Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve the amount of ridiculously awesome music here in Portland, Oregon. Earlier this year we had the Females of Color Festival, a celebration of anyone that plays music and identifies as a female of color (the lineup included, um, pretty much every great band in this town), and this last weekend saw the passing of Shred Fest, a festival for face-melters who identify as women. And, judging by the two bands I caught, the Shred Fest lineup was just as much a success as Females of Color.
Fabi Reyna, a Portland transplant from Austin, TX, created Shred Fest in order to gain support for her magazine She Shreds, a guitar-based response to Tom Tom Magazine. On the Facebook event page, Reyna says the festival and magazine are here to "[encourage] women not to be afraid of shredding just because Van Halen told you do it a certain way." Shred Fest's goal is to show that women can play guitar how they want, shredding or not (even Stairway).
The festival started at 3 in the afternoon, cramming in Reporter, Tender Forever, and Forest Park, Modern Marriage, Cat Fancy, among many others. By all accounts, each show was awesome—I can say that Forest Park and Modern Marriage definitely made my weekend at an earlier show, and I've never heard a bad word about Reporter or Tender Forever—but I only caught the last two bands, Lozen and Palo Verde, both two-pieces who specialize in one thing: brutal shredding.
Lozen work in that sludgy field of metal that strips away all unnecessary notes until they have a clean, efficient shredding monolith. Guitarist Hoz terrorized both an incredibly downtuned electric guitar and a straight-up bass guitar, backed by an enormous number of amplifiers, carrying on in the tradition of chunky power chords and pummeling bass tones of the Melvins and Nomeansno. Hoz and drummer Juice traded off shouting and bellowing over their monstrous wall of sound, working in the grand tradition of heavy music but slowly (shreddingly) carving out their own niche.
I need to preface Palo Verde by saying I don't think I've seen a more talented, get-out-of-here-you-are-kidding-me out of control drummer than Lauren K. Newman. I don't think you quite understand if you're still reading this and not listening to them (here), because seriously, she plays the kit like there should be ripped purple Hulk shorts on the stage afterwards. Her drumming combined with Terrica Kleinkecht's sheets of shred formed a flightier, more spaced-out take on the same sort of metal vocabulary as Lozen. Their fifteen, twenty minute-long improvisations smack more of jazz players more than metal, choosing tone and finesse over riffing and chugging. If you ever get the chance to see Palo Verde, run, don't walk.
Check out the Facebook page for the event here, with more info on the bands, and an article on the magazine and Reyna here. Treat any shreds, blown minds or melted faces with Rite Aid Antibiotic Ointment here.