The day got off to a productive start even though I took the day off from work to get down; I did my Chinese homework and dropped off my boots for resoling, and then it was time to go to Worcester, where things promptly got worse. First, despite my best efforts, the Pike was full of other drivers. Second, to my immense disappointment, the pizza/falafel place next to the venue had gone out of business since April. I mean, what the hell do people eat here now?? Thirdly, as I was standing around in front of the doors eating my $5 Italian sausage (smaller and more expensive than a Wacken krakauer, and it's from a street vendor, not festival/venue prices, fucking ripoff), I noticed a paper sign alerting concertgoers that Exodus had had to cancel...which Throwdown later indicated was the fault of the New York State Police, but which still sucks. I was seriously considering bagging this and going to see Sacreligion, but there were three problems with this idea:
1) I had no idea how to get to Oxford
2) I didn't have the flyer with me and thus had little ability to get precise directions, or find the venue at all once I got there
3) I had already sunk $32.50 into this show between ticket and parking, which a cheap bastard like me does not let go of so easily
So I went in, got a beer, got down to my 'usual' spot, and tried to make the best of a 'bad' situation -- because as much as the stuff that had gone wrong sucked, I was still at least going to see Napalm Death and Hatebreed. Of course, there were a bunch of openers before I could get that far.
Despised Icon: 5/7
This band is in my notes as "opener 1", and I can remember absolutely nothing about them. To be fair, I missed about half their set due to coming a little late and various food- and drink-related activities, but they were nowhere near as impactful as when I saw them in April and not real distinctive beyond this. They did a good job, but when you're merely good and can't make people remember your name, all you can hope for is that people take Jamey Jasta at his word and go just buy one of everything from the merch stand; there's certainly no directed expansion involved.
Maylene and the Sons of Disaster: 6/7
This band, by contrast, really shook things up. This is the first hardcore band I've seen to go with a three-guitar attack, and they definitely got full value out of it, putting up an intricate performance that would not really be matched, technically, until Black Dahlia went on. If they had had a CD out at the merch table, I would've bought it -- now I have to go digging and get my order out.
First Blood: 5/7
Another thoroughly average, nondistinctive set from a band whose name I initially got confused on. They were decent enough live, but at this point, and definitely into Evergreen Terrace's set, I was definitely feeling the beginnings of the metalcore fatigue that had worn my temper so thin on the first day of Metalfest. Hardcore and that which comes off of it is perched on an extremely narrow ledge as mosh-first music; too far one way and it becomes complex enough to run the risk of breaking up the pit, and in the other direction it becomes so completely braindead that it's indistinguishable from radio rock, and an unsuitable vehicle for the serious ideas that nearly every band on this bill is wielding behind their music. This leads to a whole lot of sameness, which you don't really notice if you're throwing down in the pit...but which is difficult to escape from if you're down on that last ledge before the floor, not so totally involved but close enough that you can't be distracted by anything either.
Evergreen Terrace: 5/7
This was the first band that really sounded formulaic, and fortunately about the last. The earlier bands had either been different or made the generic elements of their style excusable by their lower profile and lower execution level. This bunch by contrast was hitting on all cycles, but without that immediacy of the pit, I got the impression that the wheels were moving not entirely of their own, but more because the crank was being turned. It was good stuff, but the set construction, and to a certain degree the construction of the songs, seemed somewhat predictable or done to minimum requirements. Yes, they were good, but a little more of an original angle, and a little more genuine fire, would have served them a lot better.
I had heard a good deal about this band, who both lived up to expectations and completely broke the mold of going bands with an almost fully grindcore sound and a minimum of preachiness. I'm not absolutely certain that they're suited for a hall this large, but they definitely did a good job and at least sounded different.
Napalm Death: 6/7
As soon as these guys went on, the execution (and metalness) level took a great step up. The sound was initially a little thin, but this was rectified by the start of the second song, and over the course of the set, these guys definitely made me glad that I had stuck around. They played some brand new stuff off the forthcoming record, and some desperately old shit as well, then closed, of course, with "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" to great turbulence. No mention of Jesse, which was a shame, but a kickass set nevertheless.
Another good performance, but this one back into pure hardcore. I don't remember much of their music, maybe for this reason, but perhaps also because they were so stylistically close to Hatebreed that the similar, though better, performance at the end of the night overwrote the records. They closed on a straightedge anthem, and, sufficiently pumped to be unconscious of the irony, I went to get another beer.
I was surprised to see so many people hanging around in the upper part of the Palladium as I went back to the head -- who the hell watches a show like this from the bar? Why even bother coming down? Coming out of the bathroom, I got a probably undeserved compliment on my Tankard shirt -- no jacket tonight, it would have been totally out of place -- and picked up Napalm Death's current shirt at the merch table. This combined for some good luck at the bar: since I wasn't wearing my jacket, I had to tuck the new shirt through my belt. Thus it was on top of my right leg, so when this one girl poured her drink over the head of this dude who was bothering her, just as I walked up to the bar, it was the new shirt that got a Bacardi-cola bath, not my shorts. Shrug, shake your head, order a Guinness, get back to yer floor.
The ratio at this show was somewhere around 85-15, maybe 80-20, but a slightly greater incidence of guys harrassing women than I'd previously seen. Maybe it's that Hatebreed's higher profile attracts more stereotypical fratboys who act like dicks when drunk, or maybe it was just the people I was standing around. Nothing egregious, but it's a bummer all the same. We're supposed to be above this, especially in hardcore where there's greater social pressure towards absolute integrity.
Black Dahlia Murder: 6/7
They've improved since Metalfest -- or perhaps were just more comfortable here in an unambiguously hardcore setting. Most of their music seemed a little flatter that optimal, maybe because this was a warmup gig, or maybe because the soundboard had them mixed 'right' and I was able to pick out all the stuff that I don't like about them on CD. They had probably the most metallic and technical set of the night, but I still would rather have seen Exodus. BDM has the energy, but until they can get away from the metalcore umbrella, I'm going to have a difficult time reacting really positively to these guys. Was this a good show? Yes, but it could have been better given the talent levels involved, as Hatebreed was about to show.
They started a little slow, still warming up for the coming tour, but were unstoppable by the end, and as the set built, Jamey articulated not only the ideas behind the tour but behind the new record as well, demonstrating that he really, really gets it now, so hopefully others will start taking up the message. As per their set closer, we all live for this; no matter what we do to get the money for music or what part of the scene commands our strongest allegiance, we are all coming fundamentally from the same place, and more should bind us together than pull us apart. By the end of the set, they were in top fighting form, and further dates on this tour will shortly become steaming holes in the ground.
In conclusion, this wasn't the most incredible show I've ever been to in my life, probably due to the hardcore-dominated bill. I am and will ever be a metalhead first and foremost, and so while I can listen to hardcore and respect those who are sworn to it, it's never going to move me as much as real underground metal at the same execution level would. Also, I'm a metalhead with two bad knees (and a bad wrist busted the week before boosting crowdsurfers at My Pet Demon, but that's a temporary thing), and as such will be staying off the floor, losing out on the punch, the push, and the give and take of the pit, which is what drives this music far more than anything else. It's like trying to listen to only one channel of a stereo recording and get into it; hard as hell when you're missing half the sound.
This is why I can't understand people who watch a show like this from the bar. Hardcore is not simply "listen to" music: if you listen to hardcore and it does not make you want to throw down, there's probably something wrong with the band; if you're listening to hardcore live and not going to go down and throw down in the pit, there's probably something wrong with you. If I had been physically able to, I would have gone down to the floor at least for Napalm Death, and also for Exodus if they had shown up. I might have gone down for Exodus anyway, then spent Throwdown and/or Black Dahlia's sets walking off any knee damage incurred. Seeing a bill like this and not getting turbulent is almost as bad as those 'VIPs' who get front-row seats and sit down for the whole gig of arena bands -- at least those in the back aren't hogging the best places while they're not into the music. :|
Good gig, but I'd rather catch a metal show....and I haven't completely killed my scene chauvaunism enough to suggest that the atmosphere around such a gig would be necessarily better.