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The third and final day of Northwest Hesh Fest was perhaps the loudest and most action packed day of the weekend festival.

portland school of rock north west hesh fest american icon records portland oregon the modern hippie

The night started with a pleasant surprise when the Portland School of Rock House Band took the stage. The band is an elite ensemble of the best and brightest musicians at the Portland School of Rock.  They hit the stage with little introduction and blasted out Judas Priest’s second album Sad Wings of Eternity in it’s entirety with the confidence of seasoned musicians.  The group was comprised of about 10 students who rotated instruments and roles rapidly between each song like actors doing a costume change.  As they progressed through the album, it was clear that these kids are pretty adept at their instruments, with several students switching from bass to guitar, onto drums and vocals as they shredded through each song on Judas Priest’s classic album.  One highlight of the excellent set was guitarist Ethan Conrad flawlessly recreating KK Downing’s wailing guitar solos with ease.  This kid has better chops than many seasoned guitarists I’ve seen and you can tell he loves doing it.  That was the best part of their set, as a matter of fact: you could tell each of those students loved being up on that stage.  These young prodigies are making their dreams come true and they’re fucking crushing it.  These kids are alright.

diesto dantes north west hesh fest american icon records portland oregon the modern hippie live music

North West Hesh Fest was absolutely crammed with music acts, with barely enough time to smoke a cigarette and grab a beer in between acts.  Up next was the locally based act Diesto.  They hit the stage and immediately buried the crowd beneath deep, sludgy guitar riffs and echoing wails from singer/guitarist Chris Dunn.  Their set consisted of several songs from their 2013 release For Water or Blood, peppered with a few tunes from their 2010 release High as the Sun, and both albums are heavy as hell.  Dunn and guitarist Rusty Powers were backed up by the heavy hand of Ron Jay Gage on drums and the mysteriously named Captain John on bass.  They put on a solid show as Dante’s filled up with people pressing toward the stage.  It was easy to see these guys definitely had influential roots in the Eugene-based headliners Yob.

sweat lodge north west hesh fest american icon records portland oregon the modern hippie live music

Next up was a fucking raging awesome set by Austin-based musicians Sweat Lodge.  I immediately recognized the members of the band, as they had all been mingling throughout the venue and sitting out on the patio prior to their set.  It is hard to place a specific genre title on the gnarly psych-blues-metal vibes pouring off the stage during Sweat Lodge’s set, but it felt right at home in the dark and smokey venue.  Bassist Austin Shockley bobbed around on stage while plucking out some gnarly bass fuzz riffs, coupling perfectly with Caleb Dawson’s casual but heavy backbeat on the drums.  Cody Lee’s soulful, Ozzy-like vocals blanketed over the nodding heads of a packed audience while guitarist Dustin Anderson effortlessly laid out weighty riffs between truly epic guitar solos.  Overall the group had a killer set with a uniquely tight, technical style unlike anything I’ve heard recently.  Their newest album Talismana is one of those records you put on and everyone in the room is immediately asking who it is.  They’re also a great group of dudes who could be found hanging out on the patio with audience members after their set as well.

acid king dantes north west hesh fest american icon records portland oregon the modern hippie

After recovering from my experience in the Sweat Lodge, Acid King took the stage to roaring applause.  The band are essentially legends in the stoner rock genre and have been slugding through the music scene since 1993.  Vocalist/guitarist Lori S. and drummer Joey Osbourne have been in the band since the beginning with an ensemble cast of bassists throughout the years, currently with Mark Lamb.  Acid King recently released the album Middle of Nowhere, Centre of Everywhere after a 10 year gap with no releases.  Their set was stoney and heavy as well, with crunchy guitar and bass lines peppered with some amazingly skilled drumming from Osbourne.  The crowd was going nuts at the end of each song and pushing close to the stage to get up close and personal with the stoner metal veterans.  On a side note, the San Francisco veterans were selling some of the most badass t-shirts and merch that I’ve seen in a while, one of which had a wizard riding a tiger over the moon with the words ACID KING emblazoned big and bold across the top.  Holy shit.

yob north west hesh fest dantes portland oregon american icon records the modern hippie

Finally, ears ringing from the incredible acts already on stage that night, Yob arrived to bring the house down.  The doom genre kings came out on the stage and immediately flooded the audience with sludgy, heavy riffs.  Being locally based here in Eugene, the crowd was going apeshit as the smell of weed filled the air and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt’s hair flew rhythmically his heavy shredding.  Most of Yob’s catalog consists of songs upward of ten to fifteen minutes, but time essentially didn’t exist as the band’s spacey, doom-laden masterpieces lulled the audience into a head-banging trance.  Since founding the band in the year 2000, it is safe to say Yob has gotten progressively better and found a sound all their own in the metal scene, and their newest album Clearing the Path to Ascend is aptly named.  The four epic songs on the album are a testament to their genre-defying, or even genre-creating sound.  Scheidt also has an awesome stage presence, leaning back and shredding away through the set.  Yob was on point as always, and definitely a great way to send a stoney, sludgy, spacey night and float up to the moon.

It was a perfect way to end an epic three days at North West Hesh Fest. Talent filled the stage each night and each band proved that good fucking music is alive and well, especially here in Portland. The Fest was a success and it can only get better from here. Cheers and we’ll see ya’ll at next years North West Hesh Fest

-Jared Gatten
Photos: Becki Zisk