A conversation with founder Kimberly Galdamez on her milestone for LA's underground.
If you scroll through the comments section of any notable metal publication, you'll witness the audacity of critics claiming that metal is dead. It takes but 5 minutes to scroll through Bandcamp's best-selling category to dispute said statement with bands both new and old delivering elite full-lengths, making the contemporary state of metal one to be appreciative of. On the live front, bookers and promoters have kept the scene alive with countless shows to lose your mind to, pre-pandemic of course. Among those is the Kimberly Galdamez-led Born For Burning, a booking/promoting/DJing entity that delivers shows with a nod to the old through community-led aesthetics.
On March 21st of this year, the LA-based Born For Burning celebrated 5 years of existence, a milestone to be celebrated for the countless memories made across their events. From hosting shows for ETERNAL CHAMPION, SADISTIC INTENT, SABBAT, and BLACK WITCHERY to organizing metal merchant markets and all-vinyl DJ nights, Born For Burning has established a respected community presence among LA's underground, a presence that draws familiar faces time and time again. A lively ambience, DIY production, and welcoming environment are but a few signature traits present at every one of their events, as we ourselves can confirm. Pulling off a successful event is no easy feat for a booker or promoter, even less having done so for countless years. That said, Born For Burning's 5-Year anniversary didn't come without respective struggles, struggles that came with lessons to refine the team's approach and make it the powerhouse it is today, hence the recent expansions into New York's underground.
We talk to founder Kimberly Galdamez on the Born For Burning anniversary and look back at the past as we analyze her outlook on the future of a post-pandemic concert circuit:
As Born For Burning enters its 5th year of existence, you’ve had an opportunity to learn, grow, and more importantly, leave an impact on thousands across Los Angeles and beyond. Where do you see Born For Burning now compared to when it all started for you in 2015?
Galdamez: BFB has certainly evolved from humble beginnings of one local showcase and DJ night a month. We’ve since booked tours, brought new acts to LA, worked with various sized venues, hosted events on the East Coast and abroad. Last year, I became Profanatica’s booking agent, which is a new, exciting chapter.
With every show comes a memory, of which you’ve had plenty over the course of five years. What are some special moments from BFB shows that you’ll forever remember?
Galdamez: Ah this is tough, because every show is somewhat crafted to be special in its own way. I’ll mention 5 shows to keep it short. First up would have to be booking Sadistic Intent with Blood Incantation, Qrixkuor and Arizmenda in 2017. Aside from the gig being insanely stacked and the LA debut show for Blood Incantation and Qrixkuor, I had been wanting to work with the Sadistic Intent brothers for quite some time. That evening felt like we hit a milestone.
Up next, I’m remembering the two gigs in 2016 dubbed “Black Metal Invocation”, a co-promotion with Crepusculo Negro. Headliners were Demoncy and ABSU with Arizmenda, Nexul, Satanik Goat Ritual, Volahn, Furdidurke, and Vorde. That weekend brought on new friendships which would lead to bringing other affiliated projects to LA.
Next on the list would have to be getting Eternal Champion and Sumerlands to LA. It was a three band bill with Blade Killer opening and every band absolutely crushed it that evening. I’m eagerly awaiting new music from EC to get them back out here!
This list would be incomplete without Sabbat’s LA debut gig(s) paired with the first metal swap. I remember trying to coordinate getting the band here for about a year until things finally lined up. Two sold out shows, insane set lists both nights, and a well-received metal market/ meet and greet. It was a weekend that was equally exhausting and rewarding on all fronts.
Although there are at least 5 more shows I’d like to mention, I’ll end with the Pagan Altar at the Echo last year. An evening one might regard as truly magical and mesmerizing. I had seen Pagan Altar before many years ago but this time felt different. The venue was great, the crowd was deeply immersed and the set was one I’ll never forget!
From fiscal disputes with bands to scheduling conflicts, the amount of problems that a booker/promoter can run into are endless. What has kept you going for this long?
Galdamez: I think you have to truly believe in the work you do. I take pride in every aspect of BFB shows. There’s extensive planning on all ends to put together even a small production of three bands on a stage. There’s an obligation to deliver proper production to not just to the bands you’re hosting, but to ticket holders as well. Of course, it’s live music and even with all the planning and a dedicated team, problems arise, but the idea is to bounce back as quickly as possible.
To adapt to the ongoing pandemic, promoters have to adapt and you did so via the recent Born For Burning DJ nights on Instagram, which were a hit! They brought together people for killer riffs and an entertaining comment section. Do you see the use of Instagram Live/Facebook Live/etc. continuing once live shows return?
Galdamez: I actually wasn’t sure how receptive people would be to a “virtual DJ night”. I also have zero experience in the streaming world so it was a bit of a challenge to figure out a simple yet proper set up. The first two were done from home and I couldn’t see the comments or interact with the audience, which I think would have helped. The last stream we did was a combination of a live band (Crematory Stench) and the usual DJ set. This one was done at a venue and streamed on Twitch instead of Instagram so that the programming could run longer than an hour. We also upped the production for this one with more cameras, lighting, and a sound engineer.
We just announced the next stream for Friday, August 28th with Kommand, who just released an album (Terrorscape, 2020). I remember when they made their live debut opening for Mammoth Grinder in 2018 and how quickly that show sold out in advance. I’m looking forward to seeing their new material live and hosting them again.
It’s hard to tell these days when live music will return, but I think when it does I’ll consider streaming for special occasions. Having friends in other cities and countries tune in has been great. They get to experience a band or DJ set they might otherwise have not had the chance too. We’ll see!
The anticipation for live shows to return is high, giving them a newfound appreciation by concertgoers everywhere. When do they return, do you anticipate audience turnout to be significantly impacted?
Galdamez: Hard to say - it might be a few are eager to get back to live music, and perhaps others will still be weary of being around strangers in such close proximity. With most things this year, we can only take it week by week and see how things will evolve. I do hope local venues survive this year so that we can have spaces to host events in the future.
Once live shows do return, how do you see yourself approaching it from a promoter angle?
Galdamez: Again, this is a bit hard to tell with so much uncertainty. I believe I'll maintain my usual approach and read the current situation as best I can. Perhaps people will no longer feel comfortable in a closed venue and will prefer an outdoor setting? Only time will tell!
For anyone who’s been to a Born for Burning show, you’ll notice that there are familiar faces at each one, speaking to the community you’ve helped build over the years. What does it mean to you to have this kind of support system?
Galdamez: Ah yes, I have a great team of people that have been with me from the very beginning. These individuals understand the vision, the level of professionalism, and are absolute diehards! There are also a few people I would consider mentors that have been working in the industry far longer than me who I also go to from time to time. I find all of these individuals to be crucial.
Speaking on your Bathory-inspired origin, Gunnar Silins’ cover photograph for ‘The Return’ (1985) is simple yet profound, embodying the same awe and mysticism present throughout the Quorthon staple. It’s a significant black metal record that did so much for the genre, but did so much more for you. Can you elaborate on what it means to Born For Burning and Kim Galdamez as a person?
Galdamez: For one, I took the third track song title, 'Born For Burning'. I remember trying to find a name to encompass what it is I'd be booking, but also offered subtlety. There's a part in the lyrics in which he writes, 'she will always burn' and I knew then and there. As you mention, the cover is quite simple, yet profound. There's a timelessness to it.
Born For Burning is the very essence of old school. Your all vinyl DJ nights, wicked show posters by Erick at Muerto Distro and metal merchant markets bring the yesteryear to a modern time. What drew you to taking this approach?
Galdamez: I can't even remember how Erick and I connected but I'm so glad we did. He did the very first poster and has done nearly all of them the last 5 years. It's true, most of the graphics and imagery we use are spirits of the old. It certainly felt like the way to go considering our influences and the bands we would end up booking. Erick and I are obsessively detail-oriented so what might seem like a simple poster design, probably took much thought and versions before settling on the final. Over the years, I've watched people flat out steal his designs or try to replicate them, but he keeps getting better and better by the year.
You’re commemorating the anniversary in that same old-school manner with a zine that captures but a glimpse of everything Born For Burning has been a part of. How much emotional weight does putting this together have on you, especially with seeing photos, flyers, stories and more?
Galdamez: This is a bit of unreleased news, but yes! This was an idea that began last year and then we went into quarantine so I had time to dig through old files. This was the first time I stopped and revisited old gigs, usually I’m spending every ounce of free time planning for the months and year ahead. I certainly felt a sense of pride. It also served as a boost to see what the next chapter will look like. For now it looks like streaming? But in all seriousness, I’m looking forward to completing this project and sharing it with people. I have many folks to thank, like you, for taking such great photos at shows!
Looking back at the highs and the lows of the last five years, is there anything you wish you did differently?
Galdamez: I'm quite satisfied with the highs and lows. All of them have led to some aspect of BFB to evolve and reshape, which is how it should be. This will always be a passion project that will put quality over quantity, and vision before all.
Random but mandatory question for us here at Heaviest of Art. Do you recall a time when an album cover made you pick up a record or even change the way you engaged with it?
Galdamez: Ah so many! This is the beauty of record hunting. Sometimes you see a truly impressive cover and the album doesn’t deliver or vice versa. I know as a teenager I was captivated by Slayer’s discography at first sight. I was equally obsessed with the 80s German thrash scene. I mean, Sodom’s Obsessed By Cruelty (1986) cover, enough said!!
I’m sure it’s quite obvious I love the 80s metal underground stuff. I could go on and on. I spent a great number of my teenage years looking at this imagery. Now I’m doing this when I go to record shops and come across something that looks interesting. There’s always a level of excitement coming across something promising. Cover art and band promo photos are just as important as the music itself, I don’t care what people say. I will 100% judge all aspects of a release.
New bands, new friends, new venues: all things that have come from the relentless work ethic you put behind the Born For Burning banner. The platform has grown and with it, so has the community that rides behind your every move. Congratulations on a remarkable feat. Here’s to the next 5 years!
Galdamez: Indeed! Thanks for your words and for taking the time to ask these questions. We shall see what the coming year(s) will bring. Cheers!