Las Vegas Metal: Big Mike Talks Las Vegas DeathFest Year 11
I had the opportunity to sit down with Big Mike the founder of Las Vegas DeathFest (LVDF) a bit ago to pick his brain about the past present and future of the festival. The festival is about to go under its 11th year run at Fremont Streets famed venues Fremont Country Club and Backstage Bar and Billiards.
For those of you that have never been to LVDF it is one huge fucking orgy of slam, brutal, and death grind metal. The beers are flowing, the merch booths have nonstop creative and in some cases fascinatingly cringe-worthy designs. Its enough to make a band t-shirt addict have a serious problem with picking a limited amount of treasures during this 3 days of awesome.
The parking lot behind the venue is blocked off for band trailers, food trucks and even MORE merch booths. There is a sense of belonging that a lot of people don’t get at many other shows / festivals. A sense of family and community.
With all that being said, I had a few questions for Big Mike:
Annie: Last year was a big milestone for LVDF, hitting a full decade of entertaining the metal masses of this fine city. What was the initial goal when you started this 11 years ago? How does it feel to have hit that milestone and then going on to year 11? Where do you see LVDF going in the next 5 years?
Mike: Bringing it back to roots old school …For me, it’s never been about the huge bands. I feel that every band deserves a shot at becoming the next Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse. Wanted to bring back some old school unsigned metal and get them exposure. This festival has never been about making a shit ton of money because if I put it into perspective of all the hours my wife and I work and all the hurdles that come with putting on something like this I end up losing money every year. But it’s a reward in itself that it’s gone this strong for so long. It’s all about the bands, fans and the mutual love of music.
The inspiration for coming up with LVDF was from when I went back to IL for their massive death fests and was like why don’t we have something like this in Vegas. It started out at Cheyenne Saloon and ended up where it is today at Fremont Country Club and Backstage Bar and Billiards. For the first year I pulled together 8 bands and it went really well. So year two , the year I consider to be the first official LVDF we blew this motherfucker up and brought 32 bands. Pathology was the headliner on the 2nd day. Dave Aster & Obi are longtime friends and we are looking forward to having them back again after so long.
As for future plans, we can only keep going up from here. We still to this day (knock on wood) have not had one single brawl. I actually had to hire an assistant to help out due to working long hours at my day job. I needed someone who could handle some of the finer details. Josh (Figgy) has been a happy addition to our team helping me out with all of that. “
A: Given that you joined in the mosh pit games for Metal Allegiance will we be seeing you in the pit for any of the LVDF bands this year?
M: It’s hard to go into the pit during the festival because every year I need to socialize. But if I see something that sparks my interest out of the blue I’ll ask someone to hold my stuff and go in to rage out.
A: What is new this year that fans should be excited about?
M: Yes!!! We’ve got Sevared Records and Unique Leader Records, both huge in the Death and Slam Metal world, coming out for the event. We have a new backline via Aracnid Cabinets thanks to Rob Calhoun. They are going to backline both stages for us. Rob’s band Wurm Flesh will also be playing the show on top of everything.
A: What bands are you personally the most excited about for this year’s line up?
M: Liturgy is a big one for me because they were without a drummer for a while. They were supposed to play last year but something went wrong with their visas so they had to cancel. Along with that they had been trying to find a drummer. I got them in contact with Machete Eddy. Introducing him to Jaime initially. They got together, Eddie learned a couple of their songs and recorded them, and the band was blow away. Now they are good to go with a drummer and rumor has it that they might be recording some new music soon. Eddy is just a hands down amazing drummer, playing with Incinerate , Rottenness, Vital Remains and still going strong with his own band Cancer Whore.
A: You have bands coming from all over the country and all over the world coming out to play this festival. There are usually a couple to a few local bands on the line up, will we be seeing an increase in more Vegas local band representation in the coming years?
M: Absolutely, I love all the local bands, but I also don’t want to keep putting them up over and over again. If you look at the line up every year there is almost no overlap in bands. Everyone gets a fair shot. We’ve had locals like Genocide Architect and Cerebral Incubation on the stage. If a local band has an interest in playing they can reach out to myself and/or my team.
A: I sometimes get the feedback that LVDF doesn’t have enough variety of metal sub-genres? Is there a plan to be more diverse in the future or a motivation for keeping things the same with the slam/ gore-grind vibe?
M: We do have some variety. We have some bands that are more in the realm of melodic death metal. I personally chose all the bands every year. It’s not up to a record label saying I am going to put someone on my festival. If I like you I will put you on my festival. It has and always will be that way. I grew up in the punk rock scene and I would go to shows and there would be some actual Nazi’s/ skin heads and they would try to fuck with me … “you’re a long hair what are you doing here!?!?” What they didn’t know is that everyone else at the show were my friends and it didn’t go well for them when they would try to give me a hard time for my appearance. I’ve been told by a few people, if it wasn’t for us putting on this festival and it being all brutal death metal or close to it that they would be outside of their comfort zones and would not have attended. This has given people a chance to come out of their shells and feel a level of acceptance and belonging that they otherwise would have difficulty finding. Feeling socially accepted goes a long way for some of the attendees, every year is one big family reunion.
A: Any other big shows you plan to go to before or after your event?
M: This year right before the festival here some of us are going over to Switzerland for the Rock The Hell Festival. My good friend Sonia Naff, who founded Rock The Hell 12 years ago, comes out to LVDF every year and stays with us at our house. Now we finally get to return the favor and stay with her to attend the festivities. Some really good friends of ours are playing this fest. She has a handful of LVDF veterans on the line up this year for the US invasion of Switzerland including bands such as Internal Bleeding , Lividitiy and Sacrificial Slaughter. To top it off Tony Cole , who does our artwork every year, will be tagging along to share in this amazing experience.
In closing, I would like to give a huge thanks to Big Mike for reaching out and sitting down with me. The line up this year is killer and I personally am looking forward to seeing some of my out of town metal family members who come down every year for the show. It is going to be a rager worth attending. Come down make some friends enjoy some amazing music from some ridiculously talented bands and munch on some grub from the food truck. Tickets are on sale NOW. Here is your chance! For more information about tickets and event details visit https://lasvegasdeathfest.com/ .
To get a bit of a preview of the bands that are playing check out this playlist I’ve pulled together.