JERSEY?SHORE – A grand total of 25 metal bands, national and local, will play at the SMITEFEST festival, which begins with a kickoff party at 8 p.m. tonight at The Cell Block and continues Friday and Saturday at the Susquehanna Campground, 460 Susquehanna Drive.

This is the festival’s third year in existence and the third year putting it together for sole organizer, Shawn McCallus. SMITEFEST was started as ” … an ‘Appreciation of Rock’ festival, to provide a platform for up- and-coming local talent to have a show where they could have a huge stage, with great sound and lights to show us what they have to offer,” McCallus said.

McCallus chooses bands to perform that are his hand-picked personal favorites, ones that he has toured-played with through the years, and as many local bands that he can find.

The festival has been growing in popularity.

McCallus said, “I expect attendance to be in the 1000-to-2000 person range this year. It has been growing every year and this year has a great buzz around town – and the East Coast for that matter. Last year, I had almost 1000 through the gate.”

Born and raised in Williamsport, McCallus is the bass player for the band SMITE. McCallus has lived in 60 cities in the past 14 years, and met the members of SMITE, originally a band from Tampa, Fla., in Los Angeles in 2004. SMITE played a lot of festivals and wanted to play one that was for the band and not-for-profit, and thus, SMITEFEST came to be, McCallus said.

Today, the party starts at The Cell Block, where the headlining band for that night is SMITE themselves. “The Cell Block kickoff party has become tradition and provides a taste of what is to come. A lot of the bands will be there to party with and get to know, it’s always a great time,” McCallus said. The bands performing are Audiobox opening, preceded by Pool of Thorns, Hate Grenade, DeathMaschine, .44 MAG, then the headliners.

Friday, the party starts at 4 p.m. at the Susquehanna Campground, with the headlining band for that night being Setiva, who McCallus said – of all bands -are his personal favorite, “But Setiva has me pretty excited! They were broken up and just reunited recently.”

The show kicks off early Saturday, as the bands begin at noon with the starting band being Hate Grenade and the headliner, SMITE, coming on again at 11 p.m. that night.

A band set to play Friday night, DeathMaschine, said about the festival, “Every performance is an opportunity to connect with a new audience, people yearning for honesty in what is presented to them.

We just might be what you need at this moment. And maybe we aren’t. But regardless, we guarantee to give you all that we are, laid out within an audio ritual. If you take nothing else away from it, we still believe you’ll enjoy your time with us – we’ve been told we’re entertaining.”

DeathMaschine doesn’t necessarily like to be labeled a “band,” per se.

“While we do fit into the common idea of a band, we like to think of ourselves as more of a gang, or a cannibalistic congregation, terrorizing people with an orgy of loathing for 5 years or so,” they said.

As to who makes up DeathMaschine, the band themselves said “Everyone. We’ve come together as a way to give this venom an outlet. YOU belong in the idea of what DeathMaschine is, and represents. If you have felt the loss of reasoning, the rush of having everything by having nothing – you have a place with us. As far as who or what makes DeathMaschine do what it does, what it needs to do, that would be N-Maschine as the father figure. A-, R- and J-Maschine help progress.”

DeathMaschine said at SMITEFEST, they will be performing “Aggressive, filthy banter. Sermonistic tranquility. Songs of the faithless circa our two releases, ‘Impulse Over Restraint’ and ‘The Human Condition’ … and the upcoming, as-yet-untitled love fest.”

As far as the DeathMaschine experience goes, the band stated, “It’s the same type of ritualistic approach you might see at a Sunday sermon. Though our performance holds more honesty in what it ultimately delivers … blood, saliva, sweat – hate audio.”

On his band SMITE and the SMITEFEST festival itself, McCallus said, “SMITE has always been about empowering individuals and spreading love – heavy metal hippies you might say. This festival is governed by the festival-goers, and is the perfect place to vent your frustrations and all the while finding your inner self and becoming one with everything!”

The primary place to find info on the festival is through the event page on Facebook, search for: SMITEFEST 2013 to find the event page. Alcohol will not be sold at the campground, so attendees interested should bring their own.

For more info, contact Shawn McCallus, who may be found on Facebook.