A Gathering of Tribes

May 27th, 2009

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Summer is almost upon us and so is the summer concert season.  Every year band’s hit the road to play clubs, outdoor sheds, arenas, stadiums, and now more than ever music festivals.  The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, MerleFest and Coachella have already kicked the festival season off, but others like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, All Points West and the granddaddy of them all the Newport Folk Festival pack them in throughout the summer.  Whether you want to hang with hair metal bands at Rocklohoma or feast on punk at the Warped Tour, there’s something for everyone on the festival circuit, so we decided to focus on two of the newest festivals to enter the fray.

In this first installment, we’ll focus on the brand new Merchants of Metal Festival that kicks off it’s inaugural year on June 6, 2009 in Chicago.  While Ozzfest takes a summer off, The Merchants of Metal Festival (with the curious accronym of MOM) brings together some of the hardest metal acts in the U.S. and abroad.  The one-day festival will have a main stage and a secondary “Pit” stage that features acts ranging from prog-metal stalwarts Zeroth to doom metal act Crimson Eye and Thrash Metal upstarts Forgest.  It also features the stateside concert debuts of Japanese death metal kings Minagoroshi and the German black metal act Dark Brotherhood.

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Chicago is not only the site for the inaugural Merchants of Metal Festival, it is also the home for the label which organized the event and backs a number of the participating bands, Long Bong Records.

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Figment News journeyed to the Windy City to gain some insight into the genesis of the festival and got a lot more than we bargained for in the process.  In an extended interview, which ranged across topics both mundane and arcane, the shadowy figure behind Long Bong Records [aka “LBR”], known only as “The Infernal Archon”, alternately enlightened, amused and, frankly, frightened our reporter.

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From the outside, the offices of Long Bong Records appear like any number of professional buildings in architecture-rich Chicago; the structure is an early 20th century tower in the style of Louis Sullivan or Frank Lloyd Wright.  Inside however, things are a bit more…esoteric.

Following a disturbingly thorough security check, we were ushered into the office of the head of Long Bong Records, an individual known only as The Infernal Archon – simply “The Archon” within LBR.  The dominant and most immediately striking feature of the office of The Archon, is the copy of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden Of Earthly Delights triptych, visible prominently behind the massive desk.  After a moment, a door to the side opened and a young spectacled man entered, introducing himself as Mr. Styx, assistant to The Archon.  He immediately proceeded to lower the lights, commenting that The Archon is very sensitive to lighting.  When asked when the Archon would be available, he replied, “He’s already here.”  Startlingly, a shadowy figure was seated behind the broad desk, apparently entering the room unnoticed, and positioned to be completely in silhouette [see the photo below, where apparently a digital glitch blurred the image of the influential label head].  So, begins our interview….

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Figment News: Thank you for taking the time to meet us today.  We’re very excited about the upcoming Merchants of Metal Festival.

[Mr. Styx leans back into the shadow, The Archon mutters something and he leans back forward.  This was the sequence for every question and will not be noted in each case].

Styx: I will be speaking today on behalf of The Archon.  He says we’re pleased to have you here and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the Festival and other matters with the Figment News.

Figment News:  That’s an excellent copy of The Garden of Earthly Delights, if I may say so.

Styx: [pauses] Copy…ah, yes, thank you.  It’s The Archon’s favorite work of art.  It’s a very inspirational piece, don’t you think?

Figment News:  Well, I thought it was supposed to be more or less a warning against lustful excess?  No?

Styx:  [sighs] I suppose that’s the case with all great art…things are open to interpretation.

Figment News:  Ah, hm, interesting.  Well, I will dive right in here.  What prompted Long Bong Records to form the Merchants of Metal Festival?

Styx:  As with all great endeavors, there were many reasons.  Some were commercial, some artistic, others…let’s say…sociological.

Figment News:  Sociological?  How do you mean?

Styx:  In the way music creates a connection between the performer and the listener.  It is a very powerful relationship, wouldn’t you agree?  It can be a channel for all sorts of things….

Figment News:  Ah, I see, sure.  Why the 2 stages?  Is “The Pit” 2nd Stage for up and coming acts?

Styx:  “The Pit”…Interesting that “pit” implies some sort of lower echelon.  It could be possible that The Pit is the prime venue, with the greater significance, no?

Figment News:  I suppose that’s true…

Styx:  In this case though, you are correct.  The Pit is the second stage for less-established bands.The schedule was arranged so the second stage, or “Pit” if you prefer, performances are completed before the final two bands on the main stage [LBR artists Crimson Eye and Zeroth].

Figment News:  You’ve managed to put together a lineup of bands that really covers the full gamut of metal from death metal to doom metal to hair metal.  How well do you think it will all mesh on stage?

Styx:  We anticipate nothing but the finest coming-together of metal bands ever to occur.  All other metal festivals will pale in comparison with the Merchants of Metal lineup.

Figment News:  That’s quite a claim, given some of the metal festivals out there: Ozzfest, Cruefest, Warped Tour, etc.

Styx:  Those are all very worthwhile festivals, but I guarantee you, we will have something they do not.

Figment News:  Which would be what?

Styx:  All will become clear in time….  Back to your question though, I grant you, the hair metal band was a bit of a stretch, but 80’s metal seems to be coming back, so…[shrugs].

Figment News:  What are some of the bands you are most looking forward to seeing play the show?

Styx:  All of them, of course.  Every band was carefully selected by The Archon for both the quality of their work and their live prowess.  We do not like to pick favorites among them, but we are obviously very happy that LBR bands are so well-represented, and are expecting great things from the headliner, Zeroth.

Figment News:  What kind of things?

Styx:  We expect a transcendent experience.

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Figment News:  I see….  You also have some firsts in the form of Japan’s legendary kings of death metal Minagoroshi and the live debut of SupercrusherDo you think that will help ticket sales and what do you think fans can expect from these two acts?

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Styx:  Ah, yes, we were very pleased when Minagoroshi approached us to participate in the festival.  It shows the truly international appeal of metal music, don’t you think?  We expect the American audience to embrace them warmly, and also have seen some Japanese fans planning on following the band to the festival.  Supercrusher was never really conceived as a live band, but we were able to convince Mr. Young and Mr. Gibbons to create a live incarnation for the festival.  Ticket sales had been strong for the festival given the number of top-notch bands already participating, but I’m sure these two firsts only increased the demand.

As to what we expect from these two bands, we expect both to live up to their names.  [Minagoroshi’s being “kill everyone”/”wholesale slaughter”] [Laughs] Not literally, of course….

Figment News:  Mmhm.  Um, what do the band’s riders look like at a Festival like this?  Any ridiculous demands?

Styx:Food, drink, hordes of virgins, farm animals, various implements and other arcane, ah…items…nothing that we can’t handle…

Figment News:  Um…

Styx: [smiling] No, I am kidding.  Everyone was very reasonable in their requests.  We have planned an extensive backstage area, with all sorts of “amusements”, for the performers to enjoy throughout the show.  When everyone heard what we had in-store, any requests they might normally have had basically became moot.

Figment News:  Wow, sounds, er, great.  ‘Merchants of Metal’ is an interesting name – are you literally selling Metal to the audience?

Styx:  Only in the most superficial sense.  We are selling what metal represents: freedom.  Freedom from the conventional mores of society.  Freedom from choices between good and evil.  For there is truly no evil, as there is truly no good.  There only is…

Figment News:  Uh, okay….  What act was the hardest to sign on to the Festival?

Styx:  We were able to get every band we wanted.  Let’s just say…that once these bands heard what we had to propose…they all jumped at the chance.  [Styx leans back again, murmurs ensue]  Supercrusher did take a bit of effort – The Archon had to personally involve himself to close that deal.  But as with the others, everything worked out.  As the expression goes; he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse….

Figment News:  Right…. Zeroth is headlining the main stage at 10 pm.  What do you think we can expect from the masters of prog metal?

Styx: [becoming increasingly animated] A confluence of dimensions, the end of civilization, the dawn of an age of darkness over the surface of the earth, the coming of… [There is a sudden shifting of The Archon, stopping Styx mid-statement.  He collects himself and continues.]  Apologies, I am a big fan of Zeroth….  Perhaps just some outstanding music and showmanship.

Figment News:  Uh, huh….  Uh, any plans to record the shows?

Styx:  Of course.  This will be a landmark event – for music and for society.  The implications of this event run far beyond mere music.  All will become clear in time….

Figment News:  Ok, um, uh, I think that’s all we have.

Styx:  Thank you for coming.  We will see you at the Festival, no?

Figment News:  Uh, yeah, sure, I suppose so….

Styx:  Excellent.  You certainly do not want to miss something this unique.

[At some point in the last few moments, The Archon has left the room, as silently and suddenly as he entered.]

Figment News:  Um, well, I see The Archon has left.Uh, please give him our thanks.

Styx:  It will be my pleasure.See you at the show.

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Stay tuned for our next installment when we go “Under the Big Top” with Zandergriff Miggs.

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