North Bay fans of metal and hardcore may have noticed a resurgence in the genres since 2011. That’s the year Ernest Wuethrich took the reigns of the local metal scene as a music booker and promoter.
Wuethrich’s next major show is on Saturday, Jan. 23, at Annie O’s Music Hall in Santa Rosa, and features Mississippi rock and rollers Saving Abel sharing the bill with Petaluma’s Motogruv, who are celebrating a reunion after spending the last few years on hiatus.
The next week, Wuethrich hosts an album-release show on Jan. 29 at the Arlene Francis Center for Sonoma County doom-metal lords Oden Sun, lead by infamous North Bay metal icon, regurgitator and Skitzo frontman Lance Ozanix.
Wuethrich, a 36-year-old San Jose native, moved to Santa Rosa after getting a degree in landscape architecture from UC Davis. A passion for hardcore metal led him to booking live shows, though, with no previous experience in organizing concerts, he had to learn by trial and error.
“There was definitely some problems I had to overcome at first,” says Wuethrich. “I talked with [Phoenix Theater manager] Tom Gaffey at length about this. It seemed like the scene was very organic during the early and late ’90s, and everyone came out to concerts.”
Wuethrich wanted to recapture that spirit. Sonoma County didn’t have much of a local metal scene when he started in 2011, and aside from the occasional national act coming through, booking agents were largely passing on the market for shows in San Francisco and Sacramento.
By soliciting local bands and scouring the internet for national acts, Wuethrich soon started booking shows at underground Sonoma County venues like the Transient Lounge in Santa Rosa, a short-lived punk warehouse, under the name Gather Booking and Management, the moniker he still uses for his business.
In the last couple of years, Wuethrich has booked large-scale national, regional and local hardcore bands including Sacramento’s Conducting from the Grave, Santa Cruz’s Arsonists Get All the Girls, Los Angeles outfit Otep, Houston thrashers DRI, Baltimore’s Misery Index and many others.
Today, the bands are starting to come back to the North Bay because of Wuethrich’s efforts. Currently, he is booking events as Sonoma County Metal and Hardcore in an effort to bring some cohesion into a widely diverse music scene.
“There are kids who are starting to identify with a positive metal community,” Wuethrich says, “and that’s what I want to develop.”