Two-Day Festival Asks, "Would You Like Some Fries With Your Black Metal?"
Grease-soaked bags of takeout food and garish black-and-white makeup have nothing in common. And to Lo-Fi Social Club curator Peter Goode, that is kind of the point. Ever since the soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and extensively tattooed 28-year-old chanced upon an online photo of a friend's band wearing black-metal makeup while eating KFC bowls, "I couldn't get the image out of my head," he says. And thus this weekend's Black Metal Fast Food Fight Festival--a two-day event featuring the work of more than 50 artists (including Dina Kelberman, occasional City Paper contributor Brian Ralph, Albert Schweitzer, and Nerve.com photo blogger Chase Lisbon), 15 bands, several DJs, and food wrestlers--was born.
"The event is really about fun," Goode says, but he has since learned that not everyone shares his opinion. What began as a quirky idea of having black-metal clad wrestlers tumble through Happy Meals has become a focal point for a discussion of ugly American excess.
For Goode, the contentious elements of the show were afterthoughts, secondary to his fascination with the ridiculous idea. His only direction to the participating artists and performers: Yoke together black metal and fast food. "When I proposed the concept to artists, I was either met with absolute confusion or giddy delight," he says. "Some had to do some soul-searching to make the concept work."
Photographer Josh Sisk, 30, counts himself among the mystified. "A lot of people don't understand the theme, myself included," says the 30-year-old hired to shoot the fest's promotional stills. "But I think the curiosity surrounding it will make it a success."
This capricious yet optimistic attitude toward to the festival is a common thread among Goode's accomplices in this pre-Halloween horror. Fast food's undeniable grotesqueness and black metal's ghoulishness give new absurd qualities to terror. The BMFFFF is also a costume party and, Goode says, the fest's performers will be dressed in black-metal garb while fighting and wrestling in food. In-character challengers, such as Celtic Frostie, will be on hand to wrestle their opponents through a pit of burgers, fries, ketchup, and whatever else is available.
It will be the "the most disgusting food wrestling ever," says wrestler Lauren Brower, 25. The raven-haired bombshell was at first intrigued by the invitation to scrap in food scraps, but says she became anxious once the situation was more clearly defined. "I've seen girls wrestle in everything from cranberry sauce to coleslaw, but the idea of straight-up mayonnaise for some reason sounds worse," she says, grimacing slightly.
The BMFFFF promo models are less anxious, potentially because they don't have to roll around in mayo. "I love getting dressed up in costume," says model Lissah Dunston, 23. "When else do you get to wear corpse paint and a vertebra on a chain around your neck?"
"I'm from Sweden, where black metal was conceived," says Karl Ekdahl, a 27-year-old model with a blond mohawk and thick eyeliner. "Those kids have excellent musical skill and have gotten very little support or recognition."
Goode and his models staged an impromptu test run of the fest's concept Sept. 9. En route to an Ellicott City photo-shoot location, the entourage--13 people in corpse paint and black-metal makeup and costume--stopped at a McDonald's to eat.
"We freaked out a lot of people," Dunston says. "The staff tried to be polite, but they told us that we couldn't come in with that kind of makeup for security reasons. It was funny to get people's attention and gauge their responses."
Despite the obvious playfulness behind the BMFFFF, Goode learned that some people aren't laughing with him. On Goode's blog (petergoode.blogspot.com), "mugwye1" posted, "Am I the only person who thinks this is one of the worst ideas ever . . . the blatant waste of food . . . all so you can get women to degrade themselves . . . what a disgusting display of America's gluttony and lack of culture." (Because posting is anonymous, commentators couldn't be reached for further comment.)
Some self-proclaimed vegans, metalheads, and feminists are among the apparently outraged by the two-day event as well. "Please tell these girls involved that there is more to life than getting attention, and if their low self-esteem is truly that bad, then degrading themselves further won't really help their situation," posts "Ugly Horse Balls." "Kickass1987" writes, "if people who care about Baltimore's underground art community are complaining this diligently, you probably ARE doing something wrong . . . the theme of your art show alienates a large chunk of your potential audience."
Goode contends that although he didn't intend to instigate any malice, he "never set out thinking this show would please everyone." Goode has, however, decided to donate a portion of the festival's proceeds to Food Not Bombs.
"The fact that [the festival is] sparking discussion is a good thing," Goode says. "This show is about excess. I'll let the audience make its own interpretations of the theme. Buying a few things from McDonald's for props won't make or break McDonald's, but changing an audience's view of fast-food iconography by equating it with death could be powerful."
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