Hex Fest's First Year Was A Bold Beginning With Loud Success - Look Back At The Madness Here



It’s that time of year, when the leaves start to fall, the nights get longer and there is a perpetual chill lingering in the air. Autumn always invites the freaks out from the shadows and gives them an environment to flourish. Denver Hex Fest gathered all the ghoulish souls and heathen fiends for a weekend full of hell bent bands. The fest was a collaboration between The Bluebird, Lost Lake and Goosetown Tavern; creating a heavy and sweaty triad of venue space. The weekend brought a mix of metal and punk genres, with some local flavor, as well as a few of the most iconic groups in the scene, such as Call of the Void, Lightning Bolt and Pig Destroyer. A potent energy was certainly circling over the city during that weekend, one that embodied a sense of inclusion and empowerment. 

The fest occurred over the weekend of September 6th and 7th, summoning a huge turnout. It was easy to spot the misfits heading to hex fest, as they were all studded and dressed in black. However, this gathering of cladded black represented life, rather than death. Hex Fest brought together people who present an homage to life, which is full of painful and exhilarating experiences. Experiences that make us all so glad that we are here, in the moment, living life to the fullest; and in this case, the loudest. Metal music is known for having a hard exterior, but is a form of intense expressionism that outwardly sheds frustrations and exerts passions.

Photo by: Sophia Gabrielson (SharedViews Media)

Friday marked an eventful night, with sets by Necropanther, Author & Punisher, The Body and Lightning Bolt. Although Denver is known for being a hub for jam bands and the growing electronic music scene, it has a wider scope of music than people give the city credit for. Necropanther spurred and developed right here in Denver, earning a spot in Westword’s top 10 metal bands back in 2016. They have evolved their thrashy death metal sound over the years and give audiences a thrill ride during performances.

Lightning Bolt was the highly anticipated set of the night, according to many fans I talked to in between sets. Lightning Bolt is a two-piece band, made up of Brian Chippendale on drums and vocals and Brian Gibson on Bass. The duo is recognized for their unorthodox live performances and Chippendale always comes on stage in a DIY mask made of scraps; creating a look that is altogether creepy and dystopian. Lightning Bolt has been around for two decades, with dynamic instrumentals and dramatizing noisy rock music. 

It was hard to comprehend that Saturday could compare to the eventfulness of Friday night and the bands it encompassed, but it very nearly put the previous night to shame. It was a great idea to spread the music out across three venues in order to include as much music as possible, but it was altogether impossible to see all the bands I wanted to. As with any great festival, artists will be scheduled at coinciding times. So, you are forced to pick your poison and let it consume you without looking back. 


Night two commenced at Goosetown Tavern with Giardia, a Denver local band who has recently created their own DIY venue called The Puzzle Palace, to showcase smaller bands, local music and bring the experimental music community together. Their performance was swift with hard punches, while teasing the crowd as they incorporated noisy jazz instrumentals. For those who don’t know, an interesting tidbit about giardia is that it is actually a rare disease caused by parasites, inflicting painful symptoms of diarrea to those affected. Does this allude to anything about the music they make? Or is it just a joke sprung out of dark humor? You’ll have to listen to their music and decide that for yourself. 

Hailing from Seattle, Velvet Q is a 3-piece all female band that does not mess around. While they are diverse, clearly holding inspirations from early punk music, they have created a sound that I identified as Phantom of the Opera meets metal. These three women are the visual and auditory definition of a modern femme fatale movement. They express themselves through so many styles and purely relatable lyrics that allude to societal corruption and outdated gender roles. Velvet Q, as well as many of the bands at Hex Fest, use specific genres to alleviate feelings of aggression or oppression. Punk and metal have long been known to be forms of music that provide a positive outlet for built up feelings against the world and all its misgivings. Velvet Q’s set at Hex Fest was just one stop on their Tour of the American West, their first ever tour as a group.

After Velvet Q, I made my way from Goosetown to The Bluebird Theatre, albeit directly across the street. Call of the Void was in the midst of their last ever performance after eight years in the industry, so this was a very special show for many who were at the fest. The call of the void has become a generalized phrase meaning an insane desire of our unconscious to leap into the unknown or step off of a proverbial “cliff”. Call of the Void, coined the phrase as their band name and used their music to answer the call of human subconscious’ by filling the void we have all felt at one point or another. The show was emotional and enthralling for the crowd because it was clear the band put everything they had into their performance, in an effort to ingrain a powerful message into the last audience that would ever seen them live.

My last set of the fest was down the street at Lost Lake Tavern to see The Dwarves, who proceeded their diva reputation by coming on an hour after their scheduled set time. Whispers circulated that they might not even come on, but it seemed to me that this was an intentional tactic meant to generate hype from fans. The group may have been trying to revel in their seniority status by going on whenever they eventually felt like it; after all, The Dwarves have been a band for thirty-four years, minus their newest edition, Andy Now, on drums. The Dwarves have released roughly 25 albums since forming the band and their music came at the pinnacle of the punk music era. Once the music started, no one seemed to care why they were late and the mosh pit opened up, taking over most of the floor. Over the years they have not let up on the energy that they bring to shows, engaging with the audience and inviting all kinds of chaos. Punk music is generally seen as the “bad boy” of the music industry, but The Dwarves take that reputation a step further and have long been recognized as the “bad boys” of the punk rock genre and with their newest release being in 2018 it seems they have no intention of slowing down. 

I would never have guessed that this was the premier year for Hex Fest because of how many badass bands came out and how thoroughly organized it ended up being. I prompt all my fellow hexers out there to summon their dark energy to ensure that Hex Fest becomes the staple metal and punk fest of Denver for years to come.