Mary Spiro: I have probably had this idea since after attending Stella Natura in 2013, or maybe before. That turned out to be the last year that fest in the Tahoe National Forest in California was held. The idea of the open-air fest is not a new one. It’s just that the US doesn’t really have them the way they do in Europe. We have big outdoor fests, some with camping, but they tend to feature jam bands or pop music, not metal. And our metal fests are often held in parking lots or dark venues. Why not have fests outside in nature? I love camping. I love metal. This seemed like a natural thing. When the fest finally happens, I will have been researching and planning this fest for more than a year. It was in April of 2014 that I first started contacting potential venues about this fest. Many of my inquiries went unanswered. I visited a lot of possible sites. In October 2014, I finally came across the summer camp in Pennsylvania that we plan to use. After that, I brought together a group of extremely capable people to handle every aspect of planning and organization, from co-promotion, food, vendors, security, lights and staging. There are 18 of us working on this project.
Were bands immediately receptive to the idea? What kinds of bands did you target from the outset?
MS: I would say the bands were very receptive! Our group of promoters comes from Baltimore and Frederick, MD, from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, PA and from Richmond, VA. So together we got the word out to bands and started making a list of whom we wanted to see there. We had our wish list and we also had an open call to solicit band submissions, something a lot of fests do not really do. We heard about so many great bands! It was hard to choose but also just speaks to the amount of talent we have in mid-Atlantic region. We have enough great bands to fill the lineup for several fests. To draw attendees, the lineup was going to have to have known acts like Midnight, Iron Man, and Falls of Rauros. But our budget was limited so we are combining that with popular regional up-and-coming acts like Dweller in the Valley, Psalm Zero, and Unsacred plus some bands that appeal to niche populations, such as Menace Ruine or Ashagal. And there are some complete unknowns that we think deserve exposure. Every band on the lineup has expressed their excitement to play this unique event and have been very supportive about getting the word out. We are honored to have them all on board! I am also pretty happy with the mix of bands. This is not all black metal (although I might prefer that!) and it’s not all doom and it’s not all death metal. I think the lineup accurately reflects the musical interests of the promoters involved and what we hope that people want to hear.
What were some of the biggest challenges in putting this thing together?
MS: The biggest challenge has been the logistics of putting stages up where there are none. We need professional sound, staging, lighting and gear. We won’t skimp on that aspect. Everything else involved in planning the fest by comparison is “easy”.
Aside from the incredible bands lined up, what can attendees expect to experience over the course of the weekend?
MS: We hope that people will take time to try some of our workshops. We have people coming to teach about various topics of interest such as yoga, guitar maintenance, band promotion and even the meaning of runes. This is an extremely intimate event and many of the band members will be staying on site and camping the whole weekend. This is a chance to make lasting friendships with people from all across the country. There is also a swimmable lake, a lodge with vendors, food vendors and just nature. The camp features bathhouses with flush toilets, running water and showers. Tent camping and all the workshops are included in the ticket price.
Are there plans to make this a yearly event?
MS: I will evaluate whether this will become a yearly event after this one is over. This is a huge financial risk for me. If I lose money, it will never happen again. But, that said, so far we have sold 1/3 of our tickets and with only 350 total available, we expect to sell out long before we open the gates. No tickets will be sold at the gate, by the way, only advance sales. I think people would like to see it become a yearly event. I think it is fulfilling a “need” if you can call it that. Metal is a need for me anyway. Our sponsors Grimoire Records and MusicForTheDead.com would probably want to see it happen again, especially so that their bands can be showcased. If things stay on the trajectory they are on now, I can see this happening again.
Where can folks go to reserve their spots?
MS: You can purchase weekend passes at http://shadowwoodsmetalfest2015.whindo.com/. Camping areas will be marked off, but there are no reserved camping spots. Our early bird ticket holders will have first pick on camp areas since they can arrive on Thursday night. To stay informed about the fest, people should either follow our website or like our Facebook page. That is where you can find out information about lineup changes, camp information or whatever.
Ashagal (New Hope, PA - ritual folk)
Bridesmaid (Columbus, OH - instrumental doom-sludge)
Cladonia Rangiferina (VA - ritual black metal, doom, acid rock)
Dendritic Arbor (Pittsburgh, PA - black metal / powerviolence)
Destroying Angel (Philadelphia, PA - folk music for exorcisms)
Dreadlords (Philadelphia, PA - ritual black metal blues)
Dweller In The Valley (Frederick, MD - black, death, doom)
Existentium (Baltimore, MD - melodic technical death metal)
Falls of Rauros (Portland, ME - folk/atmospheric black metal)
Fin (Chicago, IL - black metal; unsigned)
Heavy Temple (Philadelphia, PA - psychedelic doom)
Hivelords (Philadelphia, PA - experimental psychedelic black doom)
Immortal Bird (Chicago, IL - black/death metal)
Iron Man (MD - doom metal/heavy rock)
Menace Ruine (Montreal, QC - avant-garde drone black metal)
Midnight (Cleveland, Ohio - black heavy metal)
Molasses Barge (Pittsburgh, PA - traditional doom metal)
Occultation (New York, NY - doom metal)
Oneirogen (New York, NY - dark, doom, drone)
Psalm Zero (New York, NY - experimental black doom)
Sentience (Woodland Park, NJ - death metal)
Slagstorm (Hagerstown, MD - prehistoric doom thrash)
Snakefeast (Baltimore, MD - jazz metal sludge)
Stone Breath (Red Lion, PA - experimental folk)
The Black Moriah (Dallas/Fort Worth, TX - Western occult black/thrash)
The Day of the Beast (Virginia Beach, VA - blackened death metal)
The Expanding Man (Baltimore, MD - solo improvisational electronic soundscapes)
The Flight of Sleipnir (Denver, CO - black metal)
The Owls Are Not What They Seem (York, PA - experimental ritual soundscapes)
Tyrant's Hand (Baltimore, MD - deathened black metal)
Unsacred (Richmond, VA - savage black metal)
Velnias (Denver, CO - blackened folk/doom metal)
Wormreich (Huntsville, AL & Nashville, TN - black metal)
ZUD (Portland, ME - bluesy outlaw black metal)