I Went, I Drank, I Headbanged: A Review of Decibel’s Los Angeles Metal and Beer Fest
I never had much interest in visiting Los Angeles until Decibel Magazine’s Metal & Beer Fest announced its inaugural West Coast iteration. I mean, a festival with both metal AND craft beer? How could I resist? I simply could not, so off I went for a legendary weekend of binge drinking and music.
It all began with the pre-party on November 30th at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood. The line-up that night was just a warm-up with four bands playing: Persekutor, Uada, Night Demon and Armored Saint. While every band put on a great performance, I was completely blown away by Uada. The mood of their stage show, with ominous fog rolling in throughout the set and their Ringwraith-esque hoods, was the perfect backdrop for their ferocious black metal. The highlight of the evening, however, came by accident; while waiting in line for a beer, some dude who looked suspiciously like Dave Mustaine turned around and asked me what band was playing. I told him it was Persekutor and thought, “Man, that guy really looks like Dave Mustaine.” It was definitely Dave Mustaine. He had a civil conversation with someone from MetalSucks and didn’t even know it! I also had friendly chats with Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation), Nergal (Behemoth), Dino Cazares (Fear Factory/Brujeria), Herman Li (DragonForce) and Jay Ruston (Anthrax/Amon Amarth’s producer). I want to give a shout out to Travis, Dino and Jay especially, all of whom took a solid chunk out of their evening to just drink and talk metal with me.
After a day trip to the Hollywood Museum of Death the following afternoon — do NOT pass up a chance to visit! — it was time for some metal and beer at the official festival’s first night. The evening started off with an obligatory set from beer-themed band Trappist, who I was delighted to see play “No Corporate Beer” at a craft beer festival. Other highlights included Pig Destroyer and The Black Dahlia Murder, the latter of whom played plenty of favorites off of their latest album Nightbringers, a few throwbacks from Miasma and Unhallowed and of course everybody’s favorite “What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse”. And By the way, do not EVER pass up an opportunity to see Pig Destroyer. If you think you hate grindcore, they will prove you wrong. Later on, while waiting in line to have some shit signed and sipping on The Black Dahlia Murder’s own Warborn beer, I told vocalist Trevor Strnad how much I enjoyed his proprietary brew, to which he replied by asking for a sip… so he could try it for the very first time! Testament closed out the first night, and while I’ve never been much of a Testament fan it’s always a treat watching one of thrash’s premier acts waltz in and lay waste to the venue.
By the time the festival’s second night came around, my cumulative hangover was starting to reach critical mass. But being the seasoned MetalSucks professional that I am, I just walked into the venue and drowned out that hangover with more beer and an extra focus on appreciating all the fine brews the festival had to offer. On the first night it seemed as if most of the beers being poured were IPAs and sours. I’m not a fan of either of those so I kept looking around for more variety. Although I enjoyed Left Hand’s Death Before Disco porter and Trve’s Cosmic Crypt Belgian saison quite a bit, I was a little disappointed to see that the types of beers served didn’t seem to change much from one night to the next. Warborn from Weyerbacher was still by far my favorite, so I mostly filled up on that all night. Armored Saint, Yob, Ghost and Megadeth all had their beers available to try but at that point my taste buds were so worn out that I had trouble tasting the differences (I recall liking Megadeth’s À Tout Le Monde most). Highlight band performances of night two included Skeletal Remains and Power Trip, who gave my favorite performance of the night. Out of all the bands I saw over the weekend, Power Trip sounded so crisp that there couldn’t have been a single person left in that room who didn’t hop on the bandwagon.
So how was it overall? In short, it was a lot of fun other than the people of Los Angeles, who are horrible enough that I feel the need to talk about it. Everyone in that city is allergic to the concept of spacial awareness and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many scrappy 5’4″ dudes try to start fights when someone bumped into them in a mosh pit. Also, the people in L.A. honk car horns like they’re the fucking cure to cancer. I’d also like to thank my partner in crime, Ashley, for letting me drag her around The Wiltern all night and taking pictures for me, and also for keeping me sane when I was exhausted and irate from trying to balance working/fun/music/alcohol/hangovers at the same time. Flying across the country for metal and beer is always an expensive endeavor, but if The Decibel Metal & Beer Fest takes place in a city near you, then make it a point to get your ass there.