Hopelessly late due to work being a bastard, here it is; the second part should be up shortly.
After three iterations, I finally got down for most of Bobfest, missing only the first day out of three. This was, overall, the most impressive package that Wren's put up yet, both in terms of volume and headliner value, but the undercard was cool throughout as well.
Despite various traffic obstructions, I got over and in about on time, and was able to get set up drinking as the first band was getting set up. I still had to watch out due to eventually having to drive rather than stumble back to a pup tent in the railyard or somewhere, but despite the indoor environment, it was still possible to get into festival mode.
Splatter Effect [4.5/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, but they made a cool start to the day's events with some good if moderately pedestrian music, NWOSDM (or Gothenchusetts if you prefer and still have a bug up your ass about that scene five years after it mostly died out) somewhere between Sacrilege and Shadows Fall, slanting more towards the Swedish end of that continuum. They showed off good chops, but the music was more or less pro forma: as they continue to develop, they may do something more unique, but at this point, this is the right slot.
O'Brien's was pretty empty as Splatter Effect started, but people steadily filled in, and there were a decent number in as Blessed Offal got in and started setting up, including the Deceased guys.
Blessed Offal [5.5/7]
This felt like a really short set, but it was still damn cool. It felt in some ways a little more on-point than the last outing I caught from them, but it didn't quite match up to that show as regards feeling and atmosphere. Regardless, this is a good band on a definite upward trajectory, especially as they seem to have finally beaten the lineup-cohesion issues that have plagued Ross in former years.
In between here, I went over to grout up Deceased's merch table, which is an adaptive decision for anyone who likes old metal that's not easily found in physical form elsewhere. We know of old that King has some strong opinions and connections to the days of old, and that manifests itself in a pretty kickass distro box. In addition to the latest Deceased record, I also got Demolition Hammer's entire label discography, Pantera's epically-stupid but historically-important Power Metal, and Halloween's famous Don't Metal With Evil, which I never thought I'd run into a physical copy of, but was somehow re-released by Twilight out of Germany last year. Everything old is new again.
Phantom Glue [5.5/7]
Since the last time, the band's taken a significant step forward, rebalancing to a less exploitative configuration, but vastly more importantly, improving the content and execution of their material. This was a killer set of ear-destroying aggrodoom held back principally by the vocals getting lost now and again, which is kind of a casual risk in a setting like this one where most of the sound is coming straight out of the cabs. As they get into venues that allow better sound balance, and continue to develop their music beyond as well as through sludge-soaked Sabbathisms, they'll likely continue to progress from here.
After Phantom Glue unplugged, I headed out to scare up some food; of the bands on the day, I'd seen Led To The Grave about the most often, and in general their set is about the most uniform, as regards content and execution level, of the bands that I was familiar with. I reckoned that I could run the risk of taking longer than the set break to get fed, confident that whatever sample I ended up getting from LTTG would be representative.
I stumped around the block for a bit in an unsuccessful search for a deli sub, and ended up at Asia Wok, picking up an unchallenging entree that I know I could eat on the sidewalk, and ended up getting nearly all of it down before the band started; if I'd gone in directly, I could have caught their set from the start, especially given how things went Sunday.
Led To The Grave [5/7]
I thought initially on coming in that I'd get about half of LTTG's set, but as it turned out I only missed about a song or two, at least based on the length of the performance I heard relative to other sets. That performance, of course, was an energetic and violent outing of replacement-level thrash metal: this was a good, fun, performance, but just about as good as Led To The Grave gets with their current material. They got good crowd reactions, as good thrashing music necessarily does, but the material here is a clear and critical limiting factor. They're allegedly heading out on tour soon, and will likely get good reactions on the road as well, but the band desperately needs to take a strong step forward in the writing department on their next one, if only to keep pace with their live energy.
If we're relating musical styles to kung fu, Elder is the clear successor to the Black Pyramid school, now that that band has decided to hang it up. This was a good strong doom metal performance, but almost completely within that towering shadow to the degree that in several places I wondered if someone'd just dropped Stormbringer on the stereo. Elder did show some signs of getting out and establishing their own sound, in some cool breaks that were far more hippie than anything I've heard from Black Pyramid, but they need to continue to differentiate themselves beyond claiming this vacated territory.
In here, it was time for a break; I unwound my back outside, and eventually got back in to see a hedge of people around the stage, watching the bassist for Oneiric Realm dance in harem pants.
Kate Hale NR
This certainly was an interesting break, and a good demonstration of the actual art of bellydancing as opposed to the popular conception of it, but if you really want to step away from the ero-ero connotations, "St. James Infirmary" is probably not a song you want to put in the rotation. The mix of metal and traditional tunes was also interesting, if occasionally sacrilegious for some of the audience; again, it's hard to consider this as an absolute success, but it certainly drew interest, and like the incredibly diverse lineup and Star Trek movies playing on the TVs, is yet another element setting Bobfest apart from other indoor DIY fests.
Back to music, and what a "return" it was.
Because I do zero research on bands before seeing them (part work demands, part laziness, part wanting to form opinions based solely on what they present live), Returner were the surprise of the festival for me. They blasted the audience with a hammering, killer blend of technical Death-styled extreme metal flavored with traditional doom elements to great result, and hopefully the rest of the audience gave them the support they deserved for getting up from Philly. Their sound wasn't quite finished, but the execution as it was was immensely promising, and the more bands like this that we have in the scene, ultimately, the better.
I cut it kind of tight, but did end up getting their last two records before the end of the night. For those looking to steal records first, then legitimize them after, The Black Notes is a pretty accurate picture of Returner's current sound, and is good enough at a low enough price point to just buy off the band directly sight unseen, you goddamn leech.
As with the other band containing most of these members a couple hours before, this was a killer set, if a little short, and marked by occasional complaints from Scott about exactly which of the Star Trek movies was playing at the time. The banter also included some insights about corporate decision-making vis-a-vis DIY punk songwriting, but the humor of both was given its real edge by the music, still strongly thrash but with the most punk/hardcore content of any of the bands on this day's bill. Most of that music, of course, coming from their more recent work, which is more suited to the current three-piece lineup; unless I was truly out of it and missed it, they didn't respond to the jerk yelling for "...Hand Axe..".
Given the date involved, the band also did a lot of promo for a certain t-shirt design that I'm not sure is suitable to mention on the internets, the home of the most permanently-offended people ever, especially on the subject in question. LOLOLOL FEDERATION DID 9/11 LOLOLOLOL.
Deceased, 25 or so years in, are nothing if not consistent with expectations, blasting out a killer-cool set of screaming deathy thrash metal of another era. King absolutely throws himself into the material, executing with the same passion as ever, despite the changes to the band surrounding him, and to the constraints he's now subject to (mostly on stamina, which is why they had to go on exactly here, and no later), and getting a suitably turbulent and amped-up response from the crowd. This was an awesome set -- and then they played "The Premonition". Sue me, I'm a sucker for old shit, especially delivered this well.
Predictably, after Deceased, the Pegelstand went down a little -- though what this meant in real terms is that the people the door was keeping outside on a one-in-one-out basis were mostly allowed in. Yep, O'Brien's hit capacity, and for the most part stayed pretty close to it for the remaining two bands.
Soul Remnants [5.5/7]
Soul Remnants are also starting to develop a reputation for critical consistency; again, as on all other previous occasions, they smashed out a set of tuneful yet punchy death metal grounded in the Swedish scene. This kind of consistency does make it hard to identify a given Soul Remnants set as getting to a level beyond where they've been before, but it also implies a professionalism that when they bring out material that kicks on from here, it'll've been drilled on and perfected to the point that it's also a consistent and persistent step up.
Tony may have lost some of the crowd with his banter -- probably impenetrable unless you're familiar with ICP's banter or have lived in southeast Michigan for a while and can infer such -- but the actual musical performance in between calling the audience juggalos was as solid and kickass a Scaphism set as anyone's likely to require. With more time in the headlining slot, they had more room for more RAEP material, but with the set rebalanced to make sure that the focus was on the OTT-brutality aspects of the songs rather than sexual assault as the agent of brutality. Malika's vocals got lost for most of "Tower Deflower", a casualty of the room, and probably the sound board not realizing the second mic needed to be on/balanced for this band, but most of the crowd knew the chorus involved and was able to make up for it. All in all, a good performance, a killer close to the fest, and no nerd gang fights broke out, despite closing with "Slowly Digesting..." while there were still Star Trek movies playing.
Day two wound up, I headed back over the bridges to commute home, worn down but well ready to have another go the next day. I'd've preferred for day two to be a Friday rather than Saturday for work-recharge reasons, and to sleep locally rather than commute, but things work differently in this country....at least for now.