“There’s a thing in Europe where they’re like, ‘No Americans can throw a festival like us!”
Shy Kennedy has a vision for the future of Descendants of Crom, her festival of doom, sludge, rock and underground music.
“There’s a thing in Europe where they’re like, ‘no Americans can throw a festival like us!’” she says with a laugh. “I would just like people in Europe to [talk about] this festival, like, ‘We gotta get over there!”
Coming from someone else, this might sound like an improbable daydream. But with both Kennedy’s organizational skills and her passion for heavy music, it’s not such a lofty goal.
Before debuting the festival at Cattivo last September, Kennedy, who runs the small label and design company called Blackseed Design, had never booked more than three or four bands in a night. So when, with a shockingly barebones staff (including two stage managers, a door person and someone selling merch) she managed to pull off a 17-band lineup, while maintaining a positive and energetic atmosphere, it seemed nothing short of miraculous.
DECENDANTS OF CROM. Pre-festival gala, 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27. Howlers, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $12. Main festival, 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 and Saturday, Sept. 29. Cattivo, 146 44th St., Lawrenceville. $35-82. Visit www.descendantsofcrom.com for full schedule.
This year Kennedy has more help. But she’s also added another day – the fest is again happening at Cattivo— and a pre-festival gala at Howlers, bringing the total number of bands to 36.
“The idea is to have a huge variety,” says Kennedy. “It’s about really mixing it up and showcasing different bands.” Though Kennedy dislikes the term “headliner” (“There’s no rockstar-effect in this scene,” she says. “Everybody puts their work in.”), the lineup features some high-profile acts, including New Hampshire sludge band Come to Grief, doom rockers Mos Generator from Washington State, and just-about-to-blow-up proggy stoner band Forming the Void. Local bands are well represented as well, including Molasses Barge, Urns, Solarburn and Kennedy’s own band, Horehound, among others.
Sets are staggered between two stages so, if you’re up for it, it’s possible to catch every single band. And that setup makes it even more important to assemble the perfect mix of sounds and subgenres: “You can’t listen to ten traditional doom bands in a row,” Kennedy points out. “You’re going to drift off.”
Ultimately, Kennedy won’t book a band for the fest unless it’s something she really loves – “musically it’s going to be amazing from start to end, for me,” she laughs – but Descendants of Crom isn’t a personal ego trip. It’s about building community in the heavy music scene on a national, and (eventually) global scale. It also enables local bands to build relationships with bands from around the country, which leads to touring opportunities and increased exposure for the Pittsburgh music scene. “It’s hard to book out of town if you don’t have a connection,” Kennedy says. “This absolutely does that.”
“Metal” Mary Bielich, who appeared last year for a reunion set with classic Pittsburgh doom band Penance, was thrilled to be a part of the inaugural festival. “Descendants of Crom is a textbook example of a music fest that is put on by the right person with the right attitude, and for all the right reasons,” Bielich says via email, echoing the experience of many other musicians and attendees. “It’s hard to believe that just one person can take on such an event and knock it out of the park on the first try, but she did.”
But, of course, Kennedy can’t be expected to make it happen all on her own, and she welcomes whatever support people are willing to offer. “Every single person who participates is important,” she says. “We all need to come together where we can.”
Margaret Welsh is the Pittsburgh Current Music Editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.