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RPM Fest returns with more bands than ever

  • James Friedman of Zombie Fighter, a metal band from Keene, N.H., played at RPM Fest in previous years. Contributed photo

  • Pathogenic, a metal band from Lowell, played at RPM Fest in previous years. Contributed photo

  • Thunderforge, a metal band from East Longmeadow, played at RPM Fest in years past. Contributed Photo

  • The band Aversed, including front woman Haydee Irizarry, played at RPM Fest in the past and will be returning this year, performing on Friday night. Contributed Photo



Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

For those driving by the Millers Falls Rod & Gun this weekend, the low drone bass guitars and guttural screaming might sound out of place. But for those attending the RPM Fest, it will be a heavy music haven.

RPM Fest is host to bands in the rock, metal and punk genres, who will play from Friday to Sunday. This year, there will performances by more than 50 bands, as well as camping, games, food and other activities.

From backyard beginnings

While this is the first year the festival has been at the Millers Falls Rod & Gun Club in Turners Falls, the festival has its roots in 2014, when it was started as a celebration of heavy metal music in New England. The annual event is a team effort between Promotorhead Entertainment and PDP Productions, according to Brian Westbrook, an organizer of RPM Fest.

“The idea for the initial RPM Fest stemmed directly from the strength of our scene. Years of shows had built us into a tight-knit community of hundreds of bands, fans and friends, and we basically wanted to have a celebration that was somewhere in between an outdoor music festival, a backyard barbecue and a camping trip,” Westbrook said. “We started searching for a suitable location, finally settling on a two-acre chunk of land in my backyard in Greenfield after the (surprising) approval of my mother.”

Westbrook said that in its first year, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign raising nearly $3,000, the festival hosted 32 bands and 200 attendees over two days.

For the next two years, the festival was held at the same place, expanding to a third day and involving more than 40 bands from across the country and one band from Australia.

An indescribable community spirit

Jeffrey Greene, a drummer for both Western Massacre and Bellower, said he got into the RPM Fest when he was told about it from John Gulow of Promotorhead Productions.

“When he first told me the idea for RPM 2014, I was extremely excited. They organized work days and site clearing days and asked for volunteers,” Greene said. “I and much of Western Massacre attended multiple days and I even mixed the cement for the original RPM stages. It was incredible to see what the Westbrooks were willing to do in the name of live music. They literally built two stages in their backyard!”

He said Western Massacre was asked to play RPM Fest in 2014, co-headlining with King Parrot from Australia.

“It was one of the single greatest weekends of my life,” Greene said. “RPM Fest is a culmination of people who are looking for the same thing. There is this spirit of community that is indescribable. People are happy, open and really in the moment. I have met people there who were strangers and ended up spending half the day with them laughing, like we’ve known each other for years.”

Chris Eriquezzo, a guitarist for Writing In The Skies, has played RPM Fest twice, making fond memories.

“It simultaneously feels like you’re playing a festival and a backyard barbeque,” Eriquezzo said. “There’s not a single person on the grounds who isn’t happy to be there. It’s like a giant family gathering. The crowd reflects this and is incredibly energetic, making the festival that much more fun as a performer.”

He also noted the hard work by many that makes the festival possible.

“I just want to make it known how much John Gulow and everyone at Promotorhead Entertainment do for the heavy music scene in New England,” Eriquezzo said. “They’ve created a strong, supportive community of musicians and fans that has been a joy and a privilege to be a part of.”

Welcoming new additions

Richie Cavalera, lead singer of INCITE, a band from Phoenix, Ariz. and one of the headliners of this year’s RPM Fest, said his band is going on its first cross-country tour, which began with booking the RPM Festival, then building their tour around it.

“This is our first RPM Fest. It’s exciting to have a show like that, the size and scale,” Cavalera said. “We have good friends that will be there. It’s cool there are more festivals popping up out there.”

The band is going to release its fifth album, and Cavalera said INCITE will be playing some new music at the festival.

“We’re going to be playing new songs, one to two at RPM, so for those there, they’ll have a special hearing,” Cavalera said. “They get first access to hear those songs and have a big surprise.”

He said he’s thrilled to be a part of the festival as it continues to develop.

“RPM is going to be great and we’ve always wanted to do something like this. It’s a big step,” Cavalera said. “So to those going, bring your friends and be ready. I suggest not missing out!”

Bigger and better

Greene said the best part about this year’s RPM Fest is the fact it’s happening. This year’s festival follows a brief hiatus, which Westbrook said occurred because of complaints from neighbors.

“Unfortunately, we took an unexpected hiatus in 2017 after neighbor complaints about noise levels and explicit content put the nix on our original site, and we were unable to find a suitable location in time,” Westbrook said. “On the positive side, skipping the festival that year gave us additional time to find a new site, to reflect on past years and to make improvements for 2018.”

“In retrospect, it was a good thing, and an understandable decision as we had three amazing years, but at the time it was crushing,” Greene said. “I am so excited to see its return and on a bigger scale. I am immensely thankful to the RPM crew for getting this back on track and I look forward to the best three days of the year.”

Westbrook said many improvements were “behind the scenes.” There is a third stage this year, including a mobile stage from the town of Greenfield, more volunteers and an upgraded sound system.

Tickets are on sale at rpmfest.org/tickets, with advance weekend tickets priced at $40 and single-day tickets at $13 for Friday, $25 for Saturday and $17 for Sunday. Tickets will also be available at the gate.

Camping is included with the price of admission. Parking at the venue is $5; RVs and other camping vehicles will pay $10.

The festival will be held rain or shine and is for all ages, but those camping who are under the age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Staff reporter Melina Bourdeau started working at the Greenfield Recorder this year. Her beat includes Montague, Erving and Gill. She can be reached at: mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

Schedule of performances Friday, Aug. 24

Gates open at 4 p.m., music ends at 11 p.m.

Shark Tank Stage

5:30 p.m. — Matt Kim’s Rock Shop

6:30 p.m. — Cazador

7:30 p.m. — Rozamov

8:45 p.m. — Barishi

10 p.m. — Tombs

Lefty’s Stage

6 p.m. — DMP

7 p.m. — Aversed

8:15 p.m. — Aethere

9:15 p.m. — INCITE

Ginger Libation Stage

6:15 p.m. — Lobotomobile

7:15 p.m. — Drive-by Bukkake

8:30 p.m. — The beast of nod

Saturday, Aug. 25

Gates open at 12 p.m., music ends at 11

Shark Tank Stage

2:15 p.m. — VRSA

3:15 p.m. — Vivisepulture

4:15 p.m. — The Humandids

5:30 p.m. — Hey Zeus

6:30 p.m. — Solium Fatalis

7:30 p.m. — Dead empires

8:45 p.m. — Whitenails

10 p.m. — Black Tusk

Lefty’s Stage

1:45 p.m. — Black Palm

2:45 p.m. — Age of Embers

3:45 p.m. — Jeopardy

5 p.m. — Smash Potater

6 p.m. — Cortez

7 p.m. — Seven Spires

8:15 p.m. — Heavy Temple

9:15 p.m. — Whores

Ginger Libation Stage

2 p.m. — Ice Giant

3 p.m. — Anti-cosmos

4 p.m. — Gay Mayor

5:15 p.m. — The Damaged

6:15 p.m. — Vaulted

7:15 p.m. — Epicenter

8:30 p.m. — Black Mass

Sunday, Aug. 26

Gates open at 12 p.m., music ends at 9

Shark Tank Stage

2:15 p.m. — Uncomfortables

3:15 p.m. — Graviton

4:15 p.m. — Sonic Pulse

5:30 p.m. — Goblet

6:30 p.m. — Against the grain

8 p.m. — Acid Witch

Lefty’s Stage

2:45 p.m. — Bellower

3:45 p.m. — The Path

5 p.m. — Das Muerte

6 p.m. — Snafu

7:15 p.m. —Child Bite

Ginger Libation Stage

2 p.m. — Goldenhall

3 p.m. — Cry Havoc

4 p.m. — Crowrider

5:15 p.m. — Oxen

6:15 p.m. — Worshipper

Other Events

Ginger Libation Stage

10:30 a.m. Saturday/Sunday — Metal yoga

11 p.m. Friday — Metal karaoke

11 p.m. Saturday — Promotorhead podcast

9 p.m. Sunday — Retro video games

After Hours Stage

11 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday — Open mic