Review: Second annual Michigan Metal Fest

The second annual Michigan Metal Fest (MMF) was a resonating success for both bands and fans alike. Characterized by excellent music from the best of local Michigan metal and beyond, the one-day metal festival continues to establish itself as a must-see concert event in Michigan.

Formed by Steve Maple, vocalist of Delton-based band Nuskin, members of Battle Creek-based band Dead Eyes Always Dreaming, and Jeff Harris of Ardent Entertainment and Battle Creek venue the Music Factory, MMF is an event made by bands, for bands.

On Saturday, Aug. 11, an estimated 3,000 metalheads arrived at the Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek for 12 hours of metal. Notable for hosting famous international metal bands, the festival is also celebrated for hosting some of the best bands in local Michigan metal, both in Western Michigan and otherwise.

Although there were issues with power outages and schedule changes, they were dealt with swiftly, and the schedule was taken care of. Regardless, these issues were also looked at as a learning opportunity.

“I think it went great,” Steve Maple, Nuskin Vocalist and MMF co-owner said. “We had some serious snags beforehand and throughout the day, but we still pulled together, got the schedule back on track, and were able to give Whitechapel the slot they deserved at the end of the night, so it was a success. I think we did better [compared to last year], there were some areas that weren’t able to be addressed as meticulously, so I feel like on the management end, we want to do better in a few areas, so we’ll work stronger on those for next year, but overall, I feel like people had an even better time this year.”

One of the methods Maple used to get the schedule back on track was cutting his own set down to four brand-new songs, but the response was overwhelming. Watching Maple and Nuskin perform gave the impression that these are people who truly enjoy doing what they do.

“Our direction has changed as a band,” Maple said. “We’re a lot heavier and more focused, so just bringing our brand-new music that was written by us, current members in the band, it was amazing.”

Although there were many newcomers to the festival lineup this year, there were a handful of returning artists, among them Mount Pleasant-based speed metal band Nagazi.

“We were honored,” Joe Hafer, vocalist of Nagazi said. “There’s only so many local bands that get to play, and there are a ton of them. For us to be back two years in a row, we were extremely honored...It was a great time, and we’d love to be back next year.”

Although every band on the bill was excellent in their own respective rights, there were several stand-out performances. Highlights of the day included Dead Eyes Always Dreaming (DEAD) performing as the sun was beginning to go down.

A definitive wild card on the lineup, another highlight was Los Angeles-based band Raven Black. True to their self-described “Dark Carnival Metal” style, the entire band was painted up like a demented circus, and their show was full of theatrics and dual growling vocals matched by titular vocalist Raven, similar to bands such as Jack Off Jill.

All of this culminated with Whitechapel, who have been on tour celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their album “This is Exile” by performing it in its entirety. The set was a true treat for fans and attendees, who all gathered at the main stage to celebrate 10 years of success with the group. Schedule changes had no impact, as the band was able to perform uninterrupted and close down MMF for the night.

“One thing I’ll say about this festival is that it absolutely brings together so many different people,” Maple said. “This is me being able to go to a festival that I designed, and then I get to go there and meet all the people who, half of them know who I am and what my role is, and show me so much love and appreciation for this thing we brought to Battle Creek.”

Overall, the second annual MMF was a success, and continues to demonstrate not just its own growth as an event, but the growth of local Michigan metal music as a whole. It will be exciting to see what the third installment brings.

 

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