Come with me back in time for a little hardcore history lesson about the at-once-glorious but ill-fated run of Hellfest.
Starting in 1998 in Syracuse, NY, Hellfest was the hardcore, punk, and metal Mecca that hit once every summer. Kids would travel from out of state and abroad to attend this legendary event. This was a time where you could see all the biggest and best bands play together on the same stage before egos and rockstar statuses started to infiltrate heavy music, when unity still stood for something in the scene.
In 2004 the fest uprooted from Syracuse and took place at the Rexplex Sports Center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. It was the biggest Hellfest yet with three days of over a hundred bands gracing stages that consisted of two indoor soccer fields, a regulation basketball court gymnasium, and smaller stages pretty much wherever else there was a corner for bands to play in. There was also a half pipe and street course for skaters, merch as far as the eye could see, and overpriced food vendors all around. One thing that stood out that weekend were the abundance of cameraman and swinging cranes above the two main stages documenting all the action taking place. Everyone was sure to bust out their best mosh moves and take part in as many on-stage pileups as possible in hopes of having their 15 seconds of fame on the planned DVD release. The weekend went out with a bang, but in all the wrong ways. With a chaotic and disastrous closing set that you had to see to believe (police and ambulances aplenty in the outside parking lot) ensuring that 2004 would be the last year Hellfest would take place. Pour a little out for a fallen homie.
It has been almost 10 years since that fateful weekend and no DVD was ever released. High Roller Studios, who had handled previous Hellfest releases, were partnered with Radiotakover (both companies now defunct) who are allegedly responsible for dropping the ball and lead to the destruction of all the edits and digital files that HRS had ready for the DVD. There are maybe two or three songs worth of official footage and a few user submitted videos floating around on YouTube but that’s it. 72 hours worth of raw footage sat in purgatory for years. Until now.
Hate5six, a one-man operation dedicated to the “redistribution of high-quality live music videos in as much of an anti-capitalist framework as realistically allowable”, was contacted by Doug Spangenberg (formerly with High Roller Studios) to revive the footage tapes and have it released to the public. Currently full sets from The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Hope Conspiracy from that weekend have been edited and made available with more on the way, including footage from the fest’s 2001 event which was also never released.
This is an exciting turn of events seeing as we will be getting way more out of these tapes than would have originally been released on DVD. We thought we might never see the day, and it has been a hell of long time coming, but it will be worth it.