Student brings the metal to St. Pete

It’s not often that metalheads use the power of metal for charity, but one USF student is summoning bands from all over Florida to St. Petersburg on Saturday in support of epilepsy research.

USF student Lucille Volpe, a production assistant at State Theatre, put together Destroyer Fest to satisfy the demand for metal music.

“Every band at the festival is producing something that is organic and raw,” she said. “They’re not using freaking autotune or a synthesizer. They’re using beefy Orange amps, heavy guitars and big drums that create a huge live experience.”

The proceeds from the event will go to the Epilepsy Services Foundation in honor of epilepsy awareness month.

“It’s a disease that needs a bit more awareness,” Volpe said. “I want my festival to be a nonprofit festival that gives back to the community.”

The prospect of a mosh pit or a blown eardrum is unfavorable to some newcomers, but Volpe said it’s a shared experience everyone needs to try once. 

“People look out for each other. If you fall on the floor, someone is going to pick you right back up,” she said. “Everyone is there to have a good time, not beat the crap of each other.”

The rush of head banging while throwing up devil horns was lost to the ages with bands such as Black Sabbath, but Volpe said that feeling is coming back to a new generation of metalheads. 

“It’s addicting and intoxicating,” she said. “I just wanted more of it and it’s why I decided to work in music. I wanted to help build that community.”

Volpe said bringing talented bands might help proliferate the metal scene in the Tampa area, which used to be considered the death metal capital of the world. 

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “For some reason, it just diminished it over the years. Instead indie music and electronica became more popular.”

Though the live metal scene in Florida has been slow to resurrect, it’s gained traction in other parts of the country since the 1990s. 

“Right now, huge bands are getting booked everywhere but Florida,” Volpe said. “I want to bring them down here and show them that Florida is worth their time.” 

Some metal subgenres, with bands such as Electric Wizard and Sleep, feature a laid-back groove and lower pitch than early metal bands, such as Iron Maiden or Megadeth. 

“I love metal and I love sludge metal, doom metal and stoner metal,” Volpe said. “When there’s a metal show, everybody comes out. It doesn’t matter who it is or what kind of metal it is, people just love it.”

Destroyer Fest will feature the slower, heavier kind of metal with fuzzy guitar riffs and bonesaw bass lines. Ten Florida bands, such as Ulcer and Orbweaver, will open for Weedeater.

Formed in 1998 in North Carolina, Weedeater is a household name in the stoner metal scene. They’ve released four albums and toured the world with sold-out shows. 

“For Weedeater to put their faith in some new kid on the block, that’s a pretty rewarding feeling,” Volpe said. 

After getting permission from her boss at State Theatre almost a year ago, Volpe said she called every metal band she could think of to convince them to play.

“I contacted big time agents who had been agents for Black Sabbath and Metallica,” she said. ““After Weedeater signed on, it all went from there.”

Volpe said she got the idea for using metal to raise donations after raising $3,000 at a smaller concert in New Port Richey three years ago. 

“That was just from local bands and a few donations,” she said. “Now I want to use my resources to do something bigger … and I was tired of indie festivals all the time while the metal bands were left out.”

Volpe said State Theatre would give the opening acts a chance to play a bigger venue than they normally could. After the festival, there will also be an after-party across the street at The Local 662, which will have free entry and Jagermeister  with festival tickets.   

“The after-party will highlight some up-and-coming metal that are on the cusp of hitting it big,” she said. 

The festival is all-ages and doors open at 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 advance and $18 at the box-office.