Enlarge Photo by Dirk Collins

Fire In The Mountains: A Wilderness Celebration of Culture, Nature, and Heavy Music


Somewhere deep in the heart of the Grand Tetons, metalfolk congregated for an intimate, primordial experience unlike any other metal gathering in the world. The sublime mountain setting made for an unshakable feeling of oneness with the earth as festival-goers were hypnotized by the transcendent landscapes of both nature and sound.

Fire in the Moutains is a homegrown festival whose purpose is to foster harmony between man, art, and nature in a way that is enriching to the mind and spirit. Evolving from its one-off DIY roots to its first year as an officially sanctioned festival, Fire In The Mountains has captured the essence of humanity’s elemental desires: cameraderie, adventure, discovery, and pure fucking black metal.

Not surprisingly, when an event embraces such wholesome values, it tends to attract similarly wholesome people, too. Every face I met was brimming with passion, humility and enthusiasm for their environment, and some went the extra mile to really tune in to their primal side, like these dudes:

The festival grounds at the Heart Six Guest Ranch were the cleanest I’ve ever seen — likely due to the fact that attendees were threatened to be “strung from the trees by their entrails” if they were caught littering. The curators of the event take respect and accountability very seriously, so they make it a point to honor the land and festival supporters. “Integrity is everything, man,” says Alex Feher, one of the festival’s organizers. “Project that shit like a fucking Care Bear.”

People traveled from “27 states, three Canadian provinces, as well as from England and Mexico” to attend FITM, according to Jeremy Walker, another founder. These several-hundred pilgrims, packing in with RVs, campers, and tents, were accommodated at campgrounds a 20-minute trek away from the main grounds. While less than ideal, the hike was redeemed by the breathtaking scenic backdrop. The initial set-up process was a bit chaotic, but things figured themselves out as people lent hands and got settled in.

I sadly missed the first two days of Fire In The Mountains, some highlights of which included: a lot of rain, music from Aerial Ruin, Velnias, and Falls of Rauros, black metal outlaws Wayfarer, psychedelic folk rocker Wovenhand, and some special acoustic campfire songs from Panopticon’s Austin Lunn.

Still, Sunday’s happenings were absolutely worth the terrifying drive through the Teton Pass in an ’80s campervan (don’t try that at home, kiddos). A fresh farm-to-festival meal kicked off the day’s revelry at around 2pm, which was as tasty and filling as it was sustainable. Unlike your typical festival situation, where different vendors provide food throughout the day, this was a traditional “everybody eats the same thing at the same time” dinner. While the fact that I may or may not have eaten an edible just before is clouding my memory, what I do remember about the food is that most of the buffet-style offerings were homegrown and home cooked, there were plenty of options available for those with special diets, and SO MUCH WATERMELON.

After the grub, the night’s ceremony commenced with Boise’s Infernal Coil, whose warped, grinding death metal meted face for miles around. Following were the rather unconventional Saddle of Southern Darkness. At first glance, they could’ve passed as an unassuming metal band, but instead, they surprised us with a set of punky bluegrass, which explained their bassist’s suave aesthetic.

The next band to take the stage, Woman Is The Earth, were a perfect fit for the scene. Their spiritual black metal echoed through the valley as they glorified the power of Mother Nature. Denver’s Dreadnought were similarly fitting for the environment, their pagan hymns breathing life into the air and bringing some much-needed goddess energy to the occasion. As the sun disappeared behind the craggy horizon, Krallice celebrated the transformation from day to night with intensity and aberration. Finally, headliners Panopticon brought the ritual to rest with vigor as chilly darkness swept over the landscape. A bonfire was lit in the background for attendees to thaw out and mingle in the mystical atmosphere before saying their goodbyes.

Going into the future, the FITM organizers have incredible visions of becoming one of the most uniquely engaging festivals in the world:

“We are always looking to expand upon each year’s visions. Our goals are lofty, but we will achieve them all in time. Our intentions are to make FITM the most immersion-based ”festival” that exists: full of organized adventures in the mountains (like white water rafting, mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing, etc), skill-based, educational-based workshops (like how to sharpen a knife, how to make a bow-drill fire and cook over that fire!, or an ethnobotanical walk in the mountains to learn and identify a handful of useful, medicinal, and edible wild plants), cultural workshops based on local lore/knowledge (storytelling/Norse mythology or the like, for example), farm-to-festival food dinners each night before the music, local beer, booze, wine, and mead, the list goes on. We want this to be the most well-rounded, grounding experience that exists. It’s based on the idea of the simplicity of a tribal existence where you go out and work or play during the day, then come back to camp to eat and partake in social revelry that’s fundamentally based on the most primitive setting: beautiful landscape, beautiful people, delicious and nourishing food, all culminating with inspiring music around fires. It’s not so much hippy-dippy shit as it is about the most primitive human desires that exist in all of us. We aim to create an environment conducive to reconnecting us with the ‘real’ world that exists, not the fake fucking matrix that technology and ‘the American dream’ seems to be so damn good at sucking our minds and souls.“

I have no doubt in my mind that Fire In The Mountains will be gaining quite a bit of traction in upcoming years. Put this shit on your radar, guys — there’s no other experience like it on the planet. The variety of both metal and non brought eccentric character to the event, and the collective attitude towards preservation of individuality and the ecosystem meant everything was as it should be: uninhibited, free to absorb the enchanting energy of the surroundings.

If this sounds right up your alley, make sure to get in on the plans for Fire In The Mountains 2019. Visit the official website, and follow on Facebook. Thanks to Bobby Cochran for the photos.

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