A dozen years ago, John and Donald Tardy bought the website FloridaMetalFest.com. They weren’t staging a festival or anything. All they knew was that someday, somehow, they eventually would.
"We knew we wanted it, we worked on it, we dreamed about it, we came close to trying to pull the trigger," said Donald, drummer for the Tampa death metal group Obituary. "It took a lot of waiting for bands to be available and for us to have the money."
Today, finally, the Tardys are ready to pull the trigger. On Saturday at the Cuban Club in Ybor City, Obituary will headline the inaugural Florida Metal Fest, a long-discussed, long-overdue daylong salute to the city’s storied role in the foundation of death metal. Fellow Tampa death metal pioneers Deicide are also on the bill, along with national acts like Corrosion of Conformity, Trouble, Madball, Malevolent Creation and more.
"We just want Tampa to have a great festival, because we deserve it," Tardy said. "We are Florida boys, and we’re music fans and metalheads. I’m pushing hard to just make this thing a reality."
It’s been a long time coming. For 40 years, Tampa has been considered a cradle of the dark, macabre genre of heavy rock known as death metal, with bands like Obituary, Deicide, Morbid Angel and Buffalo, N.Y. expats Cannibal Corpse earning huge international fan bases and giving the city a curious, but influential, musical legacy.
Over the years, Tardy said, there have been countless attempts to unite two or more of those four bands (and others) on one tour, or even a single local festival, but it’s never happened, due to overlapping tour and recording schedules.
"Year after year, we’re like, ‘Let’s do a tour together, or let’s at least play a show together,’ when you’re hanging out with each other drinking a beer," Tardy said. "But years go by and it never happens, because their schedules don’t happen that way. We’re on the road when they’re not. We can’t get management to say yes. Their booking agent says no."
Even though Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel couldn’t play the inaugural Florida Metal Fest, even getting Obituary and Deicide on the same bill was quite a feat, Tardy said. "We’ve never done a show together, even though we’re good friends," he said.
For the past nine months, the Tardys have taken the reins organizing every aspect of the festival, calling in favors when necessary and trying to make it "world class for the band members coming in," Donald said.
Organizers didn’t realize when they booked the venue nine months ago that the fest was scheduled for the same day as Gasparilla. But, Tardy said, that could be a blessing in disguise.
"We’re hoping it’s a positive thing," he said. "You can get nervous about it and say everyone’s gonna be sunburned and tired and drunk and ready to go home and not come to the show. But then you can look at it the other way, which is, at 4, 5, 6 o’clock at night, they’re all wrapping it up and leaving Gasparilla, and they have nothing else to do, especially if metal music is on their mind."
First-year festivals always tend to struggle, and Tardy admitted organizers are "definitely losing sleep over" ticket sales so far. "But we also know that metalheads don’t necessarily buy advance tickets. As long as they are informed and they know that it’s happening Saturday, I think they will show up."
So confident and passionate are the Tardys that they’re already thinking about how to improve the fest in Year 2.
"Next year, people are gonna go, ‘I heard about it — I didn’t go last year, but I heard it was a killer time,’" he said. "That’s really what we’re focusing on."
-- Jay Cridlin