Passing Into Oblivion: An Oblivion Access 2022 Preview
This weekend, the Oblivion Access festival will irradiate the streets of Austin's Red River Cultural District, a central portion of the city replete with music venues, restaurants, and more. It's not an entirely unfamiliar experience, as Oblivion Access is a new name for the already-existing Austin Terror Fest, which ran under that name from 2017 to 2019, but it's picked up some mutations in the transition. Whereas Austin Terror Fest was primarily a heavy metal offering, Oblivion Access aims for a much larger and odder scope. It features a diverse stable of artists that range from more conventional "metal fest" picks like Carcass and Converge to Danny Brown, Lil Ugly Mane, and Blonde Redhead, as well as entirely non-musical elements like an art show, stand up comedy, and vendors. During a two-year delay due to COVID's inescapable grip, Oblivion Access has only grown stranger and more intriguing. When I spoke to the festival creators, Dusty Brooks and Dorian Domi, the reason for this development is obvious: Oblivion Access is exactly what its creators have always wanted.
"With our original 2020 lineup, it was all about trying to push the festival forward while keeping our fan base from Austin Terror Fest," says Domi. "And then we were already talking, like back in 2020, about what we were gonna do for 2021 before the pandemic, and that lineup was basically like a lot of what we had for this year, 2022. [...] This is a mission statement, this lineup."
"It's what we are, what we're about," Brooks adds.
While heavy metal is a key part of the experience, the festivals' creators didn't want it to be a limiting factor. "Austin Terror Fest, you know, when you hear that, you think of heavy metal," Brooks says. "And, you don't think of much else. With the name change to Oblivion Access, it just opened the doors to different genres of music and agencies and that's how we came to be."
Brooks and Domi don't just listen to heavy metal, and they suspect that's the case for many others as well. They're looking to show the raw side of underground music: "We've always wanted [...] to provide a platform for artists to present their art and their vulnerabilities and everything else," notes Brooks. And beyond that--complete and total immersion. "We want sensory overload for the four days of this fest. That is something that we've dreamed of and talked about since 2017, 2018, is how can we make this the most unique and crazy experience and not have the festival itself lose its integrity."
This distinction was clear even with the initial marketing for Oblivion Access--the first Instagram post made under the new brand was a bright pink square with a television in the middle, and the poster art is still one of the best I've seen for a festival yet, featuring cloaked figures transmitting a rainbow of light in place of their faces. Simple, but enthralling. For Domi, this kind of imagery captures the heavy-in-new-ways atmosphere they're trying to cultivate. "The use of the rainbows in our promotion is kind of because originally with Austin Terror Fest, we kept everything black and white, and so for us, the television and the rainbows was like us bringing more to the festival." As Brooks also noted, bright colors worked for Fyre Festival, so why not here? [Note: Oblivion Access will be 100% FEMA tent free]
The pandemic certainly challenged Oblivion Access, but the vision persisted--as did Austin, which lost key venues like Barracuda, a key supporter of the fest creators, but was able to retain many others. Brooks is certain the Oblivion Access we see now wouldn't have been the same without COVID-19: "I think a lot of what this festival has morphed into since 2020 is a product of both mine and Dorian's isolation during COVID. Going down wormholes, thinking about the good old days, pre-mask, pre-COVID, and that was a huge motivator [...] Yeah, you gotta hit pause, but don't throw your dreams away." They were undeterred, using the extra time to find new and weirder elements for the festival.
Oblivion Access is a fitting experience for a city like Austin, full of live music and culture, and especially so in the Red River Cultural District, which seems to have more venues in a single area than most cities do as a whole. Setting the fest right in an area full of food, music, and sights gives attendees the chance to sink their teeth into the city as a whole and not just the festival experience. Crucially, it also helps to eliminate the struggle of deciding between good food and good music -- I hope I'm not the only one with sad memories of hungry walks back from early Maryland Deathfests or other more isolated metal fests. My personal culinary concerns aside, Oblivion Access is an experience unlikely to be easily replicated anywhere else, as authentically Austin as the DIY spirit its creators have kept alive through the festival's history. "Everything we do is out of pocket and for the community, by the community," says Brooks.
Oblivion Access will take place from Thursday, May 12th to Sunday, May 15th. Full fest passes are sold out, but individual show passes remain. Check out the lineup with set times below
The fest lineup had included The Locust, but in the wake of the recent death of drummer Gabe Serbian, they've cancelled their set. "It is with heavy hearts we inform you that The Locust are no longer on the Sunday lineup of Oblivion Access," the festival writes. "Our deepest condolences are extended to The Locust and the family of Gabe Serbian. We also wish to share with you the daily lineup set times per venue so you can plan your fest experience perfectly. Thank you for your support, and we ask that during this time, please give the band and the family of Gabe the privacy they need. We will have more info very soon regarding the next steps we will take regarding this show."
Eartheater was also recently added to replace Zola Jesus on the same show.
Order official festival merch and vinyl from artists performing in the BV store. Check out the set times below.
A few restaurant recommendations courtesy of Dusty and Dorian:
El Secreto de Abuela
Pelon's Tex Mex
The schedule also includes a comedy showcase from our friends at punk satire site The Hard Times on Thursday (5/12) at Valhalla, hosted by site co-founder Bill Conway and featuring Eddie Pepitone, JT Habersaat, The McCuewans, Ray Porter, and Arielle Isaac Norman. Tickets are on sale for those who don't have a festival pass.