Bayou Doom Fest III
August 8, 2015
Fitzgerald’s, the beloved old music hall on White Oak that’s been the subject of much speculation of late, is typically nobody’s idea of a cool and placid retreat. It’s loud, it’s rickety and frankly, it doesn’t often smell too great. But when temperatures outside are soaring well beyond sanity as they were over the weekend, even the dank and blackened confines of Fitz can offer welcome sanctuary against the elements.
Within such blessed, bleak shelter on Saturday was held Bayou Doom Fest III, one of the city’s most outwardly grim musical gatherings and a caucus of sorts for some of the state’s most determinedly thunderous metal bands. One could be forgiven for assuming that an all-afternoon festival featuring names such as Project Armageddon, Funeral Horse and Switchblade Jesus would be a rather dreary affair, but that proved to be hardly the case. Instead, Bayou Doom Fest brought a fun, clubhouse atmosphere to Fitz as dedicated fans shared laughter and drinks between bands.
Both stages at Fitz were occupied with the festivities, with metalheads trudging up and down the stairs in an attempt to see and hear all they could. Probably no one burned more calories on the day than Doomstress Alexis, leader of Project Armageddon and one of the festival’s organizers. In between managing stage times, announcing bands, contributing guest vocals and performing with her own group, Alexis probably found the time to catch up with some old friends and maybe make a few new ones. She was a blur all night long.
But hell, so was the fest. The acts were staggered nicely, with a new group hitting one stage or the other every 30 minutes. While there were certainly some tasty technical chops thrown in here and there, slow and low were the order or the day for nearly all of the groups, with Sabbath-worthy riff after heavy riff emphasized for maximum headbanging potential. Even with earplugs, it was all punishingly loud, and the true fans — the ones who showed up early and stayed late — luxuriated in the volume.
With the groups stacked so tightly, the bottom-heavy tunes couldn’t help but run together after a while, especially since most of the music seemed tailor-made to reduce brain cells to useless, dripping goo. Nevertheless, certain highlights stuck out. There was the fascinating pedal contraption that allowed Project Armageddon drummer Raymond Mathews to play both sides of his kick drum like the bass drummer in a marching band. And the memorable sight of Dallas’ Kin of Ettins guitarist Teiwaz shredding with his only hand. Or the increasingly lubricated crowd getting loose and rowdy during Sanctus Bellum’s set.
The thick, sludgy riffs seemed to flow endlessly, and so did the beer and whiskey. The whole shebang was capped off by strikingly polished performances from Houston metal favorites Helstar and Oceans of Slumber, both of which enjoy loyal and enthusiastic local fanbases. But the true soul of the festival lay with the out-and-out doom metal bands. Texas has become something of an epicenter for the doom-metal movement in recent years, a fact happily celebrated by the locals and out-of-towners alike on stage.
“We fucking love playing Houston,” said Kin of Ettins singer Jötun. “You fill me with humility and envy at the same time.”
Those sentiments were echoed all day long, by San Antonio’s Las Cruces, Corpus Christi’s Switchblade Jesus and practically everybody else. For these dedicated doom-meisters, Fitzgerald’s offered better than a simple sanctuary from the hell outside. Bayou Doom Fest provided a congregation, too, ready and willing to worship at the downtuned altar of heavy fucking doom.
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Personal Bias: God bless earplugs.
The Crowd: Shaggy and dedicated.
Overheard In the Crowd: “Hey man, let’s go grab a taco after this.”
Random Notebook Dump: Special shout-out to locals Gallion, who opened the festival, and the brave and hearty souls who turned out early to hear them.