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Stabmonton knifes life into Edmonton’s grindcore scene

Stabmonton 5 D.I.Y. Fest takes place on May 10 and 11 at the Starlite Room Main Hall (10030 102 St NW). Doors are at 7:30. Tickets are $20 per night and only available at the door.

By Ellen Reade

Stabmonton is a yearly, two-day music festival centred around grindcore: a genre characterized by heavily distorted and abrasive guitars, overdriven bass, and fast tempos. The festival contributes to the expansion of Edmonton’s grindcore scene—a growing movement that often goes unnoticed.

“It’s called Stabmonton because it’s a total assault on your sense with the fast blast beats and the screaming vocals. It just seemed like a suitable name,” says Brett Paquin, known around Edmonton as Brett Brett.  

Curating and promoting less-know genres poses extra difficulty: trying to sustain community surrounding such niche interests isn’t an easy task.The prairies are not the preferred destination for most touring bands. The commutes from nowhere to nowhere take forever, it’s difficult for bands to break even, and low turnouts are expected. This conglomeration of negatives makes cities like Edmonton an unappealing stop at first glance.

“We all know how bands like to skip playing the prairies,” says Isaac Horne, original founder of Stabmonton Festival. “A good fest can make a city look like a significantly more desirable location for touring bands.”

Stabmonton does exactly that: some of the most notable grindcore bands travel across the continent to play the festival. Patrons from other provinces and countries fly in just to attend. Not only has Stabmonton grown to become a significant festival in the local community; it is a staple of the grindcore scene across North America.

Stabmonton was first hosted in 2013 by Isaac Horne at the original Clints Haus, a popular house venue at the time. The festival was born out of Horne’s “desire to hold a legitimately brutal music festival in Edmonton,” which hadn’t existed previously. While Edmonton held a variety of punk festivals, hardcore festivals, and emo festivals, there were no truly harsh grindcore festivals.

The first rendition of the festival attracted a larger-than-typical turnout for a house show, as did the second one in 2014 (which was hosted at the Creative Clubhouse). Horne moved to the United States shortly after Stabmonton 2 and the festival lay dormant for a few years.

“I actually had other people ask if they could throw Stabmonton 3 since I moved but I always said no,” Horne says, “until Brett Brett asked because he seemed to really understand the soul and embody the spirit of the event.”

Brett took over the festival in 2017 and has run the show ever since. Border forms, curation, band accommodations, venue booking, promotion, and event fundraising is a hefty workload for a team of one, but Brett manages it all on his own.

“He’s done a much better job at the fest than I have,” Horne says, “going all out to bring out some of the most notable American grindcore bands today … along with the best and most pulverizing bands Canada has to offer.”

With any successes come failures and challenges—even Stabmonton has obstacles to overcome. Stabmonton faced a unique challenge in dealing with a venue change every year since 2017. In 2017, Stabmonton was booked at Mama’s Gin Joint but the venue’s sudden closure moved the festival to Latinos. In 2018, Latinos also shut down abruptly and Stabmonton moved to Bohemia. This year, Stabmontons expected turnout exceeded Bohemias capacity and it moved to the Starlite Room.

Despite Stabmontons rapid growth into the bigger space, Brett maintains the festivals do-it-yourself roots.

“It was always supposed to be a D.I.Y. style,” Brett says. “I think it still is even though its grown a bit larger. We still keep the same values.”

Stabmonton has no pre-sale tickets and tickets can only be purchased at the door. A variety of vendors and distros will sell merch throughout the venue. There will be one “versus set,” meaning two bands will set up at the same time and play song for song. The festival hosts a whopping 17 bands in the span of two days—11 of those bands coming from out of town.  

Most interesting of all, bands set up on the floor rather than on the stage. This setup mimics a do-it-yourself hall show, unlike the large scale concerts typical to the Starlite Room.

“The stage height is something that doesn’t really fit the vibe of the show,” says Tyson Boyd, owner of the Starlite Room. “The Starlite Room main room is essentially kind of a big hall so it really does bring a kind of a hall show level of feel.”  

The layout creates a unique energy for bands as well.

“While you’re playing, you’re also getting hit with like this punch in the face of just like pure noise and it just like gives a bit more energy,” Brett says.

An unfortunate sacrifice made by moving into the larger venue is the inability to remain an all ages event. All ages shows bring new people into the community and contribute to the growth of the scene, but there are currently no all ages spaces that can accommodate a festival the size of Stabmonton.

Long term, Brett hopes to continue Stabmonton as a two-day festival, but to bring in larger bands from the United States. He hopes to eventually book international bands from places like Russia and Belgium and to add more versus sets in the future; potentially filling the entire first night of the festival.

“I wanna show more people this: that this type of extreme music is out there and they can get involved in it and it’s super cool if they do” Brett says, “I always tell people like, bring a friend to a show who’s never been to a show. Maybe that’ll spark something in them cause that’s how it happened with me.”

Any and all types of people are welcome at Stabmonton, with a short list of exceptions:

“Fuck you to busters, thieves, sketchy promoters, bigots, abusers, homophobes, and misogynists. Play fast and sleep when you’re dead.”

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