From mild to metal: Charles City the site of a 14-band music festival next weekend

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

At first, the Floyd County Fairgrounds in Charles City might seem to be an unusual place for an all-day music festival featuring a bunch of heavy metal bands.

Once you talk about it with Chase Dubiel and Andrew Hammang of the band Astral Space, however, it starts to make perfect sense.

Those two are the organizers of the third annual Space Jam Music Fest, an annual multi-band local music festival, which will be held at the fairgrounds in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 8. Gates will open at 10 a.m., the music starts at 11 a.m. and runs through Saturday night.

“It’s been crazy, getting this all organized,” said Dubiel. “There have been a lot of headaches.”

A handful of vendors on site will include Belmond Drive-In, Ragnarok Cabs (musical merchandise), Tie-Dye By Ashley, Rock Syndicate Records, Blotted Ink Pictures photography, and Ace High Tattoo.

The bands and vendors will set up Friday night, and 14 different bands will each take the stage all Saturday afternoon and evening. Break down and clean-up will be Sunday morning.

Astral Space is from Charles City. The band was founded in 2006 by brothers Shane Miller and Jesse Miller, with Shane being a vocalist and Jesse serving as a drummer.

Bass guitar player Randy McFarland joined the brothers about a year after the band was formed, and three years ago, Hammang — who goes by “AJ” — joined and plays guitar and does synth production. Dubiel is the newest member of the band, and plays synth, samples and turntables.

“Charles City is definitely an anchor place for this band,” AJ said.

Another band playing at the festival, Anger Incarnate, is also based in Charles City. Members are vocalist Michael Mallory, drummer Neil Larson, bassist Matt Schepp and guitarist Nick Weipert.

“We kind of had the Floyd County Fairgrounds land on us, honestly,” AJ said. “We were looking for more private property because we wanted to grow a little bigger this year. We looked into four or five different properties, and everyone backed out at the last minute before we could start the planning.”

Two months ago, however, vocalist Shane Miller secured the Floyd County Fairgrounds.

The all-day local music festival will feature a variety of different musical styles. Admission to the show is $12, and it’s $15 for admission and a campsite. Alcohol will be sold at the event near the fairgrounds, but no outside drinks will be allowed.

The first two “Space” Jam Music Fests — named after the band Astral “Space,” not the movie with Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan — were right outside of Sumner, and drew crowds of around 150-180 people, although the two are quick to point out that the first two jams were not at a venue, but more house parties on private property.

“We were just fortunate enough to have a friend we knew with a barn,” AJ said. “A guy in one of the bands built a stage and put it in the barn, we brought out our PA equipment, invited our friends who played and put a show on.”

The jam has outgrown the farm, however, and AJ expects the crowds to get bigger now. The original idea for the music festival was to bridge the gaps between regional musicians who played different types of music.

“There were bands we liked that we would never get the opportunity to play with, and bands who liked us who could never play with us because we played different genres of music,” AJ said. “So we decided to just invite anyone who wanted to come play.”

Astral Space is a five-piece electronic metal band that combines “heavy synth leads over breakdowns and grooves.” AJ and Dubiel listed a wide variety among their musical influences, including bands like Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith, Slipknot, Lamb of God and The Browning.

Local rockers Anger Incarnate also lists a wide range of influences, from classic rock such as Pink Floyd and Zeppelin, to thrash in the likes of early Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera and Sepultura, to “all the extreme metal of today.”

Although there will definitely be a lot of metal music played, Dubiel and AJ are quick to mention that the festival isn’t intended to promote any one type of music.

“It’s not just metal,” AJ said. “Space Jam has never been designed to just be even a rock and metal show. It’s all over the board. We’ve actually got two hip-hop artists on there. The first two bands are easy listening. It’s not genre-specific at all — that’s the one thing we do not want the stereotype of.”

“It’s not a metal show, but there is metal at the end of the night,” Dubiel said. “As the night progresses, the music gets heavier and heavier.”

The show will open Saturday with Dan D & The Felony, a group AJ describes as having more of a “Johnny Cash influence, a double-rebel rock kind of feel.” The acoustic rock band plays the Cedar Valley region and throughout Iowa. Another band on the slate, The Illusive Flavor, is also a more mellow, acoustic rock band, from Sumner.

Hip-hop artist S6X Wright is an American rapper born and raised in a small town in Iowa and is influenced by Tupac Shakur and a multitude of other old school rap artists. DJ Skykrow is a band from Waterloo that mixes metal, hip-hop and techno.

Other bands at the festival are Bleedchain, a melodic death metal band from Waterloo; Descent of Man, a four-piece death metal band from Winona, Minnesota; Guilty of Treason, a heavy metal band out of the Cedar Falls/Waterloo Area; Hardship, a hardcore band from Des Moines and Waterloo; Jim-jones, a metal band from Waterloo; Phoenix Curse, also a metal band from Waterloo; Faces Turned Ashen, a punk rock band from Cedar Rapids; and 404, a punk, grunge and progressive rock band from the Waterloo area.

“I just hope it’s a change of pace from the norm, and an opportunity to show people that local music is very much alive,” AJ said. “We just want people to show up and have a good time, and support the scene.”

Dubiel and AJ both stressed the concert is to promote local artists and musicians. All the money goes back to the bands, and Astral Space is not taking a cut.

“It’s also about building the musical community — we want to introduce more musicians,” AJ said.

“We’re very close-knit,” Dubiel added. “It’s a family.”

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