I went to fifteen festivals this summer in multiple countries and almost a dozen states. I've been a busy guy and I'm also now newly aware of several festivals that have shaped my whole worldview in the past few years.
There were definitely some fests I missed with the last edition of this article, and while I might be skipping out on some of your perennial favorites I think that the majority of these are the sort of underground festival that give you a much more positive overall experience than your typical corporate American metal festival. I know that sound condescending, but once you get hooked on truly underground fests there is no going back.
6. Fall Of Summer
This is a French festival that I view as a potent up and comer. It's had a killer lineup the past few years which obviously helps, having gotten funding for the sorts of bands who could headline some of the major festivals out in Europe, but it remains intimate enough that there is still a powerful community appeal to the festival. It brings fans from all over the world together, but places a greater emphasis on the French scene then their compatriots over at Hellfest. Fall Of Summer is in many ways the ideal balance between a major European festival and a more intimate outdoor experience – big enough crowds to rage but small enough that everybody gets to enjoy a piece of the action.
5. Doom Over Leipzig
It's a doom metal festival in a cathedral what more can you fucking want? Not only that, it usually happens the week after Roadburn, but remains smaller, meaning that in the end you get to see a lot of the bands you would see at Roadburn but in a more intimate setting. This isn't to take away from Roadburn, Roadburn rules, but Doom Over Leipzig has been able to craft something very cool that is distinctly its own over the past few years, proving hat the European doom metal market really has untapped potential. Also I'd like to emphasize that this entire festival takes place in a cathedral, that's still just so fucking cool to me.
4. Erosion Fest
All the way out in Missoula, Montana we find one of the most impressively put together and truly underground doom festivals in the world. This is an event that exists on the extreme underground in rural America, and while they have started to get some major headliners (Saint Vitus, The Skull, and Witch Mountain are among the heavy hitters this year) it's more their ability to get some kickass smaller bands that captured my imagination. Sure it might not be an easy festival to access, but given the lineup I feel like it's worth it. Missoula is a beautiful place and one that is very fitting for the doom metal aesthetic. I think that somethings going to happen soon with this fest that could make it blow up on the same level of something like Psycho Entertainment.
3. Migration Fest
This was the sleeper hit last year. With an intimate team and a lineup cultivated primarily from the 20 Buck Spin and Gilead Media rosters the festival put together a bill that was an underground metal fans wet dream. There were specialty sets, unique sets, and a perfectly curated running order. It was a festival that had almost as many people fly in as much more high profile events like Psycho Las Vegas do. Everybody who was anybody showed up and folks are desperate to see it happening again. This is one of the most exciting festivals on the market, capitalizing on a lot of potent new shit that's coming together and showing us that there are a lot of really exciting American festivals that will happen in the near future.
2. Crucial Fest
This is another festival in an absolutely stunning location, the beautiful Salt Lake City. With a lineup that caters to all sides of the metal and punk genres (And even goes a little beyond) Crucial Fest is the sort of festival that makes a city proud. Focusing primarily on local talent it reminds us how strong the Salt Lake scene is, but also manages to bring in a lot of exciting bands from other parts of the country. Crucial Fest is a fun one to attend, with the bands hanging out in the crowd and all sorts of exciting and terrifying neighborhood surrounding the venue. It's festivals like this that show us the true power of local scenes, even in places where you might least expect them.
1. Shadow Woods Metal Festival
This is one of the coolest up and comers out there right now. With every edition getting progressively bigger than the last, Shadow Woods takes place on a childrens camp in rural Maryland, whilst remaining a mere 35 miles from Baltimore. With a sick lineup every year that showcases the entire US underground scene and even a few international acts (With obviously a focus on the East coast) Shadow Woods is the place to go for underground metal fanatics. People fly out for this thing because the line up is so tight – and it's only a festival of a few hundred people! Shadow Woods is the hyper niche future of the music festival and I love it.