Maryland Deathfest XII / The Rundown – complete with foot blisters , venues, food, and the sights and sounds of the most extreme weekend of the year / Concert Photography / Hillarie Jason

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Phew! After a week of literal non-stop editing, I finally have the time to reflect upon the whirlwind that was Maryland Deathfest XII, the most extreme weekend of the year that ran from Thursday, May 22, through Sunday, May 25.

This years Maryland Deathfest marked many changes including new and additional venues, four in total, and a foot torturing five total stages. Two stages were built in a huge parking lot converted into the main venue called the Edison Lot, one about 6 blocks away at Ram’s Head Live, another at The Baltimore Soundstage only two blocks from there, and yet another at the Sidebar about four blocks from the Edison Lot. If you planned on hitting everything, you were probably not going to be able to do it and the effort would extort a very high price on your little tootsies. In fact, by the second day my feet were already pretty severely swollen so I simply hobbled along the rest of the weekend trying to see as much as possible. All that walking/running from venue to venue and foot drama aside, if you were there you already know that it was worth it.

The new stuff:

First off, Maryland Deathfest graduated from those multiple, inch wide, uncomfortable plastic wristbands you had to wear all weekend to maybe one of the best inventions in concert going since cheap foam earplugs became readily available. New to the fest this year were small color coded cloth wristbands that were so comfortable, you didn’t even realize you had the thing on. Yeah I know, who cares right? Ok fine, but it’s the little things that you learn to appreciate when you have camera straps hanging from your wrists, dripping with sweat, pulling skin from your arm and generally being a big pain in the ass. Maybe you like looking like you had an extended stay in a hospital with all the crap on your wrists but I will pass on that when possible.

Ram’s Head Live was a really nice, air conditioned place with three levels, little side rooms for relaxing, multiple bars and a flat screen television seemingly at every five feet. Oh, and clean bathrooms. Not like the old Sonar at all. Not in the least. It was as if the Boston House of Blues and The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA had a forbidden love child and sent it to Baltimore. The stage lights were not used to their full potential leaving the stage awash in very dark monochromatic colors. I’m sure no one thought it was important to craft some big lighting production so this is just me nit-picking. The place was great!

The Sidebar is a small grungy dungeon style bar with a stage at the far end. It was free to get in if you had MDF tickets and bands played there each day of the fest. I was only able to limp my way there a couple of times to see a some of my New England brethren bands play but this seemed to be where the gauntlet of “crusties” that historically camped out in the parking lot at the former Sonar compound were entrenched for this years fest.

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The Edison Lot. My first impression was just how enormous it was. The street in front of the old Sonar Compound in previous years would be crammed full of people jockeying to get from one place to another, looking for a small piece of curb to sit on or just standing in the baking sun. The new set up was fantastic to say the least with room to spare and benches to sit in the shade on. The lot has to be about at least five times bigger that the previous location. Again, it was just fantastic!

You want merch? There was so much to choose from this year. The merch area was comfortably spread out in an area the size of the entire outside of the former Sonar Compound of years past and all at the other end of the lot, keeping it from interfering with anything else. At the end of a wide aisle lined with individual vendor tents on either side was a huge tent with about 30 tables of just about anything you could think of. If you couldn’t find something to spend money on this year then you should just give up. There were shirts, patches, jewelry, books, tapes, CD’s, vinyl, magazines and even an assortment of (cough) glass wares.

If you needed some food or drink to get you through the day, there was a lot to choose from. Thankfully for me I found some grab and go items that I could scoff down as I was hoofing it from stage to stage. The chicken on a stick was handy but those vegan hot dogs were life savers. No, I’m not vegan, I’m not even vegetarian but those things were quite good and the turn around from ordering to having food in hand was so fast that there was barely any waiting around.

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Security wasn’t really new, but more of a return to old. Many of the guards I recognized from previous years which meant none of the problems from last year. The security guards were great, end of story.

I can hear you saying, “Yeah, yeah that’s all well and good but what about the most important part Hillarie? Stop rambling on about the all the minutia and talk about the bands!” Well, I’m not going to review every band I saw but I will tell you about the highlights of the weekend.

It’s going to be hard to believe but not one band seemed to have what I would call a “bad” set. Not one. There were a couple of hiccups with sound for a few bands on the first day at the Edison Lot, but really, every band sounded like they were at the top of their game. Were there bands that I wasn’t into? Well, of course but each one still sounded good or great. A few bands seemed out of place either because of the time of day or just because they are better suited to small venues where they are literally in the crowd. Windhand comes to mind here. They sounded absolutely great but the singer seemed out of place on that huge stage separated from the crowd she likes to prowl through during their sets. I keep thinking there must have been some “bad” sets just by the law of averages but I truly can’t think of one, at least not one that I saw.

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Dark Angel blog 2 up

Unfortunately I couldn’t see every band, nor could I see full sets from the bands I did see which meant there were some key moments I missed. Some of the best ones I heard about were things like Nocturnus AD playing the Morbid Angel song, Chapel of Ghouls (damn it), Tankard bringing female audience members on stage to dance (double damn it), and Jed Simon, from Strapping Young Lad and Zimmers Hole among others, got on stage and played a song with Sacrifice (Ok, seriously? DAMN IT!). I also missed the Kirk Windstein, Crowbar, head kicking, show stopping rant but I did however, witness Ron Rinehart, Dark Angel, grab what I assume were guitar pics and run off stage in the middle of a song and give them to the guy sitting in the wheelchair off to the side of the stage. He then pulled a bracelet off his own wrist and gave that to him as well. That was really a great moment.

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Some of the bands that I was never really that huge of a fan of but blew me away with what I saw or heard for one reason or another were Sacrifice, Misery Index, Candlemass, and Tankard. Others were as great as I expected or even better than I hoped. Dark Angel being number one on the list along with bands like Asphyx, Sarke, Solstafir, Bölzer, Soilent Green, Birdflesh, Victims, Unholy Grave, Nocturnus AD, Ratos de Parão, Black Breath, Agalloch (who I must say had the liveliest and best set I have ever seen them have), Enthroned and My Dying Bride. Like I said previously though, nothing was really bad somehow and I am sure I am forgetting a band or two there.

With the hard work and determination of the organizers, bands, techs and security, Maryland Deathfest XII seemed to go off without a hitch. Everything combined to create a superb fest and elevate it to the next level. You could just feel it throughout the entire weekend. Everyone was in good spirits and it was infectious. This was one for the record books and even though I am just barely recovered from the onslaught of sights, sounds and aches, I already can’t wait to find out what’s in store for next year.

Thank you to everyone involved for a truly great MDF. See you next year!

Too see the photos for Maryland Deathfest XII and all the rest of my Concert Photography, follow the links below or use the drop down menu at the top of this page under Galleries.

Maryland Deathfest XIIDay One Photos

Maryland Deathfest XIIDay Two Photos

Maryland Deathfest XIIDay Three Photos

Maryland Deathfest XIIDay Four Photos

Related Links:
Maryland Deathfest on Facebook, the Website, on Instagram and Twitter

Hillarie Jason on Facebook, on Instagram on Twitter or see the Galleries

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Godflesh, Cut Hands and Pharmakon at The Royale in Boston on April 13, 2014

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Those who know me, know that Godflesh was a musical game changer for me. The first time I heard the album Streetcleaner in good old 1989 (yes I am aware of how that dates me), I was completely floored by it and I haven’t been the same since. Unfortunately I was never able to see them live until they played the Maryland Deathfest in 2012 (photos here) and needless to say, it was one of the best experiences of my life, so when this show was originally announced (rescheduled from October), there was no way in hell that I was going to miss it.

Pharmakon

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Pharmakon

Pharmakon, a one woman power electronic/industrial incursion from New York, was first up for the night and wasted no time in proving her place on this bill. It quickly became an in your face kind of primal explosion of anger and emotion as she jumped off the stage with a microphone, prowled through the crowd as if looking for a victim, and screamed in the faces of the audience. Although her set was sadly cut short due to some technical difficulties, she left her mark on the crowd and after she completed her attack. I heard people describe it as “terrifying, but in a good way,” “truly emotional,” and “very confrontational.” A friend of mine said that she put most metal bands to shame with the intensity of her performance. I would have to agree with that statement.

Cut Hands

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Cut Hands is William Bennett, originator and noise legend from Whitehouse, a band formed in 1980 known for its controversial lyrics and imagery. Cut Hands is a mix of electronics, tribal beats and blindingly fast paced visuals all of which combine to create a sort of dance-like or trance inducing state. The performance seemed to be highly polarizing amongst the crowd with some screaming for more and bopping around the floor, while others were audibly annoyed after 15 minutes of the onslaught of erratic visuals and repetitive beats. For those only there to see the headliner, it may have been a 45 minute endurance test but there were many that absolutely loved every second of it.

The anticipation was palpable and after a slightly longer than expected changeover, Justin and Ben walked onto the stage, picked up their instruments and checked the tuning. When Justin turned on his laptop, I saw the setlist, which only differed slightly from the Maryland Deathfest one (no problems there), although at the top was Love is a Dog from Hell which ended up being the encore and not the first song. Waiting, waiting… It was only maybe 10 seconds from there that Justin went to the microphone and said to the powers that be, “video,” but for me it seemed like 10 minutes. And then, boom, first song of the night was Like Rats and the entire place threw their fists in the air to scream along “You breed, Like Rats!” The place went nuts. Many people in attendance had never gotten to see them previous to this night and I can imagine they felt much as I did at MDF. There just isn’t much better than that. The sound for them was nothing short of impeccable and they were not plagued with the video and technical issues they had at MDF. Every single song was absolutely crushing and dead on. 4 years ago if you were to tell me I was going to be able to see and photograph Godflesh, I would have told you only in my dreams. Now I just feel fortunate I could do it twice. Nothing really compares to seeing them live. And if you were there, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Godflesh

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Godflesh

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See the full gallery here!

Band Links: Godflesh / Cut Hands / Pharmakon

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Carcass, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts and Noisem roll though Boston / Decibel Magazine Tour

Decibel Magazine Tour
Let me start by saying that this is not a review of the show itself or the bands. These are my thoughts and observations regarding the venue choice for this date on the tour. I totally enjoyed the bands and hope this tour keeps doing well as it surely will. I recommend anyone thinking about going when it comes around, to do so. If you don’t go, you’ll regret it.

The Decibel Magazine Tour hit the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on Thursday April 10, 2014 with metal legends Carcass and Gorguts, popular Michigan outfit The Black Dahlia Murder and young Baltimore band Noisem.

Squeezing the tour into this particular venue was probably not ideal for anyone involved as it isn’t really set up for shows of this type and when the venue was first announced for this show, I knew there were going to be challenges. Even if you had never been there, the clues to this mismatch were glaringly obvious once you looked around a bit. For example, the temporary barrier set up at the front of the stage only contained an average of two to security personnel at any given time and had about three feet of space between it and the stage. Barely enough room for the guards to stand in let alone grab a crowd surfer safely from a see of arms. Truthfully, I felt bad for all the guards there. They’re trying to do their jobs and aren’t used to crowds like this in a venue that typically books acts more likely to entice their respective audiences into a see of smiles than waves of head banging.

There are the signs posted all over the place stating that none of the activities typically associated with a metal show would NOT be allowed. Mosh pits, stage diving, crowd surfing and the like were clearly not acceptable here. This really isn’t a surprise if you have been here before but at some point a new unwritten club “rule” came into play about how hard you could actually thrash your own head around. I have no idea when this became the law of the land but I witnessed many individuals being told they were banging their head too enthusiastically, and that they would find themselves on the other side of the front door if they didn’t stop. I guess it is possible that the staff was simply concerned with the well being of all that grey matter being sloshed around and smacking the insides of skulls, but my spidey sense tells me this was not the case. I guess the club only allows mild head bobbing, an occasional hand in the air or a trip to the bar or bathroom.

I don’t even want to get into the issues I encountered while attempting to photograph this show but here is a cell phone photo taken of myself and a few friends which pretty much sums up my thoughts on that.

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If you to go to a show on this tour when it comes around to you, and you really should, I hope it is in a more metal friendly venue than this one. Truthfully, I still am surprised this one wasn’t booked at either the House of Blues in Boston or The Palladium in Worcester.

Decibel Magazine Tour

Carcass

Black Dahlia Murder

Decibel Magazine Tour

Decibel Magazine Tour

 

See the full photo gallery here! 

Band Links:  Carcass / The Black Dahlia Murder / Gorguts / Noisem

 

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Amon Amarth, Enslaved and Skeletonwitch hit the House of Blues in Boston / Concert Photography

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Saturday night, after members of Amon Amarth and Enslaved attended a Boston Bruins game donning Amon Amarth hockey jerseys, they played a packed show along with the openers, Skeletonwitch, at the House of Blues in Boston.

The show started at 6pm and ended at 9:30pm which meant I could be home by 11:00pm. On a Saturday? What?!!!! Often I don’t even get in my door until 3am after shooting a show. I only had to pay $15 in parking and although I had to ingest copious amounts of cold meds to get myself human, I couldn’t ask for a better show in Boston.

skeletonwitch

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The only “thumbs down” was being very politely scolded by security after getting an upstairs shot of the headliners, Amon Amarth. The guy was really nice but I was kind of surprised. He told me I couldn’t take a single shot up there (for the 2 seconds it took me) because it was after the three song rule. If I was using my cell phone, like everyone else, I guess it would have been a-okay. I always find that stuff strange. It’s not like the venue made us stow our cameras or anything. Anyway, my bad, and thanks to security for being so nice.

Enslaved

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The show was pretty sweaty at the end of the night, even for a balmy 30 degree Boston evening.

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This is one of the two offending photos that got me scolded. I’m a bad girl.

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See the full photo gallery here.

Band Links: Amon Amarth / Enslaved / Skeletonwitch

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Second Grave, GOZU, Summoner and SET crush Worcester

 

If you like Doom and Stoner Rock then the place to be on Saturday night was Ralph’s Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the musical stylings of four Massachusetts outfits rocked the house. Booked by Metal Thursday Presents own Chris Farmerie, the bill was stacked with SET, Summoner, GOZU and Second Grave headlining, who were releasing a new 10” two song vinyl that night. I got there two songs into the first band, SET, and the place already had a pretty full house. Ralph’s infamous parking lot was full of cars but thankfully, due to the recent frigid temperatures we have had, was lacking the lakes normally known to reside there.

SET

Summoner

Both SET and Summoner had solid offerings for the crowd and there were many rapt eyes and bobbing heads to go along with the chugging beats.  When GOZU hit the stage with the new five piece line up, the crowd was throttled with their new wall of sound. They may come off a little dry on the recordings but live, this band is really powerful. With the three guitarists, their catchy riffs and the huge drum sound pounding from the stage, it would be very hard to not to stop and take notice of them.

GOZU

Second Grave finished out the show with one of the best sets I have seen from them. There were a couple of new songs thrown into the set that I really dug as well. When Krista Van Guilder, singer of Second Grave, breaks into those growls and screams, I feel like breaking something. Very powerful when juxtaposed to her clean singing style.

The joke of the night was how many members of the now defunct doom band, Warhorse, were in attendance that night. Krista Van Guildier joked during their set saying, “anyone who wasn’t in Warhorse, raise your hand.” It was a good night for all and I saw a bunch of merch being purchased, which is always good to see.

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Second Grave

View the entire photo set here 

 

Band links: Second Grave | GOZU | Summoner | SET

 

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