For more than a decade Summer- Slam has been bringing fans to a little known area called Vernonia in the foothills of Oregon. To get to the venue we followed a long and windy tree lined road until we spotted one small cardboard sign on the side of the road announcing that we had arrived. The Crave crew rolled in early and six cars deep for this outdoor festival. We set up camp in the blazing heat and made the trek over the hill to where the stage was set up.
Opening band Remedy took the stage as people slowly started to trickle into the circle, camps springing up all over forming little rover villages. Remedy rocked out and even with the sun beating down intensely they still threw a lot of energy into their set. Between bands we wandered over to the food tent where they were dishing out free hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad. We paused for some calories to go with our beer as Snow Day Trip began to play and people started to gravitate toward the stage. As the beer continued to flow the rowdiness was inevitable as the combination of alcohol and hot sun started to take their toll. To get away from the mass of crazy revelers we headed back to camp in search of some glorious shade and cold refreshing beverages. We gathered at the top of the hill to listen to the lively rock band Drunk On Power while they grooved through the afternoon, eventually followed by the equally interesting Mean Visage.
There was a tattoo tent set up where people could get ink to commemorate their day while 12 Gauge Fuse played their brand of soulful melodic rock to a captivated crowd. They were followed by The Nameless, obviously a crowd favorite and by far the best band I had seen so far. They have a raw intensity to their music and a Toolesque quality to their sound, without being a copy band. I could easily imagine hearing their songs on the radio, especially the tune “Got to Lose” which ended up stuck in my head for hours.
AK47 was up next and heavier than most of what I’d heard at the festival so far. They are a Black Sabbath tribute band formerly known as War Pigs. They ran through a number of covers as the crowd sang along. To my surprise, old school trash metalers Gudgen blew us away next with their heavy offerings, followed by Pain Theory, a much loved former staple of the local scene.
Under a crystal clear starry night sky with a huge moon casting shadows across the field, the revelers were out in full force as the mighty Leadface took the stage and the power of their live performance soon incited a huge mosh pit in the dirt. This band is a strange mixture of tribal jazz metal and the eerie notes of the saxophone ringing through the night air seemed to buzz and linger. Frontman Patrick Stahli’s vocals are abrasive and sometimes primal, and as I fully expected, they inspired the first bloodshed of the night.
While SummerSlam might not be considered successful on a large scale, it was still a hell of a lot of fun. This was evident by hearing the combination of people puking outside their tents, the sound of nasal snoring from all around and finally, the last lingering noises before falling asleep were giggles and hysterical laughter. It was a fantastic way to end the night, and the rest of the party continued long into the next blazing hot day.
The festival promoters have a fantastic vision, but I think they need a bigger variety of bands with local pull in the Portland area. With better promotion this could be a huge event, something close to our own little Woodstock. The acoustics were great in the natural arena, you breathe fresh unpolluted air, camp with your friends, bake in the sunshine, drink copiously and when you throw in a healthy dose of rock n’ roll it all added up to a recipe for success.