Concert Review: Migration Fest, Part 1


Now that the dust has had time to settle over the past few weeks, I’m ready to start recounting the incredible experience that was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest for Migration Fest. Now, please keep in mind that the title this post is misleading. Calling this a ‘review’ may not be accurate. That would imply that there could have been some negative aspects of Migration weekend… and that just isn’t reality. No, this far better categorized as a recount. Or better yet, a praising. You may have also noticed that this is referenced as ‘Part 1’. I’ll cover Thursday (in part) and Friday here, and then offer my highlights of the other days… eventually. I didn’t feel like writing, not bombarding you, with about 2500 words of reading material in one sitting. You’re welcome. 

Before getting into the music, much must be said for the incredible work exerted by the 20 Buck Spin and Gilead Media crews. Everything about the overall production of the festival was a huge success and their efforts were not unnoticed. While I had some issues with the pre- and after-shows around the way at Obsidian (especially considering the fact that I didn’t even get into any of the after-shows — my own dumb fault, I know), everything that went down at the Capitol Theater was fantastic… except for the whole running out of beer thing once or twice. Not their fault. Free water? Totally made up for that anyway. Regardless, major credit due for the execution of this endeavor that we all enjoyed.

I also need to tip my hat to the very dive-y, unique bar and restaurant scene in the area. From Cryptatropa, to the Fish Tale Brew Pub, to the countless coffee shops… we certainly consumed well on all levels. Olympia is a city very unlike my hometown of Portsmouth, and while at first I had, eh, critical opinions on some of what the area had to offer, I grew to enjoy what was around me more and more with each passing day. I even stopped giving Quality Inn shit after a certain point. Ok, that’s a lie.

As for the venue within the city where all this was going down, I was unsure about how the theater-style venue, primarily filled with seats on both the main floor and balcony, would host such an event. As it turned out, the small standing area in the front sufficed for most of the sets; a few performances forced people to stand back in the aisles, which made navigating the venue a bitch… but enough of a bitch to truly complain. Otherwise, the rustic theater with dim lighting and upstairs bar served as a tremendous spot for many of these bands. And I certainly took full advantage of the overhead views from the balcony for a few sets.


But anyway, I’ll backtrack and start with my thoughts on the pre-show at Obsidian, which featured False (performing an Emperor covers set), Cavernlight, and ĒŌS. The opening two acts, heavily doom oriented, sounded great. False, who I respect dearly, didn’t keep me. I left after two songs. Perhaps it is because of my undying worship for all things Emperor. If I cared slightly more about False, and slightly less about Emperor, I probably would have enjoyed the set more. But seeing a band attempt to cover Emperor just made me feel… unclean. They are one of those bands you really just shouldn’t touch. In my mind at least. But overall our introduction to Migration weekend was a success. Especially before the music began and all the reunions were in full force at the bar. Cheap drinks, great friends (MDF reunions for many of us), and another weekend-long celebration of metal was upon us.

Kowloon Walled City

Moving onto Friday, which was a slow starting day at the theater, we offered ourselves a chance to do some exploration. Thanks to our adulthood (my adulthood), we took a rather nice drive to the coast in a shitty Hyundai before the festival began. A quick day trip but one totally worth it. The beach, a brewery that had something to do with pirates… it was a decent adventure through some truly impressive landscapes that I had never seen in my life. Once we returned and dabbled in some festival action itself, it felt like Migration had truly begun. Pale Chalice kicked things off with a brilliant, and eerie performance. With the house lights off, their black metal — which is already inherently jarring — became that much more powerful. It seemed like a brief half hour set, but one that stuck with me throughout the weekend. Meanwhile, Khemmis absolutely destroyed their set, leaving me even more excited about their upcoming album… as did Kowloon Walled City, who we watched from the balcony. And honestly, I don’t think an act sounded crisper, or more aligned with their album sound, than KWC. One of the unsung heroes from the weekend for sure. But the highlight for me had to Obsequiae, who I was uncertain of going into the show. Matching the sound they create on their records seemed rather… difficult live. Because harps and stuff. But they sounded great and brought a ton of energy despite a relatively modest stage presence. Plus, we learned how to properly pronounce their name. Which is was a major win for everyone.


And honestly, the other bands we didn’t even stay for much of. Including Krallice. Nothing against any of them, but… yeah that’s what happened. Got in a few songs from the balcony, and move on to the bars. But that’s how festivals work. You pace yourself. I’ve learned over the years, after failing many times, at how these things need to be done. Regardless, the opening ceremonies of Migration Fest were a resounding success and paved the way for two more days of incredible experiences in the PNW and even better performance but some of the best bands going in metal today. A hell of a start.

(There will be more — and better — pictures in subsequent recaps. What you see above is strictly shot with my phone. But words are boring and I wanted to include something.)

“Ein Bier… bitte.”

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