It’s Saturday night in Lodge 1, and the lights are dim. The chairs and tables have been pushed to the sides of the room, leaving an open floor in front of the stage that’s the prime spot for a mosh pit. A spotlight shines on the stage, revealing a teal drum set and electric guitar. As the first band steps onstage to start their soundcheck, loud music echoes throughout the venue and down the halls of the Sadler Center. It’s time for A Night in the Swamp, presented by the College of William and Mary’s Metal Club, to begin.
Dec. 4, the Metal Club presented A Night at the Swamp, a musical benefit show for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. The bands performed from 8 p.m. to midnight in Sadler Center’s Lodge 1 to a crowd of students from the College and the local area.
According to Metal Club’s president Alex Kim ’23, the Metal Club traditionally puts on shows in the fall and spring semesters titled “MetalFest,” but hasn’t been able to over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming in as president of the club, Kim was determined to put on a show this semester.
“My goal, regardless of how many people show up to the club or how much membership we get, was to put on a Metalfest, in some way,” Kim said.
A Night in the Swamp isn’t exactly a Metalfest, per se: the event featured bands across the musical spectrum, based both at the College and in Richmond and Northern Virginia. Kim said the Metal Club’s members reached out to friends in order to recruit bands for the event, in addition to bands composed of members from the club. Word of the event spread, and the lineup went from three bands to six.
Grocery Store, the band that opened the show, is a rock band based in Richmond. Straitjacket, a band composed of College students of which Kim is a member, plays hardcore punk; Ampliphobia, a Fairfax-based band, leans more towards rock and roll. The remaining three bands that performed, which are all Richmond-based — Nuclear Deathcount, Asylum213, and R.O.T.W.L.C.F.T.S.C.B.M.H. — play thrash, an avant-garde style of rock and grindcore, respectively.
Kim said that metal music is hard to define because it contains so much variation. He said that it usually features a metallic, gritty guitar tone, but can be both fast and slow and can be broken down into several alternative subgenres.
“To someone who’s never heard it before, I’d say: picture a mosh pit,” Kim said. “It’s music that you could picture fueling a mosh pit.”
As the bands performed on the Lodge 1 stage, students danced along, forming a mini mosh pit in front of the stage. Students nodded their heads to the beat, pumped their fists and clapped to the music.
Admission to the show was free, but donations were recommended to benefit the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. Kim said the group unanimously agreed on the charity early on in the planning process.
“I knew from day one I wanted it to be a charity show, because we had the money to pay bands to come in,” Kim said. “Palestinian relief and aid is a great cause.”
Kaylee Garrison is a senior at Cosby High School in Richmond, Virginia, who attended the show. Her boyfriend is a member of the band Grocery Store. She said she was looking forward to experiencing the different styles of music on display at the show.
I really like the energy, and everyone coming together and having a good time,” Garrison said. “I’m just excited to see the differentiations between all the bands, and how different the music is.”
Ian First, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, is a member of Ampliphobia who attended the show. First said he was looking forward to performing for a live audience; the band has had a few shows over the past few months, but was put mostly on hold during the pandemic. The band performed its usual set, which included a crowd-pleasing cover of a popular song from the show “Spongebob Squarepants.”
“We do have … a cover of ‘Gary Come Home’ that always goes hard,” First said.
Kim said the club is thinking about putting on another show in the spring, but plans are still on the horizon. His main goal with the event was to create a fun and safe space for students to enjoy a musical evening.
“A lot of alternative music … tends to attract people that might feel marginalized or disenfranchised,” Kim said. “I know that’s true in the punk scene: it tends to attract people that view themselves as social outcasts, or have been neglected by whatever institution or system that’s supposed to be supporting them. So, I think that … especially concerts like this can be validating spaces, they can be comfortable spaces. Like a refuge.”