Dude, that’s epic
It’s going to be one loud weekend in Chico as the noisy tribes gather for Epic Fest
In 1968, Iron Butterfly’s 17-minute drug jam “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was pretty epic. But compared with some of the offerings of modern-day noisemakers—San Jose stoner/doom-metal crew Sleep’s hour-long bong rip, “Dopesmoker,” for example—it almost seems like a quaint hippie jam.
The word “epic” is no longer the sole domain of dudes writing super-long poems about fighting dragons. Anything can be epic now—a triple-overtime game, a whole turkey wrapped in bacon—and given how ubiquitous the word has become, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish true epicness, especially in music.
But next week, two Chico metal dudes—Sesar Sanchez and Brandon Squyres—are providing an experience that they hope will be worthy of the description with Epic Fest, a marathon of metal, punk and other noisy music taking place over two days at 1078 Gallery and the Chico Women’s Club, July 24 and 25, respectively. It’s the second edition of the festival, and this year the number of days has doubled and the number of bands culled from the western states (including many from the Chico area) has grown to 32.
“Epic to me is a story, an event, or a journey that is far beyond the realms of extraordinary,” said Sanchez.
And with that spirit of discovery in mind, the CN&R journeyed to Bandcamp, land of shadows and cheap downloads, and listened to a varied selection of the festival’s bands in order to answer the question: What makes this band epic?
Worship (Salinas, sludge/stoner/dark hardcore): This is just insane music—crazed, chaotic, impressively punishing—that makes all other powers in the universe seem tame in comparison. Forget the band; these dudes should start a cult.
Amarok (Chico, doom/sludge): Like Poseidon upending Odysseus, the menacing, slow-churning waves of distortion will test the sea legs of the hardiest of doom warriors.
Drag Me Under (Reno, Nev., metal/punk/Southern): “Southern metal.” That’s a new one for me. It’s like Southern rock only faster (they should just call it “Motorhead!”), and this Reno crew has enough monster riffs and energy to be able to follow Lemmy into battle.
Wander (San Leandro, post-rock): The name is the clue, and the sound—an uptempo take on fuzzy, swirling shoegaze mixed with the explorations of Explosions in the Sky—is an instrumental soundtrack in which one can easily get lost.
Deep Sea Thunderbeast (San Diego, doom/sludge): The ocean is a very dark place in the middle of night, and adding garage-rock riffs and psychedelic meanderings to the sludge makes for one super-stoney voyage of doom.
Vexed (Redding, grindcore/hardcore/powerviolence): Lead singer Izabella Hilsee is riding a runaway Ferris wheel as it spins down the mountainside picking up flailing moshers along the way.
Smak City (Magalia, metal/hardcore/rap): Fun and dirty metal riffs, songs about cuddle boners, rapping(!) and FBI-baiting lyrics: “Set the whole building ablaze, then sit back and watch … Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn!” Epic good times.
West by Swan (Chico, experimental rock): The wise men of Chico noise point their beards down the path toward a quest of sonic extremes—descending from mountains of distortion and passing through the chaotic gauntlet of feedbacking squalls before falling into a soft, sparkling meadow of sustained ambience.
Cold Blue Mountain (Chico, sludge/post-metal): Be sure to stretch your metal neck ahead of time and bring your sledgehammer; we’re gonna smash, smash, smash the building into the dirt.
Your Enemy (Oakland, grindcore): Force one meaty slab of doom through a grinder and pound it into a giant hardcore burger, cook to medium-bloody and set the giant beef disc on a record player and turn the speed up to 78. Enjoy with PBR or Mountain Dew.