It is always a sad day when a part of the vibrant underground music scene disappears or ceases, whether that be a band, a venue, and indeed a music festival. When ‘Kin Hell Fest took place this past weekend, there were extremely high hopes – it had was the strongest line-up in its three-year history, featuring Napalm Death, Anaal Nathrakh and Onslaught as its headliners. Not to mention UK exclusive appearances from Pentagram Chile, Birdflesh and Lock Up, as well as appearances by the likes of US death metal legends Massacre, UK rockers Hawk Eyes, Welsh death metal veterans Desecration among the total of 43 bands covering grind, sludge, doom, slam, metal (blackened, death, traditional, etc.) and all manner of silliness, and all for £59, considerably a bargain price for such a calibre of bands on one line-up. It was proudly DIY, organised chiefly by Paul Priest, who managed to pull together this line-up after clawing back from debts incurred from the festival in 2013 when it moved from a single day event to a three-day weekend. Huge efforts were made to give the festival exposure. Numerous people handed on flyers at events. Blogs and websites such as ourselves went out on a limb to sell this as an incredible line-up and a must-attend – not that it should have needed to necessarily, and not that it wasn’t that way already.
But as you may have gathered from our cracked, hindered and indeed partial review of the festival, the bands, the price, the hype – none of its matters compared to actual revenue and numbers through the door. And despite things looking positive on the Friday, Saturday was considerably emptier, and while I can’t speak for Sunday’s attendance, it seemed the decision had already been made over on Facebook to declare that once Sunday was over, so was ‘Kin Hell Fest. Not just this year, but likely for good. A statement went out on the ‘Kin Hell Fest website, asking people to help with ‘Kin Hell Fest’s ‘funeral costs’. Paul Priest explained:
We didn’t want to do this, absolutely didn’t, not again, but it feels like we have no choice than to look for extra continued help from people. We’re not asking for much off anyone, but anything you can do to help us clear the pretty hefty debts we will have post-fest would be almost life-changing. Obviously we’re looking at things we can do personally to sort this out as well, but I guess trying to put something together of this kind of size, and keeping it as a DIY ethics based festival is almost impossible, implausible maybe.
Unfortunately though, it does pretty much signal the end of ‘kin Hell Fest after today. We’ll try and clear up the debris and broken bones of it all as quickly as possible, knowing there’s been some insane, brilliant, amazing things happen at every installment.
We are absolutely gutted at having to do this but, for all the incredible support and amazing words from all over the world we’ve had in the run up to the festival over the last 9 months, it’s still not equated to the amount of people coming down that we, and everyone else (involved or onlooking) thought it should. We were about as confident in the line up as it was possible to be, but, things didn’t work out.
Understandably there’s been numerous reasons put out as to why ‘Kin Hell Fest didn’t attract the numbers that were either forecast or anticipated, mainly due to clashes with the Temples Festival in Bristol, Neurotic Deathfest, even Live in Leeds – a festival focusing on a vastly different musical audience altogether. Some people cited being unable to afford to come to the festival, and one or two have churlishly suggested the line-up wasn’t good (what rock have you been living under?). Let’s face facts – not enough people got through the door. And what does it take ultimately for events like this to not just survive, but thrive? That’s right. People turning up and getting through those doors. Ticket sales, payments on the door. They all count.
It’s perfectly understandable that some people can’t afford a weekend ticket or even a day ticket, or the escalating travel fares pumped out by public transport networks. Clashes are clashes but just because Temples emerged, doesn’t mean that ‘Kin Hell Fest didn’t have a strong enough line-up – they only had the world’s biggest grind band and a number of other artists with considerable weight to add to this package. Even if people migrate to those other events, that doesn’t mean the North doesn’t have a strong enough following within hardcore and metal circles. Indeed, the Yorkshire area has been pumping out a good number of bands for a while now and created fervent scenes as a result, and has always maintained a good following, even if hit recently by the closures of venues such as Rio’s and The Well in Leeds. But that means nothing if people aren’t getting through the door in numbers.
I cannot claim to know Paul inside and out as I’ve only met him a few times, mostly at the festival and during my time as a drummer for Poison Dwarf. What I do know is that he has done more than anyone to keep heavy music alive and well in Leeds and in the local area, and for well over a decade now, both as a promoter and as a musician himself with local bands such as Reth, Diascorium, Sloth Hammer and most recently, No Fucks Given. He put his heart, soul and hard graft into making this festival work, and had hordes of people handing out flyers at regional shows across the North and beyond to try and drum up interest in this festival. The debts incurred by the festival could have sunk KHF in 2013, but fans clubbed together and helped erase some of that debt to the point where KHF 2014 was considered financially viable. Paul and KHF tried to up their game, which was the only feasible way to go. And in doing so, for my money and I’m sure everyone else who attended – and for some of those who didn’t – this was pound for pound the best line up going as far as the less mainstream festivals go.
Alas, it wasn’t to be enough and whatever reasons you wish to summise, Paul hits it square on the head and he talks more sense than most. But let’s not get bogged down any more in the whys and the hows. The clean-up is underway and you can do your bit to help out a true figure in the Yorkshire, indeed Northern heavy music scene. Merch is still available post-festival from the official KHF store, including t-shirts, posters, patches, and last year’s six-hour compilation that was put together to stave off the debts accrued last year. But be quick, as it will soon be gone. Additionally, you can donate to the KHF team and even a small amount will be appreciated while they try and sort out initially clearing the debt from the fest itself. And gigs are already popping up pledging to give their receipts to Paul and the KHF team in a display of solidarity from bands and promoters alike that the broad metal community often show like no other.
You can read Paul’s statement in full here. And no matter what happens, even if ‘Kin Hell Fest never returns, he, and indeed the rest of the team, will return even stronger from this.