One of the highlights of my year last year was attending the Northwest Terror Fest, a three-day gathering of underground metal bands, performing back to back sets at two adjacent clubs in the Capitol Hill District of Seattle. Not only did I get to photograph a ton of great bands, but I also met some only-on-the-internet friends in person and make some new ones, establishing a connection with the scene up there that continues on. So now that I’m mobile-living, of course I wasn’t gonna pass up an opportunity to head back to Seattle for another NWTF and make larger trip of it as well.
I spent the beginning of the week cramming in as much work as I could in order to leave town free and clear of responsibilities, which wasn’t easy but doable. I was able to break away midday Wednesday and point my nose north, following the route I’d taken a couple months back when I went out with Marty O’Reilly and his band. I grit my teeth and slogged over Hwy 20 to the I5, barreling (if I could use such a term) towards Shasta, then cutting off northeast at Weed and heading up the 97. I was met by a major downpour on that first stretch of highway, forcing me to reduce my speed and keep both hands on the wheel at all times. I loved it. The weather eventually cleared allowing me to enjoy the high desert forests and wide open plains, which, in those moments when the clouds parted to allow scant rays of the sun through, turned gorgeous hues of orange and red and blue.
I stopped outside Chiloquin to make myself some dinner and was treated to an amazing view from my perch on the side of the mountain. It’s a simple thing, but when I find a gorgeous spot to park and eat, it gives me great satisfaction. Now properly nourished, I continued down the 97 for another couple hours til it started getting dark and I needed to find a place to stop for the night. There were dirt roads leading off the highway every quarter mile or so, and it was time to play the game of slow down/crane your neck/peep the dirt road for camp-ability without causing an accident. I rolled the dice and headed off one of these random dirt roads leading out into the state forest, which did end up providing me with a spot. The air was clear and crisp, the traffic lowly rumbling a short distance away and I decided to treat myself to a little stroll down the abandoned road to soak up the smells and stretch my legs after a long day in the van.
Morning greeted me with overcast skies and temps in the upper 30’s. Not what I was expecting, but the van was still cozy enough to where I didn’t need to fire up my heater. I made breakfast and coffee and got my ass on the road, continuing up the 97 through Bend and into the Mount Hood National Forest again, which was much greener and lush than the last time I came through in April. Took the winding roads down past the ski resort, then into the outer Portland bergs and past Portland proper, then back on the I5 the few more hours to Seattle. I got into town a few hours before the show was supposed to start, so I searched out a pay lot near the venue and walked the neighborhood looking for a place to eat. Went back to the spot that saved my ass many times during last year’s Fest, a little cantina called Bimbo’s where I was welcomed by awesome 80’s goth and industrial music on the PA and a couple delicious tacos on a plate.
Eventually it was showtime, and arriving at the venue I realized the first band had already played and I missed them. Felt kinda stupid. Ran into my photobro Teddie Taylor, who’d undertaken her own substantial road trip out here from New Orleans, passing through a number of picturesque places and making some great photographs of her trip along the way. I also ran into Josh Ford, an amazing veteran photographer I’d met in Las Vegas last year. I’ve long admired his photography work, and he’s a delightful human being to boot. Our little photographer gang ranged back and forth between the larger upstairs venue (Neumo’s) and the smaller basement venue (Barboza), shooting the first few songs of one band before heading to the other club to save a spot near the front of the stage and wait for the next band to start. This went on for five or more hours, for three days straight.
Fortunately, though, the shows were over by 10:30 (though a couple bands played “afterparties” at another club a few blocks away), which allowed me to get to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour. Last year I’d scoped out some spots to park and sleep in a pretty upscale neighborhood only 6 or 8 blocks from the club, so that’s where I headed again. I quickly found the perfect spot on a tree-lined, dark and quiet street and settled in for the night.
I spent more than half the next day in a nearby café, working on photos from last night and catching up on a bit more work. As I sat at my little table, I watched people walk by and come in and out of the café, and realized how much I appreciate being in a city that still has a great collection of freaks and weirdos, (unlike San Francisco, sadly). Elderly people with tattoos, punks and metalheads and artsy queerdos, people who are definitely living life on their own terms. Refreshing. I bailed from the café in the early afternoon back to my van still parked on the quiet and tree-lined street and relaxed for the afternoon. I was feeling pretty spent and needed to nap and recharge the batteries for a bit. Eventually I went back to town to get myself a substantial dinner that would keep me powered through the night.
Back at the club I did a couple video band interviews, ran into a few other people I knew, then dove back into the subterranean caverns for another five-hour metal marathon. There were a couple of highlights for me tonight, band-wise, including seeing Full Of Hell (YouTube them if you haven’t heard of them) and Primitive Man, who are the absolutely heaviest, loudest, darkest band you’ve ever heard. They were loud even with my earplugs in. There were a couple times I chuckled to myself that this band was almost too much. Almost. Unlike last night there were a few mosh pits upstairs, especially for Gatecreeper and Full of Hell, and of course for the night’s headliner Integrity. Those guys are an old-school hardcore band, and though I’m not familiar with their music or background, it was clear that most everyone else in that room was. At one point during their set, I turned to look at the seething mass of sweaty bodies and saw nothing but smiles on nearly every single person’s face. Watching people get their release by throwing themselves violently against/over/on top of each other is pretty awesome.
And yes, once again I ended up in my van, parked on a quiet, tree-lined street, getting ready for bed at the wonderfully middle-aged hour of 11:30 (which is an hour past my bedtime, btw).