Maryland Deathfest 2010
2010 was my next visit to Maryland Deathfest (MDF) and this time I left my darling Ann at home with the cats and travelled alone. I flew straight to New York City and checked into a hotel which had about 14 other Australians staying in which was a fun party atmosphere. This is a picture of one of our rooms which had 8 of us staying (I had the crappy fold out bed sadly). The window on the right is the infamous “toilet” as explained further down this post.
Instead of going to sleep I foolishly walked about 30 blocks to a free gig where Municipal Waste, Atakke and Ramming Speed were playing but it only took 2 beers for me to realise I was exhausted from the trip and after MW I went back for a snooze. The gig was fun although it was very cramped and the bands only played short sets for no apparent reason so I saw about 5 MW songs. Hehe I think the band are in this picture somewhere.
Sadly the next night I missed an Inquisition gig however a decent batch of Aussies had a great time at a pub down near the World Trade Centre site where we all got pretty sloshed. We really enjoyed putting horrible metal songs on the jukebox which for some odd reason had the whole Relapse Records back catalogue and it’s an odd feeling sitting in an Irish pub in NYC listening to local Canberra legends Alchemist playing! I suspect the bar owner turned the volume down a bit as when I put Disembowelment’s The Tree Of Life And Death song on none of the normal people batted an eyelid. After way too many beers and complimentary shots of various Irish whiskies we went to another pub of which all I remember is that it had a fire breathing bartender and a dodgy toilet door. I left with a group of us quite late however a few Aussies continued boozing and after escaping from a dodgy local trying to sell them cocaine they eventually returned to the room blind drunk and singing Bon Jovi songs. The next morning we discovered that one unnamed poor chap had mistaken a window for a toilet and managed to piss all over another guys bag. Don’t look at me folks as I was fast asleep with ear plugs in.
Me looking a little worse for wear
Most of our Aussie contingent went to Duffs metal pub the next night which was quite fun despite being in a rather dodgy and scummy looking part of Brooklyn. Duffs is the clubhouse for the New York Death Militia (NYDM) so I was hoping to see Will Rahmer from Mortician there. Sadly it was mostly empty except for 3 drunk Swiss metalheads who were moshing to Dying Fetus songs which seemed to come on the jukebox way too regularly. We did enjoy celebrating Richards birthday though and he even received a free shot of booze in a condom which of course he drank.
Next NYC gig was Czech grinders Gride, P.L.F., Unmen and Powercup at Bushwick Bike Shop (yes it was in a bicycle shop!) in Brooklyn which was a very odd venue that I think was slightly less than legal. An amusing moment occurred when we were sitting in a courtyard out the back when I noticed a door of a nearby apartment building was open and a well dressed middle eastern man was standing there just staring at 50+ crusties and metalheads sitting around drinking booze. After a minute of blankly staring at us he just closed the door. P.L.F. were probably the highlight for me although Gride were pretty raging too. The venue was very hot inside as the doors were shut to avoid the cops being called and it was amusing with naked drunken moshers sliding along the floor on their stomachs. Here is a video I found of P.L.F.
While in NYC I also saw Gorguts, Portal, Krallice and Bloody Panda at a killer show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn which still rates as probably the best I’ve seen Portal play. I suspect it was due to them having supreme quality sound due to Blacky from Voivod (who was the sound guy for some odd reason) but also because their lighting was very subdued and was punctuated by flash photography that made The Curator look even more sinister. Gorguts were pretty nifty and it was good to see Obscura songs live as that the only album of theirs that I really like. The highlight for them was seeing the pleasure on Luc Lemay’s face at playing live again as he genuinely looked to be enjoying himself. Gorguts didn’t sound as good at MDF a few days later so I’m glad I saw them in NYC. I also had the pleasure of meeting Paolo from NY deathgrind pervs Copremesis who was a top bloke so below is a pic of him looking normal and me being a tool while scoffing pizza.
The next day we took a bus to Baltimore and the trip was going quite smoothly until we were unexpectedly dropped off at the only stop in Baltimore which was in the middle of nowhere about 30 minutes drive from downtown Baltimore! Grrrr. It was quite close to an Ikea store so I suppose so we could have subsisted on meatballs. After waiting in the summer sun for about 40 minutes we eventually all took expensive taxis to downtown while cursing Megabus’s name. The only bright side was that our taxi driver was a very jovial chap who kept us amused and answered all our geeky questions about the tv show The Wire and when I asked where the dangerous areas of Baltimore were he laughed very loudly and pointed up about 5 streets saying “up there and there…”. He got a decent tip from us. So kiddies when travelling from New York to Baltimore make sure you check where the drop off point is.
The MDF pre-fest was first up and I made the somewhat foolish mistake of trying to drink a beer for every band playing which as there were 8 bands meant that unfortunately my memories of headliners General Surgery and Birdflesh are quite hazy. I do remember enjoying them a lot but maybe not quite as much as the 2007 MDF for some reason. Iron Lung were a standout of the pre-fest although I wasn’t that surprised as they had impressed mightily on a previous Australian tour. I still don’t think I’ve seen any drummer hit their kit as hard as Jensen does.
Friday was the first proper day and by now there were 3 stages at MDF and a lot more bands and merchandise so my eardrums and wallet took poundings. 2010 was the first year I was exposed to the party brigade which is where people dress up in amusing costumes and throw glow sticks and blow up toys at the bands. Generally they chose grind bands so it amusing to see the bog standard sweaty-blokes-in-black-shirts mosh for the previous band suddenly contain people in chicken suits and wrestling masks running around with giant blow up penises!
Putrescence kicked arse again and I had the pleasure of meeting the below character for the first time as he was doing his special crunking in the pit. He’s a top bloke though and I’m keen to party with him again this year. I also hung out with Putrescence badboy Mike Depends who is another fine individual.
Australian black metal legends Nazxul were the first band outside and to tell the truth any atmosphere they might have generated was quite spoiled playing outside in full sun! I really pity the singer as he wears a huge trenchcoat thing that looks to be quite warm. Sound hijinks meant the keyboards were missing for the first song or so which really doesn’t help their sound but eventually all was right and they put on a great show. I’ll never get sick of hearing the song Totem live.
I tried to watch some of Watain who played inside but the place was completely packed and I couldn’t be arsed barging my way to the front but I did listen to them from the back and they sounded bloody good and new song Reaping Death sounded as killer as I expected. Apparently they took offense to the D.R.I bassist moshing on their stage and had a bit of a scuffle so it’s a shame I didn’t see that. Here is some pretty poor footage but it’s all I could find.
I was slack and didn’t watch Gride or Gorguts as I’d seen them days before so Coffins was the next highlight for me and they were nice and heavy. I was slightly surprised that they played a few of their really slow songs as I thought their mid paced stomping songs would have gone down better live but I was very happy when they ended with Slaughter Of Gods which is my favourite song of theirs. D.R.I. headlined and were flat out awesome! I have always loved Dealing With It and Crossover and they certainly played plenty off those. It’s always great to see an old school band who know how to work the crowd up and to finally see Couch Slouch live was a real treat. As expected the pit was insane for them so I stayed well clear. Those guys must getting on in years but they looked really fresh and singer Kurt was quite energetic.
Being a chubby, unfit bastard meant I already had sore feet and needed sleep but the fitter/drug affected people continue partying after MDF at several afterparties and that night several Aussies went and saw Coffins, Oak and Massgrave and it sounded like quite an adventure. The gig was in a squat called The Annex somewhere in Baltimore near a graveyard and the only access was a rusty fire escape which apparently was very dodgy and likely to give way at any moment (probably lucky I didn’t test my weight out on it). From all reports it went pretty damn late with Coffins playing at 5.30am while the sun came up!
Saturday was the first full day with both outdoor stages being used much more and for me it was another gig going high point as I finally saw Autopsy live!!! But first the other highlights of a fun day. Looking at the lineup I seemed to miss tons of bands that day but I did catch Obliteration (sort of). They were playing indoors and I was standing outside talking to an old friend from Melbourne but we were close enough to the open door that I heard their whole set which was some killer old school death metal. The Chasm played well on the around-the-corner outside stage which always sounded awful unless you were really close to the stage. It was amusing to watch the mosh as for starters it was on bitumen that wouldn’t be very forgiving to skin but also the stage was built on a sloping street so the whole mosh was on an angle.
Next was the only really unfortunate clash of bands for me with Impaled vs Sadistic Intent / Possessed. Possessed had been scheduled to play the day before but missed a flight so they were bumped back to be part of Sadistic Intent’s set as they shared the same band members. I chose Impaled and planned on skipping out on their final few songs to catch some SI but it didn’t work out that way because Impaled were bloody awesome and I couldn’t bear to miss their set. It didn’t matter anyway as apparently SI only played 3 songs and then Possessed took over. Leon del Muerte sung a few songs with Impaled (but sadly not Trocar which had been promised to me by him – bastard!!) which was cool and I also got to see them play Raise The Stakes and my favourite Impaled song Operating Theatre.
Grind legends Blood Duster were in fine form and much better than the last few times I’d seen them in Australia and the party brigade went crazy with glow sticks and costumes in the mosh which was a sight to see. I was pleased to hit singer Tony in the head with a glowstick. The band really seemed to rise to the abuse and they certainly looked to be enjoying it a lot more than when I saw them last New Years Eve in Melbourne where a very drunk and decidedly unattractive woman jumped on stage, took her top off and lingered dancing onstage way too long. Later I saw her showing the contents of her underpants to the bartender for a drink.
Back outdoors and I squeezed up near the stage for a good view of Melechesh who are a favourite on our radio show as Steve plays them most weeks. After an eternity of sound checking and fiddling around on stage they started and played an excellent set on their middle eastern black metal which went down surprisingly well with the predominantly death metal crowd. The only downside was that they planned on finishing with their best song Rebirth Of The Nemesis but got cut short. The bloody idiots shouldn’t have taken so long to set up!! For some reason one guitarist had a scarf around his head ninja-style however after a song he took it off.
Here is a photo of me peeking over the fence during Repulsion which an Aussie mate was nice enough to take. I’d arrived late and couldn’t be bothered struggling though the huge crowd to get near the stage so I stood on a park bench near the side of the stage and had a great view and excellent sound! Several friends waved at me so I obviously stood out. I’ve also included footage I took from this position which show the mosh in full force but be warned as the sound is ATROCIOUS as I was right next to the PA so I recommend turning the volume off and just listening to Horrified while you watch.
Asphyx played on the round the corner stage and it just wasn’t loud enough but it was great to finally see Van Drunen sing live. But I was getting too twitchy so I left them to get a decent position for my reason for being there – AUTOPSY!!! Sadly everyone else had the same idea so I picked a spot a bit further back where the sound was decent and the mosh wasn’t encroaching as I certainly needed plenty of space for the involuntary headbanging that ensued. When they came on they opened with Twisted Mass.. which isn’t my favourite song but followed with In The Grip of Winter which IS my favourite Autopsy song so I can’t describe how happy I was. My friends John and Mikk were standing next to me probably thought I was having a seizure as I couldn’t restrain myself. My feet and back had been killing me earlier but the second they started I felt no pain plus there was a chick behind me with very long hair which acted like a fan cooling me which was appreciated. Mental Funeral is their best album so I was very happy to see songs such as Dead and Slaughterday played as well as Destined To Fester which I’ve always had a soft spot for after Alchemist used to cover it live back in the mid 90s so it was fabulous to see the real thing! Plenty of Severed Survival was played too. The whole set was magical and the only downside was that the solos weren’t very loud but I have them all memorised so I wasn’t too worried and best of all Chris’s voice sounded amazing. Unsurprisingly this was the highlight of the whole festival for me and I could ramble for many pages about how much fun I had. Below is a pic of the band and also the crowd and thanks to my manly bald spot (and John’s white Coopers hat) I spotted myself in the crowd which I highlighted with a poor drawn arrow.
Deceased followed and I wandered inside and caught half a song but I was on such a high from Autopsy that they didn’t really sink in and I stumbled back to the hotel for a rest. It was a shame as I was keen to check them out and they did sound really good. Portal closed the night and were bloody LOUD! The sound had been maxed out and everything was too loud and distorted which for a band as chaotic as Portal means they were just a wall of noise. I struggled somewhat close to front and was amused to see people moshing although I have no idea what rhythm they were following!
Sunday featured more missed early bands but I did manage to catch Dutch goregrinders Rompeprop who were bloody awesome and very hilarious with their between song banter. Their mid pace stomping style worked perfectly and the crowd lapped it up. Somehow I stuffed up and only caught the last minute or two of Gridlink who sounded incredible. I heard they only played for 10 minutes so I guess I was lucky to catch that much.
One band that really impressed me were Black Breath who had a crystal clear sound and managed to sound even more Swedish death metal than either Entombed or Nirvana 2002 which is quite clever for a bunch of Yanks. They mostly played songs off Heavy Breathing which is an album I love and so I was very happy and watched their whole set. Outside I caught some of Necrophobic who sounded OK on the crap stage and I had finally remembered to bring my camera along so here are some amusing pics I took. Another example of why black metal makeup doesn’t work so well in full light.
Next were sludge legends Eyehategod and quite simply they kicked arse! Thankfully they had a great sound and played a killer setlist which I was pleased to find featured my favourite EHG song Dixie Whisky. The band are well known for their substance abuse and guitarist Jimmy Bower looked so stoned it was hilarious but as you can see in the below pic he was having a fun time. I’m super keen to see them again this year as they’ll be on the indoor stage which will probably a bit better suited.
Pestilence bored me stupid unfortunately and I think they were made worse by the bass player looking like a tosser wearing a poxy shirt, having his bass too high and not appearing to know how to headbang. He looked like he should be in Keel or some AOR band. I was hoping for Martin Van Drunen to get up and do some old songs but no luck. Hard to believe they put out the raw death metal masterpiece Consuming Impulse and then turned into a widdle diddle technical band. Nirvana 2002 sounded pretty decent and it was funny to see them play Crawl and then Entombed play it an hour or two later. I ended up watching them from the side of the stage as I got there late and, like Repulsion, I couldn’t be bothered struggling through the crowd.
Pentagram played on the crappy corner stage and sounded quite excellent so I watched a few songs but my feet were getting really painful so I went inside and sat down and watched Aussie grind masters Captain Cleanoff (even though I’ve seen them 20+ times). For some odd reason the crowd seemed a bit subdued and CC didn’t go down quite as well as I expected. Odd. Entombed played outside and the sound was bloody dreadful as they really need a second guitarist. They did play plenty of classics though including Supposed To Rot so I was happy with that. Now that I think about it I am yet to see Entombed with a really awesome live sound except maybe a Canberra gig in 1999 of which my memory is a bit too hazy (possibly due to substances consumed). Their first Australia tour was in 1998 and I saw them at Marrickville Town Hall in Sydney and the sound was atrocious as it was a huge room not suited to modern music. Damaged played that gig too and Jamie was having a hissy fit so they started without him and my mate Jesse got on stage and growled random through half a song before Steve from Manticore kicked him off and then sang a song properly before Jamie finally came out. Fun times!
Caught a few songs of Obituary which just happened to be from their Cause Of Death masterpiece but I’d seen them in Australia 6 months earlier so I stood up the back chatting with some friends while half listening. Trevor Peres always was an odd looking fellow but with his big hillbilly beard he looked like a scary methhead.
One band that did go down well were Capitalist Casualties whose singer had recently been in hospital but he didn’t show it as they raged hard. I’ve never been a huge CC fan but live they were a revelation. From Ashes Rise did the whole heavy hardcore thing well but my energy levels were flagging and after seeing just how packed it was for the last band Converge I scurried off to my hotel and collapsed into my very comfortable bed.
The next day I had tons of time to kill before my plane left so I went for a wander in downtown Baltimore which was pretty much deserted as it was a public holiday for Memorial Day. My brother in law had bought me a tshirt from the tv show The Wire which featured Omar Little on it so I felt obliged to wear it as I was in Baltimore where the show was set. In hindsight it might not have been the best idea as it features a black guy with a gun on it but I didn’t have any problems and the airport security laughed when I mentioned it and said “don’t worry we understand The Wire here” (although he had mistaken the pic for another character called Marlo – pfft amateur!). I decided not to try out the LAX security people and changed to a nondescript shirt. Had a fun wait at the airport as Tony from Blood Duster was on the same flights back to Australia so it was amusing hearing about the back stage shenanigans that went on. One quality story was that plenty of cocaine and other drugs were being consumed in the band room and Bobby from Pentagram (a long time drug user who was on the wagon at the time) suddenly said “Argh I can’t take it” and stormed off. After the usual temporary insanity of long distance flying I made it back to Canberra and said my usual “I’m getting too old for this shit” which of course was overridden once they announced Neurosis headlining MDF 2011.
I’ll leave you with this video I took of the comings and goings from the festival while eating my dinner one day. Gorguts and Blacky from Voivod walk past at one stage. The bald guy who stops to talk to me is Matt from death metal band Blaspherian who recognised me from the 2007 MDF when we chatted about the Disembowelment patch on my jacket. Good memory mate!!
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