Live Review: Stumpfest 2012 at Mississippi StudiosPosted by Aaron Sharpsteen
One of the best feelings an audience member can get at a show is a sense of being a part of something bigger, being a member of a larger community of like-minded individuals and friends. On Friday, April 20th, Stumpfest 2012 made sure that all in attendance felt like they were participating in something special, a gathering of local musicians who all seem to love each other and love the music they make. You wouldn’t expect a show ending with crushing and cathartic doom metal to be a love-fest, but that is exactly what Stumpfest 2012 was.
By the time local legends Yob took the stage, it was well past midnight, and four other bands had absolutely crushed their performances. If any band is up to the challenge of a late night set which makes more than an hour of music fly by, it is Yob. They opened with the opening song off their latest album, Atma, “Prepare the Ground.” This trance inducing soul-smasher made time seem like an irrelevant concept, even at over 9 minutes. The audience was pummeled into submission by singer/guitarist Mike Scheidt’s unrelenting guitar and wailing vocals. An unexpected treat was the inclusion of the last song on their album The Unreal Never Lived, a 21 minute long behemoth called “The Mental Tyrant.” By the time their planned set was over, it was approaching 1:30 in the morning, and even then ending the set would have left the audience satisfied. Yob chose instead to end the night with the last two tracks off Atma, including the surprisingly popular “Adrift in the Ocean,” which had been requested since they had started their sound-check. After witnessing this set, audience members must have felt adrift in their own oceans of emotion, with ringing ears, sore necks, and stamps on their hands as reminders of their time spent with Portland’s metal elite.
In some ways, being the band right before the headliner is the hardest spot to play, due to the amount of responsibility involved. Your set has to be memorable, otherwise you risk the chance of being forgotten as soon as the headliner is done with their first song. You also have to keep the audience engaged, especially at a longer show. Luckily for all involved, Portland’s Nether Regions accomplished all this and more, somehow even raising the energy level and intensity of the show. Perhaps that is not surprising, as the bands before Nether Regions tended to keep things in the stoner/doom/pysche metal arena, and while they certainly incorporated those elements, many times they unleashed a more straightforward, fast paced metal blast. The set included a lot of material off the vinyl they were releasing on the same night, Into the Breach. Set highlights included “Pale Faced God” and “Outrun the Sun.” They also accomplished all this with the assistance of a drummer who is half the age of the other band members.
Portland garage-stoner-metal band Diesto marked the half-way point of the show with chugging riffs which surely were the cause of some serious whiplash the next morning. That this band is not more well known on a national level is quite a shame, as they would export Portland’s panache for hairy, sweaty, beer-soaked metal quite well. Diesto’s set was a very well balanced blend of rock and metal. It was also a surprise that not one person decided to celebrate the holiday (4/20) during one of the set’s highlights, the driving and deliberate “High as the Sun,” which presented an excellent opportunity for a living pun. Another set highlight was the inclusion of a personal favorite, “Marauder.”
With the brotherly combination of Dustin and Aaron Rieseberg (the latter who also doubles as the bassist in Yob), Portland’s Norska are quickly establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the metal scene, and performances like the one at Stumpfest 2012 certainly do not hurt. Perhaps the next comment reflects a bit of personal bias, but it is always an awesome choice to set up the drums near the front of the stage, so Norska scored immediate points. Norska’s set is also the hardest to compartmentalize, as many of their songs include transitions from some very sludgy, crawling doom to angular guitar attacks and complicated rhythms. By this point in the night, the show had sold out, the crowd had settled in, and Norska made sure they knew what they were in for.
How do you open a 5 hour long show consisting of some of the best metal/rock bands in an area? By leading with White Orange, a band which has the uncanny ability to perfectly combine psychedelic rock and metal. A band which could easily open for Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, as well as bands like Yob and Nether Regions, White Orange started the night off with a high energy set which put the show in motion, a movement that wouldn’t stop until the last note had sounded hours later. Whispers that Tool drummer Danny Carey was in attendance (that attendance was confirmed with a drink and a handshake by yours truly) provided a small distraction, but even so White Orange had the audience bobbing their heads and reminding themselves that perhaps they needed to celebrate 4/20 once again before the night was over. Indeed, even the song they chose to open with, “Where,” was a perfect opening statement for an inspiring and magical night.