Winchester Driven Fest to jam for a purpose

By Josette Keelor

Heavy metal bands heading to Winchester this weekend are planning a good time for anyone within listening range — even those who think metal isn’t for them.

Driven Fest, a music festival “driven by a purpose,” expects more than 60 bands for its inaugural bash at Winchester Academy on Saturday and Sunday, said festival Executive Director and founder Jonathan Slye.

Presented by Party Sober Clothing, the festival plans to offer a safe concert experience while targeting issues affecting American youth, such as drugs, alcohol, depression and violence. Slye said it seeks to affect change in concertgoers between the ages of 13 to 30.

“Come and realize that others are going through the same struggle,” Slye said. “That we are here to help.” Staff from Heaven’s Pit and Hart Professional Counseling will be on site to talk with anyone who would like to talk.

Alcohol, drugs and fighting will not be allowed at Driven Fest.

Driven Fest has partnered with Stephens City non-profit Heaven’s Pit, which organizes music, mostly metal, concerts around northern Virginia. Its main venue is at Agape Christian Church in Stephens City.

Slye said after organizing the larger one-day Intensity Music Festival in Arlington last year, he said he believed he could reach a big enough population of metal fans to attend in Winchester.

Front Royal’s metal band Always to Never has played other festivals, but nothing to this caliber, said vocalist Caleb Henry.

“The good outweighed the bad,” he said, admitting a reluctance to playing for an area audience that in the past has not been friendly to metal.

“The genre of music, I guess, is not widely loved,” he said. “Screaming is negative and satanic and all that goofy stuff.”

“It’s just a common misconception,” he said. “There’s a lot of positivity to it, a lot more than negativity.”

The band’s guitarist and backup vocalist Kevin Riner called the opportunity to party with other metal heads “therapeutic.”

“I think it’s great, honestly, having a day to let it all out,” he said. “It seems like this festival is just bringing together every band we’ve ever met.”

Stephen Noel, guitarist for Pyro Ohio said he hopes the festival “opens people’s eyes” to metal’s lighter side.

“It’s violent, and festivals can be violent,” he said, “but I think it has a bad connotation. It’s sad to see.”

He named California rock band Incubus as a major contributor to Pryo Ohio’s style, which ranges from pop to punk, but said he probably won’t play much of that this weekend.

“We pride ourselves on doing things a little differently,” he admitted — but Driven Fest is about the metal, after all. “People don’t really want to hear a soft song or an acoustic song.”

But if they do, he said, give them a shout out. “We’ll throw in a set for them.”

“We’re excited to come to Winchester,” he said. “I know we have fans up there. [It’s] exciting to come together for one festival.”

Driven Fest will take place at Winchester Academy, 2400 Roosevelt Blvd., Winchester, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday. General admission gates open at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 for one day passes or $20 for both days. VIP passes are available, and $2 will gain unlimited reentry. Free camping is available onsite, and the Super 8 of Winchester will offer discounted rates on rooms for festival goers. For a schedule or more information, visit www.drivenfest.us.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com