Local band Nukem getting set to thrash with Sepultura at April music fest in Mexico

El Cajon-based thrash metal band Nukem will open for Brazilian headbangers Sepultura at an April music festival in Tijuana.
(Karen Pearlman/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Nukem is ready to bang heads in Mexico again.

The El Cajon-based band wowed judges at the Audiorama El Trompo Tijuana on Feb. 24, rocking out with more than a dozen bands and earning the right to play at the opener of a springtime music festival in Tijuana called Fronterizo Fest 2018.

The event is set for April 27-29 in Estadio Caliente, the stadium formerly known as Agua Caliente Racetrack. The festival’s headliners are the Scorpions, Megadeth, Sepultura and Suicidal Tendencies.

Nukem and another band called Cicuta will perform on the April 27 bill with Sepultura. Sepultura is a Brazilian thrash metal band that’s been around since 1984 and has released 14 albums.

“I was just as happy doing the show we just did without winning anything,” said Nukem drummer Norm Leggio, a Granite Hills High School alum. “I got to do what I love to do — play drums for our band in front of people and supply them with having a good time. But this gig came with perks; we get to play in a festival with Scorpions, Megadeth, Sepultura and Mastadon. How bad ass is that? Winning opening slot for jamming out!”

The bands Versus Me and Never Again will perform on April 28 with Mastadon and the bands Sentinel and Palaco Blues will perform on April 29 with Scorpions and Megadeth.

The Fronterizo Fest lineup also includes DS Legacy, a Dire Straits-based band that features several former touring members of that English band.

“We were super stoked to play in TJ on the 24th for the Guerra de Bandas, and we had an amazing time,” said Nukem guitar player Steve Brogden, a Santana High School alum. “We played great, with 13 other great local acts and if that’s where it ended we would be very happy campers. (With the) news that we get to play the main stage with the big boys, we are ecstatic. We can’t wait to get back down to TJ to uphold our current reputation with the metal heads of Mexico to represent our city, country and local music scene.”

Nukem features Leggio, Brogden and bass player Don Lauder, with an occasional appearance by second guitarist Laura Christine. The band’s first CD, “The Unholy Trinity,” was released in 2016.

Lauder, who lives in Mira Mesa, said the artists that influenced Nukem include such “old classic thrash” bands as Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Testament and Overkill, as well as “new thrash” acts like Havok and Evile.

Leggio also drums with the local metal band Psychotic Waltz. He worked for the heavy metal-oriented Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon from 1989-1996, where he met Brogden.

Nukem plays at various San Diego venues, including Brick by Brick, The Casbah, Ramona Main Stage, Soda Bar, Tower Bar and SOMA. It has opened for metal bands from around the globe, including Saxon, Kreator, Voi-Vod, Death Angel and Marty Friedman, former lead guitarist for Megadeth.