Report: HELLFEST Celebrates Extreme Music

Scott Frost of has issued the following report:

A weekend concert celebrating extreme music, that last year caused quite a stir in Elizabeth with its sometimes violent fan base, is coming to Trenton's Sovereign Bank Arena.

Organizers said tickets will go on sale today for Hellfest, a three-day ritual of ear-shattering music with a worldwide appeal, headed to the city Aug. 19-21.

Now in its ninth season, Hellfest features the best in independent hardcore, metal and punk rock bands on three different stages with The Trentonian exclusively learning yesterday über-popular New York emo band TAKING BACK SUNDAY will be headlining.

"New Jersey has always been a great market for underground music, so what better place to do this than the capital city?" said Hellfest co-promotor Shawn VanderPoel, of the Mount Holly company Radiotakeover, noting the show's name is due to the summer heat, not Satan.

"The kids who come to this, and come from all over the world, come to this because it's a giant hardcore show that breaks down the barriers," he added, applauding the SBA for hosting the event.

The festival will feature more than 180 bands, from all walks of the extreme music culture, performing on three stages.

An expected 1,800 screaming metal fanatics a day are expected to come into the city, spending $99.99 a piece for a three-day pass, organizers said.

Last year, when the festival tore through Elizabeth's recently bankrupt RexPlex, more than 7,000 fans paid similar ticket prices to throw elbows, mosh and stage dive with the best the hardcore scene has to offer.

VanderPoel, whose first-ever concert experience in 1989 was seeing vegan idols SHELTER at Trenton' defunct City Gardens, said Trenton's arena has the perfect makeup for an event like Hellfest.

He said the event should bring the city $200,000 in extra revenue during a summer weekend when residents tend to flee the city heat for the Jersey shore.

Organizers liked that the arena was within walking distance from NJ Transit' Riverline and the Trenton train station — a thoroughfare for fans traveling from Philadelphia and New York City — and is an easy venue to get to from Interstate 95, Route 1 and the New Jersey Turnpike.

Metal heads need to eat too, so local eateries along the Broad Street corridor should also benefit from Hellfest.

In fact, promoters said the Pizza Hut next to the Syracuse Fair Grounds, in New York, where Hellfest had been housed for the first seven years, earned $350,000 in extra revenue feeding hungry hardcore fans.

As of yesterday the plan was to put the main stage inside the arena and two other stages outside in the SBA's parking lot.

The festival grounds will also include food merchants, a "punk rock flea market" and a variety of tattoo artists invited to tag up the sunburned crowd.

And what makes Hellfest such a unique event is that the bands don't hide behind barriers but encourage crowd participation.

During the more popular bands, hundreds of fans will scale mountains of flesh, squished at the base of the stage, to sing along or jump back into the crowd.

A sight to see up close, recent documentary DVDs showcased the festivals' often-misunderstood dance styles. During the most spastic moments, fans who make it on stage, are seen walking across the heads of those fans jockeying for position down low.

As VanderPoel explains, Hellfest is as much a celebration of the music as it is the culture, which from time to time involves hard elbows and feet-first kicks to the head.

He says 60 percent of the fans in attendance share straight-edge lifestyles, where a strong mind is key. Vegan straight-edge followers eliminate drugs, alcohol, sex and meat from their lives to keep the body pure and hardcore dancing is one of those ways to relieve the angst, passion and aggression trapped inside.

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