Riff Fest 2016 Preview
If you don’t live under a rock then there is every chance you’ll have heard of Riff Fest by now. An annual inebriated cacophony of decibel puncturing music that ranges from the slow, rapturous clangour of sludge to the hypnotism of psychedelia and the full-on assault of death metal, the free entry event has become a pivotal part of the alternative scene’s calendar.
People travel from all over the country to drink excessively and worship at the altar of the riff, The Alma becoming something of a temple for the day. Here we talk to event co-founder Adam Swarbrick to get the lowdown on this year’s event.
So first off, for those who’ve been living under a rock these past few years, could you give us a brief history of Riff Fest and a summary as to what it’s all about?
Riff Fest was just a cool idea that was cooked up one evening in the Alma over a couple of beers. The basic premise being, ‘How about we invite all our friend’s bands down on bank holiday weekend? Let’s use two stages, let’s fire a barbecue up, put a load of beers on and watch it go’. The reception to the first one was incredible. The reception to the second one however, was unprecedented if I’m honest. To see the growth Riff Fest had made in just one year was insane and is simply a testament to the UK riff scene and everyone involved in it.
Last year’s event was a massive success, amazing bands and an incredible turnout from people – so what was the big ambition for this year’s festival; how were you going to one up last year?
This year I think is maybe a little more varied than last year’s line-up. I’ve spoken to a few close friends and the feedback seems to be positive towards the variation in the bands this time around. We’ve got bands like ENOS bringing a beautiful psychedelic element, ((OHHMS)) who if you’ve seen them before, you might understand what I mean when I say that watching ((OHHMS)) is akin to be enveloped in a colossal tidal wave of warm, brown tones, they tickle the same spot that Deftones do for me: Which is an excellent thing. And then there’s Foetal Juice, I almost dread to think of the carnage that will ensue when that band takes the stage with their brutal death metal! I think people will really appreciate what they’re gonna bring. I’m really proud of the line-up this year.
Conan headline this year, what made you feel the honour should be theirs?
We had Conan on a few times back in 2010/2011, around the Horseback Battle Hammer time, back then there wasn't as many bands at all doing what they do as there may be now. Since then they've gone on conquer on a global scale and it's cool to have them back here.
I remember watching a pint glass shake a good distance before smashing on the ground. That's probably my first memory of Conan. There can be no doubt of the growth that band has undertaken since then, and it's pretty, well... no it's very cool to have them headline this years event.
Barbarian Hermit play this year and seem to have completely exploded since this time last year, how much love for these guys does the Riff Fest Team have and how far can you see this band going in the future?
A lot of love. In fact as type I'm listening to the demo now. They're all really good friends of mine. I've known Mike a long time and as such; I've known what a talent he has with the six string. He’s always had such a strong ear for a riff. Love that man.
How far can they go? As far as they want to! They have infectious tunes and Si is a superb frontman. I'd watch them everyday if I could.
((OHHMS)), a really special band in my eyes who you mentioned earlier also play in what is a rare show in the area. How does it feel to have those guys on?
I first came across them at Temples Fest last year in Bristol. Admittedly I was at a loss during the day, and had no band to really see at that point. So I scanned who was playing the main stage at the time, and I hold my hands up, my interested was peaked by the use of the brackets in the name!
Then I saw them again with Slabdragger in Liverpool and I'd asserted that only a penis wouldn't want to book ((OHHMS)) for their show. And it was done.
There is a diverse range of bands on the bill, how important was it for you guys to book bands that all worship the riff in such different ways?
Very important. Riff Fest is a party, and we want everyone to have a great time, so we gotta cater for all fans of the riff. I think there's something for all fans of 'the riff' here this year.
What do you think makes a killer riff then?
Oooooh great question Mr Weller. Not an easy one mind...
I think it's a personal thing innit. I've typed and deleted numerous answers to this and I can't settle on one. I think you just know. A good riff is one of them which makes you turn to your mate by your side, stick your chin out and nod to them approvingly.
Last year there was a BBQ and two pint cups (which destroyed me), what non-musical things will be happened at Riff Fest to make the event that bit more special?
We thought we'd give all attendees a slice of Bolton's culinary culture this year. We'll be providing pasties and peas for stodge, there'll be an extended bar inside to accommodate a wider selection of beers, the outdoor cider bar shall be returning aswell.
Collier will be getting naked too.
Riff Fest takes place at Bolton’s Alma Inn on Saturday 27th August. Visit the Facebook event page here.