It started with a bunch of friends in a back garden for a birthday party. But little by little, Azfest, a one-day festival dedicated to the heavier end of the musical spectrum has grown.
And now in its 11th outing after a four year break, it is back, bigger and bolder than before.
With all bases covered from heads-down, full-on trad metal, via doom, southern inflections, jazz-metal and hard-rock, the organisers hope this year will be a springboard to even bigger things.
Among the acts playing are Curbwire, Victus, The Parallax Method, Mask of Judas, Earthborn Kings, Stray Bullets, Furyborn, the Google-confusing aAnd? and headliners Alternative Carpark. After the bands finish there will be DJs to keep the party going.
Co-organiser Russell Turner – brother of the founder, the eponymous ‘Az’, says: ‘All of these are local, regional bands. We were trying to get some bigger name bands, but they were all about the money, which we don’t have yet.
‘The area where we host this, we’ve got a lot of space potential for expansion. There’s nothing else like this around here, so I think it fills a niche.
‘When me and my brother were talking about this last summer, it was a) do we bring this back, and b) do we take it out to the public and try and make it a bigger thing. So I took it on to revive the festival – my brother’s still involved but I’m doing most of the background organisation and he’s booking the bands.’
And they’re ambitious – Russell looks to Bloodstock, now a huge event in the metal calendar attracting major names, but which similarly started off small.
‘We found as we tried to approach these slightly bigger bands – we’re not talking massive, like Slayer or Megadeth, or anything – we’d approach the band members and they’d be well up for it, but then we’d have to go through their management companies, as soon as we’d mention it to them, it was all about money.
‘We need to reestablish this and then get some financial backing behind it, which is why we want to get the word more out and about. We need to build up its reputation.
‘I did my research on how Bloodstock started. It started small and it developed, it took them several years to get out of the pub scene to be a proper outdoor festival.’
But Russell says he’s doing this as a fan of the music: ‘I’m not doing this because of the money, it’s something I have a passion for, I play bass myself, I really want to see it grow.
‘The local scene comes in fits and starts, and you have Icebreaker at the start of the year and Victorious at the end of August, but nothing major in between for a rock audience.’
If they get the numbers through the gate, Russell can see them expanding to a second stage.
‘We’ve had loads of bands approach us asking to play, which is encouraging, but we don’t have the space yet. We’d love to have a second stage, but we’ve had to be really picky, so we’ve been to see every one of these guys on the bill, and we’ve liked what they played, so we’ve vetted them all. Like Victus, they’re interesting – they play doom/folk/southern metal, with a vocal style I’ve never heard before, but we booked them because we like them. And The Parallax Method, they’re an instrumental jazz-metal band, really interesting too – we’re not going pure heavy metal all day.’
The ticket price includes the music, camping, food and drink.
‘We did it for 10 years and no-one drank us dry, so I’m throwing that gauntlet down,’ laughs Russell. ‘We do a dedicated barbecue too, with veggie stuff as well, and big batches of chili.’
Tickets are £30 advance, £40 on the door.
Clanfield Lodge, Chalton
Saturday, August 18