Metal fans from West Virginia and the surrounding areas gathered at Pipestem Spa and Resort for two days of hard rock and metal from local and international recording acts from all over the country. The festival started Friday night as a form of a warm-up for the metalheads who were planning to attend the weekend’s performances. The bulk of the performances took place on Saturday afternoon, under perfect skies and beautiful scenery.
The first bands hit the stage as the crowd slowly trickled in, but the crowd size did not grow much or meet the expectations of the bands that were ready to give their all on the stage. This was something that saddened and slightly enraged me at the same time. A crowd of maybe 200 people at its best moment, gathered in front of the stages as the bands left everything on the stage with very little energy in return. I don’t know if this was a promotion issue, a lineup issue, ticket prices or the fact that the people in the area just did not want to have their metal fix.
Issues continued to grow throughout the show, as the lineups were mixed up and set times continued to run further and further behind, at 8 pm there were still 4 bands left to hit the stage, all delivering roughly 45-minute sets for the small crowd. I do have to give all of the bands in attendance credit for giving everything they had even though there was zero crowd interaction.
The first band to hit the main stage was Ironcore Resistance, the band struggled to get any energy out of the crowd and the frustration showed in their performance. I think this band could have possibly delivered a great performance if more people would have actually paid attention to them.
Next to suffer the wrath of poor crowd participation was Sever The Wicked, who also tried to give the fans their everything with absolutely nothing in return. It wasn’t until Charlotte’s Black Ritual hit the that the crowd of around 80 began to interact with the artists. This band is known for their hard-hitting performances and high energy, but with slight interest from the crowd, the band suffered.
Virginia’s Black Plague, Charlotte’s Annabel Lee and Blackwater Drowning delivered the most energetic performances of the day by literally leaving everything on the stage, but even though the bands gave their all and pulled out all of the tricks by even going into the crowd to perform, the attendees hardly engaged the bands.
Before Motograter hit the stage, the organizers eliminated the need for VIP passes to access the designated area to hopefully make the crowd look bigger, I guess. Which was a bit of a slap in the face for the people that paid premium pricing for their tickets.
Overall, all festivals have growing pains and struggle when they are trying to establish themselves in the world of larger fests. There were many issues that this festival faced, poor attendance, serious disorganization, dead periods between bands and the unwillingness to cut non-crucial events from the schedule in order to help the bands take the stage and close the nearly 2-hour delay down. Without question, organizers should have cut the Miss Metal beauty pageant, which seemed more like a meat sale than a beauty queen show.
In the future bands will not stick around to play or even sign up to play a festival that runs serious delays like this because they will see it as a waste of time, schedules are important and need to be maintained even if they are just a few minutes behind.
I do have to give credit to one thing, the sound and lighting were actually outstanding for a festival of this size but did not make up for all of the other very serious issues.
Lastly, I have to give credit to all of the bands that played this show, from the openers to the closers, every single one of them gave their everything to try to help get something to happen in the crowd. They were the reason why I even chose to write this review because they needed the recognition more than anyone behind the scenes of the setup of this event. The bands are the reason why live music is still alive and well; even when the fan base forgets to show up. No matter the crowd size, they played their hearts out and for that I applaud you!
All photos © James Geiser