Furnace Fest 2021 Recap
Lambgoat scribe Colin ventured to Furnace Fest this past weekend to party like it was 2003.
In the shadows of the historic Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, AL, Furnace Fest has been resurrected. Originally planned as a one-off twenty-year anniversary event (twenty-one after the COVID-19 related postponements), it now appears to be the start of a second era. After much speculation of if it would even happen, finally, two years after the initial announcement, one of the early 2000s most revered underground music festivals has returned.
Furnace Fest originally made its mark with a run from 2000-2003 boasting a collection of some of independent music's most exciting artists. The yearly line-ups ran the gamut of underground culture - more hardcore affiliated bands like Zao and Shai Hulud played alongside more emo-oriented bands like Further Seems Forever and Taking Back Sunday (all of whom returned for this year's reincarnation) - a reflection of the diversity and openness of the scene prior to the marketing compartmentalization by the greater music industry.
The announcement of the festival's return, along with a true-to-spirit lineup, was met with great anticipation and, even though there may have been a year and half of unprecedented setbacks, it delivered. While bands who had dropped off due to the ongoing complications of navigating the global pandemic like Poison The Well, As Friends Rust and Misery Signals, amongst others, were certainly missed, the three-day show offered enough variety and excitement to satisfy the audience. Given the circumstances of the last year and a half, many of the sets had a special feel as live music returns from a long absence.
Furnace Fest '21 featured a number of bands playing for the first time since the COVID shutdown, reuniting after years of inactivity, or playing classic albums front-to-back. There was a guy in a bacon costume, a team of zebra-striped officials refereeing the pit and an overwhelming atmosphere of fun. Here is what I, who attended as fan in the audience, saw this past weekend.
After checking out the layout, waiting in some lengthy food and drink lines (a possible oversight the festival did resolve for the other two days) and seeing a song or two from Solid State/Tooth & Nail affiliated bands like Narcissus, Silent Planet (who sounded pretty impressive, by the way) and Emery, things kicked into high gear at the main stage when Boston weirdo rockers Cave In came on. Playing a mix of material from their long and varied career, the band had the crowd moshing to more metal songs like "Moral Eclipse" and "Juggernaut," and singing along to "Youth Overrided," a track from their major label alternative rock album, Antenna. Bassist Nate Newton honored Cave In's longtime bass player, the late Caleb Scofield, by playing the latter's recognizable white P-bass. The group's set strayed more towards the heavier side of things, with "Bottom Feeder," an Until Your Heart Stops deep-cut, appearing as a surprise.
As the sun began to set, Terror turned the lawn at the fest's larger stage into the day's biggest pit. Vocalist Scott Vogel, known for his zealous encouragement of crowd participation urged fans to "crawl on somebody's head," since barriers prevented his usual plea for stage dives. The California group ripped through their set of mosh-worthy hardcore, with anthems likes "Overcome," "This World Never Wanted Me," and closer "Keeping The Faith" keeping the crowd on their toes. In typical fashion Terror's set was a frenzy of circle pits and pile-ons.
Having seen From Autumn To Ashes a number of times back during their original run, but never having been much of a fan, I watched their set as a bit of an outsider. While their music still might not be my thing, the band performed well and the audience was definitely into it. Singer Francis Mark noted that the band hadn't played since 2016, making the set a special one for fans. Perhaps the most impressive part of FATA, though, was that not only did drummer Jeff Gretz do double duty that night, but his two sets were actually back to back, playing with Zao immediately after.
Zao (who put on an impressive, intimate show at Seasick Records the night before) was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Playing underneath the pavilion that served as the location for the original Furnace Fests, the Pennsylvania-based metalcore stalwarts were extremely loud and heavy. The band mixed in songs from more recent albums The Well-Intentioned Virus ("Xenophobe") and The Crimson Corridor ("The Ship Of Theseus," "Croatoan") with material from their classic records Where Blood And Fire Bring Rest ("Lies Of Serpents, A River Of Tears") and Liberate Te Ex Inferis ("Savannah," "Skin Like Winter"), and everything in between. Naturally, they closed their set with the mayhem-inducing anthem "5 Year Winter."
After Zao's set I took a walk over to the main stage to catch a couple songs from the masters of the early 2000s emo/hardcore hybrid, Thursday. With microphone swinging, the group played songs from their breakthrough album, Full Collapse. In between "Paris In Flames" and "Understanding In A Car Crash," the band covered "If It's Here When We Get It Back It's Ours," by Texas Is The Reason, with singer Geoff Rickley pointing out that the band's fill-in guitarist for the night was none other than Norman Brannon of TITR.
Closing out the smaller of the three stages was seminal Detroit hardcore group Walls Of Jericho. The band, who also played an excellent set at Seasick Records the previous night, performed with a lot of energy. Songs like "Playing Soldier Again," "Relentless" and "All Hail The Dead" stirred up the pit, while vocalist Candace Kucsulain ran and jumped around on stage like it was twenty years ago.
In the middle of Converge's set (they headlined the second stage), vocalist Jacob Bannon noted that it was the band's first show in a year and a half. The group, as always, played with a fierce intensity. Songs from their pivotal classic Jane Doe like "The Broken Vow" and "Heaven In Her Arms" were peppered in amongst material from more recent releases The Dusk In Us and Axe To Fall. Converge closed their set with the blistering "Concubine."
For me, day two started off on the heavier end and took a turn towards the mellow. Having come up a fan of both hardcore and emo, Saturday's more indie rock offerings drew me in. I checked out Evergreen Terrace, a band I've never really heard even though they have been around for twenty years. The Florida based group played a fairly generic style of early 2000s scream-sing-breakdown metalcore but they did it well. The audience reacted with a good amount of pile-ons and sing-alongs and I can totally understand the love for this band.
The audience under the pavilion thinned out as a majority of the early day crowd made their way over to He Is Legend on the main stage. I stayed and was treated to possibly one of the best sets of the day. North Carolina's Bloodjinn was one of those old Tribunal Records bands that probably should have gotten more notoriety than they did. The band ripped through thrashy, death-metal influenced metalcore bringing to mind fellow Carolinians Prayer For Cleansing at points. The high-pitched piccolo snare was a welcome throwback to that era's classic sound. I spoke to bassist Ryan McInturff later on in the day who told me that it had been twenty years since that line-up had played and that they were writing new material, so definitely be on the lookout for that.
I tried to make it back for Hopesfall but if you arrived late for a well-attended set under the steel pavilion, you weren't seeing anything. They sounded good, but I wandered over the smaller stage to check out post-rock main stays The Appleseed Cast, who played a bit lethargically, but overall sounded pretty good. Leaving there mid-set, I headed back to check out a bit of metalcore icons Shai Hulud, who had also played Thursday night's Seasick Records show with Zao and Walls Of Jericho. The group, now fronted by END bass player Jay Pepito, drew material mostly from Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion and That Within Blood Ill-Tempered. As a surprise, Mean Pete Kowalski from Remembering Never and Ether Coven joined the band for "For The World." Shai Hulud, of course, closed with their anthemic "A Profound Hatred Of Man," which got the whole audience participating.
I caught about four songs from North Carolina metalcore pioneers turned space-rockers Codeseven. All four were from their latter days, with "Sunflower" and "Roped And Tied" being standouts from what I heard. The band started late, delayed by some type of sound issues and when they finally played, their sound unfortunately suffered.
I wandered back up to the pavilion to catch some of Living Sacrifice's set. The band stuck mainly to their early Solid State Records era, playing plenty of material off their 1997 metalcore classic Reborn. The four-piece was heavy, brutal and sounded great - everything you would expect from the Christian metal legends.
Nineties emo greats Mineral took the smaller of the stages late in the evening and played a fantastic set. Guitarist Scott McCarver had some technical issues early on, with the iconic feedback of "Slower" falling a bit short, but it got figured out as things went on. The Austin rock band opened with the first three tracks from their 1997 debut, The Power Of Failing, before mixing in songs from their second and final record EndSerenading. The audience sang along to classics like "Unfinished," "Palisade" "February," and their closer "Parking Lot." While the group's distorted guitars were plenty loud, the serene melodies of vocalist Chris Simpson were a great break from all the screaming.
Glassjaw closed out the pavilion stage, playing their second - and arguably best - album Worship And Tribute in its entirety. The four-piece, led by original members Daryl Palumbo on vocals and Justin Beck on guitar, played the material at an oddly slow tempo, but it came off well enough. Palumbo showed some energy, running around the stage while his bandmates mostly stood in their respective spots, Beck swaying along to the beat. Louder tracks like "Pink Roses" and "Cosmopolitan Bloodloss" came off as extra-heavy in the slower adaptation, and Palumbo's voice sounded great in mellower songs like "Must've Run All Day." After finishing the entire record, the group added "El Mark" and "Convectuoso," b-sides from Worship & Tribute, as an extra bonus for those that stuck around.
I started Sunday off catching Varials on the main stage. I am not familiar with them at all, but I figured I should probably check out at least one of the bands that wasn't twenty-plus years old. They looked young, and the audience, who was full of energy and smiles, looked even younger. Their brand of nu-metal influenced metalcore and deathcore might not be my thing, but if this is the future of the scene then it appears to be in good hands.
Over at the small stage, local Alabamans The Judas Cradle played to a small, but interested audience. The group played a classic Swedish death metal influenced style of metalcore that was certainly a throwback to the days of the original Furnace Fest. The songs were packed with tremolo guitar picking, crunchy breakdowns and screamed/growled vocals.
If the attendance for The Judas Cradle was sparse, it's because Comeback Kid was packed. Trying to get there mid-set left me standing where I couldn't see a thing. But from just listening, the band sounded great. The audience was singing along in full force, oftentimes louder than the actual vocals. The group played a few oldies like "All In A Year," "Wake The Dead," and "False Idols Fall" amongst tracks from their 2010 record Symptoms + Cures. For a surprise, the band closed their set with a cover of fellow Canadians Misery Signals' "The Year Summer Ended In June," in tribute to the band who had to drop off the fest (video below).
Bury Your Dead followed Comeback Kid under the pavilion and kept the crowd moving. Vocalist Mat Bruso was like the negative to Scott Vogel's positive, urging fans to hurt somebody. The group was extremely loud and heavy and their style of meathead moshcore still riles up the fans. The audience sang along to "The Color Of Money" and got down to "Collateral." Their set truly had the feel of a classic early 2000s show.
I bounced around between stages for a while, trying to see a little bit of everything, catching Kansas City indie-rockers The Casket Lottery on the smaller stage. Featuring two former members of mathcore legends Coalesce, the band brought their sophisticated songs to an engaged audience. Wandering over to the main stage, I saw the beginning of Hot Water Music's set. The punk veterans had as much, if not more energy than most of the younger bands. Singer/guitarist Chuck Ragan was headbanging along and bassist Jason Black was moving around, enjoying himself as always. I wandered back to the pavilion to catch the end of Darkest Hour's set where they were playing the entire Undoing Ruin album. The 2005 album captured the band at arguably their best, playing a brutal style of death metal influenced metalcore. The group sounded fantastic and the crowd was definitely into it.
One of the highlights of the festival for me was Delaware hardcore/emo band Boysetsfire. Kicking things off with the anthemic title track to their breakthrough 2000 album, After The Eulogy, the audience turned into a whirlwind of moshing and sing-alongs. The band covered material from their entire career with songs like "Bled Dry," "Cutting Room Floor," and "Closure" coming from their more recent post-hiatus records. For the older fans they included "Another Badge Of Courage" and "Pure" from The Day The Sun Went Out and "Vehicle" from their debut EP This Crying, This Scream, My Voice Is Being Born. They closed out with the iconically catchy "Rookie," the audience singing along.
Drawing a large audience over on the smaller stage, The Juliana Theory played their 2000 pop-emo classic Emotion Is Dead in its entirety. The sound had some issues early on, which seemed to be a theme at that stage, but came together as the band went into the fan favorite "If I told You This Was Killing Me Would You Stop." As advertised, they played the whole album, including the Backstreet Boys sounding acoustic song, "Something Isn't Right Here," which vocalist Bret Detar dedicated to his former band Zao, after making fun of his own song.
With lighted balloons (and one blown up condom) bouncing around, Turnstile took the stage, closing out things under the pavilion. Singer Brendan Yates danced and twirled around and the group brought tons of energy with the crowd singing along to every word. While they may sound like they just borrowed from a lot of nineties records (think Snapcase or 311, to name a couple), the younger audience ate it up. Clearly Turnstile are the torchbearers of the new generation of the scene, and deservedly so.
As one of the biggest bands to come out of the underground scene, Killswitch Engage closed out the entire festival, drawing a massive and joyous crowd. Uniting the younger and the older audiences of the festival, the band touched upon just about every album. Songs from their more extreme self-titled album like "Temple From The Within" mixed in with the more ballad types like "The End Of Heartache." Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz noted that the band, who has become a household name in metal circles, doesn't get the opportunity to play with such varied and underground line-ups anymore and how happy they were to be on the show. Having their roots in such nineties bands as Overcast and Aftershock, they were the perfect band to close things out.
30 commentsPost Comment
Bass player of BLOODJINN you talked to was Ryan. And it was a pleasure to meet you. Keats is long gone.
Sorry Ryan, had a feeling I was going to screw that up. Nice meeting you.
No big deal Simon! I had a blast. Thanks for the kind words!
Great recap,, FF21 was amazing. If you liked these bands and didn't go, you goofed hard as shit.
This clown missed some of the most impressive sets. ETID ripped. The Bled were incredible. Unfortunately their state lost power and we lost two songs (last American cowboy).and knocked loose was pure f*cking insanity. They literally had to pause the show and call a paramedic 3 songs in. This is the loudest band I have ever seen. Knocked loose (furnace fest), 2. Daughters( Mercy Lounge Nashville), 3. Sleep (marathon music works Nashville)
Reviewing shows isn't your strong suit. How are your mosh skills though?
Great that this fest got some press. The mix of old a new bands was cool, and it showed a sense of unity that was lost once the $$$ started rolling in to their respective scenes. Face to Face was awesome and sounded fresh. Newer bands like Microwave were great followed by older bands like The Beautiful Mistake and Code Seven. Knocked Loose probably had a bigger pit than Terror btw! Can't wait for next year!
Mitch, Varials' guitarist, did vocals at Furnace Fest. He was awesome.
Not a single mention of the fact that Underoath (Friday main stage closer) played "When the Sun Sleeps" for the first time in something like 17 years? And then vowed never to play it again? It was wild.
"Weird to describe Jay as End's bassist" This would be because he is End's bassist.
Can't believe you missed the Beloved set and Hopesfall, but it was slammed in there. Insane fest.
"Weird to describe Jay as End's bassist" This would be because he is End's bassist. Considering he fronted Reign Supreme and was a key member of Blacklisted, End seems sort of minor in comparison. Would be like referring to Andy Hurley as "former FocusedxMinds drummer"
I was there as well. Underoath sounded really good which was not mentioned. But the best set I saw all weekend by far was Beloved. No one comes close to what they did on stage.
Nice recap. You probably did the exact opposite itinerary from me except for Turnstile. My son and I couldn't even squeeze in to see Comeback Kid but we made up for it when he tore up the FFAK pit with back flips and some crowd surfing.
Considering Underoath probably has 5 years left in the tank (max) does it really make a f*cking difference if they don't play something from a record 3/5 of the band wasn't on?
Comeback Kid was really solid as well. There was a good supply of chicks there too. It was like a 60/40 poles to holes ratio.
Knocked Loose being the "loudest" had to be painful. I can't imagine those shrill petulant six year old girl screams being blasted through a wall of amphitheater speakers.
Yes. They were the loudest and for no good reason. Beloved sounded perfect. Comeback Kid sounded awesome too. Then someone got wrecked on stage during the Knocked Loose set, what a surprise. The only injury i witnessed all weekend. There was a delay and a call for medics. So we left and went to see ABR, they sounded good as well and played some old jammers.
anonymous 1 day ago Bitter and Then Some is from Jane Doe, idiot. the demo version from 1998 appeared on when forever comes crashing as a bonus on their reissue
Did miss a cpl killer sets 18v, ETID, The Bled, Unearth, and Deafheaven just off the top of my head. Killer weekend, can't wait to see who they can pull off next year.
f*cking Stretch Arm Strong and Beloved! All the Carolina bands represented, I was proud.
I won't be attending future Furnace Fest due to having way over a thousand dollars in merch stolen from me & Furnace fest won't answer my emails,etc It's cost me $150 to get my window fixed after driving 8 hours
^^^^ That doesn't really sound like thats their problem. Definitely sucks though. I hope you get it all figured out.
O.G. Furnace Fest was better when people ripped up bibles during MPB's set.