When people think about the Tucson music scene, and the bands that are generally associated with it, it's a good bet that people aren't thinking of heavy metal and all of its wide-ranging genres and subgenres. Hopefully, that will change this Friday and Saturday.
Thirty-two extreme musical acts from Tucson, the Southwest and all the way to Brooklyn, N.Y., are looking to make their mark when they take over four stages at The Rock for the first Southwest Terror Fest.
The fest is the brainchild of two local metal musicians, David Rodgers and Dave "Tacklebox" Carroll. Rodgers is a guitar-player and vocalist for Godhunter, which plays Saturday night. Carroll plays guitar for Diseased Reason, headlining Friday night. Both say this town is long overdue for a gathering of metal tribes.
"In between bridge club and macramé, we were bitching about the lack of quality metal shows in this town," Carroll says.
"I don't think it was even just this town," Rodgers adds. "I think it's the whole Southwest region. The only things close to here are (annual fests) Chaos in Tejas and Fun Fun Fun. Those are both in Austin, and that doesn't really help us out here."
With the recent dissolution of Los Angeles' annual Murderfest, a three-day festival celebrating all things heavy, hardcore and adventurous, Tucson is, geographically, a ripe staging ground for something similar.
"Outside of here, there are not a lot of people who recognize Tucson as a viable market for quality shows," Carroll says. "(We're) hoping by doing this fest, we can open up people's eyes."
Considering the variety of bands playing, opening people's eyes shouldn't be a problem. Heavy-metal music isn't just the faux-Satanic din coming out of your older brother's fragrant room anymore. It's been more than 25 years since "The Big Four"—Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth—were arguably in their heyday. Since then, metal has spread its dark wings to cover a slew of disparate genres. Saturday-night headliners Bereft, from Los Angeles, are a tuned-down doom-metal band who sound like they just crawled out of the primordial soup, while Diseased Reason are a brutal, noisier grindcore outfit.
"We've got power-violence. We've got sludge bands and stoner-rock bands. We have a straight-up punk band. We've got black metal and death metal," Rodgers says. "Next year, we're going to go all out and get the 'genres within the genres.' All the bands on the roster are bands that we're personally fans of. We just sat down and made a list of bands that we like and started calling them."
"First and foremost, this fest is created by fans, for fans," Carroll adds.
The fest has received sponsorships from a few local businesses. Both Zia Record Exchange and Sticks n' Strings Music have lent their support, as has the Tucson-based extreme-music record label Acid Reflux. Website metalifestyle.com is sponsoring the second stage, while acclaimed public-relations company Earsplit PR is supporting the main stage. Hipsters, punks, metalheads and purveyors of dirt-cheap beer, take note: Pabst Blue Ribbon is also sponsoring the fest.
"I don't know what it is about this kind of music and PBR that go hand in hand," Rodgers sheepishly states.
The original idea for the fest was to have it take place at two different venues on Fourth Avenue, but that didn't pan out.
"We had the idea of having a fenced-off area or wristbands for underage people, but the way Arizona is set up, it's just too big of a liability for them to do it," Rodgers says. "We didn't want to exclude people under 21, especially with underground music, because a lot of our fans come from that age group. That's why we went with The Rock, because we could do all ages over there, and have it all enclosed in one area."
Fourth Avenue won't be entirely excluded, however. The Surly Wench will host a 21-and-over pre-party on Thursday, Oct. 18.
"That's going to be a lot of fun," Carroll says. "Rodgers and I and a couple of dudes from the bands will be DJing some metal and trying to feature as much music from the bands playing the fest as we can. We also have (local band) Wrathgate, who didn't make it on the fest this year, playing a short set."
Carroll and Rodgers are both adamant about breaking new ground and providing Tucson metal fans with something fresh and viable—and putting "desert rock" aside for the time being.
"The metal scene in Tucson gets absolutely no support whatsoever. Even from you guys, the Tucson Weekly," Carroll says. "Maybe by us doing this, this will show people Tucson is not all bluegrass and Calexico."
"It's really funny when everybody talks about the musical diversity that's supposed to be in Tucson," Rodgers adds. "It's like diversity is fine as long as you're doing it within certain accepted genres they like here. That's definitely an idea we're trying to do away with."
Carroll and Rodgers say this DIY fest is truly for the fans, a point they repeat with zest.
"There are kids who live on the eastside that don't even know there are clubs downtown where you can go and listen to heavy music," Carroll says. "Whereas there are kids downtown who are opposed to going to a venue like The Rock, for whatever reason. Hopefully we can bring all these people together and party. We can all get along and enjoy the music."
Rodgers promises: "It's not going to be a mess, with people running down the streets and smashing out windows and lighting stuff on fire all weekend."