Nate Wittock of Detroit’s Rust Fest Discusses the Metal Festival’s Debut

2021-09-08

Press photo of the metal band Signs of the Swarm.

Signs of the Swarm – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Andre Giovanni

Local Music Beat: Rust Fest owner Nate Wittock talks about the Detroit music festival’s 2021 debut in this edition of the column

Heavy metal fans, rejoice, as Rust Fest is set to debut Thursday (Sept. 9) at The Sanctuary in Hamtramck, Michigan, near Detroit. The show boasts three evenings of metal music, the majority of which hails from Michigan, including bands such as Signs of the Swarm (pictured above), Centenary, Recorruptor, Throne, Worm Shepherd, The Green Leaves, My Own Will, Dagon, Mutilatred, From Blue To Gray, Pestilent Age and more.

Rust Fest is more than a celebration of local heavy metal. The event is also a fundraiser for The Sanctuary, an independent music venue that was forced to close during last year’s lockdown.

Rust Fest owner Nate Wittock caught up with Audio Ink Radio to discuss the genesis of the idea for the music festival, the vision for the event and the Michigan metal scene. Read the full interview below, and find Audio Ink Radio’s recent interview with Centenary, who is on the Rust Fest lineup, here.

Anne Erickson: Congratulations on putting together the 2021 Rust Fest. Tell me the story behind Rust Fest.

Nate Wittock: The idea started in late 2019. At that point, I was just looking to throw a small, mostly local music festival. I was talking with Maxxwell (Lange) from The Sanctuary for a bit about it. Then the pandemic hit, and things started to change. At that point, I decided I wanted to make the show a benefit to help The Sanctuary when they were able to host shows again. The original festival was supposed to take place in August 2020, but with the resurgence of COVID, we had to postpone. When I was trying to come up with a name, I thought that this would be a good way for the bands to shake off the rust from the lack of shows, and Rust Fest was born.

What’s the overall vision for Rust Fest as a festival?

Well, this year, it’s clear- to raise money for The Sanctuary to get back on its feet. Beyond 2021, I’d like to continue bringing it back as a staple festival in Michigan. Whether there’s a cause or not, I want to use it to bring the scene together. I’d also like to be able to include more genres down the road.

The festival has a great lineup. How did you go about picking the right bands for the bill?

My first thought was to ask the bands that The Sanctuary means the most to- the bands that call it their home. There are a lot of them, so it wasn’t difficult. I threw in a few bands that I just enjoy, too. Each of the local and regional bands are donating their performances to benefit the venue, too, which is really amazing. This is a great group of bands that really highlights our scene here in Michigan and beyond.

Do you feel fans are going to be more excited for Rust Fest, since live music has been gone for so long?

I think so. I know I’m excited to be going back. I think it will feel fresh again, and fans will be more present and just be able to enjoy themselves. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone.

Local, independent venues have really been hurting the past year, due to shows being off with the pandemic. What are some of your favorite Michigan venues for metal music that are still around, and are there any that you’re mourning the loss of?

The Sanctuary has been one of my favorite venues for a few years now. It can host anything from local shows to larger touring acts. For the bigger shows, I really like Saint Andrew’s Hall and The Majestic Theatre in Detroit. Really, the venue that tore me up the most when it went under was Mac’s Bar in Lansing. It was just a little old dive bar, but I’ve been playing shows there since 2007, and it just doesn’t feel the same without it.

What makes The Sanctuary in Detroit the right venue for Rust Fest?

The Sanctuary has the sound and feel of a big venue but the intimacy of a local venue. You feel so close to the bands when you’re there. It really is a great live experience. The owner and crew at The Sanctuary are all amazing, too. Also, with Rust Fest’s goal being to raise funds for the venue, it was a no-brainer.

What are your thoughts on the local metal scene in Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids and throughout Michigan?

I feel like we have a great scene in Michigan. All of the cities kind of have their own scenes going on, but they all love to get together and throw shows in different cities. It’s all inclusive. It’s one big family.

What are some of your favorite independent metal bands that people should check out, aside from the Rust Fest bill?

There are a lot of them, but I’ll throw out a few that I’m listening to right now: Bog Wraith, Carnis Immortalis, Ritualist, Vestigial, Funeral Wake, and my own band, Boreworm.

Rust Fest lineup: Thursday, Sept. 9 features The Green Leaves, My Own Will, From Blue To Gray, Portal Of Pazuzu, Scapegoat, Pestilent Age and Mammon. Friday, Sept. 10, features Signs of the Swarm, Worm Shepherd, Until Solace, Visceral Autopsy and Redlord. Saturday, Sept. 11, features Recorruptor, Throne, Dagon, Mutilatred, Centenary, Nethergate and Dragged Beneath. For full details on Detroit’s Rust Fest and to find tickets, visit Rust Fest online here.

Anne Erickson’s column appears weekly in Audio Ink Radio. Have a band or concert to share? Contact her at anne@audioinkradio.com.

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