The pleasures and pummeling of EdgeFest

These days I would rather be garroted by a bass string than dump $400 in tickets and spend a long weekend at a music festival.

What the hell am I saying? These days? I was born a harsh critic of music festivals.

Lollapalooza. High Sierra. Sasquatch. Ozzfest. Bonnarro.

I got no use for any of them.

The problems are myriad. Too many people, too expensive, too little parking, too much ... well, music.

And there's the weather factor. They hold these things in the summer in various towns in the South and Midwest. I can't imagine something more miserable than standing sweaty shoulder to sweaty shoulder next to some meathead from Jersey, swilling Bud Light in a plastic cup and watching My Morning Jacket headline after three days in the baking sun and 3 inches of mud, trash and vomit.

In fact, hearing Jacket whine about some hipster relationship gone bad after having said Jersey knuckle-dragger slop Bud on me could nudge my overheated brain to tilt. I could go over the edge. Violence might occur.

I blame Perry Farrell, which is a shame because Jane's Addiction is one of my favorite bands, and his follow-up project Porno For Pyros is severely underrated.

Farrell was the brains behind Lollapalooza. For a while, it seemed to live up to his ideals of celebrating noncommercial music and introducing the kiddies to genuinely subversive comics like Bill Hicks.

Lollapalooza carried the mystique of a carnival freakshow, though it was thoroughly controlled and marketed to mass effect.

You can imagine my hesitance to join some friends to EdgeFest last weekend at Howie's.

EdgeFest is hosted by the local hard rock/metal station The Edge (or if you wanna say it like the radio guys THEEEE EDDDGGEEEE!!!!!!!!) 106.7 KZZE. I'm not sure how long it's been going on, but it seems to be gaining in popularity among local headbangers.

The show features around six to eight local metal bands playing one after another in the alley behind Howie's.

I met my friend Jason at the show, having missed most of the first band while enjoying the Gypsy's beer garden on the final day of Medford Beer Week.

(An aside. I thought Beer Week went over quite well. I made a few stops here and there and was impressed by the turnout at most places. I have a feeling this is here to stay. Also, have you noticed a glut of beer-related stories on the cover of the Trib lately? This could be good for the area. We're going to need an industry to close the economic gap left when the ground opens up and swallows Harry & David within the next two years.)

Jason is far more up on the local metal scene, so I relied on him for running commentary throughout the show.

We determined that most of the bands were a little rough, but each exhibited some good chops and sparks of creativity here and there.

The whole thing had a strange family-friendliness vibe, which was interesting considering the show featured bands with the names Maldemption, BetterTheDevilYouKnow and Sumerian.

I caught a glimpse of a mother standing near the stage. She looked ready to burst with pride and joy as her son trashed out songs with lyrics detailing acts of brutality, war, nuclear winter, frozen crags, general hopelessness and uncontrollable anger.

I'm just assuming these are the subjects of these songs. The lyric delivery ranges from throat eviscerating screams to butchered hog-like screeches and grunts.

The key to appreciating this music is to pay close attention to the musicianship by these young dudes, clad in their baggy cargo shorts and black T-shirts. They seem obsessed about the technical side of playing guitar and drums. In a sense, metal is the most geeky of all genres, with its hyper attention to detail and machine-like precision.

The lyrics by Sumerian might not be intelligible in any shape or form. Which is fine. That's not the point. The vocals in this brand of music are meant to be an instrument of their own, as furious and pummeling as the lead guitar and double bass.

If you want to know the lyrics, read the liner notes.

My favorite band of the evening was The Yearling. They are some easy-going Ashland dudes who write epic songs about a mythical unicorn that exists in some alternate universe.

At least that's what their music means to me. As an Ashland resident, I've always found it a shame to trip out to Medford to see a band that lives in my home town.

I bailed early in the evening and didn't get a chance to see the last few bands.

EdgeFest, though supremely tolerable, is still a lot of music and sweaty shoulders for this headbanger.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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