Third Time’s The Charm: Maryland Deathfest XII: Saturday & Sunday

Saturday
Ramen is truly some food of the gods level shit. I subsisted on all of Friday and most of Saturday with the aid of four of these magick squares. Only a dollar each at —you guessed it— Dollar Tree. Stock up for the apocalypse. And find this guy.
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Ramen unfortunately couldn’t help Diocletian’s very evil brand of blackened death be more than an okay attempt at the sound of canned hell. Dark, swirling riffs and blasts ringing from bottomless pits is cool, but variety is severely lacking. Entrails, however, came to save my life —or end it, rather?— with their sticky, sweet old school Swedish Death Metal, complete with a logo that looks suspiciously like Entombed’s.
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Ladies.
Spain’s Machetazo brought yet more evil to the fore with their wicked gore/death inflected grind, en Español.
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Hearkening to bands like Regurgitate and fellow countrymen Hæmorrhage, they seem  uninterested in being unique (and with Grind, that’s quite a feat), just brutal, and they’ve certainly succeeded in that regard.
God Macabre, yet another group of old school Swedish Death infantrymen long forgotten, made their first appearance in the U.S. here, and probably was in the top three bands most likely given to old ladies if they asked fest-goers what “concert” they were heading to.
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With only one full length to their name, The Winterlong, you could probably guess the setlist, plus a cover of a Carnage song. Forget which one, but it was damn near heartwarming when vocalist Per Boder smiled in delight when the crowd reacted positively to the name of their fellow deathheads. “I guess they’re not so underrated after all.” You bet’cher ass, bud.
When one thinks of progressive death metal, Florida’s Nocturnus (A.D.) should ideally be what comes to mind alongside acts like Pestilence, Atheist, and Death, though admittedly I hadn’t heard of them until I saw their name on the line-up. Playing their seminal album The Key in full, Nocturnus prove that synths don’t necessarily have to end up sounding cheesy when used alongside brutal music.
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Vocalist/drummer Mike Browning (ex-Morbid Angel) seemed to be having loads of fun blasting and growling simultaqneously for such uplifting tunes as “Standing In Blood”, “Lake Of Fire”, and even a special cover of “Chapel Of Ghouls”, how rad’s that shit, homie? I think they even played a Death cover, but I could just have been imagining it. Setlist.fm isn’t helping my case.
The original Speed Metal Drunks (who’s Municipal Waste?) in Germany’s Tankard were clearly not hammered enough; they could still play their instruments. The crowd was one-upping the fuck out of them, however, with a beer-soaked circlepit despite the blazing sun cooking them through. Songs about zombies, and beer. Party. It’s fun stuff, though not the absolute greatest that thrash, has to offer, nor is it the best that humour has to offer, but these krazy Krauts won’t fail to get a chuckle or headbang out of you.
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Finally taking my non-drunk self to the Soundstage to catch DropDead for my third or fourth helping this Gregorian year, I first caught Sweden’s d-beat heroes in Victims. They play a version of the genre that reminds me of Martyrdöd, with more melody than is normally allowed, and less ear-fucking distortion, though weren’t quite as captivating as I would hope. Had they played it straight Swedish and aped Anti-Cimex or even Finnish contemporaries (all Scandinavians are the same, right?) in Riistetyt and Kieltolaki, I dare say they’d be more what I was seeking. DropDead, however, are consistent in their delivery, combining crust punk, powerviolence, and d-beat cooked the right way; raw and still bloody.
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Between socio-political and generally ‘wake-the-fuck-up’ rants came short but intense bursts of distilled punk fury, very rarely going below speeds safe to drive on the highway. The setlist seems to have changed, as they are including more new material that, while less speedy than the material of old, still has its fangs, yellowed with age but reddened with new blood as they press on. There was a special guest appearance, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to even mention it, though I will mention that they played a cover of Siege’s “Drop Dead”, and as an extra spiffy bonus, a cover of “It’s Not What It Seems To Be” by fastcore/powerviolence legends Lärm. Sweeeet,
With Nocturno Culto finally bringing his drunk ass to America only to not play in DarkThrone was a disappointment to many, but I suppose Sarke is the next best thing. Who knows, maybe Fenriz’ Red Planet will stop by to play material fromEngangsgrill in a few years.
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At least the crowd hungry to hear one song, any song by DarkThrone got their wish, sorta, since they played a ‘cover’ of “Too Old, Too Cold”. Clearly the case since Nocturno is never seen without a leather jacket. A weird mix of black-ish metal, normal-ish heavy metal, death rock, and whatever else Nocturno deems the right thing to do these days, it was interesting, but c’mon. DarkThrone. Not gonna stop saying it ‘til it happens.
True Norwegian Viking Death Metal warriors in Unleashed were something. Among my main draws to the fest this year, it’d be wrong to say I was disappointed, but underwhelmed is the word I’ll go with since their set was noticeably lacking in the glorious potential they are capable of.
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Having a staggering 11 full-lengths of Nordic praise, and my having only heard 5 or 6 of them in full (not counting the ...Revenge demo), I knew there were gonna naturally be some songs I wouldn’t know well enough to fistpump to. However, the lack of “In Victory Or Defeat”, “Warriors Of Midgard”, and prime material from As Yggdrasil Trembles was distressing. To add to the discomfort, they stretched out some songs by at least two or three minutes (“Death Metal Victory” count: 8+), thus cheating themselves and the audience out of more songs. It sucks that happened, but at least Johnny Hedlund brought out a Viking drinking horn, and the predictable happened. My diagnosis: they were drunk. To Asgaard, their brains flew.
Next up were Dark Angel, who’ve probably got more riffs in a single song than an entire Bolt Thrower album (or two), arrived to show us that indeed, time does not heal, because Thrash is a lifelong disease.
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Now recovered from a spine injury that left him unable to move, much less sing, Ron Rineheart is now back in action, and the L.A. Caffeine Machine is once more abrew. With speeds equal to or greater than that of even the fastest cuts on Sepultura’s Arise, it’s a wonder how Dark Angel never got up to the Big 4 instead of Megadeth, who stopped being Thrash after Killing Is My Business. Oops. They’re as virile and potent as 14-year old sperm after all these years.
Following U.S. fast with U.K. fury were Extinction Of Mankind, who, while not a founding band in crust (having formed in ’92), are as important as acts like Deviated Instinct and Hellbastard when assigning blame to old British guys spreading this filth. Their particular style is that popularised by acts like Misery; slow-churned Thrash infused riffs, barked vocals, and a steady beat to break down the walls of establishment. Naturally, the scent of unwashed dreads is the only perfume to adequately accompany such sounds, what with their LPBaptised In Shit, and all. I saw them again in someone’s basement a few days later, but don’t expect a review of that.
I took a little nap during L.A.’s Excrutiating Terror, who weren’t all that painful, nor scary, to be honest. It was decent grindcore, though not too much of a racket, so I caught a few Zs before heading over to catch the real death metal bastards in Asphyx, because what the fuck is a Schirenc? I’d have liked to have caught “Shrunken And Mummified Bitch” live, but The Church Of Pungent Stench would be a much more sensible name, aye? Or even Pungent Stench A.D., in keeping with what seems to be an MDF tradition? Whatever.
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So, The Netherlands’ Asphyx, fronted by one of the few aside from John Tardy who can audibly sneer while growling, —is this a blonde thing?— Martin van Drunen belted out classics like “M.S. Bismarck” and newer ballistics in “Deathhammer” with equal ease and aggression, and the band are no slobs either.
Come to think of it, Hail of Bullets should play next year. Just a thought.
Sunday
The soreness had began to set in by this time, yet my body had no say in preventing further torture. There was yet more on the plate for this exercise session from hell. Luckily for my muscles, a one-two-three heavy handed slap of stoner/doom in the form of Windhand, Bongripper and Graves At Sea was how the Sabbath day was to begin. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the former two bands practiced and recorded stoned and played sober?
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Theorising.
My next gym coaches in Misery Index, however, demanded a few proverbial pushups, despite the lack of shade. How cruel of them to play “Traitors” when they know that it’s impossible for me to stand still during such a thing.
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The new track(s) from the newest opus The Killing Gods were business as usual; brutalising politically conscious death/grind the way Misery Index has delivered it to their hometown of Baltimore and the world for 13 lucky years. I’m assuming they all walked home after Deathfest, since they probably live up the street.
Pseudogod, they existed, and Wrathprayer from Chile played Blackened Death Metal that was surprisingly not too generic, though little stuck out in particular from their performance. The wizardly dissonance of Colombia’s (now based in Seattle, WA) Inquisition was much needed following these two noble, if not uninspiring acts.
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Dagon’s trademark croaks take some getting used to if you’re not already into that thing, which I found out some years ago when I first heard “Those Of The Night”. I thought, “How the fuck are these Black Metal vocals? Weak shit, kid”, and fell in with the camp that didn’t enjoy the Popeye With Throat Cancer treatment. However, with time, I came to see them as an integral part of their sound, as important as the spiraling, dark melodies and atmospheres that blanket their deceptively simple aural landscapes. The tastefully militant blasting and appropriately placed groove sections provided by drummer Incubus are done well enough to the point that variety is not of great concern. Dagon even had the foresight to have two mics set up so he wouldn’t simply stand in one place the entire time, and that somehow made it a lot less likely to be bored while watching their ministrations. Clandestinely keeping you titillated since 1989.
A smorgasbord of Louisiana’s most metal featuring members of Goatwhore, Crowbar, and Eyehategod, Soilent Green are an unexpectedly well-done mixture of blues-tinged sludge metal and blasting deathgrind. I’d go so far as to say they’re one of my ‘favourites’ among bands I had gone in not expecting to be good, much less pretty darn good. Makes for good BBQ eating soundtracks. Because, y’know, the South. Following them were the French-Canadian band voted least likely to have anything to do with gore or guts, Gorguts, who are equal parts surrealist staircase-to-nowhere artists and death metal.
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Reanimating “Orphans Of Sickness” from The Erosion Of Sanity (complete with slamdown) and “Inverted” from From Wisdom To Hate, Gorguts shows that they’ve not gone entirely soft on us. That is, if you consider the fact that they’ve run with the avant-garde angle from Obscura onward going ‘soft’. Opening with two songs from Coloured Sands as if to say “now that we’ve got that out the way”, they proceeded to blow some minds the way they have been for a quarter century. Damn, they’re old. Luc Lemay’s cheesy but charming stage banter will tell you that much. Why isn’t he my uncle?
Yet another fuzzy treat for my unaware ears were Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, who got my vote this year for the category of “Why Is This Band Playing Deathfest?” in the same way Anvil did two years ago. Good old fashioned psychedelic doom rock worship aside, they should seriously consider changing their name to Sharp Dressed Man: The Band.
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Sure beats the hell out of Bigelf as far as semi-metal 70s hard rock goes. Just out of curiosity: why do none of these bands ever wear ‘normal’ clothes?
And now came the apex of sadness: Having to abandon the truest Sabbath worshippers in Sweden’s Candlemass after their opening song, “Mirror, Mirror” to go catch Japan’s legally insane grind outfit Unholy Grave at the Soundstage. Mats Levén of Therion fame handling vocals and the fact that I missed “At Gallows’ End” just makes me want to cry forever. Ancient dreams of an alternate reality where this was an easier choice. Almost makes me wonder; was it worth it? I don’t like to ask myself these questions, because regret is an unproductive state of being.
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The misery continued with the U.K.’s masters of the maudlin, My Dying Bride, with frontman Aaron Stainethorpe sporting a newly shaved dome after my only having ever known him with perpetually soggy lachrymose locks.
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Sadly (word choice?), “Deeper Down” and “My Body, A Funeral” didn’t make it onto their setlist, and I’m woefully (word choice?) unacquainted with much of their discography, though “The Dreadful Hours” and “Turn Loose The Swans” rang somewhat familiar. Hymns to never ending grief, complete with the mourning, sobering sound of a violin, though unfortunately (word choice?) no rain to complete the ambiance. If it can rain during Neurosis, Electric Wizard, and even Pelican, why no appropriate weather this year? You sicken me, skies. To compound my consternation, I noticed the beginning sign of an oncoming suckfest; that sensation of having a patch of permanently dry skin at the back of your throat, the messenger of death, the common cold. It only got worse from there.
All sordid business with the Edison Lot now done, I had a hot date with the Soundstage and Ratos de Porão, who play fucking fast.
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Brazil’s Ratos don’t play no bossa nova, fool. It’s balls-to-the-wall with no breaks at all crossover thrash meets the rawer (or rawwwwwwrrrrrr) sounds of 80s hardcore. Think Suicidal Tendencies in their Join The Army days if they took more cues from Charged G.B.H.’s City Baby Attacked By Rats, with thrashcore beats that threaten to become blasts, and you’ve got an approximation of how this beast sounds. Pure energy and speed, but always on the right track, like a studded train full of crusties hitting you with a fist made of metalheads. Someone eventually decided that a trash can would have more fun near the pit, and the result was a lot of beer cans and empty food containers on the floor that was once just covered in beer and sweat.
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Perfect way to cap off the Soundstage skullduggery.
Meanwhile at Ram’s Head the progressive death metal Kiwis in Ulcerate serenaded all present with positive vibration songs such as “Confronting Entropy” and “Clutching Revulsion” from their newest opus Vermis.
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Packed full of enough angular riffs to make your head spin, and heavy enough to make it flatten itself, they and Immolation provided an ideal closing combo for this year’s Maryland Deathfest. Emphasis being on the death, Yonkers’ Immolation packs a firestorm of riffs that haven’t died down in over 28 years as a band. From their debut Dawn Of Possession to their most recent Kingdom Of Conspiracy, all eras were covered as they burnt the fest to ashes.
Post-Deathfest Shenanigans
Yours truly got kicked out of a hotel (rather, kicked himself out) because someone decided smoking a cigarette in the hallway was a good idea. To be fair, I tried to help them by putting it out, but what’s common sense?  Some people just can’t hang, and those people are hotel security. Oops.
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Then on the walk ‘home’ I found some people being obnoxious and singing random metal songs at the top of their lungs on the front porch of a hotel. Naturally I go over and join them. I found some beers and a girl that’s sexually attracted to snakes or someshit, and she stole the inflatable dinosaur that the guy dressed as a doctor during Impaled’s set gave me. Presumably to fuck it.
Then I drank with said doctor and he showed me the horror show that was his hotel bathtub. Thing was a mess of fake blood and empty beer cans. We drank some whiskey for our faces and peaced out. He had a D.R.I. cigarette case, which was rad.
Thrashers, meet your king, passed out on the steps of said hotel at 6 in the morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still hungover to this very day, because that kid was literally drunk the entire weekend. And I saw him a lot (he was in just about every pit at Edison), so you know I’m not bullshitting.
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Then, just in time for me to get onto a cold 4 hour bus to New York and a subsequently cold 4 hour bus to Boston, my cold reaches fruition, and I die in my seat. Somehow I came back to life to write this review, and all I can say after this glorious headbanging, circlepitting, beer drinking, weed smoking, not-drug-doing, skirt-wearing, awkward-socialising weekend is: Fuck the common cold. Maybe I’ll do this again next year.

You know what time it is: Reviewvalanche.

Looking at all the shows I’ve been to recently and my inability to review them either to being inebriated, not in the writing spirit, noticing that I fucked up the order big-tiume, or just being inconvenienced from many directions at once in the grand tradition of life, I’ll just leave this here.

Boris @ Brighton Music Hall

Fucking Flood. Damn.

Nomad/Kromosom @ Cambridge Elk’s Lodge

It’s a wonder I somehow avoided injury during this thrashing d-beat noisefuck raid experience. Ye gods. I swear a boot was mere inches from my face, and I also saw a tit.

Coke Bust @ Cambridge Elk’s Lodge

I only saw 10 minutes of Coke Bust, but that was all I needed, because I would have died of exhaustion had I been punctual. A dollar a minute, and eternally late to the point where I missed all the other bands for free Chinese food, sake and beer. No fucking regrets.

Parasitic Extirpation @ O’Brien’s

I’m pretty sure my conduct was unbecoming of my gentlemanly status, but with 64 ounces of Steel Reserve in my system, anything short of getting ripshit was inexcusable for one of Boston’s finest in slamming brutality. Fields Of Elysium from New Mexico were pretty sweet, having made it to Boston for the first time ever, and fialing to disappoint with their PsyOpus meets a more interesting but even more insane Spawn Of Possession.If you’ll excuse me, I have to write some apologetic letters to the people whose souls I ate because I’m a monster.

Nuclear Special Forces (or N.S.F. if you’re lazy and drunk) @ some basement in Allston

I don’t remember a lot of this show because the beer intake was constant, but I remember it was fun. Pornstars For Romney play some form of rippin’ hardcore, and N.S.F. boast some eldritch amalgam of d-beat, crust punk, and powerviolence, with a killer cover of “City Baby Attacked By Rats”, complete with some tasteful blastbeats. I think the opener was Jake And The Infernal Machine, but I can’t be sure. The internet holds no record of this, and I may have imagined that one-man acoustic folk-punkish guy. But then again, acoustic folk-punkish guys own everything from Mission Hill to the outer edges of Lower Allston, so I’m just trying to make this interesting for you.

The Melvins @ Brighton Music Hall

They played a lot of heavy songs, and Buzzo had a get-up reminiscent of some sort of alien from an early sci-fi movie. ‘Twas cool.

Or maybe it was just a robe and I was seeing shit.

Summer Slaughter ’13 @ The Palladium

It was a fantastic show overall. Thy Art Is Murder exceeded my low expectations, Tosin Abasi of Animals As Leaders signed my palm, I had a pleasant post-brutality chat with some members of Cattle Decapitation, and Unearth was surprisingly good live, if not handicapped by the muddy sounding breakdowns. Curse you, Palladium sound. The main hiccups of the evening were Rings Of Saturn just being silly, Periphery playing for about 45 minutes too long (ha!) getting stranded in Worcester due to some last-minute revocations of a possible ride home and experiencing some wicked sleep deprivation that only being utterly rezzy high can emulate, and, speaking of Revocation, their set was mainly steeped in new material, which is still good, but some oldies would have made it a far more satisfying show. Have they all but forgotten Empire of the Obscene? Oh and Greg Puciato semi almost killed himself. Again. Anyone reading this now should know I put this in here weeks after this article was written. Feel free to comment if you’re one of these lucky souls. Ha.

Backslider @ the Democracy Center

This show reminded me just why I sometimes opt out of going to the Democracy Center, even if the line-up shows much promise and potential for window breakage. Case in point, the wimpiest of Boston’s punk scene gathered singly to not destroy one another while Congenital Death and Backslider destroyed the surrounding air with their clatter of fastcore devastation. Fucking Invincible was just Fucking Boring (the merch reads FI. F. Fucking. I.) and Curmudgeon was another roadblock to guilt-free enjoyment. Despite Logan’s (guitar/vocals in Backslider) goading and pointing out the stand still/keep your arms crossed policy that Boston’s PV lovers adopt, there was nary a twitch more than a hearty shaken fist and some aggressive nodding to the beats to show approval. Plus they played way more breakdowns than I remember being in any of their material. Overall, disappointing, but I’m still glad I at least got to see these nerds. They’re skinnier than I thought they’d be, is all I can say on that last sentence.

Ceremony @ Sinclair

I skipped ALL the openers because I hated their names and descriptions, (with the exception of GIVE, who are just boring psychedelic punk with no aim) and I’m sure I did well to that end. Ceremony’s definitely taken an odd turn since the olden days of Ruined and Violence Violence, which were essentially exercises in how many times a band could rip your face off within the span of under 15 minutes. The new album, Zoo, is more of an experiment in how to travel back in time, record an album in the 70s, and make people think that a completely different band wrote the material. Seriously, go listen to even Rohnert Park, which is somewhat more sober in its approach, and then Zoo, and you’ll swear there are two bands called Ceremony. They weren’t kidding when they basically said they were sick of hardcore punk. Luckily they still busted out a few choice jams from the aforementioned albums, (not like the kids didn’t mosh to the non-core material anyway) but overall, the heavy British accent seeping from Ross Farrar’s gob during those tracks is unavoidably a conscious want to put the olden days behind them. Pack your fist full of love, give a gift to the world.

The Impalers/Vaaska @ The Boiler Room

It smelled strongly of fresh spraypaint, and I swear I’ve been slightly dumber since being in there, but it was fun at the very least seeing d-beat bands and spiky brats all crammed into one nearly uncomfortable spot in a middle-of-nowhere Allston parking lot that probably sees more activity by people looking for a place to do drugs and drink than the local businesses that are only open when you’re completely mentally unprepared for them to be.

Suffer On Acid @ Pt-109

I think this place may officially be murdered by the pig-state, but at least I got to act a damn drunken fool during Demoralizer‘s set even though the space is now no larger than a broom-closet as opposed to a living-room like it was before.

Sean Smash would be my scene name if I were a bigger faggot than I already am.

Infest/Los Crudos @ ChiTown Futbol

Going a long way totalling up to or more than $2-300 in travel expenses for a 10 dollar punk show is something that everyone worth knowing should do at least once in their lifetime. Never knowing if Infest or Crudos, bands that are technically ‘broken up’ despite their recent resurgence in activity (always trust Wikipedia) will ever come even as close as New York or Connecticut, I say it was well worth the trip. Gas Rag played some decent d-beat with just enough energy, Violent End was okay but repetitive and sort of like a 2nd rate Nails, and Hard Skin was equally comedic and badass with their limey British skinhead swagger showing through as they simultaneously mocked and celebrated the whole of punk in all its forms. I doubt they successfully converted everyone from Hardcore to Oi! as was their openly stated aim, but everyone had fun. Punx and skins did unite on that dusty street in Chicago while kids played soccer not a room over.

Infest was on par with a religious experience, though if you replace the wide lanes of a megachurch with a surging pit of crowdsurfing, mic-rushing, flailing bodies, and clothing heavier than appropriate for the warm weather, it’s essentially the same thing. The vocals were equal parts hilarious and rousing, the drums missed not a single beat, and the slowing down of their iconic pre-Powerviolence breakdowns only made for more friendly violent fun. Los Crudos got just about the same fervor as kids thrashed about responsibly but wildly, showing that “that Spic band” is nothing to fuck with. Glory be to me, for I have seen both of Martin Sorrendeguy’s bands within a year, and I’m not even old yet.

I’d like to take a rare human moment to say that I really felt at home in Chicago, before, during, and even after the show. So many brown people in one place, girls pitting as hard if not harder, and streets that don’t say “fuck you” like Boston. Was this the only place designed after the listless meanderings of livestock? Living arrangements are in order. Perhaps Cleveland or even good ol’ Chi-Town will be my next resting place once my earthly body in Massachusetts has grown tired of taking the MBTA and dealing with a mayor that’s nowhere near as hilarious as Tom Menino. Also, ChiTown Futbol has legit the best burritos I’ve ever tasted, and they don’t even put rice in them. I’m ruined forever to all the joints here.

And there you have it, a brief summary of the last few months, as lazily put together as I could manage without cheating you, the reader, out of some verbiage and colourful illustrations that you’ve come to neutrally know me for. Here’s to trying harder to try harder once again, because not having normal internet access AND a job makes it hard to say stupid things for the world to see and me to feel ashamed for writing later.

The only reason I haven’t given up on TBMD entirely is probably some odd sense of duty that I feel to people that like to know about random shit. Well, I’m still here for you idiots, so feel free to not react as I languidly struggle to bring you the most up-to-date news about things that have long since passed, you nerds.