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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hail Santa VI VI VI! Seattle, Day 1

For 6 years now Seattle has put on an annual holiday-timed metal show called Hail Santa. I have attended IV, V, and now VI, and as I get to know the nuances of metal shows in Seattle, I draw from my experiences in having attended metal shows in Alaska, Argentina, and now Washington. I write to take advantage of my varied perspective of metal music, and hope someone out there gains something from my experiences! Now, back to Hail Santa. No bullshit! I have mixed feelings about Hail Santa VI VI VI (from here on referred to as Hail Santa VI) that I am slowly identifying and separating over time. This is inevitable as a really awesome idea becomes spotlight in a music scene as prominent as that of Seattle, WA. Let's start!

The two previous Hail Santas I attended were at a local DIY venue called the Josephine in Ballard of Seattle, Washington (currently shut down, but rumor says will reopen as an official venue by night and possible record store by day). I fell in love with the DIY show culture Seattle has to offer. Being from Anchorage, AK there were pretty much only DIY shows for anyone who listened to more than just radio rock and pseudo-metal. The local metal scene in Anchorage is practically non-existent, and the shows you do make it out to sound more like garage jam bands that practiced twice and then performed live (I think I'll write about the few good exceptions in the near future).

First, I want to explain the magic of the Josephine experience! The Josephine is the perfect setup for underground shows of all types; experimental, noise, metal, punk & crust punk, new artists and established artists. In addition to the cartoonish intestines painted all over the walls spelling "Josephine", various faces, and other changing images, the space has a "balcony" running above the "stage" area (technically a hallway between bedrooms, I believe - it's an interesting re-purposed and re-re-purposed space). This balcony allows for surprise performance type things, such as Garbage Clause! A bitter, kinda crazed character that literally takes garbage out of trash cans and hands it out to people towards the end of the show (Hail Santa IV). Some additional "gifts" included bad porn dvds and I don't even know what else. Headless Pez (PDX) at Hail Santa IV also sprayed the crowd with green and red goo through a gigantic costume dick (Gwar style). A tolerant group of DIY venue residents, home-done theatrics, costumes, BYOB, and well seasoned riff-shredding BRUTAL as FUCK local Metal Bands shouting "HAIL SANTAAA!!" is what makes Hail Santa in Seattle the event to look forward to every year!

Fast forward to Hail Santa VI at the Highline Bar on Capital Hill.

The Highline is always one of my favorite venues for attending shows. The bartenders do their job, they don't bullshit you with small talk, and they are always attentive (in my experience). The sound guy is good and shows sound great. It's one of the few places I've seen where bands and performers are free to bring stage props (including skinned pig heads on pikes and portals to the Underworld) AND burn incense: This is very important for many local and touring bands. Not to mention the return of the Vegan Kitchen with new & improved vegan tacos, sandwiches, and delicious sides open til 11:00pm every night!

The first night opened with two upside down Xmas trees with red lights and red tree toppers on stage. Yes! I was inspired by this to make my own painted paper tree and taped it upside down on the outside of my apartment door, and put unused band stickers all over as ornaments (I topped it with a bloody pentacle and apparently my weird mostly-also-from-Alaska neighbors dig it). Looking around I didn't see much else as far as Hail Santa decor goes. A few attendees wore Santa hats, and the flier/T-shirt artist/one of the co-coordinators and his beautiful dreadlocked lady were in their metal Santa costumes as usual: A refreshing sight for sore eyes!

The lineup was fantastic, at times.

Friday December 11th, 2015

Saturday December 12th, 2015

I arrived Friday in time to realize I had missed Progenitor, yet again! (But YOU can check out a 3 year old video of them at the late 2 Bit Saloon! , since that is the only online shred of evidence that I can find of their existence), BUT I arrived in time to see the last 4 songs of Substratum! I've seen Substratum play with their old lineup several times around town (mainly at Kraken Bar and Studio 7), but this was my first show seeing them with new members Max Nazaryan and Junkyard Amy Lee! These guys are (and always were) GREAT on stage! I can't decide who stole the show more; guitarist Jonny Haynes with his killer solos and heavy metal spirit, Lead Singer Junkyard Amy Lee with her independent, confident, BADASS attitude and glass shattering Metal vocals!, Guitarist Max Nazaryan's stage presence/costume, dedication to the moment and obvious musically harmonizing chemistry with Jonny, or that KILLER drummer Eric Smith who not only solidifies the entire performance with stoicism and seemingly no effort, but goes almost unnoticed because he's just THAT GOOD. I might be just a little prejudiced in their favor because of my prior connections with these guys, but I don't necessarily think so! The crowd demanded an encore and several people commented to me that they could really be big if they take the band "seriously". Regardless of my stance with the band, Substratum is a real "up & coming" heavy metal project you cannot miss! (arrrggh I hate that term but what else is there?!). Check out some of their amazing-but-does-no-justice-compared-to-their-LIVE-PERFORMANCE-so-please-contribute-to-their-upcoming-recording-sessions DEMO TRACKS at: , and follow them on Facebook! !!

I hate to follow the elating experience with Substratum with a lackluster summary of Raptor. BUT, I guess that's it in a nutshell. This was my first time seeing Raptor (also found under Facebook search term "Raptor Thrash"), so I will not write them off just yet. My taste these days falls more with black metal, heavy metal, and doom, so I can't hold that against them. I look forward to seeing them thrash again in the future at Famine Fest III in Portland, OR. (see the Famine Fest III lineup on the official Famine Fest NW Facebook page: ).

Sarcalogos followed with another great performance with the deadly duo Skylar "Sarcalogos" Occisor and drummer Dave Phillips! I always try to see these guys! They produce so much sound and brutal riffs and beats with just the two of them, I always leave feeling inspired and motivated to sharpen my musical skills. These guys brought me back to Hail Santa for the night (feeling slightly let down after Raptor's performance), but also seemed to close the night for me. Once I've seen two bands like Substratum and Sarcalogos in one night, I'm a happy camper. Not only are they having fun and dedicated to Sarcalogos, going on 9 years of satanic Black Metal, but Singer/Guitarist Skylar "Sarcalogos" is just a great human being to talk with and run into the few times a year I make it out to a Sarcalogos show. Check them out at , and , AND .

Although I have seen Xoth (SEA) live a few times since the disintegration of Medieval Eternity and Phalgeron, I can't seem to remember what they sound like. I seem to remember a similarity to the relatively new blackened Thrash project Void Wraith, but the biggest reason I remember the sound of Void Wraith is because of their black cloak anonymous costumes and my inability to decide if I love the bouncy riffs or hate it for being cheesy. Nevertheless, I am always interested in seeing Xoth "one more time", so something about them piques my interest! Possibly the consistently intrigueing stage presence of Singer Tyler Splugis? Check them out for yourself at , at the Metal Archives: , or even better, their music track packed Bandcamp!: .

Witchaven only got half of my attention as I synced into winding down with the rest of the crowd on the patio outside. A few beers and a bowl in I was having a good time catching up with acquaintances and, unfortunately, being trapped by a sickening display of attempted Twerking lessons. Looking back I wish I had retreated inside to see all of Witchaven's set! No words I have to offer on Witchaven can accurately depict their sound or stage presence, but I WILL say that I thiiiink they were added to the bill for revenue, and offered zero "HAIL SANTA!"s. Thinking on that, they MUST be worth a listen for headlining Hail Santa at the last minute, right? Listen here: , Read here: , and keep up here!: .

So here's my experience of Day 1. All in all, looking only at Day 1, was this Hail Santa worthy of being number VI VI VI??

I think not.

Well, musically, yes it was a pretty good show. So many coordinating, practicing, loading and unloading, TRAVELING (thank you Portland and bands from the beyond!), costume making/face painting, sound checking, throat-clenching, arpeggio-scaling, horn-throwing SAVAGE and UNRELENTING hours go into making this show (and others) happen! I had an awesome time, both with the bands and without them, and would suggest to any fan of metal, or otherwise heavy music, that they make time in their busy holiday schedules to make it out to Hail Santa in Seattle.

Now. Back to the "I think not" in assessing the worthiness of the title Hail Santa VI VI VI. What I'm saying is there was nothing new at this show. Both days, in fact. There wasn't even much of the "old" stunts that were done before. The newest thing I can tell is there were bigger name bands this year. Some of them were thrown on the bill without even knowing what the event was about. I totally understand needing to fill the venue, and no disrespect to the amazing owner of the only Vegan Resto-Bar / Metal, Rock, and Punk Venue in town (I'm talking about the Highline now, but shout-out to Georgetown Liquor Company - step up your show game GLC!), but this show could have been so much more brutal! Negativity aside, I do want to express how great it was to see all my metal friends and acquaintances out for the occasion, as many of us get stuck in our routines and decide to forego even the biggest and best metal events of the year. I also enjoyed being able to pay an affordable entry price ($12) each night to see not only a sizeable number of bands (6 one night, 5 the next), but a few well known, EXTREMELY talented groups.

In a nutshell: Not the Hail Santa I know, but still a good show.

So much went into the show and I'd like to thank the Highline for putting it on, the local bands for being a part, and those from out of town who made the trip especially to play at Hail Santa! Oh yeah, and all of us daemons for supporting an ever-growing local Metal event throughout the years.

Now... ready for Part II?


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