Day of the Shred The Observatory November 1, 2014
Another musical festival has shown that The Observatory hosts some great parties. On November 1, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Santa Ana venue hosted a peculiar collection of bands from around the country. The most evident commonality between them was that they were all guitar-centric bands, they all used distortion, and they were all heavy. This was Day of the Shred.
Though a decent cross-section of the bands did not resonate a particularly dark image, the fancifully displayed (and in some cases custom) hearses, which were positioned in front and in back of the venue, confirmed that the pun on the holiday name was meant to emphasize that the music was related to death's morbid connotations, rather than having anything to do with honoring lost relatives -- as the holiday intends.
However, given the atmosphere surrounding the venue was a mixture of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, cigarettes, and marijuana, and most attendees were attired in black rock t-shirts, it is not likely that anyone was too upset about the indiscretion.
As far as the role of "Shred" in the festival's name, the very definition of the word (in the context of guitar shredding) is open to various interpretations.
In fact, not all of the bands did shred in the traditional sense (a defining characteristic of much heavy metal music). That being said, there are literally dozens of sub-genres of heavy metal music (a decent sampling of which were represented at the festival), and some of the bands that played would be considered psychedelic or hard rock rather than heavy metal. But enough about the semantics...
The heavy rain of the previous evening, the scattered showers of that morning, and the possibility of continued showers (which never came) may have been the cause of the two-hour delay in the festival's start time. Furthermore, whereas the venue frequently hosts its festival bands on a combination of outdoor and indoor stages, this festival took place exclusively on two stages within The Observatory.
The stages were named The Reaper Stage and The Creeper Stage, and between these two, 19 bands were scheduled to play. About a third of the bands were slated for 30 minute sets, and the rest of them were on for a full hour.
The festival's showcase of talent ran the gamut. Psychedelic and bluesy jams of bands like Radio Moscow and Danava emphasized a lineage of hard rock and progressive rock bands from the '70s. And on the other end of the spectrum, unholy sludge metal of bands like Graves at Sea and Trapped Within Burning Machinery, most appropriately demonstrated the intended connotation of the festival's title.
Cutting through the distinctions and appearing somewhere halfway (in a land sometimes called "stoner doom") were bands like Goya and Elder, who would lay foundations of that trudging, metal sound, and then adorn it with wicked solos, the quintessential "shredding." Of course, not every band fit neatly into one of the above distinctions; for example, the instrumental and experimental sounds of Bongripper are as brooding as they are triumphant, and, when they played, the concept of traditional melody took a backseat to a commanding sense of ambiance.
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While it may not have had much to do with the Mexican holiday, Day of the Shred was an outstanding little festival.
In addition to showcasing an impressive array of heavy musical artists, the festival programmers provided appropriate peripherals, such as: the hearse collection, a skate ramp, a DJ, and a few vendors (including an artist who was applying Day of the Dead make-up). The somewhat raucous characters in attendance were at home in this environment and, given the scarcity of law enforcement, were able to peaceably assemble while being left to their own devices.