Riff Fest: August 29th @ The Alma Inn
“With Riff Fest every band has been booked because we love them and believe in them. As long as the band has got a heavy, catchy riff then it’s cool. I’m very keen to stress, that all these bands could headline the event in our eyes.” – Adam Swarbrick
It’s a Sunday evening and, with a belly fun of ale, lager or whatever devilish nectar is your poison, the friendly debates shift into gear. Enthusiastic shouts of ‘that’s the best riff ever’ and ‘why aren’t that band bigger than they are, their new EP is killer’ and so on reverberate in the pub as dusk draws in.
We all love heavy music and the encompassing scene – indeed, the fact you are even reading this solidifies that notion – but for Adam Swarbrick and Jim MacGranthin, the general manager of Bolton’s metallic watering hole The Alma Inn, love wasn’t enough:
“We were sat in the pub talking about the bands we love, great gigs, riffs and so on, as I’m sure we all do. I remember thinking ‘dude, let’s put everything we can into putting on the best show we can’. We planned the first Riff Fest [in 2014] about 9 months in advance, the idea being we’d have more chance of securing all the bands we wanted, being so far in advance. So we got to work, got a pen and paper, and wrote down all our favourite bands from across the UK, fortunately everyone said yes!”
Now preparing to launch its second edition of the festival – a free entry one-dayer featuring some heavy arse and frankly brilliant bands – the event can build on recent success seen around the country. From Desertfest’s continual growth and expansion to Red Sun in Cardiff, Yorkshire Riffer in Leeds and beyond, the scene is in absolute rude health right now. With a large contingent of this year’s line up being local to Manchester and the North West – Ten Foot Wizard, Nomad, Pist, Boss Keloid, Eyesaw, Barbarian Hermit, Mower, Arke & The Hicks – it promises to be a celebration of our area’s finest bludgeonings. That is, of course, alongside the unapologetic stomp of Gurt, Slabdragger and Raging Speedhorn, Trippy Wicked’s…erm…trippy wickedness and more.
So, with such a great line up, why are we allowed in for fuck all?
“I get asked a lot about this,” explains Swarbrick. “It was one of the first things we discussed, it being free. Unfortunately, myself and Jim have, in the past worked really hard to bring good bands here. Depressingly we realised a lot of folk were put off by a meagre entrance fee. So we thought, ‘fuck it! We’ll do it free’ so as to give people no excuse not to attend. We’re very keen on Riff Fest having a party vibe. I think all attendee’s from last year can attest to that. It was utterly rammed.
“The North West has always been a very active hive of great, passionate, hard-working bands. We will always keep local bands on. It’s so important to give the local bands a platform to display themselves on. Mower were first on last year, a relatively new band then. A year on and a lot of people are talking about them and rightly so.”
On the current blossoming of ‘stoner/doom’ festivals across the UK, Adam was quick to wax lyrical about the latest of these, Red Sun. “Red Sun blew me away and I made sure to personally congratulate the guys. They’d worked so hard on creating an independent festival. They succeeded.
“The scene is in good shape, although I must admit personally, I’m not a fan of the term ‘stoner/doom’, I think it covers such a broad spectrum now. In fact I think that’s why we called it something as simple as ‘Riff Fest’ rather than something more specific. As long as the band has got a heavy, catchy riff then it’s cool. We really wanted to book this solo artist on a steel guitar with a slide last year, so we’re quite open to bands style’s when booking. There really is a good support now; it doesn’t seem to be a flash in the pan either, which is obviously great. As long as we all (bands, fans, promoters) keep the faith, we’ll be here for a long time yet.
Obviously, from the punter/media angle, we only see the glory; the beers, the belting bands and the unforgettable, albeit blurry, memories. So what are the biggest challenges of putting on an event like Riff Fest?
“Easy. The running order! Sometimes you go to a gig, and let’s face it, sometimes bands are billed in terms of popularity/how well established they are/how ‘good’ they are. With Riff Fest every band has been booked because we love them and believe in them. I’m very keen to stress, that all these bands could headline the event in our eyes.
And finally, what are the biggest rewards and personally, who are you most looking forward to about this year's event?
“It sounds cheesy, but simply everyone having a great time. It’s coming up 12 months since the last one, people still say ‘dude that was the best day of last year.’ Many people still talk about it, and also how excited they are for this year’s. So that’s all the reward we could ask for.
“Just look at the line-up, it’s gold!”
Words: Phil Weller
Facebook event - https://www.facebook.com/events/1544541289134935/