Scion Rock Fest 2011, Pomona, California

This guest post comes from Genji from Los Angeles.  Look for more metal/punk posts from our California correspondent…

For the past few years Scion has done a wonderful job pandering to the young metal community with their free show series.  Have they actually sold more cars because of it?  Who knows, but certainly no metalheads are complaining.  I think it’s actually a smart marketing move and certainly doesn’t hurt their image one bit.  The first one they held was two years ago in Atlanta, GA, then last year in Columbus, OH.  This year they brought the metal to Pomona, CA.

The only thing I knew about Pomona was that it was near the legendary San Dimas (Bill and Ted’s hometown for you youngsters).  It’s a small sleepy town, far away from the bustle of LA, not the place I figured for a metal weekend, but was probably one of the only places willing to let it’s downtown be overrun with crazed metalheads for a day.  The fact they called it the Scion “Rock” fest instead of “Metal” fest tells me perhaps this was the only town willing to host.  Can someone say false pretenses??

We got to the Fox Theater early as we were told even though it was a free event our free pass bracelets wouldn’t guarantee us entry.  This would prove telling later on but I’ll come back to that.  After figuring out what the in/out policy was, we decided to venture to the other site to try and catch Wormrot from Singapore.  The other venues (The Glass House, Tent #1, Tent #2) were situated right across the street from the Fox but instead of making that an easy entrance it was deemed an exit only.  So we had to walk 3 blocks to the other entrance.  Seeing as Wormrot are a grindcore band with only one album so far, their set figured to be pretty short.  Needless to say, I could hear their last song being played as I was being patted down at the entrance.  Oh well, first band I wanted to see, missed….

This did however, help resolve our dilemma between seeing Wormrot or Christian Mistress, as they both played at the same time.  So we sauntered into the Glass House to catch the rest of Christian Mistress in action.  If you’ve never heard this band you need to get familiar.  They play traditional NWOBHM style metal with a woman singer, Christine Davis, who’s strong voice sounds like a mix between Joan Jett and Grace Slick.  We caught fine performances of Desert Rose and Riding on the Edges with guitarists Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel impressively shredding away.  They are definitely a band to watch out for, so check them out if you get the chance.

Once they finished we set out to find a beer and settle in but to our amazement, we couldn’t find any.  No Beer? At a metal show??  Blasphemy i say!!  We spent the next 10 minutes looking for a beer we would not find and in the process, missed the last bit of Florida‘s Dark Castle, another band I wanted to catch.  Over in Tent #1 a Canadian grindcore band I was not familiar with, Fuck The Facts, were playing so we slipped in to check them out.  They have a tiny singer named Melanie Mongeon who looks like she could blow away with the next big gust of wind, but I was very impressed with her strong, powerful screams and good energy.  We stayed for a few songs but neither of us were feeling it from them so we decided to duck out and head back to the Glass House to check out LA‘s Bonded By Blood.

video by starhaad

Now Bonded By Blood are a second generation thrash band who are obviously influenced by Exodus, Death Angel and most other classic bay area thrash.  My first ever impression of them was they were good but nothing special.  However, seeing them onstage gave me a different perspective as the place was going crazy for them.  I have to say their musicianship is top notch while also having great stage presence and the few songs we saw, we enjoyed.  Although this was more like a hometown show for them, I felt they were very good live and even though they still don’t strike me as the most original of bands, they are fun to watch and the crowd loved them too, definitely one of the best reactions of the night and also one of the most fun to watch as well.  If you are a fan, I would say they are a must see.

Next we headed over to Tent #2 to catch the band Woe, a black metal band from Philadelphia.  Their newest album, Quietly, Undramatically, was a very good record in 2010, so I was happy to be able to catch some of their set.  Technically the band sounded good but there was one thing that didn’t go over so well, singer Chris Grigg‘s clean vocals.  Now black metal music can be very emotional and dramatic but some “singers” aren’t necessarily good when not screaming, so those clean parts can sometimes be quite an adventure as was the case with Woe live.  On record those same parts sound great, but live, Chris sounded more like a teen coming into puberty (When it’s time to chaaaaange….).  It was a valiant effort but it put a slightly sour note on an otherwise good performance so we decided to grab a bite to eat instead of suffering more vocal abuse.

video by dschalek

Since we had now also missed Kvelertak over at the Fox and no great bands hitting the stages for another 1/2 hour we decided to hit up the Thai place on the corner just outside the tent area.  I know this was one business that was happy to have this gathering of metalheads around as they were one of the few places close by also serving beer!  Pho anyone??

After a great Thai dinner, it was back to the tents.  I had wanted to see Richmond, Virginia sludge metallers Cough but they had to be skipped over as one of the bands I wasn’t gonna miss were playing next, the almighty Nails.  They are a death/grind band from San Diego, one of my favorite new bands and their album, Unsilent Death, made my top 10 list last year.  From the outset it was full grind fury and even though it took a song or two for people to process just what the hell they were hearing, once the first breakdown took hold, the pit started to explode with wildly flailing arms, legs, bodies, even a guy in a wheelchair.  They’ve got that sound that makes you want to bash everything within reach and their set was simply ferocious, just like their record.  However, their record is short, and despite playing every song off it, the set lasted only about 15 minutes.  Don’t get me wrong, they certainly didn’t disappoint, I’m just looking forward to them releasing another record so that next time I see them it’ll be for longer than 15 minutes.

video by mofongotron

The theme of the night was traversing the various venues/tents to try and see all the bands.  But around 8pm we reached the biggest final dilemma of the night:  At the Glass House, Immolation, Death Angel and Municipal Waste, at Tent #1, Black Breath and Integrity, and over at the Fox Theater, Agalloch, Obituary and Morbid Angel.  We knew already that we wanted to see Agalloch, as they put on one of the best shows of last year and are among both our favorite bands, as well as the death metal legends themselves, Morbid Angel.  But having to miss Death Angel, Black Breath and Municipal Waste was a little bit of a downer.  People were forced to make a difficult choice, we made ours and headed to the Fox.

We instantly felt this was the right decision, not only were we able to plunk ourselves down at the bar and enjoy Pomona‘s finest beverages, but the first great performance of the night was soon to follow.  Agalloch came on and from the outset filled the theater with their special brand of bleak melodic blackness.  They played a great selection of songs like Into the Painted Grey from Marrow of the Spirit and Falling Snow from Ashes Against the Grain, hyping the crowd to new heights with each epic song.  Despite not being much of a touring band, they put on a fantastic show just as we knew they would, and executed to perfection.  All in all they proved to be one of the best bands of the night, hands down.

video by Laverne616

Next up were the legendary Obituary, hitting like a freight train and steamrolling bodies left and right.  Not that the crowd needed anymore riling up, they tore through newer songs like Redneck Stomp and Forces Realign to classics like Internal Bleeding, Dying and Chopped in Half, leaving the crowd in a moshing frenzy. They ended their set with the classic Slowly We Rot, setting the stage for Morbid Angel.  Obituary still bring the sick/gore-rotted riffs in droves and though some feel their brand of slower paced old school death metal is getting old, they still showed why they are still as relevant as ever.  Also one of the top performances of the night for me personally.

By the time the mighty Morbid Angel came on, the place was packed.  Remember how I said there wouldn’t be any guarantee of people gaining entrance to the shows?  Well, all those who decided to catch Death Angel/Municipal Waste and thought they could bust over to the Fox afterwards to see Morbid Angel were sadly mistaken.  With standing room only, all those poor souls would spend the rest of the night outside waiting in line because no one was leaving this show!  The death metal gods came out fired up and ripped through an assortment of older material from Altars of Madness (Blasphemy, Immortal Rites), Blessed Are the Sick (Fall From Grace) and the classic Covenant (Rapture, World of Shit).  They even played a new song called Nevermore from their forthcoming new album which had me excited to hear some long overdue new material.  Not having played live in the US for the past six years they were in fine form and really devastated the hungry Pomona crowd.  Morbid Angel are a band that seemed to lose their way at one point but after seeing them live I’m excited to see them climb their way to the top of the death metal mountain once again.

video by Betrayer7734

You’d think my night would’ve ended there but oh no, no.  As much as I was excited to see Morbid Angel we didn’t stay for their encore because back in Tent #2 was another little ol band i’d been wanting to see called Anaal Nathrakh.  For those of you unfamiliar, this UK buzzsaw is some of the most extreme black metal noise you’ll ever hear and I couldn’t pass up the chance to see at least a few songs performed by these guys.  They have a very hard, abrasive sound and i was really curious to see how they pulled it off live.  Needless to say they were up to the task and closed out the Scion fest on a high note, displaying a very humble thankfulness for the crowd that showed up for them.

video by fullmetaljoker

All in all I would call the Scion Rock Fest 2011 a big success and a hell of a lot of fun.  Aside from a few things I felt the event people could’ve done better (bad entrance/exit layout, no beer in the tent area, too many big band conflicts) the bottom line is that I saw more great metal bands than I missed and all for free no less.  And let’s face it, with a huge metal fest like this you’ll never get to see all the bands you want to no matter how hard you might try so I consider this festival a huge success.  I certainly hope that Scion brings back the metal fest to California, as we need more big metal shows like this especially, with the demise of Murderfest.  With so many great metal bands out there, big and small, trying to make money touring, it just makes sense and I know there’s a whole slew of metalheads out here in California that would make the trip anywhere, even Pomona, to see great live metal.

Obituary Setlist:
Redneck Stomp
On the Floor
Chopped in Half / Turned Inside Out
The End Complete
Threatening Skies
Forces Realign
Final Thoughts
Internal Bleeding
Blood to Give
Slow Death
Evil Ways
Slowly We Rot

Morbid Angel Setlist:
Pain Divine
Maze of Torment
Sworn to the Black
Lord of All Fevers and Plague
Immortal Rites
Fall From Grace
Chapel of Ghouls
Dawn of the Angry
Where the Slime Live
Bil Ur-Sag
Blood on My Hands
God of Emptiness
World of Shit (The Promised Land)