This was a good show, the first at this venue in recent memory and unfortunately, quite probably the last for a while. Of course, this because it was a good show...though totally unsuited for this club.
Mark and I got in about 15 minutes before nominal doors, hanging out in the parking lot with some of his crew, discussing past shows, expectations here, and, of course, the venue, which someone had declined to come down to because it was allegedly too sketchy. This was a nightclub on Route 1 in Saugus. On their big sign facing the highway, they were advertising JAM'N 94.5 Night on Friday...and on Thursday night, they had five metal bands in. Obviously, this place had nothing on O'Brien's, Exit 13, Club 125, or any other of the legendarily crummy venues that we'd seen bands at in the past, and I'm sure that we were all looking forward to destroying it.
Eventually, it got to be doors, so we went over to the 'door', but it was not, like, open or anything. This defeats not only the purpose of a 'door', but also the purpose of 'doors', and the idea of getting into a venue in a timely fashion. So we stood around a little more in a different place, until after Indignation's two buses of doods pulled up, and the line stretched back around the front of the club. The buses were kind of whacked out, but Haverhill is a long way from Saugus, and it's better than asking metalheads from the Merrimac Valley to drive this far down into the Great Blight on their own for a local show. The odd lack of metal bands between Boston and the New Hampshire border is kind of weird, but by force and with sufficiently good music, we can overcome the Blight. Provided, of course, that we can get some decent venues that will do more than one show, and don't dick around like this one did with their metal detector, which significantly slowed down the entry process. Metalheads don't stab each other! Metalheads don't carry guns to shows! Seriously, fuck this lame shit.
This delayed the start of the show as people got processed, but eventually things got rolling.
Ravage opened, and were unfairly held back by this fact...because Al Ravage got lost on the way to the venue. It's easy to get to this place if you know how to turn around on Route 1, but this is not universal knowledge, especially as most people just prefer to never drive on Route 1 at all. So they played half their set as an instrumental four-piece, with Pat from MPD jumping in on guest vocals for the last half of "The Wicked Way", and then Al finally got through security and onto stage. The PA wasn't especially kind to them -- the club's PA was so shitty that MPD had to bring their own down -- but this was still a very solid performance. "DamnNation" was the only 'new' song they did, and despite various people's yelling, "Wyvern" stayed retired. Unfortunately, they pulled out of the venue pretty quick, so I still wasn't able to pick up Spectral Rider. I gotta get more on the ball with this, but this time around, there were a bunch more great bands in the offing.
My Pet Demon [5.5/7]
This was a solid set with a few new touches, mostly Alex playing more of the solos, but pretty much -- after five years following these guys, from their first headlining set in my parents' basement -- just another good set from MPD. More of the set is new material, which Kenny is incredibly pumped about recording, but the "Crime Pays" stuff is still a centerpiece. They covered not only "Ace of Spades", but also "Self Esteem", which they hadn't done in a while, in a sludge-thrash style fairly close to the original but still thoroughly metal. They brought a good number of people in, but many of them drifted out after their set; symptomatic of the local scene at large, but still kind of discouraging. Seven bucks isn't much for a show, and one of the best parts of going to gigs, for me, is the chance to see bands that I don't know and hear something new and cool. Besides, what the hell else are you doing on a Thursday night?
Before Mortis Deveia went on, Chris, Indignation's "hype man", came over and talked with us a bit about the bands, the setup of the show, and plans to finish uniting the scene. Haverhill's got a good scene, but it's cut off from the rest of Massachusetts by something like a Great Blight of venues; there's the Merrimac Valley, and then there's Club Lido in Revere and maybe this place in Saugus if they ever book another metal show here, but basically nowhere else in Essex County. The yuppie population forms a barrier preventing metal fans from easily jumping from town to town and hooking up with other fans from other areas and building scene. More shows like this will connect the Merrimac scene with the holdouts left on the North Shore, and if Chris remembers the tip I gave him on Random Acts of Violence and they're able to work something out, the Massachusetts scene may be able to rebuild itself out of its now-separated component parts. It's a long-term project, but eminently doable; promoters need to cross-book more bands out of region, and normal metalheads like me need to go to more out-of-region local shows -- and try to bring friends.
Mortis Deveia [5.5/7]
I hadn't heard these people before -- 'people', because this band is not uniformly 'guys'. Their female singer looks looks like basically any other slight twentysomething woman from this area, but unleashed a vicious NWOSDM-driven performance that melded well with their overall brutal thrash sound. With a brutal female singer and a standout guitar virtuoso in the lineup, the Arch Enemy comparisons are going to be inevitable, but the more brutal sound and Bay Area thematics (the drummer does one of the best blastbeat-polka beats I've ever heard at the local level) make them much more reminiscent of Exodus. They also showed some flashes of real brilliance, but are still obviously developing; I'll have to hear them on record to assess them further, despite their balls-out, uptempo cover of "Raining Blood", which pulled up Chris from Indignation's crew to do guest vocals. I did get their demo, but I now owe Henry three bucks due to not having proper change. I did get a God Forbid ticket off him, though, so the band is slightly compensated, and I'll be able to pay him for the demo at that show. DIY FTW. I was unsure about going to this show, but now it's a sealed deal.
Between MD and Death Defect, Matt (MPD) invited Mark and me up to the "VIP room", a small green-room kind of area behind the bar, where we sat around, shot the shit with Matt and Alex, and met the brother of one of the guys in Indignation, who was definitely taking full advantage of the fact that he didn't have to drive anywhere any time soon. It was a cool and novel experience, but "VIP" or "backstage" at a local show is definitely more to be taken tongue in cheek than to get amped up about.
Death Defect [4/7]
I hadn't previously heard of this band, but they were decent enough, though not especially well-matched to the overall bill. The strongest similarities were to Danzig, and they didn't really push much beyond this. The crowd was into them, especially on "More Human Than Human", which has more meaning for a Haverhill band and for a Haverhill audience like this one, but all the sentiment and audience participation in the world wouldn't've helped had they not been at least decent in executing it. I picked up their demo, and as an inveterate reviewer and scene head I probably would have had it not been free, but this isn't a band that, at this point without hearing them on record, would draw me in to a show. Part of it is the style, but part of it is also that there are a lot of better bands in this area.
All of the bands had at least some sound problems with the carted-in PA, but Indignation's seemed both the most and least severe. Their overall balance was really good, the vocalist's mic had good response, but their lead guitarist kept going over to the board at the side of the stage to tweak stuff. Overall, this time out, they seem to have smoothed their sound some more, coming off much more like early Testament...with, of course, a nice swirl of Manowar, which really came out when they covered "Hail and Kill". Yes, you read that right: a band on this continent covering Manowar at a local show. Indignation presents a really interesting show; it's melodic thrash on stage, but the singer is still possessed with the egalitarian spirit of hardcore, spending half the gig out in the audience, calling people up for guest vocals, doing trustfalls off the stage (until the security came up and made him stop, lameasses), getting the crowd as much involved as the band. At this point, the combination of accumulated beer and headline performance got the crowd their most thrashing, and while the security did enforce the 'no moshing' regulations, they weren't totally fascist about it. No pit ever really developed, but under the circumstances there was a fairly decent degree of motion. Indignation closed with "Warriors", and then those who were left and hadn't come on buses started out to head home. Mark picked up a replacement knit hat from Indignation, and I got a proper shirt to go with the seconded one from the Negro League museum that Chris geve me back in August.
So, a good show overall, and by the end, there was some good proper traction on the floor from spilled beer. It's not much of a metal show if you can't brace yourself up extra by letting your boots glue themselves to the floor. However, this place is normally a dance club, and now their nice dance floor has alcohol all over it, part of the stage support is pulled out, and if we could have found a fire axe, we would have replicated Tankard's Disco Destroyer cover with one or both of the mirror balls hanging from the ceiling. It's not that metalheads inherently destroy stuff, but when you combine a lot of floor movement with a lot of beer, the floor is going to get 'treated', and I don't really know what disco balls are for if not to get smashed up. I don't know what the club management was expecting, but anyone with disco balls on the ceiling and No Moshing signs probably is not expecting to get their club shittified even this much. Hopefully, the janitors won't complain too much, and the bar receipts will outweigh the trouble enough to allow more shows to be booked here. Despite the hassle of Route 1, the drive is about 15 or 20 minutes, and the venue is located far south enough and convenient enough to major roads for bands to come up from the south and in from the west. It's no substitute for a real metal club, but it'll do.
Next show, as mentioned, is God Forbid on Saturday; I saw a total of like 120 bands in the course of 19 gigs or festivals in 2006, mostly between Metalfest and Wacken, and I'm hoping to improve on that in 2007.