On occasion, a reporter in the field must ask themselves one simple, yet shattering question: am I in too deep? Traditionally, this would be at a moment too unbelievable to publish and potentially too dangerous to know; another big war bubbling beneath the murky bureaucratic surface or a deep conspiracy overarching legislatures for decades. For me, it was the third hot dog of “Lurchfest’s” inaugural “Dawgfight.” They can’t all be Pulitzers.
“Lurchfest,” for the uninitiated, is a grassroots Richmond music festival comprising mostly local acts spread across three different days and three different house venues. The music strayed rock, the rock strayed heavy, and the mosh pits strayed incredibly sweaty and intense. This year’s lineup had several milestones, from self-described “soul-punk” stalwarts “Harli and the House of Jupiter” breaking a performance hiatus to the sad departure of “Enforcer Rae” to bug-based swamp sludge legends “The Saturn Death Cult.”
To get the full “Lurchfest” experience- which is exactly what I attempted to do – follow these steps: Gather a smorgasbord of the best bands the city has to offer. Put them in some of the most interesting house venues in the aforementioned city. Position yourself next to a guy with so much acid in his bloodstream one of his pit injuries could cut through the Nostromo. Catch an errant beer can to the head while slam-dancing in a basement to borderline boiler room conditions. All of this sounds bad, but it wasn’t. It was life-changing. No, life-affirming.
To rewind, “Lurchfest” began as a dream. To be more accurate, Lurchfest began as a limo purchased second-hand from New York by members of the Latin-funk group “Los Malcriados,” semi-affectionately named “Lurch.” Described as a “wretched piece of machinery” by organizer and bongo player Michael Jones, it nonetheless became a sort of mascot for the band, and when the band decided to rally themselves for a one-day festival, there was Lurch.
This year, with expansion on the mind, promoter Paige Advocate-Ross joined the team. She’s the co-owner of The Rabbit Hole, the third of the house venues used in this year’s festival. Her work proceeds her as the previous organizer for AlterNatives Boutique’s “Rally in the Alley.” This level of professionalism extended out past her, however. The addition of Yusuf Goulmaine, Moises Carillo, and Sebastian Duall behind the soundboard allowed for each day to feel ear-ringingly loud without disturbing the neighborhoods involved too much.
The addition of two new days flanking the Glory Hill show allowed for a sprawling variety of sounds and bands. On day one, two sets after the brilliant stomp-clap acoustic stylings of the never-recorded, never performed “Mike Jones Sr,” “Dry Talker” took center stage with their genre-defying jazz rock. On day two, after “Tentative Decisions‘ angular post-punk forced the crowd to move, “Off-Key and the Eye of Life” had heads bobbing and couples swaying.
Day three had in store the shortest, but arguably heaviest sets, with “Friend” and “Lurid Purple Flowers” turning the basement venue into something akin to a sweat lodge before “Parsley” closed out the festival with serene indie rock. It was a feast for anyone with even semi-functional hearing, as my ringing right ear after the first day could attest to.
These weren’t the only expansions, as a new attraction blessed the stage on day two: the “Dawgfight,” a hot-dog eating contest rewarding the individual who could scarf down fourfranks, grilled under the summer sun, with no condiments, no drinks, and buns intact. I entered, fully expecting to just get a hot dog down to say I did it, but after a little assistance (beer shoved down my throat) from a mysterious Death Cultist, I came out victorious.
I’m far off from Lurchfest now; my body has healed and my stomach drops to my shins at the thought of a hot dog, yet my brain still tingles with those ever-important concrete details. Lurchfest, like so much of Richmond’s underground, is only conveyable through the most unusual means: childlike scribbles of explosions, wild hand gesticulations, and a frantic barrage of screams, mumbles, and you-had-to-be-theres. Although we’re still around a year off from the next Lurchfest (although that may not be true, if rumor is to be believed) I’m still ironing my band t-shirts and buying earplugs in preparation. Besides, I’ve got a hotdog eating crown to defend.