Every year when the garage punk blowout that is Horrible Fest comes to an end, organizers Russ "Romance" Murphy and Paul Schlachter swear that they won't go through the agony of doing it again. And yet, they've kept the festival going strong for nine years now (they say they'll stop when they reach 10). This year's event, slated to take place over Memorial Day weekend at Now That's Class, promises to be another terrific showcase of national and international underground acts. And there's lots of local talent on the bill too.
Murphy and Schlachter recently sat down with us at Now That's Class to go over the four-day line-up. "It's a unique atmosphere," says Murphy. "You won't see some of these bands anywhere else in the U.S. Some people come for the obscure bands. Some people come to party." The promoters estimate that at least half their audience comes from out of town. Here's their take on what to expect from this year's festival.
8 p.m., Thurs., May 22. Iceage/Buck Biloxi/Prostitutes/Obnox/Queen of Hell/Uniform/Fat Vegan/Mr. California/Zack the Ripper/Cruelster. Tickets: $10.
Murphy: Usually, the first night is a warm-up night but this year it's full on. Iceage only has six U.S. shows. We're one of those six shows. They're a terrific post punk band. They're really young, all around 21 years old.
Schlachter: Some people say they sound like Joy Division. I don't think that but they have brooding, dramatic vocals. They're coming here just for the fest. They'll fill the place by themselves. They did last time they played here, and they're much more popular now.
BBQ & Wing Easy
5 p.m., Fri., May 23. The Wingtones/Burger Boys/Mr. California. Tickets: Free.
M: That's an annual tradition.
S: It's always real fun. I got a hot tub for that night. The Wingtones don't play anymore because one of the members doesn't live here anymore. They only sing songs about chicken wings. The one guy plays a chicken wing bass. They have a guy dressed as chicken wing Godzilla monster. They call him Wingzilla. It's entertaining. They play on the back patio. There will be free hotdogs for everyone. We'll have vegan dogs too.
8 p.m., Fri., May 23. Secret Prostitutes/Counter Intuits/Homostupids/Wetbrain/Hep Z/Mordecai/Unholy Two/Basement Boy. Tickets: $12.
M: The biggest band is Secret Prostitute. They're flying here for two days for the fest. They're not playing any other shows. I played them on WCSB and other people have too.
S: They're a cult band.
M: Their records on eBay go for 70 or 80 bucks. The singer sings in Indonesian and a few other languages. They'll do a cover song by a German band. They play really short songs. The Counter Intuits will be great. It's Ron House from Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. The other members are all from local Cleveland bands.
S: [Ron House] is really charismatic. This is maybe their sixth show.
M: And Mordecai is in a similar vein. They sound like protopunk stuff like Television and the Velvet Underground. [The night's line-up] is all over the place. Wet Brains play hardcore punk and bring in a good crowd.
S: Hep-Z is like AC/DC with obnoxious lyrics.
M: Unholy Two and Mordecai have EPs coming out so it's like an LP release show for both bands.
Matinee & BBQ at Castle Greatskull
2-7:30 p.m., Sat., May 24. Vile Gash/Mangina/Hank Wood & the Hammerheads/World Domination/Degreaser/Cracked Up/Party Plates/Royal Blood. Tickets: $10.
M: Vile Gash rarely plays out. They were a hardcore band from Columbus. The singer moved to Chicago. We asked them to do the show and they're very aggressive. They play 30-second songs. Their whole set will last 10 minutes.
S: Mangina is a good black metal band. They're pretty obnoxious.
M: Degreaser is a little more tuneful than they used to be. World Domination sounds like Hawkwind. Hank Wood had to cancel last year and they're playing twice this year. They're well-known in punk circles. They're hardcore kids doing snotty garage punk. It's very stripped down and primitive.
S: It's a real mix. Cracked Up is country and Party Plates is metal. It's really varied.
8 p.m., Sat., May 24. Gary Wrong Group/Destruction Unit/S.H.I.T./Hank Wood & the Hammerheads/Lumpy & the Dumpers/Classhole/Bad Noids/Short Rabbits. Tickets: $12.
M: Destruction Unit will wrap everything up. They're very loud. They have it in their rider that they have to perform at a certain decibel level or they won't play. They have a film thing they do too. It's over the top, heavy psyche. Gary Wrong played here a couple of years back. They were new at the time and took people by surprise. They have a synth player and they play weird punk rock. They sound a little like early Butthole Surfers. Short Rabbits are a good local band and they don't play too often. The only show I remember them doing was when they opened for Flag at the Grog Shop.
Morning After Pill Party
6 a.m., Sun., May 25. Yankee Peddler/Wetbrain/Real Regular/Aggressive Response/MC Homeless-Peaks Ohio. Tickets: Free.
M: It was a raging success last year. You get three hours to rest. There are a lot of bizarre acts.
S: We have a bluegrass guy. He's really talented. He plays banjo and sings and plays fiddle. We'll have breakfast tacos. Our friend is making the Mexican food. She grew up in Texas. It's the real deal.
Horrible Fest Death Finale
4 p.m., Sun., May 25. The Hussy/Wooly Bullies/Teen Vomit/Swirly in the River. Tickets: Free.
S: There is a little matinee to end the thing. The Hussy has a good following. They're a garage rock band.
M: There are a couple of locals who wrap everything up for those who are still going.
S: If we survive this one, the tenth will be the last one.
M: Maybe we should just stop at nine.
May 22-25, horriblefest.com.