Saturday, El Birthday Metal Fest III Crushes Christmas
Looking for an eggnog-free outlet for your holiday frustrations? You're in luck! Local doomsayers Sanctus Bellum unwrap Houston's headbangin'-est birthday party tomorrow at the third annual El Birthday Metal Festival at Fitzgerald's, and you're invited!
Photo courtest of Benjamin Yaker Sanctus Bellum at last year's El Birthday Metal Fest, Rudyard's
But be warned: the now-traditional heavy-metal blowout won't be held in celebration of the birth of any Nazarenes. With seven bands crammed into Fitz's cozy downstairs room, there's sure to be an abundance of electrified volume that would only hurt the poor Christ child's ears. Call 'em selfish if you must, but the men of Sanctus Bellum ain't ashamed to throw a party strictly for themselves.
"My birthday is Christmas Day," says the band's large and friendly bassist, Ben Yaker. "Jan Kimmel, our guitar player, his birthday is December 21. Jan and I have known each other for a long time; we've always had joint birthday parties for a number of years. So once we got the band going, it sort of seemed kind of natural to start doing a big show on our birthday."
Natural, maybe. But never easy. The whole idea threatened to crash and burn like a cake with too many candles in its first year out, forcing Yaker and his bandmates to scramble and squirm when the gig's headliner pulled out at the very last minute.
"The first year we did it was 2011, and [Dallas'] Warbeast ended up having to cancel, like, the night before," the bassist says. "I was freaking out, like 'Oh man, our headliner just cancelled like 24 hours before the show!'
"So I started trying to throw up a flare to anyone we could," he continues. "That past August, we'd actually opened for Sabbath Judas Sabbath at one of their show. I got (SJS singer) James Rivera's number from a friend of mine and left a couple voicemails saying, 'Hey, if you wanna do a last minute show...'"
It ended up being a good move. Rivera's Sabbath Judas Sabbath, the Helstar vocalist's popular classic metal cover band, signed on to headline the fest at 1 p.m. the day of the show -- becoming fast friends with Yaker and crew in the process. They'll be back to headline Year 3 of the party on Saturday, alongside a couple of other Houston mainstays that are tight with Sanctus Bellum: Project Armageddon and Mr. Plow, who will reunite for the first time in two years.
"Their first reunion show was at the 2011 version of the festival," Yaker says. "Mr. Plow are a great stoner-rock band in the tradition of, like, Fu Manchu or the Suplecs from New Orleans. They were always the gold standard of that in Houston, for me.
"I actually briefly wound up playing with them," he continues. "In 2006, their bass player moved to Florida for a couple years to go to chiropractor school and I wound up filling in. We played a few shows and the drummer quit and the band fell apart. That's actually led into Sanctus Bellum being formed, because their guitar player/vocalist is Justin Waggoner, who's the singer for Sanctus Bellum.
"When we were getting the band together, I was sort of going through the list of people I'd played with, and I'd always liked his voice in Mr. Plow," Yaker says. "I thought it would work well in a different setting."
Story continues on the next page.