OXFORD — More than 3,300 metal fans from across the region descended on Oxford County Fairgrounds for a daylong music festival jam packed with roaring riffs, pounding drums, lyrical angst and, of course, lots and lots of moshing.

“Heavy metal music rocks,” screamed Josh Thurlow, 26, of Norway, as he took a break from slamming bodies inside the pit during the New Hampshire-based Honest Eye set. “I most definitely give this event two thumbs up! That’s what we all came here for — heavy music and moshing.”

The throng of people gathered on a fairground field grew steadily throughout Sunday’s event in anticipation of headliners Papa Roach and their opening act, local Maine-based favorite Dead Season. Organized by New England Concerts, the event aimed to not only bring a bigger act to town, but also offer big-time exposure to several smaller bands.

The all-day music event featured 25 acts from across Maine and the
region on dual stages that ping-ponged bands and
fans alike back and forth. Crews set up one stage while fans moved like
a tidal wave to the other side to hear the next band in line, which
kept the shows momentum going and the crowd’s energy level high as
there was little break in the music. 

“We definitely got our name out there,” said Zac Plasencia, 20, of Waterboro, N.H., drummer for May Thorns, one of the first acts to take the stage. “This is the first really big show we’ve ever done.”

Plasencia’s girlfriend, 18-year-old Madeleine Delaney, of Bristol, N.H., proudly wore the cymbal that went flying off his drum set while he was playing. She said she was very excited about the event and hoped that the crowd continued to swell as the day went on.

Not even a fast-moving system of severe thunderstorms that brought 20 minutes of heavy rain could stop the music or dampen spirits. Mosh pits may have transformed into mud pits, but that didn’t keep dozens of bodies from slamming together. 

“I’m not going in the pit. I don’t
want to get beat up,” laughed Ashlie Kidder, 16, of North
, N.H., who attended Sunday’s music festival with her dad and
little sister. “This is awesome. I really love heavy metal music.”

Her dad, Andrew Kidder, 39, also of
North Conway, said he wanted to bring his
daughters to the show to support local acts like Dead Season. He pointed out
that the mosh pit crowd was fairly tame compared to other shows he’s taken his
daughters to in the past.

“I know every guy that was in that
band,” said Chris Howes, 25, of Berlin,
, coming out of the pit for a
short bathroom break after Maine-based Brutality Remains finished its set. “I
know their music, and it just gets you going.”

Some fans lined the front of the stage just behind the barricades to catch a glimpse of their favorite act, while others staked out their space on the lawn with camp chairs. Meanwhile, many were drawn to the pits just inside the human ring.

Howes said one of the most noticeable things at the event was the security near the mosh pits. He added that this aspect alone was something he appreciated because it was often too easy for crowds to go from moshing to slam dancing — which involved more fists and fighting.

Oxford Police Chief Jon Tibbetts said that there had been no major
crowd control issues during the event as of 4 p.m. He said that police
presence at the fairgrounds was equipped to handle a crowd of about
10,000, but didn’t think that the event would reach that many.

Alex Gray, of New England Concerts, said Sunday’s event represented some of the highest exposure ever experienced by a number of bands that hit the stage. Walking through the crowded backstage area, Gray was met by several musicians offering thanks for a job well done.

“Right now, a lot of these guys are Yugo’s with a jet engine,” Gray said of the importance that such exposure offers for smaller acts. “The only way they can become a Ferrari is to do shows like this.”

Dead Season guitarist Matt Truman, who helped organize the event, said he wished venues like this were around when his band was looking to hit it big before landing their first recording contract. He said Oxxfest not only brought a national act to Oxford County, but also helped local bands looking to get their names out there build a much-needed fan base. Not to mention, it didn’t hurt playing on one of the largest stages many of the bands ever encountered, using expert sound equipment, before a crowd of more than 3,000. 

“It’s hard enough for bands to get a gig in a local bar,” Truman said. “With something like this, you get up there and you get to harness all that energy and win the crowd’s approval.”

From tie-dyed shirts and peace symbols to black leather vests and tattoos, the crowd that came out for the first-ever Oxxfest represented every age range and walk of life. Some came to support their favorite acts. Some came just for the experience of 25 heavy metal bands in one 12-hour event. And some, well some just admittedly came for the party. 

“I came out for Dead Season, Papa Roach and to just get messed up,” laughed Bobby Will, 32, of Kittery Point, who was staying in the area with friends as part of a weekend wedding party. “I’m having a great time, and I will definitely be here next year.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.