Saturday, November 19, 2011

Witnessed: Maryland Death Fest 2011

By: Salvia Hex

Last year I sat idly by and wept gentle tears into my Cheerios as Entombed, Bolt Thrower and Eyehategod destroyed the 8th Annual Maryland Death Fest. As such, I made a solemn pact with myself that come Hell or high cholesterol, I'd be at MDF this year. When the headliners, Neurosis, Coroner and Voivod were announced, I booked hotels and flights. When it was then announced that Ghost would be doing their first ever American gig, I wet my pants and went back to crying gently into more Cheerios, only this time they were Honey Nut, which are obviously the superior Cheerios.

 (These are bullshit. Don't even go there, sister.)
We departed Tucson on time, only to arrive in Denver and be subjected to a Groundhog Day-esque ordeal at the hands of Southwest Airlines which saw us sprinting from what felt like one side of Colorado to the other and back, only to miss the flight, sprint some more, miss another flight, sprint some more, miss a third flight, then find out we have to sit in the airport for another six hours. Good thing I like standing around in public places with a bunch of smelly, ignorant, mouth breathing tourists, otherwise this trip might have gotten off to a bad start.
After much delays, we finally arrived in Baltimore. We still had a couple days to fill before MDF, so we searched out some good East Coast drugs, then went on a tour of Civil War battlefields. Trust me, nothing is more fun on a Tuesday afternoon than re-enacting Picket's Charge while blazed out of your gourd. Well, I guess some mushrooms would have made it better, but the horses weren't giving up the secret locations of their supply, so fuck it, we just got even more high. At some point I bought a sword, which I now carry around the house with me while I bark out marching orders to our dog and turtle. They are remarkably unimpressed.

 (Avast, ye scurvy dogs. I mean rebel scum. Whatever...)

Eventually MDF started. We realized this because we kept seeing a bunch of other drugged out metalheads wandering around Baltimore in a daze. We followed the thickest part of the crowd and eventually found our way to Sonar on Thursday night. We met up with some other friends, from Texas and Canada and New Jersey and other far, away magnificent places of yore. Then we all got high together, like a Supergalactic Council On Weed. There were a bunch of bands that night, most of which I forget. I had come to see two of them, Buzzov*en and the legendary Cathedral, who would be playing their last show ever, allegedly. We all know how these catty poof British do it though. They'll probably be back for another "final tour" as soon as their tea and crumpet money runs out, or they need to buy another set of William and Kate tea cozies. Tut-tut! Cheerio! Buzzov*en hit the stage. Amazingly, I think they were more fucked up than I was. Not surprised there. These guys are a case study in nihilism. They make Eyehategod look like drug amateurs. No shit. They played Red/Green and the place exploded like a Micheal Bay movie. Finally Cathedral closed out the evening in grand fashion, playing pretty much every song that I wanted them to, closing out the first day of MDF with some song about witches or some shit. The Brits apparently dig the shit out of witches. I like witches too, so that's cool. First night, in the books. Time to sleep it off.

 (Some of the aforementioned metalheads...)

Friday hit and we met up with the rest of the cretins from we knew from around the world. After berating them for missing the first night, I proceeded to try to get them so high that they forget how much they want to rape each other. I said I tried. I was completely unsuccessful at my attempts though. Every now and then, I still recall that odd smell of lust, lube and poop. Sexy, yet revolting. A bunch of bands played on Friday too. Some were good, most of them sucked. Corrosion Of Conformity came on at some point and reminded me what it was like to be 13 again, rampaging the neighborhood on my skateboard, while blasting Animosity. "The sky is ominous," Mike Dean said from stage, and we all realized the skies were darkening. What could this mean?

Fucking Neurosis, that's what it means.

Some people might make light of Neurosis' set. They would be wrong. How many other bands control the skies and weather like Cobra Commander? NONE. FUCK OFF. Literally, as Neurosis sets up, the skies go dark. As they sound check, rain begins to fall. As they begin to play, lightning flashes across the sky, thunder booms, and I basically shit my pants. They play a variety of songs from their albums, even touching on old material from Souls At Zero, but this doesn't really matter, as by that time I am a weeping, sobbing, useless hunk of manflesh. I have seen my gods, and they are named Neurosis. I look around during their set and I see Brian Patton of Eyehategod to my right, John Baizley of Baroness on my left, and I realize that, yes, I'm really here and it's really just that fucking cool. if you missed it, kill yourself. Seriously. Do it. Fuck it, nothing left to live for.

After Friday, the details get murkier and murkier. I'm fairly sure that Orange Goblin played an amazing set, but hell, that might have been Saturday for all I know. I was lost in a daze of manflesh, weed and Yuengling by this point. I'm fairly sure that Voivod ended the second night. Let me say something about that too. Voivod sucked. It was disappointing. I've always been a big fan of their progressive/thrash/whatever attack, and a fan of Piggy's guitar playing especially. When he died, I figured the band would hang it up, as is usually done when the main songwriter passes away. Unfortunately Voivod decided to soldier on without the only person that people cared about. Boy, did it show. The songs were weak, watered down versions of Voivod. I was pissed, and I went home early. Fuck it, if you're gonna die, make sure to tell the rest of your band to knock it the fuck off after you're dead. Cliff Burton should have done this too.

 (My lovely traveling companion with Ben and Martyn of Orange Goblin)
Sunday finally rolled around and thankfully I made it to the point of alcohol saturation where the body no longer recognizes hangovers. Or bangovers. So I literally jumped out of bed Sunday morning and ran around my hotel screaming "Coroner" and "Ghost" at the top of my fucking lungs. After the police warned me about, you know, being crazy and shit, I decided to just smoke a shitload more weed and get ready for another amazing night. Nuclear Assault played, and were pretty fucking good, except that dude lost his voice, which kind of put a damper on the whole Nuclear Assault insane vocals thingy. Still a good set though. I think Exhorder played in Sunday too, but that might have been Saturday. Does the day of the week even matter at this point? Who am I? Where am I? And why is this guy still touching my ass?

Bastard Noise played a set inside on Sunday, easily taking the crown for loudest, most badass band of the 'fest. The walls themselves were literally shaking from the sheer amount of bass that band puts out. My ears are still ringing just thinking about it. Glorious! At some point Coroner came on after 15 years of silence. Well worth it. And then some. The Swiss power trio ripped through every song I could remember and then some that I couldn't place. Dudes around me were talking about songs they were playing that I hadn't heard before, which is funny, because while they were memorizing Coroner songs, I was getting high. Loooooooooooooosers.

At this point, it was only a matter of time before Ghost played their first ever show on American soil. I know, you're sick of the hype. Well, fuck you, they're awesome. You missed it, and you're a dick anyway. The inside room at MDF holds 2000 people. At one point, right before Ghost played, I heard staff saying how the room was TWICE it's capacity. That's 4000 people for those of you brought up in the American education system. The tension and anticipation was palpable. You could taste in the air that something special was about to happen. At roughly half past midnight, as is fitting, Ghost took the stage and played their entire album. The stage presence. The mood. The atmosphere. Everything was perfect. It was like experiencing a Blue Oyster Cult concert in 1976 while simultaneously watching Hammer films and mainlining a shitload of good opium. And I don't know about you, but for me that spells a great evening.

 (Anyone need a babysitter? Come on, I'm great with kids!)
As Ghost's last notes faded, I felt a little lost. I said goodbye to friends from around the globe and internet and trudged slowly back to my hotel, where I fell asleep and dreamed of evil Popes and Satanic dance rock. It was a good night. A good weekend. A good vacation from the shit pinata that we call reality. The next day, we jumped on a plane and flew right back into reality's dirty asshole. I tried to explain to people at home where I was for a week, but they just kinda looked at me crazy and think I saw a coroner's ghost at Gettysburg. Close enough. You assholes all listen to shitty music anyway, so fuck you.

The memories are mine though, forever, and you can't take them away from me. So until next year, stay heavy.

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