving and drawing more and more people in. As people shuffled in and out of the live room at The Hideout, I started to realize that the local acts were gathering as many fans as the headliners. To me, that speaks volumes to what we have here, and it’s all because of YOU getting out to shows!!
But I won’t leave you with some trite sign-off line just yet.
Here is what the brains behind this whole operation (Uncle Tripp) had to say about Stormfest 2015:
“This year’s show was an absolute ass kicking. Super happy with the way everything went. Every band brought their A game. This was possibly going to be the last year I did it, but after I saw this year’s show go of the way it did, there’s no way I can stop now. It’s love mother****ers, love.”
So we’re going to get another Stormfest in 2016?!?!?!? What can you tell us about that, Tripp?
“Bigger. Better. Stronger. Next year’s show will return to the Hideout once again, but this year, or should I say next year, will consist of 14 bands, the most ever on this show. The show will be split up between Friday and Saturday, with a 5 band lineup Friday and a nine band lineup on Saturday, with each night featuring a local or regional headliner. Each show will have an individual door fee, or you can get a two-night laminate pass for a discount. I already have several bands confirmed and excited as hell to play the show next year!”
But whatever the hell you do, don’t wait until next April to…
…get out and pay some cover charges!
P.S. Special thanks to Nathan Richardson for the photograph. Head over to his flickr album to see a few more.