Friday, July 17, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST: Interview with Festival Founder Mary Spiro


If you live in the Mid Atlantic or four-state regions and are active in the metal community, chances are you've heard some buzz in the air about Shadow Woods Metal Fest. The first of its kind, this festival - spearheaded by Metallomusikum founder, Baltimore Metal Music Examiner, booker of shows and friendly neighborhood metalhead Mary Spiro - will be kicking off on September 25th near White Hall, MD.

Ever since I heard about this festival, I couldn't wait to learn more about it. This was the type of thing I (and surely many, many others around these parts) had been waiting for. MDF is a great event, to be sure, but I had always longed to see a fusion of mountain festivals and metal ones that until now typically only occurred in bars, parking lots and other indoor venues.

I was able to catch up with the creative genius herself and ask a few burning questions about this brand new fest in our collective backyard, who covers just about everything you will need to know about SWMF and tips on how to make the most of your metal getaway weekend. Here is the interview in its entirety - read on (and don't forget to reserve your tickets ASAP before they're all gone)!

1) How did you come up with Shadow Woods Metal Fest? What events/ideas sparked it into creation?

I was primarily inspired by the fest Stella Natura, which took place in the Tahoe National Forest in California. I attended this fest in 2013, which turned out to be the last year of the fest. But there are other fests that I found equally intriguing. I did not attend these other fests, but I heard about them from others. One was Gathering of Shadows, which was held in Colorado. It was a highly secretive invitation-only fest. The other fest is Under the Black Sun, which happens in Germany. This fest maybe seems more like Shadow Woods Metal Fest, since it is held at a camp and is in the forest like ours but still seems close to urban areas. I love the idea of seeing bands outside, not in a parking lot of park but in a more remote or primitive area. Our camp is not entirely primitive, since we have running water and electricity there, but we also are pretty well surrounded by thick trees. I hope people will enjoy the three stages of music and other events we have planned for them. One stage will be in an open field, one in a woodland amphitheater and one inside in what I like to refer to as the Great Hall. The camp is very beautiful, and I think people will really dig the vibe.

2) Is it going to be much like typical mountain music festivals just with a metal veneer (complete with vendors and other activities going on), or is it intended to be similar to MDF just in a different setting? Perhaps a little bit of both?

Shadow Woods Metal Fest is going to be something very unique. It won’t be anything like the other fests or events you mention. I don’t know what a typical mountain music festival really implies. It is definitely not intended to be like Maryland Deathfest at all. What we are hoping for something unique. We are only selling 350 tickets so there won’t be big lines to wait in or people to block your view of the stage. You should be able to mingle with friends and with the musicians who are staying on site. We will have several food vendors. We also have people coming to teach workshops, such as the people from Black Yoga and Old Town Lutherie. I hope that after the structured music program ends, that people will jam acoustic music of their own at the campsites after hours.

3) What has it been like putting everything together?

It has taken more than a year to plan this fest. The hardest part has been securing the right venue. I have assembled a team of people I trust to deal with every aspect from lights to sound to security to promotion. It is an extreme challenge to make everything we want to do fit into our budget. And it is a huge financial risk for me personally. But if people support the event and buy tickets then we will be able to realize it. If not, it will never happen again. We have had a lot of verbal support, but now is the time for action. With the fest just two months away, we do anticipate a sell out. We know there are a lot of options for people but we think we are preparing something really special. This is not just a show, this in a once in a lifetime convergence of music and people at the autumnal equinox. Magical things can happen.

4) Does it focus on a particular genre of metal?

The fest includes many genres of metal but primarily black metal, folk metal, death metal and doom. We also have a few experimental acts. We chose acts based on how we thought they would work in this natural environment. We are super excited to have bands like Midnight, Iron Man, Occultation, Falls of Rauros, Velnias, and Wormreich supporting us. Speaking of Wormreich, this will be their first live performance since their tragic auto crash on April 6. Not only that, that last band to perform will be the group ZUD from Maine. If you have not heard of them, please check them out. They rarely perform live and this is their only show of the year. Saturday is going to be a very emotional evening.

5) Will this be turning into an annual event?

I will make the decision about that soon after this inaugural fest has concluded. If we do not break even, it will never happen again. End of story. It will never happen again. This is my personal financial risk. I am not a rich person. I put on shows that I myself would like to attend. If six promoters can’t get 350 people to see 36 bands then we all ought to devote our time to something else. But the truth is, I think we WILL get 350 people out to the fest. We are halfway there already. I would like to see it happen again, but I won’t guarantee it. We kind of hope it will become an annual thing where people forge new relationships and reunite with friends while checking out some new and amazing bands. If your family does not have an annual reunion, then this should be it.

6) What would you say to someone that has been on the fence about attending?

For people who have not quite made up their minds about coming to the fest I would say this. We have curated a unique program of music for you. We feel like this music is important and should be heard in this setting. There is no “fillcore” in this show. Every band is excellent. Why would you not want to share in that? Also, 36 bands is the approximate equivalent of nine regular shows. At $92, Shadow Woods is as much or less than what you would spend going to all nine shows PLUS it includes accommodations, which is not the case with other fests you might attend where you would have to get a hotel. In addition, the times you will spend with your current friends and making new friends around the bonfires and at sunrise will be times you will cherish for the rest of your life. Don’t miss this chance because it will never happen again.

7) Is there anything that attendees should know ahead of time to make it the best possible experience?

First of all, buy your ticket before they sell out.

People should follow the Facebook page and website closely to get the latest information and updates on the festival.

One of the art prints available at shadowwoodsmetalfest.bigcartel.comWe also have a Twitter (@SWmetalfest) and an Instagram.

Pre-order your t-shirts and art posters so that they will be waiting for you at the fest here.

The fest is BYOB. So bring what you need so you don’t have to drive back and forth out of the camp. There will be food vendors on site, including a vendor with exclusively vegan food. There can be no campfires in the camping areas, but small camp stoves are approved. Bring snacks and stuff to share.

Carpool! Organize with your friends to limit the number of cars on the site.

Check the weather but bring a jacket anyway. It could rain. Prepare to be adaptable. We have never done this before and neither have you. But if we work together, we will have the time of our lives!

We can’t wait to see you all in September!

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