X-Fest 8, Huntington, WV Report Featuring Bobaflex, Sevendust And Others
My assignment was simple; infiltrate X-Fest for an interview with Bobaflex via backstage passes provided by the tour manager. I was prepared for this assignment, questions written in an organized fashion, digital voice recorder fully charged and tested, along with the digital camera for the after interview photos of the band and their live show. Plans to meet the tour manager at the gate were confirmed days earlier, along with rules on photographing, recording and time limitations.
About 12:35 on Saturday, October second, we parked my truck in the post office parking lot, two blocks from the front gates to Harris Riverfront Park. The park sits on the north end of downtown Huntington, West Virginia, directly on the Ohio River. The second was a cool day, grey and gloomy from the full cloud cover. The air was wet and the ground muddied from showers before sunrise. As long as the rain held, it was excellent weather to be at a crowded all day rock concert, surrounded by hundreds of tattooed people wearing black.
X-fest 8, hosted by WAMX-FM, was an all ages, all day concert consisting of; two stages, vendors of merchandise, beverages and food, along with scheduled meet and greets with the bands. The 2004 line up on the main stage was Soundevice, Bobaflex, Earshot, Monster Magnet and headliner Sevendust. On the "Loud and Local" second stage played Heavy Me, Guinness Clark's Wine, Split Nixon and Chum. Arriving at the front gates, the security and ticketing staff informed us, myself and friend, our names were on the list but they did not have passes for us. We needed to try the 12th street entrance, behind the main stage. Looking at the line of hundred or so people still waiting to get into the concert, we gladly backtracked to gain access.
Walking almost half the distance back to the truck we came upon the backstage entrance. Finding a few people gathered outside the barricade conversing, we walked past them speaking to the security guard. Asking for Bobaflex's tour manager by name, the guard asked we wait there while he made the necessary calls. A woman overhearing our conversation stated the tour manager was directly behind us, she pointed him out. I turned around just as the man started to walk past us, introducing myself he stopped. The tour manager, Alan, asked if we had obtained our passes at the front gate, looking a bit confused at our negative answer he asked us to try the river entrance and to meet him back at these barricades, he past the barricades and walked into the backstage area to find out more about the passes.
We turned to see the two park benches on a cemented area scaped with shrubs connected to a curved sidewalk leading northwest, toward the river and far around the right side of the main stage. Following this sidewalk we came to the riverside entrance of the concert. Again greeting the staff and security we inquired about the passes, again we were turned away to the 12th street entrance. Backtracking again, this time along the curving sidewalk.
We were standing about 150 yards from the back of the X-fest main stage at the 12th Street entrance for the second time. Between us and the stage were the barricades, a graveled parking area which was filled with passenger vans and pick up trucks, then two craning forking lifts which were flying the highs and mids of the speaker system. In between the cranes sat the stage with the band Soundevice playing for the audience on the other side. The flying sound system was very loud, making normal conversation difficult even at our current distance. Alan returned with two passes in hand, gestured us inside, we had to gather the band together for the interview.
We followed Alan through the parked vehicles, past coolers, sound gear, backup instruments, and all the time bouncing in between crew and staff as they worked. Alan gathered the band together ahead of us; I kept a distance as the band conversed with their manager. We followed them out to the gravel parking area, again backtracking. Here we stopped, the band asking where we should hold the interview and if I wanted them to remove their shirts. Laughing, I declined the shirt removal and suggested a quieter place as the on stage band rocked in the background.
Walking further back, past the barricades again, to the cemented area with the park benches, voice recorder running, I started by introducing myself and my friend, then commenced the handshaking and introduction of all the band members; the McCoy brothers Shaun (lead vocals) and Martin (guitar & backing vocals), Jared (bass), Mike (lead guitar) and Thomas (drums). All of them were awake and pumped; some even had a mischievous smile, as if ready to make trouble. Their energy was contagious, making me consciously nervous. I informed them this was my first assignment for the site, humbly asking them to bear with me should I stumble too horribly. Accepting this with an "ok" and smile, I commenced with the questioning. Before the first answer, Martin asked,” Are we allowed to fucking cuss?"
Aside from starting late, the 1:15pm interview went very smoothly, band laughing and joking, having a great sense of humor and visibly enjoying the whole process. They were full of answers to my inquires, one after another, taking turns in time with one another. Shaun, the lead vocalist, fronted most of my questions with Martin and Mike picking up the slack, Jared and Thomas standing in between the other three. Time past quickly as I rambled my questions and they rapidly fired off answers. Alan returned telling the band it was time for sound check, cutting my slotted half hour interview to fifteen minutes. It was perfect timing, I only had one weak question left to ask, but decided to skip it, the band graciously offered to finish the interview after their performance.
For a moment I watched the band walk past the barricades towards the back of the main stage. I took a seat on one of the park benches to review the recording of the interview. Right after I told Martin it was cool to cuss the main stage band starts up again, jumbling all of our words. My friend suggested we short hand the interview from memory. I knew there was a reason I had chosen the young forensic scientist to join me in this experience. Short hand was of course Plan B, had Plan A been a miserable failure. I franticly wrote as we reviewed the questions.
After finishing writing I took a deep breath as the disappointment set in. I lit a cigarette, removed my digital camera from my pack, getting it ready to shoot the band. We showed our passes to security and made our way backstage for the show. Coming around front of the main stage, to an area cut off from the general audience, I scoped out an angle to get pictures from. Despite my earlier depression over the recording mishap I was psyched to see Bobaflex play live. I apparently was not alone, with a crowd of a few hundred people in front of the stage waiting for the band to begin.
"KA-POW-POW, KA-POW!" The band starts off their set with the first track on Primitive Epic entitled Bobaflex Warriors. The album Primitive Epic is Bobaflex's first release on Eclipse Records, a re-recording of an independently released EP with one previously unrecorded song, also including enhanced CD video footage. The band said they made no special preparations for the recording, from start to finish in about week an a half. Despite the freshman release, Bobaflex is no stranger to X-fest, 2004 being their fourth time returning and second time playing the main stage.
The energy they showed in our interview came through in their performance and in the songs they rocked out. The music was up tempo, with quick changes and flowing rhythm. Shaun's lyrical style incorporates melodic singing; angst riddled yelling, rhythmic rapping and chanting. None them stopped moving, the audience was constantly stimulated an engaged by catchy choruses and guitar hooks. Back and forth the audience rocked to the heavy hop of the music. The three string players were not standing still unless it was to belt out the chorus of a song, all the while Thomas on drums kept the band's steady rhythm. The hard edged music comes in rapid short bursts, with most songs not lasting longer than four minutes always leaving the listener wanting more.
None of it really reminded me of seventies style rock, which they said influenced them. Bobaflex's sound is definitely contemporary with a unique quality to the music and sci-fi themed lyrics. The band comes from Point Pleasant, WV, home of the Mothman Prophecies. When asked how the legend shaped their music, Martin told us "he fucked the Mothman's mother!" They were honest about carrying the family name and their direct genetic ties to the battle of the Hatfields and McCoys, making it clear the story is history and doesn't help them in building their army of Bobaflex Warriors. Which the band has done in their home state, with a legion at X-fest 2004 and probably recruiting more afterwards. It was obvious the audience enjoyed the music and show, especially all the faces Mike made between guitar riffs and choruses. Shaun and Martin switched up guitar duty for lead vocals on a couple of songs, taking turns yelling between hook like choruses. During one part of the performance Shaun wore a George Bush mask and danced about to an instrumental jam, bringing cheers from the audience.
This X-Fest set included two new songs which will be on their next release, scheduled for early in 2005. They also announced their plans to open for Sevendust on their current eastern tour dates. Bobaflex ended their set with what they said was their favorite song to play live-Doomwalker. This song is an unusual ditty regarding an alien warlord here to conqueror earth, introduced with the lyrics "Warning, Warning, The planet earth is under attack, RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIVES." Doomwalker. is a fun song to listen to, the audience had apparently heard it before as they were singing along and rocking out. The set lasted for about forty five minutes, the crowd wanted more, yelling the band’s name and cheering as they exited the stage.
We met up with the tour manager and I asked if we could get a couple pictures of the band close up for the site. We were asked to wait while the band did a meet and greet autograph session in the merch booth. A drizzle started down, making the crowd in front of the stage disperse faster. The rain was light and short lived, lasting only ten minutes then back to the gloom of earlier. While waiting we got to see Earshot's set, which was good and the audience seemed to like there style of metal. After getting my photos and some food we caught the end of Split Nixon's set on the second stage, they played an excellent cover of Soundgarden's Outshined.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying all X-Fest had to offer. Checking out the merch booths, looking at t-shirts and cds, getting lunch and having a couple of beers. Walking back and forth from the main stage to the 2nd stage in between sets. While Monster Magnet took the main stage and during Chum's second stage set we walked about the park. Taking in the wet river air, the early fall colors, the riverside amphitheater, the attractive girls and the multitude of tattoos. It really was an excellent line up for a show, despite the dreary weather; everyone seemed to be having a good time walking back and forth from stage to stage. The headlining act, Sevendust, came on after dark and was the only band really able to take advantage of the stage lighting, which had been rigged up all day. Their set unfortunately ended abruptly, half why through their second song, with some onstage technical difficulties which caused all the power to go out. Thirty minutes later the band came back out, power on, they were ready to rock out after the mishap. Sevendust finished up X-fest 2004 with a three song encore and a crowd of tired all day rockers yelling as they exited the stage.
My assignment had not been as simple as I had first thought. The interview had gone well; the show had been good, my pictures turned out well, so the day had been constructive, even after my bumbling with the voice recorder. The walk back to the truck was short after we reached the 12th Street entrance. My feet were worn out; my shoulder was sore from carrying my backpack around all day. We were both ready to go home after a long day of rocking out and both looking forward to hearing Bobaflex's new material live at another X-fest in 2005.
You can check out some photos I took of Bobaflex at X-fest in the Gallery. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to photograph the rest of the bands with the photo pass Bobaflex set me up with. Enjoy!
To learn more about Bobaflex’s current tour dates please visit: http://www.bobaflexwarriors.com
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