As the beautiful insanity of Berserker III approaches, National Rock Review chats with the people who bring this extreme music festival to Detroit.
Berserker III invades the Masonic Temple in Detroit on March 03-05 with three stages featuring appearances by such renown national acts as Voivod, Ghoul, Conan, Macabre, and Cannabis Corpse along with some outstanding Michigan artists like Acid Witch, Child Bite, SNAFU and Karmic Lava. There is a free PREserker kickoff party set for March 02 at Smallâ€™s in Hamtramck, Michigan where locals Blue Snaggletooth, Cloud Rat, Gore, Pandemonium, Plasticizer, Reverend, Stone Ritual, and The Armed will foreshadow the coming storm.
This all-ages phantasmagoric event is a labor of love for Veronica and Shawn Knight, who provide all of the care and feeding for Berserker. You may also know Shawn as the vocalist for Child Bite. Together they have grown Berserker into a premier extreme music festival that puts Detroit back on the map as a hot market for punk, hardcore, metal, and stoner rock. National Rock Review had the opportunity to chat with Shawn and Veronica about Berserker III.
NRR: This is the third year for Berserker and the show keeps getting bigger. Past shows had been at the Loving Touch and Woodward Avenue Brewers (WAB) in Ferndale. This year you are moving to the historic Masonic Temple. How did that come about?
SK: While we really enjoyed having the fest at The Loving Touch, by year two we were already starting to outgrow it. At first, we figured “fuck it, we’ll just pack the place,” but upon further discussion and the interest of the folks at The Crofoot, we decided to join forces and find a larger space. The actual Crofoot Ballroom and Pike Room were already booked up, but since they regularly present events at the Masonic it was an obvious choice.
NRR: Do you think having the show at the Masonic will take away from the DIY feel of previous Berserker events?
VK: Not really. The rooms that we are utilizing at the Masonic are pretty down and dirty actually. It’s nothing like the main ballroom there. You’ll just have to take my word for it, but it really looks almost like an old DIY hall show, but three of them stacked on top of each other.
Shawn will also be creating some large-scale pieces to decorate the place with, basically illustrations of his recreated on sheets of plywood. I’m also excited to have a bunch of vendors, this time, around since we never had room for that kind of thing. It’s going to be a bit different, but in a good way.
NRR: Berserker is an incredible value for the number of bands that you can see. Is it a goal for you as organizers/promoters to keep the show affordable?
VK: Totally! It’s important to keep the scene alive and well. When I was younger, I would frequent DIY hall shows that were $5 bands/$5 bucks and those were some of the best shows. It made it affordable to learn about new bands.
We wanted to bring that same feeling to this event just on a bigger scale. That is also why we wanted to keep the event all ages. We need the kids to keep doing this after we are done!
NRR: Each year you guys manage to book some incredible national and local talent, is there a selection process you go through to pick the bands you invite? Are you looking for bands that draw or bands who you enjoy for their artistic flare (or a bit of both)?
SK: Definitely a bit of both, but mainly it’s Veronica and I choosing bands that we enjoy. I know for a fact that there are plenty of bands out there that would draw more, but we’re not into them, so it’s no good. If we started throwing in “questionable” bands, then it would dilute the whole thing, and probably divide the audience. Nobody wants to spend money on something they don’t like. Metallica learned that the hard way with Orion Fest. It’s important that while not everybody is going to like all of the bands, chances are that you’ll like most of them.
NRR: Which national and local bands are my most excited to see at this years show and why?
SK: Obviously some of the bigger ones, like Voivod and Ghoul… I was particularly happy to snag both of those. We had Macabre the first year but they had to cancel last minute, so it’s great that they can do it. I’ve been listening to them for over 20 years.
I had never listened to Black Tusk before booking them, and I’m a big fan now. Same with Vektor. They are amazing!
As for locals, I’m buddies with the Acid Witch guys and really adore them. Child Bite did a short tour with them in 2014, and we had a great time together. Speaking of CB buddies, we share a practice space with Shit Life. Fast as fuck weed-infused grind, really amazing to watch live. I also love Voyag3r for the same reasons I love Goblin; synth-heavy rocking soundtrack music. Obviously, I like all of the bands playing and could go on and on…
VK: I am so excited that we were able to get Conan. I’ve been listening to them for a while, and it was pure luck that they were coming to the US. I have also loved Cloud Rat for a while but have not been able to see them live, so can’t wait for that at PREserker.
Generation of Vipers was on both Shawn and my lists before we started comparing notes, so they were a band we had to have. I am also very excited for Fucking Invincible (FI). Everything I heard blows me away. Man, I guess I am really excited for all of these bands. Sometimes I look at this lineup and can’t believe it came together so well!
NRR: It feels like there is a bit more cohesion and cooperation in the Michigan music scene, do you think that Berserker contributes to this sense of a cooperative music environment?
VK: There are so many talented bands in Michigan and it’s great to be able to host an event that we can feature so many of them. They are all so supportive of us, and this event really couldn’t be possible without them. It’s nice for us all to come together to make this happen.
NRR:With the expanded space available at this years Berserker, you’ve included space for vendors. Will this be above and beyond the merchandise from the bands? Are there particular vendors you are seeking to include in the event?
: We’ve got a few underground metal labels coming out, like Eroding Winds and Emetic Records. Secret Lair is coming out; they license and release underground films and release them on VHS! Pretty rad.
There are several others signed up or about to sign up. Everything from screen printed rock posters to studded leather apparel. We’ve still got a few spots open, so folks should hit us up!
NRR: Finally, attending an extreme music event like Berserker can work up an appetite, can you offer up 3 restaurants or pubs that folks should hit while they are in town for the show?
: Oh man, there are so many good places popping up in Detroit. Rubbed
are great spots in Corktown to get a sandwich. Green Dot Stables
for amazing sliders. Johnny Noodle King
for Noodles. And of course, for the people that are coming in from out of town, the American
Coney Islands are Detroit staples.
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