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Southwest Terror Fest V Shreds Downtown

by Kai Parmenter

It’s time to get heavy and throw the *horns*, because the fifth annual Southwest Terror Fest is here. Spanning four days of doom, sludge, rock, punk and good old-fashioned metal music, this year’s Southwest Terror Fest will be the largest yet, and should have all of Downtown banging their heads in unison by weekend’s end. Metalheads unite!

Billed as “Arizona’s biggest punk and metal party of the year,” Southwest Terror Fest: Houses of the Unholy will begin on Thursday, October 20th, with shows running through Sunday, October 23rd. This year’s lineup includes some fifty different acts spread across multiple venues Downtown, including 191 Toole, Solar Culture, Flycatcher and Club Congress.

“It’s a lot,” says Larry Horvath, one of the founders and organizers of Southwest Terror Fest. That’s an understatement. The Fest will kickoff with two back-to-back shows on Thursday evening, followed by early and late shows on Friday. Saturday will include three separate shows, including an early afternoon matinee at Club Congress.

The Fest will close out with a huge show Sunday evening featuring doom metal progenitors Saint Vitus—think the bluesy metal of Black Sabbath, with more deliberate pacing and an added dose of menace. Due to high demand, full festival passes have sold out, however you can still purchase tickets for individual shows. (For a complete listing of bands and shows, check out their event page here.)

Yet Southwest Terror Fest wasn’t always the huge event it now is. According to Horvath, he and fellow cofounders Dave Carroll and David Rodgers were hanging at a venue during the final Club Crawl, previously one of Downtown’s biggest local music festivals, when the idea to start their own festival came up.

“We were literally just sitting around talking about it,” says Horvath. “I made a joke that we should do an all-metal festival…the next thing I knew, David [Rodgers] and Dave [Carroll] were already on it and had the ball rolling.” Horvath and Carroll had previously acquired a stage for metal music the last few years of Club Crawl, but this would be a whole different undertaking. Southwest Terror Fest was born.

The festival has always been a multiday affair, however the scope of the event has grown significantly in recent years. The first two years of Southwest Terror Fest took place entirely at The Rock on Park Ave., before transitioning to Downtown venues including the Rialto Theater, Club Congress, 191 Toole and the now-closed District Tavern in years three and four. “We’re in year five and we’re still learning stuff, rolling with the punches, adjusting and evolving as we go,” notes Horvath.

For Horvath and the other founders, Southwest Terror Fest is a passion project through and through. The Fest relies partially on sponsorship from local businesses; the rest is out of pocket. “It’s a festival by fans for fans,” says Horvath. “I think you would be hard-pressed to find another festival similar to ours where people are booking exactly what they want to see, as opposed to what they think is going to sell…everything we pick we want to see ourselves.”

What sets this year apart from previous festivals? “This year we’re going much faster than we normally do,” says Horvath, noting that the Fest has in previous years been characterized primarily as a showcase for slower doom/sludge metal. “We’ve done just about every category [of metal] you can think of, but the first four years were definitely more geared towards that,” says Horvath. “We’ve had so many requests over the years to do a fast one, so here in year five, that’s what they’re getting.”

To learn more about the fifth annual Southwest Terror Fest, or purchase tickets for shows, visit their website here.