I N T E R V I E W
Bridge City Beat Down 2021: A Q&A with festival organiser Ayman Kysten
With Ian Duggan
‘Bridge City Beat Down 2021’ is not your usual festival. Happening this year on 29 May at The Meteor, it features not only music, but Pro-wrestling, Medieval cage fighting and retro games! We caught up with organiser Ayman from ‘Mad Arab Industries’ to get a better understanding of the concept, find out about the bands playing, and more!
HUP: The flyer for ‘Bridge City Beat Down 2021’ fascinates me. It includes Pro-wrestling and Medieval Cage Fighting, and features a bunch of bands. How exactly does the concept work? Are these things happening simultaneously?
Ayman: The idea is, the spotlight moves across three separate stages in The Meteor. When a band finishes playing, the fighters or the wrestlers start going at it, giving attendees something to enjoy while bands swap over. If a band or wrestling isn’t your cup of tea, you can go out into the lobby and smash some dude at Tekken 3.
HUP: Is this a concept that has been done elsewhere?
Ayman: So there’s a thing in Gizzy every year called ‘Smash Fest’ that features sword fighting and in Europe the [combination of] metal and swords is pretty regular. I wasn’t planning on doing either fighting or Pro-wrestling. I was originally planning my 30th and I just planned on putting on a gig with some video and lawn games for a laugh, then someone said “can we get a wrestling ring?”, though the exact words were a bit more “colourful”. Then I found out one of New Zealand’s biggest Pro-wrestling organisers was in Hamilton, so I pitched the idea to him. I also used to do a bit of medieval re-enactment when I was younger, and figured why not include that? And the idea ran away with me.
HUP: Tell me a little about some of the bands involved.
Ayman: Originally, the plan was to pick acts that my band, Mega Maw, has played with - to repay the favour and to hang out with our homies. Since Mega Maw is a bit of a weird, genre fluid band, we've had the pleasure of playing with hardcore bands, metal bands, stoner rock bands, prog bands and punk bands. So the Bridge City Beat Down line up has a bit of everything.
Maybe it's because I'm getting old, or I'm not 'metal enough', but I really hate going to a show and hearing nothing but death metal for four hours. And I think most non-extreme metal fans feel the same way. There's a massive group of 'white collar' / 'closet' metal-heads that like heavy music but aren't into late nights, drinking or four straight hours of unyielding riffs and blast beats.
For years I've really wanted to create a day where an uninitiated punter could show up to an accessible gig and check out a diverse strata of what the New Zealand alternative metal and punk scene has to offer, because metal to me isn't Slayer, Metallica or Cannibal Corpse. Secondly, I've wanted to set up Hamilton as the spot for a regular gathering of oddballs as we've got that big pool of quiet, closet metal-heads and we're a central location with good parking, easy flowing traffic and stunning river views.
But some particularly interesting highlights: We've got a progressive metal band with a slam poet for a vocalist (Freaky Meat), a melodic hardcore band that sings about giant robots and anime (the First Child), a groove metal act from Whanganui that I'm super excited about (Pull Down the Sun), a bizarre keyboard based 'metal' band called Threat.Meet.Protocol that sound like a funeral dirge wacked out on horse tranqs. Some bands that contrast beautiful harmonies with brutal riffs such as Achilles Complex, Pale Flag and Downfall of Humanity. It's a broad line up of talented and inventive musicians that I personally enjoy and admire.
The full line up can be found at: https://bridgecitybeatdown.nz/lineup [continued below]
HUP: Is it your birthday on the 29th?
Ayman: My birthday was actually two weeks ago. As planning went on and the ideas got added, Bridge City Beat Down outgrew the original plan and became more important. I've always wanted to put a gig like this on - an accessible, fun, alternative music festival. My 30th was the excuse to do it and eventually, the idea of 'Ayman's 30th birthday party' fell by the wayside to make room for this big, multidisciplinary, genre fluid, intercity event and I couldn't be happier about it.
HUP: Where do people get tickets?
Ayman: Tickets are currently $40 each and they're available on our website (https://bridgecitybeatdown.nz). Due to the size of The Meteor and our crew, we're limited to 200 tickets and we're almost through half of them. While there might be door sales on the 29th - those will be $50 - I wouldn't count on us actually having any on the day.