I’m sure I have now experienced something like the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca or a trip to Africa. It was hot, dirty, dangerous, and invigorating all the same. You feel like home in that place, even if the road and destination are fraught with potential dangers and complications. Those things don’t matter when you’re at Maryland Deathfest, because if you can simply sit in the parking lot and still have a blast just watching all the interesting people walk by and talk to those who are either tanked, injured, stoned, or just that special kind of crazy. So before I actually delve into the bands that played, since I only had a 3-day, I’m gonna ramble about my experiences just being there.
Let me just state for the record that if you’re at all interested in Punk, Metal, Hardcore, or any of their various offshoots, this is a trek you need to make at least once while it’s still happening. Baltimore is a beautiful city, though the people in it are all nutter buggers, so try not to get raped, stabbed, or dragged into the wrong party is all I can say. Always roll with a crew 10 niggaz deep, 6 at minimum. Get there while it lasts, because while there is a low risk for a murder or serious injury, I’m sure that the non-rock’n’roll folks in Baltimore would love little more than to see crazy bullet belt Satan worshipping spikey brats not crawling around their town one weekend a year. Though I must question how they haven’t wised up to the fact that every year for the last 10 years, there’s been some huge gathering of Rock’n’Roll kids in their town, and still have to ask what we’re doing. I blame it on widespread amnesia and easy access to crack. The further down south you go, the more lit up the adult video stores are, and your chances of running into a legitimate Red Light District, complete with a Hustler Club, increase exponentially. It’s a bit refreshing to see that the sordid underbelly is not quite the underbelly, but exoskeleton of everyday life in this city. With one or two murders a day, a city’s definitely got to show unwary travelers the places they’d like to skirt around.
As for the atmosphere of Baltimore at the time, just seeing so many people in a city at once who at least shared something in common with me was probably one of the most unreal experiences I’ve yet to take in. Just being able to stand outside the Sheraton where I was staying and be able to stumble across gaggles of people who shared musical interest without having to look very far is something that must be seen to be believed. Being only a few blocks away from the epicentre of a common goal of enjoying yourself and some of the finest music to grace this blasted blue ball was a gift that was worth way more than the $150 admission. You had your long-haired Metalheads wearing the usual black shirt and random pants, your Thrashers with the bent back bills, bullet belts and patch jackets, Black Metallers with insane jackets blanketed in Satanic filth, fuzzy Crusties with their dogs and shirts that they seem to have worn down to a fine sheet of bare cotton, dogs left unattended by the aforementioned crusties, old school Metal/Punk dudes that had seen it all since before many of us even learned to draw breath, people that didn’t even appear on the outside to be into metal or punk, a guy in a chicken suit, etcetera etfuckencetera. I really need to go to this more often, it’s just phenomenal how many different crowds come together without the animosity that occurs at your random local gigs.
On Thursday, I simply sat outside the Sonar, nothing more, just drank in all the different people and whatever they were wearing or not wearing. I talked to people from my town, people from Chi-Town, people from all over the damn place, all with their own unique look and feel, all with backstories and unique tastes. From the Mexican punk kids covered in patches from all the spectres of politically dissenting simplicity, to the guys who showed up in little more than a Metal t-shirt and jeans but were still fascinating, to PowerDave, the insaniac of a retro Thrasher, you got a vibrant rainbow of people to hang out with. Watching the front doors of the Sonar never gets tiring, with people flooding in and out constantly, with things to say about every band, be they good or bad. I hear Agalloch absolutely killed it, and EyeHateGod were no slobs either, having played Sister Fucker loud enough to hear clearly from the lot across the street. I’ve heard no reports about the other bands, nor do I care, because if I wasn’t there, I can pretend it never happened and be happier that way.
Post-show parties never failed to bring in some interesting people, whether it was them doing coke, bringing some herbal remedies, or brew fit for kings, it was a nightly sampler of indulgence good for the soul. Be careful, however, to find your limits. I’m going to stay as far back from mine as possible, so as to avoid blacking out and not remembering the wicked dumb things I say the next day and having to clean up after myself alone. Despite a few technicolor hiccups on Wednesday night, all went well in the Bacchanal celebrations of Metal might. I am aware I’m taking too long to write these damn reviews, but fuck you, I do things at my own speed.