By SARAH SEPANEK
Recent years have been good for stoner metal. Appreciation and opportunities have been coming for stoner metal bands of all genres – doom, sludge, jam, drone. Seeing Mastodon playing for thousands at festivals, or reading great reviews Pelican’s new album on mainstream websites is refreshing for fans and rewarding for bands, most of whom are longtime road dogs. As always, it comes with a bit of conflict: your favorite band gets some success, but seeing them on Pitchfork being lapped up by scene kids is akin to watching someone who can’t drive stick manhandle your vintage Camaro.
Still, for every grungy van strewn with gas station dinner wrappers, success is hard-earned. So every time a great band gets some press, give them kudos.
Stoner metal has a devoted fanbase, as the live experience best illuminates the music. The drones of the guitar and the boom of the bass reverberate through your body, something that can’t be replicated at home with headphones in your beanbag chair. Thus we arrive at one of my favorite topics to wax nostalgic about, something I bring up to those younger, or not from the area. A magical era I sometimes can’t believe actually happened. When every summer, dozens of the world’s best stoner metal bands would roll into Youngstown, Ohio, and play all weekend in a 300-person hole in the wall where we went for karaoke on Wednesdays.
Emissions from the Monolith began at the Nyabinghi, a bar on the west side that has joined the pantheon of lovingly missed local venues. A shot-and-beer joint, the building had been many other shot-and-beer joints before its final incarnation. Blue-collar kitsch lined the walls of both rooms – bar up front, stage and second bar in back.The Nyabinghi had great sound – bands would remark the sound topped venues in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The board was manned by Greg Barratt, bar owner and creator of Emissions. He knew his shit. I first went to the fest just drawn to the tons of amazing bands a mere mile from my house. I knew some of them, and local favorites (the majestic Rebreather, the lunatic Gil Mantera’s Party Dream) were peppered in with the national acts.
Having seen Clutch at the Binghi before, I knew well the rigors of being crammed into the hot back room with 350 people, some hairier and more pungent than others. Emissions was no different, and past shows prepared me for the weekend gauntlet. Strategy came in handy, from getting a good stage view to snagging a PBR tall boy from the back bar; we all earned our stripes.
Just look at of some of these lineups. Floor, Mastodon, Bongzilla, Keelhaul and Pelican one year. Unsane, Alabama Thunderpussy, Kung Pao, Mastodon, Orange Goblin, Bongzilla, Keelhaul, Pelican, and even a St. Vitus reunion the next. Baroness, Torche, Alabama Thunderpussy, Eyehategod, Today Is The Day, Pig Destroyer, Keelhaul and Disengage the next. Emissions kept getting bigger and better, boasting top bands and festival regulars like Dixie Witch, Weedeater and Kylesa. Being able to see the best of metal, up-and-comers and just weird fucked-up acts from around the world at the same bar you hold court in the rest of the year was awesome, especially for twentysomethings in Youngstown, years before any kind of downtown rebranding or Rust Belt makeover.
The whole affair was at times surreal. For three days, metal fans from all over the world crammed into the tiny bar, setting up camp in the lots surrounding. Tents and grills cropped up, and at least one guy washed his dreads out in “Lake Nyabinghi” (a giant puddle in the driveway). Kung Pao happily filmed their grill loaded with sausages (find it on YouTube). Blueberry hydro from Boston was traded for local fare. Prostitutes from the bar across the street slid around outside in hope of a sale (I remember one in particular called May-May). British, Japanese, fans and bands from around the world; I drove a carload of Swedes from the band Acid Ape to Taco Bell. The always gracious Greg and Mindi hosted bands and fans in their apartment above the bar. The event was a living thing, and on Monday morning, it was just gone, like a hessian Brigadoon.
But alas, Emissions 8 was the last at the Nyabinghi; New Year’s Eve, 2006, the bar hosted local favorites Rebreather and closed, then in true Youngstown fashion proceeded to burn down — twice. The legendary Emo’s in Austin, Texas, hosted one more year of the fest, then that was it for the history books.
Volumes could be written about the Nyabinghi and Emissions from the Monolith. A doc about the fest would be a great piece of music history — there is plenty of video footage floating around.
Before Coachella and Bonnaroo took festivals and pumped them full of profit-steroids, Emissions was the most bang for your metal buck you could get. Raw, dirty, experimental, sincere, and just lots of fun. I definitely regret not spending more on albums and T-shirts at Emissions. I guess it’s just cool that we had something so unique so close to home, and fuck if we’re ever going to have something like that again in Youngstown. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe hessian Brigadoon will return once again.
1: April 14–16, 2000 Rebreather, Spirit Caravan, Karma to Burn, Boulder, Red Giant, Mustache, Wicker Man, Penance, Six Sigma, Honeymaid, Throttlerod, Speedealer
2: May 25–27, 2001 Spirit Caravan, Bongzilla, Raging Slab, Earthride, Boulder, Warhorse, Disengage, Slow Horse, Red Giant, Oversoul, Tummler, Throttlerod, Penance, Cuda, Gonzalez, Kung Pao, Five Horse Johnson, Unorthodox, Halfway to Gone, Sunnshine, Rebreather, Plaster, Witch Mountain, Weedeater, Soulpreacher, Dragon Green, Burnout, Sea of Green, Pale Divine, Positraction, Shuteye, Rockcatcher, The Want, Raging Slab, Clock Eating Planet
3: September 8–9, 2001
(Festival held in Chicago, IL at the Double Door) Weedeater, Boulder, Rebreather, Bongzilla, Sea of Green, Kung Pao, Men of Porn, Penance, Burnout, Warhorse, Place of Skulls, Cuda, Operator Generator, Red Giant, Dragon Green, Lung Brush, Suplecs, Dixie Witch, Wickerman, Nova Driver, Drunkenmaster, Kneel Drill
4: May 24–26, 2002 Spirit Caravan, Disengage, Stinking Lizaveta, Red Giant, Men of Porn (2 sets), Wooly Mammoth, Black Mantra, The Atomic Bitchwax, Weedeater, Penance, Boulder, Rammer, Rebreather, Dragon Green, Jumbo’s Killcrane, Fistula, Sofa King Killer, Bruahaha, Orange Goblin, Alabama Thunderpussy, Bottom, JJ Paradise Player’s Club, Milligram, Kung Pao, Tummler, Lost Goat, Dixie Witch, The Brought Low, Burnout, Lamont, The Rubes
5: May 23–25, 2003 Halfway to Gone, Tummler, Penance, Throttlerod, Erik Larson Band, All Night, RPG, Floor, The Atomic Bitchwax, Mastodon, Weedeater, Boulder, Scissorfight, Bongzilla, Acid Ape, Keelhaul, Meatjack, Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, Rwake, Fistula, Abdullah, Burnout, The Hidden Hand, Solace, Acid King, Disengage, JJ Paradise Player’s Club, Stinking Lizaveta, Dixie Witch, Lo Freq, Volume, Pelican, The Rubes, Red Giant, Sofa King Killer
6: May 28–30, 2004 Five Horse Johnson, A Thousand Knives of Fire, Beaten Back to Pure, Puddy, Zebulon Pike, Swarm of the Lotus, Delicious, Unsane, Meatjack, Tummler, Red Giant, Solace, Bongzilla, RPG, Kylesa, Starchild, Alabama Thunderpussy, Poobah, Dixie Witch, Kung Pao, Stinking Lizaveta, Rebreather, The Brought Low, Rwake, Buried at Sea, The Mighty Nimbus, Orange Goblin, Mastodon, Weedeater, Keelhaul, Pelican, Dozer, Dove, Lamont, Yob, Fistula, Cudamantra, Trephine; Place of Skulls and The Hidden Hand played back-to-back resulting in a brief Saint Vitus reunion jam
7: May 26–29, 2005 Bible of the Devil, Electro Quarterstaff, Test-Site, King Valley, Amplified Heat, GreatDayForUp, Baroness, Dixie Witch, Darediablo, Torche, Fistula, Mouth of the Architect, Beaten Back to Pure, Pale Divine, Devil to Pay, Raging Slab, Weedeater, Alabama Thunderpussy, Honky, Sons of Otis, Rebreather, Rwake, Roadsaw, Lamont, Delicious, Hope and Suicide, Minsk, Eyehategod, Today Is the Day, Pig Destroyer, Keelhaul, Meatjack, Stinking Lizaveta, Yob, Solace, Player’s Club, Debris Inc., Disengage, Lair of the Minotaur, Dot, SuperHeavyGoatAss
8: May 25–28, 2006 Stinking Lizaveta, Kylesa, Graves at Sea, Conifer, Rosetta, Ultralord, Orange Goblin, Scissorfight, Electro Quarterstaff, Facedowninshit, Burnout, Rue, Colour Haze, Dixie Witch, Grief, Brought Low, Lamont, Low Divide, Baroness, Village of Dead Roads, Boris, Sunn O))), The Atomic Bitchwax, Weedeater, Rwake, Tummler, A Thousand Knives of Fire, Minsk, Trephine, Hyatari, Unfortunaut, Grey, We’re All Gonna Die, Year Long Disaster
9: May 25–27, 2007
(Festival moves to Austin, TX at Emo’s) Kylesa, Amplified Heat, The Makai, Damnweevil, SuperHeavyGoatAss, Samothrace, Throttlerod, Mess with the Bull, Bible of the Devil, Test-Site, Valkyrie, Beast, Lord, Lord by Fire, Imperial Battlesnake, Dixie Witch, Middian, RPG, Minsk, Indian, Unfortunaut, Collapsar, Giant Squid, Blue Cheer, Weedeater, Rwake, Black Cobra, Delicious, Skeletonwitch, Deadbird, Suzukiton, Hognose
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