SCION ROCK FEST Treats Pomona To Memorable Spectacle
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
Related: Picture Gallery by Scion A/V: Pt. 1 | Picture Gallery by Scion A/V: Pt. 2 | Morbid Angel Interview | Municipal Waste Interview | Municipal Waste moshpit video | Obituary Interview | Immolation Interview | Nails Interview (Metal Assault) | Nails Interview (Scion A/V) | Woe Interview | Christian Mistress Interview | Wormrot Interview | Morbid Angel Setlist | Municipal Waste Setlist | Obituary Setlist | Death Angel Setlist | Agalloch Setlist | Immolation Setlist | Atheist Setlist | Primate Setlist
March 5th 2011, Pomona CA: Scion have earned themselves quite a reputation of putting together some killer metal shows, and us folks in Southern California have been lucky to get to see some of these, including recent shows headlined by Trap Them, Integrity, Magrudergrind, Death Ange, Skeletonwitch and a couple others. All of their shows have been free, and open to all ages. Because of this policy, they've had packed crowds turning up for every show, and they've even succeeded in turning non-fans and casual fans on to some great music, due to the fact that those people don't have to pay to check these bands out. So when the line-up and location for Scion Rock Fest 2011 was announced, I knew right then that this promised to be the festival of the year, even though we're only into March, and that I would be there to witness it. Whether or not it fulfilled that potential remained to be seen, and today was the day to find out exactly that.
At around noon, we arrived at the venue in Pomona, made up of the Fox Theater, Glass House and two additional tents cordoned together. The anticipation and fanfare was there to be seen even at this early point of the day as hundreds of fans braved the heat of the blazing sun to line up outside the venue, over four hours before the first band was supposed to play. It's always a good time-kill observing the variety of shirts that people wear to such festivals, and today was no different. It was even funnier because of the fact that the venue was next to a church and some of these shirts had Satan-worshipping slogans. To add to the festive atmosphere, there was a Grill 'Em All truck serving metal-themed burgers all day long. If you haven't tried the Holy Diver burger yet, it's a must have. Also, there was the Scion truck where you could go and get a free shirt, socks and a copy of the awesome Scion Metal Zine. All in all, an ambience any metalhead would have cherished.
Moving on to the show, I had planned beforehand to make sure that I catch as many bands as I possibly can, so that I can give you a brief account of a major portion of the bands that graced the fest with their presence. I succeeded to a large extent, and only the Fox Theater somewhat prevented me from doing my thing, but more on that later. Singaporean grindcore act Wormrot was the first band to perform today, and they took the Tent 1 stage. Just at the start of their massive 6-week US tour, the band presented the musical style exactly the way it should be, with relentless speed and in-your-face aggression. With a new album called "Dirge" coming out in on May 3rd, appearances at this fest and SXSW would go a long way in getting them exposure to US audiences, and I'm sure this is a band we'll see a lot more of. Next I moved to the Glass House to catch traditional metal band Christian Mistress, a band I'm deeply in love with, because their music is right up my alley, so to speak. I was waiting since forever to check out their live show, and was glad to finally do so, as they didn't disappoint at all. After that and a little taste of the awesome Florida doom metal band Dark Castle in Tent 2, I went to Tent 1 to check out F*** The Facts for a small portion of their set, not just to see their intense performance but also to make my friends believe that it really was a chick on the vocals.
Next up, it was back to the Glass House for local thrashers Bonded By Blood. Their hometown fans showed up in huge numbers to support them, and the energy throughout the set both on and off stage was constantly high. They are definitely a band who feed off of the crowd's energy and as a result, they didn't let any of their fans down today. Over in Tent 2, ambient black metal act Woe were still playing. Their latest album "Quietly, Undramatically" simply blew me away and it was good to see them make it out to our neck of the woods, albeit for a brief period. On to Tent 1 I moved, as Bill Kelliher from Mastodon was performing with his other band, the grindcore act Primate. Grindcore isn't my most favorite kind of music, but I was hugely impressed by the show these guys put on. Most of the others present inside Tent 1 at the time seemed to agree with me. A bunch of fat fucks playing grindcore, what else do you need? I kid. Seriously, they were amazing.
The Glass House was definitely my favorite destination tonight and in my opinion the line-up for this stage was the best. So, I went in there again to see Atheist. The crowd was really into it during their set. The new material from the album "Jupiter" was sounding really good and blended seamlessly with classic Atheist tunes. Everyone inside the hall was grateful to get a chance to see a veteran band like Atheist, for free. I caught most of their set and then found enough time to catch a bit of Nails, who were absolutely killing it in Tent 1. With their punishing set, they surely made the Los Angeles hardcore community proud tonight. The next three bands on my list were playing at roughly the same time, but I was determined to catch bits of all three. The bands I'm talking about are Immolation, Black Breath and Agalloch. Immolation were as brutal as always, and I for one certainly feel that they are a hugely underrated death metal band who should be bigger than they currently are. "A Glorious Epoch" from their crushing latest release "Majesty And Decay" was the highlight of the portion of their set I got to see. This is a band I can never have enough of, and I hope to see them back here sooner rather than later.
I scrambled to Tent 1 to catch Black Breath, one of the best underground bands I've come across in recent times, and a band that clearly has the support from Scion, which is great for them. I simply wouldn't have forgiven myself if I happened to entirely miss their set, so I was glad to catch at least some of it. Next I sprinted to the Fox Theatre to see Agalloch, one of the most popular and eagerly awaited bands on this whole line-up, based on the feedback I got from talking to people earlier in the day. But as I tried to get in, I was made to stand in the general admission line even after I explained to the security that media personnel were supposed to be directly let through. So I can only imagine the frustration of the folks with the GA wrist bands, having to wait in line while the band is performing inside. Unlike the security at the other three stages, the guys at the Fox were overly strict with their checking, further increasing the wait time. Even though I finally got in after what seemed like an eternity, I left after seeing five minutes of Agalloch. It had nothing to do with the band's music, but because I really didn't enjoy the atmosphere inside the Fox and simply preferred being in the Glass House and the two tents. I came back here one final time to see Morbid Angel, the headliner of the event no less, only to be denied entry altogether.
It was the time I was most excitedly waiting for, as Death Angel hit the stage at the Glass House. They were incredibly tight and furiously energetic in their performance. The fact that they got only 60 minutes to do their thing made their set even more intense as compared to a headline set. There was simply no respite from their face-melting assault of classic thrash metal. The new songs sound better and better every time I hear them, and tonight I thought "Claws In So Deep" got the best response from the crowd, based on the sheer force I felt on myself as I stood in the first row. At times I feel that Death Angel don't get the recognition they deserve, and a REAL "big something of thrash" tour would have included them on the bill instead of a couple of bands who aren't even thrash anymore. However, I digress.
Next up, I actually decided to take a bit of a breather after hours of endless running around. After that I went to catch the ever-awesome Municipal Waste as they slayed my favorite venue of the day. The mosh pits were endless and the place strongly smelt of beer, in true crossover thrash style. I caught about half of their set before I went to see Morbid Angel, or try to see Morbid Angel as it turned out. I was denied entry and was told that the venue was "at capacity". Not only me, but numerous fans were denied, including my photographer. So unfortunately I can't give you a review of their performance, which is entirely the venue's fault. They had it completely wrong, because at least they were supposed to let the media in, for the very reason of us being able to give you an account of the bands playing inside. But, not to be! This is the only thing that prevented me from giving this event a 10 on 10, and it's my suggestion to Scion A/V to hold future festivals in a completely outdoor area as compared to indoor venues, so that there is no issue of capacity. The only way to see the headline act tonight was to stay inside the Fox Theater for the entire time, which is totally wrong and senseless, as it took a little bit away from the essence of the festival which is meant to allow people to see bands at all of the four stages.
Anyhow, at least this meant that I could catch up with the guys from Death Angel who were happy to hang out after their set and talk to fans. I also got a chance to catch a little bit of Anaal Nathrakh in Tent 2, an amazing duo of musicians from the UK who were making only their second ever live appearance in the US in a decade long career. It was good to see the tent have a decent turnout, partially because of the Fox Theater fiasco which surely worked like a blessing in disguise for Anaal Nathrakh.
Besides missing the Fox Theater bands, unfortunately I missed Integrity, Bastard Noise, Dispirit, Necrite, The Body and Cough due to their set times clashing with other bands. So forgive me, for I'm only human.
Overall, Scion Rock Fest totally lived up to my expectations and will turn out to be the festival of the year, unless Scion themselves put on a better one! I know that there are a bunch of other festivals organized by other people scheduled to happen in the remainder of the year, but I don't expect much from them as almost all of them focus on booking the mainstream, commercially successful bands, and are simply lazy at putting together a good line-up. With that said, I'd be happy to be proved wrong. I spoke to 10 of the bands that played today for interviews, and all of them had great things to say about Scion, rightfully so. Scion A/V books these bands, flies them out to the location of the gig, books their hotels, and does everything that would keep the bands happy. We're thankful to them for their unending support to the metal scene, and they have paved the way for other corporate entities to look into doing something similar.
A hugely eventful, memorable night of heart-pounding metal.
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