The biggest free festival in hard rock comes to Memphis this weekend, changing Beale Street into a temporary haven for hard rockers and metal heads.
Started in 2009 in Atlanta, Scion Rock Fest is the only festival of its kind in the United States, with attendees filling out a simple RSVP form online before picking up their tickets at independent music stores and tattoo shops chosen by Scion Audio Visual Group. Because Scion is part of the Toyota Corporation, the money is available to book some of the biggest acts in metal and hard rock without costing concertgoers a cent. Entry is not guaranteed into any of the shows, but with an all-day schedule and large venues like Club 152, the New Daisy Theatre, and W.C. Handy Park hosting the event, people who attend will more than likely get to see the bands they came for.
Jeri Yoshizu, manager of sales promotion for Scion, said that they normally try to pick a city like Memphis for Scion Rock Fest.
"We were looking for a city without a major market, one that we could have a large presence in," Yoshizu said.
Black T-shirts and tattoos will certainly be in evidence this Saturday as bands such as the Melvins, Testament, White Chapel, and Municipal Waste are all set to perform. Here's a rundown of some of the bigger bands coming to Memphis this Saturday.
Serving as co-headliners for Scion Rock Fest, the Melvins and Testament need little introduction to the initiated. Started in 1983 by Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, the Melvins have stayed relevant in the heavy music genre by mixing elements of Nirvana, Black Flag, and Black Sabbath with the arena-rock sounds of bands like Kiss. Known for an intense and sometimes humorous live show, the Melvins also have a song on the Scion Audio Visual Group's 10th-anniversary record. The Melvins play the New Daisy at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Also formed in 1983 on the West Coast is Testament, a group widely thought to be the most popular thrash-metal band and one of the founders of the genre. Testament has seen their fair share of success, and their 2012 effort, Dark Roots of Earth, debuted at #12 on the Billboard Top 200. Because they normally tour with premier metal acts like Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Anthrax, seeing Testament play a smaller club like the New Daisy at 10:30 p.m. could be a rare experience. Other notables playing the New Daisy stage during Scion Rock Fest include Richmond party thrash pioneers Municipal Waste (7 p.m.) and North Carolina hardcore band Corrosion of Conformity (5:30 p.m.).
Handy Park will be introduced to death metal on Saturday, as Knoxville's White Chapel head a lineup of solid hardcore metal acts. Started in 2006, White Chapel plays new-school death metal, complete with crushing breakdowns, squealing guitar riffs, and vocals that sound like a horror movie villain. Watching the reactions from people walking by Handy Park might be just as entertaining as the bands themselves. White Chapel plays Handy Park at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday. Other notable acts playing Handy Park include Tampa death-metal group Six Feet Under (8:15 p.m) and Noisem (7 p.m.), a newish death metal band from Baltimore with some members still in high school.
After a recent run-in with the law, Club 152 is serving as the biggest venue for Scion Rock Fest. Headlining the recently reopened club is the Obsessed, the band that Scott Weinrich fronted before starting the extremely influential doom-metal band St. Vitus. The Obsessed seems to have always taken the backseat to St. Vitus, who went on to tour with Black Flag and release records on the sacred SST label. The Obsessed plays Club 152 at 9:30 p.m. with a whole slew of doom and sludge metal bands performing before them.
The Hard Rock Café will serve as the punk rock venue for Scion Rock Fest, headlined by the undeniable kings of "street punk," the Casualties. Better known for their liberty spikes and studded leather than their songs "Punk Rock Love" and "For the Punx," the Casualties have maintained an audience of the young and angry and are scheduled to play the Hard Rock Café at 9 p.m. After a rumored cancellation, Negative Approach are apparently back on the bill and set to take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Probably one of the most covered bands in the hardcore punk genre, Negative Approach is the embodiment of the angry noise coming out of the East Coast and Midwest in the early 1980s.
If it's fair to separate each venue by genre, then Coyote Ugly should be the "up-and-coming stage," but not for lack of talent. California crossover band the Shrine takes the stage at 7:30 p.m., and after being on the road almost nonstop since January, it's a safe bet that this band will be tighter than ever. Also on the bill are locals the Dirty Streets, the only Memphis band asked to play Scion Rock Fest. The Dirty Streets play Coyote Ugly at 4:30 p.m.
Those interested in attending Scion Rock Fest and who didn't RSVP online still have a chance to get in to all shows but are advised to arrive early as entry is not guaranteed, even for ticket holders. All shows are all-ages, except the gigs at Club 152 and Coyote Ugly, which are 21-and-up.
Scion Rock Fest
Various Beale Street venues, Saturday, June 1st
See scionav.com/rock for more info.