Monday, August 11, 2008

2 shows 1 day

Sunday was a rather epic day for music, in which I first finally got my butt in gear and got down to the NEDF, and then closed out the day with a friend's band in my home stomping grounds. It was a fair bit of driving, but definitely worthwhile in terms of the music.

New England Deathfest (day 2)
Jerky's and Club Hell, Providence, 8/10/2008

After missing the first day while recuperating from Wacken and planning to go to a show that I actually ended up missing, I finally got my shit in gear and headed down 95 to Providence for the first half of the second day of the NEDF. Under ideal circumstances, I'd've stuck for the second half as well, but I had to work in the morning, and driving the 80 miles back while exhausted was tough enough when I ended up doing it. Finding the venue was easy enough; the place is pretty much right off 195 just as this road splits off 95, and there were parking lots everywhere, which being Sunday were completely free; dunno how good the parking situation here is mid-week.

Though I got in right about the time Strappado was supposed to start, I ended up hanging on the sidewalk for a while; Hivesmasher cancelled shortly before the fest, which meant that everything got shifted back about half an hour. So I stood around, got pumped for Wacken info, and generally shot the shit until the club people had their stuff ready to start letting us one-dayers in.

Since Strappado wasn't starting until like 2:25, I had a bit of time to browse the merch stands and begin my day-long descent into an empty wallet and full vest pockets. Highlights include Toxik, Master, Witch Trap, Vomit Remnants, Crucified Mortals, and a bunch of other stuff that I still have to listen through; no Intestine Baalism, but you can't have everything.

Strappado [5/7]
This group, featuring members of Sexcrement and Revocation, has been a 'band in being' for a long time, though mostly in theory and in name as opposed to one that plays music. This was, according to Anthony before the event, their first show ever, and it showed; not a lack of practice, cohesion, or technique, but only that they had a total of five songs prepared, and thus didn't run for their full allotted time. This might see some raised eyebrows, but only if you're mental and don't take into consideration the fact that most of the lineup is also in some of New England's most active and well-liked extreme metal bands. Strappado may be an incidental side project, but the material that they had ready here was good stuff, old-school brutal death that made a nice start to the day, and if it was short, definitely left the audience wanting more.

Composted [6/7]
Slam-diculous as usual, New England's masters of absurdist extremes took the stage unfortunately without Rich, but dressed to the nines for the occasion: Mark and Dave taking a swipe at the "wiggerslam" criticisms levied at this festival by those who somehow missed Skinless, Dying Fetus, and Mortal Decay at the top of the bills, and Eliot, to remind any out-of-the-loop old bangers that this was in jest, wearing fairy wings, scuba flippers, and a pink pool noodle out the front of his crotch. The set was as bizarre, hilarious, and brutally tight as might be expected; killer stuff, including some newer material that they haven't done live as much, but unfortunately marred as an experience by something out of the band's control.

About halfway through the set, this big dude starts spinning and thrashing around, and he ended up spin-kicking a guy in the face, who was standing on the edge of the floor and didn't see him coming. The combination of 'huge guy', 'foot to the jaw', and 'completely unprepared' resulted in an immediate knockout; the band kept going, but the club guys with first aid training and a couple metalheads (including me) moved him out of the line of fire and tried to get him stabilized, once we established that he was still alive and there wasn't much chance of spinal damage, while his kid called in the paramedics. The incident ended up looking a lot worse than it actually was; within 10 minutes, he'd come around and was talking, moving his appendages, and trying to sit up by the time the ambulance arrived. They still collared and backboarded him, though, and took him out for evaluation; even if he got away with only a concussion and a bitten lip, it's still worth the medical attention rather than just leaving him at a metal show.

There was some scuttlebutt at the fest that this might have been an intentional attack, but this is bullshit circulated by people who didn't see it go down; unfortunately, circumstances combined that gave such scurrilious rumors credence. First, the guy who got knocked out was standing in the back, on the side, away from the part of the floor where you're likely to eat a flying fist or foot; he was being a smart non-mosher and standing somewhere where there was as reasonable an expectation of not getting hurt as you're likely to have at an underground show. Second, the dude who hit him was not in among those of us holding his hands and keeping his head still until the rescue team arrived; while if you don't know the guy, and maybe are coming from a scene where the expectation is that the friends of a guy who gets hurt are on a hair trigger, this is slightly understandable, there were still a lot of people here who believe that if a guy goes down near you, whether you were the one who put him on the floor or not, he becomes your responsibility, and not picking that responsibility up looks suspicious. There was no malice here, just maybe not as much forethought as might have been desired.

Fortunately, word came in later that Allen was doing all right, and his kid eventually did come back to the festival, though not before I left. Horns up, Mr. Chen; finish getting well soon.

After recovering my jacket from under Allen's head when the paramedics picked him up, I went back upstairs to try and watch some more death metal.

Without Remorse [4.5/7]
With your eyes closed, this Long Island combo sounded much like a decent ripoff of Long Island's most famous death metal export (and if you don't know who the band in question is, why are you reading this far about NEDF?); unfortunately, I'm too much of an old stick-in-the-mud to not get cognitive dissonance seeing such performed by guys in flat-billed hats and basketball shorts, talking like rappers between songs. It was decent music, but they'd've done better if there was more hardcore or deathcore on the bill -- and if most of the audience hadn't just been down at Composted and seen one of their own get knocked out, which probably suppressed the mosh impetus a little, and which the band probably wasn't themselves aware of. Some people did get violent, and I ended up accidentally getting punched in the head by Paul from Proteus, but overall this was the down set of what I saw, though likely more due to complete exhaustion than to just non-inspiring music.

Somewhere around here I significantly injured my left wrist; not sure if it was during Composted and I was concentrating on someone with a much more major injury and didn't notice, or if I got socked during Without Remorse. Whatever; it now hurts like hell whenever I try to bend it in certain directions, but I'll live.

As they finished, Blue, the headman of the fest, announced that Behead The Lamb wasn't going to be able to make it; this freed up some time to walk around, get some eats, and generally decompress from the events of the morning. I ended up going up the street a ways to get some pizza; this part of Providence is flat dead on a Sunday afternoon, the streets silent and empty of traffic, only a few people walking around here and there. Despite the sour taste of some of the morning, there were little bits of larger metalfests present as well; normal establishments invaded by black-shirted longhairs, people grilling at their 'campsite' (on the sidewalk by their car, but what the hell), hot girls in Endstille shirts -- wait, what again? Her boyfriend was in an Obscene Extreme lineup shirt, so it's pretty clear that other people from around here also go bang their heads in central Europe; the more we can bring that spirit back here, the more future iterations of this fest will go from strength to strength.

Abacinate [5/7]
Now this was a pleasant surprise; a band from New Jersey that didn't sound like Waking The Cadaver. They brought one of the WTC guys up for guest vocals on one song, but mostly stuck to kickass old-school brutality in the vein of a less-evolved Decrepit Birth. It made for a good restart after the downtime, and some fun headbanging, along with a few breakdowns for the ninjas. Good stuff from a traveling band; I picked up one of their shirts later, a merch Spende that I didn't make for the New England acts on the bill...mainly because I have shirts from most to all of them already, and Dwyer didn't seem to have his table out so that I could drop the last of my change on a Goreality hat.

Revocation [6.5/7]
Another fucking amazing set from Revocation, but unfortunately the sound wasn't super-kind to them. The upstairs sound was clean and sharp, while downstairs in Club Hell often came off fuzzy with overdriven bass. Most of their sound got through, though, and the Empire material is so completely dominating you could play it to your friend over the telephone and it'd still rule. They covered "Symbolic" (Dave: "It's the Deathfest, so let's play some Death!"), and interestingly Dave did his own solos rather than following Chuck's as he's done in the past; it takes a lot of confidence in your abilities as a guitarist to play your own notes over Chuck Schuldiner's changes, but if you can pull it off, as Revocation did here, it's massive win in getting to the real heart of the material. Great stuff, great time.

I finally bought Empire of the Obscene, and it is currently on repeat in my car. What an absolutely incredible album. No words, just get it; no idea how they haven't been picked up yet, though with the standard "dry buttrape" contracts available to bands putting out their first full-length, they may have decided to just DIY it for a while until a major (CM, Relapse, etc) makes them an offer with some actual meat in it.

Proteus [5.5/7]
I went upstairs, then, and saw Proteus with my back against the bar. This is the outcome of one of those tough decisions that you have to make every once in a while; I love how Proteus mixes up post-rock and extreme death metal, but hate getting spin-kicked, and it's pretty much a given that at any Proteus show in New England, at some point Will from Dysentery is going to flip out and completely destroy someone. Thus the bar thing, and the set went pretty much as expected; Proteus was great, though not quite as overwhelming as when I saw them in Haverhill (Drew's bass still sounded a little low in the mix), people went crazy in the pit, Will shoved half a dozen people nearly out the door, and I didn't get kicked by anyone. If I still had a functioning knee, maybe I'd've been in closer, but that's not something I can count on at this point.

During Proteus' set, I finally finished the Narraganset that I picked up in the downstairs bar before Revocation went on. That stuff is absolute swill, worse than PBR; I swear it smells like vomit even coming out of the can, but that may just be me stinking from sweating all day, and the corollary stench of hanging with 30-70 other metalheads who've been doing the same.

Goreality [6/7]
Back downstairs for Goreality; I'm not sure I'd seen them with the new singer previously, but the performance was still everything you could have wanted from them. The sound hit like a ton of bricks, and though it was still a little fuzzed, the sound board did better for them than for the other bands I saw down here. This was some good shit, front to back, and while immensely brutal, not a whole lot of mosh going on; everyone was too dialed in on the band, which, at least for us old people, is the way it oughta be. Killer set; shame that I wasn't able to stay longer.

Every single comment I've seen on this festival has been immensely lauditory, and it should be; even for the brief time that I was able to participate, it was almost without exception an awesome experience, full of quality death metal of all kinds, in a good environment with ready cameraderie and inexpensive beer. Blue and those who assisted him did a great job on the organization, keeping everything rolling despite the really large bill for a first-year fest and the vagaries of DIY bands who may just not be able to make the show for reasons totally outside their control. This wasn't a perfect fest, but it was damn good, about as good as we're going to get on this continent, and the organizers are definitely smart enough to look at what worked and what didn't, then make the necessary changes to make next year's even better. This gig won't be moving outside anytime soon -- blame the alcohol laws for this, and those in change of enforcing them for their zeal and enthusiasm -- but for a club fest, this one is as close as we're likely to get.

As I drove north, I closed in on a huge electrical storm that was moving west to east, and barely managed to get across the front of it before the rain arrived in force. The views of the storm were just unbelievable; someday when I get a car I care enough to customize, I'm going to get a camera built in coaxial with my line of vision, focused lens-to-infinity, and not miss out on this cool stuff just because I have to keep my vehicle from crashing into others or driving off the road or such.

In the end, I got back home in good time to fit out again, and head down to.....

Slow Fuse Burning with Autumn Above, The Real Smokin' Power, and Cape Terra
Dodge Street, Salem, 8/10/2008

This was not a metal show, and will not be rated as such, but I still showed up to this bar, recently highlighted as one of the best live music venues north of Boston, stinking of NEDF and wearing my Sodom-enabled flak vest. Part of it was the timing dimension -- I barely had the chance to take the CDs out of my vest before heading over -- and part of it was deliberate, but there was no fear and revulsion, so I guess things were ok.

Cape Terra [NR]
I got in about midway through their set, and drank part of a Guinness listening; decent but nothing to write home about as long as you had rock radio on at some point between about 1996 and 1998. Post-grunge, vaguely indie, peripherally interesting and mildly entertaining, they never really stepped out and established themselves, but in this genre I'm not exactly sure that bands are supposed to. I don't have much of any point of evaluation, but they weren't terrible, so if you like alt-rock from that period, you may want to check them out.

The Real Smokin' Power [5/7]
An instrumental collaboration between Sean (drums) and Tone (bass) of Autumn Above, this band showed some interesting promise and some cool lines, but wasn't quite as developed as perhaps they'll be if it turns into a real project instead of just a guaranteed undercard for the members' main band. The bass was too low at the start, a right problem when there's no other non-percussion instruments, but this was rapidly settled, and the short but definitely thoroughly cool set rolled on.

Autumn Above [6/7]
They changed up the order for this set, doing their heavier songs earlier instead of later, but aside from some clammed notes early where Ryan's voice wasn't completely warmed up, this was another great performance from a band that continues to be solid in everything they do. This wasn't as apex a performance as they've done in the past, but for a non-headlining slot, it was rock-solid.

They finally had shirts available, and also mentioned a couple times the anti-drunk-driving fest they're playing at the ADC in Southbridge this week; hopefully people hit them up for merch and tickets, because between them and Slow Fuse Burning, the nominal headliners, the venue kind of emptied out. It was a Sunday night, but seriously, sticking around another half hour isn't going to kill you. The sensible thing might have been to rearrange the lineup as has been done at a couple O'Brien's shows I can recall where the headliner was going to be outdrawn by the top local support, but unfortunately the fact that RSP was playing -- and, of course, using Autumn Above's gear -- kind of complicated this. More people might stick later, but some might just leave with the extra time needed to tear down and build up Sean's kit twice.

Slow Fuse Burning [5/7]
Again, not especially germane for rating, but they were a good time; punk bands who like late Bad Religion (and probably some other canonical influences, but I'm not a punk guy) a lot are seldom unwelcome, and even though they were playing to a handful of people, most of whom were in Autumn Above, they didn't let it affect their professionalism or their performance. Pretty decent; I sprang for a CD as they were going for a largely optional $3, then split; Slow Fuse Burning may not have been quite like the band who, also, had only five songs prepared with whom I started the day, but they provided a good enough finish to it.

Now that's a day worth recording; eleven bands in three venues with some impressive separation between two of them. The road continues later this week; after Autumn Above Wednesday, I'll be out in Worcester for Testament and Motorhead (with a bunch of crummy undercard bands and Arsis) on Thursday and Friday respectively. After that, I can sleep, and feel a little less down about not doing more German fests this year.

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