Mark Gromen of Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles

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June 13th and 14th Cleveland played host to Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles 6 Pack Weekend featuring some of the great metal acts of the 80s from around the world, including Candlemass, Trouble and Jag Panzer as well as some of today’s strong up-and-comers like Evergrey and Force of Evil (featuring members of Mercyful Fate).

What goes into something this huge, how does Cleveland get a show like this and is this the start of something even bigger? LarryMac talked to Senior U.S. Writer Mark Gromen to see what he had to say about the show, the response and how Cleveland fared in the eyes of the veterans of the great European festivals.

LarryMac: First off, thank you for an incredible weekend. I’ve seen a lot of shows in this area for a lot of years – even the occasional festival – but nothing comes close. Thanks also for taking the time to talk to us. Anyway, I know you’re a busy guy so let’s get to work:

The word is already out that the 6-Pack Weekend is going to be an annual event. How long ago did the planning for something this big start?

Mark: The genesis was about 10 months. I started securing bands in the Fall of 2002 and had about 4 or 5 confirmed by Nov/Dec last year. It took a while, longer than I’d hoped, to get the final pieces together. That said, we were really finished with band logistics (flights, hotels, catering, transportation, etc) WELL ahead of the actual show dates.

LarryMac: Since BW&BK is headquartered in Toronto, and the show headliner was from Sweden, what made you guys pick Cleveland to bestow this show upon?

Mark: My connections in Cleveland made it financially more feasible than somewhere like NYC or LA. The Canadians WANTED a US based city, as all too often they are piegon-holed as a “Canadian magazine,” which belies the fact we are in twenty some countries around the world and the bulk of our sales are in the States.

LarryMac: In addition to the big names (Candlemass, Trouble, Jag Panzer, et al) the festival featured a lot of newer and/or less known bands – I noticed a lot of North American and even world debuts – what was the impetus to showcase the smaller bands on this “first shot” at the 6-Pack Weekend?

Mark: If these kind of shows are going to have any longevity, we must take strides to build a fertile underground for the future. We can’t only stock the show with “names,” as there are too few of those and after a couple of years, everyone will have played. Therefore, someone like Wolf gets introduced this year and down the line, they can come back, in a higher slot. The object of the BW&BK 6-Pack Weekend will always be to attract the fan from all over. This is not just another Cleveland show. We have to have bands that people in New Mexico, or Iowa will get on a plane (or endure a killer drive) to come see. You can’t have that if you only offer bands that tour every year, or are coming to the US to start a regular tour. It’s got to be something unique. That’s an aspect of this show that can NEVER change.

LarryMac: On a related note: why the focus on the older metal bands, as opposed to some of the newer stuff?

Mark: Not sure what you mean about “newer stuff.” If, in that regard you mean the latest trend, nu-metal, etc, well, that’s not what the magazine is about. As someone who got to see all the great bands of the 80s, like Candlemass, Trouble, original Mercyful Fate, early Jag Panzer, it was somewhat selfish, but at the same time, I knew it had been YEARS since some of them played here. We always want to have a mix of old and new. This year, maybe it was a little heavy on the classic angle, but that doesn’t mean it always will be. At this time of year, North America is competing with the European festivals, in terms of securing bands. As a musician, until now there’s been no reason to travel thousands of miles, for a smaller (if any) payday and get treated like dirt. Hopefully, in some small way, we’ve alerted the rest of the world that there’s a viable Spring/Summer show in North America.

LarryMac: One of our reviewers here on the website summed it up when he reviewed the warm up show on Thursday: he said that the eyes of the world were on Cleveland to see if we would represent (we Clevelanders tend to badmouth our scene a lot). How did we do?

Mark: Tim’s probably a better one to ask, as it was his first time in Cleveland. I do know that there was only one ejection from the club and that was late on Saturday. The local bands, on the other hand, are to be commended for their time and effort. I haven’t heard one complaint about their attitude or performances.

LarryMac: One thing that really struck me was how accessible the bands were to the crowd. For the most part they were hanging out in the cheap seats drinking their beers, signing whatever you happened to place in front of them and generally just acting like they were fans enjoying the show themselves. Is that the typical mindset with these European-style festivals, the lack of the “rock star” mentality?

Mark: I’d like to say that we had something to do with that aspect of the show, but that’s really down to the amazing individuals they are! In some way, I guess we built an atmosphere they felt comfortable in (especially since so many were here for the first time) and/or offered bands THEY wanted to see, as much as the next guy. In the case of Trouble, I KNOW that to be a fact, as Candlemass and the guys from Entombed voiced their desire to see Trouble play. Since they all had to share dressing rooms and catering facilities, there was unparalleled cooperation. Given the longevity and exhalted status some of those guys should probably be treated with, it was refreshing (from our side too) to see how down to Earth they are.

LarryMac: Were there any bands whose response from the crowd particularly surprised you?

Mark: Honestly, I was a little worried about how Elegy might be received, as their records aren’t particularly easy to get a hold of here, even though they were once on Noise. I’d seen them a year earlier, in Spain, at a big outdoor show. Thankfully, they came across much heavier in the confines of The Odeon. Personally, watching the response Wolf received, and all the thank yous from fans afterwards, was so gratifying. Again, a small label band (no domestic distribution), who most never heard, but they’re a tremendously fun band, especially in the festival setting.

LarryMac: Okay, there’s a gun to your head and you have to pick the one performance that stands out in your mind. Which one is it?

Mark: Well, I have to go with the majority, at least in terms of what I’ve heard from the bands & fans alike, TROUBLE. Honestly, I’d seen every other band on the bill within the last year, at least once, so I knew what they could do. I had no idea whether Trouble would come out and play only Plastic Green Head material (which to my mind is OK, but pales next to the stuff before it), a rash of new, unheard material or if they even still had it. Anticipation and sonically, I don’t think anyone could touch that show. Even the guys in Candlemass, who followed them onstage, admitted how great Trouble was. Man, that was just a great, albeit too short, set!

LarryMac: OK, the floor is yours. Any parting words?

Mark: Thanks to the fans, both there in Cleveland, and from around the country (if not the world) who attended, the response has been overwhelming! It was a pleasure to put on this show. Not sure if we’ll be able to top it, but in the future, we won’t let the quality diminish. We tried to do something different and the people responded. Thanks for your faith in the BW&BK brandname. It means a lot! Tell everyone who will listen about what you heard, saw and experienced. We’ll see you all next year!

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