Fire in the Mountains

Denver death metal band Blood Incantation plays an early evening set during the 2019 Fire in the Mountains metal festival. Organizers have postponed this year’s festival to 2021, though permitting details with the county still need to be worked out.

There will be no metal in the Tetons this year: Fire in the Mountains, the valley’s outdoor metal fest, has been postponed until 2021.

“We’re not canceling the event,” organizer Jeremy Walker said, putting his “positive spin” on not-so-positive news. “We’re just postponing it. It’ll make it that much better when the date finally comes.”

Walker and others had partnered with Ivar Bjørnson of the Norwegian extreme metal band Enslaved to curate this summer’s event, originally set for July. But the coronavirus proved too extreme even for Enslaved and the other acts that were to fly in from Finland and Germany. Concerns about travel and the virus led them to back out.

Recognizing that audience members would have similar concerns, Walker and his team pressed the pause button to make sure nobody was excluded from the festival, which for many has a strong community feel, he said.

Safety was on their minds as well. Mosh pits aren’t great spaces for physical distancing: “Having over 1,000 to 1,500 metal heads sweating on each other ...,” Walker said, leaving the results to the imagination.

That Fire in the Mountains would happen at all in 2020 was never a foregone conclusion. County Administrator Alyssa Watkins originally denied the organizers’ special event permit, citing concerns about law enforcement. The festival had been scheduled for the same weekend as Targhee Fest, and with the two gatherings in opposite corners of the county, some worried that sheriff’s deputies wouldn’t be able to handle both.

Watkins also mentioned noise, which neighbors of the Heart Six Ranch, where the festival is held, have been concerned about for years.

She kicked the permit up to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners for review, which ultimately ruled that organizers had sufficiently mitigated both issues and approved the permit. But the commissioners also asked planning staff to revise the permit process for events as big as Fire in the Mountains.

Commissioners are scheduled to review that revision at their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday. To tune in to the commissioners’ discussion and give public comment, use Zoom ID number 958 1628 1500, or call 1-669-900-6833.

Walker said he asked the county to roll over the 2020 permit for Fire in the Mountains to next year, with a date change to avoid another conflict with Targhee Fest. Otherwise, he said, plans remain the same, including the lineup.

Whether the county will go for that option remains to be seen. Watkins said she wasn’t sure how the request would be processed: “It is possible the applicant would need to reapply, but this may be a discussion with the BCC,” she said.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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