Grim Reefer Fest Smokes Up Baltimore on April 16th

Grim Reefer Fest

Back in 2017, members of Baltimore “Sword and Sorcery Doom” band Haze Mage conspired for the very first Grim Reefer Fest. Planned as a celebration of heavy music around the April 20th date, it has since grown to a nine-band bill for a killer one-day fest. While the fest’s themes vibe with imbibing in 420, the lineup isn’t just a string of fuzzy Fu Manchu riffs. Sure, from Heavy Temple‘s occult boogie to the crushing psych of Gravebathers and Dirt Woman, there’s no shortage of adjacent (and awesome) doomy, stoned heaviness. But there’s also the frantic grind of Cavern. The synth-laced space odysseys of darsombra. The plowing noise rock of Mast Year. It’s a truly eclectic murderer’s row of bands assemble to pack Ottobar in Baltimore on April 16th.

I would also be remiss if I forgot to mention I had a Haze Mage song (“Bong Witch”) on my wedding reception playlist. Grab fest tickets for an in-person Grim Reefer experience HERE, and stay tuned for streaming options if you’re not able to attend in the flesh. Scroll down to read an interview with festival co-founder/Haze Maze bassist Scott Brenner.

Decibel Magazine interview with festival co-founder Scott Brenner

When was the fest’s first year, and what was the initial inspiration for the fest?
SB: The fest’s first iteration was in 2017, it was more of a show than a fest at the time but the spirit of the event was the same. Our main inspiration was that we just wanted to do a heavy show on 4/20 with some great bands from the region. We built this giant bong stage prop that blew smoke across the stage;  there’s video of it somewhere. But sadly that doesn’t exist anymore since we generally don’t have enough room on the stage with what the scale of the event is now. Everyone had such a great time that we wanted to keep that going each year!

How has the fest changed since the first celebration?

SB: In a bunch of ways, but overall the spirit and intent of the fest has stayed the same! In general we have a better grasp of our vision for the event and what we’re doing. Since our first go at a 4/20 celebration, we have an official name for it now (“Grim Reefer Fest”), we are hosting more bands each year (9 in 2022), we now have a food truck at the event to take care of everyone’s munchies, and now we aim for the Saturday closest to 4/20 since having a great all day music festival wouldn’t work as well on a Wednesday.

What sort of qualities do you look for in a band before putting them on the bill?
SB: The main quality of bands for us is just good heavy music that we enjoy. We certainly have a long list of bands that we would love to host for the event but also know the reality that some of those are more attainable than others. Primarily we just look for sounds that we love that we love that are also different from the rest of the bill that we’ve built. We try to make sure we’re not just doing one style of music throughout the day but would still be enjoyed by the same audience. Just look at this year’s lineup, we have doom, psychedelic, acid rock, post metal, stoner metal, and everything in between.

We truly put a lot of thought and care into what the lineup looks like from start to finish and we hope people recognize that. There’s no filler bands on our lineup, every band on our lineup each year are something you’re going to want to see, hear, and experience for yourself.

For those outside the Baltimore and DC area, how would you describe the regional scene for heavy music?
SB: The regional scene here is vast, diverse, and thriving and we absolutely love being a part of it. We don’t have to look very far to find a ton of incredibly talented bands to put on any lineup. Between Richmond, Baltimore, DC, and Philly (and the surrounding areas)—each of which are all so close to each other and bring so many incredible bands past and present—I truly believe that we have arguably the best regional music scene in the country. It’s why there’s so many large scale heavy music events nearby: Maryland Deathfest, Maryland Doom Fest, Shadow Woods, Metal and Beer Fest; just to name a few. At its heart, Grim Reefer Fest is a love letter to this region’s heavy music scene.

Ottobar will be hosting the fest. What made them a great partner for the show?
SB: The Ottobar is one of our favorite places to play and see live music. There’s ample parking for a venue in the city plus we have enough space to bring in a food truck parked right outside the door! It’s a legendary venue with a wealth of history and we love being a part of contributing to that. Especially as we are (hopefully) coming out of the pandemic, we think it’s extremely important to support the venues that keep our scene alive. The space is plenty big for what we’re currently doing and we have ambitions to also utilize the upstairs bar & stage in coming years as we grow. The staff at the Ottobar feel like family to us and stepping through those doors—regardless of if we’re playing—always feels like a home away from home. There’s nowhere else we want to be with Grim Reefer Fest.

For people who can’t attend the fest in the flesh, is there another way to watch and listen?
SB: Actually, yes! We are very proud to announce that for the first time ever, we will be live streaming the entire fest online for a digital ticket price! We’re partnering with our good friends at Human Being Productions to make this part of our fest dreams a reality. We want to be able to showcase this incredible underground scene to people around the globe as well as to our friends and fans who are still not quite up to being in large crowded spaces. Pay attention to our socials, the event’s Facebook page, and our website for the streaming ticket link very soon!

Buy tickets for Grim Reefer Fest HERE

Check out the fest’s official website HERE

Visit the Facebook event page HERE

Grim Reefer full poster
Poster art by JD (IG: @GHOST_BAT_)