In our first installment of Descendants of Crom IV coverage, we’re talking with DOC creator and organizer, Shy Kennedy. In this long-form interview, we dig deep into the origins of Descendants of Crom, the meaning of heavy music, what bands and crowds can expect at the festival, and the future of DOC.
To get in the mood, check out this DOC IV preview!
About Descendants of Crom IV
The fourth annual Descendants of Crom, A Gathering of the Heavy Underground, will be held again this year June 3 & 4 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on both floors of Cattivo Nightclub. Featuring over 15 heavy bands, including legendary fan-favorites, the events begin early Friday evening and are followed by an all-dayer Saturday. Descendants of Crom began in 2017 and has been a strong contender among other established underground music festivals.
Learn more about DOC IV and get tickets here.
Interview with Descendants of Crom Creator & Organizer, Shy Kennedy
Shy Kennedy is a staple and principal player in the Pittsburgh heavy music scene. She is involved in every aspect – booking, promoting, attending, and performing. Known for her guttural metal screams on stage, perpetually dressed in black and covered in tattoos, she is a living embodiment of the Doom aesthetic. She is also easy to talk to, kind, and a genuine supporter of the music community and its artists.
We’re happy to share this Of Music and Mind interview with Shy Kennedy, creator and organizer of Descendants of Crom, with all of you.
Can you remember when the first creative sparks for Descendants of Crom flashed in your mind? Tell me a little about that experience. What was it like? What was the inspiration?
I’ve been involved in the metal and underground heavy music community most of my life. Really, since I was old enough. That included attending every show of bands I liked but so much more. I began as a live concert photographer and journalist and through the years it was everything from zines to beginning my own label, solo noise project, and eventually band.
Once I was in a steady band, I started booking smaller, touring bands in the underground and pairing them locally with Pittsburgh bands for shows here. That was about 6 years ago and within the first year I had a mini two-day run supporting bands heading out to a festival in Indianapolis. I called it Doom Over November, and I believe it was Toke, Heavy Temple, Horehound, Foghound, Clouds Taste Satanic, and Cant. Those beginning experiences made me feel like there was an opportunity here to bring back an underground scene for heavy music and by 2017 I was planning my first attempt.
It’s honestly scary. It’s a lot of time, work, money, strategy, and all that really is a good dose of anxiety but after all was said and done, it may have been the best day of my life.
How did those initial ideas morph into what we now know as Descendants of Crom? Tell me a little about that experience.
When you decide you want to do something like this you have to be all in. You have to be ready to do it all, front to back and around again. I knew if anyone could do it and be self-reliant it could be me and no one else was, so I jumped in. When I say that it could be me, it’s because I have had a good deal of networking experience, some booking experience, I am pretty project- and self-starter-oriented, and I am a professional graphic designer. Can I do anything in the world? No. Am I great at all those things? No. But I could do this and because there was nothing really like it here, ongoing, and annual… why wait for it to possibly never be done by someone else?
There weren’t too many surprises, and the challenges were what I expected, having 17 bands in one day (something like 70 band members, 5 staff, the venue, the setup, the merch, etc.) the best thing I can describe it is something like cat herding.
What does DOC represent or mean to you?
The best way I can think to answer this is to explain where I derived the name from: Descendants of Crom. If you are into any comics or great, cheesy 80s hero movies, you would most likely be familiar with Conan. If you’re a metalhead, you would probably be familiar, too.
Conan was a character who strived to live up to the expectation of his god, Crom, the god of steel. This was my inspiration for this event. This event was made for Pittsburgh. Bringing the heavy to this city. Pittsburgh may no longer be a great exporter of steel but it’s what we’re most notable for historically. This also ties to metal music. Connect the dots and we are all Descendants of Crom.
DOC IV has been put on hold several times due to the pandemic, lock downs, etc. How did you manage to keep strong and determined throughout this challenging time? Did you ever think DOC IV would not happen?
No one had any answers, and we still don’t although there seems to be more hope of normalizing social events again. It’s a lot of work putting something like this all together to have to cancel it and re-organize it for another date and cancel it again. All I can say is no one starts something like this with the intention of giving up. I’ll know when it’s time for me and hopefully it will be passing a torch to someone else instead of letting go of all of it forever. For now, DOC had only placed our roots for 3 seasons. This is the beginning.
How do you feel now that DOC IV is within a month and – finally – is going to happen?
I feel like… It’s going to happen!
You say DOC is a “gathering of the heavy underground.” How so?
No one deemed me a pursuer of great music (laughs), but this is my deal so it’s my curation.
While I describe myself as a life-long metalhead, and most of the music I listen to is pretty heavy… it’s not just “metal.” In fact, it’s definitely not nu metal and it’s not all metal. It is bands that are heavy in sound, creativity, and are harboring something special in my eyes. It’s all very personal for me but my guarantee is that if you like and understand metal and hard rock, you are going to find something you’ve never seen before at a DOC event. Even people who attend my Blackseed Services shows regularly find something new every year and I get nothing but great feedback.
What more do you hope for DOC in the future?
I want it to grow. I want more people to come. I want new people to find this community we have here. There are so many people that come out for national acts that have been around, but they don’t know about these just as great bands that are floating around touring the underground venues. That is the goal for all of the Blackseed Services shows. Come and support these unbelievable bands!
What do you hope audiences will get out of being part of DOC?
I hope that they feel a part of the actual event. This all doesn’t work without people coming to hear the music. I want them to talk to their favorite bands of the night and find out when they can see them next. I want them to talk to the other attendees about their experiences and the music that they love. It’s live music but it’s also a community we have going here and we’re welcoming and accepting of anyone who gets it.
What do you say to those who are intrigued by the idea of a heavy music festival in Pittsburgh, but unsure about whether they should check it out? What can newcomers expect? How will people new to the scene or area be welcomed?
First off, you never know until you come. I can guarantee a very intimate live music experience with music you will never forget. It’s nothing like a show at AE or a large music hall. It’s the real underground. If that sounds scary, let me assure you that we may dress in black but we’re all rainbows inside. Anywhere you stand you can hear the music well and it’s a safe space. The venue and Blackseed Services are LGBTQ friendly. Even my 70-year-old mother stops by for a few hours! (Thanks Mom.) If you ever thought, I wish I could find new heavy music but I don’t know where, come. Also, it’s incredibly affordable.
What do you say to those who care about heavy music and want to support what you’re doing with DOC?
If you have something to offer, let me know. I am sure I can use it! For instance, you write and give exposure to bands and musicians, and you offered and now you are a sponsor! I can always use help.
You obviously care about heavy music, as you create and promote heavy music in many ways. For those who don’t know all that you do for the heavy music scene, can you share a little about that now?
I mentioned a little about that earlier, but I’ve been involved in nearly all aspects from supporting musicians to being one. I think maybe to give you more than that, here, is to say it is my life. That may seem incredibly unsophisticated to the normies out there, but I mean it. If I can be a part of something this special and help along the way, I’ve done something. Music has saved a lot of people, but I can honestly say that I would never exist without it. It was always a very important thing to me and without it I’d be a shell of a human. Whether I am on a stage, just below it, or in the back figuring out where somebody’s guitar cabinet wheel went off to, I am living my life.
And if you want to come and see about this world that I am talking about, check out DOC IV, Blackseed Services and Blackseed Records Events and the shows we put on and support us on the socials. Come out and you might find a world you never knew you were looking for. Again, there is only one way. Come.
What is heavy music to you? Like…what does it sound like? what does it look like? what does it feel like? how do you know it when you encounter it?
Heavy music is a great, deeply felt expression of the human experience that emits an energy felt wholly through the body. It’s an outlet of escape from the worst parts of our realities and it’s there for us to hold onto, it’s grounding. Like all music it comes in many manifestations, but true heavy music doesn’t even need to be heavy metal specifically, but it contains all those forementioned emotions and expansions. It fills your body with a healing vibration and the right artist will also provide something that gives your mind a release as well.
[Note: Interested in what heavy music is and means to DOC IV artists? We’ll be exploring that in upcoming DOC IV features!]
How do you get in touch with that “heavy” part of yourself, for example, when writing or performing?
I don’t know how to say this for everyone but for me, it is me. It’s my nature and it’s my actual emotion or thought process, unfiltered. I think for those who are a little less innately doom as I am but love and want to be a part of the style, we all have it in us. It’s the truth and the reality and you can express it as plainly or fantastically as you like to.
You’ve chosen over 15 bands to perform at DOC IV. What do you look for in bands to determine if they’re a great fit for DOC?
Of course, I start with bands I love and most of my picks are people I’ve worked with or know somehow. This is because there is zero tolerance for unprofessionalism or jerks. You can be a dick, but if you are, I won’t work with you. It’s too much of my time and effort and there is always another band that would love to be a part of it that’s nicer. Again, I am not the end all of judging talent but since it’s my name on this, I must love the band. Some bands I love a little more and some bands I love for different reasons but to give an answer that means something to the reader: The bands selected for DOC are heavy, they are part of the underground, and they are pushing to make it and thrive. If they are not the only band of their kind, they’re then 100% great at what they do. Additionally, each year I make it a mixer. I lean heavier towards doom, sludge, psych, and noise styles but anything that is good and heavy goes. There is something for everyone and most audiences enjoy the whole roster.
What do you hope bands performing at DOC will get out of the experience?
I strive to give them a crowd that can appreciate their performance, buy their merch, and then follow them and support them after the event is over. I hope they have a great experience and that it was well organized for them. What every band would want out of every performance.
For each band, can you share a song that you feel touches on their particular brand of “heavy?”
[Note: Shy’s curated list will be available in an upcoming post! I can’t wait to see what songs she chooses!]
How can readers get tickets for DOC IV?
Get tickets here.
[Note: It’s easy to purchase tickets, and you’re getting a lot for your money here!]
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I know it’s hard to get out. It’s hard to get motivated. It’s hard to make time. I get it. But if I had anything I would like to add it’s to please, get your tickets. Come out and see what this is about! Let your friends know and spread the word. Something like this is professionally run but doesn’t have the money to take out large ads and billboards so word of mouth is how this thing keeps going. Afterall, we are all Descendants of Crom.
Huge thanks to Shy for taking the time to talk with us about all things Descendants of Crom! More DOC IV articles, interviews, and playlists coming soon. Subscribe to get them delivered to your inbox! If you like what we’re doing, please consider supporting us by following us on social media. Be well!