When Independents Day organizers announced the event would end in 2017 following a 10-year run, Joel Chastain was bummed. The musician experienced similar feelings when ComFest eliminated its Off Ramp stage, which had become a haven for some of the city’s heavier, more experimental bands, and when festivals such as Fourth and Fourth and the Parking Lot Blowout ended their runs.
“I miss those things, and I don’t know what changed,” Chastain said. “Of course, Surly Girl is gone, so doing the Parking Lot Blowout there is impossible. And the nature of the changing Columbus landscape on High Street is vastly different than it was 10 years ago. But then I look at the Old North … and we have Spacebar, Ace of Cups, RPM (Records Per Minute), Old North Arcade and Bossy Grrl’s. … Then there’s the rise of the scene at Dirty Dungarees and the community that people worked really hard to create there. And that started the gears turning.”
Then, of course, the pandemic hit, and Chastain’s gears slowed – at least for a time. But as stay-at-home stretched on, the musician again started to kick around the idea of creating a massive block party, one which would extend through High Street in the Old North and feature multiple indoor and outdoor stages at the myriad venues that have in many ways come to define the neighborhood.
“But then I started to think, ‘How can I do this? And how can I do this just by myself?’” he said. “And I decided to start from square one.”
So, for the inaugural Blockout Bash, Chastain opted to begin small – at least in comparison to his initial daydream – hosting 14 bands over the course of two nights at Spacebar, with the action taking place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18 and 19. The kick-off event leans heavy, sometimes bordering on brutal, with Friday featuring sets from Hollow, Poison Door, Brian Damage, Bridesmaid, Maharaja, Unholy Swarm and Rattlesnake Venom Trip; and Saturday packing in the likes of Bribed Fuzz, Star Viper, Before the Eyewall, Takacs, Horseburner, Rebreather and Aversed.
“This year, I really went to the well. I went to what I knew. And I went to heavy bands I’ve been playing with or been friends with for years. Horseburner is playing. And Horseburner is wonderful, and they’re awesome, and they’re great friends. How could we do this without them?” said Chastain, who also enlisted help from Adam Hardy and Brian Baker to pull the event together. “It was nice, because I want to say like 90 percent of my initial list of bands said yes, and most that morning. I sent out Facebook messages and emails, and on the way to work, my phone is pinging with people saying, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’”
In the future, Chastain said he hopes to diversify the lineup – he cited the city’s thriving hip-hop community as one he’d like to highlight come year two – in addition to expanding its reach, gradually building toward the neighborhood-consuming event he first conceived of prior to COVID.
“I want to see what we can do about teaming up with Dirty Dungarees, or seeing how Ace of Cups feels about being part of it. Or running it by Old North Arcade and seeing about maybe using the parking lot between them and Ace Hardware for a stage,” Chastain said.
One thing about the initial idea has changed, though. Where prior to the pandemic Chastain said it was purely about trying to create something cool, something that could highlight the neighborhood and its thriving music scene, he allowed that the forced time apart had introduced an unexpected new weight that he had only recently begun to consider.
“Maybe it is about reestablishing that sense of community, and maybe we have felt distant and disparate from each other. I guess I really wasn’t thinking about it that way, and I was thinking more about the Columbus music scene, and specifically the rock and roll part of it. But, yeah, maybe it is just like getting everybody holding hands and singing songs again,” he said, and laughed. “I don’t know. … I wanted to celebrate not only the bands, but the venues and the people who go to shows and spend their money. It’s celebrating all the parts that make it go round.”