Those with an ear to the underground will have heard the sound of Temples Festival 2016 imploding with a pungent whiff of sadness, good-natured understanding and bitterness, barely a week before this popular metal-fest was due to shake Bristol’s foundations for a third year running.
Posting a long apology and cancellation announcement on the festival’s Facebook page, one of the organisers took personal responsibility, stating financial difficulties, withdrawal of funding and bad business decisions as the cause. On top of everything else, this decision to cancel so close to kick-off was not a little ironic and embarrassing given that part of the festival’s slogan was ‘no surrender’. Judging by the comments that followed the cancellation announcement (currently numbering 364 in total on that one post alone), many fans were willing to accept the decision with good grace, although conversation quickly became more bitter when bands revealed the extent it had affected their touring schedules (Temples has cancelled their flights as well as their performances, it seems, seemingly without making the bands initially aware).
With several major bands pulling out recently anyway – some perhaps for unrelated reasons – the festival was forced to announce a slightly stripped down line-up for its final running. Alarm bells really started ringing, however, when Stephen O’Malley – guitarist with one of last year’s headliners Sunn O))) – engaged in a nasty Twitter spat with the Temples organisers days before (now unavailable) which prematurely revealed the extent of the festival’s financial difficulties.
Weird Metal Blog was going; I was going to tell you all about it.
Still: metal will prevail. Now we’re faced with an ultimatum: stay in or leave. (Sorry!) Ticket-holders are claiming refunds en masse and scrabbling for fresh tickets to a hastily rescheduled series of gigs in smaller venues – The Fleece and The Gryphon for example – which have scooped up those bands still able to make it to “Brizzo,” like the legendary, opportunistic life-savers they clearly are. Needless to say, given the Motion complex that originally hosted the festival boasts a total capacity of 2,500, the relocation of headlining acts to The Fleece, which holds 450, will inevitably leave many disappointed and the lucky ones very squashed. The Saturday gig sold out in a few hours.
What this also means is that, as opposed to a fairly eclectic three days of black, death, doom, grind/hardcore and more, now – for purely circumstantial reasons I’m sure – there seems to a more doom-focussed weekend still with a fairly black-tinged Friday to go some way to reflect the mouth-frothingly-exciting line-up that was originally planned on the main stage. This also means the now slightly odd experience of watching the line-up grow again but from a restricted pool of bands. “Ooh, Conan are playing before Jucifer now! That’s more appropriate. Hey, Ramesses are playing the Saturday, not the pre-festival gig on the Thursday! Oh wait, but Urfaust and Voices can’t make it. Damn, look, some fans were travelling from Australia to see this!”
This has happened to your humble music scribe before at last year’s ill-fated Jabberwocky festival, which was also cancelled at short notice citing financial difficulties. The results were mixed. I missed a lot of the rescheduled gigs because the new timings clashed with a weekend already extra busy with local, non-music matters as well – but I did see Chelsea Wolfe, my main reason for attending, at a smaller venue. Also, lucky friends of mine saw Earth – who headlined Temples last year – in a very small pub, playing several sets, I think for free. And I got all the money I was due back.
But back to the Temples rubble. As before, however, for many it’s all about Mayhem playing legendarily Weird and controversial debut album Die Mysteriis Dom Sathanus (1994) in full for the first time in the UK. You know, the one where the bass-player murdered the guitarist shortly before the singer committed suicide prior to recording his parts. The album that allegedly inspired the burning of Norway’s beautiful Fantoft stave church in 1992. Yeah, now you remember. Discussion has focussed on which of their live vocalists Mayhem will use for the gig – Atilla Csihar as on the original recording, or Maniac as per some of their most recent gigs. (My money’s on Atilla.)
There’s also a book launch event for The Death Archives: Mayhem 1984-94, a biography of the band’s early years written by sole remaining member Necrobutcher – quite a big deal – happening the night before in Rough Trade East record store, London, which unofficially ties in with the show. A pretty rare opportunity to see a crowd of metal-heads participate in a literary salon (of sorts).
How the hell do you make the performance of such an album so unbelievably dark in creation and content live up to its promise? I guess it’s important to remember that the songs stand up on their own – 50 mins of twisted, gnarled riffs, painfully intense drums and truly deranged vocals. It’s in no need of theatrics or elaborate stage shows – in fact, a stripped-back performance would compliment the raw, uncompromising sound of the album itself. Still, we’ll find out soon enough.
I have neither the inkling to discuss how Temples handled the situation or the time to reflect on the implications for the UK’s independent festival scene. Weird Metal Blog simply hopes that the Temples organisers can eventually claw back their funds, and rebuild their reputation for another killer edition in the future – and that all those still in Bristol this weekend managed to get tickets to The Fleece.
See you in the rubble.