Fire in the Mountains fuses heavy music with preservation, wholeness


MORAN, Wyo – Neutralize your mental image of what a festival can be. Three days of hard music combined with a holistic experience that promotes environmental protection, fire in the mountains (FITM) is an anomaly in the field of music festivals. You’ve probably heard of “that metal festival at Heart Six Ranch,” though you’ll be surprised at the level of thoughtful curation that goes well beyond headbanging and moshing.

There’s a carbon offset program, farm-to-festival BBQ, workshops ranging from blacksmithing to climate change to animism, and a portion of ticket sales helps buy bear boxes for primitive campgrounds in the grizzly-rich Buffalo Valley. The future is now.

Local founders Jeremy Walker, Alex Feher and Ollie Tripp have a clear mission for FITM: “to connect with nature and ourselves through music, art, adventure and education, all in a remote wilderness setting with the intent to express our inherent nature through the act of naturalization to cultivate; that is, reconnecting with and immersing in the natural world, thereby strengthening our ancestral roots. This experience is about reconnecting with our basic human desires.”

Fire in the Mountains began as an off-the-radar word-of-mouth party in the woods on Shadow Mountain. Now it’s an immersion-based experience with two stages, 25 bands over three days, and on-site camping. Year three at Heart Six Ranch brings a crescendo of energy to a devoted fanbase of this subgenre of metal music.

“A lightbulb went out during the first one on Shadow Mountain as I experienced powerful music set against a mighty mountain range,” said Walker, who recalled his mother telling him about Metallica’s thrash metal record. Kill them all, at a young age. “I thought, ‘We’ve found something that inspires people, and that’s something we need to work with to create an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.'”

Photo by Brittany Mumma

The music lineup for 2022 brings together veteran heavyweights alongside modern up-and-coming acts. These include Norwegian old-school black metal/viking metal band Enslaved, formed in 1991. Other bands considered world-class include Stark and ambient folk artist Steve Von Till, Oregon doom metal group Yob, Wolves in the Throne Room, Dreadnought, and Eternal Champion.

While clichés may have you thinking the festival is all hard-hitting metal that smacks your mother in the face, there’s also folk, indigenous themes, and goth-Americana acts to expand the spectrum of hard music. Cathartic, metal-inspired cellist Helen Money is part of Friday’s lineup, opening the festival with acoustic acts. The dynamic between rough and beautiful, gentle and original, the audible experience at FITM is largely combined with nature and landscape-related lyrics.

“This is an evolution of festivals and where they are going. Sure, you can go to a venue and see music, but to change your life and leave a better person, that’s our goal,” added Walker, who studied environmental science in college. “Come here in this beautiful habitat and learn about values ​​in workshops – such as safety in bear country, holistic health or restoring a riparian zone – and then take those values ​​home with you and put them into practice every day. Environmental education is a huge tool to improve our world. People who don’t engage with nature that much sometimes have a harder time respecting it. A deeper experience is an incentive to come. Those are lofty goals, but we really want it to be as much an environmental educational experience as music and art.”

One of these distinctive environmental experiences includes a program that offers 25 underprivileged individuals the opportunity to attend the festival and trade in exchange for riverside work on the Buffalo Fork River.

“We really want to bring locals here,” Walker added. “Tickets are selling, but at a slower rate because gas and air fares are prohibitive. Locals can drive to Moran. I really think someone who might be indifferent to the music will be pleasantly surprised by the festival site, and will Find connection to music.”

Fire in the Mountains Festival, July 22-24 at Heart Six Ranch in Moran, Wyoming. Tickets range from $50 to $111 per day. A full list of workshops is below.

FITM workshops

  • dr Mathias Nordvid will speak about Viking tattoos based on the 10th century world traveler Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s account of the encounter with the Rus Vikings.
  • dr Siv Watkins will share her knowledge of animism to help us be more consciously in touch with our surroundings.
  • Christinia Eala is a Lakota elder and environmental activist. She will share her wisdom and provide a deeper sense of where we are in the west.
  • Eternal Champion frontman Jason Tarpey will show us how to forge a sword which will then be raffled off to one lucky winner to take home.
  • Elena Radford, a Peruvian Inca shaman, will give a workshop on climate change and the teachings of ancient human values. I’m really looking forward to a panel discussion that will take place with some of our workshop leaders and band members.
  • dr Natalie Metz, ND, is a Licensed Naturopathic Physician, Herbalist, and is a faculty member and mentor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she teaches courses in holistic health and psychedelic medicine.
  • Heather Olson is a herbalist, farmer and pharmacist who has been studying, breeding and cultivating medicinal plants in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains for 14 years.

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