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Stuart Reeder's band Woods Witch qualifies for Wacken Metal Battle's San Diego final

The Wacken Open Air heavy metal festival in Germany includes local bands who qualify for the metal festival through local and national contests. Woods Witch, which features Fallbrook native Stuart Reeder, qualified for the San Diego regional final.

Six San Diego area bands qualified for the regional final through the initial Wacken Metal Battle concerts March 8 and 9 at Brick by Brick. Three bands from each night qualified for the regional final. Woods Witch placed second among the March 9 bands.

"It felt good," Reeder said. "We're all doing a good job."

Reeder was a lifelong Fallbrook resident before graduating from Fallbrook High School in 2009 and attending college at the University of California, Berkeley. He majored in biology at UC Berkeley, returned to San Diego after his 2013 college graduation, and obtained a job with a biological sciences company.

Working full-time in a scientific field convinced Reeder that he would rather have a career in music, although the path into science helped Reeder assemble his band. Keith Schreiber worked with Reeder at a San Diego scientific firm before Schreiber was laid off, and Schreiber volunteered to join Woods Witch as the band's drummer.

Schreiber also recommended bassist Adrian Holtz, who became part of the band. Reeder met Woods Witch guitar player James Curatalo, who currently lives in Santa Barbara, while at Cal. Curatalo was unable to participate in the March 9 qualifier, but Dan Cohen and Schreiber had previously been in a band and Cohen was the second guitar player for the Wacken Metal Battle concert.

Reeder began working on songs in 2019. The first Woods Witch album, Warmth and Comfort, was released in June 2023. Reeder recruited the other three band members after he had enough songs for a performance.

Each of the six bands March 9 played 25-minute sets. "That was a fun challenge, too, to streamline our sets," Reeder said.

In an effort to ensure that Woods Witch did not exceed the 25-minute limit Reeder targeted a 23 1/2-minute set during rehearsals. The panel of four judges was allowed to deduct points for a set exceeding the time limit. The judges ranked the bands based on overall performance, originality, musicianship, image and representation, crowd reaction and interaction, and time efficiency on stage.

Cascade Effect took first place in the March 9 judging. "They did have a great performance," Reeder said. "No shame in taking second to them."

Maskeratt was awarded third place. Faerie Qveene was the fourth-place band. Although Woods Witch qualified for the regional final, a change in date for the national final created a schedule conflict. Woods Witch dropped out of the April 13 regional final so that Faerie Qveene would have the opportunity to compete at that Wacken Metal Battle level.

"We were super bummed that we couldn't go all the way," Reeder said.

The national final will take place in June. The original date was in mid-June, but the event was changed to late June. "It was a week that most of the band was going to be out of town," Reeder said.

This year's metal festival in Wacken, Germany, will take place July 31 through Aug. 3. "It was a bummer that we had to bow out," Reeder said.

However, not advancing to the Wacken Open Air metal festival itself makes those days available for Woods Witch. "We can just stay home and plan a tour for the West Coast," Reeder said.

Woods Witch had already been billed for March 9 at Brick by Brick, so Reeder and his band members chose to honor that commitment even after deciding not to participate in the San Diego region final. "It was so much fun. Even though we couldn't advance that show was such a good time," Reeder said. "It was just a really good atmosphere."

Although Woods Witch will not be performing at the April 13 regional final, the band is booked at Brick by Brick as part of a March 28 concert. "We're looking forward to that show," Reeder said.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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