Held at the base of Mt. Kilauea on Hawaii's Big Island back in the early 1980s, the Inferno Festival was a precursor to the Monsters of Rock type festivals of today. Despite its obscurity, the little-known yet fiery event was a big inspiration on the Altamont Spring 2008 Collection. Hematoma, Wizard Hill and Child performed and everyone in attendance rockedâ€”until Mt. Kilauea suddenly erupted, killing everyone. In commemoration of the December 6 anniversary of the tragedy, we've re-released an article from the Big Island Chronicle, a now defunct, lightly-circulated Hawaiian periodical, providing a unique perspective of what really happened at Inferno.
Big Island Chronicle
Glenwood, HI â€” Mt. Kilauea, among the most active of the world's volcanoes, has erupted continuously since 1983. On December 6, the Inferno Festival, a heavy metal concert, was held at Kalapana Gardens at the foot of the tumultuous mountain. The show ended in tragedy when Kilauea erupted violently, sending a landslide of molten lava into the crowd of thousands below. Bedazzled by the music, concertgoers assumed the eruption was part of the festival's renowned pyrotechnics display, as the incident occurred during the crescendo of headlining band Hematoma's encore set. One survivor story has surfaced, along with a few tales of narrow escape.
Kupa'a Pono Describes Brush With Death
Days after officials announced there were no survivors of the Inferno Festival, a local man named Kupa'a Pono has emerged, claiming he was at the festival moments before Mt. Kilauea erupted. Pono, a native of Oahu and self-described rock-nerd-pizza-delivery-guy, reportedly left the event after an altercation with festival security.
"I was climbing a palm tree when I felt someone tug at my ankle. It was a rent-a-cop telling me to get down," said Pono. "I ended up in the parking lot with a black eye and a bloody nose. The bouncer was a total dick, but he saved my life. Free pies for life, brah."
Clay Crud Releases Festival Journal Excerpt
I was Hematoma's original guitarist. Growing up in Detroit, Bobby Blaze (Hematoma frontman) and I were always really close. We shared everything from Kiss records to dirt bikes and sometimes even girlfriends. When I stepped down from guitar duties because I missed practices (and when I did show up, I would get too buzzed and only cover Dokken tunes), I drifted apart from Bobby and the rest of the band.
They left for LA to record Six Ways to Sunday, and I stayed in Michigan, where I live in my sister and brother-in-law's basement and work the door at the Star Bar. Last month, I got a call from Bobby out of the blue. He asked me to come to Hawaii to play an encore set with Hematoma! I borrowed some cash from my brother-in-law and booked a flight to Honolulu.
The night before I left, I got in a fistfight with my manager over tips at the Star Bar, and I ended up in jail. The cops know me and took their sweet time getting me booked. By the time I got out, I missed my flightâ€”and my chance to rock. At home, I turned on the tube and couldn't freakin' believe what I saw. The newsman said the show ended tragicallyâ€”even Bobby got blazed. Dang. Looks like I'm better off in my sister's basement after all.
Captain Abe McSweeney Recounts Explosion From Sea
Minutes before the eruption, commercial fishing captain Abe McSweeney tended to the Pacific from his vessel, Mary's Dance. He reported the following: "Weather was fair, water was calm. Trawlers had been empty all day because of some Insane-o-Festival up the beach at Kalapana Gardens. The high-pitched squealing that kids call music drove the all fish below our nets.
I saw that old harlot Kilauea start to smoke and bubble something awful. Sure as the smell of a Pacific breeze, I knew she was going to blow her top. I got on the loudspeaker to shout warning, but that God-blasted music was too loud. When bubbling lava started flowing down her sides, the kids, they kept screaming and laughingâ€”waving their arms like they were being electrocuted. They thought it was part of the show! When they realized it wasn't, it was too late. All them people trying to get awayâ€”every last one of 'em was consumed by the fire. I had to get out of there before the lava reached the sea and burned the Mary, but it was a sight this old salt won't ever forget."
Relationship Saga Saves Cheetah Pink
Local dancer Cheetah Pink shares her recollection of the event: "My boyfriend, Duane, was totally into Hematoma. I mean, they were, like, the reason we met. One night, I was at the Sign of the Whale playing pool and dancing, crawling all sexy down the bar, and there was Duane, staring at me like he'd just seen his first Trans-Am. He walked up and was all, 'You look like the chick on the cover of Hematoma's Six Ways To Sunday. You even crawl like her!' So, I'm like, 'That is the most sweetest thing I've ever heard.'
We'd been together, like, six whole months before the Inferno Festival. I've had guys love me before, but not for six months in a row. We went to the show, and as we we're getting out of the IROC, I was like, 'Where's my Strawberry Hill?' He's like, 'Babe, don't worry about it, I got a case of Keystone.' And I was all, 'Did you forget my name is Cheetah Pink and I only drink pink drinks?' Duane got all pissed off and said that I sounded just like his ex-girlfriend Tina! Tina's a total skank, and I am nothing like that, so I stomped off.
A couple of minutes later, I ran into Randy from the ABC store. He was always giving me free Red Vines and stuff, so I thought, 'Now here's a guy who appreciates me.' So we left. I heard what happened the next day. It's so sad, but it's the way Duane would have wanted to goâ€”in a blaze of blaring metal and red-hot lava! Besides, if Duane hadn't been so inconsiderate, I wouldn't be alive today. Randy and I are expecting a baby in August and, if it's a boy, we're going to name him Duane Blaze. If it's a girl, we're going to name her Blaze Pink. You can't name a girl Duane. Duh."
And life goes on. Fast forward to the present day and view the infernal inspration that spawned the new Altamont Spring 2008 Collection.
Courtesy of EXPN
Words by Jon Hanks, Tim Breault and Piney Kahn