'Launch' music festival in Lancaster offers nostalgia
Shoulder-length hair on serious young men, head banging, screaming lyrics, screeching guitars, pounding drums...somebody wake me, I'm back in the '80s.
As strange as it may seem, nostalgia was one of the drawing cards for people coming to the seventh annual "Launch Music Conference and Festival" in Lancaster this weekend.
Many of the tunes were the musical equivalent of whiskey mixed with fire, with just a sprinkle of dynamite thrown in to enhance the flavor.
"I'm here, mostly, to hear Atreyu; I've been listening to them from back in the "MySpace" days," said Kieri Guarino, of Carlisle. "It's very nostalgic for me."
Exciting? You bet. Explosive? Absolutely. But nostalgic?
Lest we forget, metal has been around for a handful of decades. It's still pretty much cutting edge in music, so much so, in fact, that getting too close to that edge can cause you to bleed.
And that's what metal demands: blood, sweat and tears. Heart and soul. Going full-tilt. But it's ok to remember music you loved when you were younger, so...nostalgic.
Hardcore metal band Atreyu, together since the 1990s, was the big-name draw for many of the fans who attended the four-day festival Friday evening.
"I just love the people here," said Ben Beitler, of Perry County. "It's refreshing, knowing there are so many people here who enjoy the same kind of music. 'Launch' is like a vacation for us."
Beitler, a metal core drummer, had been in the band "Move Like Attis," and said he was looking forward to hearing "Alien Ant Farm," a band that's been around since 2001, when their huge hit "Smooth Criminal" was all over the airwaves.
"It will be kind of nostalgic, listening to them," Beitler said.
This year's "Launch" festival boasted more than 175 performers on 15 stages and in 11 venues. Along with the performances, there were also workshops, like drum clinics and vocal clinics, marketing, social media and licensing conferences.
In the lobby, Tanner Westimayer, of Madison, Wi., said he was the booking agent for metal band "Narrow Hearts."
"I love 'Launch,' it's great," Westimayer said. "It's got all the bands, the fans, the music industry people."
Chris Klabe of Dillsburg said he's been to every one of the "Launch" festivals.
"This is the heart of the Pennsylvania music scene," Klabe said. "I've been in a handful of bands, and I like everything (all music) and there's a little bit of everything here...Lancaster is a huge hub for all styles of music, and they all mesh well."
Steve Spealman, of Lancaster, agreed: "The local music scene here is awesome. I've played at the Chameleon Club, and it's good to support a small enough city where people can appreciate all this music."
Early metal and 80s punk rock are his favorite types of music, Spealman said, but added that he was excited to see "Atreyu."
"They're a well-put-together metal band and their lyrics are poetry," Spealman said.
Outside, on a stage in front of the Lancaster Visitors' Center, a crowd had gathered in the early evening to listen to "J and the 9s," a metal band from Brooklyn.
Many "bopped" along to the music, clearly enjoying the performance as the lead singer, a girl dressed in black lace and pink, with long bright pink hair, pounded out her lyrics and energetically cavorted through the crowd.
"This is the first time I've seen them, but I think they're amazing," said Sophia Efthymiades, of Lancaster. She was especially looking forward to seeing "Hiding Scarlett," she said.
Inside the Lancaster Convention Center, "For the Perilous" was tearing it up, as Tim Summers of Lebanon, drummer for the progressive metal band "Memoria," was waiting to take the stage. This was the second year for "Memoria" to play at "Launch, he said."
"I think it's great how many people from all around the state come here, and so many bands get to play; it's just a good opportunity for everyone," Summers said.
Rhalik Medina, of Mt. Joy, said he came to hear "Memoria."
"I like the energy of metal," Medina said. "I listen to lots of music, different kinds, but this is my favorite."
Myerstown resident Jaime Breidigan, wearing an "Avenged Sevenfold" black shirt, had no problem admitting to being a true "metal head."
"I just love to rock," Breidigan said. "I just love the music, everything from classic rock to hard-core metal, and music in general. Besides that, I'm here because I know the guys in 'Memoria.'"
With Breidigan was Kaycee Varner, of Enola, who compared the metal community to one big happy family.
"I like the closeness, the togetherness...you see the bands, and the fans, at different shows, and you get to know them; it's like family," Varner said.
The best thing about heavy metal?
"The emotion," Varner said. "It's the emotion."
Some in the crowd listening to "For The Perilous" were moved to dance, none more so than Mitch Heffner, 21, of Ephrata, who cleared out a space for himself as he wildly thrashed, moving in a blur.
"Metal has always been my favorite, for as long as I can remember," Heffner said, between songs.
"I play drums, too, so I love music, and this is unique, it's edgy, and it speaks to me," said Heffner, who was wearing a black shirt that read "Pray For the F.... Weak."
"I feel like what the music feels," he said.
The convention center had two bands on the stage at one time, so as soon as "For the Perilous" started to break down, "Oath," a New York band, started up, thereby providing non-stop, crowd-pleasing music.
With major head banging, guttural screaming and drums that vibrated through your chest, "Oath" was pure metal and just what the crowd was looking for. "Oath" served 100 percent- proof liquid energy, and the crowd drank it up.
"We've been doing this for 10 years and it's always worth it," "Oath's" lead singer told the audience.
Lauren Snyder and boyfriend, Bijan Bahari, both of Baltimore, came to "Launch" because they're both musicians and wanted to learn from the seminars offered to advance their careers.
Snyder was more the hard-core metal fan ("I've always been a rocker") while Bahari favors the "old-time" bands, as he put it: Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath!
"I like punk rock and I like classic metal," Bahari said. "My first concert was "OzFest," back in 2001 and I love Black Sabbath; they're the best."
Dressed all in black, with red plaid sneakers, Leela Swann, of York, was wearing a shirt that said "Metal Mom," because her son, Devon, plays guitar in "Memoria."
"I enjoy seeing all "my boys" up there, letting their talent out," Swann said. "I enjoy all kinds of music, too, and tonight, we'll be back to see 'Armory Infirmary,' a Christian metal band. They just bring chills to you every time they play."
"It's like, real homey," said Lauren Wissinger, of Harrisburg, referring to the festival. "You don't get judged on what you wear or what you look like; you can be who you are. So you've got to support the music and keep it going."