In "Hippies and Cowboys," one of Fort Worth country singer Cody Jinks' most beloved songs, the Haltom High School grad sings about "raising hell" with all sorts of people, no matter their favored headgear or hair style. Saturday's inaugural Loud and Heavy Festival was the sweaty, raucous physical manifestation of that fun-loving song.
The high humidity, a smattering of rainy sprinkles and even a 40-minute weather delay never stood a chance against the determination of approximately 8,000 fans, many of whom showed up early in the afternoon to Fort Worth's Panther Island Pavilion. They were all there to help the hometown headliner celebrate his birthday with his hand-picked lineup featuring outlaw-style country artists he regularly tours with, such as Ward Davis, Sunny Sweeney, Paul Cauthen, Colter Wall, Nikki Lane and Whitey Morgan. But it was the presence of a couple of ear-blasting, stoner metal bands which lent this event its highly unique sonic signature twist.
During his band's energetic nighttime set, Cody Cannon of the Tyler-based southern rockers Whiskey Myers remarked "This [festival] is where all the misfits are," underscoring the less-than-traditional nature of this festival lineup. Less than an hour later, on the second stage across the park from the main stage, singer Pepper Keenan of North Carolina's groove metal giants Corrosion of Conformity admitted to the fervent throng in front of him that he "wasn't so sure about this when Cody invited us, but putting us with some of these outlaw bands has been awesome."
In terms of this being a first year festival, only a bit of nit-picking kept it from being a complaint-free affair. The single merch tent featured three or four lines of at least 30 people each for the better part of the five hours I was there, and by the time the sun dropped, the beer lines were so long you were guaranteed to miss a decent chunk of whichever performance was going on at that moment. But again, that's mere quibbling when you take into consideration how smoothly the festival production crew handled the weather threats and how seamlessly the music sets started and ended so efficiently on time.
Besides, what first year festival with several thousand attendees doesn't have a few notes for its second edition? It's worth noting that this shindig was every bit the indie-powered effort that Jinks' career has been thus far. The big money suits behind Live Nation or AEG Presents didn't have a hand (or dime) involved here, which makes the whole event that much more impressive.
And because what Austin's metal kings the Sword do and what Corrosion of Conformity brings is audibly different from what Canada's deep-voiced cowboy Colter Wall does, there were bound to be some folks scratching their heads and covering their ears. While waiting for the Sword's set to begin, I overheard a small group chatting with one metal-loving woman admitting "Well, I tried, but I can't take this country crap."
But only a few minutes later, as the Sword's swelling riffs soared through the audience, a straw hat-wearing county boy stomped past me to join a long-haired, shirtless metal lover in some powerful head-banging along the railing in the front of the crowd. Early in the Corrosion of Conformity set, a mosh pit formed, featuring a few flaying cowboy hats and annoyed girlfriends. Capping the yin and yang vibe of the moment, Jinks jumped on stage to join his metal heroes for a thunderous take on "Who's Got the Fire."
At 10 p.m. on the dot, Jinks and his band kicked into "Must be the Whiskey," the signature song from his excellent new record Lifers. An impenetrable swarm of folks stretched a couple hundred yards from the stage, and then some, dancing, drinking and singing along together. Under the cloak of night, it was hard to tell who was a hippie, a cowboy, a metal head, a sorority girl, a soccer mom, or a small-town kid out for a big city night.
What was clear to see and hear, however, was that the thousands of misfits in attendance, for this one night at least, fit perfectly together.