Detroit’s Rust Fest’s Nate Wittock Discusses Metal Festival Debut


2021-09-08

Signs of the Swarm – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Andre Giovanni

Local Music Beat: Rust Fest owner Nate Wittock talks about Detroit Music Festival 2021 debut in this edition of the column

Heavy metal fans, rejoice as Rust Fest is set to debut Thursday, September 9 at the Sanctuary in Hamtramck, Michigan, near Detroit. The show features three evenings of metal music, the majority of which are from Michigan, including bands such as Signs of the Swarm (pictured above), Centenary, Recorruptor, Throne, Worm Shepherd, The Green Leaves, My Own Will, Dagon, Mutilatred, From blue to gray, the age of plagues and more.

Rust Fest is more than a celebration of local heavy metal. The event is also a fundraiser for The Sanctuary, an independent music venue that was forced to close during last year’s lockdown.

Rust Fest owner Nate Wittock sat down with Audio Ink Radio to discuss the genesis of the music festival idea, the event’s vision and Michigan’s metal scene. Read the full interview below, and find Audio Ink Radio’s recent interview with Centenary, which is on the Rust Fest lineup, here.

Anne Erickson:. Tell me the story of Rust Fest.

Nate Wittock: The idea started at the end of 2019. At that time, I was just looking to organize a small, mostly local music festival. I was talking a bit about it with Maxxwell (Lange) from The Sanctuary. Then the pandemic hit and things started to change. At this point, I decided I wanted to make the show a benefit to help The Sanctuary when they could host shows again. The original festival was supposed to take place in August 2020, but with the resurgence of COVID, we’ve had to postpone. When I was trying to come up with a name I thought it would be a good way for bands to get rid of the rust from the lack of gigs, and Rust Fest was born.

What is the overall vision of Rust Fest as a festival?

Well, this year it’s clear to fundraise to get The Sanctuary back on its feet. Beyond 2021, I would love to continue bringing it back as a must-see festival in Michigan. Whether there is a cause or not, I want to use it to bring the scene together. I also wish I could include more genres later.

The festival has a great lineup. How did you choose the right groups for the poster?

My first thought was to ask groups what The Sanctuary means most to groups who call it home. There are a lot of them, so it was not difficult. I added a few groups that I like too. Each of the local and regional groups also donates their performances to benefit the venue, which is truly amazing. It’s a great bunch of bands that really showcases our scene here in Michigan and beyond.

Do you think fans will be more excited about Rust Fest, since live music has been gone for so long?

I think so. I know I am delighted to be returning. I think it’s going to feel fresh again, and the fans will be more present and be able to just have fun. I can’t wait to see everyone.

Local and independent venues have really suffered last year, due to the shows that have unfolded with the pandemic. What are some of your favorite Michigan venues for metal music that are still around, and are there any that you mourn the loss of?

The Sanctuary has been one of my favorite places for a few years now. It can host anything from local shows to the biggest tours. For bigger shows, I really like Saint Andrew’s Hall and the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Really, the place that tore me apart the most when it went bankrupt was Mac’s Bar in Lansing. It was just a little dive bar, but I’ve been playing concerts there since 2007, and I don’t feel the same without it.

What Makes Sanctuary in Detroit the Perfect Place for Rust Fest?

The Sanctuary has the sound and feel of a big place but the privacy of a local place. You feel so close to the groups when you are there. It really is a great live experience. The owner and crew of the Sanctuary are all amazing too. In addition, the objective of Rust Fest being to raise funds for the place, it was obvious.

What do you think of the local metal scene in Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids and across Michigan?

I feel like we have a great scene in Michigan. All cities have their own stages of sorts, but they all like to get together and put on shows in different cities. It’s all inclusive. It’s a big family.

What are some of your favorite indie metal bands that people should listen to besides Bill Rust Fest?

There are a lot, but I’ll name a few that I’m listening to right now: Bog Wraith, Carnis Immortalis, Ritualist, Vestigial, Funeral Wake and my own band, Boreworm.

The Rust Fest lineup: Thursday September 9 includes The Green Leaves, My Own Will, From Blue To Gray, Portal Of Pazuzu, Scapegoat, Pestilent Age and Mammon. Friday September 10, includes Signs of the Swarm, Worm Shepherd, Until Solace, Visceral Autopsy, and Redlord. Saturday September 11 features Recorruptor, Throne, Dagon, Mutilatred, Centenary, Nethergate, and Dragged Beneath. For more details on Detroit’s Rust Fest and to find tickets, visit Rust Fest online here.

Anne Erickson’s column appears weekly on Audio Ink Radio. A group or a concert to share? Contact her at [email protected]

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