The second annual Skullfest festival will likely be remembered as the year’s sweatiest show, which is a good thing.
TÞM, the night’s venue, closely resembles a storage basement: four walls, no windows and, as logic dictates – when you cram in more than 200 people – no oxygen; the perfect setting for this kind of show really.
“I wanted to put on an ‘end of summer/back to school jam’ where I gather the most interesting bands from the alternative music scene and bring together different styles of music for people to enjoy,” explained promoter and I Adapt’s singer Birkir. The goal was achieved, for the most part, with varied acts representing the furthest peripheries of the mainstream grid. A night like this offers a great opportunity to see what’s brewing beneath the surface.
Sadly delayed, I missed the opening act from Skítur entirely. I caught the tail end of the death-metal band Diabolus who displayed their authoritative metal mastery. The band is clearly influenced by the New-Canadian wave of death-metal and vocalist Egill has the tools for the craft. Diabolus sound brutal – although gore-ridden lyrics and song names usually make me cringe – and it will be interesting to see how these youngsters move forward.
Retron is comprised of two guitarists and a drummer who play instrumental hero-metal. Riff after riff and blaring drums interlocked in a metal symphony, I love the concept. I even loved listening to them for up to 15-minutes, but after that it became redundant and I lost interest. On one song they added keyboards, which added much needed diversity. This marked the first time I’ve seen the metalcore band Celestine live, and although I could see glimpses of excitement in their aggressive delivery, I did not manage to connect with the band and found the whole thing rather uninspired.
Kimono stuck out like a sore thumb on this bill. Their progressive indie rock sound, with lot of time-changes and off-beats, was a refreshing change of pace however. Kimono delivered a great set, highlighted by two new songs that might cement their status as the most interesting indie-rock band in the country.
By the time the next two bands had finished their set, the already hot TÞM was positively steaming. So steaming, in fact, that the Grapevine photographer could no longer use the camera. First up were Philly, PA, hardcore act Blacklisted who delivered an emotional and energetic performance that made me remember why I think hardcore is important to begin with. They were immediately followed by Icelandic hardcore act I Adapt, who, despite ripping the bass drum in the middle of their set, set everyone’s ass on fire. This was possibly the best one-two punch I’ve witnessed since Gojira-Mínus at last year’s Airwaves.
Metal veterans Drep did just what veterans should do, and played a very solid set of very solid metal music. Long time punk mainstays Dys, however, surprised everyone and premiered a new song, the first one in over three years, adding to their arsenal of politically charged anarcho-punk sing-a-longs. That’s a joyous occasion.