Metal heads make their way to Armstrong

Armstrong Open Air brings in 22 bands

Those wandering into Armstrong over the next week may notice a few more head bangers than usual, and we’re not talking about bull riders.

With the Interior Provincial Exhibition still weeks away,  the city is about to become the site of a heavy metal music festival, with approximately 800 fans and musicians expected to arrive in Armstrong Friday and Saturday for the two-day festival.

Billed as Western Canada’s largest metal festival,  the AOA (Armstrong Open Air) event was previously held at a private outdoor residence for two years. This year it has opened to the public at a new venue and will feature 22 bands from all over B.C.

“We couldn’t find an open air venue for this year’s festival, so we were offered Hassen Arena and everyone was open to holding it there,” said Jesse Valstar, who is part of a core group of six individuals organizing the event. “We have six-to-eight people working with us, and on the day we’re expecting a larger group of volunteers.”

Valstar is also performing at the event as the bass player for Armstrong metal band Odinfist, who were nominated for Metal Recording of the Year at both the 2011 and 2010 B.C. Interior Music Awards.

“The bands coming to the festival are some of my colleagues who we’ve met playing in bars around the province. A lot of them contacted us to perform here,” said Valstar, adding that metal music still has a huge following despite it being shunned in the mainstream the past decade or so.

Most metal bands had their heyday in the late-’70s,‘80s and early-’90s with groups such as Slayer, Judas Priest and Metallica.

“Heavy metal is fast guitars and fast rhythm sections channeling ones emotions through lyrical content. There’s lots of energy on stage,” said Valstar. “Lots of people like myself like metal that is heavy melodically.”

Besides the constant stream of music, the AOA event will include local catering, on-site camping around the IPE fairgrounds, and a beer garden. Anyone under the age of 16 who wants to attend must be with a legal guardian.

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