In 2008, an upstart event called Rock City Festival arose in Detroit. Put on by then-fledgling local website Detour, it was spread over three days and three venues, and featured local acts as well as national headliners.
The festival didn’t last, but it serves as one of the inspirations for Berserker, the four-day punk and metal festival that kicks off Wednesday in Ferndale.
“One way of looking at this thing is that it’s like Rock City, but smaller and scarier,” says organizer Shawn Knight, who fronts Detroit rock group Child Bite.
Knight has pulled together more than 50 bands for Berserker, which will be held at Ferndale’s Loving Touch and next door at the Woodward Avenue Brewery through Saturday. Headliners include Chicago death metal outfit Macabre, Detroit rockers Wolf Eyes and Cleveland hardcore outfit Ringworm, while Detroit favorites like Old Gods, Nice Hooves, Thunderbirds are Now! and Knight’s own Child Bite round out the bill.
Knight came up with the idea for Berserker last summer and began piecing it together in his head over the next several months. Rather than including acts from across the musical spectrum, Knight wanted to focus on punk, hardcore and metal bands, “because that’s the kind of stuff I’m into and that I grew up on,” he says. “We have things like (Metro Times) Blowout, where the beauty of it that every genre under the sun is represented. But that’s not what I wanted this thing to be.”
He settled on early February due to a lack of competition and the brewing sense of cabin fever that tends to take over at this point in the season. “The timing was intentional,” says Knight. “We could have picked any time of the year to do it, but I really liked the idea of a winter-time fest. There’s not as much going on, and we wanted to take advantage of this untapped season as far as big fest-type events.”
“Berserker” — the name given to Norse warriors who fought in fierce rage-like states, often as a result of taking drugs — was a word Knight had long wanted to use in his music but was never able to, so he revisited it for the festival.
“When I was reading up on berserkers, it kind of made sense with this, as far as a bunch of punk and metal dudes going nuts in the middle of a (down) time of year,” he says.
The fest has a low price point of $15 for one night or $20 for all four, with the hope being anybody who’s going to go to one night will pop for the full four-day ticket.
“I wanted to make it as ridiculously cheap as we could make it,” says Knight, who is already kicking around ideas for a follow-up Berserker in 2015. “Unless you’re just not into this kind of stuff, there’s no reason you wouldn’t pay $20 for four days.”
The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward, Ferndale, and Woodward Avenue Brewery, 22646 Woodward, Ferndale
Tickets $15/day, $20/all four days