Friendly Chaos: A Firsthand Account of a Heavy Metal New Year at The Sinkhole

Photo of Mindclot by Avery Whiting (@drillingyourhead on Instagram). Photo not taken on New Year’s Eve, unfortunately.

I knew things would get wild right off the bat when I pulled into The Sinkhole parking lot to find Trashgoat already raising hell in their war paint. These local black metallers tend to skip the face paint unless they anticipate an especially unholy evening, and I’m proud to report their prediction was dead-on. On New Year’s Eve, rockers from all walks of life crammed into The Sinkhole for a debaucherous celebration. Friendly chaos was enjoyed by all, and although my memory of that night seems to cut out about halfway through, I’ll do my best to piece together this rager.

The idea of a heavy metal New Year seems obvious, but it was a first for many in attendance. My friend Taelor Beeck, owner/operator of Midwest Metalpunks and organizer of the event, proudly declared, “This was my first New Year’s Eve show and I’d do it again. It was the best New Year’s I’ve ever had and many others said they felt the same way. That’s exactly why I wanted to do this show. The metalhead freaks need their own party too!”

And party, we did.

The opening band took the stage fifteen minutes late, but as soon as they did, the dormant crowd sprung to life. Within sixty seconds of Trashgoat’s first song, a particularly rowdy mosh pit took form. The maelstrom of elbows and knees consumed vocalist Jude Ryan as a single shoe could be seen careening through the air toward the drum kit. Just when it seemed like Jude had been swallowed whole, he came rocketing back toward his bandmates, shrieking like a blood-starved beast. “I’ve never seen a bigger mosh pit at one of our shows before,” said Ryan after the show.

The remainder of the set was pure unbridled energy—forceful and messy, heavy and rickety all at once—like a freight train held together with Elmer’s glue. Drummer Ethan Ehret beats the living shit out of his kit, forming a barbaric alliance with the plodding bass of Zack Bailey. Feedback screeched in and out of those brittle black metal guitar leads we all dig so much, and guitarist Andrew Wren’s stage presence rivals that of the band’s frontman.

To close out the first quarter of the night, Trashgoat covered Manilla Road’s “The Riddle Master.” Jude hoisted aloft a hardback copy of the dark fantasy manga Berserk to much fanfare, only to read the song’s lyrics from a sheet of notebook paper tucked inside. He also toted a battle axe, exemplary of the band’s adherence to black metal tradition.

Trashgoat stormed offstage, cueing everyone to order another drink and chat. It was at this point that I noticed promoter Taelor Beeck was tending the bar, and I wondered how she could keep up with the bar while making sure the show ran smoothly. “It can be sensory overload at times but it’s a great way to interact with the crowd,” said Taelor. “It also allows me to see the event from a different perspective and makes me feel even more a part of it.” I finished my beer and ordered another. Nite Sprites appeared ready to go on, and I couldn’t wait to see them for the first time.

Some people think mixed bills are a bad idea, but Nite Sprites’ performance stands as evidence to the contrary. “We were definitely curious to see how people reacted to us in the middle of significantly heavier bands, but people were down,” recalls vocalist/guitarist Ray Kannenberg. “The kids were grooving and there was moshing and overall everyone seemed down with the vibe.”

Bassist of Nite Sprites Matt Stuttler owns The Sinkhole in addition to playing in a multitude of other local projects (Cyanides, Boreal Hills, Shitstorm, Molten Bone, and Variante Form). I couldn’t help but ask how he does it all at once.

“I’m so used to it that it feels perfectly normal to serve a drink then go play a set,” replied Matt. “Some nights it really does just feel like I’ve invited a bunch of friends over to my garage to hang out, drink beers, and play music. I’ve tried to make it the kind of place I would want to walk into and play a show if I was in another town, so hopefully I’ve accomplished that in some way.”

The breezy yet muscular display of old-school hard rock was refreshing after the satanic belligerence of Trashgoat. With more extreme metal to come, Nite Sprites felt like the eye of the storm. The bass dances nimbly yet steadily through the chord progressions, giving the dual lead guitars enough slack to really soar. Nearly every member of the band does vocals, layering harmony on top of harmony and never giving the listener a chance to get bored. The rowdiness of the room may have dipped down for Nite Sprites, but the energy level remained sky-high. Check out their demo on Bandcamp if a fresh but faithful take on classic rock appeals to you.

Sarkatha dropped in like a napalm strike. Nobody expected them to go on before Mindclot, and the sudden barrage of speed metal riff work blew everyone’s hair back. At this point in the night, the rockers without mercy were a splash of cold water to my inebriated face. Guitarist/vocalist Eli Mardis is a force to be reckoned with—a certified shredmaster general. I hadn’t heard Sarkatha before, so their laser-precise lead guitar was a welcome surprise. In fact, I’ve doubled my own guitar practice regimen because of it.

Make no mistake—Sarkatha’s lead work is by no means the lone highlight of their sound. Though the band is quite young, they could be considered a power trio. If Sarkatha is a tank, Adrian Cullen’s drums are the treads. The percussion never relents, always pushing onward and never missing a beat. Cullen’s kick pedal is almost telekinetically linked to the roaring bass guitar of Jack Bryan. It’s a beautiful thing when the bass is fully capable of comping under the solos with no need for a rhythm guitar. There are even times when Bryan gives Mardis a run for his money. At one point, the two traded blazing fast solos back and forth—seemingly trying to outshred each other. The result? Well, just ask my neck muscles. I (and I imagine many others) involuntarily banged my head so hard that I could barely hold it up the next morning. Sarkatha, please consider a brand deal with Icy Hot.

 “We absolutely loved the crowd’s reaction,” proclaimed Mardis. “Great to see so many heads banging to our set and have so much movement. I say any place we can be right in our audience’s face is best, and the Sinkhole is perfect for that…St. Louis knows how to fucken party. Keep it chaotic and show no mercy, Sarkatha shall return!”

Shortly after the Kansas trio began to tear down their equipment, attendees hastily made their way to the bar for free champagne. The venue erupted in applause before anyone could remember the lyrics to the old Iron Maiden standard. 2023 had arrived. “There was lots of love and confetti in the air when the clock struck midnight,” Taelor Beeck later remarked.

Mindclot conducted a quick sound check using hand signals to coordinate their levels before opening into a wall of feedback. Frontman Mike Mutersbaugh addressed the crowd, thanking Taelor for organizing the event and saluting the bands that had played before them. After some applause, the band kicked into “Deception,” the opening track of their new EP which had dropped just two days prior. A few big power chords lead into a flurry of double bass and cymbals followed by a dropout. Bassist Scott Rehme introduced the throttling D-Beat riff to come and then the whole band drops back in. “DECEPTIOOOOOOOON!” screamed Mutersbaugh in his high-pitched rasp. Mindclot kept the pits going for the remainder of the night, and they finally broke me. I had to take my hair down and jump into the action. This marks the point where my memory truly fails, but I’m fortunate to have taken videos. The drumming of Eric Scherer took center stage as the band transitioned from “Interlude” into “The Mind.” Cymbals and snares underscore the bleak but furious power chords, filling the space in between with some astonishingly tight tom rolls. Guitarist Keith Clements never fell out of step with the bass, following along closely in true D-Beat fashion.

With Mindclot’s final song, the night had come to an end. The sidewalk flooded with deaf, drunk, happy metalheads. Ready for the next show, I asked Taelor about her plans for the future.

“My goal is to host even bigger and better shows than last year. I’d also like to further diversify and book things outside of my own realm,” said Taelor. “Y’all are thirsty for more and I have made it my life’s mission to quench that thirst. We’ve already announced some killer shows to kick off the year with touring bands such as Flea Collar, Proton, Black Magnet, King Yosef, and Stress Angel + Century. Many more to come so make sure you are paying attention.”

Whether it was the hangover or the hearing damage, my ensuing headache was a small price to pay for four hours of quality riffs. It beats my standard New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon and Chinese food binge. Let’s do it again next year. | Jackson Mabrey

One comment

  1. Sounds like a great way to spend the New Year’s Evening! Sorry I missed it.
    The writer paints a detailed sonic picture of the event. Can’t wait to read more from this guy.

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