Basilica prepares to pass Boone’s metal torch

Tommy Mozier, Senior Reporter

A double-wide trailer down the hill from a church may seem an unlikely place to find a center for death metal in Boone, but only as unlikely as the Boone death metal music scene itself. 

When Reilly Appert arrived in Boone in 2016 there wasn’t much of a death metal scene, at least on the surface. The local music scene revolved around bluegrass, jam bands and alternative rock. But, his band found the Westview House, one of Boone’s many house show venues. It was one of the few that booked death metal bands regularly, including a band called Trudge. 

Basilica performs one of thier hair-slamming original songs at Paw Paw’s House. The band includes Reilly Appert on vocals, Cameron Price on guitar, Brady Kennedy on drums and Chandler Bell on bass. Photo by Trevor Laffin, courtesy of Reilly Appert.

Appert and his newly-formed hair-slam band Golgotha quickly became friends with members of Trudge. Trudge helped Golgotha play its first show at a venue called The Post Office in early 2017.

“There were a lot of people there,” Appert said. “It was a good start to our run in Boone.”

Since then, Golgotha has changed its name to Basilica, Appert moved from behind the drums to behind the microphone, and the band became one of Boone’s most successful and popular death metal acts. They broke into the bar scene, played at Boone in Blossom, released two EPs and were booked to perform an April show in Greensboro before Coronavirus forced its postponement. 

In 2018, Appert and Basilica’s guitarist Cameron Price moved into a double-wide trailer with “a drum riser and decent sound equipment” already named “Paw Paw’s House” by its previous owners. They began booking one or two shows a month, drawing bands sometimes from as far away as California.

“We’ve brought bands that wouldn’t have been able to play in Boone, and people in Boone wouldn’t have been able to see because we’ve been here,” Price said.

Marcus Clonts, who regularly performs at Paw Paw’s House with various bands, crowd-surfs during a show. Photo by Trevor Laffin, courtesy of Reilly Appert.

Shows at Paw Paw’s are hot, sweaty and loud. Anywhere between 50 and 100 people are moshing in the kitchen and the performance area, presumably a dining room for past occupants. Sometimes, things get broken. People fall down but are quickly picked up. People draw certain body parts on the door leading out to the porch, foggy with condensation from everyone’s combined body heat. It may seem like a party, but it’s all about the music. 

“It’s a fun environment, but it also is show-like,” Appert said. “We try not to have it be too much of a party atmosphere. We try to run it as much as a real venue that’s laid back as much as we can.”

“The thing about Boone that’s been very interesting is there’s always been kind of an underground, hardcore metal scene, but it’s always been very pushed to the background.””

— Josh Morgan

Their lease on Paw Paw’s ends over the summer. Although no other venue puts on as many heavy shows as they do, Appert and Price aren’t worried about the future of Boone death metal. 

“Right now, there are more metal bands in Boone than when we came, which is awesome to see,” Appert said. “I think as long as people keep trying to book metal in this town, the metal scene will flourish.”

One of the newly formed death metal bands Appert and Price are particularly excited for is Goodwrench, the quartet of Josh Morgan, Nick Walker, John Andre and Jeff Olive. They’re older than the typical Boone metal band made up of App State students, ranging from their late 20’s to late 30’s. They’ve watched and participated as Boone’s death metal has grown in the past decade.  

“The thing about Boone that’s been very interesting is there’s always been kind of an underground, hardcore metal scene, but it’s always been very pushed to the background,” said Morgan, Goodwrench’s lead vocalist and, as he says, “hype man extraordinaire.”

For a long time, Black Cat Burrito on King Street was the only venue booking metal shows, Morgan said. In order to play and get their names out, most metal bands performed at different house show venues. 

When Goodwrench’s members arrived in Boone, the Westview House was the main venue. The house was run by the band Junior In His Prime, “the local hardcore band” at the time, and hosted bands like Trudge. Trudge members went on to run their own venue, called “Grandma’s House.” Now, much of the scene centers around Basilica at Paw Paw’s, said Walker, who plays guitar in Goodwrench.

But since Goodwrench played its first show July 4 at The Cardinal, they’ve noticed a shift. More bars, like Boone Saloon, TApp Room and Ransom, have begun to book more hardcore metal shows. 

“There’s more and more people that are aware of it and want that,” Morgan said. “Part of it is just because you can only listen to so many bluegrass and jam bands before you get tired of it.”

Because Boone death metal has gained more popularity and interest in recent years, Morgan, Walker and Goodwrench lead drummer John Andre aren’t worried about the scene slowing down when shows end at Paw Paw’s.

“There will always be someone’s house to play at,” Andre said. “That’s not going to go anywhere.”

It’s the nature of college towns to have high band turnover as students graduate and more enroll, Walker said. As impactful as Basilica has been, the next wave of musicians is always just over the horizon. 

“When I moved here, it was Junior In His Prime, and then two years later it was Trudge, and then two years later it was Basilica,” Andre said. “The torch gets passed.”

Hope James contributed to this story.