A few years ago, Deborah Levine was in Venture, California, enjoying the traditional heavy metal festival Frost and Fire with her Lady Beast bandmates when it hit them: why not hold an event like this in Pittsburgh ?
“There literally isn’t a single mainstream heavy metal festival on the East Coast,” says Lady Beast lead singer Levine. “You either have to go Midwest up North or down South, but there really wasn’t anything for pure heavy metal bands on the East Coast. As the saying goes, if you want something done , you have to do it yourself.
So Levine and her Lady Beast bandmates did just that. In 2019, the local heavy metal band hosted the first-ever Metal Immortal Festival, which returns for its second iteration this year. They invited their friends from the metal scene and bands from the 80s to today for, as Levine put it, “a really awesome night of heavy metal” at the Mr. Smalls Theater.
This year’s event, Metal Immortal Festival 2, is once again taking place at Mr. Smalls for an all-ages night full of energy and good vibes. “There is zero tolerance for racism, sexism or hatred of any kind,” Levine says. “It’s a place for anyone who loves metal, or doesn’t even like metal, to get comfortable and be who they are.” A new addition to this year’s joy is a pre-show event at Spirit (21+) the night before for a reunion of Pittsburgh thrash legends, Eviction.
“We use both stages at Mr. Smalls. There’s food, there’s the courtyard so you can sit outside, which is great because the festival isn’t back-to-school; it’s really the best situation you can have in a room,” says Levine. “And we have vendors throughout the event – art, jewelry, clothing. It’s really just a way to support hard working bands and support hard working artists, which doesn’t make me happy anymore. It’s something we do because we love it and think it’s important to bring it to our city. ”
For Levine, the second upcoming festival is even sweeter than the previous one. For one thing, it took a while to come, as Metal Immortal Festival 2 was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 until COVID forced its cancellation. And this year, the Pittsburgh community came together to support the event. Vegan punk rock/heavy metal restaurant Onion Maiden, Millvale’s The Attic Records, local metal and noise label Our Ancient Future, and Andrew D’Cagna of Ohio heavy metal band Ironflame are all sponsors of the festival. (That’s a huge financial boost; the previous festival ended in the red.) Additionally, Grist House created an exclusive Metal Immortal Festival 2 beer, which Levine says is “just another cool way to feel the support and love of the community. ”
But Levine is keen to point out that this is not a Pittsburgh festival. Instead, it’s a way to showcase underdogs and hard-working bands who may not have a label or touring opportunity in the oversaturated music industry no matter where they are. are found.
“We love giving props to Pittsburgh and we always start the show with a Pittsburgh band,” says Levine. “Vicious Blade opens, which is an up-and-coming local thrash metal band. They are female-fronted; more than half of the bands playing at the festival and pre-fest are female-fronted heavy metal bands. It’s extremely important to me to normalize women in metal so that we can avoid using the term “female-fronted” and it’s more normal to have women involved in festivals and music.
Other acts include West Coast Soul Grinder, making their East Coast debut, Richmond’s Bat, The Accused, who will bring old-school punk vibes to the show, and headliner Raven, a classic heavy metal band from the UK.
“I grew up here; I really feel like I left my mark,” says Levine. “Nothing better than the support and recognition of a city in which I have always been.
Metal Immortal Fest 2 Pre-Show. 7 p.m. on Friday, June 24. Spirit. 242 51st Street, Lawrenceville. $20. facebook.com/MetalImmortalFestival
Immortal Metal Festival 2. 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25. Mr. Smalls Theater. 400 Lincoln Ave, Millvale. $45. facebook.com/MetalImmortalFestival