August 8th, 2002

o RWAKE – Jacksonville, AR –
Started off today noon with a band that I’d labelled in my pre-planning as “doom/death/stoner metal”. Usually that’s not a style I’m a big fan of, but stoner metal can be a pretty good choice at a festival like this, as long as it’s not stupid. You’re generally guaranteed to have a good amount of melody, groove, and not much pointless extremity, all good things when being exposed to music that you’ve never heard before. And Rwake surpassed the hopes I had for them, and actually left me quite impressed. Screaming death vocals over their fairly simple but effective riffs, combined with non-standard song structures broken up by good atmospheric sections. Halfway through the set I noticed they had what appeared to be a crippled child laying on stage, but it turned out to be a small woman crouched over a little box. She seemed to be doing something related to the sound, and checking out their website, it says she’s in charge of “samples/vocals/Moog”, so maybe it was a Minimoog? Couldn’t really hear it anyway, but regardless, this band was an auspicious start for the day.

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August 5th, 2002

Again, warning, this is pretty long. This only covers the bands I saw on the first day of the festival, and only the ones that I remember something about worth saying, so I might have forgotten one or two. In the weeks before the fest I spent a lot of time tracking all the bands down on the Internet and finding out a little information about them, so I think I was able to see the bands that would have been most interesting to me, and avoid many of the ones that I would have hated. These are basically in chronological order, from about 2:30PM until 12:10AM.

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August 4th, 2002

The year 2002 marked the 16th edition of Jack Koshick’s Milwaukee Metalfest, the longest-running metal festival in the United States. While it only draws a tiny fraction of the entire U.S. population of metal fans, it can be argued that the sheer scope of the event, the history behind it, and historical lack of alternatives make the Metalfest one of the most important weekends of the year for the US metal community. Or at the least, it’s one of the events worth writing a large report on. The Metalfest has understandably gone through a lot of changes throughout the years, but reports of many of the ups and downs can be inaccurate, with some amounting to little more than rumor. This can be attributed to the limited number of people who actually attend the fest each year, the poor Internet/media presence of the Metalfest organization, and the general tendency of people to focus on the negative. I decided this year that I wanted to write up a detailed and hopefully unbiased report of the Milwaukee Metalfest, both for my own historical records, and for any metal fans who want to stay apprised of the state of this venerable event. I don’t have any connections with any band, the festival, or the industry; I go simply as a fan, but I have now attended every Milwaukee Metalfest since 1998, so this was my fifth festival. That experience, combined with the fact that I took lots of notes over the weekend (and didn’t have a drop of alcohol!) should hopefully make my viewpoint worth reading. On with it…

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